There should be a map key of tea pots and sim cards &
when a Muslim auntie pours lemon ginger for a sister in Mazar-e-Sharif or a Uyghur uncle calls
his mother in Kashgar: how are you &
your tomatoes and apricots. That’s when i globe around my shoulders & find my people
i want a map on my back & if they come for you i can’t turn my back even
if they don’t come for me yet even
if mama spits shells of sunflower seeds & squints
what the fuck are you crying for even
if study suggests china isn’t syria & even
if my body domesticates disasters by holding hostage another country’s rivers
This map can’t be made by the cia calculating
billions into cold mines & coming out hot blooded monsoons
This map can’t be body counts & body cams
This map can’t be minced by hellfire missiles
This map can’t be plotted by gps or grief or grenade
This map can’t be about brown pain or cause brown people pain. Nobody
can hold this map upside down like columbus sucking the marrow out of my peoples’ land—
gold or coal or petrol—without choking on my ribs cus i swallow pipelines too
Nobody destroys high-value targets to save my grandmas & cousins & nephews
No one shoots a terrorist, no, not even in video games & when i stitch my people onto my torso
No one wipes you out with a drone-soap, oops, system error: one million corpses
No one is stopped-and-frisked. No shrapnels in my lovers. In the spine
i want the map guide me to grandma’s lullabies: lavender field in bomb bunker where we
silent dance party all night to songs swollen in your stomach
i want the map a recipe: cinnamon, coriander, cloves, cumin, curry leaf—my people
slice onions, tomatoes, chili peppers & sauté & simmer in my pelvis—my people
slow stew protection spells in apricot preserve & when you disappear I save you
jars unopened for your return
In the body, where everything is out
of place. i want a map tattooed on my back where patrols are orange peels—my people
in one piece, spiral indefinite extension from Sheikh Jarrah to Altishahr to Guantánamo &
When mama sweeps sunflower seeds shells & asks
So what the fuck are you crying for, i turn my back & show her—my people
are everywhere even we always miss each other
Mama, i am part citrus, part cyborg & i offer hands full of jam
by which i mean sticky prayers spread thickly across my back
Stay safe. Take care.
*Written against the “global war on terror” & in solidarity with the peoples affected by the forever wars. For a full statement of meaning, see tinyurl.com/notes139.
This is a love poem & small prayer for the peoples affected by the ongoing “war on terror” in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, China, in diaspora and beyond. As someone from China and someone not racialized as a “terrorist” body by the forever wars, I want to reclaim “my people” in multiplicity and solidarity, and speak against both US and Chinese imperialist-nationalist definitions of “the people” vis-a-viz “the terrorist”. It is an attempt in homage to & in conversation with the Iraqi American artist Wafaa Bilal’s 2010 performance … and Counting and the scholar Ronak Kapadia’s essay about Bilal’s work. In a 24-hour live performance, Bilal’s back was tattooed with a borderless map of Iraq covered with one dot for each Iraqi and American casualty near the cities where they fell.
2. This is also inspired by poems of love: in particular, Fatimah Asghar’s If They Should Come for Us, Danez Smith’s Dinosaurs in the Hood, and Solmaz Sharif’s Reaching Guantánamo.
What happens when you build a relation-ship that is destined to sink before it floats? What happens when you surround yourself with mental moats? This story is a story of a small boat housing two people that have no future hopes.
To You, is a mini poetic play. More importantly, it is a black queer love story. Written and Directed by Mekael Daniel Starring Eden Alemayehu and LaNiah Moon
(Q and B are on opposite sides of the stage. They look unsettled. Both are carrying string (or rope). Q starts making her way to center front stage, leaving a trail of string behind her, but stops a quarter of the way there)
To You, Q,
You who caught my string.
You who is contained on this machine
Our relationship only lasted two gigabytes
By that, I mean our relationship is held on a screen
(Holds up phone)
The pictures and videos only barely capture your sheen,
(Looks at screen sentimentally)
I wish I could’ve been with you a while
These truths I seek
But no words can I speak
(Puts away phone)(starts walking to Q with string in hand. When they intersect, they walk in a semicircle around one another (Interlocking the string) and walk about talking distance away from one another)
To you who left me weak
You who caught my string.
You who helped me sing.
When I first saw her, I melted
To say that her eyes contained the sky would be a lie
Her Beautiful, Beautiful darkness belied
Which birthed these words
That asked her to do these verbs
With a certain nerd
(Turn to Q)
I guess that’s a roundabout way of saying, I’d like to chill sometime
And I’m not tryna pressure you
Just can’t stop thinkin bout you
You ain’t even really have to be my girlfriend
I just wanna know your name;
We can hook up,
We can hang out,
We can just… chill…
Oh you’re a direct one.
I’m Q, rhymes with few
Q-could be my boo?
Not with that rhyme. I know you spittin lines but I don’t even know your name, foine.
I’m B, but, you can call me fine if you want.
I’ll let you know off top that my name rhymes with few cause few women impress me
Then why are you still standing next to me?
Pshhh be quiet fool.
But I guess that’s true, I dig you
You into me, I’m into you, so what it do?
What you mean “What it do”? what do you do?
I’m a drifter
And a Skipper
With a lil bit of hopeless romantic on the side
Do you like have any hobbies or…
I told you. I’m a part-time Skipper
Like skipping hopscotch?
No, Its hard to describe…
The metronome of metal on wood
The sound of
Wind in your ears
Wind in your hair
Wind in our sails
Lines rope around metal
Connecting two entities
An invisible line connecting you to me
As we rock rhythmically
Waves ever so gent-l-y (enjambment)
Soft noises of sea foam fizzling
I’m assuming I’m on a boat?
Yes. A sailboat. Wanna try out your sea legs sometime?
How can I say no?
These ropes and sticks are kind of beautiful lookin
We call these ropes, lines
That’s oddly artsy
Lines, movement, motion
Is it oddly artsy or is art just oddly packed full of sailing references?
I mean, why not?
All these lines, and yet we both have such little time
This city aint mine
I gotta go home soon
So… Yeah, little time
So what does that mean?
(Picking up string)
You caught my string.
sometimes I find life ties with others
Making my lifeline composed of intricately twined timelines
There’s a lot of timelines in this universe,
We are all travelers, honey
Yeah, but I don’t come from money
Does that wanna make you call me honey?
(Hesitate, vaguely gestures towards strings)
If we keep up this dance
Our lines will form patterns
That you can’t un-weave
Now that, I don’t believe.
So what if you don’t come from money
This is just little thing,
Just a little fling!
Don’t you want no expectations between us,
No future dreams?
Here’s the thing
You leave soon, its either that or we end it
… I still wanna send it
B Laughs and embraces Q
Did you just say ‘send it’?
Q is such a qtpie!
Q: Can you be more cheesy?
Can you be more dreamy?
But this is fun, I guess…
And what’s wrong with a little fun?
Whats wrong with a lil fun?
To romance art thou numb?
What if I fall for you?
Isn’t it true that you’re only here for a few?
I don’t think love after three weeks is love so true
Yes! But aren’t these moments fun?
I guess on the ocean is a wonderful way to meet
Under the summer sun
Exhausting our infatuation in the heat
The golden hour begins
See, I love this.
This vibe is so mellow
Swinging on the ocean
while the sun hangs low
and becomes an orange moon
Your eyes reflect her light
and illuminate the gloom
that was here before me and you
between these two entities,
the flowers of companionship bloom
It’s getting late, we should head back, but I’ll see you later?
Yes! Tomorrow, maybe?
Tomorrow it is.
A little kiss, maybe?
Yes, and thank you for asking
Lights fade out before they kiss. A stunted silence follows. A light focuses on B, staring pensively at their phone
These minutes eventually turn to hours, into days
Lost in your gaze
This glittery haze
Together we sway,
My tongue yearning for your sweet
And, entangled, we say not a peep
Our hearts beat, tongues bend and twist
Without you there’s this abyss
This nighttime loneliness
I keep telling myself it’s a temporary phase
That these feelings change
But if I’m being honest
I’m trying not to fall for you
In the middle of the night resist calling you
Stalling our inevitable blues
This inevitable abyss
The loneliness of nights without you
A second light focuses on Q
The loneliness of nights without you
B turns to tie random sections of the string together
A second light focuses on Q as she talks
My loneliness when resisting calling you
Why do I resist calling you?
You’ve taught me the ocean blue
Your incredible hues
How to sing the blues
To sing of moons, mountains, and you
So why do I resist calling you?
Or is it resisting falling for you?
Our lifelines are already tangled too
And, these last few days with you are a hallowed few
But, I gotta think of myself, boo.
You don’t want me to love you
So why should I?
Lately I been hearing symphonies,
that love is from within me
So I don’t need your love, B
I don’t need you to call me
Don’t want you to fall for me
B, Finished with the string, watches Q finish her speech solemnly. Q goes and starts attempting to untie the strings
These last few daysarea hallowed few,
I truly want to spend them with you
But I’d rather not fall for you, see
Its stressful wondering if I should call you
And when you leave, we’ll only have screens to communicate
Long distance won’t work for me
Our tangled lives will rush by
But, I still I want to see you again, please.
Q:Still by the strings
See, recently I’ve been meditating on us, trying to contemplate
I’ve said what I said, but I’ll try to elaborate
I have to put myself first, or else I lay prostrate
To these demons out here tryna tell me my place
Tryna take up and restrict my space
So I’m standing strong
With all my facets
And If you don’t want me to be with you now
I don’t want to see you in the future.
I still care about you
And I’ll still remember your hues
Remember those ocean sunsets with you…
Going to strings
My future is uncertain
my hearts been hurtin
when I think of losing you
and ill be honest that I freeze when making decisions such as these
I like you, that’s for sure
But long distance still holds no allure
So I’ll make peace before
We go our ways
Before the concept of us gets lost in the haze
Before we start to loathe these absent-of-you days
So, is this goodbye?
Our final sigh
It feels wrong, but what feels right?
Tonight is our final night
Our final flight
Being with you has been a dreamy delight
But those saccharine dreams are over
This lil moment in life has been a four leaf clover
But clovers wilt and die
Go into the ground and turn to soil
Over you have I toiled
With you I’ve been spoiled
I’ve been learning
Experiencing your treatment
How you kiss my feet
You’ve raised my standards
Oh my god you’re so sweet
So I’ll say goodbye now,
Plant the seed of this lesson in ground
Watch as my future blessings compound
Due to this moment in history, profound
And I’ll watch you leave
And remember how sunlight weaves through your hair
Please turn your eyes to me,
I just want one more time to see your face so fair