Tuesday, June 10, 2014

black hands of a morning calm by Ayshia Stephenson

black hands of a morning calm by Ayshia Stephenson is published by imaginaryfriendpress (who doesn’t LOVE the name of this press?) and follows our poet’s experiences overseas where her skin color stands out more than she’s ever imagined. In South Korea she begins to feel uncomfortable even around her fellow Americans who reside in this country with her, longing to feel enveloped by the color black amidst the sea of night lights and South Koreans who stream past her. The collection is beautiful in the poet’s expression of her sense of self outside of her native country of America and of her ethnic background in relation to South Korea. I feel I cannot do her justice, nevertheless I am happy to share some of her poems with you:

i cough at the cafeteria table
when the kin-chi is too hot

i wonder too much at night
and think
when i don’t understand

in the morning
i force myself
to go outside
to become someone

that foreigner
who should follow
the rules walk
straight and avoid
the eyes
of other westerners

that foreigner
that american blocking
the penetration
of han-guk sa-ram stares
pushing through
the subway masses
bumping into those
who try to brush off
the black

Stephenson captures the loneliness of meal time even among fellow westerners in this poem. Despite her loneliness she sees herself as a physical obstacle to those surrounding her, “bumping into those/who try to brush off/the black” and I picture the flow of people who brush against her then brushing against walls or other people to “brush off the black” and wonder if this is what she witnessed or if she simply felt out of place in the scene.

in the first snow storm
i walk
with the foreigners
where the foreigners live
and i see her
i see her black skin in the falling flakes

and i want to

kiss her
hug her
but she
keeps her
straight walks
past me

she is african
but i am american
so we are
different and we are
not the same

Even when there is the potential for familiarity and comfort the feeling of rejection and of being ignored is brought heartbreakingly to the forefront by her fellow dark-skinned traveler when she looks straight ahead and doesn’t make eye contact. I have had similar experiences and the feeling is vast and empty. Here she captures it well, they may have the same skin, but they are of different countries and this prevents connection yet again.

let the sweat drip
down your face
i smile with my americans
in our
i-tae-won night clubs
we turn torsos into waves
because beats
belong to everybody
because music
doesn’t belong to skin

This poem frankly raises an “Amen!” out of me. It is one reason I love dance so much in general, no matter what country you are from, there is the ability to communicate through body language and through dance most of all. Love this poem, it’s a personal pleasure to share.

If you enjoyed this review as much as I enjoyed reading her collection, you may purchase a copy of Ayshia Stephenson’s black hands of a morning calm for $15.00 here:

Thanks always for reading, please drop in again soon…