Year of the Jack Rabbit
Hannah Lee Jones
Happy new year of marveling how different and alike we are, in a Korean restaurant so busy that I’m squeezed against an Indian mother who’s with a boy who looks more like me than her. I’m puzzling this out when she explains that her son is by the counter and the one beside me is his friend, together for a Lunar New Year that’s two weeks of bao and sticky rice and strangers around tables like ours, a scrim of bamboo leaves on one end and steaming bowls of manduguk on the other. Our waitress reminds me of my aunt who just died, the leather-jacketed guy in the corner is a doppelgänger of my father at 20 and I’m pretending this kid with soup glazing his chin is my little brother. It’s hot, he complains. I tell him I hear him: hot like the wild-eyed horses our ancestors rode thundering over deserts you and I will never see. Hot like my father at 22 looking like a Mongolian John Wayne, but that was in pictures. Now I’m outside the corner store watching lion dancers wish the owners a year of good fortune, their golden legs spitfire, the fuse-linked firecrackers in the door burning up all the Lees, Kwongs, and Changs to the drop-beat of drums. Baldwin disdained the term melting pot because who wants to melt? My father at 24 thought better, which is why he scaled the steps of my mother’s Manhattan apartment and pounded the door all night to the rhythm of his loneliness, until at last she flung it open crying All right, all right! I will marry you. And so I was born not of my parents but a welter of syllables, none of which I remember at the Kung Fu demonstration where I spot the little brother of mine, the soup gone from his face, beaming in the crowd and who could no more be my brother than that black kid splitting a cinder block could be Chinese. Oh me, oh life, here’s to another year of pride in whatever you are under the scarlet lights of a holiday that is and isn’t yours, mouthing verses in a play where your teacher calls you by the name of your Filipino classmate, and you feel alike, and different, and lonely, and no longer lonely all at once.
HANNAH LEE JONES‘s poetry and fiction have recently appeared in Superstition Review, Literary Orphans and Orion. She edits The MFA Project, a resource for writers pursuing their craft without an advanced degree, and lives on Whidbey Island in northwest Washington.