“It is perfectly possible-indeed, it is far from uncommon-to go to bed one night, or wake up one morning, or simply walk through a door one has known all one’s life, and discover, between inhaling and exhaling, that the self one has sewn together with such effort is all dirty rags, is unusable, is gone: and out of what raw material will one build a self again?”
English is my mother tongue
A mother tongue is not a foreign
lang lang lang language
a foreign anguish
English is my father tongue
a father tongue is a foreign language
therefore English is a foreign language
not a mother tongue
what is my mother tongue
my mammy tongue
my mummy tongue
my momsy tongue
my modder tongue
my ma tongue
I have no mother tongue
no mother to tongue
no tongue to mother tongue me
I must therefore be tongue-dumb
damn dumb tongue
but I have a dumb tongue
and English is my mother tongue
is my father tongue
is a foreign lan lang lang language
a foreign anguish is English
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space
I’ve had enough
I’m sick of seeing and touching
Both sides of things
Sick of being the damn bridge for everybody
Can talk to anybody
I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…
I’ve got to explain myself
I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N.
I’m sick of it
I’m sick of filling in your gaps
Sick of being your insurance against
The isolation of your self-imposed limitations
Sick of being the crazy at your holiday dinners
Sick of being the odd one at your Sunday Brunches
Sick of being the sole Black friend to 34 individual white people
Find another connection to the rest of the world
Find something else to make you legitimate
Find some other way to be political and hip
I will not be the bridge to your womanhood
I’m sick of reminding you not to
Close off too tight for too long
I’m sick of mediating with your worst self
On behalf of your better selves
I am sick
Of having to remind you
Before you suffocate
Your own fool self
Stretch or drown
Evolve or die
The bridge I must be
Is the bridge to my own power
I must translate
My own fears
My own weaknesses
I must be the bridge to nowhere
But my true self
I will be useful
Rabih Alameddine in Koolaids: The Art of War:
In America, I fit, but I do not belong.
In Lebanon, I belong, but I do not fit.
Where do you fit and not belong, or belong and not fit?
I belong to myself, but I try to fit where I can make myself useful.
“It was difficult to see and hear those words repeated, in media reports, articles, military and even White House briefings: ‘The Filipino people are resilient.’ A characterization which should raise anyone’s hackles, with its image of a jelly blob, quivering when punched, then quieting back to what it was before the rain of blows: sans sharpness, inert and passive, non-evaluating of what happens to its self.
No, we are not resilient.
We break, when the world is just too much, and in the process of breaking, are transformed into something difficult to understand. Or we take full measure of misfortune, wrestle with it and emerge transformed into something equally terrifying.”
a. Kenya is multiple: developed, hyperdeveloped, underdeveloped, undeveloped, voided, erased, forgotten, unremembered. That is not quite right. Development cannot be the master term to map multiplicity. Let the statement stand as a symptom of how Kenya must be talked about.
b. Kenya is many: like a piece of food on an uneven grill, it is charred, undone, raw, overdone, tough, tender, flaking, bloody, chewy, rendered, and still waiting. One might write about “hot spots.” Sometimes, flames break out.
c. Kenya is time-fractured: the too-fast cuts across the not-yet, the rapid pace still trying to catch up with the always-had-been, and we splay across time zones, ancient-not-yets, impatient to be where we have already been and must already have forgotten because memory cannot sustain the undoing of the having been.
d. Sometimes, there is a pause.
e. Sometimes, there is a reckoning.
f. Don’t look now.
g. We are, even now, bits of fading insistence.
h. Some of us insist on phantom pains.
i. Telling the story, the clear-voiced narrator drops into a mumble, gazes into the flame, blushes at the fire’s insistence. Stutters.
j. Some of us are squatters in someone else’s dream. Some are still trying to be imagined into an us. Some imaginations strangle and steal. Some imaginations steal away.
k. We fossilize too rapidly. Fossils fear discovery. Fossils fear forgetting. We are sclerotic. We survive to never-have-been.
l. In the wind, a faint hint of maybe, a wisp of hiding. Voices haunt the fractures of subjunctive worlds.”
"1: Whose Kenya@50," Gurika
Some of us insist on phantom pains.