Poetry & Writing

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1522 Mason Street, San Francisco, 1969

Years later, I still hear the continuous

steel cable, vibrating in the groove

under Mason Street, Uncle Gary sobbing

because someone at the Laundromat stole

my diapers, his room pulsing

with nervous music.

No one told me he left home until the day

I scuttled from the smack

of my mother's slipper,

& she dragged me from under his empty bed.

I think of Grandma praying faster,

me looking under her skirt while she lit

offerings to our ancestors, her thick legs

rough with veins, the beige stockings

sagging under the pull of garters.

She always loved me best.

Uncle Gary had hitchhiked East to study teeth.

Sometimes, when no one was home

& you could hear the crackling

of mah jong tiles shuffled next door,

Grandma, Grandpa, & I watched strippers on TV.

I remembered Grandpa saying, American

women will do anything while

the melon-breasted blonde

with a face like Kim Novak, pulled

a feather boa back &

forth across her bottom.

I can remember the night Uncle Gary choked

on a fishbone because he didn't learn to eat

his fish heads right, Auntie Joyce poured

vinegar down his throat to make him throw up,

& Uncle Lealand hurled his chopsticks,

chipping a plate because the baby wouldn't stop

wailing. No one told the landlady

we had ten people crammed into three rooms

or that Great Grandma smoked & slept

in the hall closet. That night, Grandpa,

blind & bulging with irritation, flung

the radio into the clanging cold.

                                                                                               Priscilla Lee

My family visiting my Great Uncle in the Berkeley Hills, 1970 Uncle Lealand, me (posing in my buckle shoes), Auntie Joyce, Brenton (being carried), Mom, Dad, Sherilyn (with the cash register toy), my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother, Auntie Claire, and Uncle Tom

My cousin Brenton, me, and my sister Sherilyn. Me the beauty queen.

We are sitting on the sofa that doubled as our trampoline: Sherilyn, Ellison, me, and Brenton