Places | Migrations

Writing Letters to Mao

What does it mean to experience a history of trauma and blood in ephemeralities, in residue?

Dear Mao.

slow-moving, blurry, immersive but obscuredIf sleep is an ocean, then it is because we are migrants inwardly sighing along to its many oscillations . . . awash in the knowledge of three: body, bodying, father stood watch at the living room window, looking for tunneling cones or roofs detaching. Our home in the south of the island slept between the ocean on one side, and on the other large dark hills, so I could always know what it was to be at the same time cocooned and ready to arch a distance.

Dear Mao, If the world, drowsy, were to be washed in a sheen, perhaps we would all have some intuitive knowledge of the immigrant body

Mao Zedong was the suffering of your family, Mao Zedong was the loss of homeland’s soul,Mao Zedong—,to harm, to wound, evil, calamity.

Dear Mao,I hope you understand that what I am doing is trying to give you a history of water . . . History as water, so that I am giving you something that spreads.

It is important for you to understand that never once did I long for a different life, which is not to say I never longed for home . . . for although as a child I was often homesick—at school, at the neighbor’s house, anywhere unfamiliar or foreign—I also at times felt an inexplicable longing while inside my own house.

Some nights I dream of subtropical trees and their serpentine branches, but more and more my days are filled with escarpment and carapace scattered across the beach. The shells are emptied, abandoned; they are waiting for history to declare them whole.

Dear Mao, You were dust in my house. A shadow underneath the floorboards.

Dear Mao, In stories we kept reading, wandering was a punishment, and we were instructed to pity the immigrant, the foreigner, the stranger. But what if the absence of a point of reference is not something to be lamented but a structural foundation on which to build a house we fill with water?