Poem in Context by Beau Sia

Asians In The Library Of The World
A Persona Poem In The Voice Of Alexandra Wallace
By Beau Sia

didn’t you hear me say
that I’m not politically correct?

I said that!  but you keep misinterpreting me,
so let me be clear:

there are hordes of asians
at my school
and it’s starting to freak me out.

they act in a manner
I wasn’t taught growing up,
and I don’t want to question
who I am
in how I was raised,
so they are starting to be a real problem
for me.

I don’t understand
their language,
their culture,
the way they hold family
sacred and shared,

and instead of consider
whether or not
that’s threatening to me,
I’d rather
the things they do,
the people they are,
be wrong.

it’s so hard to maintain fitting in,
when these asian people
clearly aren’t.

so not the tv I’ve seen.
so not the stories I’ve read.
so not my experience
where I’m from.

I’m letting their existence
jeopardize
my idea of the world
and I don’t like it.

and I’m not afraid to
personally address those
whose behavior
is affecting me so,

I’m just choosing to
find solidarity
in my beliefs on the internet
to prevent
the course of questioning
my statements would cause me
if someone

directed similar comments
towards
whom I’ve had to represent
in my life.

I don’t want to wonder
why I’ve based my observations
on a number of asians
probably less than
some asian families,

or what exceptions
I’d have to consider
without
my blanket assumptions,

or if
there is a conflict
about the world changing
that I don’t want to
face,
because of the face
I was born with.

there are so many things
more important to me.

I don’t have the time
to explore the relationship I have
to what’s around me.

there are so many
who think the way I do.

from what
I know of america,

these asian people
are not
supposed to be this way.

I’m not talking about
the laws of this country,
its
requirements for citizenship,
or taxes paid in full.

I’m talking about
what I’ve been programmed
to think family is.

how manners
prove native.

who should decide
how identity
must conform.

for whom
identity must conform.

and why
identity must conform.

if only these Asians
would learn
English.

if only they understood.
that I’m here, too.

that I share this place with them.

that I belong here.

that the hordes and swarms
invading the system I’ve learned
remember
who I am
as the world changes.

I’m so afraid I’ll have to fend for myself.

without
what I’ve been told
was mine.

This poem was originally presented as a video on YouTube:

 

Writes Sia: “After watching ‘asians in the library,’ and many subsequent postings in response, I wrote this. Rather than attack Alexandra Wallace for her thoughts, I decided to write a persona piece in her voice, as a means to address some of the greater issues revealed in her rant. In the end, this poem isn’t really about her and what she said, but more the thoughts and beliefs people hold, without considering the entire history that may have led them to think and believe in the manner that they do. My hope is that we can all use this moment to recognize that we all need to improve our ability to understand and share this world with each other. This is just a small contribution to furthering that conversation.

 

Says Wallace, on the video: “So it used to really bug me but it doesn’t bother me anymore the fact that all the Asian people that live in all the apartments around me – their moms and their brothers and their sisters and their grandmas and their grandpas and their cousins and everybody that they know that they’ve brought along from Asia with them – comes here on the weekends to do their laundry, buy their groceries and cook their food for the week. It’s seriously, without fail. You will always see old Asian people running around this apartment complex every weekend. That’s what they do. They don’t teach their kids to fend for themselves. You know what they don’t also teach them, is their manners.” (Read the rest of the transcript here.)

It has since been reported that Wallace has left UCLA because of, “the harassment of my family, the publishing of my personal information, death threats and being ostracized from an entire community.”

Beau Sia is is a Chinese-American poet from Oklahoma City. He has been on two National Poetry Slam championship teams, and has been featured in the award-winning film Slam and the documentary Slam Nation. As an author, Beau wrote the poetry book A Night Without Armor II: The Revenge. A few of the anthologies his work appears in, include, Def Poetry Jam on Broadway... and more, Why Freedom Matters, and Spoken Word Revolution. He has two spoken word CDs, Attack! Attack! Go! and Dope and Wack. He was a recipient of the California Arts Council Writer-in-Residence grant for Youth Speaks in 2001-2002, and was the lead artist for the Creative Work Fund. He has appeared on all seasons of HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry, and has also performed on ESPN’s 2000 Winter X-Games, Showtime! at The Apollo, and the 2003 Tony Awards. He is one of the original cast members in Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, a 2003 Special Event Tony Award Winner, and has recently toured with Declare Yourself, a project dedicated to increasing the number of young voters in this past 2004 election. He has toured internationally from South Africa to Amsterdam. He is the 2008 recipient of the Local Hero Award from KCET for Asian American Heritage Month. He was recently a part of the ensemble cast of Jonathan Demme’s Rachel’s Getting Married, released by Sony Pictures Classics in 2008. He is currently finishing the lyrics for the new EastWest Players musical, Krunk Fu Battle Battle.

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4 Responses to Poem in Context by Beau Sia

  1. Pingback: Midwestern Sex Talk

  2. Tony says:

    Trust Beau to cut through to important stuff…

  3. David Gibbs says:

    Thanks. Beau! I , too, being a gay man, have somewhat similar considerations about family, belonging, and conformity, what they mean in a world so clearly dominated by heterosexual ‘agendas’, and do enjoy your contribution to the conversation about how cultural and even racist considerations play some part in how we think about all these things; have always enjoyed your cogency & sense of humor & attitude in how you relate (to) all these things…rock on!

  4. Rich says:

    “…if only they understood.
    that I’m here, too….that I share this place with them…”

    This just gets it for me.

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