Monday morning and nothing is exactly as I’d want it to be. And that is fine, really. I take a deep breath and am grateful for the coffee.
I spent this weekend with kind people whom I haven’t seen in years. And people I’ve never met. I have moved a half-hour train ride away and it may as well have been to an island in the middle of the ocean. Funny how easily a little resistance can shape a habit. Can dig a ditch, can build a wall.
And I would love to think that I will pull myself together and become more social. But I am still finding life completely overwhelming. Still wondering whose body this is. Whose neck I see in the mirror. Wondering how exactly to talk to people.
Yo soy. Yo no estoy. I am goo, and you can’t hold me to anything I say right now. Or rather, anything I say won’t hold. I am fluid and formless.
I don’t know myself, but it’s not the result of an unexamined life. On the contrary, it is a life so examined that the fabric has been teased apart. I am a collection of discrete elements. And I am trying not to panic.
I recognize something in the line above; I am a loose collection from a poem I wrote in 2016. From the book I wrote wherein the translator described the poetry as my “late style”. I read that as a curse.
How have I survived rattling around these past years? Wide-open, and pinched simultaneously. A sack of bones.
At 4 am yesterday I was focused: writing. At 4 pm I crashed and splattered like a water droplet. Every time this happens I wonder if I will walk away for a day or two. Or for a year or two. Or more.
Identity is a complex issue. Language. Nationality. What they call the “formative years”. The America that shaped my formative years is not the America of today. I have lived here for more than half my life. For more than thirty years. And yet when people meet me they still ask me where I am from. As though answering that tells them anything about me.
I am from roach clips, milk lines, and Stranger Danger
I am from paisleys and bean bags, tv dinners and moon pies
I am from fire & brimstone, and inappropriate touches
I am from kerosine lamps and cinderblock walls
I am from scholastic books order forms and second-hand clothes
I am from guns and gophers and bloody chickens
I am from photographs cut carefully around the shapes of bodies
I am from sudden disappearances, fresh starts, and new names
But I say something like, the West Coast mostly, I moved around a lot. Then they tell me about all the times they have visited America, or the relatives they have there, or how much they love or how much they hate the culture. “Americans are…” and they begin to shape me.
And I go home and dig a little more deeply into the ditch that separates me from the world. I am still too easily twisted by casual contact.
Leave a Comment
“I don’t know myself, but it’s not the result of an unexamined life. On the contrary, it is a life so examined that the fabric has been teased apart.” These two sentences speak to me so entirely. And I love the way you can take that reality and turn it into words that take flight.
I have used that George Ella Lyon poem/prompt with my students: “I am from…” and it demonstrates how we are synthesized from a wild constellation of experiences, cultures, upbringing, place.
But what most intrigued me in this post is your idea that your life has been so examined it’s teased apart into loose threads. Wow. What do we do that knits them back into an integrated whole? It seems therapy may not be enough; art helps; love, too.