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Wednesday, December 07, 2016


by Jenna Le

“Dr. [Sammy] Lee went on to earn three Olympic medals, beginning at the 1948 Games in London, where he took home a bronze medal in the 3-meter springboard and a gold medal in 10-meter platform diving. He earned his second consecutive gold medal — a first for any diver — in platform diving at the 1952 Games in Helsinki. . . . At the Brookside Plunge pool in Pasadena, Dr. Lee, as well as other Asian, Latino and black men and boys, were allowed to swim only on Wednesdays, in a special session that the pool called ‘International Day.’” —Washington Post, December 5, 2016. AP photo of Dr. Lee in the 1948 London Olympics via the Washington Post.

          for Dr. Sammy Lee, 8/1/20-12/2/16

The diver Sammy Lee took home
two medals, two consecutive
Olympic golds. Our polychrome
America, our putative
post-racial land laves Lee with love;
it splashes pics of Sammy’s splashes
on TV, turning man to dove,
to symbol, as he turns to ashes.

But when the press says “Lee took home
two golds,” what does that word, home, mean?
Lee, born unto the styrofoam
and steel of California, seemed
American as one could get:
a scholar, athlete, doctor, spouse,
parent, and U.S. Army vet.
Yet, when Lee tried to buy a house
in Garden Grove in ’55,
he was told, “You’re not white enough.”

Can home be home if, where you live,
you’re banned from living, barred from love?
Had platform diving—Sammy’s sport—
not given him a platform, might
he still be roaming far from port,
a homeless wanderer in the night?

Jenna Le is the author of Six Rivers (NYQ Books, 2011) and A History of the Cetacean American Diaspora (Anchor & Plume Press, 2016). Her poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translations appear or are forthcoming in AGNI Online, Bellevue Literary Review, The Best of the Raintown Review, Denver Quarterly, The Los Angeles Review, Massachusetts Review, The Village Voice, and elsewhere.