Universe on University Ave

Tou SaiKo Lee and his grandmother.

Tou SaiKo Lee and his grandmother.


We live in an urban universe

Between street lights, stars, moons and stop signs,

from distant planets unrecognized before we met within

stories of broken barriers spoken by elder OGs of these histories

many cultures connected together by identities’ gravitational pull

Unified verses on universal streets from Frogtown to Midway

We eat chicken wings with Barbeque and Siracha Sauce here.

Grow Cilantro and Sweet Potatoes in backyard gardens here.

Survivors of war and grown-up children of civil rights raise families here.

Former gang members became after-school mentors of anti-­violence here.

Air conditioners and heaters switch places different seasons here.

Kids laugh, run, dodge and kick a ball around t-shirt-made bases here.

Teenagers dribble, pass and take jump shots at alleyway baskets here.

Children draw hopscotch hieroglyphics on sidewalks with neon chalk here.

Daughters that made meals for siblings became leaders of community here.

Civics, Celicas, Eclipses park Sun-Foods-Mart just to spark conversation here,

We exchange junk food for farmers’ market fruits here.

Mothers cross busy streets with baby strollers here.

We learn each other’s languages here.

We got restaurants from worldwide here.

We read books here.

We go to school here.

We make music here.

Shooting stars give back to galaxies remembering their path of constellations here.

Unified in this Universe on University Avenue.

 

Tou SaiKo Lee was born in a refugee camp called Nong Khai and immigrated to America with his family when he was two months old. Lee is a Saint Paul–based spokenword poet with the collective Speakers of the Sun, and is down with the hip hop movement as a community organizer with the grassroots group United Prodigies. He is an emcee that disarms police brutality, disconnects bling chains, and dissolves stereotypes like lychee-flavored ice cream on both of his tongues. Lee teams with his freestyling grandma, who does traditional Hmong poetry and visits schools to mentor youth in creative writing. He desires to invent guava-flavored gummy dragons in his thermal long johns worn during Minnesota winters.

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