Respectability

by Kat Tan

My bones are shivering out an old song
The melody is respectability
The chorus is bowed head
The hook is silence
Yet niceness did not save me
did not erase my stateless ethnicity
disarmed my ability to fight
kept me decent, like model minority

The news anchors conduct the choir
they teach the words to this song
In this song, the rebellion is a riot
the corporations are the victims
And I recognize the tune
that tames the tongue and raised fist
turns a march into last week’s traffic jam
judges “Black Lives Matter” for the audacity of a declarative sentence
This is a song that demands lives lived as question marks
like someone’s curled up son
like the arch of a grieving mother’s spine 

There’s no rest when the verse is of generational mourning
and funerals we expect to one day attend
Save the date instead for a different kind of melody

We are no longer asking but taking
No longer begging but burning
Forget respectability
We sing a song of resistance

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