Interiority, hey?

Nellie Wong at home. PHOTO: Marcelo Potosí
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Interiority, pungent and prickly, wafts from the pot,

Stainless and gleaming.

Brown rice kernels toast, relaxed,

in mellifluous heat.

My legs entwine the kitchen barstool

wrapping me in a haze of aluminum foil

while sunlight pours through speck-splashed window.

Soon Dubu Jijae bubbles in Gochujang. Red. Fiery.

I feel audacious, adding meatless

sausage balls, putting aside

scallions reserving spring

for evening’s repast.

COVID-19 crisis inserts itself, irresistible,

non-discriminating and worldly when,

when a Chinese woman on a train coughs

and a white woman shouts “Oh, my god!”

Shielding herself with her trench coat, sinking

further into the plastic-coated seat on the train

while other pairs of eyes shoot

arrows of fear, panic.

Whole bodies move, shrink en masse.


Yellow woman pariah, again and again.

The exteriority of suspicion, “Yellow Alert” splashes

across headlines, modern-day “Yellow

Peril” springs into consciousness, the president

tweeting “a foreign virus”,

What “model minority?” What passivity? What dragon lady?

The blah of stereotypes. Ah, the orient. Ah, the occident.

Steal their labor and run. What invisibility? What lies?

Yellow women excluded before onslaught

of Chinese Exclusion Act

Yellow men killed at Rock Springs, murdered

in Hawaii, not real and buff and masculine enough

to grace the silver screen.

Just real enough to mine for gold, build railroads, grow

wine grapes, live in cramped quarters, fight the Cubic Air law,

the right to attend public schools.


Chalk it up to ignorance wholesale? No, no.

Why COVID-19 is named

referring to its

eruption in Wuhan, China. There they go

giving identity,

racial and ethnic,

to a virus, dressing it with epicanthic folds, dividing

us, shelling us, tucking us into drawers, locking us

in prisons with psychological bars.


O we work hard, we do.

Bodies and minds in deliverance

of materiality of masks, hazmat suits, lockdowns

and pangolins hunted for its meat and shells,

bats for their medicinal use, their stewing, symbols

of good luck.

“Go back to China, bitch!”

“You don’t belong here.”

But I was born here.

Copyright 2021 Nellie Wong

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