The Naming Ceremony

by Vivian Yuxin Wen
After Sherman Alexie1

“Should you ask me where I come from, I must talk, with broken things” – Pablo Neruda

My Chinese name is Bad, Broken English,
so let me translate it for you.
My Chinese name is Yellow Dragon.
My Chinese name is Sesame Chicken.
My Chinese name is The Great Wall.
My Chinese name is an IMAX Screen, a Colossal Window
into Chinese culture:
My Chinese name is Hero.
My Chinese name is Zhang Yimou.
My Chinese name is That Director Entangled in Controversy
who only plays What the Westerners Want to See.
My Chinese name is Kung Fu.
My Chinese name is Kung Fu Panda.
My Chinese name is Kung Fu in The Matrix.
My Chinese name has been submitted to the Academy Award
for Best Foreign Language Film
(with English subtitles):
39 submissions, 2 nominated, 0 won.

My Chinese name is Beijing or Shanghai.
My Chinese name is The Forbidden City or the Skyscrapers,
photocopied, photoshopped on a poster you saw at an international airport.
Just like every Japanese is from Tokyo, France equals Paris,
My Chinese name is
Never mind, All Chinese Names Are the Same.
My Chinese name is written in the newspaper headlines:
“China, the Rising Power!”
“China, the Corrupted!”
My Chinese name is China the Rising Corrupted.
My Chinese name is Too Good.
My Chinese name is Too Bad.
My Chinese name is One Bun Being Pulled Apart by Five Sets of Pale Fingers
in a Sooty Cottage, a Village You Missed
while Flipping through Today’s Newspaper by a Spotless Window
On a High-speed Train from Shanghai to Beijing:
My Chinese name is “Poverty.”
My Chinese name is “Sorrow.”
My Chinese name is written in a Chinese Poem,
“O Motherland, My Dear Motherland,”
which wasn’t translated
well, so you didn’t know.

My Chinese name is Practical.
My Chinese name is Lawyer, Engineer, Businessman,
(Because someone has to pay for the tuition on wages six times less worthy than the dollar.)
My Chinese name is Yet, a Literature Student in the United States,
(Because her parents are rich,)
who writes unpatriotically better in English than in Chinese,
who actually writes poorly in both languages, broken words, you see,
My Chinese name is Do Not Stereotype.
My Chinese name is Hard-working.
My Chinese name is Working Overtime.
My Chinese name is Sweatshops that Produce
the “Made in China” labels on a H&M crop top, a Statue of Liberty
Standing on the Glass Rack in a New York Souvenir Shop.
My Chinese name is Made in China –
My Chinese name is made in China.
My Chinese name is Cheap.
My Chinese name is Cheap & Easy Asian Girls.
My Chinese name is Cheap & Easy & Sexy Babies
kneeling to the demands of white males
whose American names are Trump.
My Chinese name is President Xi Jinping
shaking hands with President Donald Trump
on television. An influential Chinese man
has his last name placed before the first name but I,
I am an Asian girl scrambling to translate a broken Chinese poem,
blathering on the pronunciation of her own Chinese name.
My Chinese name is Last Name Before First Name:
My Chinese name is Wen Yuxin.
Who is Wen Yuxin?
My Chinese name is Yuxin Wen.
Oh, that Penn Comp Lit girl.
My Chinese name is Misspelt.
My Chinese name is Mispronounced.
My Chinese name is Not in Alphabets.
My Chinese name is It Doesn’t Matter Because
We Are All the Same.

My Chinese name is Plagiarism.
My Chinese name is Plagiarized, Appropriated and Exhibited.
My Chinese name is China, a Porcelain Vase
exhibited on the shelves of Le Louvre, the Met and British Museum.
My Chinese name is on the shelves of museums.
My Chinese name is in the headlines of newspapers.
My Chinese name is Too Good,
My Chinese name is Too Bad –
Broken English,
so let me translate it for you.

 

1The Model Minority editorial board acknowledges the allegations of sexual harassment against Sherman Alexie, and, in publishing Yuxin’s poem, does not endorse Alexie or his work.

Yuxin Wen (affectionately known as Viv/Vivi/Vivian) is from Jiangsu, China and lived in Singapore for five years before coming to Philadelphia. She currently majors in comparative literature and minors in creative writing and art history in University of Pennsylvania. As the staff editor of DoubleSpeak translation magazine and the president of Penn Manuscript Collective, she spends most of her free time burying herself in words, translating and transcribing. She is an aspiring poet and translator (a very serious one) who loves to explore the intersections between languages, between the literary and the visual, and between the creative and the critical. The translation project she is currently working on is the translation of Fang Si-chi’s First Love Paradise, a novel by a Taiwanese writer, Lin Yi-han, which negotiates the tensions between the literary ideal and sexual violences. In Romance languages, “viv” means “to be alive.”