Asian-American/African-American Skin Stretched 3000 Miles From North Carolina to San Francisco


I bring my Asian-American, African-American skin and stretch it, knead it; taught by its tautness the poems written beneath. I am on a journey back to my skin, my San Francisco skin after being away for 4 years. I live in North Carolina, the western part of the state after a lifetime in San Francisco. I fled the city, fled my memories, fled the evictions, fled the dystopia–what i saw as a dying spirit consuming the city of my birth. In short, I fled my skin, my San Francisco or Frisco skin. But you can’t flee yourself. My skin was something that refused to be shed. In coming back to the city, I see Asian faces, hear Asian voices; taste the Asian skin of roast lechon and the African-American spirit moving across the black brown skin of the Frisco streets–the skin of my life and my father’s life and my grandmother’s life and grandfather’s life–lives steeped in the thick fog of Frisco. I come back to visit this place, this place that is my skin–my black and brown skin. I arrived and saw more Asian faces in 40 minutes than I saw in 4 years in North Carolina. There are good people in North Carolina and I have tried to give them a piece of my life. I roll lumpia; I get the wrappers from the Asian market in a town called Fletcher. I roll them the way my grandmother taught me (Her skin too, was taut). And I give them to people I’ve encountered. And they are appreciative but it is an appreciation occupying an uncertain place. The act of rolling and giving lumpia is cultural–sacred. It is a an act of giving, of respect for a community that was here before I arrived. But somehow, I feel that my offering is seen as merely fingerfood in a place with looming mountains. Going back to San Francisco, the Bay Area, I feel the poetry of my skin again; that what I have to offer is beyond fingerfood. But the poetry of one’s skin can be destroyed in the city. That’s why I left. But love calls me back, I can’t stay away. I am called back like a son or a nephew, a voice like an echo in the city as in the mountains in North Carolina; whose people in each place have skin covered in poems I still have yet to touch, feel, hear, taste.

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