Artist Statement:

Fiction is a label I use to disguise my own lived experiences. My characters embody different aspects of how I taste, what I see, and the things I feel. I don’t think I’m alone in the opinion that fiction writers are narcissistic. It is difficult for me to use different names or “fictionalize” different locations, because the intimate details of those sources shape and distort my attachment to their memories. So, Sister Jane – I am sorry I use your name. San Diego – I am sorry I use your cherry trees. But I’m writing fiction, so I can say that I’m not talking about you and that you’re only my inspiration. But I am. And the memories, not the inspiration, deserve recognition. The social context in which I form my lived-ness is also a source of my writing. California captures my sun-filled childhood memories, Texas holds my heart, Illinois reluctantly clutches my frustration and anticipation and anxiety as a graduate student, and Morocco will shatter my world. My writing changes with each transition, and is a direct likeness of the interpretations of the people I am surrounded by. I have not yet figured out how to sort between transitions and interpretations, and my writing is a reflection of this. At times, it is messy and ambiguous as I try to capture my different construal of experiences. It will get better though, hopefully.

Color Stained

Mimi Duong

 

Inside, I sleep in a bed crowded
by two sisters. A room middled
with two more and a cousin.

 

Outside, I live inside a cul-de-sac
where neighborhood folk
teach brightly haired children
on bikes, peddling behind
pink and blue ribbons riding
in the wind. Neighborhood kids
pull each other in
neighborhood wagons. Neon red
with wheels that squeak. And
the ice cream make makes big neighborhood bucks.

 

My roommates and I go
to our backyard to
avoid neighborhood crowds.
Rusty fenced, rarely mowed.
The lush towers high
for us to play hide-and-seek as
Amazon fairies in an enchanted forest,
only reached by going
over sea under stone, or opening
a musty wardrobe to find
a magical world.
My sister rounds up caterpillars, to see
if they could swim
in a cup of water. But
they never can. So she dumps their bodies
and fills their death cup
with bright crayons. We create
stained colored mazes
by melting them with a magnifying glass
and my dad's bifocals.

 

We spend time beyond
our fences. In a place we call
"the fun canyon behind our house" but really, it is
"the unfertilized hillside of death".

 

We climb down ancient stairs with
hands and legs, moving painfully
slow
because it's really Mt. Everest.
And we should really be careful.

 

Going home, we crumble up its steps
to escape howls of
the wolf-herd behind us.
My mom says a graveyard of ghost-zombies
live in our canyon. And they
want to be left alone. So we
bring neighborhood-picked flowers
to pay respects, in case that day
would be the day
we finally find them.

 

One neighborhood house has a cherry tree
left unpicked to feed
squirrel families or make
a giant cherry pie. We could never
decide which.

 

Summer days,
we climb with big plastic bowls
to make our own pie. Sitting
high enough to hide between branches
or low enough to skittle away.
One time, Kimmi had
her pants caught
on a branch
so she could not jump off; only dangle
with her pant legs bundled
by her ankles
until our neighborhood neighbor untangled her sobbing body
from his tree. We didn't eat cherries
very much after that.

 

My dad came home today
after long summer hours
of translating at courthouses,
aglow with delight, to bring us
good news.

 

We're moving to Texas.

 

What? We say.

 

He repeats himself
but we only hear
that we are leaving California.

 

He promises us
we won't have to
ride horses to school or say the word
"ya'll", or smell like manure.
But we don't believe him.

 

We know the caterpillars will feel
different. And the grass
will taste different. And the sun
may not soak so thoroughly into
our skins. And at once,
it is a sad summer year.

Euphemism Campus Box 5555 Illinois State University Normal, IL 61790