“Cultured” by Chloe Lin

Chloe Lin (age 14)


my first language was not one of
white bread and watching fireworks
burst red white and
blue no my first
language was riding down the
rural streets my arms wrapped
around the waist of my
grandmother speeding on a
motorcycle was pineapple cakes and
bubble tea.

my parents never tried to
me never tried to add vanilla to
soy milk or replace 巧虎 with
spongebob they didn’t want me to forget the
white sun
blue sky
wholly red earth.

i went to this nursery
school that taught in chinese the
teacher was from shanghai spoke with such
definition like slapping someone across the
face i came
home with the same stinging shanghai
accent as i proudly recited:


they stood still the sound of my
slap ringing throughout the
house perhaps that was the first
time they realized they had lost a
part of me to
another country.
i went into
kindergarten not knowing a
speck of english i knew
“yes” i knew
“no” i knew of my english name but did
not know how to write it in the roman
alphabet rather in large chinese
characters no
curves only straight lines down and

in first grade i decided that i
hated my name and changed it to
“olivia” an english name that meant
“olive” in latin a name you type into the google
search bar and all that comes up are pictures of
white blonde women.

my parents never tried to
americanize me because there’s a
difference in being an american citizen and
american a difference between representing
stars or the sun i think my parents
believe it’s a competition when i’m craving
burgers or listening to justin
bieber but they tend to
forget that

the sun is also a star a
testament to how two
worlds can be so far apart yet collide a
mismatched harmony.

from 2021 Rattle Young Poets Anthology


Why do you like to write poetry?

Chloe Lin: “Poetry is something I turn to when I’m in my head; I’ve discovered that it’s a powerful tool, and it’s amazing what it can do for others, as well as yourself. It lets me forget about that essay that’s due tomorrow and the petty drama my friends need to tell me about. My hope is that one day, I’ll be an inspiration to people like me: lost, but found.”

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