This, An Approximation of Pain:
This piece is a reflection on the trope of a Tiger Parent that the media frequently espouses—a trope so untenably linked to the Asian community yet over-wrought and over-simplified. Through this piece, I hope to shed light on another perspective of this stereotype—to demonstrate how generational pain is inherited in a household, how mistakes birth other mistakes, and things may not be as black-and-white as they may seem.
The long rod, made of horse-whip and
white lightning, cracking violent static
as it curved through the air. The
lashes on the back, counting I love
you on a D flat minor scale I had
wrestled the night to learn, crying we
all want something we can’t have.
That golden child opening doors
across a suburban sky. That sky folding
into lullabies beneath our skin. When you darkened
your face with ash from the pipes, sank beneath
the gap between the floorboards to the sound of
AK-47s splitting the air, you told yourself
this was not the life you wanted. When you survived
a sky lampooned with silvered blisters and orange fires
to be denied school, you hoped that
the apple should fall further from the tree.
The tree: a wilted hollow, excavating
prayers from the trabeculous rattle of loved ones. Her
apple, bloated from epicanthal salt, drifts aimless
on a harbour of ghosts.
I’m tired of these white-marbled
graves for our language of love.
How we made weak humour from unfinished
pain : Exhausting the metaphor of a tiger parent :
Injecting memories like napalm through the veins.
You cracked the cane and saw the faces
of the men who stormed your home—
the knife, a pillar of salt,
in your hand—reciting incantations
of their virtue and strength as they struck
a fist into the ancestral altar.
When the last note echoed
through our porcelain home, the bamboo rod
rippled like lightning or the whistle of the bullet
of a soldier rushing the pews of a church,
and you made a soldier
the only way you knew how.
Sher Ting, originally from a sunny island in Southeast Asia, is a Singaporean-Chinese currently residing in Australia. She is a 2021 Writeability Fellow with Writers Victoria and a 2021 Pushcart and Best of The Net nominee with work published/forthcoming in OSU The Journal, Chestnut Review, Eunoia Review, The Citron Review and Kissing Dynamite. She tweets at @sherttt and writes at sherting.carrd.co.