Featured Student: Marissa, 2nd year MAPOF

bbf9224b-b669-4e47-b629-9796eaeaa416Marissa is a second year student in our Master of Arts in Process-Oriented Facilitation and Conflict Studies program. We are thrilled to have been given permission to share some of her poetry which sheds light on a part of her experience growing up as a mixed-race person in the U.S. 
In addition to writing poetry, Marissa can also be found performing with her band at local spots around Portland. Thank you for sharing with us Marissa!


swimming lessons


it’s strange to learn a language secondhand

a language that lives in me

lives in my childhood

lives in my blood

yet shame so often holds it hostage to the tip of my tongue

it could “never be good enough”

a language that lives in the steam of dumpling baskets

the clanging of dim sum carts

and my mother’s beckoning hands

and too–

her scolding

passed down from mother to mother

“mei mei, don’t go to bed with your hair wet or you’ll wake up with a headache”

the language that lives in the food i’ve craved

as a 6 year old to 26 year old

but could never

and still cant ever

muster up the courage to order from a waiter

and claim the language as my own

my shame is my mother’s shame

and my clumsy american tongue could never be my mother’s native one

light and agile

carved around tones and ancestry

my ears can’t hear her accent

to me

her voice is just her own

to me

it has always been her own

but to her

her english was only ever

“never good enough.”

to others

her accent was a hassle

a dismissal

another reason to close an office door

to lay her off

to turn their head

to shut their eyes like blinds

she asked me at age 4 how to pronounce “zoo”

she still asks me sometimes, “shzoo”

i hear the hint of home in her accent

the hint of home

when spoken here

outcasts her

the hint of home

causing people to try to

translate her


but you swam here at 26

and you continue to swim

even though no one ever taught you how

at age 7

you reminded me everyday before YMCA swimming lessons

how lucky i was to learn to swim

because you were never so lucky

we would go to the pool

and you would stand at the shallow end

waving at me

standing alone


in your single



in the dressing room

i watched you gaze at your reflection in the mirror

turned sideways

head cocked

your hands cupping your belly

this swimsuit you bought specifically

to stand

not swim in


you float at the shallow end

avoiding the water so your hair doesn’t get wet

Interested in additional information about the Master of Arts in Process-Oriented Facilitation and Conflict Studies (MAPOF)? Click here to be taken to the MAPOF page or contact our Outreach and Admissions Coordinator to schedule an information session! 
Photo of Melissa Perry
Outreach & Admissions Coordinator