Koreatown

Camera coverage is widespread
In the neighborhoods
Where celebrities
Hide their bread
And butter in sepulcers.

National guard,
Federal agents
Barricading
Against mayhem
Off of Franklin,

But here
In South Central barrios
We’re not protected
And heads are being
Split by thrown stereos.

Everyone was watching TV
When dear Rodney King
Was being beaten
By the officers, and we all
Watched as they were aquitted.

Even now, three days later,
He says we shouldn’t be fighting
Yet here we are
And there they are, the rioters
Decrying what the jury said.

Decrying in the form of crime,
They’ve come to loot my store
And my daughters at home
Have been turned from the TV
So that they won’t worry about me.

It could be my race or creed,
The way my eyes sit upon my face,
Or maybe the rioting incites greed
So strong that people know wrong
Will get them the things they need.

So while truck drivers are beaten
And smoke keeps seeping
From fires across the city,
Why, Los Angeles is lit up
By embers and hateful police clubs.

My store is closed now
To everyone
And I’m praying to God
That the metal bars
Are protection enough,

So that I won’t have to
Defend my livelihood like
This with my Ruger Mini
Sportsman’s rifle and
Baseball bat ready to fight.

They gather outside with
Bricks and pipes.
I’m terrified and trapped
Long into the night,
And KCAL 5 chopper cameras roll.

My store’s TV is tuned as they cover
All the action safely from above.
I’m betting they didn’t wish another
Store was being sacked downtown
And soon they’ve turned to some other

Store up the block,
As bricks smash plexiglass
And a mob tries to sweep through
As a hurricane
Capsizing lives as it goes.

But the cameras sweep back
As I’m under attack,
And pipes crash through the front doors.
While I’ve been robbed by thugs before
I’ve never been completely under siege.

I’m hiding behind the counter
Where you might have bought cigarettes,
But now I’ve been seen
And they’ve started throwing
Rocks my way.

So I begin shooting
Since I’m not about to go down like this
At the whim of a crowd
Yelling about the beating of a King
And lashing out at me.

When I’m guilty of speeding
I’m not guilty of such decisions,
And they start firing back
Somehow not understanding that
They’re the ones in the wrong.

Certainly without those pipes
Their reasoning wouldn’t be so strong
But this new May season isn’t
Catered to anything in the right. Tonight
At least my fate’s not decided by writing.

It’s decided by survival.
So I survive while I can.
And the bullets are flying
And smoke is conspiring
From Molotov’s cocktails outside,

“A drink to go with the bread”
Is what the Finns once said,
To complement the bombing by
Rocks and fists of whatever
Target the rioters had set.

This moment, it was me.
Though the National Guard would
Have you believe that the
Vulnerable lived in
Beverly Hills and white neighborhoods.

KCAL 5 is shooting while I’m shooting.
I’m not a milita, and I wonder how long
I could possibly hold out on
A single box of emergency ammunition
My uncle once bought me.

I’m certain every shot is one I miss.
I’m not a black hearted killer
Or risk-taking thriller who finds
Fun in taking what’s not theirs,
Down to the grit of another’s life.

The mob outside isn’t impressed.
I can’t see their faces
Covered by scarves and anger,
But they’re coming in soon
Armed with ire and wanton doom.

So says most of Koreatown
In the aftermath of 1992,
Such a sad thing so see
As this land was “America the free”
When we came from old countries;

The cameras see
Me as I flee
From the fire consuming my store
Once held so dear and now,
Like Chung Lee, “I have nothing”.

My store is torn and stormed
By a storm of grasping hands
Searching for the register
And whatever alcohol I had
Left in my freezer.

My car in the alley is smashed apart,
And I could probably get home
Walking down these alleys with my heart
In my head pounding while I clutch
Naught but my baseball bat and walk

Into the alleys of night. Brave? No.
I’m sure my Mrs. Cho would herself
Kill me if only she could know
That I’m somewhere on the streets
On foot, without police,

Just trying to get home.
But it is the sigh of relief
I breathe when two hours later
I can rest easy, seeing that
The house hasn’t been touched at all.

Far enough away from the hearts
Of darkness devouring the spirits of men,
Compelling them to hurt and take.
She’s been up all night waiting for me
And I collapse into her arms

When she opens the door. I cry
Joy after being unsure I’d ever
See her again. Maybe I’m late
To dinner, and maybe the store
Is closed, but I’ve made it home.

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