San Francisco, 1849
Note the tasteful draperies over the windows,
the view of the canneries. Salt air-gagged, we
arrived west. Sunburnt necks. Teenagers, most of us.
Like tanagers. Over the sea, we were red-winged,
ready. The men who made us come here feinted
betrothal. Had us on our backs and talked of gold.
Now so many pretty girls lewd and unaccompanied.
Debarking the ship, we were led to the barracoons.
The bidders waited. Why call it a Queen’s room?
A hundred and fifty jewels clothed in lice and rags
up for the highest bidder. Our mouths, cash cows
for our “husbands.” Forced to sign contracts
we could not read did not know the words
did not know merchant or earthquake or gold
did not know debt or price or concept of worth