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I was the writer in my life
and where did it get me
is not a line from an Army manual
though a private might have noted
his latest rejection in a letter
and knew what all novelists know
that fantasy is thinking you’re the exception
when the ending is obvious and already written
but if he were a surrealist where did his third arm go
and how did the red scare sprawl throughout Asia
and who were these gooks who held hands
on the street if not the loudness of something
unnatural between them and they were so small
they could sit in a chair and it would never creak
just as they would never crack if interrogated
and of course you heard it all thru translation
and perhaps the haze of hash you’d imbibed that morning
when you read your girl’s last letter and knew
the face before you was now responsible
and if his ass smashed to the floor
how different was that from what your daddy did
once when he was cutting your hair
and you moved the stool onto his foot
and your sergeant’s cussing you out
and the gook’s groaning and your knuckles
are bleeding and it feels boiling-hot
but how could you be horrified at all this
you no longer have her she never existed
and this poem is all just wasted metaphor

David Mura ’s newest book is A Stranger’s Journey: Race, Identity & Narrative Craft in Writing. He has written four books of poetry, The Last Incantations, Angels for the Burning, The Colors of Desire (Carl Sandburg Award), and After We Lost Our Way (National Poetry Contest winner). He has written two memoirs: Turning Japanese: Memoirs of a Sansei, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Where the Body Meets Memory: An Odyssey of Race, Sexuality, and Identity. He is finishing a book of essays on race and a book of essays on Asian American identity.

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