where i’m from by thaddeus rutkowski

Two Poems From Thaddeus Rutkowski

town
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Where I’m From
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I don’t think anyone outside of a ten-mile radius
has heard of where I’m from.
The one-street town lies downstream
from another one-street town.
.
I never made it more than a mile or two
from my childhood home.
For transportation, I used a bike, my feet, or skates.
Surrounded by nature, I had no choice but to appreciate it.
.
I was raised as white, but I’m not white.
My father saw no difference between races,
while my mother never forgot hers.
.
My goal was to learn to drive,
then climb into a car with a full tank of gas,
floor the accelerator, and blow out of there.
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In The Buddha’s Tooth Temple
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We walk into a temple in Singapore to see the relic:
a tooth of the Buddha found in Myanmar,
long after the Buddha was alive.
.
We stop at a series of altars,
one for each sign of the zodiac.
In each section are a hundred tiny Buddhas,
each with a unique hand gesture or facial expression,
like those of the soldiers in China’s old capital,
whose terra-cotta bodies are identical,
but whose faces are individual.
.
We proceed upstairs, as all around us
the chants of monks
come through an amplified system
and fill the temple.
.
We pass a giant prayer wheel
and reach the room with the relic.
(I wonder if it is a molar or an incisor.)
.
No one is in the room.
There is no crowd around the pedestal
holding the tooth of the prince
who gave up everything he had
to gain everything he needed.
.
Thad at Red Room
Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of six books, most recently Border Crossings, a poetry collection. His novel Haywire won the Asian American Writers Workshop’s members’ choice award, and his book Guess and Check won the Electronic Literature bronze award for multicultural fiction. He received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.
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