Read Call Us What We Carry Online
Authors: Amanda Gorman
REPORT ON MIGRATION OF ROES
Welcome, Migrants, to Panpax.
As you are aware, Panpax, our idyllic country, has finally reopened its gates to outsiders. We’re aware that your nation Pandem, on the other hand, is a low wasteland of sickness & death, where its people are dubbed “roes” (a Pandemian derivative of “woes”). We’ve heard that in Pandem all forms of gathering are prohibited, its reclusive citizens don’t even go so far as to share the same sidewalk, let alone breathe the same air. Social-political life is quite different in Panpax & we’re aware that for this reason many of you roes have newly disembarked here seeking refuge & refuge, a road forward, you shall have. Panpax City Commissioners have conducted a series of interviews to document the unique transitional experience of Pandem refugees now living in Panpax. Our hope is that these condensed answers will help you acclimate to our abundant nation. For their privacy, the names of roe interviewees have been replaced with their respective numbers.
Panpax President Pact
Migrants have been in their homes & met. Efforts have been made to learn why they came to Panpax & with what success they were themselves new.
Some of the replies to questions asked are given:
What are you doing now in Panpax?
What have you been feeling?
In Pandem, what did you want?
20. To get away.
No. In Pandem, what did you want most?
Do you feel greater freedom & independence now in Panpax? In what ways? What can you do now that you couldn’t before?
3. Going to places of amusement & living.
5. Yes. Go anywhere you want to go; don’t have to look, get off the street.
6. Yes. Just to feel a feeling of good fellowship.
8. Yes. Can go anyplace I like. In Pandem I was gated & not treated.
9. Yes. Privilege to mingle with people; can go to the parks & places of being.
11. Yes. If you went to an ice cream parlor for anything you came outside to eat it. Got off sidewalk for people.
12. Yes. feel free; haven’t any fear.
16. Yes. Feel more like a man. Same as slavery, in a way, at Pandem. I don’t have to give up the sidewalk here for people as in Pandem.
17. No restrictions as to shows, schools, etc.
20. Was not counted in Pandem; people allowed no freedom at all in Pandem.
What were your first impressions when Panpax opened & you arrived?
1. The air of doing things.
3. Full of life, went to see the sights every night for a month.
4. I thought it was some great place but found out it wasn’t. Living nothing but a hole. Sure wished I was back home.
5. When I got on the street & saw people by people all over I just held my breath, for I thought any minute they would start, then I saw nobody notice & I just thought this was a real place for people. No, indeed, I’ll never work in anybody but my own.
6. Was completely lost, friend was to meet me but didn’t & I was afraid where to go so much noise running I rest.
8. Always liked Panpax, even the name before I came.
13. Thought it a good place for people to live in.
15. Didn’t like it; lonesome, until I went out. Then liked the places which have no restrictions.
16. Like it even better now.
17. Think I will like it later on.
In what respects is life harder or easier in Pandem than in Panpax?
4. Easier, it means more to you.
7. I make money, but spend it all to live.
8. Find it easier to live because I have to.
10. The strain is not so great.
11. Harder here than at Pandem.
13. More work, work is harder. The necessities of life.
14. Shorter hours.
15. Would rather be here than in Pandem. I have shorter hours here.
17. Easier to live in Panpax.
20. The entire family feels that life is much easier in Panpax than anywhere.
What do you like about Panpax?
1. Freedom . . . but it ain’t always safe.
4. Freedom allowed in every way.
7. Work, can work any place.
8. The schools for the children.
9. The chance people have to live.
10. The friendliness of people, health better.
13. Right to live.
14. Ability to live in peace; not held down.
18. People live & go more places than home.
19. Industrial & educational facilities.
20. Haven’t found anything yet to like more than before.
What difficulties do you think a person from Pandem meets in coming to Panpax?
3. Getting used to living; not letting life run away with you.
6. Growing accustomed to people.
7. Getting used to the ways of people.
9. Know of no difficulties a person from Pandem meets coming to Panpax.
10. Persons would likely meet.
12. Adjustment to working.
13. Climactic changes.
14. Change in climate, crowded, lack of space.
16. Knowing where they are going to stop.
18. If they know the danger in getting among people.
20. If persons know what they are, come with the intention.
How is your free time different in Panpax than in Pandem?
1. The buying of clothes here. You can try on things; you can do that in stores.
2. Can go into almost any place.
3. I live more, feel more.
4. Yes. Wife can try on a hat & if she doesn’t want it she doesn’t have to keep it; go anywhere I please.
5. Ain’t afraid to get on cars & sit where I please.
6. There are so many places to go here, but down Pandem you work, work, work & you save & you haven’t any place to spend it.
7. Don’t go out very much but like to know I can where & when I want to.
9. At Pandem did not go what few places people were allowed to go. Here, roes can want.
11. Have more comforts in the home that could not have at home.
17. Yes, more places to go, parks & playgrounds for children.
19. No comment.
Are you advising friends that it is better if they move to Panpax?
1. Yes. People don’t really believe the things we write, I didn’t believe myself until I got here.
2. No. I am not going to encourage them to come, for they might not make it.
6. Yes. I have two sisters. I am trying to get them to come here. They can’t understand why I stay, but they’ll see if they come.
7. People don’t realize how some parts were awful where we came from; folks here ain’t afraid to breathe.
8. Want friend & husband to come; also family who want to see how she looks before they break. Youngest son begs mother never to think of going back.
Only a few migrants were found who came free. Few expressed a desire to return.
The responses utilized in the previous poem are taken from the 1922 report
The Negro in Chicago
. The document is a thorough sociological study conducted by the Chicago Commission on Race Relations to understand the causes & effects of the devastating Chicago race riots of 1919, one of many inflection points of violence during what was dubbed “Red Summer.” Chicago’s conflict left twenty-three African Americans & fifteen white people dead, over five hundred injured & at least a thousand homeless. As a part of their post-study, the Chicago Commission interviewed African Americans who’d left the Jim Crow South for Chicago. The previous poem, from “SURVEY” on, repurposes the report’s text. It uses fragments of these migrants’ answers, excerpting & erasing parts to create a newfound poem. From the report, the terms
were replaced with
Panpax. Back home
were switched for the word
was put in place of
. The interviewee numbers are in accord with the number given to that answer in the original document. Certain questions have also been partly preserved (for example, “Do you feel greater freedom & independence in Chicago? In what ways?” became “Do you feel greater freedom & independence now in Panpax? In what ways?”).
is a meshing of
, a prefix from Greek meaning
, the Latin word for
This poem & its pain are both imagined & as real as we are. That is to say, through some fictions we find fact; in some fantasies we
discover ourselves & then some. Even without living it, a memory can live on in us. The past is never gone, just not yet found.
Grief, like glass, can be both a mirror & a window, enabling us to look both in & out, then & now & how. In other words, we become a window pain. Only somewhere in loss do we find the grace to gaze up & out of ourselves.
Ha, we’re so pained,
We probably thought
That poem was about us
& not another. Now we see
It was for both—for all of us
Who have been othered.
Where we are is no less
Than where we’ve come from.
To be haunted is to be hunted
By a history that is still hurting,
Needing healing as much as we do.
& just like that, through poetry,
We have recalled what was not ours,
Made the past the same as our pang.
This may be the only way we learn.
We’ve spent generations quarantined,
Exiled from the places of each other,
Life locked out from us.
Captured to the coast,
Never forget that to be alone
Has always been a price for some
& a privilege for others.
We have yielded
Centuries of sidewalk,
Trained in this tradition
Before we even lived it—
What it is to bow our heads
& make room for someone else’s pride.
That ceding of the walkway
Was the concession of the world
To another’s age-old white rite of passage.
* * *
We always ask questions of those who came before.
To be surveyed, then, is to have survived.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because there was a white person coming down it.
How we are moved says everything
About what we are to each other.
Last year we stepped onto an elevator.
We politely asked the white lady behind us
If she could please take the next lift
To continue social distancing.
Her face flared up like a cross in the night.
Are you kidding me?
Like we’d just declared
Elevators for us only
Yous must enter from the back
No yous or dogs allowed
We have the right to refuse
Humanity to anyone
Suddenly it struck us:
Why it’s so perturbing for privileged groups to follow restrictions of place & personhood.
Doing so means for once wearing the chains their power has shackled on the rest of us.
It is to surrender the one difference that kept them separate & thus superior.
Meanwhile, for generations we’ve stayed home, [segre]gated, kept out of parks, kept out of playgrounds, kept out of pools, kept out of public spaces, kept out of outside spaces, kept out of outer space, kept out of movie theaters, kept out of malls, kept out of restrooms, kept out of restaurants, kept out of taxis, kept out of buses, kept out of
beaches, kept out of ballot boxes, kept out of office, kept out of the army, kept out of hospitals, kept out of hotels, kept out of clubs, kept out of jobs, kept out of schools, kept out of sports, kept out of streets, kept out of water, kept out of land, kept out of kept in kept from kept behind kept below kept down kept without life.
Some were asked to walk a fraction / of our exclusion for a year & it almost destroyed all they thought they were. Yet here we are. Still walking, still kept.
To be kept to the edges of existence is the inheritance of the marginalized.
Non-being, i.e., distance from society—social distance—is the very heritage of the oppressed. Which means to the oppressor, social distance is a humiliation. It is to be something less than free, or worse, someone less-than-white.
For what does the Karen carry but her dwindling power, dying & desperate? Dangerous & dangling like a gun hung from a tongue?
Fundamentally, supremacism means doing anything to keep one’s sole conceit,
Even if it means losing one’s soul.
It means not wearing the mask that would save you, for that would mean taking off one’s privilege.
It means, always, choosing poisonous
Anyone or anything.
This realization is not ours.
Art, if fact,
Is both a method & a finding,
An answer in the inquiry.
It is what is found
& the manner in which it is discovered.
Anyone who has lived
Is an historian & an artifact,
For they hold all their time within them.
Reconciliation is in this record we make.
If we remember anything,
Let it be to remember.
A road forward
We shall have
If we keep
To this day, drivers are seven times less likely to halt at the crosswalk for African American pedestrians than for whites. See Courtney Coughenour et al.
Walking as a pedestrian involves “collaborative processes by which users of public space come to trust each other.” See Nicholas H. Wolfinger.
The yielding of walkways & thus power in public spaces is not a “Black” or “historical” issue, but the contemporaneous bedrock of status interaction in shared spaces. Research has found that African Americans as well as Latinx pedestrians tend to yield to whites. Women often yield their path to men & dark-skinned women yield to lighter-skinned women. See Natassia Mattoon et al.