Me

You hate me for what I did in Israel,
and you still harbor anger
for the destruction of Japan and
Vietnamese children.
I hate you for what you did in New York
even though you’re half a world away
from the Middle East;
you’re brown and practice Islam
so it still counts.
You blame me for childhood obesity
and I point fingers at your gender inequality.
I say, “who gave you Starbucks
and the idea of a hamburger?”
You say you provided the coffee beans
and all you need is rice, thank you.
I laugh at the state of your traffic
and gigantic free standing malls
and you chuckle at my lack of public transportation
and abundance of fast food restaurants.
I point to your Mac laptop and you
point at my t-shirt and sneakers.

“Who gave you H&M?”
“Who gave you tempeh and tofu?”
“Who gave you Dunkin’ Donuts?”
“Who gave you Sumatra coffee?”
“Los Angelos, California?”
“The island of Bali?”
“Football?”
“Badminton?”

Before we know it, you and I are making
quite the scene,
fingers pointing and hair grabbing and
spit flying and nothing stopping.
Soon, eventually, after a long while,
Mother Nature comes around the corner
and grabs both of our flailing fists.
She sits you down quietly in the right corner
and me she guides back left.

She looks me so deep in the eyes
that my soul lights on fire.
“You, little girl,” she says to me,
“did not invade Vietnam. You did not
drop the bomb. You did not
chose to go to Israel.
You did nothing to cause obesity
you’ve never run a business
and you have nothing to do with
the globalization of Starbucks.
You did not create the Mac
you don’t work in the department of transportation
you’ve never been to LA and you don’t
play football.”

She gets up, tells me to stay there,
and walks to your corner.
she looks you so deep in the eyes
that your soul lights on fire, and she says,
“Little girl, you have
nothing to do with terrorism.
You did not have a hand in clothing
manufacturing and you are not to
blame for the traffic.
Your hijab you wear because it makes you feel purpose
not because you’re a slave.
You did not invent fermented soy and
you don’t even like coffee.
You’ve never been to Bali and
you don’t play badminton.”

She takes your hand and pulls you to the center 
then she comes and gets me, too,
but I can barely see cause I’m pouting still 
and she sticks me right next to you.

“You are not your ancestral past,” she says,
“You are not the country you were born in.
You are not the clothes you like to wear 
or the religion you chose to follow.
You are not so arbitrary as all that.
You hate because it is easier than
saying hello
and you hate because you want to hate
first. It’s easier that way, too.
But you don’t have to be so
arbitrary.
You are a trillion complexities
in a waterproof casing 
with profound ideas on the nature of love
passion and beauty.
For my sake, Christ’s sake, Allah’s sake,
you have to stop being so
arbitrary.”

She leaves just as she came
and suddenly it’s just you and I
and I’m kind of embarrassed
snd I see the blush in your cheeks.
There’s a whole lot of silence
and we feel the absence
and the hollowness and the cave.

I think of myself, then,
as a person, not as a country with a history.
Suddenly I think,
you might think the same.

“I don’t want to be trivial,” you say.
“I don’t want to be trite,” I say.

We extend our hands at the same time
quite slow at first.
You tighten your fingers around my palm 
and I squeeze your hand back.
I can feel the blood pump in the veins
on the back of your hand and it is
to the tune of the blood that pumps in my chest.
How is that?
How can we be synchronized if we are of such different blood?
We inhale at the same time
long and slow
and that’s in tune, too.
How is that possible?
We have different tongues,
they remind us,
how does air go through our mouths the same way?

We are a trillion complexities in a waterproof casing
and sometimes it’s more of a chrysalis;
there’s something deeper
in this body of ours.
I need to hate you less
for my own sake, too, because that hate
is plastic weaving into this skin
making it hard and unyielding
shivering the creature within.
I am a country with the burden of a past
only until I stop thinking of you that way, too.

I don’t want to be so heavy, so swollen, so angry.
I don’t want to assume responsibility
for all the destruction
I haven’t caused.

I think maybe, suddenly,
that you might think the same.



You

I hate you for what you did in Israel,
and I’m still bent up about the
destruction of Japan and all
the Vietnamese children.
You blame me for the attacks in New York
despite the fact that I’ve never been to
the Middle East
and I don’t speak Arabic.
I blame you for childhood obesity
and you point fingers at our gender inequality.
You say, “who gave you Starbucks
and the idea of a hamburger?”
I reply, “we provide the coffee beans
and all I need is rice, thank you.”
You laugh at the condition of our traffic
and free standing malls
and I sneer at your lack of public transportation
and abundance of fast food restaurants.
You point at my Mac laptop and I
point at your t-shirt and sneakers.

“Who gave you H&M?”
“Who gave you tempeh and tofu?”
“Who gave you Dunkin’ Donuts?”
“Who gave you Sumatra coffee?”
“Los Angelos, California?”
“The island of Bali?”
“Football?”
“Badminton?”

Before we know it, you and I are making
quite the scene,
fingers pointing and hair grabbing and
spit flying and nothing stopping.
Soon, eventually, after a long while,
Mother Nature comes around the corner
and grabs both of our flailing fists.
She sits me down quietly in the right corner
and you she guides back left.

She looks you so deep in the eyes
that your soul lights on fire.
“You, little girl,” she says to you,
“did not invade Vietnam. You did not
drop the bomb. You did not
chose to go to Israel.
You did nothing to cause obesity
you’ve never run a business
and you have nothing to do with
the globalization of Starbucks.
You did not create the Mac
you don’t work in the department of transportation
you’ve never been to LA and you don’t
play football.”

She gets up, tells you to stay there,
and walks to my corner.
She looks me so deep in the eyes that my soul
lights on fire, and she says,
“Little girl, you have
nothing to do with terrorism.
You did not have a hand in clothing
manufacturing and you are not to
blame for the traffic.
Your hijab you wear because it makes you feel purpose
not because you’re a slave.
You did not invent fermented soy and
you don’t even like coffee.
You’ve never been to Bali and
you don’t play badminton.”

She takes my hand and pulls me to the center
then she comes and gets you, too, but
I can barely see cause I’m pouting still
and she sticks you right next to me.

“You are not your ancestral past,” she says,
“You are not the country you were born in.
You are not the clothes you like to wear
or the religion you chose to follow.
You are not so arbitrary as all that.
You hate because it is easier than
saying hello
and you hate because you want to hate
first. It’s easier that way, too.
But you don’t have to be so
arbitrary.
You are a trillion complexities
in a waterproof casing
with profound ideas on the nature of love
passion and beauty.
For my sake, Christ’s sake, Allah’s sake,
you have to stop being so
arbitrary.”

She leaves just as she came
and suddenly it’s just you and I
My face feels really hot
and you can’t seem to make eye contact.
There’s a whole lot of silence
and we feel the absence
and the hollowness and the cave.

I think of myself, then,
as a person, not as a country with a history.
Suddenly I think,
you might think the same.

“I don’t want to be trivial,” I say.
“I don’t want to be trite,” you say.

We extend our hands at the same time
quite slow at first.
I tighten my fingers around your palm
and you squeeze my hand back.
I can feel the blood pump in the veins
on the back of your hand and it is
to the tune of the blood that pumps in my chest.
How is that?
How can we be synchronized if we are of
such different blood?
We inhale at the same time
long and slow
and that’s in tune, too.
How is that possible?
We have different tongues,
they remind us,
how does air go through our mouths the same way?

We are a trillion complexities in a waterproof casing
and sometimes it’s more of a chrysalis;
there’s something deeper
in this body of ours.
I need to hate you less
for my own sake, too, because that hate
is plastic weaving into this skin
making it hard and unyielding
shivering the creature within.
I am a country with the burden of a past
only until I stop thinking of you that way, too.
I don’t want to be so heavy, so swollen, so angry.
I don’t want to assume responsibility
for all the destruction
I haven’t caused.

I think maybe, suddenly,
that you might think the same.


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