Gary Jackson

Not every mulatto is created

equal. Some get heckled

on subway cars, lynched or celebrated

in tickertape parades. My mother can’t speak

a lick of Korean and doesn’t

give a damn, never says mulatto

but calls both of us mutts,

though I can’t pass for shit but black:

ask the audience as I stroll in

late. We could use a Hines Ward

to show us the way — tell the boys

shouting twigi on the subway

all of us are animals, are hybrid

of body, of place. Mornings

I dream of kinked hair and cry.

My mother’s mother forgets

who we are, speaks Korean over

our heads, lost in language.

My mother only nods,

exhausted. I know few words,

my tongue full of friction. Say

omma, I say, raise us

back into memory,

into word, into place. Once

a woman pressed into the pink

nailbeds of my fingers,

told me she could see

my blood. My mother

is mistaken for Hawaiian,

for Indian, for everything

but what she is. When I tell her

I’ll have no children,

she says then I guess we’ll be

the only two left. Somewhere

we are understood. My mother

opens her mouth.

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