Arrival, Ambiguity, Assimilation

June 9, 2009
By Hoang Pham BRONZE, Haverhill, Massachusetts
Hoang Pham BRONZE, Haverhill, Massachusetts
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

This is America land of the free
Where everyone is different from me.
Their homes are great and ornamental,
Mine is a cheap disheveled apartment rental.
I envy the fabrics that create their clothes,
My dirty socks don’t even cover my toes.
They live a comfortable lifestyle, prosperous and opulent
I live a chaotic hell where I can only lament.
To them I am a foreigner, silent and meek,
But it is because I don’t know the language that they speak
I am alone without a friend,
My heart is a broken heart, which no one can mend
With these people I cannot blend,
Deeper and deeper does my happiness descend.
Coming here from a ship,
To this new culture I cannot grip.
I thought America was the land of dreams,
But all I hear are my family’s screams
Sacrifices I must make,
Until this nightmare I do wake.
Ten years later, what do I see?
A place where life has changed for me.
No longer do I weep at night,
My present and future seem very bright.
I am learning the American language with my education,
Not understanding is no longer a frustration.
I have a new home spacious and decent
With this better life, I am content
I can afford the designer jeans,
And I’m fitting in with the other teens.
There’s the new kid in school, awkward and afraid
Thankful it’s no longer me, from him I evade
He beckons me to be his friend
However, my reputation I must defend
I join with the other kids to point and jeer,
As I watch him shed a tear.
A small memory creeps into my brain,
A memory when I felt that pain,
But just as quickly I sweep it aside.
To the depths of my soul, where it will reside.
I am no longer Asian, but American proud,
Grateful that I’m part of the crowd.
I am accepted as a man from Vietnam
but do I accept me for who I am
Which of my cultures is right or wrong?
I do not know where I belong.
Do I drink the coffee, or do I drink the tea.
What is the life that is best for me?
I’m split down the middle, half and half
Oh the irony, I can’t help but laugh
I once wanted nothing but to be white
But to retain my culture, now do I fight
Struggling to learn the mother tongue
It’s not as easy when I was young
What is my identity?
Am I the person I was meant to be?
My parents sailed the bitter sea,
I’ve sacrificed their history
To this new culture I have succumbed,
My body feels nothing and I am numb,
Who is this person I have become?

The author's comments:
The Arrival, Assimilation, Ambiguity, are poems that share a chronological theme. The Arrival revolves around a toddler who has just escaped from the warfare-ridden country of Vietnam to America. He has been told that America is the land of the free and that ultimate happiness can be achieved. However, the boy’s situation is quite the contrary when he finds himself as a fish in a completely new pond. Just going out into the public will obtain the boy mocking remarks. He wants nothing but to an American, straying from who he really is.

Assimilation describes the boy’s identity ten years later. His socioeconomic status has risen and he is beginning to socialize much more with the new friends he has made. The boy is thankful to God that he is able to now fit in and be able to embrace American culture. Unfortunately, along comes hypocrisy as a new student, shy and meek, is introduced. The boy is no longer in the position as the new student, but now he is the one mocking and jeering at the person who is “different”. He is reminded of his past, but quickly gets his mind off of it. We can now see the doubt in the boy’s decision to embrace new American culture.

The title Ambiguity speaks for itself. It represents the uncertainty in the identity of the boy, who is a now a man another ten years later. He feels he is finally accepted and tolerated by everyone he is around, but was it all worth surrendering his original culture? Altogether, the three poems represent a desire to embrace new culture, the achievement in doing so, and the regret of forfeiting original racial identity.

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