the Chink in your armor

When I was a girl

my classmates had

this sing-song saying

(with hand motions

and everything!)


(grubby fingers yank 

up the corners of eyes)


(yank down)


(one up one down)

(Laugh--it's funny!)

Across seas

when my father was a boy

his classmates had

a saying too

El Chino mal halao con pita.

(The Chinaman's eyes 

are pulled with

the cheapest string)

(Laugh--so we can see 

your eyes disappear!)

I had a whitewashed

girlhood and when

I finally stepped out

the front door--

came to, as it were--

a late bloomer

I saw my color--yes--

because that is what 

they all saw,

confusing as it was,

the classmates--

I thought Asians were

supposed to be smart,

the leering men on buses-- 

I've always thought

Asian women

were the most attractive,

the bank teller to my white mother--

Is she your foreign

exchange student?

and one summer, children,

again approaching my white mother--

Why is your daughter Black?

the barista--

Where is your accent from?

(What fucking accent?)

the sick with yellow fever lovers

the motherfuckers

the first time

I got called a chink

I wore it like a badge

crammed myself 

behind a locked door

and sobbed

my privileged sobs

cradling my numbness

my nothing the word

bounced off when

it was supposed

to stick supposed to 





I am a chink

am I not?

Throwing off

layer after layer

of clothing searching

for my naked self

there it is

I am anything but numb 

I am not just yellow

there are shards

of other colors 

in there too

pinching and pricking

I am the chink

in your armor

the interruption

the fucking up

of you plans

I am the tear 

in the fabric

because that, Friends,

is what it is 

to be mixed--

the ripping of

something that was whole

in a previous life

we were a family

in a previous life

 nothing could separate 

us someone somewhere

had a dream 

that sons and daughters

brothers and sisters

would return to one

another and everyone

would be on speaking

terms and my white

mom was signing 

her letters "te amo"

and relatives

were calling me "Jillita"

Husband and Wife were

in love walking 

on the beach

hand in hand

and we were all 

defying what they said:

That we were never

meant to survive.