MARGARET RHEE has worked as a clerk at a clothing store, journalist, the West Coast Web Editor for Back Stage Magazine, organizer, teacher, go-go dancer, research assistant, babysitter, and for the past five years: project manager of a PAR project out of the SF jails, for the past three: doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies at the University of California.

For poemas, she co-edited the chapbook anthology, 'Here is a Pen: An Anthology of West Coast Kundiman Asian American Poets' (Achiote Press) and is the managing editor of 'Mixed Blood,' a literary journal on innovative poetics and race, edited by C.S. Giscombe. Her chapbook Yellow/노란/
노랑/Yellow was published by Tinfish Press in 2011.

A Short Note:

The academic industrial complex and the prison industrial complex, as Fred Moten and Stefano Harney write in “The University and the Undercommons:” “The slogan on the Left, then, universities, not jails, marks a choice that may not be possible. In other words, perhaps more universities promote more jails. Perhaps it is necessary finally to see that the university contains incarceration as the product of its negligence.” How does the academic industrial complex perpetuate silence—from undocumented students, those from the working class, silence of the ‘undercommons.’ The prison industrial complex  keep people in, the university keeps people out. The university is not innocent.

Thus, when included, you are expected to maintain a joyful narrative of entry to higher education. The university silences where you come from, there is no space for contradiction, we are happy students, happy teachers, happy well acclimated workers. The university grows fat upon silence(s). Yet, the consciousness that Gloria Anzaldúa writes so much about, (and in this discussion of labor) reflexivity of class/backgrounds, from all positions of the university machine remains crucial. Thus, this paradoxical bind for subversive academics is necessary, to even begin to fathom reimagining the university.

Transformation of the university
the language and tactics
of poetry.

A Poem About Work

Here my world is created     through books
How to unpack them
Make disappear      my girlhood horrors
Not so different from    my mother’s    and my own
I try to sprint away     into   worlds of
Paper and ink
I try to understand   but its all so confusing to me
Because it makes itself over    and over again
And because the more I know   the lonelier I become
The second time I went on a plane    the first time by myself
Was for poetry   Landing in Virginia
I knew all at once    My world was so very small     I desperately wanted to remake it
Maybe like God with his hands       Creating Adam and Eve
With dirt, sun, and creatures all around
A graduate student once told me, I wasn’t cultured or interested
Because I didn’t know who the Ayatollah was
It’s not that I don’t want to know, it’s just that I haven’t traveled much
I regret telling him   Because I don’t think he really could understand
That there is a lot I don’t know
My father at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard
On a ship that would never move
A ship that broke his back
He showed me his hands
And taught me what it meant to be blue collar
He pulled at his workman shirt, and in broken English
Told me I must grow up to be white collar
To never work with my hands.  To not have my back break
To sail on ships that move fast across the ocean
And into lands far away

My mom’s hands are thick & calloused too, gruff from holding
Wigs and dollar bills in a store she works at in Watts
She’s worked at a dry cleaners and Lucky’s Supermarket
She says a job is just a job  and sometimes, she
Doesn’t recognize her hands anymore.
She says, you shouldn’t study so hard
Because her friend in Korea was at the top of her class
Then she married bad and now she cleans houses.
My hands are calloused from holding pens
My back aches from slightly hunching over daily
Taping on mechanical keys
I realize all together how much I am
Grateful for my books and how much I hate myself
My dreams are so thick that I can’t hold them
In my palms. And I can’t swallow them either.
But in them, my father is sailing and my mother is not working, and
they are very happy.  It’s quite simple.
Except the map leading to the end of a dream
Is not only impossible but sometimes unimagined.
You must marry well, my mother says, then
You won’t be like me. You won’t have to work at all.

Fred Moten and Stefano Harney "The University and the Undercommons: SEVEN THESES"
Social Text Summer 2004 22(2 79): 101-115

No comments:

Post a Comment