in Texas
you hang a picture over your bed
of a silhouette lost like a wrinkle
in the folds of the desert
you understand
at 19 and an immigrant
one-way plane ticket from Hong Kong
from the close quarters of family and friends
one grain in a sea of sand

The manager at McDonalds
wishes he didn’t hire you
you struggle to catch orders
words slippery and fast
might as well
catch fish with bare hands
and your tongue too clumsy
to perform the acrobat
of the t-h in
Thank you come again

In nursing college
the teacher sits you down
and says
    maybe this isn’t for you
while you cry
But like Indiana Jones
you won’t quit and go home
you run for the prize
come fire and scorpions
failed tests and long medical terms
and people who snicker
when you don’t comprehend
their foreign words
you run for the prize
your diploma
you run to master
the t-h in

that’s right
watch me
catch fish with
bare hands

-Katina Wong Laib


Katina Laib, a native of California, has always had a fascination with words, particularly through the medium of poetry. She has written poems and short stories since elementary school. Her writing is shaped particularly by her training through Poetry for the People, a program at the University of California, Berkeley, that believes powerful writing has the ability to heal, bridge differences, build communities, and usher in justice. Katina is also passionate about the use of language as a marriage and family therapist, where she helps her clients tell their stories in new ways. She lives with her husband and two cats in Orange County, California.