The Sweater at the Back of My Closet

Looking in the mirror, nine years old, 

Almond eyes blink.

And I hate them, wishing they were bigger. 

Shiny dark hair, smooth honey skin 

In a world full of blonde curls and blue eyes. 


Words come to my ears: 

"Look, an Asian with her rice!" 

"Why are your eyes so small?" 

"All Asians look the same!"

And now I bring sandwiches to school. 


My heritage is like an old sweater: 

Not used, not worn, pushed to the back of my closet. 

When asked about it, I shove it further away

And hope that one day I will wake up white. 


Nineteen years old, looking in the mirror, 

Same eyes, same skin, same face. 

I still hear the comments and I still feel the shame, 

Hot, burning shame that makes my heart clench. 


But I fix my hair, my dark, straight, shiny hair

And I smile, my brown eyes becoming smaller. 

I take out the old sweater from the back of the closet. 

I put it on, and admire how I look -

Because I am Vietnamese and I stand tall. 


This poem is about: 


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