In 36 years, I barely spared a word
About my days in Ypsilanti,
Known chiefly for giving us Iggy Pop
And an obscure pioneer in continental drift.
I was watching the 9 o’clock news
With my father in our living room,
As was the family habit. I was 9,
Eating a Baby Ruth in June
When a picture of Vincent Chin
Flashed onscreen with a discussion
Of murder, Japan and the Motor City.
My father said not to take it personally.
We were going to have a barbecue with
Our blue-collar neighbor on Saturday,
Once he was done at the Ford factory.
Our other neighbor across the way
With the tall bottle-blonde daughters
Was a Baptist preacher, fond of discussing
Pearl Harbor with me every other day,
Because I couldn’t tell him a thing about Laos.
Bryan Thao Worra is the Lao Minnesotan poet laureate and author. He received a 2019 Joyce Award with the Lao Assistance Center to present a historic exhibition of multigenerational stories of the Lao refugee community to mark the 45th anniversary of migrating to the Midwest. This poem is excerpted from “Before We Remember We Dream,” (Sahtu Press, 2020)