A Simple Trajectory
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
From To Whitey & the Cracker Jack (Anhinga Press, 2017). Copyright © 2017 by May Yang. Reprinted by permission of Anhinga Press.
May Yang is a first-generation Hmong American artist, writer, and ethnographer from California. Writing under the persona “Hauntie,” she is the author of To Whitey and the Cracker Jack (Anhinga Press, 2017), which was selected by Evie Shockley for the 2016 Robert Dana Prize in Poetry.
Date Published: 2017-10-02
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/simple-trajectory