poetry & tsismis: emily's blog

November 3, 2013

2 POEMS: Daylight Savings Time

I found these two poems that I wrote almost exactly ten years ago, but never published. As we “Fall Back”, it seems like as good a day as any to share these. Ah, the nostalgia; I must have been in a melancholic state. It seems like a whole life time ago. As my poetry professor used to say, Onward!

Please leave comments below. Salamat/Thanks.


Layover, Chicago O’Hare International Airport

© by Emily P. Lawsin


I confess: walking

through airports, I always look

for you, wandering.


Sometimes I spot you:

in a mother’s long embrace

of her son going off to college


Sometimes I see you

in a young couple’s face: streams

of mascara kissing their nose


Sometimes I feel you

in the tunnel breeze: that bridge

of ocean blue flickering, mimicking sky.


Yesterday I followed you,

the scent of sunflower petals

and salty seeds drifting in the wind.


Tonight I saw you,

in a moonlit corner of a terminal bar,

nursing a Tom Collins alone.


Tomorrow I’ll find

you at your corner bookstore

reading The Celestine Prophecy,

leaving no energy for words.


But right now, I set my watch back,

as Daylight Savings Time ends:

I wait


For this delayed connection home.


Sunday, October 26, 2003

to Detroit


 * * *


Father Time: Daylight Savings

© by Emily P. Lawsin



her glassy eyes burn

stares down the eclipsed tunnel


holding the ticking clock’s arms in her wrinkled hands,

remembering the crimson maple leaves and lady bugs


that kissed their bare shoulders

like tears falling from the sky


searching and finding more time

in the dusk of the arboretum.


remembering now

the back of his un-starched shirt


as he walked out the side door.

the crick in his neck


as he balanced his  brief     case,


the ring of keys on his belt loop not jangling,

despite his swift stride.


he never looked back,

just left her sitting at their hilltop café


to pay the bill.


plastic honey bears empty and toppled

at their unstable table.


each year she still sits there watching the time,

waiting for him to finish his rotten meal


or at least leave the waitress a tip

so she can go home.


Sunday, October 31, 2004

3:45 PM EST





 * * 



July 15, 2013

POEMS: Litany, In Memory of Aiyana Jones & Trayvon Martin

Here are two spoken word poems: the first one is a draft that I wrote the morning after the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, the second one I wrote two years ago.


Litany VIII, In Memory of Aiyana Jones and Trayvon Martin

© by Emily P. Lawsin


A fellow writer once said that

poems should not just be a list

re-telling events, because that

treads on the territory of

journalism, or gossip rags.

But when you live in a place where

bulldozers routinely tear down

homes with elderly crouched inside,


mass destruction is considered

normal, and Black children are shot

after reality TV

crews and SWAT teams ignore dolls and

tricycles in the yard and hurl

flash-bang grenades through front windows,

you search for news reports, hoping

none of your suspicions bear truth.


You pause to pray and remember:


1929: Fermin Tobera (Watsonville, California).

1955: Emmett Till (Money, Mississippi).

1963: Medgar Evers (Jackson, Mississippi).

1982: Vincent Chin (Highland Park, Michigan).

2006: Fong Lee (Minneapolis, Minnesota).

2006: Chon Buri Xiong (Warren, Michigan).

2009: Oscar Grant (Oakland, California).

2010: Aiyana Jones (Detroit, Michigan).

2010: John T. Williams (Seattle, Washington).

2012: Trayvon Martin (Sanford, Florida).

2013: Rodrigo Abad Diaz (Lilburn, Georgia).


These names: just a fraction of a

list of lament. What do they share

in common? Their killers walked free,

only one convicted, but not

until 31 years later.

The story of our nation, stained

by the brown blood of our children,

shot or beaten to death as they


rode their bike home, or as they laid

cradled in their beds fast asleep,

or simply walking down the street,

ambushed by bullets, baseball bats,

buried, but never forgotten.

As mothers, what do we say to

our children facing these assaults?

How do we protect them before


History repeats itself




July 14, 2013

Emily P. Lawsin lives in the metro Detroit area.

 * * *


A Litany, To Little White Liars

© by Emily P. Lawsin


are you not aware that

our ancestors won revolutions

against centuries of colonial rule

do you not realize that

your people cut our tongues

erased our languages and burned our villages

are you not aware that

we descend from warriors

who fought for this country’s freedom in their sacred homelands

do you not realize that

our parents were held captive as innocent citizens

separated for years in horse stables then behind barbed wire

are you not aware that

our mothers stuffed pillows up their skirts

fleeing to charred hills so your army would not rape them

do you not realize that

our fathers suffered beatings and delirium

in death marches through deserts, yet still survived?




we know what revolution is

because our ancestors gave birth to it.


we taste it in the scars in our mouths

every time we swallow.


the poison you bombed our homelands with

seeps out of our blood as daily reminders


and we will not rest until the nightmares of sirens

echoed in your voice stops ringing in our ears.


Ann Arbor, May 12, 2011


* * *


May 6, 2013

Quote for the day

Filed under: Poetry — EL @ 10:10 am
Tags: ,

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

* * *

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






April 12, 2013

POEM: “Salmon Run” (in 6 incomplete Tweets) #NaPoWriMo Day 12

April 11, 2013

POEM: Mud [NaPoWriMo Day 11]

Filed under: Pinays,Poetry — EL @ 11:46 am
Tags: , , ,

April 10, 2013

POEM: Anting-Anting [NaPoWriMo Day 10]

April 8, 2013

POEMS + Excerpts from Miscarriage V: Lost in Translation, 2003. [NaPoWriMo Day 8]


August 31, 2012

POEM: In Memory of John Vietnam Nguyen (1993-2012)

I can’t sleep. Yesterday, I stayed offline, worked all day and night, then found out about the sudden passing of a gifted poet,  hip-hop emcee and b-boy, John Vietnam Nguyen, who drowned while trying to save a friend’s life yesterday, at the age of 19. When he was a high school student, John was a member of the Multi-Cultural Youth Program in Chicago. He lead an interactive youth workshop and performed at the “Out of the Margins: Asian American Movement Building” Conference that our Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program sponsored in March, 2011, at the University of Michigan. I am thankful to UMich alum Steve Hosik Moon for introducing me (and so many others) to John.

When I can’t sleep, I write. I wrote this poem in the middle of the night, for John, for Steve, and for everyone trying to make sense of this tragedy. A talented optimist, John would always sign off messages, telling folks to “stay up” and I always liked that better than “hang in there”. Rest in Poetry, Peace, and Power, John Vietnam. Love and prayers to you, your family, and friends always. Thank you for being you.

John Vietnam Nguyen performs at an Asian American Movement Building Conference at the University of MIchigan, March 2011. Photo by Ahmad Fuad Rahmat.

trying to “stay up”: a rough draft

in memory of John Vietnam Nguyen (1993 – 2012)


© by Emily P. Lawsin



i met you in person only a few times,

honored to have shared the stage together,

spinning rhymes with inter-generational revolution.


the last time we spoke,

you called me “auntie”,

always respectful and real.


i told the audience i felt old and proud,

like i could be all y’all’s grandma,

you, MCYP’ers fiercely rockin the mic.


in the front row, you spit your big laugh,

pointing your smile to the sky,

patting your chest like a heart beat escaping.


you, always the first to thank me

for being Hosik’s teacher,

so he could teach all of you.


yet, i am the one who is thankful, like so many others,

to have been taught by you,

when you were only 17, 18, 19 years young.


today, we gather and sing your songs,

thankful to have received your gifts of words and music:

stories that made the dancing streets cry for our people.


everyone asks why, on this eve of a blue moon,

why did you leave us too soon,

leaving us drowning in lakes of our tears?


today, we wear purple (your favorite color and mine),

we weave a wreath of your warrior wisdom,

remembering your voice in the wind,


no doubt, rapping in the heavens with the elder angel poets,

as you quietly skip your usual encore cue:

“one love, stay up, and peace…”



 August 31, 2012



Emily P. Lawsin has been performing spoken word poetry since 1990.

She teaches Asian American Studies at the University of Michigan.



* * *

John Vietnam left us lots of good videos of his performances. (See his YouTube Channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/johnvietnam13) Here are a few:

If a Minute Would Reverse (with clips and quotes of Grace Lee Boggs) http://youtu.be/LOU_vQBsW2s

A Day in The Life: http://youtu.be/YBAYhbbCDg0

Rest in Power John Vietnam Nguyen, footage by Tom Callahan: http://vimeo.com/48573282

* * *

* * *


Here is funeral info from the family’s Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/114861828662904/

“Please join John’s family, friends, and communities in honoring his memory, spirit, and love. Services will be held at

Cooney Funeral Home,  3918 W. Irving Park Road, Chicago, IL.

Monday Sept. 3, Visitation: Noon-9pm
Tuesday Sept. 4, Visitation: 9am-11am, with Eulogy and funeral to immediately follow.

“We are planning to carry out John’s wish to print his t-shirts. We will be figuring out the means to accomplish this and will have information available at the services for anyone who would like to pre-order shirts in their size. Once we get it set up, we will edit this to provide the link here. https://www.facebook.com/events/114861828662904/

“If you are unable to attend the services, you may make a donation to help offset the costs by:
1) Sending a payment to John’s paypal account under his email address, nguyenjvn13 (at) yahoo (dot) com
2) If you don’t have a paypal account – you can donate at the following link: http://www.gofundme.com/14l28s

We know very well how loved and admired he was by everyone he came across, and we would like to thank everyone for their support and love.”  ~ From John’s Family (For latest updates, check: https://www.facebook.com/events/114861828662904/ )

* * *

* * *

February 29, 2012

HAIKU for Strong Sistahfriends

Here’s yesterday’s seventeen syllables/haiku:

For the Strong Sistahs  

© by Emily P. Lawsin

love and shout-outs to

all the sistahfriends who build

this bridge called my back.


February 28, 2012



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