moons of the faithful

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in apricot season

in eclipse moon

neither black nor white

anything is possible

i am reminded of fortune

were it not for four thousand years of propagation

nomads, merchants, conquerors, arborists

we would not be here at this round kitchen table

separating flesh from stone

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Haunted Heart

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Broken heart of this
city in a straightjacket edged with gold and railroad tracks
where loneliness is a hedge around a house
and beauty is an English garden.

I have a habit of haunting this place.
When I turn off of gum-and-spit-spotted street
onto coffee-is-all-you-need avenue,
I breathe a sigh of relief
that tastes like an over-priced coffee sipped
over long oak table in a room with a view
of the eroded grace
of those who have a habit of haunting this place.

Yesterday wraps its feet round telephone wires
slides its scales under viaducts
and catches its tail on chainlink.

This city before a city where bones and rivers
still sing under concrete
where the steel slap clap of pigeon wings echoes off glass
where history oxidizes iron in rain
and fear begets exclusion begets difference begets disgust,
begets displacement
begets heartbreak
begets rust.

Disclaimer

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Never trust a mixed blood.

She will disrupt.

She is not trying to be insolent (well, only sometimes).
It’s just that she doesn’t do binaries.

You will sort things into black and white.
She will ask: how could you forget orange, green, purple and gray?
You will say: those options are not included on this list.
She will want to say: how about me? but instead she’ll swallow her words and wonder why she has to always make things so complicated for herself.

She will inevitably complicate things.

If you want a simple answer, ask someone else.
You will label this side East and this one West.
She will ask: if the earth is round, how can it have two sides?
You will say: why do you always need to ask so many questions?
She knows that there are always at least 3 sides to every argument, but she will swallow her words because she thinks you might have a point.

Ultimately, she is not on your side.

She will not compute.
She will say: it just doesn’t add up.
and keep searching for sums until she finds a multiple.

You will ask her what she is searching for.
She will answer: I don’t know.
She will want to say, I’m searching
for a how-to guide for living in multiple worlds,
searching for the words to write myself into the story,
before I get edited out,
but she knows that
if she says this, you’ll put her under a microscope,
so she swallows her words, again.

She will hesitate.
This may frustrate you.
The only thing she is certain of is that there is always more than one way of doing things, and she cannot speak for others.

She will listen to you speak about “westerners”, and white folks, and “gwai los”, and will nod along, because she agrees that white supremacy is a real thing. She will laugh with you. But keep at it long enough, and she will walk away, because no one is a racial caricature and there are always allies and relationships.

She will listen to you speak about “Asians”, and she will shake her head, because government-sanctioned race-based discrimination is a real thing. She will like you less. But keep at it long enough, and she will nod along sympathetically because ego, sexism, and classism are universal, and there are always jerks and power struggles.

Don’t ask her to take you to her people.
If you have any questions, please see any of the above.

She will get tired of holding this weight in her mind.
She will get tired of holding the weight of your questions
on top of the weight of her own questions.
She is exhausted from the work of translating
once, twice, three times
doing the work to understand the “mainstream”
doing the work to critique it
doing the work to understand the “marginal”
doing the work to critique it
doing the work to understand the overlap
finding a place for herself
then throwing out all her drafts
to start from scratch, again.

Left alone, ambiguity is her status quo.
She is used to gently muddling through
until it starts to make sense.
This stuff takes a long time.

Ultimately, she is not on your side.
She doesn’t do sides.
She will crash through walls.
She will confound borders.
She is a free agent.
And really, she’s just another speck in the universe.

HA-1A/Chinatown South

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You can’t hold a neighbourhood in the palm of your hand, like a snowglobe.
You can’t shake it to see generations yet to come.

You can’t freeze it in a state of red-cheeked celebration
hands clasped in eternal new year’s greetings
performing stiff-legged routines.
to an emptying room.

It would be kinder to let it
unravel.

Let its grandchildren bear witness
as memories shutter their doors and
nostalgia papers over its windows.

Let them come forward
oranges in hand
to light incense
at the altars of re-zoning applications.

They will re-develop
postures of defiance.
They will grow their hair long.

They will swim upstream,
through grief, and love and rage,
shedding skins,
swallowing water,
in search of the source.

Mid-Autumn

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White is a forgetful state of mind,
as in blank slate,
erase your own histories,
assimilate your differences,
swallow your stories.

You can choose not to live this way.
I am grateful to those of you who choose not to live this way.

To the knowledge keepers and knowledge seekers,
the ones with the caverns in your chests:
thank you for spitting out stories.

For insolence.
After 5 generations of eating
white food, you still hold your heads up high,
and ask, why,
should I swallow this?

For gentleness.
For sifting through histories with shaking hands
until you can hold them without breaking
bones.

For subversion.
Submerged, you’ve learned
to float,
to shapeshift
to slip out of skin
and swim upstream.

For persistence.
Abandoned, you’ve patiently
tended tidal pools
until meaning floods in.

For grace.
You’ve let knowledge stick to you
like burrs
carrying it
to safer ground,
where some autumn the
greatgranddaughters will
gather for the harvest.

Becoming

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I don’t know how to become that woman.

The one who is fearless.
Who feels great in her own skin.
Is successful.
Funny.
Sexy.
Smart.

The one who makes money all week
climbs mountains on weekends
and has time for family.
For friends.
For lovers.
For Netflix.
For fitness.
And fun.

The one who irons her shirts
cooks.
And cleans.
Pays her bills on time.
Does her taxes.
Washes her dishes.
Hems her pants.
And acts like a general well-rounded grown-up.

The one who won’t wobble in heels.
Brushes her eyebrows.
Waxes her legs.
And can lipstick her lips.

The one who will get her act together,
in time to make babies before her fertility shrivels up.
As in, get a car.
A career.
A mortgage.
A spouse.

The one who can time travel
who is part of a community
who knows where she comes from
and where she is going
who speaks the languages of her ancestors
knows enough of their rituals to share them with the next generations
who has no time for racists or sexists or creeps
who won’t be assimilated or erased or exoticized.

The one who finds balance
and purpose
and love.

i don’t know how to become that woman

except by being one who wanders too much
works to much
thinks too much
is hopeful
searching
asking

except by being one who, wanting
to grow up to write stories worth reading
but worried that she had nothing to say, decided
to try living first

Persistent Process – 河口海口

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My feet will me to estuary.

To both
來 and going. Both
開 and narrowing. Both
start of sea and end of 河.

A grandfather stops to look north at 山
then pluck juice boxes
like fireweed
from garbage can.

A runner stops to look west at 水
then stretch one leg
like blue heron
balancing in place.

I am learning that my parents are not encyclopedias,
that my father will lose the names of trees
and my mother will lose the names of food,
that as they are forgetting
I am memorizing
to meet rising tide and pounding rain.