Borrow by Mike Yunxuan Li


Mike is not my name,
I told you.
I borrowed it from Bible
to roam the land of Uncle Sam.
It’s my tuxedo and pasta,
a man
behind which the I hid and ate,
slept, woke and educated.
Shame felt,
swallowed like an esophagus glide,
peppered and festered,
like when he cheated on the red and yellow stripes
with a pure lady of your kind,
and everything will be fine if no one tells, right?
But when the sun goes down at night,
every night,
something must’ve been left behind.
You tell me it’s alright.
Girls borrow clothes from mothers
to appear mature for one party night.
Boys borrow advice from fathers
to become good doctors for two lifetimes.
Sod borrows blankets from snow
to cover debris in their plowed skin.
Water borrows momentum from winds
to dance atop sky like an elegant Jackson Mike.
Uncle Sam borrows Earth from everybody
so more borrow titles from that book of Holy.

Your name is Mike.
You want to borrow my language
even if it’s just for a night
so that you can communicate with my heritage.

He tells you it’s alright.
Your white skin, paler than rice paper in his printer,
constitutes the most proper mandarin smoked in my homeland.

by Mike Yunxuan Li

Editor’s Note: This poem’s keen imagery steps into racial truths not always apparent to the majority’s eyes—survival asks many things of some people, even the denial of identity and the pain that arises from such borrowed necessities.


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