Poetry: Bah Bah Yellow Sheep

Happy National Adoption Month. Where adoptees everywhere are working on, have stopped trying in, or are flat-out ignoring the shift in adoption narratives. In particular, international and transracial adoption has proven to be problematic for a few reasons. White Savior Complex, Dysfunctional Family Dynamics, and a host of Attachment Disorders and Abandonment Issues are all too common.


Cynicism aside, this poem has been brewing in my head for several years, the phrase “Bah Bah Yellow Sheep” nearly haunting me.

As a kid, into my teenage years, and even my young adulthood, I resented and grieved some of the things I did or did not carry in my hyphenated identity. The school district I attended is 98% white. I am one of two People of Color in my extended family of around 200 members. Asian race, Korea, and being different were ambiguous and triggered some anxiety, self-hate, and confusion.

The repeated phrase in this poem represents a lack of identity and ritual. It sounds like dissonance. It eggs on the imposter syndrome I carry with me. The beauty of my identity is elusive, a work in progress, and has not always shined like it does – mainly because I sometimes I can’t see it.

Enjoy.


Bah Bah Yellow Sheep
have you any wool.
In this story, what’s the difference
between the sheep and the wolf.

I grip that yellow label like
drawing with yellow colored pencil.
A foreign utensil on surface of my reflection in the mirror.
Trying my best to emulate almond eyes and latte flavored skin.
The tint of my iris
a depth of identity
I never even asked for
but stuck to adjust and discover that
I’d never asked for other.
It’s a sick twisted fact
like a lemon full of lime juice
peculiar and unique but still unwanted and
wrong.
My mom-
I’m her everything yet
I am loss upon loss like

Bah Bah Yellow Sheep
The wool is a wash.
They peeled my skin
and put some excuse for yellow
on top.

Yet I feel
everyone asking
“Bah bah yellowsheep,
have you any wool?”
I have none to offer you.
My wool
my skin
my asian-eyed grin.
My food and cuisine
or idol-clad magazine.
Fashion and models, music and bottles.
There’s an imperative to be Korean
to be something I am not.

Bah Bah Yellow Sheep
Have you any wool.

An appropriating response
because yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
Bah Bah Yellow Sheep
I didn’t to begin.
Scrape the language from my tongue
and take a mother from her son.

What I have is more than gold or trade or weight.
It’s real wealth.
A real wealth of issues
like having parents that don’t want me
like asking if I’m even meant to be here not like here-here but
existing.
like belonging somewhere but not ever knowing where that is
like wanting answers that I don’t need like any other adult in their 20s
like being dramatic and feel-y and I just need to
take a deep breath.
What I have is more than gold or trade or weight.
And I know it.
And even I ask myself still
Bah Bah Yellow Sheep
have you any wool?


as always, thanks for reading

karl

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