The Daycare Teachers Ask Me Why I Don’t Talk
Baba buys me a pair of shoes, asks: does it feet?
I ask Mama for pancakes,
she fills them with green onions.
I hear their accents only when they speak
to Americans. We give fake names
to the Starbucks barista. I learn
that which is too difficult to explain to white folk
is not worth my time.
I fill out government forms for my parents,
translate at the DMV. Legal jargon
is the fourth language I speak.
I interpret between the two sets of grandparents
before I hear the ABC’s. I am the great genius
of my family lines, the decoder of dialects,
the articulation of my ancestors.
They take me to Disneyland to thank me
for being a good daughter and I have to ask for directions
from strangers. At a food stand, I buy a Mickey Mouse
lollipop, shove his stupid upbeat voice
into my own mouth until it turns black.
Those Who Live
for Vincent Chin
I’ve come to where he is buried,
looking for answers. I am ashamed
of what I did not know. Once,
I made it to the front gate of the cemetery.
A funeral procession of Fords
with American flags stopped me.
A baseball bat flashed through my mind.
It’s the anniversary of his death again.
Today is the first time
I’ve made it this far. Usually, I stop
driving at the red post marking what remains
of Detroit Chinatown. Or, should I say,
the red post that simply is
what remains of Detroit Chinatown.
The years pass so quickly. I’ve lived
a short distance away for six of them.
His ghost always with me but unnamed for so long.
I had to Google the mural in memoriam,
across from the new dog hotel and tattoo parlor.
There’s a phrase I’ve heard for six years: steel,
not chopsticks. The suggestion being
one is stronger than the other. But did you know
he was an orphan?
I call my mother and ask
if she’s ever heard his name. She says no.
I keep looking. The headstones grow
blurry before my eyes. Strange,
how the graves of the murdered are so hard to find.
Saba Keramati is a multiracial writer from the San Francisco Bay Area. She holds degrees in English and Creative Writing from University of Michigan and UC Davis. Her work has appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Barren Magazine, and elsewhere. She is nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize.