I Cannot See My Face – A Villanelle

Whenever I enter a place
My insides search to belong
I cannot see my face

Can I take up this space?
There’s times that I’ve been wrong
And need to leave a place

Those times I’ve felt displaced
An unwanted tagalong
I paste a smile on my face

I try to handle it with grace
So the discomfort won’t prolong
When I need to stay at a place

But why can’t you embrace
The me inside that’s strong
Can you look beyond my face?

I will not be erased
I’m not one of the throng
I will not leave this place
I cannot change my face

This villanelle was written for Jamie Dedes’ Wednesday Writing Prompt from a few weeks ago. She really has some wonderful, thought provoking ideas! This challenge requested poems about feeling like a “stranger in a strange land”. My two photos are both from my trip to Santa Fe, the top one was from a weird museum we went to called “Meow a Wolf” and the other is from the Puye Cliff Dwellings (is it an alien?).

This piece was originally titled “What It’s Like as an Asian Woman Living in a Predominantly White Community”.

I’ve often felt like the “stranger” – not because people haven’t usually been welcoming, friendly and kind to me – but because at some point in the relationship, I realize that they don’t see me as I see me. People usually see my Asian-ness first leading to reactions of surprise (“You speak English so well!”) or confusion (“How do you know about 4-H?”) since their concept of Asian-ness doesn’t intersect with their concept of American-ness. It’s similar to people’s reactions when a woman expresses opinions about sports or carburetors.

Since I’ve lived almost all my life in the USA and have lost the ability to speak the language of my parents, I see myself as an American first – that is my culture yet genetically, I am very much Asian. This disparity has led to that feeling of strangeness that I know will not go away until the concept of “What is American?” changes. And that will happen when…..??

I’m not gonna hold my breath….

I’m not gonna change my place…

I’m not gonna change my face….

©️ iido 2019

18 thoughts on “I Cannot See My Face – A Villanelle

  1. Ouch Irma a sad indictment on our exclusive racist attitudes, my country is no different.
    I pray the Beatles Melting Pot song becomes a reality soon …

    Great writing because you convey your emotion to their insipid reactions! Hang in there girl coz some will see the warmth within 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  2. an effect of a globalized world would you say? world with fewer borders, people making homes away from away. but not a reason to be judged by the outer look, though we humans can’t refrain, and compartmentalize everything. I can relate. we are born in Malaysia, yet because we are a mixed race family, people want to put us into categories, forgetting we are firstly Malaysian. your villanelle is strong and emphasis on never apologising for who we are inside or outside. well that’s how i read it. bravo on this one, passionately poetic

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I agree – this poem is more about not judging others and not wanting to be judged based on appearances. It is human nature to categorize and put people, etc in “boxes” that makes sense – but just remembering that what makes sense for “us” is not necessarily what makes sense for the person we are looking at. Just asking can go a long way to reaching understanding. Poetry is such a wonderful medium for passions!


  3. Geez, those rude comments make me so angry. Well mostly sad. It just blows my mind this kind of ignorant BS is still going on. I saw it in the 60s and it was ludicrous. My mom called it “learned stupidity.” That was half a century ago. I saw this with partners I chose, and towards our children. People will always find a reason to label and hate to try to prop up their little house of cards. I’m just sorry you had to deal with it. I like your poem and photos very much. Keep shining your light. No one is paying attention to those idiots except others like them. If you get a chance, check out Angela Oh’s Awakin.org interview. I transcribed part of it, then wrote her a very long fan letter. She’s amazing. She’s an attorney, activist, American, and she lived through the hate. Law was my main field (as an assistant, not an attorney) and so much of what she spoke about made so much sense. Wow, this turned into a book! Have a great night. =) ♥. PS Also, you were my 1000th like on Niki Flow. So thank you. *hugs*

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ohh Irma i could imagine how you cope with that everyday..and i also would like to say that you raised a very important point; that is when women speak their minds, it surprises everyone.
    Despite of the current advocacies on women empowerment; truth and reality remains – the world is not yet ready for women to be well spoken and independent- and that is sad

    Liked by 1 person

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