I don’t think I have a motherland, just a strange monster in my imagination,
stitched together with a Frankeinsteinian arrogance to canonize the resulting composite as ‘motherland.’
So, I think it weighs the same as a chopped-up half of soy sauce chicken in my mother’s hand from the hot deli after exhausting
every aisle of their contents as well as herself too much to cook that night, and in the other, a plastic bag of VHS tapes volumes 3 through 8 of 46, some Chinese cultivation fantasy dubbed over in formal Vietnamese, a stiff language we will not hear on the streets once we step outside this Ranch 99
but it will sound like the ghost stories and Buddhist lectures spilling out of the stereo on our way home, cassettes borrowed from some cô or bác who Mẹ had met at the denim factory before they were all laid off, but my mother did not rush to them,
rather to our house, to the phone, where she could run down the minutes of that international phone card, indulging in the chatter of relatives I had hardly met, Still loud and intimate on the other side,
and I found the motherland in
her sweet sigh of relief when the rains would bear down on the vast expanse of desert sand I myself had always called home even when she wouldn’t, or couldn’t, in the unbounded pleasure of peeling and slicing up a summer melon, sharing with me another imperfect simulacrum of what I could have known.
an. phan (she/they) was raised among the cottonwoods of the Rio Grande in New Mexico and now raises good trouble in the San Francisco Bay Area as an educator, a facilitator, and a futurist. Her work has appeared in Rust+Moth, K'in, diaCRITICS, and the Stanford Journal of Asian American Studies.