Half-watching. Half-asleep. I flutter with misrecognition. We don’t ask for life,
we have it thrust upon us. Young woman turns back.
Laptop glow frames an empire’s rain-drenched cul-de-sac. We don’t ask for history,
but it asks too much of us. Don’t want to be a mother, she says.
Don’t want to be a woman. Don’t want to be this particular person living this
particular moment in this forgotten corner
of this dangerously particular country. Perception is a gilded cage.
I mouth along to A Taste of Honey, taste its pallor
like sherbet under a trained tongue, you need someone to love you
while you’re looking for someone to love, is there is no end to this looking,
to this being looked at? And who among us hasn’t mistaken a field of fallen soldiers
for something other than a wasteland of promises?
The fear is: the chalk of our origins will not smudge.
The fear is: it was never real but we will spend our lives pretending it was.
We will call this the purest form of love. We will call it nation.
When we say we want no part of it, we mean we want everything.
We want more than we will ever be given. The rest is history, is fossilized heirlooms,
is bastilles of bone and beauty, is cubicles of inherited shame, is domestic
entrapments where we build solitary shrines to our suffering.
Take this toothed necklace I refuse to pass on. Winged, white-headed bestower
of neck strains and dehydrated guilt, hug my shivering shoulders.
My hanging albatross child of Arabic’s guttural diver, al-gattas,
by way of Portuguese sailing ships, those carceral caravels
scouting African coasts, generously giving their name to Alcatraz,
to prisons on islands, to islands made prisons. Arm-in-arm,
two friends light my screen, walk through a twentieth-century mist,
its tendrils snaking from chimneys, from emptying factories,
from their bitten lips. Unlike writers, they have no reason to distrust their hands.
They did not ask for what they hold.
They will not mourn as they are told.