Poem in memory of Vincent Chin: somewhere in the over lit night

Against the Current, No. 101, November/December 2002

Kim D. Hunter

somewhere in the over lit night
between your erection and the parking lot
your guts twisted
and your brain listed
the object, the job, the ugly grind
that you would have given anything
to give up
grew legs
loomed like godzilla
and landed on vincent’s head
what’s a drunk unemployed racist to do
whose penis was that bat
pinned between the luxury of whiteness
and the necessity of food and house payments


what were you celebrating
the last night of
something like freedom

so american to celebrate
freedom or something
that’s not quite
what it is supposed to be
wish you had just had a barbeque
you died like an american
hunted down in a fast food joint
crushed with a baseball bat
assailed by a blue collar redneck
who thought you were someone else
like so many children of immigrants
like the runaway slave
wanting the water to erase the trail
they trailed you anyway

temptations come and go
like chances in the night
this small pocket of vice
the shared nakedness of a stranger
she an abstraction
like freedom
before you entered the room
but an abstraction you can imagine
without too much imagination
she so real in the light
in the dark
so american that she made
every stiff penis american
or lose his origin
which is the same thing
but not quite
not when the money gets tight
in the press of the unemployment line
your guts got twisted
and your head listed
the content of brains and pockets
became public
a corpse has no secrets
identity national origin

if david carradine can be chinese
then what’s there left to dream of


just because you were born
in a country with a stolen name
doesn’t mean you can walk blind
tell us it was the watered down drinks
that spoke to you
like dogs speak to some schizophrenics
told you japanese auto workers are coming
to strip joints in highland park
that their bludgeoned ghosts
would undo the drunken engineering
of the cars you didn’t really want to make
that your families would somehow
feel the same intimacies
after the bloody bat fell
from your hands


after the tribulation
the trials
the judge reached down
inside himself and found nothing
said a yellow body disappeared
said he was already a ghost
when you got him
down in the parking lot
his resistance his refusal to return to childhood
and subservience the fact that you could hold
him down and not float to the ether
these things are like miracles
that you managed to find
some semblance of bone with your bat

you’ve dropped the bat blood
wiped submitted as evidence
and formalities adjusted
go now
your wives are waiting
to sleep with murderers

the judge saw a mirror
in the defendant’s faces
and nothing where vincent had been
these asian corpses are so light
he said
delicate as rice paper

his friends his would be witnesses
his would be wife
his mother and family
they too must be light and delicate
perhaps all of them together
will be enough to fill the void

ATC 101, November-December 2002