poetry

A Hyphenated Existence: Refusing Foreclosure


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by: Samantha Cheng

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As Toni Morrison writes: “Deep within the word “American” is its association with white… American means white, and Africanist people struggle to make the term applicable to themselves with ethnicity and hyphen after hyphen after hyphen” (Morrison 1992: 46-47)

And if Africanist Americans, what about being Canadian? And Asian?
Wo shi huayi zhongguo Jianada ren.

As they ask, “But what are you?”

“Now if I was speaking to you on the phone, I would never have thought…”

And so begins an attempt to reclaim… but reclaim what?
An identity that you don’t know the identity of?

Who am I to me? Who am I to you? The confusion resurfaces.

This land is my land/This land is not my land

My arms are flung out to the east and the west.

If meaning is constituted through binary hierarchical differences, what do you become if you are slipping through the cracks, neither one nor the other?

Suddenly inauthentic on both parts, according to both sides.
Tossed back and forth, rejected on all fronts.
Stretching both ways, dancing on the shifting line,
A strange creature caught in the strange light of transgression, of interpellation.

A transition, not a conclusion.

Maybe I am more of a mix than I once thought.
These strange roots, this heritage, this so-called culture that ties us down as much as we struggle against it.
And when we stop, stare on in wonder, amazed that this, this, in embracing it, is the only way we stand at all.
How we stood at all in the first place.
How we stand when we find our way up from kneeling, buried in the clay and mud.

Our resistance?
There is hope after all – after all, there is always hope.
Beyond the black and white, the day and night
There will always be the grey, the dawn, the dusk, twilight.

The creation of limits and labels necessitates the transgression of said limits.vancouver from above

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