I let this short poem quickly flow out of me after wanting to find a different way to express my frustrations as an Asian-American in the time of the COVID-19 outbreak. A bit of my logic follows. Also, warning on some strong language in the poem; the title of this post should hint at that.
On a global level, we’re in unfamiliar territory as our previous normal ways of life and the systems we’ve built to support it are undergoing a reckoning. Since I’m not a policy expert, and journalism outlets such as NPR are covering these aspects better than I can, I won’t discuss that much further. (Check out these episodes from NPR’s The Indicator From Planet Money: “Essential Workers” and “Why We Didn’t Prepare For The Pandemic.“) I just ask that we all think about what the pandemic has brutally taught us about what we need to change and rethink. Vote with your votes and consumer dollars.
Although The Indicator hosts discussed why we as a world economy didn’t prepare for this pandemic, I can’t say that I personally haven’t prepared — at least mentally speaking. As soon as I heard about this virus first appearing in mainland China, I knew what the knock-on effects would be for me as an Asian-American. At best, wary glances whenever I go out in public in this time. At worst, well, unfortunately, I don’t think there is a limit to what people can do. When I go out for walks now, despite being in a community where Asian faces are commonly seen and (begrudgingly?) accepted, I see my light exercise hand-weights as more than just an exercise tool, I have to admit.
I’ll note that I am, in fact, also in some new territory personally since poetry is an art form I’ve been able to appreciate, in most cases (don’t @ me). However, writing it is something I last tried in high school…maybe. This has been a humbling growing experience. So thanks for bearing with the length of this letter (and a helpful postscript) compared to the poem itself. Chalk it up to my nerves. I’m not so confident a writer where I let my work stand on its own with no preamble right now, I have to admit.
this all started with us eating bats they snap but well our food has always been weird they sneer of course, our food meaning the real stuff not counting the supersized sodiumized sweetified deepfried deboned stuff they love but honestly I've been corrupted and sometimes that is just the right stuff isn't that just batshitrich? this all makes me think of that factoid the Bei Jing or was it Wu Zhen or Yang Zhou or wherever my mom or grandma god I miss her took me that one summer -- anyway, that tour guide they explained that you see these bat motifs (my Chimerican brain immediately went to bat mobiles) in this architecture because they were good to have around because they sounded the same as fortune fú and fú so they are fortune I never saw bats the same way after that tour wherever and I swallowed that fact and kept it in my belly because I know now this heritage is my fortune this all made me think though once why did some of us have to go and eat bats (I didn't and I'd never) was it for the fortune because seriously, can we stop believing that that's how this works? no -- seriously, can they stop believing that that's how this works? don't they want to save their fortunes? they made it worse for faces like mine f f u! shit I'm no better than they are that's just my mom and dad always said all the knowledge you learn goes into your stomach it'll feed you and you'll always have something to eat this time, I let myself be fed what they thought and said this started this started. so there are those who really deserve some fu right now yes, I mean fú yes, let fortune favor us all as some of us favor fú
P.S. Depending on your screen resolution, this poem may not reflect its original formatting. For a little more context, check out these links about how bats are seen in traditional Chinese culture: “The Silent Language of Jade” in Honolulu Magazine and commentary on a Chinese tapestry by the Met Museum. And a short history of Chinese food in America and American Chinese food by Time magazine. I scrutinized as much as possible to ensure that these are reputable information sources. There’s a lot of batshit trashy content out there.
Also published on Medium.