How will you begin?
— Bhanu Kapil
The way a snail crawls out of her shell,
cross boundaries almost as soon as I drew them.
a strong believer in the Chinese saying “a thousand-mile journey begins with a single step,” I spilled out into the world. Could not tell the difference between me and the painting I saw that day,
what was me, what was the painting. These days, I begin
with a sound.
a thanking of the four directions, water, earth, air and fire.
The world is whim; the sun rises every day to date.
swallows a door each time, deeper.
If the whether is settled, the how is accidental. Some mornings, I begin
Is your life good? What do you do with it, and how do you feel about that?
— Sesshu Foster
I tamper with it until it blows up in my face and I realize
I could have sat with it and listened. Sometimes
sole provider for my adult daughter and her daughter I want
to only be responsible for myself. Last night,
the sounds of an animal, likely a coyote, scratching
against the window, knocking on the wall. This morning the smell
of medicinal herbs, bark and root being cooked by my mother, I stay
umbilical corded to my families.
working three jobs for a basement studio apartment that frequently flooded and barely affording to feed myself, I’ve learned from my mother how
to laugh at my job, to laugh at the holes in my shoes and then duct tape them shut,
I am angry that life is unnecessarily hard and I am lonely.
I write, often in my bed/ livingroom. Dance when I turn on the radio or commune beneath black strobe-ing lights without liquor. And when he says that his accomplishment is as much his as it is ours, I think of how I like all my doors ajar.
My life borrowed. Woke up
and ate dim sum and eggs and broiled cabbage (which my mom assured me was good for my digestive system), then I washed it down with orange juice. I rise into the sky, fly across county lines. This makes me feel like a slow learner, the kind that would exasperate an average teacher.
I have to return it in the same condition it was given to me, clean, innocent and pure.
… in the company of language that has been met with potential erasure; what happens in that kind of collaboration between the impossibility of utterance and finding the means by which to utter?
— Myung Mi Kim
I am having a very hard time understanding this sentence. So, let me try
to translate. Each time surprises.
a reclaiming of first sound and new sound
So much hope at one time; now, he can’t pin-
point one place his life could’ve turned to right
Creativity and civil disobedience.
the hopes that, in remaining unchanged, changed
him for the airier, the air about him
Lots of days I prepare for the possibilities of uttering. just in case. I walk thinking
there is always “a case” holding the wall around the corner, trying to sell me
something I don’t need or take from me the Psalms full of wishes
for comfort, protection, revenge: good
returns for faithful waiters like him.
knife needing a handle and a wood block.
how deeep the wound.
the abuse of our mother. Alcoholism. Ancestral memory
isn’t always an easy collaboration what Louise Glück says
in her poem, “The Red Poppy”– I speak / because I am shattered.
How many generations does it take to heal? Two, three, twenty? By writing through a rupture, can one hope to get across it?
— Pam Lu
The ink a triple bypass, but I intend to cause ruptures
Each generation The black lungs of the sulfur mine and the heads lodged with shrapnel
one generation to seek a crevice.
re -lives the pain of the one before.
At the same time, I like ruptures. Blood never forgets. (How)
are we befriending this body of rupture?
How do we navigate these buried maps? How do we locate our own native meridians? How do we measure our own time and space?
— Craig Santos Perez
about time in more of the African religious way, where time is present
at the back of your head and I am walking backward into
our internal compass, discerning the landscape of our world below the surface of what we’ve been told,
I do not trust maps. My intention to deconstruct my white privilege No map can lead you to your meridian.
delivered by those bent on controlling where I travel. My aim to become lost.
the body unable, immediately, to divert itself from the usual, historical repetitions. Humans spent 3000 years measuring things, and every measurement we have ever made has been inaccurate.
Conversation over food. easier to navigate together. Late night baking. Every measurement taken with the heart. Backyard gardening. Directing most/all of my anger at men.
My uncle had his uncle draw a map of the old estate. Marking where his grandfather buried bags of silver.
Each vein is an edit.
Here, under this tree. There, by the stone.
by the gray hair, by the books collected, by who has been born and who has died.
My uncle tried twice to recover them, once in the eighties, once in the nineties. But the land had changed. The mountains witnessed his digging back into time.
In my fury—I am more woman, more a part of things, more articulate and unafraid.
In the nineties, after the second failed attempt, he started a business. We measure our story by the number of other stories we run into, collaborate with, collide with.
we cannot locate ourself by ourself.
Last I heard, his business was successful, and he was wealthy, so he climbed Mt. Everest.
What if lineage is a line of lit fuel?
— Michelle Naka Pierce
I love my herbs textbook.
the general description of each herb, its functions, dosage, its action in combination with other herbs, its properties compared to other herbs. My dad died from cancer three years ago. Then the historical commentary. Who wrote what about this herb in which century.
How they disagreed, and argued about how to use this herb. At night, the ripples of wind.
Lines being blurred, being bent.
Even knowing that each wave erases what came before
Hopefully, some lucky seekers will arrive there:
Before he passed, my uncle held ceremony in our living room. In that circle my dad said, among other things, “I am the first born child of a first born child.”
Standing in sand with water carving every grain around and under your feet. The textbook makes no judgment, only presents the arguments over the centuries.
be a segment, extending it, helping to light it.
The readers get to decide what they think, who they side with. Well I am the first born child of a first born child of a first born child. That is a line of lit fuel.
But then the work breaks down again: how do you recombine these “parts” — these fragments — that were disseminated under brutal conditions?
— Bhanu Kapil
If you trust the person you whisper to,
learn codes, new patterns, new techniques, learn to shape shift, learn the ways of trickster
because that person is outside
the gate, and can relay your cosmos to the book maker,
quilt making made from scraps of cloth or stew made from left over meat and vegetables or what happens in the act of revision – fragments can make a whole.
Inseminations recombine fragments, and as such. This feels like a contraction. 40,000 acres somewhere in the Brazilian forest that have been given to corporations this year.
you still must
sit still on the rough bench and wonder
about the editors. Stanley Kunitz said that the heart breaks
and breaks, and it breaks
How long can I sit and be attentive when the world is blowing up?
— Myung Mi Kim
The image of the tree that remains intact while simultaneously being on fire. What is a self-portrait, other than an attempt to breathe between shifting your bones?
28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds
both potently attentive and in constant chaos.
The opposite of destruction
can’t be construction but rest, runners
who, relaxing, run faster. I live
in a world of blowing up.
to be on the street and mobile, and here in the garden, with this breath, on the page?
What is the recombinant energy created between languages (geopolitical economics, cultural representations, concepts of community.)?
— Myung Mi Kim
When she speaks with Auntie in between-language, she pretends
I don't understand. I see these as items that in close proximity can magnetize each other -
The imagined space that exists
between the pockets of the way we name
objects and what they do
like cutting up a speech, slipping parts
variously into a wall of slots, and wondering
which ones will land
with which people. I wish
I could live in an island of between-language
energy compels or propels them towards and away from each other, I would
live inside the breath of a hollowed out pit, of pith and hunger. Forced mutations
(which I am trying to embrace).
emboldened and burdened by the continued proximity of difference.
The grapefruit we are both eating, the dirt we both washed off of our hands first.
I get it, I say, I get it. There is fire, new registers of aliveness.
i have no earthly idea... I understand my name in any language.
Are your feelings somebody else’s ideas?
— Sesshu Foster
Plenty, yes. I hope
as I pass them from my body, nothing gets stuck…that it all translates
to you, the writer,
just as thunder is not mine. My life is never my own.
Down the burning lineage, I feel the fishermen, Marcos-protesters, abandoned children, the “tomboys,” porridge makers, adoptees, judges, cancer survivors, writers, striking a match, the clack of lined-up dominoes on the sidewalk of my blood.
No small wonder that I feel damaged at times.
What word could mark the change in me? What word could help me get to the other side?
— Tina Bartolome
It took us about ten notes to slide into a harmony. What word keep me, what word cling?
Why? Beloved. Why? Focus. Why? Listen. Why? accountability
Many of the questions I still have no answers to In the discordance, some held and some gave. What word free and now need prune?
I do not want to do things alone anymore.
What are the consequences of silence?
— Bhanu Kapil
Everything that has happened,
having an opinion, and wanting
to say it,
for as long as we could imagine.
I love the peace, concentration, and light that silence affords me.
not the same as waiting for the fire.
Silence out of anger
potentially preserve relationships if only used as a holding ground
Forever on the verge but never honoring enough forward momentum.
Better to jump into a volcano. Auntie says, you don’t need to know their names. Mother says, you don’t need to know their names. I can hear your heart beating in my throat.
How such a decision does not have to equal silence.
can be a holding of the thought, the knowing for a time when it can be used by others. Fewer burns.
The sunlight is so bright up there.
Ching-In Chen is the author of The Heart’s Traffic (Arktoi Books/Red Hen Press) and co-editor of The Revolution Starts at Home: Confronting Intimate Violence Within Activist Communities (South End Press). She is a Kundiman and Lambda Fellow and part of the Macondo and Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation writing communities. She has worked in the San Francisco, Oakland, Riverside and Boston Asian American communities. Ching-In currently lives in Milwaukee and is involved in union organizing and direct action.
Collaborators/Participants: Todd Wellman, Constance Lee, Aimee Lee, Lily Wong, Vincent Toro, Carina Farrero, Kyla Searle, Monica A. Hand, Susu Pianchupattana, Serena W. Lin, James Autio, Vanessa Huang, Shiaw-Tian Liaw, Porschia L. Baker, Nan Ma, Noel Pabillo Mariano, Stacia M. Fleegal, Joy Mariama Smith, Rona Luo, Evangeline Ganaden, Jie Tian, Dalila Paola Mendez, Kimberly Zarate, Anne Coyle, Rachelle Cruz, Stephanie Hammer. Translation assistance: Monika Maria Schultes, Cheng-Hsing Chen.