A Olympic gold-medalist entry to Essential Americans Anthology


There could not be a more fitting preamble to this entry than the words that accompanied it in an email to me:

“What an impossible, wonderful, challenge this was. I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to submit something for the collection. I sat down at first to write a first hand account of growing up in America as a mixed race person. I tried to capture what it was like to spend a lifetime bubbling in the “Other” option in forms, of becoming a gold medalist at the “but where are you from” Olympics, or of looking  “ambiguously ethnic.” My whole life has been a liminal space, neither white or Asian enough, and I tried to force the experience into straight lines.

It was impossible.
Plain words were painful and far too heavy.
Instead, I’ve attached a short poem for consideration. It isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, and it poured out of me while I sat at my desk, watching the sunlight come in and illuminate the hints of red in my hair. Again, it isn’t the best thing I’ve ever written, but it was the most freeing thing I’ve put to paper.
It felt like breathing.
Aya Matsumoto”
Some Days
by Aya Matsumoto


Some days

I find myself looking

for the red in my hair.

Gifted from my mother, blue

eyes like the Texas sky.


Most days it’s just brown, brown, brown.

Sometimes like ditchwater

Sometimes like warm summer nights

And good rich earth.

Like hate and love muddied together.

It’s an inherited thing, this brown.

Passed on by my father, green

card in hand and hair Kurosawa dark


Red slinks and hides in sly places,

refusing to sit and be named.

I catch it out of the corner of my eye.

Black is the first thing a person sees, they think

Ah, there is no confusion here.

At first glance I fit the mold they shape for me.

But it’s a trick, a racial sleight of hand.

Their double take puts a question mark where a person stands.

Between mother red and father black

brown is the compromise.


Some days the brown swallows.

Too foreign.

Too dirty.

Too much and yet not enough.

Some days it is an impossible burden to bear.


But some days I braid and wear it like a crown,

wrapped in a halo of me and my










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