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51 The Gathering Mind 1. My father finds his father’s name on the wall of internees. A museum in LA. June heat and a dry breeze. I always thought if they captured me because of my race, I’d fight back. Not like the GIs in the 442nd. But if going to war meant proving your loyalty, and doing so might free your family, then— 2. “We were helped in the shedding of dominant kinship groups by the relative individualism of the Angles and Saxons . . .” Tribal as prior, family as primal— But who is the “we”? 3. Thanksgiving. Auntie shows us a picture of “her sister.” My own sister looks at me—a secret glance that says: what is going on? Did you know about this— Grandmother, we learn, gave birth too young. And the child? Sent back to Japan with a couple returning. She’s a woman now, living, supposedly, in Hiroshima. 4. At a different museum: a golden copper alloy bodhisattva punctured with bullet holes. Art as passage— Art as good deed— Art as sacrifice, and suffering as sacrifice (versus suffering as mistake)— 52 5. Valarie is Sikh. Swept up with the rest during the protest, but kept longer. Held harder by the wrists for her long hair, darker skin. Later on East 3rd Street, First Avenue—that first apartment in New York—I’ve no idea what to do to help: make the tea, like always? Burn butter to a crisp in the blackened pan? When I finally hold her, she is laughing and crying all at once. Free and broken. And braver— 6. The construction of US citizenship occurs only when the social body is confronted with difference. Fine. 7. To destabilize the logic of the binary tree, think of the rhizome, says Deleuze . Fern, or ginger root. Overlapping lines and pointless assemblages form planes, not hierarchies, not the tree’s branching into black and white, you and I. But how to re-intuit social reality? 8. I cannot muster the ‘we’ except by finding the way in which I am tied to you. My own language must break up and yield if I am to know you. Judith Butler. I hear she’s brilliant, but at Berkeley, she’s inaccessible. Don’t study there, Valarie. Instead, go to where you most fear. Dine at the enemy’s table, then return. 53 Valarie replies: pain penetrates me, drop by drop. —Sappho This is how it feels, my wrist, neck. In bed all day. 9. I reply: Sometimes I can’t resist running my fingers along a cast iron fence when walking or feeding them to the wind from a car window. How to own the hate I feel for the men who harmed you— Ondaatje calls it the secret rehearsal, those moments before the performance. For a writer: jotting down notes in a subway car or walking through a park in winter, imagining otherwise. I’m beginning to feel the scope expanding: Everything is rehearsal, that secret part of my self always listening. The gathering mind. You once told me you’d be at my funeral. Or I at yours. This brought you such joy. ...


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MARC Record
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