Rhythmic words by Albert Lin



"Where are you really from?
No, really.
Like, where were you born?
Where's your family from?
Where are you REALLY from?
You look Chinese.
You look Korean.
You look Japanese.
That general, vague area that I cannot distinguish
Except for knowing it's the good part of Asia.
The place with culture, and technology,
And not cheap hookers,
The only thing I know about the rest."

Where are you really from?
Every time I hear that question,
I die a little inside.
My smile turns Stepford,
And I am left considering
If conversation is possible
With those who STILL consider me exotic.
Me, white rice with soy sauce and veggies,
Me, non-drinking party-hater,
Me, only cold or hot water.

Where are you really from?
It was never a question of location.
My answer of Sydney, Australia
Was always met with winking implications
And dog-whistle subtlety.
It didn't matter that every day
I'd pass the Opera House swallowing the sun,
As the harbour shimmered
In the sleepy sunset of spring.
It didn't matter that I sought refuge while travelling
With any Aussie ocker enough to do a shoey,
Or lamington lamentations about the lack
Of good Asian food in Europe.
It didn't matter that my passport says my nationality is Australian
Or that the Green and Gold always welcomed me home.

Where are you really from?
Five words that show
You cannot accept that your home,
Is also

— Albert Lin

This was written about my frustration with Australians I met, at uni or while working, or anywhere really, that assumed I wasn't from Sydney. And sometimes, they would hear Sydney, and that would be it. But sometimes, it'd be a barrage of questions, boiling down to "I don't believe you're Aussie because you're Asian". It's my frustration with that, as I've lived my entire life in Sydney, and it seems people will never take that at face value. So yeah, it's the typical Asian "perpetual foreigner" poem but with my own experiences in Australia.

Traditional Chinese Man

My father is the Traditional Chinese Man.
He is the stoic,
Stone wall
That does not praise me,
Yet will turn around and gush,
Proudly from his heart
To his friends about me.

Traditional Chinese Men don't show emotion.
They work, and act,
And show their feelings through that.
My father doesn't tell me he loves me,
He tells me to eat more,
To study more,
To clean my damn room.
I am not the Traditional Chinese Man.
I am an emotional puppy,
Chasing a snowball of feelings through hell.
My heart's permanent place of residence is on my sleeve,
And only returns to my ribcage when it has to visit his parents.
My life is one long running commentary that no-one wants to hear.
I'll say I love cheese, and books, and music, and poetry, and my parents
And mean it.

I am nothing like my father.
My father is nothing like me.
We are separated by a division of generations multiplied by culture.
My father studied physics.
He was good at maths.
He's done nothing but work hard to support us and never complains.
I am an artist,
And I study psychology, and tax.

I still live at home with my parents.
Sometimes, I am afraid that we cannot communicate.
That we can't understand what the other's trying to say
And that the gap,
Of time and culture and language,
Will make sure that we never will.

But I know that this will never happen.
Because I know
That he loves me.
Because he tells me to eat more.
Because he tells me to study more.
Because he tells me to clean my damn room.

And he knows, that I love him.
Because I tell him.
Because I listen to what he says.
Because I do whatever I can to help him.

I know that he loves me.
He knows that I love him.
And that's enough.

I know I'll never be the Traditional Chinese Man my father wanted me to be.

But I'll be damned if he's not proud.

— Albert Lin

This is a poem for my dad. More specifically, it's a poem to help express how I feel to about my dad, to my dad. Partly because of the stuff I talked about, it's always been hard for me to talk to my dad about anything more serious or existential than how to solve a maths problem or fix a tap. So this was a way for me to say "hey, I know how much you care about me, here's my attempt at showing you how much I care about you".


About the contributor

Albert Lin is a jack of all trades, and master of absolutely nothing. He's been writing poetry of questionable quality for years, and only recently learned how to make it bearable. Currently, he's studying Tax and Psychology. Weird.

You can find more of his spoken word poetry here.