poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

April 29, 2013

POEM: lying in my bed: april 29, 1992

Filed under: Los Angeles,Poetry — EL @ 4:29 pm
Tags: ,

April is National Poetry Writing Month #NaPoWriMo. Here is a poem/diary/memoir I started years ago and edited last year, on the 20th anniversary of Sa-i-Gu. Follow me on Twitter for more poetry, tsismis, and daily updates: @emilylawsin

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lying in my bed: april 29, 1992

© by emily p. lawsin


i remember living in Hershey Hall, at UCLA, trying to call our loved ones,

hugging Joyce, my Korean American roommate,


who crouched, praying, glued to the tube,

as the revolution was, indeed, being televised.


she bit her nails, wound her long ebony hair up tight in a bun,

worried about her mom and pop.


despite the miles of jammed phone lines, we learned that their store

stood strong, shielded by the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains.


we stayed on the edge of Westwood, but could still hear the helicopters whirring

and smell the fires burning, the weight of a heavier smog choking our chests.


i had just finished reading “A Fire in Fontana” by Hisaye Yamamoto, for a grad class

in Asian American history: its black type fading under strays of yellow highlighter.


i don’t remember having or going to any classes that day,

but i knew that my comrades and classmates would gather


to start teach-ins outside Campbell Hall,

if not caravanning to clean up Koreatown.


as i headed out the door, my elderly Mama and Papa called, saying in Taglish that

they didn’t want to see their anak on CNN patrolling the L.A. streets with a BB gun


(as if i had brought mine when i moved from Seattle the previous August)

and for the first time ever, they told me that i should just skip class.


i didn’t completely comprehend all of the conversations, or the impending transgressions,

or the necessary healing that would follow until years later,


but time slow-dragged, marched, and rallied on that smoke-filled day.

as the fires smoldered and the sun set, my long-distance-but-soon-to-be-ex boyfriend finally called me


after seeing the crumpled faces of the rest of his newspaper’s staff,

their eyebrows arching as high as the Kingdome’s cloud over Chinatown.


when he returned to his desk after lobbing tennis balls with his assistant

(the sway of her hips and the name on her racquet a cheap imitation of mine),


he found mounds of my phone messages on pink “While You Were Out” slips,

stabbed in the back by the spear of a tarnished paper weight, imported from Hong Kong.


hours after the melee on Florence and Normandie had quelled, perhaps afraid that i would cause my

own riot over his alleged tennis game, he had the nerve to ask me to write a column on the uprisings.


i wrote it; he edited it: our last collaboration,

right at the moment when rodney king pleaded to the press, “can we all just get along?”


twenty years later, i realize that everything that happened that day gave us all room to grow,

and my first front page story which began, “Welcome to Los Angeles”.


april 29, 2012






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