Canada

11/22/2010 § Leave a comment

Here in the great Northwest
half my name is lost in translation.

배민욱
used to be my name
when I was a schoolboy,
an ex-future astronaut
or a professional soccer player.

But now I want to be a bum
who writes poetry over stale coffee
and my name is Min Bae,
Min Buy or Bay or By and
Bye—

It’s no one’s fault, really.
A neat compromise between tongues:
one kept a syllable; the other
mistook one.

It’s yesterday. Mom calls
from across the Pacific
with the name she birthed me in 1987.
It rings foreign in my ears.
When I repeat it, she cries.

It’s yesterday again, my father
disowns me, and I am disowned.
In exchange, I get to forget the bruises
he left on ummah’s skin, a colorblind’s rainbow
of purple, brown, and yellow—and monochrome black.

Here in the great Northwest,
half my name is eight hours behind me.
It wanders through the ticking and tocking of Tijuana hours
like a stray dog, just as I left it a decade ago
for a man in my likeness.

And I’m afraid
to wait for it; afraid of its barking
and of men who steal dogs at night for boshintang,
of bruised rainbows and shattered ashtrays,
of the red tongue that shouts Bitch!
in my mother tongue,
and of being reclaimed
by the blackness of my hair
and yellowness of my skin
and those eyes that stare back when

I’m naked in the mirror.

Here in the great Northwest,
between the Rockies and the Pacific
wide enough to swallow a hundred peninsulas,
half my name is lost
in translation.

Still, I won’t ask for a correction
or believe
that
no one is
or isn’t
to blame.

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