Can’t Tell

When World War II was declared

on the morning radio,

we glued our ears, widened our eys,

Our bodies shivered.

A voice said

Japan was the enemy,

Pearl Harbor a shambles

and in our grocery store

in Berkeley, we were suspended

next to the meat market

where voices hummed,

valises, pots and pans packed,

no more hot dogs, baloney,

pork kidneys.

We children huddled on wooden planks

and my parents whispered:

We are Chinese, we are Chinese.

Safety pins anchored,

our loins ached.

Shortly our Japanese neighbors vanished

and my parents continued to whisper:

We are Chinese, we are Chinese.

We wore black arm bands,

put up a sign

in bold letter.

By Nellie Wong,

from Encounters: poems about race, ethnicity and identity

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About the Author
Rev. Dr. Monica L Cummings