1. a narrative
Between memory, muscle and fat is a poetics out of a black, pleather satchel full of photos.
A few shots are of my father, teaching tennis to a group of men in Guam, most of them white. Everyone is wearing white. And there is Leland Doane, who is all chest hair and long hairy arms with a sloped forehead, who had a wife named Phong, who my parents said had gone crazy.
When Leland Doane sent us some of our belongings to Tennessee from Guam, the pots and pans were missing.
When his wife suffered a brain hemorrhage, he came to Tennessee, alone. Too trusting, my father let Leland Doane drive a U-Haul full of our furnishings from Tennessee to California, and of course, we had again, by this man, been robbed.
Not looking at the photos, but instead, to think of them, reveals this action:
My father leans forward, knees bent, black mustache, loose skin, afro, leg out, a lunge mimics where the imagined ball meets the racquet.
2. narrative and disruption
I have never seen a trace of fat on my mother’s body. The idea of fat on her, pure impossibility. When I was a boy, I remember
To write between something else I recall, or after what is triggered from memory, is a place where my narrative disrupts itself, again. To identify with the fractured self, the process of the it forced apart by language, again, is where the self explodes out of the text not by narrative as story—one act—but more simply as found photo—another act—as forming poetic.
Becoming through narrative, or becoming by reaching lazily under a bed to find something valuable, or again, more simply, digging under one object and stumbling on meaning, asks: Does this narrative begin in a black hole? Does it create another diasporic space? Is this space black? Is it a black?
driving in a car with my father and brother, riding beside her as my father kept the speed trained to her marathoner’s pace.
In a box, my father’s torso is
in a white thermal rib top
own face leaning in to find my face
in his black shiny skin)
between my mother, a then fattish filipino girl,
with a cinched waist is
the speed at which she trained
to run off
4. one narrative between another:
My mother in another photo, has arms like Martina Navratilova (circa 1985) her legs
The bend of an elbow around her daughter’s stomach, her long black hair behind her, in a ponytail under a hat. This photograph is what I found, once, and now remember and need to write out of and on to the satchel’s dust, one layer of sense into another.
boomed out in muscle, her arms like thin cannons, clutched around my sister. She wore
This is an act of writing into the fear of fat, which is not about fat but a metaphor for running away from fat into more deliberate forms of excess. This decadent athletics is of a particular moment, the choice to say what I want is to create one version, after another, of a constantly imagining self.
a tennis hat that flopped a shadow over her smiling mouth. Her skin was burnt brown by
Each shot (photograph, point, poem, sentence) my memory, truncation, embrace, deferral, a poetics, is not writing out of or in to, but through the center of whatever I mark to be the current state of what is the deliberate gesture in:
It is impossible to say who I am.
the sun. There she was, dark and almost as muscular as I am now.
Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2001 issue of Fence, as part of The Black Took Collective’s Call for Dissonance.