Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Split Between Two Lands"

This poem is spillover from the May 2, 2017 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired and sponsored by Anthony Barrette.

Warning for extremely racist history.

"Split Between Two Lands"

It started with the Gold Rush
in the 19th century, really,
this influx of Chinese men
into the state of California.

The crossed the rough Pacific
to find an even rougher welcome,
and just because they were ordered
to cut their hair instead of braid it long
didn't mean they escaped oppression.

They told their stories anyhow,
whispered around the campfires.

They left their image stamped
in brilliant silks and Chinese food
all over the golden city of San Francisco.

In the 20th century there came
waves of Japanese instead.

Laws were passed to ban them
from owning real property, and later,
caging them like livestock.

They told their tales in diaries
and furtively snapped pictures.

They left their imprint in
sushi and shakuhachi music.

To be an immigrant is
to be split between two lands,
a bridge over muddy water,

but without a bridge,
nobody's going anywhere.

* * *


"They have no idea what it is like to lose home at the risk of never finding home again, have your entire life split between two lands and become the bridge between two countries."
Rupi Kaur, Milk & Honey

Read about the Chinese experience in 19th century America.

Read about the Japanese experience in 20th century America. It's even worse.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, history, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing
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