Wrought with Gold

Listen, dear readers, there once was a story,

Filled with magic and marvels and whimsy and wonder,

One of trials and hardships, of success and glory.

A boy with a dream that crackled like thunder

And filled him with energy that helped him thrive,

But he had to hide it, lest it be torn asunder.

His parents, Khmer immigrants, restarted their lives.

They learned a new tongue in a foreign land

And worked to their bones just to survive.

Between family and work, they met the grueling demand

To raise two children and see them take flight,

In the hopes they were ready for what the universe had planned.

That boy has grown up, so here I write.

I followed the rules and sat in society’s mold,

And along the way, I learned of my plight:

Being brown is a battle and a tale untold,

A blessing and a curse that comes with no guide.

To stray from those confines, I could never be so bold.

East vs west, straddling the divide.

Feeling the pressure and the waves of blues,

Struggling each day to pick a side.

Am I Asian? American? How could I choose?

I wanted someone to give me provision.

It felt like whichever I picked, I would always lose.

So three years ago, I made a decision

To unearth my dream from memory’s mire,

Knowing all too well of the inevitable collision

Between their expectations and my desires.

But the urge was too strong, the pull too great—

I wanted to write and unleash that fire

To destroy the shackles thrown on by fate.

My pen and paper became my sword and shield,

As I finally realized my gift to create.

Through my writing, the rift in me healed.

I’m two sides of a coin that gleams in the light.

I just needed to watch as the layers were peeled.

Armed with my words, I’m ready to fight.

As I embrace who I am and follow my heart,

The boy’s dream returns, its flames burning bright.

The cracks I bear could tear me apart,

But wrought with gold, I’ll speak the unspoken.

Under the light, I’ll become my own piece of art.

I am not a stereotype, and I’m more than a token.

It’s not in spite of my flaws that you’ll hear me roar—

I know I’m beautiful because I’m broken.

A new chapter awaits with adventures galore.

My story continues, so watch me soar.

– Eric Nhem


The first draft of this was for a work retreat last year. The activity is commonly known as a “Where I’m From” poem. It’s typically free verse, but I wanted to challenge myself and use a terza rima rhyme scheme. Creating this reminded me why I love to write and how that influences and is influenced by me being Asian American. The theme of the poem, along with the title, is inspired by kintsugi, the Japanese art of using gold lacquer to repair broken pottery pieces. Kintsugi also encourages us to embrace our flaws instead of hide them, which is an ongoing process for me.

Editors:

Nikki J.

Sam L.

Zoe L.

Cover Photo Source: https://www.inprnt.com/gallery/ankegladnick/kintsugi/canvas/