Open City: Blogging Urban Change
Portrait Poem
By Cristiana Baik


Tonight a man walks down
Main Street, into a dim

retreat of street lights, the snowfall
glazed over from the storm. Night

is lighted on 54th, branching
from a token of stores: George Michael

Suits Outlet, Marin Travel, Bay Ridge
Deli. Walking on he tells me,

      Four years ago a tornado
came through blasting shingles,
the rooftops. It was summer and
humid. I had just gotten off from
work, a late night shift at the hospital.
     I spent the morning
with my mother, as we picked
up the asphalt petals encircling her
home of two decades. She passed
not too long after.


Tonight, our quiet encircling, walking
past his childhood

home on 58th, coming
into the light radar of Main Street,

with nothing but
wet snap

sounds lettering
the ground.


“If dreams prove worthy to
remember, they close
on what remains unspoken,


This dream portrait
says, halved: the lessons
of human and serpent
in each of us. The boundary of myth
is in its resemblance, a life
summoned halved as two
equals, saying

our quiet rivals
are always the same.

2 Responses to Portrait Poem

  1. Susan Yung says:

    Socio-Economic Polarization in the Chinatown Community:
    How the Rich Reap their Wealth from the Poor
    Or Spirit Killers

    the winter wind sits in the living room
    so we huddle in the kitchen in our winter coats looking silly
    and too cold to do anything
    but light a candle eat melon seeds
    as I wonder
    what do we wear when we go outside?
    — poem by Frances Chung, p. 25, 1970
    from “Crazy Melon & Green Apples”

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About Open City
Open City: Blogging Urban Change is an interdisciplinary neighborhood blog and community project coordinated by the Asian American Writers’ Workshop. Five commissioned writers, called Organizing Fellows, are working with community organizations and neighborhood folks in Manhattan’s Chinatown/Lower East Side (LES), Flushing, Queens, and Sunset Park, Brooklyn to collect oral histories and interviews, offer commentary about gentrification, neighborhood change, and produce new creative work around these themes. Read more.
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Featured Profile
CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities was formed in 1986 (formerly known as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence) as a response to an increase in anti-Asian hate crimes both in New York City and around the country (which included violence by police officers against Asians).
They have two offices – one in Manhattan’s Chinatown (which houses the Chinatown Tenants Union, and the new Asian Youth in Action organizing project) and the Youth Leadership Project office in the Bronx – and have members from all over the city. Over the years, CAAAV’s main campaigns have focused on community-based organizing work rooted in Asian immigrant and refugee communities. Although their advocacy and organizing work is focused mainly in Manhattan’s Chinatown and the northwest Bronx, CAAAV’s work also touches upon larger issues (such as affordable housing, war, and immigration) shaping communities all over the world: “Our work is primarily centered around issues facing New Yorkers, but always with a global analysis.”
CAAAV’s mission is to organize and build the power of working-class Asian immigrants, refugees, and youth to change concrete conditions and participate in a broader social justice movement. In the past, CAAAV’s work included organizing South Asian taxi drivers, Korean women workers, and Filipina domestic workers. Several of these organizing projects have gone on to become their own organizations, such as the New York Taxi Workers Alliance and Domestic Workers United. CAAAV’s current work focus on three different program areas: Read more.

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Community Announcements
Manhattan CB3 Land Use, Zoning, Public & Private Housing Committee
Monday, May 2 at 6:30 pm -- Rutgers Community Center, Gymnasium - 200 Madison Street (btwn Rutgers & Pike Sts)

Brooklyn CB7, Land Use/Landmarks Committee Regular meeting
Continued discussion on potential 8th Avenue rezoning

Manhattan CB3 Economic Development Committee Tuesday, May 3 at 6:30pm -- Community Board 3 Office - 59 East 4th Street (btwn 2nd Ave & Bowery)

Read more.

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