I could be an American because once, I got a gold star.
And the gold star was for numbers I’d earned, words I’d strung together
Almost effortlessly, I think, because I could.
Once, I used Chinese as if it was a country and told myself that it was,
You put a hyphen between Chinese and American and never really know
What it means, or what it constitutes of. Sometimes, the color yellow
Isn’t just the color of your skin. Sometimes, the color yellow is
The sun, a banana, leaves in the fall.
I think I could be an American because once, I played the piano for hours each night,
And told myself that this was my dream, because it was tangible,
Not abstract, like the images of Harvard, Yale, Princeton on the walls
Of my bedroom, where I wasn’t afraid to look at it and think,
I can do this someday. I just wanted to achieve great things.
I just wanted to go west. I just wanted to score higher,
I just wanted to score a little bit higher. You know,
I think I could be an American. Because once, I learned about work ethics in APUSH,
It was the notion of American progress, so as long as I worked hard
So long as I had my number, my absolute value,
Maybe, it’d be enough. Maybe I could be red, white, and blue.
But then, maybe not--
You put a hyphen between Chinese and American,
You never really know what it means.
Valerie Wu is a high school sophomore in California. Her work has been featured and/or recognized by Susan Cain's Quiet Revolution, the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Huffington Post, Teen Ink, and various local publications. Outside of school, you can find her either watching TED videos or correcting someone's grammar.