Two Poems by Kyle Liang

[ELIMINATION TREATY]

This poem includes text from the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed and passed on May 6, 1882. The Act was the first major law to restrict immigration to the United States and was made permanent in 1902.

 

I.

Whereas in the opinion of the Government of the United States
the coming of Chinese laborers to this country endangers the good
orders of certain localities within the territory thereof: Therefore,

II.

Whereas

[my grandfather washed dishes
when he came to the U.S.
until he was promoted
to being a drying rack.]

III.

In the opinion of the Government of the United States

[licenses to practice medicine in the East
were worth less than factory-printed baseballs cards.]

IV.

Whereas

[Lee from East of Eden.

P.F. Chang’s should have been P.F. Chiang’s.

General Tso was more of a pork guy.]

V.

the coming of Chinese laborers to/ this country endangers the good/ orders of certain
localities within the territory thereof:/ Therefore, [“Go back to where you came from!”
/ they shouted/ following me with their hands/ stretching the sides of their faces—
/ laughter chasing my silk shirt into the silence/ that hung from the English/ alphabet
strung above the door/ to Mrs. Crocker’s first grade classroom/ where we recited
the Pledge of Allegiance every morning/ to a flag with yellow stars/ lighting on fire.]

VI.

[Denver. October 31st, 1880.

Honolulu. January 20th, 1900.

Santa Ana. May 25th, 1906.]

I.

That no Chinese person shall be permitted to enter the United States
by land without producing to the proper officer of customs the certificate
in this act required of Chinese persons seeking to land from a vessel.

VII.

No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter
No Chinese person shall be permitted to enter

VIII.

[No.]

IX.

This act required

[that until the age of ten, my best friends were black.
Ahmond and I said that he was Chris Tucker,
and I was Jackie Chan. The Rush Hour
movies were the reason why he broke his wrist
and I thought that I could jump off the playscape.]

X.

[how do you like me now, bitch]

I.

Whereas

the opinion of the Government

endangers

[me.]

 

PETRICHOR

Go back to where the bombs dropped
on the day after a rainstorm.
Find yourself in the roots where
your great grandfather once farmed.
Rip them out and set them next to the pile
of mud beside the hole you dug with your fingers.
Smell the wet cemetery of your family’s riches;
smell the weight of the smokeless air.

Take a one-hundred-dollar bill from your wallet.
Take out the lighter in your pocket.
Light the bill on fire and watch
the smoke carry its importance toward
your ancestors living in the house
their children burned for them on earth.
Let the paper turn on itself, curling
and coiling around the nothing
that the milky wisps leave behind.
Let the black crinkled bits hitchhike
on a passing breeze and spiral
over the bright green grass
where bombs gave birth
to you.

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