Some Brown Girl: This Morning’s Free Write

This morning, I saw that Raina León had posted this link to Patricia Smith’s beautiful “Letter to a Young Poet,” and it got me writing til my wrists were sore: {REVISED!!}

Dear Brown Girl,

  1. I am sorry to have to tell you the things I say here may not be the things you want me to say to you.
  2. You may unfollow me on social media, and this is OK.
  3. There are those who say it is bourgeois privilege for the battleground to be the page; so be it.
  4. You came to me, asking how a brown girl writes and lives, lives and writes, when it seems all is against her.
  5. Words like “patriarchy” and “empire” disorient; “prestige” and “status” convolute.
  6. You sought kindred words from me, for our ancestors’ tongues mix themselves up in our heads, and we no longer know the accent marks and glottal stops.
  7. Their bodies (our elders, their words) so prone, fear of attack and erasure knitted into our neural networks; we came of age always in danger of a kind of extinction.
  8. We came of age here, thinking we were exceptional.
  9. You don’t want to hear me say that we are not exceptional.
  10. You want me to affirm your outrage, and to affirm your response to outrage, and perhaps I can do this, for there is outrage in my blood also.
  11. But there is also so much noise, so much shouting in response to shouting.
  12. This is where we place a value on “voice.”
  13. This is where we come to buy and sell voice.
  14. This is where we invent adages about voicelessness.
  15. And we continue to shout the things that other people are shouting.
  16. I must confess, I no longer know exactly what you are shouting; I hear the words, but I do not know why you are using them, and what they mean to you.
  17. I fight against my shouting too; I am no better than you.
  18. I want to think we are all resisting becoming the thing we are shouting at.
  19. I fear all this shouting could deplete our loob, which is where the wisdom of our elders has rooted.
  20. Conquerors did document this wisdom as superstition, as godlessness, as the lore of women and unenlightened people.
  21. You have come to me asking that I serve as beacon, and now I see we had not previously agreed on what needed illumination.
  22. We are now busying ourselves with curriculum vitae items, noteworthy mentions, hit counters, hyperlinks, and into social media posts, from glass ceilings, the dropping of names onto unswept gumstuck floorboards which barely cover the dirt.
  23. You must understand, I thought we came here to discuss “liberation,” and now I see we had not previously agreed upon defining the term together.
  24. One brown girl’s liberation is another brown girl’s bloated administration, monuments of micro-aggression, mansplaining, and migraines.
  25. One brown girl’s “woke,” is another brown girl’s morass of vacuous memes and info-bytes, as if these things were precious clean water during centuries-long drought.
  26. May we always return to that loob, where there is potential for our cells to grow something rarely seen before.
  27. Not all experiments yield viable results, but nobody cares about some brown girl, and so we might as well be worldbuilding from our loob— their unmapped places — using whatever we can get our hands on.
  28. Remember our grandmothers were experts at third world improvisation, filling our bellies despite famine, selvaging master works from basura; we marvel at how low and few the parts.
  29. Even my late father’s love for swap meets and junkyards makes sense to me now; in taking what’s been broken, what’s been made obsolete, in taking throwaways, last year’s offbrand items, inkjet printers, scientific calculators, remote control race cars, landline telephones, tinkering and reconfiguring these into something else, breaking them open to find the one reusable part.
  30. Often, his experiments failed, and we were left with mountains of parts in his garage; this was my father’s loob.
  31. He was a master of salvage and scavenge, and we were ashamed of his junk.
  32. Perhaps this was my father’s way of saying we could never buy prestige in this country.
  33. I never wanted to agree with him; I committed myself to fighting him, even when the evidence was in his favor.
  34. Now my father’s scavenging has become my unruly poetic statement, my verse monstrosities, my mixed-up diction.
  35. Some label our creation abhorrent, some pray it will just disappear, some recognize that third world scavenge and have to turn away.
  36. They turn away because we remind them that they are so broken.
  37. They turn away because of the terror being torn from one’s loob entails.
  38. Don’t let others repackage and relabel terror as anything else but terror; don’t let them sell it back to you at a premium.
  39. I am sorry to have to tell you the things I say here may not be the things you want me to say to you.
  40. You may unfollow me on social media, and this is OK.

Leave a Reply