Soo Hyun Han
i dislike bios but i love poems
how else to capture the flash of a multitude of disappearing
cockroaches when the kitchen light is turned on, or
the particular smell of cheap vanilla ice cream from a carton
or of dried urine in the stairways of the projects?
these are part of my dna, as is south korea hawaii los angeles where my little sister is born
hop hop hop
the smell of pinto beans in a pot at juan's house, incense in van's apartment edging buddha on the altar,
the smell of bondo on my dad's hands at the end of a long workday at the auto body shop
my mother practicing how to type 60wpm to find a clerical job which she never gets
some accents are not admired. all immigrants, us.
unsupervised kids making up our own extended day curriculum in the streets and alleys
then san jose and the middle-class kids whose parents look at me with distant pity
coming to school with a bloody eye
and the girl with the burned face who invites me to sleep at her house
where there are foster kids there and i fit right in
running away at 14, taken in by a friend's mother and grandmother
(all the people who watched out for me are most a part of me)
and again for good at age 16, working to support myself and find myself
feeling totally adrift, and high school, low grades, disengaged,
barely graduated, and did not walk,
it's 1991 and it's OAKLAND! where i feel at home for the first time in my life
with the help of older women of color who take me under their wing
as i hustle cleaning houses, waitressing at Sizzler, working retail
where i become an adult and go to mills at age 25 and out of the closet
and into my body, back into my body ushered by women marginalized but centered
in themselves and each other - audre lorde i just say your name -
coleen gragen i must say your name - renee boone i must say your name -
ummah i must say your name most of all.
the rest being history that curves into these powerful wings that i have grown from
the grit of lived experiences to shelter anew.