Excerpt from poem:
by great Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali (February 4, 1949 — 8 December 2001) from his work: The Country Without a Post Office.
At a certain point I lost track of you.
They make a desolation and call it peace.
when you left even the stones were buried:
the defenceless would have no weapons………
You needed me. You needed to perfect me:
In your absence you polished me into the Enemy.
Your history gets in the way of my memory.
I am everything you lost. You can’t forgive me.
I am everything you lost. Your perfect enemy.
Your memory gets in the way of my memory…….
When one becomes assimilated, the above poem becomes almost unrecognizable as anything but someone else’s trauma, and someone refusing to forget. Or someone who knows too much. The poem can be read as a story of being colonized, occupied, then so-called ‘post’ colonial.
Assimilated Amerasians who have no memory of war, or the knowledge of the suffering of their mothers and fathers, who have chosen to forget–to refuse memory, and displace it to include versions of history learned through personal (and dislocated) experience or the language of higher education books and political movements, will read the above poem and find it touching and puzzling, yet somehow familiar…..
When one is in touch with that gape in history that is relegated to our private or even annihilated into some past that we learn to be an impediment to our personal “happiness,” when social history is pushed and crammed into what Americans say is “personal,” there is that which clashes, memory to memory, history to history.
There are crevices, echoes. Bones of history and displacement, alive, life itself.
Our parents and grandparents increasingly become irrelevant to individual lives. Cultures and valuable ways of caring and relating, crumble away in the name of a false promise called success or maturity or progress or the good life. This is the way colonization of the mind-body happens. A Desolation. A peace that is the aftermath of violence, a continuity. Countless of these. Bones and blood, marrow and muscle.
Where can there be peace without justice? What does this “justice,” then, look like?
Decolonizing is hard work and joyous.
As a transnational Japanese Black Amerasian like myself, this poem speaks for me, through me, as me, with me. This, then, links me to the world’s mourning and empowering.