Cathy Linh Che

Self Defense

We constructed shelters, hovels in the ground. We dug deep. We sent our women into the cities. We had no locks on our doors, no guns. When the country was no longer safe, we fled. We lived in refugee camps, praying for luck. We escaped to host countries. We lived in immigrant neighborhoods for the cheapest rent. We worked with fabric or metal. Our hands bore tiny scars. Some of us learned English. Others, tax codes. We smiled and showed deference when told, No English? Go back to whatever jungle you came from.

Cathy Linh Che is the author of Split (Alice James, 2014), winner of the 2012 Kundiman Poetry Prize. She has been awarded fellowships from Poets & Writers, Kundiman, Poets House, The Asian American Literary Review, The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Workspace, and The Jerome Foundation.