Ginger Ko on "The afternoon, and other places too"
The afternoon, and other places too
Glows through the icy rims of your ears
And the tips of your milky fingers
Which are delicately freckled like seafood
You pat your skin still so dewy plump and say
Maybe I shouldn't even be here
You say this to me
Who has fought for years to get here
And the world lifts you by the armpits
Gently dips you in
Then lifts you out again
Against a dirty nape with curdled creases
I strive much in this little life
With such repeated wave-like flinging
I muster the missing materials
Onto itchy sizzled shoulders
They give a kind of ivory quality pleasure
On "The afternoon, and other places too"
This poem was written with some anger, during a time when all my poems were rebuttals to anticipated put-downs and critiques, especially the ones scaffolded by racism and misogyny. I was getting frustrated with my writing and my voice, feeling suffocated by an ingested, self-reproducing colonization in my bloodstream. At a certain point in my writing I wasn't even fighting with things that had happened, but with things that would happen if I acted certain ways. That I did so much arguing with things that came from inside me was speaking to the internalization of everything I had been taught: beauty is this way, knowledge is that way, power is any way but your way.
At the same time, I couldn't bear to be so serious. How could I be so severe about a voice that's ridiculous because of a lifetime of indoctrination? So I decided to work with the skills I learned from schooling (with just a little bit of kidding): careful richness, overloaded architecture, contorted emoting. And with them I wrote about the unavoidable casing for it all: skin and body.