By Bunkong Tuon
Editor’s Note: This is the third post in a series of poems about the immigrant experience in America. Our late Managing Editor, Okla Elliott, featured Bunkong Tuon’s work on As It Ought To Be back in January of 2017. Okla was particularly concerned about the anti-immigration rhetoric heating up in America and he hoped to showcase the voices of immigrants on our site. In honor of Okla’s memory, Tuon has allowed us to feature more of his poetry about his experience as an immigrant from Cambodia in the United States.
Dancing Fu Manchu Master
One day, walking home
by myself, a blue plastic backpack slung
over my shoulders, a Christmas gift
from our sponsor, I noticed three boys
watching me from the convenience store
down the corner near an apartment complex.
The leader, a short, red-haired, chubby kid,
stepped out of the shadow, and called out,
“Ching Chong, are you from Hong Kong?”
I quickened my pace pretending
to hear my Grandmother calling me.
“Hey, can you help me with my math homework?”
They burst out laughing.
Seeing me walk firmly away, they slurred out
a slew of hurtful words.
“Why don’t you go back to China?”
“Do you eat dogs where you come from?”
“You use grass and leaves to wipe your ass, right?”
“Do you know Kung Fu?”
With this last question saliva,
warm and gooey, hit my neck.
I closed my eyes, counted my steps,
mindful of my breath, my heart slowed.
I jumped and turned,
thirty feet straight into the air,
took out my sword, with a flick
of the wrist, saw heads roll,
tumbling away down the sidewalk,
bodies slumped behind:
red blossoming concrete.
Trained in the mysterious arts
of Dr. Fu Manchu, I made myself
disappear before the police arrived.
About the Author: Bunkong Tuon is the author of Gruel (2015) and And So I Was Blessed (2017), both poetry collections published by NYQ Books, and a regular contributor to Cultural Weekly He is also an associate professor of English and Asian Studies at Union College, in Schenectady, NY.