Your Mom Tells You To Stop Writing About Race

so you punch buttons. so you side-part

your hair. so you flip thru TV channels

and watch monkeys howl with their bare

monkey lips, so you are reminded of your

father. a gas station, a black nozzle, a man

in the adjacent car pinching his eyes, his

wide, blue face: telling you to go back

home. you draw shark teeth on your

american culture homework. you raise

your hand in class. your house becomes

a zoo filled with peaches, watercolor

roosters. each year, you walk and you

walk and your feet perform quietly

in the grass. every body asks you for

tricks, their name in black calligraphy.

every body coos and coos. there

are cages, and there are your eyes.

there are your ten-thousand days, eggy

and glorious, stuck thru the teeth of

a comb. your skin is sticky and yellow.

your tongue is ancient and sweet. when

a boy plumps his lip on your throat

and asks you to say something dirty

in CHINESE, you flip the sheets

and bite down, tasting trouble

and rage. in the kitchen, alone,

you devour a pickle. your white

classmate sees you. does not.

white men claim you. do not.

you are small, fierce and evil: with

two palms and a chest. there are

boxes made for you to check. Chinese/

American. Chinese/American.

your mom calls. she tells you to stop

writing about race. You could get

shot, she says. so you yank your hair

into a knot at the back of your neck.

so you cinch your belt tight at the waist.

Carlina Duan hails from Michigan, and currently lives in Malaysia. She has work published in Berkeley Poetry Review, Bodega, The Margins, and elsewhere. Her debut poetry collection, I Wore My Blackest Hair, is forthcoming from Little A in 2017.