Make Me Human or Give Me Death


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

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

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


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.



From To Whitey & the Cracker Jack (Anhinga Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by May Yang. Reprinted by permission of Anhinga Press.