Delicate Folds

Delicate folds
Complex creases shape fragile beaks and wings, forming paper miracles
Hands folded, head bowed, and respect bestowed, we kneel before our elders
Careful pleats neatly crimped on one another, the dough ready for steaming
My mother’s hands working repetitively like a well-oiled machine
Crease, pinch, press, repeat
Graceful touches define our culture
Only to be crushed at the hands of headlines of
“Foreign film category”
“A really bad day for him

Delicate folds
Like how I imagine Hyun Jung Grant carefully folded her children’s clothes
Like how our elders contort themselves into the earth
… to hold onto life just a little bit longer
Mangled into the asphalt, left as grave reminders of lost stories
Memories of tradition
All murdered at the mercy of killers
Who wanted to test the fragility of our grandparents
Who wanted to satisfy his desires

Say their names with the same confidence you mispronounce bulgogi or xiao long bao
Except this time
Pronounce the soft sounds of our language, taking care to know that X sounds like “sh”
Pronounce the harsh ones too, we’re not all submissive
The gibberish and ethnic reek to some
Are instead meaningful expressions and tantalizing meals to me

Gentle grandmas’ presence, colorful smiles and all, replaced with their alters
How many more?
The folds don’t seem so careful now

-- Joann M., 9th-12th Grade