displaced memories

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by Giles Li

sometimes i remember
mining for gold
finding scraps from leftover claims
that white men never had the patience to look for
taking what i could after days of searching
under a blistering sun
working toward dreamless sleep
being beaten and robbed
every time i found something where white men
came away empty-handed

sometimes i remember
building the railroads
laying track down faster than the irish laborers
winning bets for the overseer
like a fuckin racehorse
when other white people questioned the decision
to use chinamen for hard labor
left out of photographs and textbooks
blown up with dynamite for entertainment
but that's just the american way

sometimes i remember
living out my last days
under the barrel of national security
in midwestern camps
lost my home, business and dignity
locked up with 120,000 others just like me
because i couldn't call pearl harbor home
where we either fought the war
or fought each other
cuz fighting america wasn't an option

sometimes i remember
killing people who looked like me
on the strength of a promise
that we wouldn't be forgotten
only to find in old age
that a promise can't last more than four years
but a war never ends
treated like a dog
when i wasn't accused of eating them
only taking it because i believed in a lie
fighting a white man's war
only now i wonder
what we were dying for

sometimes i remember
being shipped like cargo
to a church whose only intention
was to change my entire belief system
to tell me i could only work six days a week
to feed my family
i had to work three jobs just to live
and send my children to work
before they could barely read
because the land of opportunity
didn?t live up to its name

sometimes i remember
seeing my son ? dead
in the newspaper
because the national guard only protected
beverly hills
after a white judge, white jury and white lawyers
got four white cops acquitted for
bringing rodney king one blink within death
my whole life up in smoke
because someone placed
descending values on lives
and we were on the bottom

sometimes i remember
being harassed by the FBI
for being the wrong color
called a spy after being tried in the new york times
solitary confinement that broke
the spirit this country claimed to give me

sometimes i remember
being scapegoated for problems the city
refuses to touch
labeled a gangmember by the newspaper
labeled a terrorist by the mayor
only hear my name mentioned when
they want to get rid of me
but never when i needed help before
when i needed someone to care

sometimes i remember
being murdered in a race riot in watsonville
being beaten to death by baseball bats in detroit
being bludgeoned to death with a brick in jersey city
being shot by an AK-47 on a playground during recess in stockton
being pummeled to death by white youths calling me gook in coral springs
being stabbed over 20 times in the face and chest while rollerblading in tustin
being shot by police cuz i was holding a broomstick in rohnert park
being raped eight times cuz he had an 'affinity for oriental women' in chicago
being pushed to the concrete and cracking my skull as payback for the vietnam war in newmarket
being shot in the chest for wearing a turban and living
one day in september in mesa

sometimes i remember
dying

sometimes i remember
not being able to call or see my husband
not knowing why he's being held
except that he's muslim and dark
and i can find no more reason not to smash walls
with my brown fist
and find freedom my own way
except i've been stripped of my strength
in a country that hated me
before it knew me
just another random search at the airport
i might be killed just for grieving

but sometimes i remember raising my yellow/brown fist to the sky and demanding justice on my own terms no more dying no more INS raids no more detentions no more deportations no more bullshit

know more

or at least i'll remember it when it happens

it's only sometimes that i remember

but never will i forget

© Giles Li