Essays: “I Have Something Else To Say” by Emily Lu

这不用学回家就好 or I have Something Else to Say

  1. I’m reading a first poetry collection from 陳繁齊, whose instagram handle is @dyingintherain. It is delivered in about four days, along with a MDZS novel I want to struggle through in the untranslated text. I am about two-thirds of the way through the author’s preface. I haven’t gotten to any of the poems yet. This slow reading in some ways I find very inconvenient. I’m not patient. The text lies ahead, and I anticipate getting closer in my own time.
  2. 漫长 màn cháng, an adjective I’ve heard several times in pop lyrics used to describe anything from the length of a street to a summer.
  3. I am seven when the world turns incomprehensible for the first time. I am envious of my classmates who open their mouths and are understood, who ask for things. Something I can no longer do after eleven thousand kilometres. I am also quite proud. I remember deciding 这不用学回家就好 I don’t need to learn this everyone I love is at home.
  4. English is the first language where I learn the word for racism, and shame, and also the vocabulary to begin to talk about them.
  5. How desperately I want to speak myself into existence, to prove to my classmates that I too have an interior world. For a while return still means reversal, a plane ticket.
  6. A medical school professor observes: “You’re quiet in class. Does it have to do with your fluency?” I feel this incident must be an aberration.
  7. Fluency: The only language I understand completely is shame.
  8. I often mistake homonyms for another, in small, accidental meanings. 漫长 I had always heard as 慢长, as in slow & long (like Canada Post?), where really the water radical seems to imply a welling-up-of, like rainwater flooding the sidewalk.  
  9. I remember trying that evening to wring the words together to express the rage, the exasperation to prove something bad had happened in a letter to the dean. In an act of foresight, I save that file as complaint #1. 
  10. Language can be a violence. I do not want to be fluent in the language weaponized by medical institutions. Abuses of power conveniently translated into a communication problem. That conscripts people into its easy cruelties.
  11. A postgraduate program director warns in an email that I should keep my tone professional. Still I feel this incident must be an aberration.
  12. A second program director says they see a pattern in my communications. Their office enrolls me in a mandatory crucial conversations course so I can learn this. I feel this
  13. Singer-songwriter 毛不易 wrote, 就慢慢的忘了吧 因为回不去啊 那闭上眼睛就拥有了一切的盛夏 (so slowly slowly forget because you can’t go back close your eyes and take the remains of everything). An accurate translation of 一切的盛夏would be all of celebratory mid-summer, its heights, but I hear the homonym what’s left, and I don’t think it’s accidental. 拥有 is more possess than take. How to convey ownership, without action.
  14. I can’t trust meaning, that words mean what I think they mean, what I intend. In that gradeschool classroom, other kids laugh themselves silly when I pronounce things the way I see them on the page. My languages are mine to use badly, and I have no claim of ownership over them at all. I feel like my relationship to them is one of proximity, and therefore distance. I don’t trust languages. I believe in mine.
  15. An editor writes in their feedback of my review-essay “can you speak to your identity to make this more relevant for the (white) audience”. They rewrite almost every sentence. This editor is a young person, not white and not male. They practice the publishing standards they learn and see around them.
  16. For all the jokes I make about Canada Post, who keeps the illusion of convenience. In any act of transportation, translation, the crossing of one thing to the next, there is work and the people who do that work. There is nothing convenient for me about languages. They offer a point of departure for resistance.
  17. Writing poetry in Canada, can I say I have never written stuff that commodified myself into digestible bytes for an imagined white audience? Accessibility is one thing. If I’m to be a bridge, who gets to step on me for a better view.
  18. In that room with the medical school professor, I offer a half-joke to give them a way out. A non-threatening smile. They won’t take it, and will repeat the same question again. I will have nothing more to say.
  19. How much of myself do I owe the world to live in it.
  20. Writing a poem, poking it, always asking it to do more. Sometimes from the meanings a previously unknowable direction appears, demands the creation of a new space. A new poem, a new form to hold it.
  21. What do I consider in my life, mandatory? What kind of resistance can be imagined beyond convenient time demarcations, slow and a welling-up-of. Not scarcity but an abundance of. As inevitable as a returning season.
  22. If I struggle with languages. If I must. I have something else to say

About Emily Lu

Emily Lu was born in Nanjing. She is a poet and resident physician in psychiatry. Night Leaves Nothing New (Baseline Press 2019) was shortlisted for the bpNichol chapbook award.