home says go back to where you came from

Heidi Wong

as a child, i would not let my country hold me.

thought i was too jagged for her red arms,

thought she could never kiss my two toned edges.


on my eighteenth birthday, i run to a new home.

and home says your blood scares us,

thick contagious gold. your skin, your eyes,

and my god, how you walk,

chest full of pride

despite it all.


after years of unlearning my radiance,

i find myself in a small chinese restaurant

where i order shāo mài in my mother tongue.

the waiter wipes his dampened cheeks,

presses his hand to his heart and says thank you.

you sound like home. there, in upstate new york,

we cry in a language no one else can understand.


and i wonder if as a child, i told my country i am not like you

when i meant i cannot love

what looks like me, when i cannot bear

to look at me.

but she is my mother. even when i am split down

the middle, mind

from body, i wear her like the world.

even when i slammed the door on her fingers,

she unhinged herself from its wood to remind me

if it gets hard out there,

remember you always have a place to come back to.

on my twenty-second birthday, the world

turns to wreckage, and wreckage

turns to mirrors. my family nails their eyes to the tv,

cold black pacific. and when it lights up,

my face is attached to every innocent asian body

lying limp in the street. a garden of peonies

seeping rubies into stolen soil.


our blood, thick, contagious gold.

our skin, an endless scroll of silk.

our hands are a quiet expanse,

a cloud of fire. and it scares them,

my god, it scares them. how we walk,

chest full of pride

because of it all.


on my twenty-second birthday, home

says go back to where you came from

and i do. home

says go back to where you came from

and i think what a privilege

to know where i came from. what a privilege

that even if i silence the beijing peonies, the callouses

on my family’s backs from carrying history, the smell

of mama’s jiǎo zī, the waves of victoria harbor

singing me to sleep, marry a white man

and erase my name, marry a knife

and erase my face, still

i will pass on my goldskin to my daughters,

the warmth of a land

that refuses to abandon her children.

Heidi Wong is a poet and artist who grew up between Beijing, Hong Kong, and New York. Since posting her poems online at 15-years-old, she has developed a unique voice that juxtaposes surreal and macabre imagery with intimate and beautiful language. She was the winner of the 2018 Button Poetry short form contest, and the winner of the National Art and Calligraphy Competition of China for 6 consecutive years. Now, she continues to share her work with her audience of nearly 1M followers. Her third collection, Turning to Wallpaper (Central Avenue,) will be released in the fall.