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  Tattoos in Mayberry

melissaahowellsgeishacharlieemilybrontemorgan3timedies
You arrive in the pool
like you don't care.
Almost invisible,
barely there.
Eyes dart around, Guard up.
A Great Wall stands between you  
and letting your groove thing
all hang out.
Hey, China man, your safe to fly
your freak flag around me.
I want you to know
How safe you are.
China man you may 
shower as long as you care to. 
Even leave toiletry and towels splayed out
wet in the shower drains.
neglect to take a shower before entering the 
public baths. No demerits.
Safe ground surrounds you
So exhale.
and breathe
 China man.
I see you watch me out of the corner
of your eye.,.
Waiting for brutal Western man's
dangerous nature to shake you
awake. 
Life has wounded you.
I know you are skeptical
there is no threat.
You're human, so you 
have a need to be right.
So, you prepare
like a defendant on trial
for your life,for the coming
wave after wave of pain, hurt,
and bodily harm, 
 .
The same rich have crowded us out with
fences and walls
Walls to keep out
us others. We're allies..
In arms, same as you Chinaman.
We've both fled in our own ways,
from cruelty, intolerance,
in full retreat  of social and economic violence.
stretched and shredded by cruel systems 
wrung through conformity's wringer.

I urge you to wear something ,
gaudy, loud, and flamboyant .
you don't have to wear 
drab, non-descript,inconspicuous, ,bathing clothes.  
Neither one of us are going to be brutalized 
pushed with baton and bayonet to the killing fields
We'll stand and fight their 
best plans to cull us from the herd.
Putting us in white briefs, under
Torn and tattered grey.
No flash, no frills. Nothing to stand out 
for  conformity mad secret police
and palace guards, 
up in the gun towers.
You've prepared for the worst of the worst.
even though soldiers sneaking in from the shadows
won't come today to rape, confiscate, or kill.
Yet, the memory of a death march remains in your eyes
I want to cry to you,
it's ok to wear a purple and orange speedo.
The latest in aquatic equipment, but,
the child in you still smells
Gai Gin napalm by the rice patties.
Agrarian farmers, shell shocked
out of their agrarian ways 
grandparents, incinerated, while
making  spirits, 
or cultivating the poppy.
your women weaving bamboo baskets
and wooden spoons.
parents who stitched your clothes,
As you husked the rice,
hunted for berries,and gathered firewood.
You are the strong ones,
leaving behind horrors unimaginable.
making your way to the other  side.
Remain curious, do   study me as I study you.
I notice your chin muscles are tight and defiant,
You quickly glance away when I look over.
how you move your neck
your stiff, and steady gait.. 
The women study me too 
like I'm some fascinating zoological discovery.
I think they wonder what makes me tick. How do I survive..
I think these people have been studied,
looked at under heavy surveillance 
in their home countries. It's what they knew
so they are good at looking back..
A crack Communist security detail
breathing down your necks
making sure you don't get more than your ration.
But, you found a way to get more.
And, you came here across the Ocean 
to America with whatever you
could squirrel away
from your plantation masters.
But, your exodus came with a price.
You were ripped away 
from family,custom, and familiar, dialect,
an unfathomably rich ancient history.
Something you can't retrieve by looking at my face, 
Here at our health club swimming hole.
I give visual cues that I'm a friendly water buffalo,
wading peacefully in the water, bobbing up 
and down, cooing softly,
smiling with my eyes.
Do I appear aggressive in your eyes.
Am I making some critical body language error.
I hope not, but am ignorant to your customs.
All the animals in the water hole
eventually relax and let their thoughts take them. 
The water, connective,cleansing,
liquid healing absolution 
Water bugs
rippling in the pond..
In the hot tub you bring your sons
and daughters to lounge around
Fresh faced, first generation Amercian  teenagers.
Who have figured out the game.
They don't talk to me either,
I am still Gai Gin a 
suspicious stranger
They remain
 quietly attentive

The children grin at the old ones who are watching.
Always watching. waiting for the inevitable crash
the falling of the sky.
the next inevitable storm ,
expecting. 
some grand upheavel to happen.
maybe a tsunami, tidal wave.
China man, you stand on the ready. 
still holding on against bad odds.
a  strained, new world smile.
But, nothing big, earth shaking, happens.
stll you watch and you wait
Like a proud, young lion cub 
tentatively drinking waters
at a crocodile's watering hole..
With Peking wonder and Pyongyang suspicion.
I look at you china man,and  woman 
and I wonder what your rich back stories are?
As you stare back at me
wondering the same.
I'm moving like 
a Slow Loris languishing in the pool.
I am ever patient 
for a lone Chinaman to finish testing me
I say nothing, as he
parades up and down my swimming lane.
and I let him know he has the right of way.
I stay wide right in our lane 
while he's to my left.
I look over at him as if to say.
safe passage.
There's room enough for us both..
I feel we now have a mutually, unspoken understanding.
As soon as we make eye contact 
sharing this implicit understanding.,
he swims away into another lane.
Allowing me  more space to finish swimming my laps.,.
His journey here may have been due to
war, or odd politics.
He could  have been a valuable asset
making critical military or business decisions 
even saving his country from horrid things,
aiding the civilized world
to deflect destruction..
or maybe he's a former  strong man, or slave monger, 
maybe some mad scientist, 
or on interpol's most wanted.
A   former pirate on the high seas now
a land locked power drinker
Maybe he wakes up screaming and shivering
in a cold sweat from time as a soldier in
the killing fields of
Vietnam, or Cambodia,
A Red Chinese stow away. 
Or a defector from
Pyongyang North Korea..
So, China men, who swims in the pool,
I honor you and respect you
as you respect me.
May God Bless you and best of luck in your
next living chapter  in America and in the greater beyond.
I'm rooting for you here.
As you draft new pages in your book of life,
With ancient eyes,
forging a trailblazing path of promise,
for you 
and your beautiful, soulful, children









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