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At the Medicaid Office

By Kit Yan

They are giving out Turkeys at the Public Assistance office,
Wrapped in plastic,
The legs folded in, balled for convenience,
You must have had to write your name on a raffle ticket,
I came too late to see the process.

There’s something about the Medicaid office that seems so familiar,
A waiting room—
Immigrant kids sharing cheetos,
The numbers being called in English,
Familiar languages dancing in the damp air,
Chairs that are too big or too small for us all,
Crammed into the tiny space spilling out into the hallway,

The paper shuffling almost sounds choreographed,
I reorganize my stack to the beat,
Electricity bills with mismatched name,
Application with missing information,
Naturalization paper with a little girl awkwardly smiling,
Thinking: they’re taking my picture!
A notarized birth certificate from China, the authenticity always in question,
The tax return map that brought me here,

In the basement of this Brooklyn building,
It doesn’t look like Fifth Avenue,
The designer fashion is knock off,
Second hand, across generations
The nails aren’t all manicured, and
We wonder if there is a corner bistro vending machine for lunch,
It doesn’t look like Fifth Avenue,

But it is the middle of the fucking night crew,
Deep fryer, diner server,
Window washer,
Children of those who breathed life into the soil,
Before the buildings and ships came,
Before they had us build the railroads,
They are the brick layers laid off,
Big families to keep warm,
These are the feet that shuffle past the taxi cabs piling into the subway,
Taking the day off to come here,
To translate, to apply, to re-apply, and to wait.

My body to be an academic text,
My waiting line time a statistic,
My story boiled down to a sound bite well edited,
Funders in line to see what happens next,

I’ve been to Human Resources before,
My mother holding my hand,
The application stacks for our family members,
The days I spend back and forth social security to HRA,
This is not a first time,
Just the first time my mother doesn’t know,
I’ve told her—New York streets are paved with gold,
The jobs and trees are fields for harvest,
I don’t want her to worry about me,
I’ve got plenty here ma.

The man behind the desk is kind,
While taking down my information,
The others that wait are patient,
Lending pens and smiles,
The paper shuffling sound is some sort of comforting shared experience,
Saying: You are alive.

At night, I am a single young Chinese man ordering noodles on a low traffic
Chinatown street,
It’s the middle of the darkness and this is what my last 2 bucks can buy,
A woman comes,
We don’t speak the same dialect,
But she knows something, I’ve yet to discover,
She brings me a free bowl of broth to blanket the cold fall,
The water flavored with marrow and bone sprinkled with green onion,
And I forget that I’m a vegan for a moment and thank her,
Sipping the hot soup—




Listen as Danielle Badra reads "At the Medicaid Office" by Kit Yan.

Added: Wednesday, December 12, 2018  /  From "Flicker and Spark: A Contemporary Queer Anthology of Spoken Word and Poetry," (Lowbrow Press, 2013). Used with permission.
Kit Yan
Photo by Jess X. Snow.

Kit Yan (Playwright/Poet/Lyricist/Performer) is Yellow American, New York-based artist, born in Enping, China, and raised in the Kingdom of Hawaii. Their work has been produced by the American Repertory Theater, the Smithsonian, Musical Theater Factory, the New York Musical Festival, and Dixon Place. They have been a resident at The Civilians, The MITTEN Lab, 5th Avenue Theater, and the Village Theater, as well as a WP/Public Theater Trans Lab Fellow. They are a 2018-19 Dramatists Guild Fellow and Lincoln Center Writer in Residence. Their musical, INTERSTATE, won five awards at the 2018 New York Musical Festival including Best Lyrics and will be developed at the Johnny Mercer Colony at Goodspeed Musicals. Kit’s show QUEER HEARTACHE has won five awards at the Chicago and San Francisco Fringe Festival and their second musical MISS STEP is under commission at 5th Avenue Theater.

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