Chinatown in Three Parts

Three poems about Chinatown's evolution.

main and spring (formerly calle de los negros)


Allow me to pass, undisturbed

in the likeness of virgin soil

I am refuse, the mongrel dog’s dinner.


Until we cannot bear it longer, marry

me to the ditches and hog wallows


to hold and hold — as the single

rope’s clutch of neck-skin

         as the gutter

of a courthouse I lean I grit I give


the heart of woman is superlatively poisonous


A breath was taken here, first for the slow rush of it

not to conjure the old dialects, not a

family language

   or the silver and

virulent curse, the silver end-stone. No,

this breath


pads through the window’s cold sill

moonlike along the strawberry ranches,

sitting in the coveralls and lace of men.

So you want to talk in-humanity — the love

of money, the baser passions standing face

to face each other. Between whom there can be no


assimilation. Someone somewhere

is laughing, yes, even still.



a little piece of me will fly off and strike you dead

And / if your heart is not true / if your heart is not true / when you tap the rock in the clam patch / a little piece of it will fly off / and strike you in the heart / and strike you dead.

– Joanne Kyger


So camouflage is the best protection. We

redevelop our shopping center and

flood the streets with pots and plants.

Evict us, then disembowel the dynasty.

The mall, the rent, the gathering spots. Our

Sundays as royalty in the playing card aisle.

And why we sit for a spring while one home sprawls

out the hinge cracks and dies its cold loud death.

Even then, we always felt like we had enough.