Shape-shift

By Amy J. Wong

 

The 10 hums like VHS static,

SGV airport planes buzz like mosquitoes,

My eyes and throat itchy from the thick air.

I take the Silver Line or Silver Streak downtown,

But sometimes I drive because I get tired

Of paying more to wait longer.

Men bike on the sidewalks of Garvey,

Relying on rusted chain, frame a few sizes too small,

Plastic bags hanging off handlebars.

At Garvey and Merced, my grandma‚Äôs best friend, Tai Po (Chia Lim) 

On her daily walk was struck by a driver and 

Assigned to the same nursing home as my grandma, Ah Po (Ly Phu Thai). 

Her joy shrank within those walls until her body did too,

Passing months before Ah Po did,

Sister matriarchs joining Guan Yin.

These streets were not designed with our thrivance in mind,

Instead designed by those who stole land 

And zoned maps to keep us out, oppressed, silenced.

Our DNA recognizes the violence our parents escaped from, 

Violence devised by gwai lou (ghost/ devil men). 

They are afraid of our power, as if we add 

Too much color, flavor, justice into this world.

So we shape-shift, the water we are.

Past the wire fences, we flood Rio Hondo in waves,

Fracture concrete, seismically sink beneath soil.

In rhythm with mycelium, we bring life back to the quarry,

Our blood, our bodies, rivers remembering our way home.

We create new paths to get to where we need to go, 

Free-form and free from these 

Streets

      Freeways

Borders

      Cages 

Prisons

     Wars

Violence devised by gwai lou.

So we shape-shift, 

The water we are,

Our blood, 

Our bodies, 

Rivers remembering our way home.


Link to broadsheet version

Amy J. Wong is an El Monte resident dedicated to advancing environmental and social justice. She holds over 8 years of experience leading environmental and public health projects in the San Gabriel Valley. She co-founded several SGV-based initiatives, including Women on Wheels, SGV Progressive Action, and the Matilija Lending Library. At Active San Gabriel Valley, she manages climate programs to improve the quality of life of communities of color in the SGV. Amy also serves as the Planning Commission Chair for the City of El Monte, and an LA Young Leaders Councilmember for the National Parks Conservation Association. Amy graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Molecular and Cell Biology.

Live reading at the end of the bike tour, February 26, 2022

Shape-shift