Poetry by Amy Uyematsu
Ed. note: If you are reading these poems on a phone, please view the screen in the horizontal position in order to see the line breaks as intended by the poet.
I used to be a Cheeto junkie
OD’ed so many times
on that cheezy crunchy
Bad Bad Bad I’d sing as I munch
won’t let others see
one more bag in my lunch
But now there’s a Cheeto Satan
the once delectable snack
an election cheat’s poison
His lies like his face
are stained a fake orange
that no soap can erase
Bad Bad Bad oh no he’s for real
a POTUS too dangerous
for us to sit still
And Cheetos a habit I finally quit
cured in an instant
by this self-serving twit
A mural created by Saicket for Rabanitos Restaurant, 1758 W. 18th St., Chicago, IL.
– for Gil-Scott Heron
A poet carries the unseen seed for a long time.
A poet is both mother and father.
Collecting bones, leaves, and names with equal anticipation,
a poet is most amazed by the gift of countless
moments of amazement.
A poet walks on a tightrope of syllables.
A poet keeps writing no matter how dangerous.
An advocate for the ordinary,
a poet can be no less than revolutionary.
Feared most by tyrants, a poet cannot hide.
A poet begins with nothing and ends with everything,
over and over again.
A poet inhabits the crowded country of dream and desire,
improvising her small portion of words like a jazz musician.
A poet sings because it’s the only way she knows how.
A poet keeps giving birth to herself.
(published in Basic Vocabulary, 2016)
Black Lives Matter at SF Women’s March, January 2018. Photo: Eddie Wong
As American As
– February, 2018
I am in my car just a block away from City Hall. The light turns green
but traffic has stopped. Who finally emerges is a man on bicycle,
slowly making his way across the street but going in circles. Once he reaches
the sidewalk, he keeps riding in loops as we all move on. But I still see him,
wonder about all the wars we’re fighting -– especially these latest assaults,
the undeniable dread that’s spreading within us, trying to go on as if we can
still lead somewhat normal lives but knowing the very idea of normal has been
distorted so much that a man biking in circles and holding up traffic
makes total and welcome sense.
adding one more school shooting to the list, the latest a Florida high school
tents and make-shift shelters populating our streets
tearing down affordable housing for luxurious high-rises
ignoring the mentally ill who crowd our downtown sidewalks
another black man shot in the back by police
another cop who gets off
people we know who can’t afford health care
highways and bridges falling apart
politicians who protect the rich and themselves
churchgoers in North Carolina and Texas gunned down
young men with torches shouting Nazi slogans
a president who encourages them
fake news and alternate truths
the unborn more important than those already here
locking up children at the border
being told to go back where we came from
climate change just another hoax
the enemy closer than we know
President’s Day weekend, 2018 – “Black Panther,”
the new Marvel comic film, breaking records
for ticket sales. Many young fans, too young to know
about the Black Panthers of my generation. It’s the same
Feeling of ethnic pride as fifty years ago, when
Oakland Black Panthers served free breakfasts to children,
two ’68 Olympics medal winners gave the black power salute,
and we sang with James Brown, “I’m black and I’m proud,”
Even if we weren’t black. Revolutionary change – the new normal then,
let it remain the new normal now – with “Black Lives Matter,”
NFL players on bended knee, women’s marches from coast
to coast, high school students demanding anti-gun laws.
Fifty years ago when Martin was killed, who could imagine
we’d elect Barack Obama just four decades later,
hip hop music and dance would be global staples,
Claudine Rankine’s Citizen, the only poetry bestseller.
Superheroes are nothing new in the struggle, only this time
a Disney movie is giving every boy and girl, young and old,
that big screen sensation of fighting for justice –
as normal as Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, on and on.
Let us bridge the generations and remind all who will listen
that it only takes one woman sitting on a bus to inspire hundreds,
one farmworker, one union activist, one parent
to build a movement based on the power of the people.
Amy Uyematsu is a Sansei poet and teacher from Los Angeles. She currently teaches a writing workshop at the Far East Lounge in Little Tokyo.