Wo Ai Ni: Getting Lost in the Translation

Ama looked at my cousins. “Too skinny.
But Maggie,” she said. “Maggie is just right.”
I smiled, because I was hai hao, good enough, and more,
here on this little island in the Pacific, where heat
oppressed and sweat stuck my brown hair to my face.
This is where I say and mean, wo ai ni.

But you don’t know what those words mean. Ni
cannot understand. Ni, with your skinny
legs and your baseball cap, ni with your long face.
had never felt anything so right
as being in your arms. I could feel the heat,
I could feel the emotion, I could feel more.

But when I said wo ai ni, you said no more.
I’m still reeling, still wondering why me and ni
can’t work this out. I want to heat
the dying embers between us, the skinny
smoldering out. It doesn’t feel right
without you. Can you see pain on my face?

I still remember nights when my face
was pressed into your shirt. You told me more
than anyone, and it felt so right.
I knew then that I wanted us, wanted ni
and wo to be forever, under the skinny
slats of light coming in your window. Light, but no heat.

I’m trying to be strong. I heat
up water to make hot chocolate. I cover my face
with the strength I wish I had. I grow skinny
because I don’t eat. I want to stay empty. Less, not more
is the answer. Less, because ni
said you couldn’t fight, said it didn’t feel right.

You walk by, and I pass on the right.
So cold, no words, not a damn thing, no heat.
I wonder what you’re thinking, if wo ai ni
still rings in your ears. But your face
reveals nothing. Friendship, nothing more.
So I waste away, my body, and my hope, skinny.

You are the right one, I know when I look at your face.
The heat is gone, but I have to believe there’s something more.
Because wo ai ni, just like my ama, who was too skinny.