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G Yamazawa: I was so young. I don't even remember how old I was the first time I called someone gay. But I had to have been in elementary school. One day, my dad was picking me up and right before we pulled out of the parking lot, a girl waved at us with a smile like a vine. Even though she was the orchard that everyone picked on, she was still sweet and loved to be alive.
When my dad asked me why I didn't wave back, I told him it was because she was gay. He looked at me with one of those religious stares, and every bit of Buddhism in his brow raised the question, "What does that even mean?"
We all crack under peer pressure, but once you see that their earthquakes are coming from your faults, you realize how deep trembles are felt beneath the surface where things are left and forgotten. See, this was before poetry became my world. I noticed that words have gravity. I've seen them crush people from a first-person perspective. I felt a phrase fall out of my mouth like an atom bomb without the knowing the effects will radiate for years.
I've loved a language that hates people, cracking jokes trying to shatter their mirrors just because I wasn't confident in my own reflection. I hated myself for the shape of my eyes so I became a bully. Because we all want to feel like Americans sometimes, and we all want straight spines. We all want straight spines to stand for something we believe in, but it's funny how flags and people have the same knack for politely waving at the ones they have forgotten. See, as early as elementary school, my parents planted a seed, and the lotus of Buddhism began to blossom in my brain. We had a pond in the backyard, and the flat water taught me of equality, that life is the one thing we all share.
I was also taught how to pray. I've been memorizing mantras, enchanting sukhas out loud before the pledge of allegiance ever molested my lips. I was taught of cause and effect, how good is the ultimate truth that everything relies on, how the thought will turn to word as quickly as fuel becomes fire whether it's for burning down a house or for keeping a lover warm. The spark of an idea will always match the fuming language we decide to pull out of our mouth.
But I forgot that the voice does the work of the Buddha, so why would I ever call someone gay before calling them beautiful? Why would I not praise the person that drinks the same water as me? Why would I lift my voice just to put someone else down? You see, us humans, we have a habit of overpowering and taking what doesn't belong to us. But I pray that we are making our way towards the moment when our tongues are the only thing left for us to conquer. And if there's one thing that I've learned being a poet is that it's not about what you have to say in your poem. It's about what you have to say when your poem is done.