Published by eohippus labs based in Los Angeles. This essay was part of their Annex Series, collection 2 on Inherited Trauma. Edited by Janice Lee, with essays by Chiwan Choi, Saehee Cho, and Don Mee Choi.
Out of print.
So say it
What can I say, and how. When pain stifles and the body turns to light–what then and next. I recollect, re-collect the arcing sunlight pouring through the antique windowpane to halt, projected on the wall. I bend my wrinkled palm to mirror their dynamic CURVATURES, strive to lick its fluencies and draw ephemeral, fleet strength into my tongue. Rough, how faint. No mark. No trowel signs in the skin. No torn landscapes unveiled inside me. No heat. No words. None and none and none. Just a blurry blue bleed on the fair interior of my left wrist.
After what we said is gone. Lost. The way of things, I have learned, is dynamic dissolution, or another way of saying transform. Who am I turning into all the time, and who has walked through me, through these arterial conjectures we call “ancestry” or “name that space for the history you can’t hold.” Did he have a name, and she? Rough coats of paint become intimate against my softly open mouth. I want to say “umma” or gurgle. Her body draws back like blown sand on the infinite, stormy gray shore of my mind. This room is blue.
To express grief, I made a a fragile banner. It contained words that I’ve forgotten and have no record of. They caught in the wind, they shuddered in the restless breeze over a cold body of water. From a distance, everything shone with electricity and charge. Up close, I was solemn, prismatic. With one kind stranger as witness, the words caught fire and fled.
There’s a lot I don’t know any more. The panic seeps in when I realize how banal everything can become with duration. The black bucket of my heart that swelled, flooded, wanted to pour endlessly out of my mouth–even that corrosive sea has tides and has recently receded. It stands simply like a glass of water on my desk right now. I’m observing it with detachment as I write. I tipple my finger along its rim, feel its wet mouth strive to cling again to mine.
Catalog all the things you can never know.
Now paint them in your dreams with blood.
Some things feel rightly mine. My name. The arms and legs I use to express myself, the gestures my features unconsciously make. They never betray me. I am of them and myself. Other things feel right but I question if they shouldn’t feel wrong. The banks of the Potomac. The red Virginia clay of my childhood, which I can still smell. The miniature crawfish in the sparkling brook, dappled oaklight, humid summer. Many things feel wrong. This illuminated screen. The way I have to hold my body before it. How pens now feel in my clumsy hands. Never sun. Never starlight. Never wan moon like a low cup in the sky. Mine, mine, mine.
Seo-Young describes post-memory han as a type of time travel, or mind-reading, a form of speculative intelligence that rises in the flesh–the ancestral memory drawn near without words or hands. I imagine a black light irradiating my bones. A negative sun. I hesitated just now at the keys to tamp out those words. Negative implies oppositional. Negative can mean absence, perhaps. I think of what spins the other way, invisibly. Is it a balance, then, for all other inherent joys? What is a birthright if not written in blood. “A refusal.” The thought drops away like pale ash. There is no such thing as balance. We’re all always tilting, turning, curving into or away or towards. Another way of saying transform. Try it. “In that black light, transform.”
Am I angry? Yes.
Can you name it? _______
Describe this pain: It is wet and drowns but burns.
With what equivalent fury? The sun.
I never wished for elders, because they were absent in their own tribulations. I never wished for friends, because I have them in loving droves. What I wish for is some way to ignite and extinguish this black starlight inside me. I move slowly, meditatively, and others see a type of joy. I move slowly, meditatively, and I strive to channel a heaving, resentful magma core. It eats words, it exposes me as the pale paper I really am–fragile and porous, to be thrown about or soiled. A record for no recording. Just a name, set down in fire and gone.
What can I do but serve as small witness. I mark the sun’s shifts on my windowpane. My memory erodes swiftly, faster each day, and my sight dwindles like steam gathering on clear glass.
What do you want to say, so say it. They suffered. Many were at fault. They were ground out into the soil then lost. What do you want to say, so say it. They had names. I do not know them. It feels fresh and without cause and we churn. What do you want to say, so say it. IT CRIES. IT CRIES. IT CRIES.