On persimmons, fall, family
One purpose of this blog is to share drafts of creative writing, which I haven't done in a long time!
Below is the first draft of some creative writing (which was written both impulsively & overnight). Over the next week, I'll be returning to this post to make plenty of much-needed revisions — for overall cohesion, thematic clarity & depth, flow, and word choice.
Feel free to check back within a week or two! As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
One day, my grandparents plant a persimmon tree in California. They are learning to live an ocean away from home. They care for it well.
Many stories later, I am a child standing beneath the dome of this tree, my face tilted upwards to collect the light falling through its branches. When rain has fallen, the earth softens beneath my feet. Its fragrance fills the leaves.
By mid-October, the tree blooms with fruits of a sunrise color — crisp on the outside, soft and slightly sweet on the inside.
At 18, I leave California for school. Every fall semester, I dwindle into a sleep-deprived, meal-skipping college student desperate to prove herself. Every fall semester, my mom sends boxes of persimmons across the country.
Once opened, the boxes unlock the fragrance of a tree in California. Fueling my body with a sunrise color, a slight sweetness, the persimmons offer a wordless reminder: Thesa, there is nothing to prove.
I give them away to people I care about.
During two of those fall semesters, my maternal grandparents pass away. I had never gotten to know my paternal grandparents, so the sense of loss is both new and strangely familiar.
Years later, mid-October finds me shaking in a parking lot far from home — far from cities where people look like me. College is a memory, but I have chosen to stay in this city to build my career.
That day in October, I sit in silence as two white men hurl their voices against my car window.
“She hit your bike!”
“You fucking hit my bike!”
“Get out of your car!”
“Where’s your driver’s license? Insurance?”
“Get out of your car!”
Breathing deep, I leave the car. They point to a dot on the motorcycle. We all squint to see it.
To hear a story is to look back.
To live inside the story — to be a body in that space — is to breathe in the reality that right now, anything could happen.
Sometimes, nothing happens to shatter the possibility of violence into reality. But once that space has throbbed with the possibility of violence, you do not forget that moment.
You cannot forget that moment.
As a college student, I write poems indulgently, incessantly, needlessly.
Mostly, I write about the angst of cultural identity as a daughter of immigrants. I write about not knowing the languages spoken by every generation before me. I lament the vestiges of colonization within me, the deep-seated inferiority complex, the dread mixed with longing towards whiteness. Once, I write about persimmons.
My poems pulse with the guilt and anxiety of having chosen a creative path, of laboring to be seen — when so many Filipinos dedicate their lives to seeing others, caring for others. This is what we are known for. This is what we have been exploited for. This is what we have chosen.
Leaving our homes, crossing oceans, to care for our families.
When I finish college, a nameless energy bars me from writing poetry. It persists until the day I sit in a parking lot, shaking.
what is it like to fear for your skin
in the space where a man stands
high on the power of his whiteness,
the toxicity of his his-ness,
for history never taught him anything
different? Remind me, because
how dare I forget
that to be brown & without a man
in this city
is to be afraid
to the point of shaking?
How dare I insist
that the space around
my skin doesn’t hold me any differently,
how dare I remember & retell how
that day, only one of us
Weeks pass before I stop
fearing you will show up at my door.
Weeks pass before I decide that
I will remember this:
the pure, helpless rage
& the overlooked, unspoken,
bottomless well of terror
within every second
throbbing with violence
— the bodies you have
That fall, persimmons arrive — not in a package, but in my parents’ luggage. My parents are in town for a few days.
During their visit, I notice a tightening inside me. Then, guilt. Having idolized independence, a body tenses in the presence of anyone perceived to jeopardize that idol.
But the moment passes. Their visit becomes a wash of warm memories.
A week later, I text my mom to ask for more persimmons. “All of my friends & housemates LOVE them!!! and so do I.”
“I can send some tomorrow,” she replies.
I don’t have to live in this city.
I could live in California. I could stand under the persimmon tree, my face tilted upwards to catch the sky falling through its branches. I could be near my family. I could escape the winter, and the whiteness, of this city.
Where I live, there’s a park large enough to lose sight of the city. One day in November, when time has loosened the memory of fear from my body, I find myself walking along a steep, narrow trail. It leads to the same space where I stood transfixed, months ago, by the trees around me.
Again I stand, transfixed. Leaves of a sunrise color, falling towards wet earth in a slightly-crisp breeze. Transfixed, I remember there are places that have always been.
Before this land was colonized, before it was called Pittsburgh, when it belonged to the Haudenosaunee, Lenape, Osage, and Shawnee peoples, this place was here.
Before we were colonized, before we were called Filipinos, inside us too, there are places that have always been.
One day in November, the deliveryman places a box outside my door, following the address in my mom's handwriting. Once opened, the fragrance exudes a wordless reminder.
My grandparents' persimmons remind me of where I have been. Of whose I have been. In their sunrise color, their slight sweetness fueling my body, I am reminded of family. Not simply what I labored to construct an identity apart from, but as my own. My siblings. My parents. My grandparents who cared for the tree. My grandparents who I never knew.
I remember my culture, my identity is rooted in a legacy of care — care that is oceans deep, oceans wide.