Sunday, April 05, 2015

A Poem by Bao Phi: "Giving My Neighbor a Ride to Her Job"

I emerge from 103 at the same time she does from 106.
The hallways full of blondes
whitewashing the walls.
We've never seen this many white people in the building before.
Has gentrification already hit this side of Dale?
Did someone plant a bomb
that exploded with blonde people while we slept?
One of them tells me it's the U of M women's rowing team,
My neighbor asks me for a ride to work, usually her husband
comes home around when she has to leave,
but today he is stranded with a grumpy alternator.
She is Somali. I am Vietnamese. How long have you been here?
Between us this is not offensive. Five years. You? Twenty-six.
She speaks English like my mother.
Her son will speak English like me.
She like Minnesota.
I don't have the heart to tell her that her son
probably won't.
We don't use the word refugee. Somalia, Viet Nam,
both far away, both missed.
In the theaters, Black Hawk Down and We Were Soldiers play
across whitewashed screens.
One day she will have to tell her son he doesn't have to be like Joshua Hartnett
to be a hero.
If I ever have a daughter I will have to tell her
that she does not have to love someone the same color as Mel Gibson
to be beautiful.
Words fill my car.
Laughter untranslated.
Languages beautiful.
Together here, we are not broken.

Poem from Sông I Sing, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis 2011.

To hear/read more of Bao Phi's poetry:

If you will be attending AWP 2015, here are two performances that Bao Phi will be a part of:

Page Meets Stage Tenth Anniversary Showdown
hosted by Taylor Mali
w/ Richard Blanco, Mahogany Browne, Bao Phi, & Nikola Madzirov
Thursday, 4/9/2015
12:00:PM – 01:15:PM
Room 101 J, Level 1

Contemporary Vietnamese American Poetry, 40 Years After the War
moderated by Cathy Linh Che
with Bao Phi, Paul Tran, Hieu Minh Nguyen, and Tiffanie Hoang
10:30:AM – 11:45:AM
Room L100 F&G, Lower Level

Author Photo by Charissa Uemura

A performance poet since 1991, Bao Phi has been a two-time Minnesota Grand Slam champion and a National Poetry Slam finalist, and appeared on the HBO series Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry. His work has been featured in the Best American Poetry, Screaming Monkeys, and Spoken Word Revolution Redux. His poetry on CD includes Refugeography and The Nyugens EP. He performs across the country, acts as an Asian American community organizer, and works at the Loft Literary Center, where he creates and operates programs for artists and audiences of color. His series, Equilibrium, recently won the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits Anti-Racism Initiative Award. Phi lives in Minneapolis with his partner and daughter.


Amelia ML Montes said...

Heartbreaking yet hopeful poem of solidarity--so beautiful. Gracias, Olga-- for bringing Bao Phi to La Bloga. Looking forward to reading more of Bao Phi's work!

Viva Liz Vega! said...

That last poignantly beautiful...stays with you.

Olga said...

Gracias for your comments, Amelia and Liz. I love Bao's work. His words always linger long after I have read them.