port out/starboard home

Ed Bok Lee is the writer-in-residence at the American Swedish Institute in conjunction with a project by Coffee House Press. He invited me and four other visual artists to create one-minute videos in response to Passages, a poem that he wrote ‘translating’ a piece of personal writing in the ASI’s collection/archives. You can read more about it all on Coffee House Press’ Blog. I’ll post my own Passages after the opening on Wednesday, February 19.

Working on this project reminded me – again – that I’m the ‘immigrant kid of an immigrant kid’ and that it’s very likely that my children will be ‘immigrant kids of an immigrant kid of an immigrant kid’. Isn’t there some hoity-toity meritocracy word for ‘people like me/us’? A word that glamorizes moving around internationally and sanitizes the social/economic/political conditions that push/pull ‘people like me/us’ out of our homes (and ‘home’ throughout the African diaspora is such a contested concept as it is) and around the world looking for peace/stability/possibility… Third Culture Kid. Gah. Oh, wait, the Anglo-Caribbean Jet Stream (‘home’, UK, Canada/US {the Franco-Caribbean Jet Stream might be a thing, too, like Haiti/Martinique/Guadeloupe, Quebec, France…}) doesn’t count.

Anyway, my mother and I talked around all of this. I wrote, sent it to her, had it shot down for exposing too much, and wrote again:


We argue
About the line between
Exploitation and claiming a history…

Three of us land in Toronto
Our luggage is somewhere in South America
And we have no home of our own
and it’s Christmas

Eighteen of us cheer as we touchdown in Kingston
For a family reunion
at Christmas

My sister and I disembark in Point Salines
Alone, or rather,
Just us two
For summer in the mountains with my father and Grandma

My sister and I land in Montego Bay
For the funeral (a full Anglican Mass)
It rains, there’s mud everywhere

But, ‘She died with no debt, in her own home.’

This is meant to be instructive
I make note of it; it’s a directive
I make it mine

I’ve excised the rest
Out of respect for the living
And, perhaps,
because I don’t trust them, either