The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New poems (131-135)

2014-08-03 11.18.32131.

First he came crawling on his belly

A leather bound note book in his mouth

— I sent him back

Then he showed up like a donkey

pulling a cart behind him

he wore blinders like a race horse

looking for a master

— I sent him back for the note book

all leather & bound

 

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132.

On Tuesday he returned

a platter of kisses in his left hand

& a note book entitled:

The Mundane, the Sublime & the Fantastical

Sit, he said

Write

 

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133.

You are the skin of my back, girl

I tell you, you are

You hold me together

even when I hardly ever think about you

 

but when there’s an itch, a pimple

a thing that is beyond my reach

my whole body comes to a standstill

 

Help me, I ask my friends

get that itch, I ask my lovers

& they try

& they approximate

& they want to help me, they do

 

That’s it, thank you

but my body still vibrates with unease

because you’re the skin of my back

& you hold me together, girl

 

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134.

As my head poured out yesterday

I came to understand the following:

for others it light & love

for me it’s only you

 

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135.

that, & this:

A is the laziest but most elegant of cards

that 6 is the hardest working number

followed by 8

2 is eager

3 shirks work

4 doesn’t care

9 doesn’t pay attention

 

Queens are hardworking but extremely privileged

so much so it’s hard to see her work

coz she’s just so upppity

& yet nothing happens without her

the King wouldn’t know if he was coming or going

she holds him

she binds them altogether

& the Joker is a Joker

that’s always true

 

7 & 2 are cousins

best not to let them be together

they can’t be trusted

 

5 is just stupid

but that’s nobody’s fault

& 9 is lovely

everyone knows that

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The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New poems (126-130)

2014-08-03 11.18.32

126.

I need to forget

the whisper of your fingertips

& the firm hold of your palms

so I can know the sensuousness of skin again

 

but I won’t forget

I can’t yet forget

the way you move beneath me

 

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127.

Men in red t-shirts and khaki pants work inside

men in blue t-shirts and rolled up khakis tend the ground outside

a snake pours out of my head

 

Men in red turbans & blue t-shirts

their faces & hands covered

in dust & cement

(who knows what they do)

women in white serve food

 

a snake slithers

 

sullen women in brown sweep, mop the floor

I sit at the beach with a snake dangling from my head

 

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128.

 

Red ants black ants pale orange ants

red ants black ants pale orange ants

tree tree tree tree tree

palm fronds in the wind

my head pours out

a red hibiscus

 

more women in brown — housekeeping

they will not greet me back

my head pours out

snake after snake

snake after snake

snake after snake after snake

 

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129.

first snake slithers in the sand

monkey shit on the steps won’t wash away with the rain

angry-looking guard men at the gate in white

 

my head pours out

starry nights

monkey shit

 

first snake disappears

others writhe about for a while

 

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130.

 

a family in single file

the boy — red shirt, green pants — cartwheels

the women— heavy with a multitude of colour — shuffle along

three girls — red dresses, gold trim — skip, skip, skipping

a man in an orange shirt, rolled up pants at the rear

a riot of colour against the blue grey of the sea & sky

they stop to picnic

& colour takes a break

 

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (121-125)

2014-08-04 16.58.39

121.

Thursday morning

a gong from the night sky

the rest of the world is asleep

& i’m madly collecting thirty words

(& their kin)

 

words slip from my fingers

stick to my sleeves

slide back, slide back gravity bound

 

i’m going to have to recreate the whole world

with language from these thirty words

but what’s language without possession

or colour?

 

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122.

Thursday morning 4am

thirty words are left on the living room floor

none of them articles

none of them adjectives

none of them pronouns

none of them coloured or even black

 

The list of things to do in a pile of letters

the calendar is blank for next month

& the past week

thirty words fall in a cascade

(so what is a world without letters?)

 

if I speak, will words fall from my mouth

gravity bound

& attracted to their kin on the floor?

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123.

When you suggested the Lord’s Prayer

there was no indication that your left ring finger

had anything to do with it

 

There were eyes pressed against the window

the window

eyes with tongues hanging out of them

 

the window

the window

long tongues, lecherous tongues

at the window

the window

 

eyes looking straight at me

the window

the window

tongues slurping

 

the window

the window

the window

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124.

Your hands on my skin

like yesterday never happened

like the shiver of a spiderweb in the sun

like time vibrating

like praises to that same god

only a breath’s worth

 

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125.

& forgive us our trespasses

as your finger bleeds into the bucket

forgive us your trespasses

our trespasses

yours

 

the debate rages on

until your ring finger

tired of being married

drops off from your hand

& walks out the door for good

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (96-100)

 

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96.

today we woke up

both of us barrel chested

we looked at each other

& laughed & laughed & laughed

 

it was funny to see that both of us

had lost all evidence of youth

we laughed until we ached all over

 

& then it became clear:

our belly muscles

the ones that used to hurt from laughter

had now relaxed, opened up

 

& now we have more space for grief

& now we know each other

as containments for much more

 

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97.

one mother:

this is who you are

this is where you’re going

& this is how, when & why

 

another mother:

this is who you are

this is where you’re going

& this is what will happen

how, when and why

 

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98.

yesterday my skin became the sky

& you remarked:

the sky is so blue

 

last night you said:

the stars are so bright

 

you couldn’t see that i was imploding

that the stars are a sign

that there will be no sky tomorrow

 

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99.

Having already

lost a beautiful string of lettering

that had formed into a poem

I should take the day off

 

These days

lost poems remain lost

a requiem to one is the best I can do

 

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100.

It’s the movement, isn’t it?

 

From a collection of recipe bits

to grinding, chopping, frying

steaming

releasing the aroma

from the combined bits & pieces of you & me

The Mundane, Sublime and Fantastical: 165 New Poems (81-85)

2014-08-02 20.54.12

81.

Last night she comes round to our table

cupping her hands and says:

    • I’ve been collecting words.
    • Only beautiful words

She opens her palms

& words cascade onto the table

creating something sublime

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82.

She smiles & leaves

she returns with a phone in her hand

she says:

  • these you will need to listen to
  • these words will lace your brain with poison

She hands the headphones over to me

She whispers:

  • poison

I’m sure she says poison

not:

  • glory, glory, glory

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83.

It’s finally warm in Vancouver

Granville Island is resplendent in beauty

I’m being pulled out of a hole in my head

There’s a pressure there, like birthing

Enjoy, says my Kenyan friend

Drink some water, says my Polish friend

I wonder if I should sit down, my Acholi self suggests

Vancouver is beautiful

Where am I going, leaving this body?

Vancouver is beautiful

Why am I still here?

Vancouver is beautiful

What is my responsibility in all this?

Vancouver remains beautiful

Enjoy your existential moment

Drink waer

Sit

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84.

We don’t fight, we don’t quarrel

we don’t finish each other’s sentences

or ask questions beyond the banal

or plan

or dream

or hold hands

or go anywhere

or think anything at all

We smile, share meals

clean up

watch TV

sleep together

& wait for the other to die

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85.

I returned unrecognizable to those I’d left behind

I returned contaminated

covered in nastiness

spewing nightmares

(You see? You see?)

I only said I wanted to finish the song

(You see? You see?)

Now they won’t let me anywhere near the source

It’s not me, they say

The me they knew had nothing

wanted nothing to do with music

(having been away for so long)

The me they knew will never come back

or get to anywhere near the source

A Minute with Juliane Okot Bitek

An interview by the lovely people at the Interdisciplinary Graduate Studies Program

A Minute with Juliane Okot Bitek

Juliane Okot Bitek

Juliane Okot Bitek is a PhD student in Interdisciplinary Students Graduate Program.  She holds a Master’s Degree in English and a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art (Creative Writing).  Her doctoral research focuses on post-conflict narratives of formerly abducted women in northern Uganda.  Juliane is an essayist and poet whose work has been anthologized and published widely in literary magazines, on-line and in print.  She recently completed a book, Stories from the Dry Season, which she co-authored with Grace Acan, a women’s advocate in northern Uganda.  Juliane has been an invited poet at the International Poetry Festivals of Medellin, Colombia (2008) and Granada, Nicaragua (2009).  She continues to write and speak about issues of home, homeland and diaspora.

We interviewed Juliane Okot Bitek in July 2013.

Essential biography:

“A Chronology of Compassion or Towards an Imperfect Future” International Journal of Transitional Justice Special Edition. Vol. 6, Iss. 3. 394-403.(Fall 2012)

“Dreams of Home Place and Belonging: A Fractured Essay for a Sense of Home.” Cutting Edge; A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies at UBC. Vol.1

Drums of My Flesh by Cyril Dabydeen (Tsar Publications, 2007) Canadian Literature: A Quarterly of Criticism and Review 198 (Autumn 2008) Canada and its Discontents 106- 107

What is the best moment of the day?

For certain, it’s got to be after dinner. With the exception of days when brilliance shows itself whenever it does, the moment supper is done I feel as though all my responsibilities for the day have been met and the world is mine.

What kind of music do you listen to at the moment?

I don’t have a music collection on my phone. I don’t feel the need to be plugged in and I’m also afraid of missing out in real life sounds.

Do you listen to the radio?

CBC Radio while I make dinner so mostly I catch the news. As it Happens and sometimes The Current Revue. On the odd Sunday I’m thrilled to catch The Vinyl Cafe with Staurt Maclean.

What was your first job?

Selling snacks at the cinema before and during the intermission at my mom’s kiosk. I didn’t get paid in cash but we got all the benefits of watching movies, playing pinball games and watching concerts for free.
What Academic books/articles are you reading now? In preparing for comps, I have a bunch of reading to get through. At this very moment: Dionne Brand’s Ossuaries, James Scotts’s Domination and the Arts of Resistance, Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks and Richard Delgado’s Critical Race Theory.

What Non-Academic books do you have on your bedside table?

They Call Me Lolita, 419.

When you were a child, did you want to study a PhD?

Where do you work?

At the Liu Institute for Global Issues.

Do you discuss your work with other researchers or academics, aside from your peers?

Yes, anyone who will listen.

Describe what is to be “interdisciplinary”, like you would describe it to a good friend.

Like a good outfit made to fit your figure through different sizing for the top and the bottom but it looks good together.

What interdisciplinary research or work has given you the best satisfaction?

The intersection between the politics, creative and critical writing, reading and thinking is so exciting when it comes together in a piece through the works of Toni Morrison, Dionne Brand, Wangechi Mutu, Wambui Mwangi, Anne Carson, Audre Lorde for example.

Is there any researcher or academic you admire or appreciate a lot?

Oh yes. My supervisory committee are my intellectual stars.

What advice would you give up to aspiring Grad-School, or Grad Students.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint, and so it’s important to work your core muscles, eat and sleep well.

What are you afraid of regarding the future?

That my core muscles won’t hold.