Everybody wants what they can’t have

Led by our noses to satisfy a thirst for that—

A dose of that exotic stuff to spice up our lives

Like the Chinese kid thinking the rice

must be sweeter in America

Like the expat thinking the grass

must be greener in East Asia

We all want in on the things we can’t have

This human nature is the demand for the scarcity making the world go round and round and round and round……


I’ve been a sojourner too training in the language they told me is important

Leaving behind my mother tongue

while they etch nonsensical words onto their skin

Saying: I’m obsessed with anime and K-pop

I’d love to visit your continent

Your traditional dresses look so pretty

Let me live in your skin for a second

I read about your political struggles

Let me have a piece of that experience

I’ve never slept with a Chinese girl before

Let me have a piece of that


And there’s coloured money to be made, won’t you tell us more of your story?

On the outside looking in, trying to catch a glimpse

of the mythic city that only exists in fiction

While I’m stuck on the doorstep of a place I can no longer call home

My monolithic

eclipsing the history of malnourishment in my aunt’s frail body

(And still I’m ventriloquising her speech in a language she doesn’t speak)


A thousand miles and a thousand books and I still don’t have the vocabulary

The value of my valedictory is just as pretty sounds to my family

This human nature – supply for the demand envying what they can’t have —

And she could buy an education or just an eye colour

My Chinese friend affecting a BBC accent

even as she taught her students Fanon

And my cousin that’s never left Hong Kong

switching ex-boyfriends for another white one

Friends swiping right on anyone blond-haired blue-eyed

while they fear for the future of Cantonese pride

Like the Kasoura’s of the writer’s imagination

I call it cultural cannibalism, they call it acceptance

When I speak my mother tongue I feel twice the distance


And if life imitates fiction it’s because it holds up a mirror to you

And I, the speaker, a funhouse reflection

of all the things you paid for to see

A simple three-act morality tale: action, conflict, resolve at the finale

Put me in Tate Modern next to the Guerilla Girls

Lithograph me in one frame before I break character – ambiguities need not apply

‘Cause it’s all good long as we’ve got our 5-minute high

Racking up credits in wokeness aplenty, this armchair activism

While some still say I’m invoking pity like this, playing the victim

Damned if I speak dialectical, damned if I don’t


So tell me, is this the narrative you wanted?

Was this an enlightening performance?

Am I worth 5 minutes of your attention?

Because let’s be honest now

You think I’m only as interesting as I am vaguely East Asian



Note: This poem was originally written for a live performance. It has not been previously published anywhere.
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