Xinyuan (Joyce) Pu

There is “water” in my Chinese name
and there is “joy” in my English name
but I cannot have both in one name
without losing the other;

There is family (家) in a country (国家)
there is no opening (kaī) in leaving (lí kaī)
I cannot find the exact word to say
how I feel about leaving my country;

Before in Algeria,
people welcomed migrants home with a “ritual reintegration”:
Mom brings my favorite beef noodles to the airport
I spit out English words as I’m eating;

My tongue hurts
as my acting teacher tells me to enunciate every syllable;
The hot soup of xiaolongbao spills all over me
into ringing murmurs of the Huangpu River.

I sound different in different languages.
J’ai un son différent en parlant une autre langue.

For every new word I learn,
I try not to forget its equivalent on my tongue
Or perhaps, there’s no equivalent at all, I keep forgetting
I’m becoming a foreigner in my own country.

Xinyuan (Joyce) Pu is a writer, feminist, and theatre student from Shanghai, China. She has also published a one-act play Contagion under Helicon’s Share Your 2020 Story.