Saturday, June 25, 2016

Project As[I]Am has re-opened its call for submissions! Submit your work by July 5th for a chance to be included in our issue, themed "Our Greatest Resource," on emotional labor and solidarity through love.

This week, I wanted to write about something completely mundane. I moved into my new apartment this week, putting everyone who helped me through hell. I started working on a bunch of fantastic spreadsheets this week. I interviewed young people about their experiences with arts programs...

But all of that got overshadowed by the obvious, by the tragedy that Orlando and hit our communities at large. I wrote a very personal piece about the experience of grief and media management over at CultureStrike, and I did two interviews about the incident as well. It was the only way that I felt useful, offering my words in place of anything more material. It still doesn't feel like enough. I mention it only briefly here because I have felt spent; it's worrying to me that on one level we are carving up every conceivable angle of the thing, but on the other the news cycle has already moved past it. It's a weird time to celebrate Pride. It's a weird time to forecast any sort of future...

In the past week, I also flew out to New York and attended the Kundiman writing retreat for Asian American writers -- perhaps because I was going through so many life transitions in the past month, it didn't fully register that I was going until I arrived in Newark off the red-eye and had to navigate my way into the city (hint: don't get stuck going the wrong direction on the AirTrain, it takes forever to get back). Little did I know that the retreat would be such a gift. It was so vital to me to bond with Asian Americans doing creative work and who have been doing creative work far longer than I have. Too often you have to hunt down Asian American literature in bookstores, and rarely do I feel connected to any sort of legacy. I walked away with not only a community of incredibly generous writing folk, but a long list of books to read all through the rest of the summer -- when I'm not furiously typing out my own additions to that canon, that is.

I'm leaving off this post with a few examples of my outlet writing for these past few weeks; though the form I wrestle with most is prose, I've been doing a poetry-a-day group for Ramadan as an outlet. Here are a few of my favorites from the month thus far:

Pantoum #1 
Bloodstained sheets, early morning,
Bound volume of poems,
Yellowed at the edge.
She carries it all with her.

Bound volumes of poems,
She never opens,
She carries it with her, always;
Reminding her of bloodied things.

She never opens,
Never tells the stories,
That remind her of bloodied things.
Instead, she carried them tightly bound.

She never does tell the stories,
Preferring to wash,
The things she carried tightly bound,
Bloodstained sheets, each early morning.

Red snake headwrap,
Blue round headphones,
Tongue perched on the edge of her mouth --
Nearly silent laughter.
Public places,
Work meetings;
She speaks volumes with her eyes.
At night, she performs ojhu alone at the sink,
In shorts with unshaved legs exposed,
Water on the tongue passing dangerously close,
To her throat.

He lived in a broken down house,
With peeling paint and shredded carpet,
Magazines and old newspapers taped up over the windows.

they come here to die, he said, and then repeated it.
I took a seat and listened.

at the end of their lives, he said,
they come here.
pale translucent skin,
running clumsily on broken legs.

Do they go quietly? I asked.
He didn’t seem to hear, or didn’t want to.
i just can’t ever put them out of their misery…

I watched one trail down the drain as he was speaking,
Turning, quivering, pausing,
The mere suggestion of an animal more than its flesh.