I like to say we left at first light
        with Chairman Mao himself chasing us in a police car,
my father fighting him off with firecrackers,
        even though Mao was already over a decade
dead, & my mother says all my father did
        during the Cultural Revolution was teach math,
which he was not qualified to teach, & swim & sunbathe
        around Piano Island, a place I never read about
in my American textbooks, a place everybody in the family
        says they took me to, & that I loved.
What is it, to remember nothing, of what one loved?
        To have forgotten the faces one first kissed?
They ask if I remember them, the aunts, the uncles,
        & I say Yes it’s coming back, I say Of course,
when it’s No not at all, because when I last saw them
        I was three, & the China of my first three years
is largely make-believe, my vast invented country,
        my dream before I knew the word “dream,”
my father’s martial arts films plus a teaspoon-taste 
        of history. I like to say we left at first light,
we had to, my parents had been unmasked as the famous
        kung fu crime-fighting couple of the Southern provinces,
& the Hong Kong mafia was after us. I like to say
        we were helped by a handsome mysterious Northerner,
who turned out himself to be a kung fu master.
        I don’t like to say, I don’t remember crying.
No embracing in the airport, sobbing. I don’t remember
        feeling bad, leaving China.
I like to say we left at first light, we snuck off
        on some secret adventure, while the others were
still sleeping, still blanketed, warm
        in their memories of us.
What do I remember of crying? When my mother slapped me
        for being dirty, diseased, led astray by Western devils,
a dirty, bad son, I cried, thirteen, already too old,
        too male for crying. When my father said Get out,
never come back,
I cried & ran, threw myself into night.
        Then returned, at first light, I don’t remember exactly
why, or what exactly came next. One memory claims
        my mother rushed into the pink dawn bright
to see what had happened, reaching toward me with her hands,
        & I wanted to say No. Don’t touch me.
Another memory insists the front door had simply been left
        unlocked, & I slipped right through, found my room,
my bed, which felt somehow smaller, & fell asleep, for hours,
        before my mother (anybody) seemed to notice.
I’m not certain which is the correct version, but what stays with me
        is the leaving, the cry, the country splintering.
It’s been another five years since my mother has seen her sisters,
        her own mother, who recently had a stroke, who has
         trouble
recalling who, why. I feel awful, my mother says,
        not going back at once to see her. But too much is
         happening here.

Here, she says, as though it’s the most difficult,
        least forgivable English word. 
What would my mother say, if she were the one writing?
        How would her voice sound? Which is really to ask, what is
my best guess, my invented, translated (Chinese-to-English,
        English-to-English) mother’s voice? She might say:
We left at first light, we had to, the flight was early,
        in early spring. Go, my mother urged, what are you doing,
waving at me, crying? Get on that plane before it leaves without you.
        It was spring & I could smell it, despite the sterile glass
& metal of the airport—scent of my mother’s just-washed hair,
        of the just-born flowers of fields we passed on the car ride
         over,
how I did not know those flowers were already
        memory, how I thought I could smell them, boarding the
         plane,
the strange tunnel full of their aroma, their names
        I once knew, & my mother’s long black hair—so impossible
         now.
Why did I never consider how different spring could smell,
feel,
        elsewhere? First light, last scent, lost
country. First & deepest severance that should have
        prepared me for all others.
Two cops hover over a group of boys
who have their feet spread and their hands
pushed up against an azure-tiled wall
outside the Blue Jay.

One of the twins is in the lineup,
and when I see him, I stop short
on my way to the trolley. The twins’ names
are DaVon and DeVon,

and the older one is bigger, say the neighbors.
But I can’t tell them apart, and not when one twin
passes by without the other. I just know
they both go by Von,

and I can’t go wrong. The drunks congregating
around the scene mumble that the cops
want the boys against the Blue Jay for a rash
of Avenue stickups.

I can’t understand that. Whichever Von this is,
maybe he’s into bad shit off the street,
but on the street he calls me, Mister Iain,
and when he says it,

he looks me in the eye. The other Von too.
The worst they’ve done in my sight: throw
empty liquor bottles onto the train tracks
below our blind alley.

Nothing I didn’t do as a kid. Nothing
I haven’t seen grown men do. And I never
saw it happen again. The smaller of the cops
standing over the line

is still a big, bullnecked guy, and when he orders
Von to turn around and face him, he also shoves
a shoulder blade, spinning the boy forward.
I see Von see me,

and say, Leave him alone—he’s a good kid,
and the other cop, the real big one, stares me down
as if he just witnessed me smash and grab
in broad daylight

and can’t wait to slam me into the concrete.
I back up farther into the crowd, which has grown
as people waiting for the always-late 15 trolley
join the drunks.

The smaller cop starts barking at Von and his friends.
I can’t hear their responses, can just see them shake
and nod, shake and nod until, with a final push for Von,
the cops let them go. The friends split

in different directions, a pair of them north up 29th,
a pair east on Girard, and Von by himself to the west.
I wheel around the crowd and think to catch him up,
but he’s moving fast,

and I can see the trolley car at the 31st Street stop.
I call after him, Von, you okay? And he calls back,
Yeah, Mister Iain—I’m okay, but he doesn’t turn
to look at me, keeps his head

cocked down and walks toward our street.
When the trolley creaks to the corner,
he’s halfway down the block. I climb the stairs,
and drop in my token,

which hits the other coins in the fare box
with a dull clink, metal on metal, like the jangle
of cuffs a boy doesn’t register as he goes
from cracking jokes

with friends to rammed against blue tiles
and the wall.
Let’s make a movie called Dinosaurs in the Hood.
Jurassic Park meets Friday meets The Pursuit of Happyness.
There should be a scene where a little black boy is playing
with a toy dinosaur on the bus, then looks out the window
& sees the T. Rex, because there has to be a T. Rex.

Don’t let Tarantino direct this. In his version, the boy plays
with a gun, the metaphor: black boys toy with their own lives,
the foreshadow to his end, the spitting image of his father.
Fuck that, the kid has a plastic Brontosaurus or Triceratops
& this is his proof of magic or God or Santa. I want a scene

where a cop car gets pooped on by a pterodactyl, a scene
where the corner store turns into a battle ground. Don’t let
the Wayans brothers in this movie. I don’t want any racist shit
about Asian people or overused Latino stereotypes.
This movie is about a neighborhood of royal folks —

children of slaves & immigrants & addicts & exiles — saving their town
from real-ass dinosaurs. I don’t want some cheesy yet progressive
Hmong sexy hot dude hero with a funny yet strong commanding
black girl buddy-cop film. This is not a vehicle for Will Smith
& Sofia Vergara. I want grandmas on the front porch taking out raptors

with guns they hid in walls & under mattresses. I want those little spitty,
screamy dinosaurs. I want Cicely Tyson to make a speech, maybe two.
I want Viola Davis to save the city in the last scene with a black fist afro pick
through the last dinosaur’s long, cold-blood neck. But this can’t be
a black movie. This can’t be a black movie. This movie can’t be dismissed

because of its cast or its audience. This movie can’t be a metaphor
for black people & extinction. This movie can’t be about race.
This movie can’t be about black pain or cause black people pain.
This movie can’t be about a long history of having a long history with hurt.
This movie can’t be about race. Nobody can say nigga in this movie

who can’t say it to my face in public. No chicken jokes in this movie.
No bullets in the heroes. & no one kills the black boy. & no one kills
the black boy. & no one kills the black boy. Besides, the only reason
I want to make this is for that first scene anyway: the little black boy
on the bus with a toy dinosaur, his eyes wide & endless


his dreams possible, pulsing, & right there.
Took me awhile to learn the good words
make the rain on my window grown
and sexy now I’m in the tub holding down
that on-sale Bordeaux pretending
to be well adjusted I am on that real
jazz shit sometimes I run the streets
sometimes they run me I’m the body
of the queen of my hood filled up
with bad wine bad drugs mu shu pork
sick beats what more can I say to you
I open my stylish legs I get my swagger
back let men with gold teeth bow to my tits
and the blisters on my feet I become electric
I’m a patch of grass the stringy roots
you call home or sister if you want
I could scratch your eyes make hip-hop die again
I’m on that grown woman shit before I break
the bottle’s neck I pour a little out: I am fallen
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