Waiting at the Railroad Cafe

by Janet Wong

All the white kids are eating.
“Let’s go, Dad,” I say.
“Let’s get out of this place.”
But Dad doesn’t move.
He’s going to prove
the Asian race
is equal. We stay
and take our silent beating.

He folds his arms
across his chest
glaring at the waitresses who
pass by like cattle
ready for a western battle.
They will not look, they refuse to
surrender even to my best
wishing on bracelet charms.

“Consider this part of your education,”
Dad says. I wonder how long
we’ll be ignored, like hungry ghosts
of Chinese men who laid this track,
never making their journeys back
but leaving milestones and signposts
to follow. “Why do they treat us so wrong?”
I wonder. “Don’t they know we’re on vacation?”

A drunk shouts at us and
gets louder and redder
in the face
when we pay
him no mind. I say
“Let’s get out of this place.
We’re not equal. We’re better,”
as I pull Dad by the hand.