The Legend

by Garrett Hongo

Garrett Hongo

"On a trip to Chicago, Hongo found himself alone in a hotel room watching a television program on random street violence, which included a segment on an Asian man who was accidentally shot on the street. According to Hongo, the program treated the man as virtually anonymous, vaguely identifying him as Asian. Hongo claimed that the next morning, when he sat down to write, the poem "The Legend" came flowing out of him spontaneously." -


These lines are really important to the whole meaning of the poem. The lines "And I feel so distinct / from the wounded man lying on the concrete" mean that the narrator feels much different from the dead man. The narrator might feel distinct because the narrator is not an immigrant like the dead man. Also, the narrator saying "I am ashamed" can be interpreted many different ways. Maybe he is ashamed of street violence. He also might be ashamed that no one is acknowledging the man who just died. Or, could he possibly be ashamed of the treatment of immigrants in the U.S.? These few lines of the poem are very open to interpretation and can be viewed in many different ways.

The Weaver Girl

"Let the weaver girl cross the bridge of heaven / and take up his cold hands."

The "weaver girl" that is being referenced in the last stanza of the poem is referring to an Asian legend: The Legend of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl. This legend tells the story of how a weaver girl and a cowherd are star-crossed lovers who may only meet once a year while crossing the bridge of heaven.

So, the lines about the "weaver girl" in the poem can now be analyzed. Maybe the dead man is the cowherd that was originally in the Asian legend. The poem does state that the weaver girl crosses "the bridge of heaven," which is the same bridge that the cowherd and weaver girl originally meet on in the legend. Or maybe the weaver girl is carrying the dead man to heaven with her so that he can join her in the stars, because even after death, life can still be enjoyed. It is not very clear what the exact meaning of these few lines are, however based on the background information from the Asian legend, there can definitely be interpretations from these lines.

This legend can be read more about here: The Legend of the Cowherd and Weaver Girl

Classic Slam 2012: The Legend by Garrett Hongo/Response
The poem ends at 2:27.


This poem tells the story of a no-named Asian immigrant who is killed in the streets of Chicago. However, there is obviously more to it. The poem also speaks of the troubles of immigrants in America. For example, the anonymous man has "gloveless hands" and wears very poor clothes such as "rumpled suit pants" and a "plaid mackinaw."

The poem also touches on the fact that this man who died is invisible to everyone else. The only time he is acknowledged is at the moment of his death, and even then, no one rushes to his aid. He is still invisible during his dying moments because no one can understand his words; "...people surround him / bewildered at his speech. / The noises he makes are nothing to them."


For a deeper understanding of Garrett Hongo's "The Legend."

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