Oct 3, 2017


I wonder how the moment
what it felt like at the start
as finger to the trigger
he pulled life itself apart.

I wonder if it thrilled him
(we agree it was a he, right?)
if he shivered at the sight
not from cold but flames within

or maybe was his heart stilled
mouth a-twist in mixed emotion
holding destruction distillation
forever splitting killers and the killed?

There was not yet any context, no perceptions to reverse.
No Tarantino movies, Columbines, or Call of Duties.
Just a single man and his gun, only one, the very first
and I wonder if he thought he'd made a gift
or made a curse.

Jul 4, 2017

Culture Fit

What's the secret sauce in the family recipe?
I wake up angry like the Hulk but Chinese
These fists are forged from Chan and Lee
kung fu movies I was too young to see

Time to rise up, can't throw away my shot
America! United! Where I'm white until I'm not
but cut me there's yellow bubbling at the seam
What are we but a generation accused of being coddled?
Part of a minority on which others are modeled?
Don't complain because I'm living the Asian American dream

This home of the brave, this land of the free
The freedom to hear "go back home!" shouted at me
Erasing the accent helps me pass on the phone
No mystery on my history - I'm a "good one"
followed the rules, came in the front door
no desperate fool washed up on the shores.
So it's cool, I'm cool, we're cool til we're not
The mood is high but no solid offer
I can stand my ground but I can't take my slants off
like you can take your pants off (Rimshot. Laughter.)

<Exit, pursued by an eagle.>


says my dad the way he does.
how do you get to the fair?
"Practice, practice, practice," I joke
like he did, when as a child I asked,
How do you get ahead?
I think you take 680
or 580
or both
to which he responds,
There are too many 80s around here.

The plan is to have an All-American day
with my alt-American dad
wearing my Captain America hat
him in an old shirt with The Clash
(I'm not sure he's ever heard The Clash)
wearing this season's Immigrant Hipster
hoping we pass for patriotic.

This is summer - for me, at least.
Fairs and farmyards
piglets and pickles filled with bacon and Nutella
but for my father I wonder
if farmwork reminds him of revolution
of working with his hands
of Work Visas and sponsors
of a family separated by a sea.

Now here we are, a moment away
from monster truck racing
as the speakers tell us to stand and stay
standing for America and America
and America.

Mar 12, 2017

Dear Mark

For here we gather on this solemn day
in dapper shades of black we cloak our tears
'gainst grief or quick relief we ache, we pray
hands off the handlebars as Jesus steers.
In life, you seized the chance to get hands-on
with everything those magic hands could reach
and hands to hearts to steering wheels and gone
beyond the moon with so much more to teach.
What lies out there? Be sure to let us know.
As you were such a single soul who could
construct a line from heaven to below,
your expertise with wires, will, and wood.
Some say you've passed but I think it untrue
for in my childrens' eyes, I'll e'er see you.

Mar 9, 2017

Guess Who

It's just knock-knock
a quick two taps then silence.
My feet pause on the landing, count
one, two, three
under my breath
my solicitor buffer
before my hand's on the doorknob
and the door is open
and regret floods in.

It's a delivery, I thought
Amazon Prime
Blue Apron
some problematic company
I mean have you listened to the podcasts
read the exposés
the working conditions
the freezing warehouses
but we still buy
because what else are we going to do

except it's not a delivery.
No, it's Grief, standing on our porch
cocksure grin
knowing eyes
and he's brought his damn acoustic
brought his friend Tragedy too.

I invite him in
before I know what I'm doing
(or maybe I know exactly what I'm doing)
because he's so handsome, just so put together
like an American Justin Trudeau.
He gets to work, goes to work
chatting up my girl
while Tragedy offers me a beer
(from where? Did he bring those?)
tells me a story.

The story is sad and surprising
filled with twists and terror
overflowing with pathos and panic
and I'm nodding nodding
wanting more, more, more.
Behind me, the strings are out
and Grief is singing Wonderwall.

I want to hate him
for the intrusion
for the stupid song
for his fucking flawless hair
but I can't
his voice is golden
like an American Michael Bublé.

And before I know it
we're asking if they can stay
share our spinach & mozzarella gnocchi
because our Blue Apron serves four
and what else are we going to do.

Feb 15, 2017


If we were on Mars
I would take your hand,
layers of space-age polymers in between
so I wouldn't really have your hand in mine
more like just the idea of your hand
because if we actually held hands
we would die.

We would go to Mars
to make love,
to be the first people
to make love
on Mars.

Why else? To do science?
just do me instead.
Let's do it on Mars
even if we would die.

We would die together
two bodies in space
into one.

Feb 9, 2017

Little Lizzy

Look out boys! It's little Lizzy
who thinks her thoughts and speaks them freely
which throws them all into a tizzy,
her manner calm and resolve steely.
"Go back inside and stay silent!"
the boys all shouted, near insisted
their faces strained, voices almost violent.
Nevertheless, she persisted.

"Perhaps you'd enjoy another major
outside of strict math and science."
Her professor's eyes tried to gauge her
response, which could be seen as defiance.
Lizzy sighed, inwardly knew
it'd all be easier if she desisted,
that they squirmed as her knowledge grew.
Nevertheless, she persisted.

Now time's have changed (but really, have they?)
and Lizzy's no longer quite so small.
Yet even now when she wants her say
there are those who'd rather put up a wall.
But for today, tomorrow, and forever
against each foe, a Lizzy resisted.
When can she be done? The answer is never.
Nevertheless, she persisted.

Jan 28, 2017


Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp --
but it cuts off there, the rest illegible
rusted over or scratched away.
It's hard to tell what's natural anymore.

The plaque feels heavy in my arms
the corners ragged as clearly it belonged
to something bigger than itself once.
Not for a long time since some looter
or criminal or hooligan or Freedom Fighter
popped it off with some makeshift crowbar.

There are noises - or maybe there aren't -
but enough to stir me to flight.
I squeeze the tablet tight. An edge
cuts into my hand and I fight
the urge to shout or sigh
or lie down and wait.

Later in the semi-darkness
and half-safety of Home
I stare at the words, try to imagine a world
where they meant what they meant
where humans were free.

Jan 20, 2017

January 20, 2017

and try to hear it
on the outskirts
in the crossroads
intersections where we crash and collide
the drip dripping of an American Melt.

And to be near it
is dangerous sure
watch for the spatters and explosions
from the blood, sweat, and tears
that drip from the patty of pregnant expectation.

And the way to sear it
properly is to be watchful
and to flip it over and over
and over again, constantly in fact
but in a rush sometimes
the melt just gets pushed down
down until it drips.

And to be clear, it's
personal/historical/contextual -
the way you like your melt
is not quite how I like mine.
I know it's hard to walk in my shoes,
they don't fit you and they're
made in China.
But sooner or later
getting squeezed
and flattened
to cheers
means you start to believe it

and to fear it.