a garden of letters [and a conversation with gloria]

It is not easy writing this letter. It began as a poem, a long poem. I tried to turn it into an essay but the result was wooden, cold. I have not yet unlearned the esoteric bullshit and pseudo-intellectualizing that school brainwashed into my writing.

How to begin again. How to approximate the intimacy and immediacy I want. What form? A letter, of course.

—Gloria Anzaldúa, “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to 3rd World Women Writers”

I have been writing poems and letters for my sisters. I have been writing letters for my loves, for my mother, my aunts. I envision letters sprouting from somewhere in a garden in me, flowers to give. But I have yet to send them.

Does it ever feel like you have to learn all over again how to be? It feels like this is the only way to come back from exile—drawing home in to you, going out to meet it where it wanders. Chasing parts of you in your own words and letting them go as epistles that sometimes never return, but sometimes do, fuller, more abundant somehow for having been received.

There is something sincere in that, something irrevocable.

It feels like I can only write letters lately, and they still feel incomplete. I am still trying to figure out how to account for all these half-articulations. I chase sincerity, I chase things that soften and open and flourish. All I find are fragmented sensibilities. Sometimes I think the world has forgotten how to commit, how to be vulnerable, how to encounter a hermeneutic softness and let it be.

Every time I write, my language is severed from me, from my inner community. It draws me in violently and then pushes me out, truncated, shattered. I cannot find myself in these faulty mirrors.

They convince us that we must cultivate art for art’s sake. Bow down to the sacred bull, form. Put frames and metaframes around the writing. Achieve distance in order to win the coveted title “literary writer” or “professional writer.” Above all do not be simple, direct, nor immediate.

They tell me my edges need softness and my softness must close in on itself, become rigid, discrete, rational, masculine. They tell me to add buffers, reduce myself lest I become reductive. My anger must wilt, and my flowers must transform into concrete. They advise a radical disjuncture between my world and myself, but permit me no radical disjuncture from their world. Not even from their language.

I lack language / The language to clarify / my resistance to the literature. / Worlds are a war to me. / They threaten my family. / To gain the word / to describe the loss / I risk losing everything.

I have no space for more double binds to be woven through me. I cannot endure another false universality thrown in my face. Lack of specificity was always just another kind of violence.

So I will write letters. Send me one, too.


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