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POEM: so you’re walking down chinatown

November 29, 2011

me, clutching onto that paper for dear life

Last Tuesday I hit up Lambadina Lounge for another night of classic Acoustic Soul Open mic. I’ve become accustom to performing more and more poetry, although I am still very much a noob at reading my own work. Although this piece is memorized, I haven’t the ovaries to attempt the poem off script. So yes, I brought the paper on stage, but wait, that’s not just paper, that’s a booklet almost. That’s right, I’m not just sleeping on the other side of the computer, got my manuscript for 3 cities printed and ready for proofing. It’s all a matter of typesetting and slapping a cover on this baby and we’re good as gold. But in the meanwhile, I’ll be practicing my stage presence. Oddly enough when I reenacted the event for my mom in the car, I was incredibly nervous and stumbled through the whole thing. Foreshadowing for my book launch? Only time will tell. Thanks for following me on this journey blog peeps. Next time I perform, I’ll give y’all ample notice so you can attend, make me feel nervous and witness my stumbles in person.

The poem so you’re walking down chinatown is featured in 3 cities and is a meditation on the side of my heritage I seldom pay homage to, my Chinese background.
I

so you’re walking through chinatown

and you see the smiling eyes

of a woman hovering

over a crate of

dried cod fish.
I

the smell of salt

and the sound of service

reminds you of home, reminds

you your grandmother’s last

name is yeung

and more than anything else

you want to be able

to read the sign

above her head,  squared

mandarin characters, red

marker on cardboard
i

because the gesture

she makes

could mean:

it’s on sale

i don’t work here

or simply, yes, yes cod fish
i

and as you catch glimpses of

tiger eyes, dragon tongues

and sparkling dvds with

english subtitles,

you pick up fruit

you’ve never seen before

and even that reminds you

of home

reminds you of

juicy jackfruit

black ackee eyes

spiked cerasse

and other fruit you can’t find

at no frills
i

while another woman

wearing an umbrella hat

fans herself

the way your father does:

snapping the elbows

hands grazing the collarbone
i

and its got you thinking

about how

good luck and bad luck

weigh themselves out

in both of your palms

crossed both cultures:

roots are sacred

herbs heal wounds

cousin-cousin boil good soup
i

who would be so arrogant

as to squeeze a whole country

within a few blocks

and then call it a town?
i

you don’t get it,

like you don’t get

why your hairstyle is called

chiney bumps
i

and you don’t get it,

how when you were born

people called you

china man pickney
i

and you don’t get it,

why someone could throw away

bubble tea

and leave behind

tapioca
i

and then you walk out of chinatown.


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