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Instructions for a Child of an Assembly Line by Brian Dang

(for mom)


  1. Clock in.
  1. [insert time]
  1. [insert day]
  1. You are younger than her labor for [redacted
    aircraft manufacturing company].
  1. Your father works there too, but you are more a
    part of her from an early age.
  1. You are easier on her, in labor, than your older brother.
  1. There is a gap in infant photography for you
    where there is an abundance of your brother.
  1. You are the second: so.
  1. She left work to raise your brother.
(why you?)
  1. She goes back to work to raise you.
  1. Actually, you aren’t easier on her, in her labor,
    than your older brother.
  1. Neither of you were first.
  1. Be a hole.
  1. Watch a child throw a penny in you.
  1. Laugh it off.
  1. Don’t let it bother you. You know the necessity.
  1. You were borne of labor.
  1. Once, like everyone else.
  1. And then again.
(all of the
  1. You don’t quite know when to begin.
    1. the car crash
    2. when she lost the ability to joke in the
      language of the country
    3. [insert war]
    4. [insert war]
    5. [insert war]
  1. You are a part of a whole. Punch it out.
(can you
  1. Gather yourself and the things you need.
    1. your inheritance is her long finger
    2. your inheritance is the shape of her face
    3. your inheritance is slamming doors
    4. your inheritance is boiling water
    5. your inheritance is looking at things for a
      long time
    6. your inheritance holds debts
(can I?)
  1. When you enter, leave yourself at the door.


  1. About [redacted aircraft manufacturing company]:
  1. [redacted aircraft manufacturing company] has
    been a trusted name in [human-machine interface
    ] solutions [] when the company
    created the first lighted cockpit controls
    ] for the
    developing military and commercial aircraft
  1. You answer the question “what do your parents
    do?” with “build airplanes.”
  1. You know that’s half true.
  1. What do your parents do?
  1. Survive –
  1. build machines / and terrible wings.
  1. Every year she replaces the last family photo with
    a new one.
  1. They look exactly the same: the manufacturing
    plant’s holiday party, the Santa with
    threateningly small spectacles, everybody not
    really knowing how to smile.
(did we
  1. You are asked to trust the people at this party,
    who you do not know.
  1. Including the person dressed up as Santa.
  1. When you go on trips to visit your scattered
    family for reasons you don’t know until you’re
    older, you are on a plane.
about the
  1. She remarks: “we helped make this.”
  1. This is in reference not to the entire plane; it
    would be a specific part (of a whole).
  1. Like, the seats. Like, the lights. You don’t really
  1. Nevertheless, you still answer with “they help
    build airplanes.”
  1. You start to understand metonym sooner than
    you’d have wanted:
  1. – like when you had to list her occupation on your
    FAFSA and your father tells you, with marbled
    eyes, “assemblers” (you understand a finger more).
  1. You wonder: are they the machine or the cog? Or
    does metonym render this question a meaningless
  1. We derive [a substantial portion of] our revenue
    from the U.S. government, primarily from [defense
    related programs with
    ] the U.S. DoD. Levels [of
    U.S. defense spending are very difficult to predict
    and may be impacted by numerous factors
    ] such as
    the evolving nature of [the national security] threat
    [environment, U.S. national security] strategy,
    [U.S.] foreign policy, the domestic political
    environment, [macroeconomic conditions and] the
    ability [of the U.S. government] to enact relevant
    legislation such as authorization and
    appropriations bills… If we can no longer adjust
    successfully [to these changing acquisition policies
    our revenues and
    ] market share could be
  1. You have to go there to see what they do
(what do
you see?)
  1. What you see: hallways decorated as haunted
    houses, introductions to engineers like they’re
    gods, the only sense of reverence you ever see in
  1. Eventually we things give up. / [Are you] grateful
    to be here? Someone eventually asks / if [you] love
    this country. In between the helplessness, …
  1. …somehow [you] can’t say yes.
  1. So, it stands that you do not see her work there.
  1. You get a little closer to understanding when you
    have to interview an electrical engineer (that’s
    what the school survey said you should be).
  1. You only vaguely know what that is afterwards,
    yet you write the paper anyway.
  1. At any rate, you know she does not do the same
    thing as the man you talked to on the phone.
  1. At any rate, you know she does not do the same
    thing as the man you talked to on the phone.
    1. her body sinks into the couch, so far her
      hair might grow.
    2. her gout she waits until the holidays to
    3. her Sunday afternoon as her weekend.
    4. her torn tendons.
    5. her sitting at the dining table asking your
      father for help understanding English
  1. So, it stands that you do not see her at home.
  1. What do your parents do?
  1. Somewhere a man is steering a robotic plane into murder…
  1. Too cruel to wonder.
  1. It’s quite young to have blood on your hands.
  1. Isn’t this what got us here in the first place?
  1. There are about 700 U.S. military bases
(what do
you do?)
  1. On 9/23/21, the U.S. Congress approved
    $1,000,000,000 more for the Iron Dome.
  1. What do your parents do?
  1. You know that aerospace is one of the largest
    industries in Washington State.
  1. Metonym again. You are a part of a whole.
  1. In the pandemic, she is considered an essential
  1. So, it stands that she keeps working.
(didn’t you
  1. It is because the military is considered an
    essential service.
  1. And a contract is a contract.
  1. You ask your parents to retire.
  1. Don’t we have enough?
  1. You become the pariah of the house.
  1. You leave.
  1. So, it stands that you do not see her at all.
  1. You start to call her a bad person.


  1. You wonder if she still thinks of home.
(why don’t
we talk
  1. Questions:
    1. why did she leave?
    2. why did it break her heart so much after
      her brother died she had to abandon a
    3. does she know? what it means to be a
    4. doesn’t she know? that I think of her?
  1. You don’t know how to say “imperialism” in a
    language she understands.
  1. You wish you had the words.
  1. You start to put the pieces together:
  1. They are unwieldy, holes with no strong filling.
    1. capitalism
    2. military industrial complex
    3. assimilation
    4. class
    5. intergenerational trauma
    6. colonizer
    7. refugee
    8. settler
    9. indebted
  1. These words help you understand the whole of it.
  1. You find it funny that her two homes are both
    known for rain.
(can you
  1. What can you do?
  1. You don’t even know how to say you’re hurt in a
    language she understands.
  1. You still wonder what it is you both understand
    completely, what it is you both can hold.

  1. One day you’ll be able to say to her:
    1. that there’s more to life than work
    2. that life outside of our family matters, too
    3. that there’s another way to be
    4. that struggle is not a human condition
    5. that we must struggle anyway until we are
      all free
    6. that you have suffered for far too long
    7. that we must acknowledge our role in the
      suffering and violence of others
    8. that maybe we can put the pieces down



B.6-7: Cathy Linh Che
B.24-5: Solmaz Sharif
B.33-4: Kaveh Akbar
C.6i: Cathy Park Hong

Brian Dang (they/them) is a Vietnamese/Chinese playwright, poet, mentor, and mutual-aid worker based in Duwamish Territory (Seattle). Brian is a proud resident playwright at Parley. For Brian, writing is an act of envisioning an eventual communing and an opportunity to freeze time as we know it. Their writing has been workshopped with Seattle Opera, Pork Filled Productions, Karen’s Secret Army, Theatre Battery, and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Brian was a 2020-21 Hugo House Fellow. Their play h*llo k*tty syndrome was supported by 4Culture and Seattle Office of Arts and Culture. Their next project, 49 words I wish I could write in my family’s language, will be supported through 4Culture and the Seattle CityArtist program. They’re grateful for having somehow convinced the world they can read and write.

The featured image is Nakajima Ha 105 Toku, Radial 14 Engine (1941), selected and manipulated specifically for Brian’s piece by our Art Director, Meg Sykes.