Salome

I have aged beyond my years
In a room built just for me
I have suffered many lives
For the hope I may be free

I heard the door unlock
I watched the heavy bolt drop to the floor and
I felt the wear of time reverberate through the room and
I could only hold my breath

I do not know if this counts
I suppose it is a type of freedom
The biting frost of the air is
An unfriendly reminder

I look down to the water,
I look up to the sky
I have lived my life for you, Salome!
Yet it is for myself

Salome, o
Not even you are this beautiful
I hope I find my way to you
Salome

December 4th, 2020 + a Sijo

It’s Christmas soon, again.
I think like many others of us, I have lost track of the days completely. I am luckier than most though, I actually get to go outside whenever I please. The woods around my house belong to nobody but me. Well, me and the bears. And the deer and the lynx and potentially some bobcats. Being able to get fresh air is pretty nice though, especially after half a year stuck inside in the middle of the city.

It’s a little scary, how quickly things can shut down and end. It seems like overnight when this first started, the city went from packed and thriving to barren. I couldn’t set foot in stores I had been in a few days ago. It wasn’t even really safe to take the train to my, at the time still in-person, classes. At least I can now suffer through this without suffocating while I do.

I still haven’t had much time to write, nor any inclination to. My muse was, and is, the city and its people. I am currently cut off from both of these things. I enjoy thinking about the lives people may lead outside of mine, and telling stories I’d like to think I know, but it’s not because I enjoy storytelling. I enjoy the emotions evoked by these people and their made up lives. No more being able to piece together the tragic day the woman across from you on the train had because her eyes look exhausted and she fell asleep with her purse open. No more wondering the circumstances that lead the man at the other end of the car into, and then out of, prison, covered in tattoo’s with a kitten in his duffel bag that he’s very protective of.

I think it’s reasonable, to be angry. Angry at each other, angry at the people in charge, and angry at anything and everything in the vicinity. The entire year has been wasted, for most of us. Millions of people were and are facing eviction. People are out of work, out of money, homeless, hungry, lost all because of incompetency and greed. This year, and the lives that have been lost, have been stolen from us and the world. I do not know we are expected to accept this.

Currently, my timeline looks something like this:

I always thought it was scary being aware and tracking how fast the days go by, and how quickly said days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years. I suppose it’s just as terrifying not recognizing it go by. Or, rather, watching it go by while you feel frozen in time. I cannot say I would mind this, if I was out travelling, exploring, discovering, etc. Unfortunately, I am not.

I don’t necessarily have any wise insights to share. Well, not many. I suppose there is one thing, though. I’ve learned that the past is like a ghost. It does not exist yet it continues to haunt many of us. I suppose it’s important for everyone to learn to let their past go at some point. It does not exist, and the only power it holds over you is the power you give it. Making peace with that fact has made me a much happier person. And I suppose that’s all that really matters in times like these.

Trapped in time that does not move, I find my grip holding firm
The rose in my fist is thorny, yet my hand has not one cut
In having a beauty such as yours, what allure does spring hold?

Faces

Terror, terror has a face
Terror has eyes full of malice and hatred that tells you you'll never see them again
Terror has a bone-chilling bite and frost emanating from its teeth
Terror has ears that hear everything and a memory that forgets nothing
Terror will chew you up and spit you out
Terror can smell the fear on you, every time you remember every human mistake you've ever made
Terror will never forgive

Happiness, too, has a face
Happiness has deep, wide, grey eyes that make your heart and soul warm like a warm hearth after a long day
Happiness has a beautiful and radiating smile that makes your heart start to race
Happiness hears the love you have for mankind and the remorse you feel
Happiness accepts you as the flawed human being you are
Happiness will never be unreachable

Disgust may be the face I'm most familiar with
Disgust has eyes that look just like mine
Disgust has a nose reflected backwards in the mirror
Disgust makes your stomach turn and your eyes water every time you look in the mirror
Disgust hears all your darkest secrets and wandering thoughts and it will never let you live them down
Disgust will never leave you

I can't say I can place a face to love
Love is the long nights out with those you call friends, talking about whatever ridiculous idea you ideas you have to save the world this time
Love is the warmth of being the big spoon and the little spoon
Love has the voice of every man and woman you've encountered in your storied life
Love hears the stories you have to tell and sees the remorse in your eyes
Love knows the lengths you will go even to simply help a stranger
Love will outlive you or I

A Man Was Lynched 8 Months Ago

A man was lynched 8 months ago
A massage therapist in Colorado
He used to play the violin 
For the cats at the shelter next door

A man was lynched 8 months ago
He had his ID on him
He was walking home
He was apologizing to the cops attacking him
He loved to dance

A man was lynched 8 months ago
He didn't like to eat meat
He didn't judge people that did
He didn't know why they were attacking him
He didn't even kill flies

A man was lynched 8 months ago
He offered to sacrifice his identity 
He told them they were phenomenal 
They were beautiful and he loved them 
He begged for their forgiveness. 

A man was lynched 8 months ago
He was an introvert
He was just different
I didn't know him
I learned all of this from him
In the final moments of his life
Before all he could do was vomit and cry
This is the fire next time

I always believed that it was true, that you could never have too much of a good thing. I suppose now, I’ve learned that it’s more complicated than that.

I will always be in love with this city, I will always be in love with her streets, her people, her towns and neighborhoods and history. It seems, however, that right now we are frozen in time.

I have slowly watched as the grid-pattern sets of streets and avenues have become a prison. The tall concrete towers of Manhattan now remind me more of guard towers than the city I love and the people I see look no happier than prisoners.

It’s painful to see this happen. Her heart still beats under these trappings. I still don’t know though.

How can I love you from quarantine?

Is it not right
That my mind wanders
To the thoughts of another?
To the thoughts of an unknown
One not so frozen in time

I can't lie, to you or myself
I've always wondered
If I could love another's streets
Get lost in another's alleyways
Live in another's walls

I'm sorry
Maybe one day I'll come back
You'll have grown and changed
You won't be so still anymore
So cold to the touch

It is with a heavy heart
I say to you, my muse
My thoughts betray my heart
I yearn for her neon skyline
Her flooded alleyways

It is a call I cannot ignore

American Things

Do not speak to me about what are 
American Things
When you know nothing about the subject

You know nothing of 
American Things
You, woman who just bought a flat in Greenwich Village
Who paid for NYU out of 
Parents pocket

You know nothing of 
American things
You, who talks of how hard we work
Not how long we suffer
You who have never worked one day 

Do not tell your foreign exchange student of
American things
For they are not the whole story
Your family's new apartment in brooklyn
Raised the rent $500

You do not know what 
American things are
You do not know

I do not know either
You gentrified all the American things
You took them from us
You made them into

Thanksgiving
And a trail of tears
Wall Street
And jail cells

And if one day I catch you
Riding the 6 train to 
The E Train 
Side by Side with me

You won't ever be able to talk
About American Things
Ever again

양머리

The revolution will not be televised

— Gil Scott Heron

Being a black man in America is complicated enough as it is. Being biracial is like growing up not knowing who you should be, much less who you truly are. I’ve struggled with the concept of identity for a while. Who I am, who I should be, who I’m allowed to be in these societies. Am I allowed to be an Asian man? Am I allowed to speak Korean and visit my homeland? Am I allowed to be a black man? Am I allowed to wear my Afro proudly? Or am I, as many people from both communities put it, a “hybrid”, or a “disgrace”? The ignorance of the people that are technically my skin-folk is jarring, and sometimes quite painful. It’s not something one can easily ignore, especially when it attacks the very core of who, or what, you are. The differences in Asian and Asian-American communities, and the African-American community does little to help reconcile this issue for myself as well. I, however, have decided to take back my identity. Or, at least, I have decided to try to. That’s what inspired probably my best piece of poetry.

 Ask about my hair 
What does my hair mean? How does it get so big?
Why don't you put it in dreads?
My hair is one part Latasha Harlins one part 두순자
I bet you didn't understand that
My hair both sides of the L.A. Riots, on the roofs with
Rifles and shotguns and businesses to protect
And tired of being mistreated, beaten, abused, ignored
Looked down upon
My hair is one part hip-hop,
One part K-pop
Two parts iron shackles and chains
Three parts 4000 miles across the middle passage
Four parts unequal representation and disproportionate criminal sentencing
Five parts slanted eyes and questions of if I've ever eaten dog
All parts oppression
My hair is washed with the dreams of Martin Luther King Jr
Conditioned with Black Star and Gil Scott Heron and Tribe
Dried with Etheridge Knight and kept in a 양머리

Man

I think it’s a very difficult task, being a man in this western society. That is not to say that I believe it any easier to be a woman, on the contrary, we have it relatively easy as men compared to woman in societies around the world. However, I believe we still suffer. I believe these western societies have created concepts of masculinity meant to keep men complacent, emotionally isolated, and stoic. This is not healthy. I believe that these western societies have created systems where even those that have it easiest don’t necessarily have it easy. I understand what it means to be a man in the western world, I’ve been doing it for nineteen years now. I do not understand how any man, or anybody in general, can live happily like this. I think this society has been built to fail us and caused us to simply accept these failings. I am, sadly, not ignorant enough to not notice. I cannot accept these failings. I cannot live as a western man, anymore.

 What is it to be a man, in the western world? 
I do not know
I do not understand

I do not understand how the western man lives
With his stoicism and indifference
With his consequences of asking for help
I do not understand how the western man may be happy living like this

I cannot fathom continuing
I cannot fathom continuing to live like the western man
In his indifferent, western society
With his might makes right philosophy
I cannot fathom I will continue for much longer

I cannot handle this western life
I cannot handle this western concept of masculinity
I cannot lie to myself and say I drink and I smoke for any reason other than to numb
It does not look cool, I do not feel cool
I feel pain
I cannot handle this western masculinity

I do not know where I can go
I have no markers, no goal-posts, no frame of reference outside the west
I do not know who I may become, what I may become
I do not know what it means to be a man, outside of the western world either

I do know now, I am no son of the West
I am, and always have been, a child of the East

Birthday’s

I hate birthday’s. Specifically, I hate mine. I hate celebrating it because even remembering it’s my birthday does nothing for me. Nothing but cause especially painful and critical self-reflection and a feeling like I haven’t accomplished much. Like I haven’t truly become anything, or anyone, worth note. Of course, I’m still young, but considering people are earning Nobel Peace Prizes at 16, it’s hard to sate myself with that excuse anymore. I find myself indecisive. I find myself yearning, wanting, and desiring something only I can provide to myself. One day I hope to look forward to my birthday, that I may be proud.

 I desire!
I desire not to be what you want of me
Lord, I desire not!
Not to scream hollow words into empty pillowcases
I desire not to look into the void
Not to look, but to see
 
O’ do I desire!
Lord, do I desire
That I may draw up blanks when questioned on my influences
Do I desire to miss my mistakes
 
Lord I must not desire!
Desire to rise above my station
To free myself from the ramblings of this madman
I must not desire that which I must not have
 
 
Yet, I desire!
For you have made me imperfect Lord,
The Cardinals mask has fallen
I cannot pay thy tithes Lord!
Not but in Blood