R E C O R D
P R E J U D I C E
A Concrete Poetry Series
“I would have shown you my love … I would have held you in my arms …”
C O N T E N T
Poem No. 1: 4th toward Market
Poem No. 2: Embarcadero Center
Poem No. 3: Bart Station
Poem No. 4: Fisherman’s
Poem No. 5: Last Bart
Poem No. 6: 16th and Potrero
Poem No. 7: Market and Drumm
Poem No. 8: Toward Union
Poem No. 9: On Bart
P R E L U D E
It is an excuse to say “I am only human;” but I have unwillingly accepted the fact that I am a limited being, caught in between his physical needs and the heart’s consciousness:
Perhaps: The privileged were never given the capacity to grasp and to empathize the pain of the deprived; and the deprived were never given the opportunity to experience and to share the comfort of the privileged. And so rage and prejudice stall their hearts — for there will be poor always — that they will always be divided by the boundary and trapped forever in the cycle of hatred.
Then, perhaps: I am the prejudice convict who’s too often caught in his own problems to realize the lurking pain of the deprived; and I am too the raging victim who is too constantly blinded by jealousy to recognize the comfort that is not limited to the privileged. I am the prejudice convict and the raging victim, yet I have neither the strength nor the courage to reconcile the two within. No sin is greater than another; I will always struggle to call truce between my conflicting selves, and bounded forever by the reducing labels of the constructed hierarchies.
I want to take action upon myself. I am to ponder, to think, to write. I am to begin from within through constant reflections in poetry. I am to expand the boundaries between the two seemingly different selves to a threshold bridgeable into a hybrid, for only a hybrid has the capacity to understand the two perspectives.
I N T R O D U C T I O N
The Prelude above outlines my internal struggles, and perhaps the common struggle of many when interacting with those who are in need. With this being said, I chose to keep this as a “diary” that was inspired by the emotions and thoughts I had when I encounter a person in need.
I was especially interested in the reaction I have toward them and the reaction they have towards me. Those interactions were then reflected upon, and were recorded as poetry.
The images were visually inspired by the surroundings of the encounter. My goal was to induce a constant awareness of the inner selves through these recorded thoughts and emotions toward those who are in need, and thereby holding myself accountable for all my responses, my rage, and my prejudice.
Poem No. 1:
4th Toward Market
“But I am sorry, sir. I can’t stop. I am not the only one.”
I am trouble.
I guess I’m not the only one.
I hope I am not the only one.
And I am already late;
I am not the only one.
I know you want something,
I know you want the attention, the acknowledgement of your presence.
But you have become one with the city.
Many choose not to help, to take your existence for granted.
I have made eye contact with you.
I acknowledged you presence.
But I am sorry, sir.
I can’t stop.
I am not the only one.
I could have.
I guess we could have, everyone of us.
But of all places,
you choose to stand here — you are not the only one.
At least you are not hurting anyone, not cursing at any one.
It really could have been anyone.
I curse the window frames.
I curse those who are walking so slowly.
I curse the crowd.
I just want to be the only one —
why is the bike shop closed? —
I could have stopped for you.
The time to stop would have been nothing,
compare to the time it takes for me to walk all the way here,
with my bike, the only one.
I need my space, I am not the only one.
Too many eyes; everyone is crowding up around me.
I would have stopped if I was the only one,
but you are not the only one, Only One.
Poem No. 2:
“I would have asked if you were cold. I would have given you my umbrella.”
I hate rain, but the cold made up for it.
Why is there a parade?
And Why is it raining?
I wish I knew it would rain before I start walking.
I painted my face on a rainy day.
I have lost myself today.
Everyone should hide themselves from rain.
Why aren't you hiding yourself from rain?
Why aren't you in a hurry?
Why aren't you upset?
You are sleeping through the rain.
Wet. Everything’s wet. My shoes are wet.
I hope that my face paint isn't washing off.
I wish I wasn't going somewhere, wasn't worried, wasn't hating the rain.
Now in the rain, I have the urge to become the savior,
The urge to pull you away from your seemingly underprivileged conditions,
The urge to give you a better life.
I would have asked if you were cold.
I would have given you my umbrella.
It’s raining. I have somewhere to go, a face to hide.
Compared to you, I am weak.
I am too cowardly to embrace the rain;
I need to hide my things.
You however, need no saving.
You love the rain.
You have embraced it.
You embraced the unseen freedom,
the heartless cold,
the unwelcoming grass.
You have embraced the rain.
Among those of us who have somewhere to be, you are not in a hurry.
Poem No. 3:
“Haven’t I waited long enough? And yet I sit, I ponder, I write.”
That’s what’s happening.
Everyone wants their space. Everyone needs their space.
It’s for the best.
Make no eye contact they say.
It’s for the best.
I’d pretend that I understand anything, anything but English.
I’d pretend that I am in my own world, pretend that I am detached,
pretend that there’s something wrong with my head.
so that I would blend in as one of them; it’s for the best.
It’s only the best for me,
to pretend that I don’t see, don’t feel, don’t understand.
It’s only the best for me to pretend,
so that I don’t have to deal with, to confront, to face.
You snapped me out: you needed help.
She snapped me out: she wanted to help.
They snapped me out: they see that we wanted to help.
My courage is only driven by her spontaneous heart,
her impulsive determination to help.
Why, why did I wait?
Haven’t I been alone long enough to walk my own path?
Haven’t I the will, strong enough to steer away from the shadows?
Haven’t I waited long enough?
And yet I sit, I ponder, I write.
And so I waited. For I thought we needed our space.
I waited, for everyone else was in their own space. No one wanted to help.
And I pretended, so that I would blend in…
But instead I blended into those with their lowered heads, their turned shoulder, and their ruthless gaze.
I thought it’d be the best.
But it wasn't the best.
It was never the best.
Poem No. 4:
“I wish I could have held true to myself, true to my faith, and true to you […]”
because I did not trust you.
Your clothes looked fine,
you were charming,
you were almost attractive, almost perfect.
Almost, except you did not ask for anything else
but for help, for coins.
I replay everything in my head.
Again and again,
I torture myself;
again and again.
The shame that I have brought:
I deserve every single bit of guilt.
She told me that she was willing,
partially because you were charming.
I told myself that I wasn't willing,
partially because you reminded me of my untold past,
those times when I was lied to,
and taken advantage of;
but you were innocent.
I did have coins.
They were burning through my back pocket;
Coins that could have helped you
in buying that burger that only costs so much.
I could have helped you in buying that entire meal that only costs so much; so much compared to my squandering meal.
Now rotting between my teeth is the smell of injustice and disgrace.
I wish I had the courage,
I wish I had the heart,
I wish I could have held true to myself,
true to my faith, and true to you.
Yet once again I failed.
What happened to the untold truth?
What happened to those coins that were meant to be given?
What happened to empathy without the action required to follow through?
What happened to the courage that is needed to help those in need?
What happen when one realizes
that the evilness of the heart has only been of mere excuses to my failure?
But even if I did have such courage for you, I would not forgive myself.
For I would have shown you my love;
for I would have held you in my arms;
for you would become someone special.
Or perhaps you already are special, and you knew.
I saw your eyes.
And they have seen through my lies, my souls, my intention.
You deserved more from me than a heartless denial.
I chose to bury my distorted love,
to have it rot in this remorse filth of mine.
Poem No. 5:
“We are the victims caught in between the worlds,
caught by the drifting current of balance.”
I have seen you before.
In fact, I have seen you many, many times.
I recognize your familiar silhouette in the shadows,
before your face is visible.
I smiled this time.
But I smiled not because I find it pleasurable to see you again —
as much as I find your endurance and perseverance attractive,
the perpetual sight of your presence is still disheartening —
but the colors that are shinning through catches my attention;
the marks of new transformation.
My hands have been reaching for coins
long before I come to a conscious realization of such a “habit.”
It is a hand full, with two or three candies
that I did not intend to give originally —
they just happened to be in the same place —
I gave it out, anyway.
I knew your soft spoken voice.
I knew those words you use.
I knew your posture, your outstretched arm,
your hands, the grimy stains that tell your story.
I knew the drill, I knew what to do, and what to expect.
I smiled as you pass, for I have never seen that jacket,
or those shoes.
Fresh loaf of French Baguette.
But that man’s voice had strike me back to reality,
his rage almost driven me to tears.
I wish that I would have the courage to confront him of his anger, to understand the origin of his hatred,
But was I not once like him?
“You are beautiful no matter what they say,”
and words did not bring you down.
We are the victims caught between worlds,
caught by the drifting currents of balance.
Poem No. 6:
16th and Potrero
“Perhaps there was a time when your skin was soft, when your fuzzy hair flows freely above the alluring scent of red wine and roses […]”
The very sight troubles me even to this day.
I was caught off guard.
I wasn't ready.
Would I have been more prepared if I knew?
Would I have been less frightened,
if I would have been expecting?
It is that kind of image that one would chose to un-see, to forget.
It wasn't only your face that startled me.
I remember so clearly —
It was the last one standing, stained and damaged —
Perhaps you have been through too much pain
that reality had put you through,
that you chose to not be conscious about it any more.
You couldn't care less:
You have withdrawn yourself
into that nice cozy corner of yours at a cross section,
you just really couldn’t care less.
Or perhaps there was such a time when you were mindful.
Perhaps there was a time when your skins were soft,
when you fuzzy hair flows freely in that alluring sent of red wine and roses,
when you refused to let him submerge himself into your long, furry coat,
refused to lose yourself in his glistening charm.
The time when you weren't left alone,
when there was love.
Love, love is what we need.
We are alarmed,
we are disgusted,
because we are trapped, we shy away,
we refused to look, or to see, or to understand.
If “help” is ever on its way,
it would be there only to force you away from nature,
into our norms, our ways.
But you choose to indulge still in your won world,
for our ways are crude and contradicting.
Those who do not understand
are therefore disturbed by your explicit attitude,
once given to mankind along with the great gift of eternal life.
Is it of greater pleasure to not know?
Is it of greater pleasure to not see?
Or perhaps neither
Poem No. 7:
Market and Drumm
“The world would have described you as the fool, the joker.”
I would not have understood.
I find it almost humiliating;
my face burn through the gush of chills.
It would not make sense that your laughter were meant for me;
they echoed along the shadows, bouncing between those heartless stones and bricks.
I preferred not to look.
I preferred not to seek their origin;
The world would have described you as the fool, the joker.
The world cannot see through the price you have paid;
the cheers that were once derived from tears.
Humor does have its price.
You have paid the price,
you have learned to laugh through what is to the world, un-laughable.
Would you have caught more attention
if you were to un-hide your devastated soul,
unmask the joy that you would choose to display?
You told me that either way the world would choose not to see:
If humor would be your chosen path, would they not despise your joyful endurance; they envy your persistent capacity for the agonizing reality, the hindrance of the skeptic;
If tragedy would be the path instead, the world would hide itself from you, they will not be sorry, for they would think that you deserve it; but more so because you would not be the only one.
Those who choose to ignore
live in ignorance for all eternity,
and they will not see.
You can only play on broken strings,
and you wonder if such is the way to happiness.
Only those who were once broken see the pain of the broken.
Only those who were once caught in mesmerizing strain
have the tenderness required to empathize.
Those who are never broken have not given the opportunity, and they remain ill.
It’d take a miracle;
we are all the broken ones.
Poem No. 8:
“…would you not think that I would have helped you either way, no matter the language I speak, or my ethnic background?”
You were lost.
Or so I thought. I assumed.
No one in the crowd could give you the attention, or so you thought;
you have your eyes fixed upon me.
Did I look any different than any of them?
Was I friendlier, or kinder, or younger, or more innocent; an easier target?
I was eager to help, and you saw my attentiveness.
It would not be fair
if I were to conclude that you were trying to manipulate my compassion –
I did not know you, nor do I know your intention;
if you really needed help;
what’s your story?
But if you truly needed help,
would you not think that I would have helped you either way,
no matter the language I speak,
or my ethnic background?
You didn't ask right away for coins,
you didn't take the time to even explain yourself and your situation.
Instead, you asked first if I were Chinese,
and you asked if I speak Chinese.
You thought because I am Chinese,
I would help you, as fellow Chinese people.
You thought. Too much.
You were trying too hard to get my attention,
trying too hard to be eloquent, to be persuasive;
And I was trying too hard to be judgmental,
to be skeptical, to be protective, to be myself.
I could not help you, for I did not have anything on me that would.
But I chose not to help you, because I took it offensive.
Not because of your questions to my race,
to my ethnicity,
to the language I speak.
I took it offensive, that you would assume:
Only Chinese who speaks Chinese would help you.
I was hesitant,
because you were Chinese.
You were restrained,
because they were not Chinese.
Better be safe than sorry, I thought,
But I thought too much.
Poem No. 9:
“Help assumes a higher position as the ‘more capable,’
and the ‘better,’ even without consciously doing so.”
Justice is what I wished to see.
It is something that I constantly think about.
It weaves through my conscious mind,
and wanders subconsciously
into my heart.
Help is therefore one of my favorite words.
I’d always wanted to help.
I have been the one in need.
I have been in that position
of feeling hopeless,
It is one of those feelings
that I’d almost wish that I would be able to forget.
Help, however —
even if it derives from positive intentions —
sets the boundary between the privileged,
and those who are underprivileged.
Help is a constructed hierarchy
based on the ability and the capability
between people that are being compared.
Help is not simply offering one’s resources and services
to make it easier for those needed it.
Help assumes a higher position
as the “more capable,”
and the “better,”
even without consciously doing so.
Now I realized,
now I know.
I have overlooked your words.
Help is definitely appreciated, as your words implied,
but you have also proven yourself to be able,
for your efforts cannot be overlooked.