western sydney fugue

By | 1 February 2022

1. parramatta

childbirth is as bloody as war & I am
due to give birth soon. I too am being reborn
as a mother, an indian mother, an australian mother.
there are weights attached to me that drag my limbs under.
in every place I’ve been is every other place I’ve been.
we immigrants live out of boxes
in our heads even after
we’ve unpacked the ones in our garages. I was born
in a hospital south of murtala mohammed airport in lagos, but I find
traces of lagos in parramatta, where I teach when I’m
eight months pregnant. there are many of us here,
sudanese, indian, nigerian, pakistani, lebanese, iranian, malaysian,
sri lankan, filipino. my students come from homes where the parents watch
english movies with tamil subtitles & the children
watch tamil movies with english subtitles. within the older boys boils
a khoon-red rage
by otherness, by lessness, by being labelled
for every step they take, every word they speak,
the intonations of those words, their gestures, allowed none
of the invisible liberties
white boys enjoy. within the girls & the women is a silt-dark
hunger to be, to be allowed to be, untouched & uncontained,
spoken & heard,
heard, heard, heard.
charred dust & ants in the cracks
of our mouths. our blackness, our brownness, washed
up on the sugar-white shores of a country where
the hospitals aren’t clogged like
sclerotic arteries, their tiles slick with piss & vomit,
where the people aren’t bled like cows
for sacrifice. we are seeking shelter. shelter is seeking us.
our organs grow outside of us, pumping, pulsing, vulnerable
to the knives of the questions we are asked:
where do you come from? when will you go back?
some of us have no choice but to go back. no choice but to stay.
our brothers, our sisters
in detention centres & those of us outside of them with survivors’ guilt
eating away at us like acid. we are journalists, doctors, labourers.
we are farmers whose villages burned, whose crops succumbed to
warfare & drought. we are artists who bleed onto canvases
& lovers who flee beheadings because our bodies happen to be
the same sex. we push & push, birthing a tomorrow
that never seems to arrive. an unending, wracking labour.
when I think about giving birth I consider blacktown hospital
because I live there, but am advised by my obstetrician
to opt for norwest instead. I am upper-middle-class,
with private health insurance. I can afford it,
despite the colour of my skin, despite having been born
across the seas myself, in a hospital where my mother lay
sick & haemorrhaging on an unwashed bed
& nearly did not survive me.
now, my mother puts betel leaves in my mouth
for luck. my child squirms within my belly. across
parramatta the train track stretches,
a dark vein, needle-pricked, inflamed.
there are nerves that spark between the bones of this
place, its vertebrae of concrete & eyes of glass,
the shops the smoke-filled lungs of its body
& the streets its grey-white ribs creaking under the weight
they bear. the heavy quietude of the train station at sunrise
is an unborn child, a conglomeration
of all our silenced words, our terrors, our hopes. I fall asleep
to the rhythmic clacking of that silence, my hand curled
atop my swollen abdomen.
my child, I decide, my child will speak.

khoon: blood

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