Issue #14 Summer 2008
MICHELLE NAKA PIERCE
Excerpt from Mirror riM
Here in this space. The subject cannot find the sentence about silence. She flips and flips the pages of a book that purports to be red. The primary color. Her skin is red most days. Mostly hands, mostly face. There is no yellow here. Yellow is a primary color. Notice white is not primary. It is achromatic. When placed next to albino or ivory, then the eye notices white. Here in this space, silence was sectioned off, only to reveal there is no silence. Can the dimensions be measured in the same way as space. It is not empty space, not make up on empty space, not a space emptied of space. Four dimensions: height, length, width, time. The mother draws KUKAN. The subject examines the strokes. Instead of counting, she is interested in gate. A door that slides open, which is not really a gate at all. It is a screen. White rice paper. But to get to the white, the outside of the brown husk must be shucked. The color brown must be stripped. On this day, the subject understands stripping in order to be white. On this day, she questions brown on the outside, white on the inside.
Here in this space. The subject is aware of her repetition. She considers redundancy as a way toward continuous present. Strobe light. 1979. The figures move in slow motion. This is dance. She was a dancer. Past tense is important here, here in this space. The movement between the past and the present is subtle. One minute she is sipping diet coke, the next green tea, to be exact genmaicha, which her friend thinks smells bad, as the subject burns her tongue at a dinner where the white male (who tries to convince her he is not entirely white because he is working class, and working class is subclass and therefore not white) took up so much space. The subject is aware that she is only allowed this much space in this conversation. She gestures an 8” by 8” square with her hands. She is aware that her language isn’t spreading, as in the difference is spreading.
The subject wants to speak from the space of I, but having spent most of her life shedding this moment of space to enter this new moment of space, she now cannot speak from that space. “[A]ngling [her] vision so that [she] did not have to look directly at [her] subject.” At herself. She did not choose this experiment; it was chosen for her.
Here in this space. There is a couch, a low table whose legs fold, red zabuton in a cabinet that acts like an end table. One of these things is not like the other. Actually two. This is a joint space. A hybrid space. One design element from the east examines empty as not empty at all. Futon rolled and put away in a tansu. The rules of engagement are unclear. This space is home. It is not where the subject was born. It is the transplanted space where she lives. But living in this space dictates how she relates to space. She walks on carpet, not tatami. She sits on the couch as if it were a floor, legs beneath her and off to the side. She sleeps in a bed. She does not pronounce f-u-t-o-n as foo-tawn, except when in the company of others. She repeats this to herself to understand the meaning. Except when she is in the company of Others. In a sense, most everyone else feels like an other. Are there few of her kind. Some say mongrel, mutt, heinz 57, half-breed. (Those of you old enough to remember, can now hum Cher in the background.) The mother draws HAPA and is puzzled. It is not an internal gesture.
1968. The subject is born there. June 21. Solstice. She does not pray to the sun as the mother does. August. She makes her first crossing. From there to here. From this point forward, there will be there and here will be here. Here implies center. There implies margin. The maps refocus.
1975. Ojichan dies. This is the subject’s fourth crossing. Come pray with me she says to her mother, but the mother hears come play with me. This is no time to play. This is not the space for playing. Please note R and L. The space between the two. Observe your tongue. And say the letters again and again. Notice the sides of the tongue curve to the teeth, then relax forward and back. R. L. R. L. R. L. Now say RA RI RU RE RO. Imagine your tongue curving to the sides and instead of relaxing forward and back, it punctuates. Just behind the front teeth on the roof of the mouth. It punctuates. Like this sentence. RA RI RU RE RO. RA RI RU RE RO. The mother draws RA RI RU RE RO and the subject traces. This is how she learns the space between play and pray.
1986. Here in this space, at the sixth crossing, the subject realizes she does not look like her mother. At least not to an other who looks like her mother. 18 years of mirror gazing. Here in this space. 18 years of mirror gazing, and she does not realize that the face in this space is not the same as those faces there in this space. She knows she does not look the same here. She did not know she did not look the same there. From this point forward, there is no there there; there is no here here. There is only space.
Here in this space. The subject is neither. The subject is both. Peripatetic. The molecules in the subject’s cells move at high speeds so that when the context reveals itself, she can change. She is in a state of perpetual transition. Her movement is not linear but divergent.
Born in Tokyo, Japan, Michelle Naka Pierce is the author of two books: Beloved Integer (2007) and TRI/VIA (2003), a collaboration with Veronica Corpuz. Her pedagogical interviews have been published in Rain Taxi, Teachers and Writers, and Transformations, and her creative work has been anthologized in For the Time Being: The Bootstrap Book of Poetic Journals and Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry. She is currently associate professor at Naropa University and lives in Colorado with her partner, the poet Chris Pusateri.