Ma’ am, An American Tragedy

Ma’ am

I know that you are rich
And I’m just a poor immigrant
I’ve been selling milk tea on the street
Since I was seven
But my grandmother watches me close
From her banana tree in heaven

Ma’ am

I dream of a beautiful white house
Can you buy it for me
Give me the keys to the republic?
That baby grand in the window
Some day, I will play it

Ma’ am

No matter what you think
I am not after your son
I mean, he’s not terribly smart
He’s dyslexic and ridiculous
Can’t hold a day job
And got a D in calculus

Ma’ am

You know your son is odd
He skins cats with his scout knife
He carries around a rubber doll
And calls it his wife

Ma’ am

He doesn’t love me
Don’t worry about it
We just have fun sex
And listen to rap in the basement
I’ll go away to a good college
And he’ll go to prison

Ma’ am

No, he didn’t tell on you
Not really, he didn’t say
Nothing about your uncle
Or your ex-husband
He didn’t tell me much
He just sat there, crying

Ma’ am

Did you say “She’s war trash
She came from the jungle
She’s a weirdo geek, can’t
Look up from her books.
Why do you want her?”

Ma’ am

Did you say
“Stay away, she’s schizoid
Downright ugly
Her father owns that rat-infested roach coach
She’ll amount to nothing”

Ma’ am

I did not love him, exactly
I did love him too much
It’s that in-between-ness
Of love and hate
That made me stuck

Ma’ am

I’m gonna love him and drive him crazy
I’m gonna love him though he’s lazy
I’m gonna wash his feet and wrap his wounds
Take him off the cross and carry him to his tomb
I’m gonna love him til he hates me
I’m gonna love him and drive him crazy

Marilyn Chin

B-Side Warning

Nitwit legislators, gerrymandering fools
Dimwit commissioners, judicial tools
Toxic senators, unholy congressmen
Halitosis ombudsmen, mayoral tricks
Doom calf demagogues, racketeering mules
Whack-a-mole sheriffs, on the take

Fornicator governators, rakehell collaborators
Tweeter impersonators, racist prigs
Postbellum agitators, hooligan aldermen
Profiteering warmongers, Reconstruction dregs

Better run, rascals     better pray
We’ll vote you out     on judgment day!

Better run, rascals     better pray
We’ll vote you out     on election day!

Marilyn Chin

Little Richard Listens to Pat Boone Sing “Tutti Frutti”

If could, and I bet I could, hell-I know I could
write a song that killed anyone who tried

to wrap their throat around it. I’m writing the first
verse right now, riding the rhythm like your mama

straddling the preacher while your daddy looks on
with a mouth full of every moan he can’t have.

Ain’t that what you really want? A stadium full
of white people screaming your stage name

and a smashed guitar where your dick used to be.
Ain’t that what you deserve? God is the only reason

I haven’t already held you down and spat the hook
into your mouth like a poison that will kill us both.

Saeed Jones

The Dead Dozens

Your grief is so heavy,
when we lowered the coffin,
all the pallbearers fell in too.

Your grief is so heavy,
when you cried your last good-bye, the end
of the world said “nigga, get off me!”

You love your mama so much,
Freud came back from the dead
just to study your sorry ass.

You love your mama so much,
when she died, our mamas died too
Some of our favorite aunties caught strays.

I miss you so much,
I don’t even use the word “hello” anymore.
Now, I greet everyone with “good-bye.”

I miss you so much,
sometimes I go to strangers’ funerals
and eulogize your ghost.

Your ghost cries so loud
our ancestors keep haunting me
to complain about the noise.

Your ghost cries so loud
I took my Black ass to a Klan rally
for some candle-lit peace and quiet.

Saeed Jones

Saeed, How Dare You Make Your Mother into a Prelude

And then, night neons itself inside me and I begin missing you in loud new ways:

The sky burns itself bright then bruises black. Things fall from the sky and those things might be water but could just as well be boys or bombs or billionaires or birds. Honestly, between your death and me, it doesn’t matter or I don’t know or I wasn’t looking or I couldn’t see because I’ve made a home out of how much I miss you and there’s no one here to tell me I should leave.

Alone and night-neoned, I write read drink drug grieve and all America keeps teaching me is that there are so many ways to die in America which, frankly, is qwhite confusing because this country killed you a decade ago and I’m still writing reading drinking drugging grieving binging binging blacking out in the cozy, claustrophobic home I’ve made out of how very, very much I miss you and the sky keeps throwing down consequences and corrections and histories and nations, I mean, come on, who can blame me for not wanting to go back outside? You? A whole decade ghosted, grounded and ground down into unreliable memories, dollar-word metaphors? No, not you, mother as mortar and pestle, mother as son mangling meaning out of his mother’s misfortune, mother as second draft: sorry, but it’s awfully true: you are prelude, and your progeny, loud and unrelenting in your epilogue, somehow has to live on as your last sentence, uncompleted.

Saeed Jones

Tình hờ

Tôi đang lừa dối em
Mà sao em không biết
Những lời nói tình duyên
Với tôi không cần thiết
Chớ nên thề thốt chi
Ðùa vui thôi đấy nhé
Say đắm và si mê
Sẵn sàng đang nhạt nhoè.

Tội nghiệp quá, xây những lâu đài cát mơ
Biển vắng trong chiều sắp mưa
Tình cũng như là đám mây mịt mù
Tình là nhớ, xin nhớ không lừa dối ai
Ðừng nói câu chuyện lứa đôi
Tình cũng như dòng nước trôi.

Khi tôi tìm đến em
Là tìm vui trong chốc lát
Ðến một lúc rồi quên
Nhớ nhung không cần thiết
Khi em hiểu rõ tôi
Yêu nghĩa là phai phôi
Nghĩa là mang hận hoài.

Phạm Duy

pour la CGT

We work too hard.
We’re too tired
To fall in love.
Therefore we must
Overthrow the government.

We work too hard.
We’re too tired
To overthrow the government.
Therefore we must
Fall in love.

Rod Smith


Because I am their daughter my body is not mine.
I was raised like fruit, unpeeled & then peeled. Raised
to bleed in some man’s bed. I was given my name
& with it my instructions. Pure. Pure.

& is it wasted on me? Every moment I do not touch
myself, every moment I leave my body on its back
to be a wife while I go somewhere above the room.

I return to the soil & search. I know it’s there. Buried
shallow, wrapped in rags dark with old & forgotten rust,
their discarded part.
Buried without ceremony,
buried like fallen seeds.

I wonder about the trees: Date palms veined
through the fruit with the copper taste of cutting.
Guavas that, when slit, purple dark as raw meat.

I have to wonder, of course, about the blood orange, about the pomegranate, splayed open, like something that once was alive & remains.

Safia Elhillo

The Dream Keeper

Bring me all of your dreams,
You dreamers,
Bring me all of your
Heart melodies
That I may wrap them
In a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers
Of the world.

Langston Hughes


Someone spoke to me last night,
told me the truth. Just a few words,
but I recognized it.
I knew I should make myself get up,
write it down, but it was late,
and I was exhausted from working
all day in the garden, moving rocks.
Now, I remember only the flavor —
not like food, sweet or sharp.
More like a fine powder, like dust.
And I wasn’t elated or frightened,
but simply rapt, aware.
That’s how it is sometimes —
God comes to your window,
all bright light and black wings,
and you’re just too tired to open it.

Dorianne Laux