sa-i-gu, by ishle park

by ishle yi park

koreans mark disaster
with numbers.
April 29, 1992.
fire. if I touch
the screen my fingers
will singe or sing.

we watch grainy reels of a black
man flopping on concrete
arched, kicked, and nightsticked,
rodney king.
here I rub my own tender
wrists, ask my mother unanswerable questions –
why are the cops doing this?
my mother will answer simply, and
wisely, because those cops are bad.
of the looters, because they are mad.
But why hurt us – she chokes
Because, Ishle, we live close enough.
While l.a.p.d. ring beverly hills like a moat,
They won’t answer rings from south central
furious and consistent as rain.
where did they hide, our women –
under what oil-stained
chevy did they breathe life?
who pulled them
by hair into riot
for a crime
they did not commit –
who watched and did nothing?
the mile high cameras hover,
they zoom in, dub it:
war of blacks & koreans
then watch us rip
each other to red tendons for scraps
in the city that they abandoned,
a silence white as white silence
and we have no jesse

no martin no malcolm
no al, no eloquent, rapid tongue
just fathers, with thick-tongues

and children, too young to carry more
than straw broomstick and hefty bag.
all the women cry
and they hurl what is not already shattered.


but two mornings later,
they march over ashes
dust licking their proud ankles
30,000 koreans
sing in a language that
most will never master
a tribute song
to those who came before
and those who will march after
we shall overcome


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