Identity Poem (#99)
Are you the sky—or the allegory for loneliness? Are you the only Chinese restaurant in Roseburg, Oregon? A half-breed war orphan—adopted by proper Christians? A heathen poidog, a creamy half-and-half? Are you a dingy vinyl address book? A wrist Without a corsage? Are you baby’s breath Faced down on a teenage road in America? Are you earphones—detached Left dangling on an airplane jack to diaspora? Are you doomed to a childhood without music? Weary of your granny’s one-string, woe-be-gone erhu Mewling about the past Are you hate speech or are you a lullaby? Anecdotes requiring footnotes An ethnic joke rehashed How many Chinamen does it take—to screw How many Chinamen does it take—to screw A lightbulb? Are you so poor that you cannot call your mother? You have less than two dollars on your phone-card And it’s a long cable to Nirvana Are you a skylight through which the busgirl sees heaven? A chopping block stained by the blood of ten thousand innocents Which daily, the same busgirl must wipe off Does existence preempt essence? I “being” what my ancestors were not Suddenly, you’re a vegan vegetarian! Restaurant is a facticity and Getting the hell out—is transcendence Was the punch line “incandescent”? Was a nosebleed your last tender memory of her? Did he say no dogs and Chinawomen? Are you a rose—or a tattoo of fire?
From Rhapsody in Plain Yellow. Copyright © 2003 by Marilyn Chin. Used with the permission of the author.