For years of unceremony, without hope.
But, to be truthful, I have been looking
for your innocent look, for the clasp of discovery,
in all the unfamiliar places
I have known.
Never having known elsewhere of it
I have become a quiet addict
of passionate exile.
Sisonalidio “What Do You Remember”
I was drawn to this poem and this section in particular b/c I regularly teach a course on Coming Out narratives and even more so courses on or involving queer media. The films that move my students most are those ones involving discovery and loss, hope and longing. All of these things are wrapped up in the subtle and beautiful lyricism of Sisonalidio’s poetic voice in this piece.
There are stories I want to tell when I get home from work and start to prepare dinner. I have so much to say about the strange new world I walk myself into: the white faces, unmelodious English, and the strange ease of rich people. I want to hold up to the light the bizarre and unspoken rules I learn alongside the classroom lessons I give. I’m still unsure whether people like me in positions like mine possess the right to tell stories. I let gaping holes in my publication record speak for me instead. I let silverfish and booklice eat away at the words I haven’t yet written. The pattern of silence is a story itself.
Sisonalidio “School Tales“
This final paragraph reminds me both of all the things I do not say (yes, sometimes I do keep quiet) and all the “gaping holes” in people’s CVs that I find myself reviewing all the time.
My training says these holes mean someone is a “problem child” and will likely not “fit.” My training warns me to read the recommendations all the more carefully and to put my ear that much closer to the rumor mill.
My experience, on the other hand, tells me to slow down. It begs me to look carefully at the subtle shifts between the research, the courses taught, and the pubs that scream “safe” “edgy maybe, but safe”. Most of all, my experience draws my eye away from the CV to the endless shifting politics of identity, to google searches about population break down, benefits, climate. I note the shifts from she to he or zhe. I watch careers unfold in the absences from knowledge that will let you pass to knowledge that might make you “fail” or grow silent and still.
So many stories we cannot tell. The blogosphere is no refuge anymore, peopled as it is with academics, some of whom gladly admit they monitor one another’s prose and draw hard and thick boundaries around their mobility. Crossing those dark lines alone like huge gaps, create new silences, and new fears. Warnings abound.
And so I look at sisonalidio’s story of silence, and nod. I look at those CVs and ache. Will I be a gatekeeper today? Closing the gate on myself.
I’ve met the people who mirror me in other places who slam doors with an ease that closes in on all of what is me with profound silence. They fake brotherhood (yes, and forget about the sisahs, or praise them only when they meet some unspoken expectation) while upholding a system that say woc don’t get tenure or shouldn’t. Or that brothas who speak up instead of signifying like Steele or Thomas, should be shunted. Does everything go quiet when they do that? Or does the silence rage?