Poem for Today: After Bob Kaufman

No, I am Not Yours

After Bob Kaufman’s “I, Too, Know What I am Not”         

No, I am not Vaseline smile of working girls, singing

          through gritted teeth.

No, I am not your sorry stepchildren hiding

     in corrugated metal boxes.

No, I am not ghost of the assassinated senator, locked

          in his crucifix pose.

No, I am not wheezing of Manila’s wily pickpockets,

          in broken shoes.

No, I am not monsoon fruit of Oriental flesh tenders,

          with skanky lingerie.

No, I am not worship of sacred blue passport, in hallowed

          INS halls.

No, I am not crack pipe hopes of hopeless street walkers,

          traffickers in legs spread wide.

No, I am not garbage dump litanies of devout Catholics,

          in crowns of alcoholic prayer.

No, I am not chlorine bleach sighs of silent toilet scrubbers,

          in unventilated gasps.

No, I am not kisses of syphilitic sex vendors, smiling

          through antibiotic lips.

No, I am not illiterate worker’s minimum wage sunk

          in his slumlord hell.

No, I am not cry of newspaper pigeon, winged trash in flight

          from leafblower bullets.

No, I am not rales of Avian flu, amplified

          by tobacco addiction.

No, I am not stumble of broken English, inarticulate

          in racist America.

No, I am not report of silenced women, helpless

          in the soldier’s disease.

No, I am not reflection of your darker self, alone

          in the almighty dollar.

No, I am not wombs of Filipina maids hatching

          more Filipina maids.

No, I am not the whistle of streetcorner whores with cribs

          of hungry mouths.

No, I am not curse of immigrant children, bent

          under broken parents.

No, I am not kiss of tropical breeze,

          unconditional Pinay love.

No, I am not the aping of you, escaped from your captivity.

No, I am not anything that is anything I am not.

From For the City That Nearly Broke Me (San Antonio: Aztlan Libre Press, 2012).

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