MN Poetry: Bao Phi’s “Waiting for a Cyclo in the Hood”

Bao Phi is a nationally known performance poet living in the Twin Cities. While he’s performed for years, and has released two CDs of his spoken word, he’s just published his first book of poetry through Coffee House Press. It’s titled Sông I Sing.

Waiting for a Cyclo in the Hood

Twenty-Sixth Street, a one-way,

flows by my house, keeps going right

out of the hood before spilling into

Uptown: fertile delta of the young,

disturbingly hip, rich by no fault of their own,

nothing to do on a Saturday night but be beautiful.

I sit on the curb, far from lovely,

empty pocket’s distance from rich,

wishing I knew

which way to go.

Back in Viet Nam I could

shout for a cyclo, hold up a fist of small đống

peel each dollar from the tension of my hand

and let them fly away to the Dopplar Effect,

one by one,

scream the words to Prince’s 1999 in two languages

and not once look behind me to see if the driver was whispering:

this street is one way, I can’t take you back

to where you came from, no matter how many American

dollar bills you give up

to the wind.

– “Waiting for a Cyclo in the Hood,” written by Bao Phi, as it appears in his collection of poetry Sông I Sing, published by Coffee House Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.

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