Immigrant Status

Vongsay-smWhen we lived on St. Albans
We were ice cream truck connoisseurs
And knew which Popsicles would stain our tongues.
We were rich in playground sand
And told one another, if you step on it, you’re it.
We always layered,
Wore knots in our shoe laces—
How we scrubbed with brown paper towels
The dirt from our shoes in bathrooms after recess
To save ourselves from standing next to our mothers
During clothing drives
Ready to dig for anything better than what was on our backs.
We would trek two blocks and across Dale Street
To pick unripe cherries, dipping them
Into our salt and chili pepper sauces.
The tartness kept our mouths drenched with saliva—
Cleansing our Laotian tongue of English vulgarities learned that week.
We sang and laughed and insulted
Yellow brown skins in our native tongues.
Spoke didactics without realizing,
Waxed poetic the way we pranced around in hand-me-downs Killed every lawn with our plastic pools.
Even in our best clothes,
We swallowed hard as we walked down Selby Knowing that the rich people owned more than What we could’ve ever dreamed of having then.

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