Robert Ricardo Reese




you saw i was with color      that everything darkened me up & made me abominable


you saw the dead skin rub black off of me like off the bottom of an eraser


my black blood marks      shedding flesh


sloughing in a black washbasin—


the streaked scabs over my first skin




perhaps       was it my dad who made me marked—


the foreigner i looked like kneeling on her tiles until knees swelled


made to face forward & hear my mom tell me


“dirty       dirty       you       oh my god       black so dirty”


from once a week to two scrubs everyday




did i have harabeoji spin around in his mound


did i have harabeoji disavow his blood


maybe i did by being       by having be       what was made flesh       already


your appa’s voice       his wishes       echoes from the tumulus


the inflections of your family


tearing away with brillo mitts




stutters in a snow blaze       the wind whipping her tray


her in a patchwork dress       sleeves are pulled down




against the coldness       she needs to sell more from lotte


coal warm in her nose       layered barely like hay roofs


she stands white & yellow legs       in front of the crate on mud




she       the middle daughter




she stands in a cloud shadowed village      at the restaurant she works


peddles sticks of american gum       used matchbooks       cigarettes




her brother’s books to be bought as candles of hope




she turns almond eyes from the numbing


midwinters       to her father’s hand slapping       over & over




when the winds are lashing       she squats for an evacuation




into her corner in the wet alley       her hands frost bites


inside a storm




black soldier knew what hate he saw & he still lay down


the korean woman       their son learns day after day to wash




the spit from the eyes      but when he does       doesn’t he


see the mother whose skin laughed at his




she spoke those days—gave nothing—


see your arms & legs are healed       go out & play nice




on most days       he wished for a mother


he could trust with a colored boy’s hand




she is in the middle of a field  & is away


from family that wouldn’t have helped anyhow       muddy


she crawls against all odds       then as she thought


“i can find us a blessing”       she brushes among the sweet grass


“this is going to get better       i’ll get muddy for your blessing


i’m here by hope”       then as only god


could’ve found her—a four-leaf blessing in the field—


faith—sealed pressed into her bible


between the pages       once my dad showed me the inside


of an album       son       this clover


is how she had enough prayer


to have you find at least one blessing from korea


ROBERT RICARDO REESE is a graduate of Santa Clara University with a B.A. in English. His writing has appeared in Asia Literary Review, Blackbird, Drunken Boat, Poems Against War, Santa Clara Review, Poecology, Monterey Journal, and in other journals. A finalist for the California Writers Exchange Award, he is also a Cave Canem Fellow, and a graduate of the M.F.A. program at San Francisco State University. He has taught poetry as a Writer-in-Residence at the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts.