[Work in Progress] Writing (Whose) Immigrant Song

This past Father’s Day, I was overcome with this need to excavate my father (not literally, of course). During my usual walkabouts, music emerges, and it is the music of myself moving in the world, the music of heart and breathing, and the musics of many outside of me moving in and through their own worlds. I was thinking of my father, and I wanted to hear his music again. Not the kind of clipped, abrupt, chaotic or confused noise, what is caught in the throat, in the chest, held hard on the tongue, these sounds to which I had grown accustomed, but something else. What was his purest music.

The sounds to which I had grown accustomed, I think of them as having been imposed, violently upon us.  I am talking about this ugly shit we live through as tongue tied immigrants, jarred in American cities and institutions that shame us and make us small, make us afraid to speak, make us erase ourselves, make us forget, fill us with rage for forgetting, that rage so volatile, it blasts so aimless, everything and everyone is a target or collateral damage.

Not that music. I have written so much about it already, and though I am nowhere close to completely cataloging it, I needed to step away from it.

So I started to free write, in my usual 0.7 mm mechanical pencils and brand new, soft, narrow ruled Moleskine. After weeks of free writing that violent music necessary for us all to hear and know how it got there, after tiring of grieving the fact of us being bodies who hold that violent music in all of our cells (we are vessels of it), I found myself writing into an imagined past, where a boy’s music has come from the grasses and the dragonflies — these beautiful golden dragonflies hovering above a pre-industrial river, its sweet mud. Its cool breeze too, and also monsoon and typhoon.

And then I stopped. What am I doing writing this imaginary past that my father never lived. Why was I writing about a boy who did not grow up to become my father. Is that unfaithful. Is it dishonest. Is it pointless.

So now, I am writing about my writing about my father. I am writing about creating a version of him that is not true to life, or at least, not entirely true. Is there such thing as writing that is true to the intention of a person. And isn’t that what we do when we write about anybody, living or dead. We write our version of that person, or our intended version of that person. We’ll never get it exactly right. We may get aspects of it, and/or we may approach a certain familiar version. Maybe that’s good enough. Maybe.

Where I am currently at: if in our kuwento, if in our tsismis you live, then you were always my you.

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