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Zuihitsu for the New Diaspora

The roar of life through a thimble.

Poetry | Zuihitsu
April 15, 2022

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

In Cornwallville, thinking of Kabul. The hush of new snow—and leafless. Balkh, Bamiyan, Herat. Jalalabad with its orange blossoms necklaced on a thread. The girls had given it to me that spring. Now a bookmark. The blue light of winter morning. Icicles on red berries. I watched them fall. 

We drive to keep the baby asleep. Wet firewood, wild turkeys, a ring-necked pheasant. Mistaking hunting posts for tree houses, a wooden stag for new life. 

G. wrote, your language is home. Each morning I trace my evictions. 

N. finally crosses the border. Eighty-five hours by bus. A wife and four children. His press pass buried in his father’s yard. Nangarhar—Kandahar—Quetta—Karachi—Peshawar. Goes to Saturn to get to Venus. Dirt roads and forged papers. Two five-minute piss stops. Bribes the size of windows. A car accident. Pneumonia in his newborn. He is thirty-one. Hair frosted. 

My memories begin at age nine. Before that, a long, white expanse, mute as a rope.

Nothing is quiet about small towns with their hateful lawn signs. 

New York to Florida and back. I come of age along a corridor. Gregory. Linton. Hawthorne. Vanderbilt. Each move cleans the tongue. Circle becomes sare-kal. Bald head. 

All my life trying to name the thing without naming it. 

Father’s laugh rises from a wound. Every year, on the day, the tease: “Your birth was a curse.” The year of my arrival twinned with the Soviets’. It’s August. I stroke the taut lampshade of my belly. A black band bisecting it. A flag. Soon, my son, his own twinning: the end of an occupation and its harsh exit.

Who will I be once the gates open? To have to learn anew: the latch, the loop, and how lonesome. I want to be multiple, a hologram, slippery as a foal. 

In a snow globe shaken violently. A thousand points of undoing. To be unmoored repeatedly. Torn from a soft, knit blanket. From this distance, most color is out of reach. Just the wide blue gape of disbelief. 

The “witching hour” is apparently the baby’s effort to process the day’s information. A system overloaded. The roar of life through a thimble. 

Welcome. Language laughs back. Opportunity. Who wants to leave? asks Z. Allies. Who wants to be a spore? 

Sitting by the East River, in the sun. Trying to recover a new leaf, a stem, some anchoring green in this skeletal season. On the bridge, pigeons. Tercets of bubblegum feet mapping an arc. 

At last, someone comes to salt the path. To scatter and seed, to lengthen the radius from home.