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If I could release you
Fiona Tang
A Mother’s Day Letter to My Mama Previous Frog and Squirrel and Possum Next

If I could release you

死女包
It cuts deep
Like slitting wounds with shards of glass
Spoiled brat

My English words—thoughts don’t translate
I scramble for shared meaning
It only fuels you further, livid, irate
I try again but they fly past you
Shrill, grating scolding
Scowl, simmering resentment
Your porcelain bowl hits the concrete, shattering
Your happiness
And then mine

You warn me of the day
When regret will settle in for not caring more for you 妈

I’m not enough, and I’ll never be
But even as I come to accept that
I remain hopeful with constant fervor
To release you from your chains
A prisoner to your past
Of trauma and scarcity

You hold onto guilt unremitted
I watch, helpless, as you whip your psyche
For being human
I fear your lifetime will pass
Before you grant yourself amnesty

I watch, resigned, as you grow senile
I try—fail—to speak reason but it slips past you
Worlds apart
I try—fail—to reach you across a sea
From my privileged land, to which you so lovingly transported me

If I could release you from your chains
I’d give you all that I have

But we’re worlds apart
And I’m not enough, I’ll never be


FIONA TANG is a second-generation Chinese American writer, designer, community organizer, and technologist. She was born in Palo Alto in 1991 and was raised in Fremont, California by her parents, who immigrated from Hong Kong. Her maternal grandparents fled from Communist China in the late 1940s to Kowloon, Hong Kong, where her mother was born, and in 1967, they immigrated as a family to the United States. Fiona is committed to connecting with women of color and collaborating on social justice goals through a lens of empathy and equity. Fiona currently serves as a Community Fellow at Code for America, where she is building a web application that helps people experiencing homelessness find shelter during cold weather. When she isn’t coding, Fiona enjoys reading, writing, drawing, building community, and learning about worker-owned co-ops.


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