Her Paper Voice

Sun, 12/30/2018 - 23:25 -- SH2812

Her Paper Voice
By: Sophia Huynh


My grandma's voice is becoming like paper.  
It is smooth, flimsy, and rough around the edges
With every story she tells, it spills out of her mouth like a printer,
Never ending, telling me her experiences that she  was waiting to tell me all day.
She speaks in the firmest tone that will get the point across yet that can still be bent without making a crease.  
When she realizes that she has said something wrong, instead of erasing, she folds her paper voice into a paper river
She shows me that the road to forgiveness is long, yet you can float there if you hang on long enough.

My grandma's voice is becoming like paper
In her eyes, you can tell that her paper voice is wavering.

When I was little,  I often stayed with my grandmother
I always imagined her Chinese characters jumping out of her throat being imprinted onto her voice writing a story

She taught me how to stand your ground
Look up into the person's eyes when they are talking to you
And always be present in any situation so people will have no choice but to give you recognition.


She emphasized multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction

But you could tell within her explanations that

Her voice had another story


Make sure you can recognize that having the subtraction symbol means that you are just adding another negative number

Like how us Chinese, are always just there, but we’re always  just subtracted away from the equation

You need to know addition

‘Cus that’s the time when you learn to add yourself back into the problem to be noticed

Multiply courage into something so great, it’s too big to count

And divide those haters opinions into something so small,

The amount is undefined on a calculator.



Just maybe,

We are so good at math because we are constantly reminded to calculate the distance it takes to go from America to Asia.

Have you ever thought the reason why we are so good at math is because

It is the only subject

Our elders understand in own native tongue.


My grandmother told me the first thing that you do in a problem was to FOIL

First hold your head and look towards the sky

Tell them that your belittled slanted shaped eyes will always try to find the truth

Outside, explain to them how they were pronouncing your name wrong, but

In fact, you know you’re just explaining to yourself because pronouncing your name out loud repeatedly  is the last reassurance that you actually belong in this world

Last, being bilingual never meant for you to be alone, but to be together.

Sometimes I wonder if we need to measure the distance between our xenophobia or our common sense.


You see,

My grandmother's voice is becoming like paper
Every time she answers an unknown phone call,
Her ink lined mandarin characters are being shred to pieces
She musters out two words: No English and turn towards me with her eyes pleading for me to help her understand.      


It’s been over 14 years that’s she’s been in America yet the only words she  knows in English are Hi, Sorry, and No English.

She has never spoken my name in English once.

She can only communicate in a language she can call her own

But communication is a broken bridge

You can see the way,

But sometimes you just can’t reach the other side.


Before she came to America, she was so poor, that she had to make her family’s own clothing, and was paid ten dollars a week for fixing watches

She lived in one room with a family of eight

When she came to America, she sought a better life, a better future

But how can she get a job in America if she doesn’t speak English?

In America, instead of adapting to new languages

We force people to learn our own


One day, she told me that her voice doesn’t matter in this country.  
She now questions and asks me if she should die in her home country or stay and die here in America

because the only thing holding her back from leaving is us.


Every time the question of leaving came out of her throat, her voice became creased, crumpled, and ripped a little on the edges.

I need to read and listen to as many paper voices so that one day, I  can attach the stories to form a shadowing tree, and that tree will be too thick to be ever cut down.


But now that I think about it,

My voice is also becoming like paper

It’s sometimes smooth, flimsy, and little rough around the edges
I sometimes speak in the firmest tone that will get the point across but can still be bent without making a crease.


I will speak for my grandmother who cannot convey her feelings into English words

I will help her all my life          

Because I will follow the path of my grandmother's footsteps

And be sure to pick up the torn  leftover pieces of her paper voice that she  





This poem is about: 
My family
My community
My country
Our world
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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