Digital Poetics #7 ADVICE FROM MY GREAT-GRANDMOTHER: POEM FOR THE DAUGHTER I NEVER HAD: Bhanu Kapil
Avoid spaces in which white people you don't know congregate.
[Sorry, but that's the end of the poem. It's the last day of May ***, and it's the only thing I need you to know. Don't worry. The other stuff is there. In my notebook, I've scrawled the recipe for saag* and a remedy for menstrual pain**, in the long tradition of instructions passed verbally within a family until they reach the descendant. Can a ghost be a descendant****? What happened to your blood? Who drained you off?]
*Add a tablespoon of red lentils.
**Blue cohosh, vitex, nettle, valerian root, motherwort, boiled to a simmer then strained.
***A month of carnage and ambivalence, characterized by the prevailing belief that whiteness confers a kind of greatness. The imperial category was both acute and weak in the first six months of 2020. We snapped it in two but it tripled, evoking a bygone past. We noticed, also, that it wanted its own comfort**** at all costs, and that when comfort was denied, it froze to a high sheen. That sheen was a wet mirror. It absorbed and deflected any glare. "I was protecting my wife and child from certain violence," said whiteness. And: "I did nothing wrong."
****Kenneth Jones and Tema Okun: "The belief that those with power have a right to emotional and psychological comfort; scapegoating those who cause discomfort; equating individual acts of unfairness against white people with systemic racism which daily targets people of color."
Avid, precise, murderous.
The syllabus, once a radical category, was out there more than it was in here.
In the world you live in, I'm not sure if there are universities, or a country called The United States, or another country, The United Kingdom.
Daughter, this is a poem and so I'm sending you my courage.
And I'm sending you my love.
What I know of your great-great-great grandmother is this:
Under British rule, she wove a hemp rug dyed with berries and other natural things.
On this rug was a leopard.
The leopard was wearing a diamond choker.
A bloody tongue poking out.
Goodnight, said the leopard, a word stitched vertically in front of its face.
Can you discern it?
Goodnight, white supremacy.
Your veins are dangling from my teeth.
Bhanu Kapil is the author of six full length works of poetry/prose, including How to Wash a Heart (2020), Ban en Banlieue (2015) and Schizophrene (2012).
This publication is in Copyright. Bhanu Kapil, 2020.
The moral right of the author has been asserted. However, the Hythe is an open-access journal and we welcome the use of all materials on it for educational and creative workshop purposes.