Let not those who deny thee to us,
make of thee a graven image and invite us
to bow down to it
writes Saum Song Bo. He says, graven, an idol beyond us
stone or steel, unalive
he says deny, foot barely on shore, spun around, go home
How to escape exclusion, keep one step ahead of the tiger’s teeth
snapping at your heels?
He says those, their Central Pacific dreams of gold rumbling along
on a bed of a thousand Chinese lives
the traincar rhythm not/your/tired/your/poor, your/tired
your/poor, not/the/tempest/tossed, the/tempest/tossed
not the yearning/yearning/yearning to breathe free
a chant hammered into gospel, sung out loud, written in ink
sealed into law, so easy, it’s always been.
(Saum Song Bo aspired to be a U.S. citizen. From a letter, 1885.)
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