Peb Yog (We are)

By Kevin Yang

So ask me,

who we are,

as if a single sentence could define our existence,

as if one page in the history book could speak about our milleniums on this Earth,

as if a statistic could do justice to our numbers

So ask me,

who we are

Peb yog

We are soy milk and frosted flakes for breakfast

We are carnivores

feasting on laj nyoos and qaub,

unafraid of e-coli

We are grateful that rice is gluten free.

We are vegans feasting only on zaub ntsaub,

We are everything in the garden is zaub ntsuab.

We are full stomachs


full hearts.

Peb yog,

We are lovers.

We are love

in all of it forms.

We are Gay.

We are straight.

We are queer.

We are ace.

We are hands holding hands.

We never kiss in front of our children, but

We always kissed in front of our parents.

We are black umbrellas and bride prices.

We are patriarchy.

We are feminists who know better.

Peb yog.

We are family.

We are married since sixteen.

We are divorced twice.

We are orphans.

We are eternal bachelors.

We are single mothers holding down the fort,

fathers who cradle children on their backs.

We are grandmothers

who can still tell stories about Laos

before the war.

We are brothers

We are sisters

We are siblings

We are cis

We are trans

We are transformers

We are giants

We are five foot five

even though we write five foot six on our

driver's license registrations

We are bigger than our bodies.

We are bigger than our fears.

Peb yog.

We are superstitions

We are uneaten oranges

at the dinner table.

We hide our ears from dogs breath.

We only point at the moon

with our elbows

We graduate with our doctorates in medicine,

but we still rub tiger balm on everything.

Peb yog.

We are joss sticks

and bowls of rice for our ancestors

We read Exodus

and become jealous of Moses

how he split the Red Sea

wishing we could've done the same

to the Mekong River.

We are prayers. We are chants.

We are bruised knees on marble floors.

We carry the fallen on our backs and in our hearts.

We are alive.

We are beating.

We are beaten.

Peb yog.

We are bruised ribs in Wisconsin forests.

We are police brutality in North Minneapolis.

We are eight shots in the back.

We are not always welcome here.

We are always here.

We are always hearing go back to where you came from.

We are trying to remember where we came from.

Peb yog.

We are Frogtown, East Side, Northside Minneapolis.

We are Eau Claire, LaCrosse, Detroit, Charlotte, Fresno.

We are Xieng Khoung, Nan, Guizhou, Paris, Berlin, Australia, French Guiana.

We are Mekong to the Mississippi.

We are home

everywhere we stand.

Peb yog.

We are ELL in the second grade

and the third grade.

We are bootlegged copies of Rush Hour 2

dubbed in all Hmong.

We are McDonalds signs on University and Lexington.

We are Northside Slang.

We are Masters Degrees in English Literature.

We are Nyob Zoo Kwv Tij Neej Tsa

contestant winners.

We are fluent in tragedy,

speak about struggle

like it's our mother tongue,

swallow hope

like it's mov nplaum.

Peb yog.

We are the children of the future

playing kaw taub

with our elders

a winding game of back and forth

traveling in spirals.

We are dab neeg told at campfires

We are Hmong immersion schools on the Eastside.

We are poems

We are kwv txhiab.

We are hip hop.

We are Paj huam.

We are contradictions.

We are harmony.

We are Generation 1

We are millenials

We are Generation 1 million.

Peb yog.

We are growing

We are complicated.

We are human,

the same way

We are invincible

in our flaws and

in our perfections.

So ask me,

who we are

as if you weren't expecting an entire story

understanding that by the time I finish speaking,

I'd have to start all over just to capture every new

stone that we've turned over since,

So ask me,

who we are

understanding that we have so much more to go,

but we've we come so far already

So ask me,

who we are

and we will tell you

Peb yog

Peb yog

Peb yog Hmoob.