Faced with a racist pickup line, the speaker of Jia Oak Baker’s poem chooses playfulness over outrage.
Too self-conscious to fight girls in The Kite Room tonight,
I slink over to the chill vibe of Big E’s Jazz Club in Dinkytown.
Maybe I’m not looking and maybe I am, but nothing
of what I’m doing says, Hey, Guy-at-the-End-of-the-Bar,
Come on over. But he does. Something in his eyes hollers,
no howls like a basset hound, when he speaks.
This is what happens when you move to the Midwest.
I want to say, Fuck off, you ignorant bastard,
but I’ve been taught to be 얌전 하다. Polite. Modest.
Well-behaved. The conversation’s struck, and so I sink
deeper into the ample leather. I should tell him
it’s a rare medical condition, a septum in the fetus’s developing
uterus that won’t break down. But I don’t. I lean in close, so close
my lips graze his ear, and my breast rests on his freckled arm.
I start my story as if it were a secret, barely audible
in the bellowing of the saxophone’s B flat. It’s totally true,
I say, Have you ever seen the way twin lotus flowers bloom . . .
Originally published in Likewise Folio (February 2013).
Jia Oak Baker has published several poems with us. Read them here.
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