A regular at various open readings around town, Kevin Allen nails his subject accurately and with a compelling style. Whether being humorous or poignant, he pulls no punches. His serious works contain depth of understanding and weight of meaning without ever losing momentum. And underneath it all is the emotion of a man intimately involved with his subject.
My Name Is Nguyen Duc Minh
Iíve come back to touch your face and reclaim the blood you spilled from your womb.
I want to remind you of the bundled namesake you once held against your breast.
Iíve come back speaking the same language your lover spoke to you.
Iíve come to shield you from the bullets hanging in the sky
and to promise you that you shall not die without me.
Iíve come back to lie with you at your side.
Thereís no need to cry. You called me.
Worth ItI had to say no to the paleface liar who told me he needed my signature to erase my existence. He told me he could take over from here. This man made no excuses; he was forthright about his hatred for my kind. Instead of giving in to him, I threw his pen across the street, ripped his release form into shreds and then did a roundhouse kick to his ribs. While he was down, I took out my crowbar from my jacket and ripped his lower jaw off. To be honest, I wasnít thinking all too clearly when this happened. Itís just instinctual that insults like his burn my skin. Luckily, this is not an everyday occurrence. Itís not like I go looking to be insulted so I can use my crowbar like that.
What I mean to say is that I remember when I was little and a friend and I were playing in the playground, and this other kid above us decided to smart off by calling attention to my friendís skin color; he called my friend a Ďniggerí from the safety of his perch up above us. We knew that was wrong of him, so we grabbed for his shirt and started to drag him through the monkey bars, until our teacher ran over to stop us. The kid was crying and threatening to sue us because his daddy was a lawyer. We said go ahead, white boy. You deserved what you got.
Then, there were the times when this kid and his brother would taunt me every morning on the school bus no matter in which seat I sat. They had a habit of wearing out all their Chinaman jokes in two minutes, but theyíd rehash them in case I forgot too easily that I wasnít just another white boy with freckles. One day, the little brother made Chinese eyes at me and yelled, ĎHey look, Iím a chink just like you!í Once again, my impulsiveness got the best of me and without warning I swung my fist at his face. When the hitting stopped, the kid lost his two front teeth and a lot of blood. Sent to the principalís office I didnít talk very much, even though he demanded an explanation for my violent temper. I estimate that I spent half my elementary years waiting to be called into the principalís office.
Some kids used to accuse me of being Bruce Lee, as if he were just some subservient coolie begging for a bowl of stale rice. But in reality, he still is an icon for the Asian-American community because he looked a lot like us, and he showed that ass-kickiní was his forte. He was untouchable. Thatís what I wanted to be when I grew up.
I still hear people refer to us as dogeaters. Iím still told that I speak English very well. I still hear the joke that Asian names are made by throwing a fork down the stairs. This disrespect all adds up in one lifetime. I deal with these insults on my own terms, and fuck being fair about it. Iím not about to accommodate anyoneís hatred for me no matter what Martin Luther King Jr. had to say. That was then, this is now. Iíd rather walk alone to the Promised Land than hold hands with my enemy. Thatís why I can relate to the black guy who threw a fire hydrant onto that white truck driverís head in LA. He probably figured it was the same white boy on the school bus who insisted on telling more porchmonkey jokes than a little black boy could handle. So he took the initiative and wiped the slate clean. White folks called it a race riot, but the rest of us called it justice. When justice is served Iíll gladly put away my crowbar. But until then, Iíll remain untouchable like Bruce Lee.
Yeah, just call me Bruce Lee.
(Untitled)Everyone should stay away from my brother. He carries the plague in his pockets. He doesnít care. Our mother blames him for killing the dog, and our lawn hasnít been green for years. Our father died two years ago while arguing with my brother about the state of the lawn. My brother warns my mother that sheíll be next if she stops cooking his favorite meal: prime rib with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn bread and a full glass of milk. Absolutely, positively, no green vegetables. I canít complain. I leave my brother alone and I donít question him about his business. And to my fullest ability, I answer his every question, which usually doesnít go beyond, 'What do you wanna do now?'
This collection was posted here in April 2000.
"My Name Is Nguyen Duc Minh" and "Worth It" are taken from The Wind Above the Coast, by Kevin Allen. "My Name Is Nguyen Duc Minh" also appears in Touched By Adoption, edited by Nancy Robinson. All three pieces have been revised since their introduction to the public. The versions found here are the most recent revisions available.
Kevin Allen is also the author of in the year of the ox. You can read more of his work by visiting his website, The Wind Above the Coast. You can also find more of his poems (and those of many others) at other websites. Click below to read some of his other work.
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