my grandfather was the one who told me
that women loving women is la la
la la for lily.
la la for pull.
la la for the print on my pillows.
buo lei for love,
buo lei for women,
buo lei for glass.
ping zi for vase,
ping zi for bottle,
ping zi: gay?
we only have a handful of words for ourselves, a flimsy grasp on this language.
i don’t even know which ones are slurs. i try and fit lily into my mouth,
put the glass on my tongue,
shimmy it out of my jaw.
it turns into: sky. paper. bush.
i try again and it turns into tired.
i am not supposed to confuse tones, dialects,
the same way i am not supposed to say the word for four.
i bastardize this language:
yue liang for moon bright.
ming yue for bright moon.
xiao for small.
xiao for smile.
america has ruined my tongue for me.
mei guo for home.
jia for home, but jia for family.
jia is a word that is an oxymoron of itself.
la la. i say it without the accent and it becomes a song. ye ye, i still love men. ye ye,
there is not a word in this 5,000 year old language for what i am. ye ye, i don’t think my
jia will love me if i tell. ye ye, i don’t know what to say and you can’t teach me. mei you
yi ge ming zi.
jie hun for marriage, and li hun for divorce.
ye ye, i can’t invent another word for love. you told me chinese is so old that english
cannot keep up. you told me there is a flower in china with no english word for it. you
told me that we have a word for everything, that this language would never fail me.
la la, dan shi wo hai xi huan nan zi. i repeat it until the river runs. lily, but i still love men.
lily, but i still love. lily, but i am, but i am.
Nancy Huang grew up in America and China. She was a finalist in the James F. Parker Award for poetry, a 2015 YoungArts finalist in fiction, a Gold Key recipient in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards, and a winner of the Michigan Young Playwrights Festival. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Vinyl, Bodega, TRACK//FOUR, This Bridge Called Language, Barrio Writers Anthology, Winter Tangerine Review, and others. She lives in Austin.