It sounds like something a macho guy would say,
and he says it with gusto and in absolute.
I too have convictions but I’m afraid of absolutes,
of black and white, where there is nothing
in between or outside this American language.
I’ll say this with conviction but little confidence:
America is my home since Nixon dropped
bombs in Cambodia making refugees of us all.
I’m older than the kids who told me,
like the president, to go back to whatever shithole
I crawled out of. They could be my children’s age
if America didn’t mess with my mind,
told me in films and on television that
Asians are Long Duck Dong’s and William Hung’s.
Though Bruce Lee is a stereotype
I’d rather kick ass than be called a nerd.
That’s why I didn’t study math in college.
My flying fists are my fingers
dancing on the computer keyboard.
I roundhouse kick when I click
the submission tab on Submittable.
I write about immigrants and refugees
because I was one of them,
about brown people because that’s
what people see when they look at me.
In the American Southwest people thought
I was Navajo.
In California an old Marine spoke Tagalog
In an airport in Mexico the security staff
commanded me in Spanish.
This Sunday, ICE began its raids on immigrants.
Lately in America, I feel like a pestilence,
one of the mice that ICE will make a raid on.
The president has told four congresswomen
of color to go back to where they came from.
And some folks don’t see any wrong in this.
I feel I am the wrong race in America.
I should carry a passport everywhere:
Walking with my daughter to the corner store
to buy ice cream on a hot summer day,
running around in a splash pad at the Scotia park
and hearing her laughter among the other children’s,
going to the movies to see Spider-Man: Far from Home.
If I get swept up in a raid, arrest first and question later,
I want my passport sutured on my chest,
make sure I have the right to a phone call,
let my daughter know that I’m coming home,
a home where her father is a second-class citizen.
Bunkong Tuon is the author of Gruel (NYQ Books, 2015), And So I Was Blessed (NYQ Books, 2017), and Dead Tongue (with Joanna C. Valente, forthcoming from Yes Poetry). Nominated for the Pushcart numerous times, his poetry recently won the 2019 Nasiona Nonfiction Poetry Prize. He teaches at Union College in Schenectady, NY.
Photo from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.