people intellectualize: exile, poverty, torture. my friend doesn’t. for years on end, there is no sharing of personal stories that may have caused tears. in the piece i am posting below, she writes, “tears are irrelevant in this place”, when in her company i sob, incessantly, as afghanistan’s farkhanda is murdered, syria’s kurdi washes up on the coast, pakistan’s taseer takes the bullet. there are times when i just know i have to go to her, and she listens, often without looking at me.
cathartic writing is de facto primal, fauzia has always said to me, and crying adheres only to the beginning of the process of writing. crying, she doesn’t denounce, but sees as part of the process, seminal but not central. there are many people who cry as they write, and every word causes a downpour of the big wave. post-crying, the swarm of bees, references of personal associations with the subject, clear; clarity sets in; a poem/story takes off. i don’t understand what she means; i just respond to the emotion, and the sense of justice it is tied to.
then, here and there: a few stories appear: personal political, or political personal. through the apertures, i learn a thing or two about the exile, the torture, and the poverty. bereft of the lived experience, i contemplate what such terms we host in the often too intellectualized spaces really mean, and can’t get past the “factory-farmed” meanings. yet, there is no crying, just ongoing solidarity with those who we pathologize, and take pictures of, often without asking, to adorn our own sense of charity. surrey muse is un-funded, singularly imagined to create spaces for all kinds of people, especially those who don’t have a space to go to, and this is her vision; the rest of us founding members haven’t found another working formula to wrestle white privilege, and structural ghettoization* of writers of color, especially the ones fighting for the means to move to the end, any end: a small chapbook, self-published, with one’s name entering an imagined canon of sorts.
she writes, in 2015, an autobiographical story about her love for flowers, in telling a tale that is otherwise seeped in the history of violence against the people of color, and the treatment refugees receive in canada, which she ends with a comparison between herself, and a minority in Pakistan/a black man in the US/an Aboriginal female in Canada. yet again, she doesn’t cry for herself, or for others for that matter. here too, the stress is on the struggles of other people: a comparison that hierarchically puts her in a place of power, invisibilizing her own struggles, at once cognizant of her own privilege of what she can do and another can’t.
how can you cry when you write a poem on blasphemy?
or white supremacy? or religious extremism? or the duress which silences, shames, strips us of dignity? you just reveal your small brown frame, and say: i am here, like farkhanda, writing from the niche i created myself, standing amidst the surveillance points, thinking past the hallucinatory states, in clear-eyed solidarity.
i am so proud of my friend. i love her. and, i love the work she does. silently.
The link to her post:
Memory Wall on the Strip: a Mirror for the Officials of the City of Surrey
*(forgive me, if you are sensitive about the term, and see it in the exclusive framing of the african american people’s struggles, but this post is in solidarity with those struggles, and accept my gratitude for seeing it that way.)
From Sana’s facebook timeline, December 31st, 23:06.