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POETRY

Agbayani
By Ishle Yi Park

(Subway Series, Shea Stadium, 2000)

I claim the 7 train as mine. For 15 years it has rocked me indelicate
above crisp beds of maple, graffitied brick, and a metallic
Worlds Fair globe. Called the Oriental Express back
when Oriental was not offensive. I loved that nickname
because it banded us together like thieves in collusion.

And the stubble-chested Italian boy, who stuffed my little brother's face
into the fender of his dad's '84 Chevy, cannot even think victory
tonight without an Asian name breaking waves against his hesitant lips,
to scatter his notion of American into fine spume,
like the red-brown dust rising from a slide into second.

Agbayani . . . Agbayani . . . Agbayani . . .

Shea Stadium. I've seen it dark as a janitor's closet,
and vibrant as fiesta, where faces confetti the stands.
My grandfather hobbled to a game when Shea's marketing sharks
promoted ethnic day on Korean night, which was accidentally billed
with Dominican night, and he cheered for Chan Ho Park to the clave
of fifty thousand hands.
Agbayani. You make their lips twist. Agbayani. My grandfather
circles the scores in the cut-out newspaper with a magnifying glass.
Your name is beautiful. I will ignore the way the pitcher
rubbed your head like you were a cocker spaniel, I will ignore this.
The double, the double, slide into second.
Yellow numbers clicking victory.

Tonight your face is beloved, familiar on the television.
Tonight we are red dirt, stadium light,
tired thighs, champagne spray, wet towel. You gave us this.
I could give a shit about baseball. The crotch-scratching,
gum-chewing Long Island families filling my train
and spilling out at Shea every summer
not my thing. But I can pocket now this torn ticket
night when you filled it, made New Yorkers cheer,
an oil-hot stadium waiting for reason to leap.

As I ride by on the tired commute back to mama's house in Queens,
I think of you. The way you twist their lips.
The night we were soaked towel, stadium light.
My grandfather circles your name
and keeps it in his records. Your beautiful name,
you gave us this.

—EFQ



ISHLE YI PARK is a Korean American woman born and raised in Queens, New York. Her work has appeared in The Cream City Review, The Beacon Best of 2001, The NuyorAsian Anthology, Slam, and New American Writing. Her first book is the recently-released The Temperature of this Water.

© 2002 Ishle Yi Park

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