Mitsuye Yamada is a Japanese American writer, educator, and activist. Her works expose the discrimination faced by Japanese Americans during and after World War II, while tackling issues of representation and gender violence.
7 years old and i am
jagged fingernails bitten down
to the flesh, pink and raw.
my mother wraps bandages around my fingers
to protect me from my own mouth.
My mother tells me to smile with reserve (laugh lines),
to drink my coffee through a straw (stained teeth),
never smoke, only drink in moderation (premature wrinkles, dull skin)
so one day I can die lovely and youthful
having never really lived.
i wonder if the californian drought is drying up this soft brown soil, making
my skin hard, cracked, and i wonder,
what is left now, frozen nothingness of a no-man’s land?
A universe of synapses
This is how it has always been
And the way it should never be
A girl who cannot look at herself
And a boy who will be free.
I’m sorry, Malala, if I may call you Malala,
for wasting my privilege.
I’m sorry that when I miss school
I get to call it laziness
And that when you miss school
You call it survival
Why flirt with aspirations
when you can fucking run
the whole thing.
Y’all stay with me
Whether I like it or not
The love people mistake for rudeness
The sugar disguised as curse words
The underlying tenderness in your “bitch please”
I have digressed
from infallible abstractions
as I look outside the window,
ghosting along your heart,
outside the cemetery.