Lion and Tiger

while you were entering the wu tang
we wore our jeans low, taught our bodies to pop
and lock a love song that flows like water, hits
beats like
bamboo sticks
on our childhoods’ backsides
would we begrudge you your mane
or you our stripes, we fought
to have this skin
in the game

while you were getting chopsocky*
we taught our tongues
a new dance, thinking we could shed our stripes—
and now
we don’t know if it’s sin
or assimilation leaving our lips.

everybody is not kung fu fighting
chun li** is not a rap star or a bad guy
what does kung fu kenny*** know about shaolin?

respect to j cole’s struggle
but he knows none of ours, not enough to equal
sign us into his freestyle’s**** bars
shoutout to calculating the exponential growth
of six mouths in the house, to
measuring the wear in your threads when you have only one
set of clothes a year, to
weighing the life in a single
grain of rice
my grandparents calculated the wage
gap before it had a name
and i am the first in my family
who can afford to be
bad at math.

how does one dance
when one’s feet are bound?
we were neither
of us meant
to be caged.

*A colloquial term for old martial arts movies and kung fu films made primarily in Hong
Kong and Taiwan, of which Kendrick Lamar and the Wu Tang Clan are outspoken fans.

** A 2018 song by Nicki Minaj

*** Kendrick Lamar’s alias

**** J. Cole’s “Album of the Year (Freestyle)”

Grace Lau is a Hong-Kong-born, Chinese-Canadian writer living in TkaRonto, part of the territory of the Mississaugas, the Anishnabeg, the Haudenosaunee, and the Wendat peoples. Her work has been nominated for the Best New Poets and Best of the Net Anthologies and is published or forthcoming in Grain Magazine, Frontier Poetry, Arc Poetry Magazine, Sonora Review, Mud Season Review, Yes Poetry, and elsewhere.