MATERIAL MEMORY


Exploring the body’s relationship to place





I.


Sometimes it feels like the earth is crying
Or we are
Wanting to return to a past, a place, a version of earth that no longer exists
Stamped out by sidewalks and strip malls


I was told
“this land is your land, this land is my land”
But I was lied to


And growing taller means the illusion of hand on heart 8-year-old pledge of allegiance melts away


I know why and how I’m here
That this land was never mine at all
That it was stolen


And I wonder where I come from
I wonder about natives being ripped from their land
And me walking through the isles of blockbuster
Holding laminated plastic click case of that 9/11 movie that came out too soon


I wonder where I come from









The country I was born in was built on mass genocide and slavery
Living on in bones
I think maybe we’re not all the same on the inside
Some of us broken there


I wonder about my existence in America
Being inherently harmful


I wonder where I come from
I want to go home
But I don’t know where home is
I search for it everywhere but I can’t remember what it feels like

I wonder if we’re all looking for home
And when we try and fail to find her it creates a vauum in us 
Like a void 
Or a black hole 
That swallows carts full of stuff from bed bath and beyond 
toilet cleaners 
and loufas
t-shirts made of plastic that rip at the seams
around where my heart would be
if I only knew the fields of my distant memory 






II.



I went to a land where my grandparents came from
My parents cells in their wombs
I went to the city where my grandma’s cousin
Stopped eating for 66 days
Where he wrote about birds in cages
And what freedom feels like


I went to a place where they were willing to die
For the land
Because they knew the land was them


And what happens to the earth happens to them
Like boarders create new divides in me
Like I forgot how to breathe below my spleen
Or never knew
Stolen from too


I am the thief
And the stolen from


I am the victim
And the perpetrator


I am taken from
And I take from you


I didn’t mean to
But I was starving and looking for home everywhere


She was taken by the concrete
The oil rigs
The skyscrapers
The smell of gas on rain
The taste of warm plastic waters





III.


I read something to Kevin at breakfast a few days ago. It was from this book called

“More than Real”

I got it at a gallery I can’t remember the name of when Angus and I were walking around New York

Before I left


Page 186 - 188
Pamela Rosenkranz is her name

She talked about toxoplasmosis
about the way cats infect mice with these parasites so they’ll be attracted to the cat. I like to think about the way our gut affects our brain like that.


Now the cat can eat the mouse no problem.


She says “the idea that we can be influenced from within and at the same time harness this fact to influence the behavior of the world around us is a provocative and difficult topic. It challenges a fundamental understanding of who we are. Are we many? Are we them or are they us?”


This makes me wonder about a lot of things.
About how we create a world that turns around and creates us.
About how we are influenced and affected by things so small they are practically invisible to us.
It made me think my cells remembered this place –– Ireland. They we’re just to small for me to watch them remembering. I could only feel them smiling.
I told Kevin, “my soul is from here.”


He told me, no it’s just your microbiome telling you they’re happy to be back.


It evolved here for thousands of years. It wants to eat the little bits of soil on your veg again. That’s what it knows.




IV.


So that’s what I did.
I collected clay from these places

Where the humans that gave birth to the humans that gave birth to the humans that gave birth to the humans that gave birth to me.


Up north, in the west, and in the middle of the country –– there there’s a hill in the middle near where I was and if you stand on it you can see all the counties in Ireland from that one point. I didn’t do it yet but Dierdre told me it’s on a private farm so you have to ask to be shown around.


All these chunks of clay I dug up, some I mixed with water, other’s I let dry out and crushed them through an aluminum screen that Tilly and I bought in Galway. I had to get out all the debris before we set the earth on fire.


Like my body was used to having the earth in my gut (and in my brain) I was making tea cups to drink out of.


We’d pick the nettles from the ring fort Kevin showed me. He was certain that the nettles in the middle must have been growing in place of some kind of hearth. That the debris from ancient fires must be feeding them. I liked to believe him. We would drink the nettle tea from the clay cups, then maybe we’d know for sure.

I was made up of pieces so small they were practically invisible. And all those invisible pieces found a symphony of joy in their source again. They talk to my muscle and tell them to lift my cheeks up. The sides of my mouth turn towards the sky. My eyelids close. Salt water clumps in the small hairs around my eyes. 

My body found home.
With the soil cups we commune.




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