Concept illustration depicting freedom of speech, expression, democracy, feminism, and censorship. Black-and-white female-presenting portraits against a grey pixelated background. The individuals have red tape in an "x" over their mouths.

POETRY: Recognition

by Shin Yu Pai


there is a problem with
being single-issue activists

as erasure comes with its costs —
the commissioned calligraphers

made to vandalize their own
artwork after a month and a half

of labor, complied with managerial
concerns to control the public narrative,

citing instructions from “the city-state”;

four years back, the local government
passed its inclusion resolution:

an expression of public opinion
when hate visited the community

in the form of the Ku Klux Klan
robe abandoned at a Black woman’s shop;

last year, the City hired a diversity
expert; though the public statement

came through the office of Parks & Rec;

the artists were gracious, and
disciplined citizens in giving

credit for the swift reversal of order
the City even provided a canopy

and space heater to hasten the
repair — to reinscribe

Remember Palestine

the very mention of homeland
as hackle-raising as calling

Taiwan a “country” or
the Duwamish, an Indigenous

people, a “tribe” — dictating
what history, whose personhood

is counted in the master narrative,
which subjects have a right to speak?


Shin Yu Pai’s essays have appeared in Atlas Obscura, YES! Magazine, City Arts, Tricycle, KUOW’s Seattle Story Project, Seattle’s Child, ParentMap, and Seattle Met. She is the author of several poetry books, including her new collection, Virga.

📸 Featured Image: Illustration by Jorm S./Shutterstock.com

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