I worked in a Korean-owned
French cafe once,
selling delicious croissants,
passable sandwiches,
and mediocre quiches to people.

Never in my life
was I complimented more often
on my ability to speak English
than when I worked in this cafe
across the street from my university,
in the state where I was born,
in the county where I grew up.

Walking through Phnom Penh,
Siem Reap, Battambang,
visiting vendors’ stalls,
they were always surprised
when I spoke Khmer.

It must have been my
Western clothes, my light skin,
my mannerisms,
that made it so these people
could not recognize me
as one of their own,
but the same thing happens
in Long Beach.

No matter what I’m wearing,
what language I’m speaking,
or where I am,
I am only half home.

4 thoughts on “compliments

  1. <3 feel you. in the end, home is what we make it to be but it’s so hard when home is kinda here but not really.

  2. ha, i had an immigrant FROM GREECE compliment ME on my english. Ironic. We are in margins, belonging nowhere. I believe in self-determination. Homes do not exist for us, we have to build them.

  3. My country of birth is less than a 2 hour drive from Long Beach…yet, i feel too(?) American when i step foot across the imagined line.

    The deeper I go in though, the more human I feel. Emotions are recycled when I cross back….

    When so many of us exist within margins…is the page just an illusion?

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