My mother’s Buddhist shrine

My mother’s Buddhist shrine

is a cheap, improvised thing –

Bodhisattva miniatures

found at East Meets West

(two aisles down from the healing crystals and New Age sex toys),

arranged over gold dollar-store table cloth,

draped over the nightstand from my parents’ first American bedroom,

drawers mostly blank envelopes and binders full of old utility bills.

It materialized in China, 1911,

amid the cacophony and the roar of revolution,

as my great-grandparents –

or the faceless, hollow memory of them as recounted by my parents –

fleeing to wherever-somewhere-anywhere-Malaysia;


It reincarnates in Kuala Lumpur, 2000,

as my parents,

carrying my six-month-old sister and me onto a plane for America,

to live in a 17-year-streak of rented houses – temporary homes –

suitcases never too far out of sight;


What you see now of the shrine,

residing quietly by the window in the living room of our apartment,

is an action shot of the cycle

of running away and from but never to,

and surfing the ephemeral space in which the children of any diaspora inhabit.

Vayne Ong