The Sunday Poem: Mary Oishi... suspect

Been thinking about the crap going down in Arizona? You need to read this. Wondering about all the fuss? You really need to read this.

Mary Oishi has performed and published poetry since she arrived in Albuquerque in 1999. She also produced many poetry events including Mightier Than the Sword: Writers Address the Nuclear Age, and Some of My Best Friends Are Poets. Besides being a blues show host on KUNM and an active blogger, she is published in the Harwood Anthology and Looking Back To Place. She served as adjunct faculty for UNM Valencia. She and her daughter will be reading at Church of Beethoven on Mother's Day, May 9th.


am i mexican? no
am i a citizen? yes
so why are my eyes welling up, arizona?
why is my stomach churned?
my soul disturbed?

you sent me back, arizona, on that cross-country trip
back to that stop in topeka
on a greyhound where i swear some white frat boys
from UNLV gave a girl a date rape drug the night before
one big guy's legs across the aisle
kept anyone from going back there
nothing was done.

but in the daylight in topeka
me in my blue chinese hat, a gift
some friends found at a flea market
covered in brightly-colored pins:
red stars, chinese flags, flowers, idyllic asian scenes
to me it was whimsical
to the two pistoled cops, sheriff K-9 unit on their buckles
white shirts, blue pants tucked inside their army boots
one with a shaved head--
that hat was nothing you could buy at k-mart
to them it shouted commie! chinese! illegal! suspect!
threat! up to no good!
so one demanded WHERE YOU FROM, HUH?
while the other rifled through my bags stuffed overhead
oh yeah, maybe the frat boys would have asked for
a search warrant but i answered politely as i could
heart pounding/cheeks flushed/gun inches from my head
all the while snooping through my bags
like my clothes were contraband

finally satisfied that i spoke fluent english
carried no sayings of chairman mao
no materials to make a bomb
they moved on to their only other target:
YOU SPEAK ENGLISH? they demanded
yes yes yes
scrambling to retrieve it from his pocket trembling

white passengers kept reading or looking out the window
as if they didn't see or hear a thing
a few old african americans sat there tired, resigned,
expecting to be next/relieved they weren't this time

i watched from the window as he got off the bus next stop
heard him speaking spanish to the woman waiting
she all ears and upset eyes

someone said we know how fascist the government is
by how much we fear the police

funny how topeka is suddenly berlin
the star of david, pink triangle there
here it's your green card, your english and your papers
and they better be just right

we're all jews sometimes, all gay and
arizona, you have made us all illegals
with your flimsy mere suspicions
with your hatred for the "other"
buckled in and booted down
am i mexican? yes
am i a citizen? no
not in arizona
not in arizona, no!
not in a state so far from grace

--mary oishi

Views: 90

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on May 2, 2010 at 8:09am
Wow--thank you, Mary Gives me the shivers how this poem covers so much of what is so wrong and f-d up. God, why are so many of us so complacent and compliant so much of the time? Thank you for your voice, loud and clear.
Comment by katie councilor on May 2, 2010 at 8:24am
wow, mary! that's incredible--so powerful. thank you.
Comment by lisa gill on May 2, 2010 at 9:16am
Wow. Gratitude for writing this Mary and ditchrider for posting...
Comment by Margaret Randall on May 2, 2010 at 9:17am
Mary, reading this in Uruguay is amazing! You are like our living conscience... and the poetry sings as well. Thank you for making my Sunday way down south where everyone looks different and no one cares!
Comment by Adelita on May 2, 2010 at 9:23am
Wow. Incredibly powerful. Thank you.
Comment by Gwen Goldsmith on May 2, 2010 at 9:29am
Beautiful way to honor May Day and the struggle of all our people and ancestors
Comment by Barelas Babe on May 2, 2010 at 10:44am
These are powerful words, indeed. Topeka y Berlin, si. But also Boyle Heights in 1942 and elsewhere in 2001. Your poetry captures the anxiety so many of us feel and reminds us to be vigilant. Thank you, Mary.
Comment by Clifton Chadwick on May 2, 2010 at 11:21am
So hard to react to all the hatred with love. On FB recently people have joined the "I'm not vacationing in AZ (or somesuch)" page, and others, who work in AZ, have put up the "please don't boycott AZ because of the Political crap (or somesuch)." How to be loving in the face of hatred? Thanks Mary for pointing out this ain't new, that fear and hatred coming out of the amygdala is regressing in our evolution. Let's all engage the pre-frontal cortex and override those fears, let's know each other instead.
Comment by bg on May 2, 2010 at 11:36am
Thank you, Mary for your eloquence and ditchrider for posting this. We are all immigrants.
Comment by Richard V on May 2, 2010 at 11:15pm
a painful story, mary. reminds me that many of us have moments that have marked us and strengthened us for the times we now live in. you can't know what you're up against until you've stared it in the eye. they are wrong, they are cowards, they will be stopped.


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