yuri kochiyama told me the secret
Rumors of our disunity have been greatly exaggerated.
I don’t know a single one of my girls who wouldn’t
do the work for those we love before our own.
Adobo and hobak jeon for our girls in box braids, our jojoba oil girls
For their grandmas and aunties. Swapping recipes in the quarantine kitchen
grandmas and aunties of our own catching flour in their knuckles,
the old rutted roads carving down their hands.
I don’t have a sister who didn’t turn up
seven months pregnant, splashing water on her neck
to storm the Brooklyn Bridge. All the friends I met making posters
doing flash mobs, young and drunk,
we rewrote the lyrics. We handed out flyers for the union after.
They may not know about the girl the cops shot
in San Diego, lemon-cream wall, downy-chick police tape, saffron outline,
but they cry when I tell them. They don’t forget her name.
We’re having a strategy session which is to say
we are raiding the liquor cabinet
and I am rubbing lotion into her calf as she talks about her day,
speech growing sharp with dialect. Chinese is a tonal language too, you dig?
Her head against mine. Her head on my thigh. Her family gets loud
when they’re excited. Mine too. I gotta wonder how much
the people who talk about the deep divide, the mutual microaggressions
spend with the other side. If they were there
when the man on the subway stood between me & the man cussing me out
cause he fought for this country blah blah blah.
When he offered to call the cops for us
and we didn’t, for him. Sure, I guess I’m naive.
My experiences are not universal etc etc.
But my sisters o my sisters. Down here on the ground it is so clear.
So dark so clear. Slant-eyed street medic holding hands
with the lawyer with the Afro who speaks Cantonese to the tenants union
with a deliberate delicacy. We know the people we fight have flags. We,
we don’t have flags. We have Korean fried chicken and collard greens.
We have a door flung open in the summer heat
and a sister half out the window, singing a K-pop serenade
Her hand in mine. Blue palm. Same sunscreen. The gap between her teeth
as familiar as anything.
a possible translation:
begin here: fall in when your tongue fails you. it turns out you preserved that fleeting loneliness for nothing. so don’t think of that long-savored memory of her mouth shaping a question and you returning to faith like getting drunk, those lips your sustenance. and don’t mock how her blossoms seemed to always be perfect holy fruits in your hand. it will haunt you anyway. in winter you’re angry; in spring you’re hopeless; leaving this was not enough. no death or surrender lasts forever and no words weigh as much as her indifferent motion. swollen to smallness, every one among us grows old and stops running from ourselves and the two types of silence, the finis and the whole. in flesh we envision crime succumbing to punishment, nationalities unfurling into the constellations scored above, hearts thunderstruck with women giving way to pure rough love. & a fist of her apartment flowers. & a brassy serenade. salt water into music, despair to unsweet sport. love. and you bore it onward in lush hell and steady passion, in throbbing abundance charred to 40-watt warmth—no more shadows. this clash between reason and mysticism has left you shaken, shaking. heaven will not return by looking to worship worship worship; raze it, renounce it, escape into the air. and death finds out all shelters. and sing to share the good news.
o divine echo, bear it on.
another possible translation:
singing hands pressed together scroll please music (Emoji 5.0)
the clock will swallow you down. turn outside. you can wander in the desert for forty fruitless, mindless years, eat memory, guzzle manna and mutton from heaven like cheap beer, chew bland and joyless bouquets with your eyes ever aimed at god; but this—to linger directionless in this frost-dammed field without hope of deliverance—this is enough. this is enough. we cannot remain exiles forever. & do not say that justice may be birthed in our children’s children’s lifetimes. & we must not go to our mirrors and quietly witness the end of the world. in our meat we know: for every crime an inquisition; for every flag a cancer poised to swell; for every red and stricken body an alchemy which tempers budding resistance to night-blooming revelation, sorrow to song, tears to tart fruit swinging blue and heavy on the vine. for every sin a slow fire in the heart. if all we have is our heat and our light and our heat, that is enough. we will still wrest our future from the palsied hands of the lord himself. we do not find jerusalem; we build it out of birds and bones, we seek it out of survival and psalms, we press on. god, oh god. we press on.
Ella Wang is a spoken word and slam poet, currently in migration. Her work is also forthcoming in RHINO Poetry.