On Being a Third-Culture Person
“Where are you from?”
Well that depends. How long do you have?
There are many houses but few homes
Many travels but one journey
To the center of the answer
Hidden from both you and me
An answer that takes time
How long do you have?
“Let’s try a more efficient query: Who are you?”
Who am I? Such importunity!
Should the mink bite or sooth like a coat?
For behind the warm fur burrows an Arctic answer:
I’m the octagon in your square/round world
The curious bird in your category’s cage
The favored knickknack on your chosen shelf
Forbidden to show the other side of myself
And who are you? I’ll turn the tide:
You are the air-boxing butterfly
Gadding from thread to reel
With full plates and irons in the fire
“Sorry, what were you saying again?”
I labor to format my thought to your frame
To ensure a smooth upload with sufficient RAM
And no spinning beach ball stare
“I watched Apple News on where you live
Got the scoop from that TikToker’s longboarding tour
I’ll fix you some Tin Roof. Make yourself at home.”
But I’m not at home.
I’m in the library of overlooked nuances
Dithering over books you’ll never read
And no soul has checked out since your grandpa was in school
Before Cliff Notes were the rule
My turn again: Are you for Manchester or Liverpool?
“I don’t know. It’s been a while since Gray’s Anatomy.”
I watched Zamalek triumph over Al Ahly last night.
“Is that a Scripture? A verse from your Book?
Sorry, I’m not religious except in sports.”
Pardon me, but do you have khao soi?
“Yes, cows and soy are staples here
In the heartland. Alexa, volume 4.”
I’m the Rubik’s and you’re the genius
Never mind I’ve tried to tell you
There’s a side you haven’t seen
“Sorry, can we keep this conversation
At sea level please? Burnout’s going ’round, you know
My neurons need a reboot before we deep dive.”
(I’ve heard that matcha’s good for the medulla oblongata
Or eucalyptus oils on temples when the moon is blue)
The cues sufficiently understood, I take my leave
And navigate the common cosmos
For the one friendly solar system
At the center of the clouded swirl
Where lights reveal a constellation
Formed by lines I found and drew
Where tears and breath and silent space
Flow freely to a place known
Only to me and the Love that moved the stars
© Kurt MählerTagged as: communication, cross-culture, sojourner, soul, TCI, TCK, third-culture