Dominic Mah

FREEDOM CITY — June 1998

Usually UCLA makes me want to leave but
just for a while
the old architecture didn't matter
and there was food and shelter
and sweatshirt choreographers claimed
the cold land and the wet grass for some students
who can't study here, the listeners who can't use that language here,
and all the kids on the guided tour who bus in
and bus out knowing that our school has
everything money can buy.

But in our city everything is free
the food is cold but it's free
the clothes are borrowed at no interest
the paper's free, the arguments free
nuclear disarmament and fighting words go free
the lights are on loan and the stars are half off
but there are free lessons in Spanish Korean Cantonese Tagalog
and algebra and dance and American Sign
cause we say it in whatever language we want
and we want to help.

Still, you get your governors
your regents and chancellors who pay people
to pay people to pay no attention to what's going on,
still you have selfishness, delusion,
media slaves, middle class martyrs who don't know
what they're saying, but
after a while
a mad bright non-complicit night
you might crawl out of your tent and work
these words until

they start to occupy space.