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grieving, leaking

what if this is not about blood at all?

Poetry | Zuihitsu
April 15, 2022

This piece is part of the 随筆 | Zuihitsu notebook, which features original art by Satsuki Shibuya.

a friend asks if i’ve visited the places my ancestors were buried. i answer, their bodies were 
cremated, at least i think, not sure of the ashes. as if to say i can’t answer that question on its 
terms, i give up.

what if this isn’t about that myth of ancestries uncoiled, helical, one-to-one encoding in
blood, i mean, what if this is not about blood at all?

i think my grandfather is buried in my wrists. the way mammu’s spoke the language of 
gesture, each hand a bird, each hand a flight from all it could not contain and all that could 
not contain it. 

i think i have not begun to know the burial places of ancestors, mine, ours.

missing some bus stops, i graze past linden hill cemeteries in ridgewood. through the fence i 
read the names, mouth them to myself, every vowel a window the breath goes through: 
arizmendi, fernandez, ethel. each hard surface smoothed to a lake, a sign someone took the 
time to polish to a mirror, maybe, and the flower garlands and candles tracing pilgrimage. 

my father once told me a recurring dream: a spiral staircase narrows and narrows the higher
you ascend, each step smaller than a foot, a heel, a toe. i think this staircase is in the house of 
the family, in the monument to the origin story. i want to get him out of there. am i there, too? 
get me out.

i want my volition to leak through the dream.

that afternoon, m. and i paused at sylvester’s memorial stone in golden gate park: musical
notation to you make me feel stopping before mighty real. no, the lyrics were not printed, i am 
just recalling them as i’m recalling the notes, their cascade down an abundant, gentle slope. i
get back the roll of film after nearly forgetting it, light leak purpling earth and rock. marigolds 
strewn like notes off a stave: was i the one who placed each fiery head here?

purple is a fugitive color, a pigment that alters easily when touched by elements. when could a 
color be elementally untouched? in the imagination?

some etymologies imply these words constellated:

leak      lack      lake       leech       lagoon     lacuna      loss

i flip open a notebook i filled at twenty: i feel the queerness bursting from my pores. it gushes, just so 
much, isn’t it embarrassing? so much i want to embrace the younger me—is that person my ancestor too? 

i cannot contain myself because you make me feel. the leak as excessiveness when i could
have written excess, as a memory unfurled to its burning.