Category Archives: writing/poetry

for teish cannon

last week we mourned the passing of duanna johnson. a few days later, another trans woman of color has been killed. this wednesday thursday is trangender day of remembrance, i hope you will remember our lost and speak out.

even after death
they stuff our bodies into boxes
ironing out the creases of our complexities
they use blades, fists
violence
institutions
and blood-tinged spit
to fold us into the faceless other
the soulless

even after death,
they refuse to recognize our names,
our genders, our loved ones.

even after death.
have you no respect?

no i don’t expect anything from you
i know better than that
but if not for who we are
if not for our communities
if not for the mourning families,
at least for the dead?

at least for the dead?
who, with your mocking
your open hatred
your silence,
have taken part in killing?

have you no damn respect?

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Filed under queer, violence, woc, writing/poetry

forgotten tongues

while transferring from my wheelchair, i look at the ceiling and scream dramatically
“i have forgotten p!!”
“blood? pi???” my mom asks worriedly in corean
“no umma! the letter p! p-ubt!”
i am quiet for a moment then ask
“…what does it look like?”

disregarding the grave nature of this situation, she shakes her head at me and leaves the room, telling me i need to spend less time on the computer.
(i love that she equates any lack of knowledge on my part to too much time in front of the computer.)
does she not know what losing language, letter by letter,
script by script, means to me?

i think back to middle school where i won an international writing contest sponsored by south korea’s national tourism agency
the local k-times newspaper interviewed me and put my picture on the front page
unraveling and ragged, my mom carried that folded, faded yellow picture with her for years

the writing prompt was something simple like “why do you ❤ korea?”
and while older americans australians and europeans wrote about delicious food, a culture of respect, and hiking geumgangsan, eighth grade me submitted an essay about king sejong’s work
the theme of the essay focused on hangul as the language of the people
now of course i didn’t know about globalization colonization assimilation
the struggle of people of color in this world
or resistance back then
but the power of language
as generator
for maintaining community
was obvious
to even my middle school half corean
broken-tongue self
sejong’s refusal to let language belong to the aristocracy brought writing and literature to the people
creating a new era for the joseon people

now i am left flailing my arms with a sense of loss
will future generations of my family
only know korea
through margaret cho comedy sound bytes?
mentions of the eradication of the dmz in history books
and store-bought kimchi they eat at their halmoni’s house?
has it really been 8 years since i have traveled to see my family?
did i really encourage my mother’s students to change their names from hankyul hanbyul youngkwang and myunghan
to heather ellen danny and kevin?

no. yes. no. yes. yes.
what to do with this,
where to go with this,
i don’t know.
for now i will start with the letter p.

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Filed under woc, writing/poetry

on election night

two disabled girls
both of color,
both in their twenties,
both stuck at home,
sit together over the phone
waiting for president-elect
mr. barack hussein obama
to appear on stage

one girl tells her friend that tomorrow they have to go out and buy newspapers
“giiirl! we’ll be able to point at the framed headline—OBAMA ELECTED PRESIDENT and tell our kids that their potential knows no bounds!
that they can dream as big as they want
that the world,
this day, is theirs!
our children! my children! my future babies!
god is good. god is good”
she sighs happily

the other one, half listening, whispers “all the time.”
“god is good all the time.”
she is sitting close to the television— 8 inches away to be precise— and without realizing it, she is scanning the crowds looking for trouble, as though she has the power to reach out to chicago and protect this man from any harm
not believing it is really possible for this man, this black man, to be president,
she asks her friend again and again “is this real?”
“will we wake up tomorrow and know this only in our dreams?”
her friend assures her it is real.
a million times her friend assures her it is real.

the first girl, a surprisingly staunch believer in the american dream, cries
she thanks god, believing that this is nothing short of a miracle, something sent down from heaven for the people
a blessed provision that will get us all through hard times

the second girl, the one still scared to let go, continues asking her friend if this whole thing is real
she realizes that though she has spent hours, days, months, preparing herself for what will happen to communities of color if this man loses the elections,
she has not put any thought into what could happen if this man actually won
WON!
her world feels like it has grown bigger,
her lungs deeper
her dreams more possible
if a black man—actually any person of color— can be president, what else will she see in her lifetime?
what things can she, with community, envision, hold close, and build together?
the potential of it all burns brighter than even before
she lets go
the two girls cry together
both with happiness
hope
and for now, the axing of dreams deferred.

here’s to the future.
change we build.
hope we carry.
our dreams.
the dreams of our children.

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Filed under community, i love my people, woc, writing/poetry

singing the mixed girl blues

he thinks my friend and i are blood
(she is near 6 feet tall. i am 4’9.)
i laugh politely
(she has blonde hair. my hair is red lacquer brown.)
hiding my disappointment
(she is white. do i look white?)

sometimes i can see how people could think we’re related
the only time my tongue is accentuated with ah-cham! and aihigoos is when in despair
my pale red-cheeked skin is only olive during the summer time
my thoughts are articulated through southern y’alls, random oh mys, and valley girl “totally like y’know, right?…!”
disappointed i leave the coffee shop
wondering if i should be wearing shit with dragons and cherry blossoms on it
throwing kung-fu kicks around
maybe being his asian american stereotype is better than this.

whenever i feel alone— like now, when people mistake me for white—
i bring my hands to my face
you are there, hidden in the crevices of my palms
whispering “remember me even when it is easy to forget”
yes. especially when it is easiest to forget.
i think about what struggle my ancestors have been through so i can sit here
and do silly things
like lament identity and perceived whiteness

whenever i am ashamed of my broken korean or misspelled hangul
i run my fingers through my hair,
hearing the plucking of gayageums and the sweep of hanboks brushing against the floor
the harmony of fans, drums, and people remind me that we share more than consonants and vowels
i smile, thankful for this heritage

whenever i feel lost in anti-racist work, wondering where my people fit into this black-white dichotomy that does not allow room for families being torn apart by ice raids,
leaves out colonization so we can focus on “issues at home”
and saves stolen land as a topic for later discussion
(while simultaneously wondering where all the non-black people of color are gonna represent)
i want to scream!
instead i think of my sisters and the amazing support system we’ve built for each other
not coalition building, no
but community building and community weaving
inspired by their work and love i keep on

i remember
i myself
am a mixed girl
who is loved
by other mixed girls
by negotiators of this body
lovers of this skin
other occupiers of fuzzy, seemingly conflicting
identities and space
i am loved
and this is enough.

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Filed under API-A, i love my people, identity, woc, writing/poetry

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501c3s

we live in a world where nonprofits give off a corporation vibe
a world where change-seekers and believers have to get on their hands and knees
begging and compromising their beliefs
starbucks cup in hand, the focus is on funders, elections, conferences, networking, volunteer hours
people become an afterthought
this is a business
jobs (and money) are on the line, damnit!

events are in glass hotels that scrape the sky
internet costs $18.95 a day
breakfast $10.99,
lunch $15.84,
dollar menu for dinner when you can’t keep up with the others
i try very hard not to break anything

my people at home want to taste this community we talk about
wade their feet in it..
but they’re stuck at home
“bus don’t come here”
…if they even have a home
“where do i go to sign up for housing list?”
looking for a job
“no places will hire me”
with bruises on their arms, legs, back
“i think i need to get out”
no money in hand
“i don’t even see that check”
these are every day conversations with friends

and yes i tell them about those good disability acronyms—
you know, the difference between medicaid and medicare, ssi, ssdi, pass, irwes, the “ada bus”, microenterprise, p&a services EVERYTHING—
but when it comes to the disability rights movement,
what do i say? that yes, go to this board meeting, you will feel like you’re making a difference?
seeing folks tear each other apart’ll be worth the 90 minute paratransit wait?
how about that this complex buys into the system?
that while people are dying in trifling situations
we’re shaking hands and passing out business cards?

yea… 501c3s… just another way to keep us in line.

note on poem below the cut. Continue reading

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Filed under community, disability, organizing, writing/poetry

on art, on life

my younger sister paints herself with black ink
after writing somang sarang and medum repeatedly into the lines of her fine hair
she fills the centers of her pupils
with little hearts
the dark corners of her eyebrows, nose, lips
with checkerboard
and zigzag scratches
yes the person on the paper is growing complete
and beautiful,
just like her

being the mature, know-all older sister that i am,
i crunch my pretzels loudly and impatiently sip on my juice
after i have entertained myself for a full five minutes by taking pictures of her
organizing photos on my camera
and getting more juice,
i begin to bug her, telling her to hurry
“j! i want to see the final product!”
“how come you take so long?”
“…when you gonna do mine?”
“i’ll pay you for your art!”
“twenty bucks! twenty bucks!”

she lifts her head
gives me an eye
and dramatically says
ART!
LIKE MANY MANY THINGS
CANNOT!
BE!
RUSHED!
she drops her brush and storms out of the room

i bust out with laughter
wondering how many times
my little sister is gonna have to school me

art, like many many things, cannot be rushed.

somang = hope
sarang = love
medum =faith

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