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from the September 2020 issue

The Red Rooster and Inevitable Saint

In two poems, Julia Wong Kcomt reflects on what it means to be a Peruvian with Tusán (Chinese) heritage.​


The Red Rooster

To Wata, in memoriam

Peru dies.
Like garlic bulbs
this whim of blouses
cut so masterfully.

The iron windows.
Baroque.
Relentless.
Paint staining my ovaries.

Sushi is now the language
of the people
and my mighty noodles
wait in a forgotten pot.

Papá told me to detest the Japanese
like everyone says to hate Chileans.
But with so much love,
I find no difference
between the cherry tree, the sakura, the lotus flower, and the olive bush:
In the Atacama, Jesus Christ sifts
through red grape seeds.

Peru dies, Wata,
and all I remember is what you said about my aunt:
“She was hot, your aunt Carmen,
she didn’t look Chinese.”
I smiled unoffended, because in Peru nobody
looks like anything.

There was a chifa restaurant.

You ate wonton soup
with your Chinese friends,
and as we searched for an emblem
to overcome the centimeter and a half of
difference in our eyelids,
a red rooster
loosed a sound louder than nothingness.

Our Peru is dying.
The rooster’s crow will return when the stone flies.

 

Inevitable Saint

As winter comes to an end
her pauper’s waltz takes pity
on my notes and stave

From Callao, she doesn’t need
buses or expertise
she doesn’t walk, she flies
eats an avocado slice with me

And murmurs to protect myself from women
vehement, Catholic
who write Life
as if in sand

And say I know neither verses
nor flesh pleasures
that I have bad taste in clothes
and can’t write Peru, or Spanish.


“El gallo rojo” and “Santa inevitable” © Julia Wong Kcomt. By arrangement with the author. Translations © 2020 by Jennifer Shyue. All rights reserved.

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