Make Me Human or Give Me Death

May Yang

by HAUNTIE

This matters because i’ve lived on that side of life that you all have made for 
me

partitioned
the orphaned one

i who carry the fire from your ashes, the chains of your people,
and the residual sting from an incessant yellow rain

This matters because i realize something you thought i would never even
know!

that i have a mouth
and a throat!
my body remembers
the flesh, this flesh, my flesh is woke.

This matters because my mouth will let me be myth, no more!

i carry this fire and i carry it well and you will feel this heat
when you come up next to me
i will press you with this light until your sweat turns to boiling hot water
to relieve me
i will lick you, whip you with these flames until your body breaks
like mine to free me

and you will crawl and unlearn love and joy like i did
and you will cry and call for your God like I did.

because i am myth, no more!

Feel me.

and this flame which burned my grandfather’s house down
and this light which shackled my grandmother’s body down
and this heat which scorched my father’s spirit down
will look onto you and take you like it took me too

its
white
light

Because it matters
and this is how you will know me
Because i matter
and this is how you will fear me
Because i can be silent, no more!

to this white lie

or give me death.

4/26/2016

More by May Yang

21 November 2004

 

my words are impoverished,
i don’t make cents here

a mouth that has no reason,
has no season

how sad it is that life is bent,
on how well you spoke

 

a bull’s thistle and a fox’s tail
 

You had taken your leave when the white man asked You to
You had taken your stance when the white man threatened You to
 

johnson’s grass and a lady’s thumb

 

and when their life tipped,
at the end of your rifle

they forgot their words—gook
they forgot their hate—freed

 

in a morning glory among witch’s grass

the heavens from above see all, she says


 

21 November 2004

A Simple Trajectory

by HAUNTIE
 
Some time ago pale bodies slipped into Indochina and harvested
slave bodies to sow opium and mine silver. These slaves developed a
dependency on this unsustainable and temporary economy, becoming
heavily addicted to this intoxicating flower. Some no longer planted their
own food or raised their own livestock. A body from this time was that
of my grandmother’s. Impoverished—she was—mind, body and soul. 
Strung out on the tar of this little flower, forgetting how and when to love
her children. A body that came to life through hers was my father’s. And
so it was that this boy would walk miles to school with maybe, sometimes
hardly ever, a palm-full of rice and a single chili pepper to sustain his body
for the duration of the day.
                           Night would fall,
                           and day would rise.
Then a secret war crept up so loud white minds shut it out
and all of humanity hushed it from the West to its East
and my grandfather went to war on the side that would win
doing these things, they couldn’t believe in
and maybe it was that they won, maybe
but the shackles of this flower brought my mother to my father
and the shackles of this flower brought my body to America
 
“Here I am,” i’ll say.
Here I am and I have to stay.
 
What are you? Where are you from? What did you come from?
 
i am a potent flower
stringing out your mind on the line after line
from the womb of a history birthed from white memory
i am American
i am good at forgetting
 

Meeting Place

by HAUNTIE
 
i am straddling memory and the present tension
muscles turning into stone from the weight of time
how do you understand me in all of your knowing?
 
i am standing at crossroads
and there are many of them, one on top of the other
and they are not flat
and i could not just lie on the ground to rest and breathe
 
but i would like to
 
to survive i must stand and hold them all together
with my feet pinned down like a needle binding seems
so that when people cross me
when they cut these paths
we can speak
and we can be together
for a moment in time
 
this is how i feel about myself.