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
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