Mami by Jacqueline Jiang Chieu

Mami is not from here. 


Jacqueline Jiang is an educator and a Master's student at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. She also works as a poet mentor in high schools throughout the island and offers creative writing workshops to middle school students. Her academic and creative work are both written with the goal of educating the outsiders about the current (and past) socio-political situation in Puerto Rico. She believes that her path is to make sure that no one goes without understanding and having awareness of is happening in her island and focuses on anti-colonial literature in her academia, while also writing her own.  

She comes from cold weather, colder people, 

High buildings & expectations. 


Mami comes from a big family, 

Eternally divided over what province grandpa came from,

Where the best place to buy dim sum in Chinatown is, 

Who has a thinner and pointier nose. 


We have not been together since my grandmother's death. 


Yet, mami remembers her kindly,

Miss Chinatown in her youth, 

Beautiful and pursued by the successful men 

Who wanted the traditional life of their women bearing babies. 


My ancestors would have never imagined that 

I would be raised by salsa

Or that I would so affectionately learn to love my 

Abuelita Nidia from Jersey who cooked everything with lard


But it was Mami,

With her heart in New York 

And her body in Santurce, 

Who made sure I was a cangrejera,

Because I did not want to be like her. 


"38 years I have lived here and the buses just get worse," 

She always says. 

"You should not go to school here," 

She comments,

"It's no good." 


Pero Mami has stayed. 


And I know that for her, moving to her promised land scares her. 

She has lived more years on this water, 

Mangle and sand than in the jungle we passionately call



There is one thing that my mother does not seem to understand. 

When you come to paradise to stay, 

Truth tends to seep. 


And I, the small girl of an island, 

With my head constantly in the clouds, 

Have always enjoyed taking apart, 

Piecing together.


Mami may be a state, 

Following the idea of a false liberty, 

But I am the land 

In the middle of sea. 

Unwilling to be overthrown or drowned by the ocean

As people swim, fly, project themselves into the hands

That are prepared to drown them. 


It is Mami's love for those hands

That has made me the way I am, 

Gracias a esas manos, yo soy así.

The Acentos Review 2019