I can feel the back of my skull CRACK against the University of Arizona Poetry Center theater floor. I can feel the scream follow the rug burn from the tops of both my feet into my scalp. I am seeing stars. Or are they bombs? I scream. The crowd is watching, so we must go on.
During the Q&A after-performance, I am asked what should be taken from that room in which I rose a beast of ugly truth—specifically, a sudden re-enactment of the Japanese army’s victory dance through Nanking. (This was never planned. I was ashamed later that night.) And in this truth, I burned a light. Though what light, now I question, does not scar once more the people into whom I gallop at the limits of my body?
The limits being:
A) __________ aggression over Vietnam.
B) The Trưng sisters’ revolt.
C) The second, third, and fourth wave dominations of the __________ over Vietnam.
D) The spit against my mother’s tongue against a Chinese name.
E) 1,000 years of hate.
A) Japanese aggression over __________.
B) Then two bombs that would change everything inside the course of our own hands—my father and my body.
At the limits of my tongue, only that scream may drag it out. A yellow thrashing bird on fire.
When I perform, nothing is planned except the space in which I move. Specifically, the chairs must move. The air must move. Again, EPHEMERAL, the theme of this year’s Thinking Its Presence (TIP) conference, being also ARCHIVE.
Here, I write a MANIFESTO. Then my limits split. Consider this a TIP post-drip.
THAT PAINFUL, LIGHT AFFINITY
What conversation may be had within the murk of pan-Asian atonement, solidarity? Remember that we read this all in English at the limits of our bodies.
Who are you who describes herself as an Asian American Feminist, who works and writes toward that identity, that affinity, that necessary self-affirming love? And you ask yourselves if you must retreat, scared rabbits, into the forests of your own imagination, your own prisons and clearings, your entanglements of words versus concepts, of dreams versus reality, of expression versus interpretation, of language versus life, knowing in all your sensibilities as a woman writer that you face the struggles head on.
—Nellie Wong, “In Search of the Self as Hero” (This Bridge Called My Back)
In search of sisterhood, we must leap to loud extremes, defining empire and bloodshed as our own. I think about Yoko who looks more Vietnamese than me, or so we had been told as children from our mother. Perhaps looking like our mother brings my sister closer to the ocean.
I stare into the crowd. A woman in the back covers her mouth. A woman near my left begins to sob after I say, “It hurts.”
The impasse being:
A) To speak around and not about the crimes against each other means that we are always women bound to fathers, husbands, sons.
How to use this concept in a sentence:
Though my mother knew the Japanese as cruel, she still married my father and then miscarried two sons.
B) A diagram:
How to use this white space in a sentence:
We are fighting to be seen beyond the borders of our skin.
C) Imagination takes the place of war, commits to scrubbing at our wounds, invades the rot and flesh and heart. I use this heartbeat in performance.
D) It hurts.
Sophia Terazawa is at the crossroads. She wrote I AM NOT A WAR (Essay Press) and is currently studying poetry at the University of Arizona.
Featured Image: Screenshot of opening gesture used in performance. Filmed on June 24, 1979, as part of a “60 Minutes” special on CBS.