Monday, September 23, 2013

Homi K Bhabha/ Toni Morrison, Germany, Whose house is this?

Home is the oldest sawhorse in postcolonial studies, in diaspora studies, and possibly, if you count The Odyssey and its chronicling of Odysseus' nostos, in literature.

It's always fresh though, and circumstance (travel, away from the kids and missing them, away from a new situation of bifuracted residence in Baltimore) makes things resonate.

Bhabha opened his plenary today with Kathleen Battle's rendition of this Toni Morrison lyric.  I can't stand the atonality of the music, but check out the lyric:

Whose house is this?
Whose night keeps out the light
in here?
Say, who owns this house?
It's not mine.
I had another, sweeter, brighter,
with a view of lakes crossed in painted boats;
of fields wide as arms open for me.
This house is strange.
Its shadows lie.
Say, tell me
why does its lock fit my key?

Bhabha went places with this that touched side-by-sideness and DuBois and states of internal immigration (Adrienne Rich) or sovereignty (Butler/Spivak).

I went places with this too, in careful blocky handwriting all over the inside of my conference binder as I tried to think through my right place in the world in a series of numbered and competing considerations (ultimately narrowing eight items into a condensed list of one through three).

In sum:
#1 is important and without it I will die or go mad;
#2 is something I should be able to not want, but I want it;
#3 and #2 are incompatible.
In the incompatibility of #s 3 and 2 I lose significant parts of #1.

My right sweet light place open field is my children.
Bhabha contends we live in both houses, the sweet bright one and the strange one, simultaneously.
I am walking  German cobbled streets, eating too much kuchen, missing the children, marveling at the irresolvability of my maths, and wondering what Morrison's third house would be like if she wrote one.  Better still, a fourth house, one that goes beyond my #s and presents something better:

Say, whose house is this?
Whose light keeps the night
out there?
This house comforts people I love.
And me.
I had another, but this is sweeter, brighter
with a view of mist rising from summer darkness into a fall light
and rooms wide as arms open for me,
echoing with playing children.
The rules in this house are strange
but its flower boxes grow the old, new, herbs and nettles
and are gorgeous.
Say, tell me
how the unorthodox lock fits my key?
Whose house is this?
Say, tell me.

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