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Exile and Refuge

As an immigrant woman, an academic of diaspora studies, a white "other" in a sea of American whiteness, I navigate the layers of difference that are always contextual, never fixed, at times a deficit, at times an abundance, a surplus. These poems manifest this quality of translation, which is both my curse and my lens through which I observe and make sense of the world.

For all the places I have lived in

Is a referent exile

The outline of a straight line from rough to clear unknown to progress

Is the fantasy that gives meaning to my now

For every place that has met me is one

I have packed away from In the cadence of my sadness

Is the pattern of exile and refuge

For every idiom grasped, every face read, every attempt at conquering my visitors status

Is the fierce stubborn wish not to partake

In the life of others In the life like others.


In the cadence of my sadness is the resolute wish not to be- long

Not to be-loved

To observe from the fringes

To be able to choose

To pack away from.

But memory is disingenuous negative space spilling out of the straight outline makes another exile possible.

My life a map of global terrorist attacks,

Reminding you of what and who you left when you left.

The cosmopolitan girl of the thousand adieus

Patches loyalties to places and times of passage,

In the cadence of my sadness is the secret of my life

Like no other.

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