Crossed Cultures

I recently came across this poem, which although being about trying to fit into a culture that is not your own, I identified with strongly…

Crossed Cultures

A child, I skipped alone
over cracks in concrete

not daring to look behind
not daring to fall. I was the
dark shadow

that moved
beneath my uniformed body
a shadow stamping its rhythm
on my skin

the threads
of my mother’s tongue reaching out
to furl me in close embrace
her hot orchid breath

whispering
you are not one of them.
but I am! I cried, jumping higher,
running faster

but still
the shadow curled its wily
blossoms about my knees, my hands
my throat

and others
saw and shook my hand and welcomed me
to my own country and asked,
how does it feel
to be you?

And I lied
and said, fine, the words
like sandpaper on bare skin
and I said

fine, kia ora,
no worries, yeah, gidday mate
and they told me my English
was amazing.

So I took
my shadow home with me. I stood
so the shadow
was smaller. I opened my eyes,
stared directly at the sun.

I wanted to be blind
so at last I’d fit in.

By Renee Liang
(Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution – NonCommercial – ShareAlike 3.0 New Zealand License).

The themes of acceptance, alienation, and conflicting messages are powerful.

I came across the poem through the Mix & Mash Awards, with this poem being part of the winning entry in the Literature Remix section by Allan Xia, and also called Crossed CulturesYou will need to click on the image of the poem to be able to see it properly, but I found it to be a worthwhile extra click.  The image that Allan used within his remix associated with the line “not daring to fall” was what initially caught my eye; but I think he did a brilliant job of mashing the two media and incorporating his own artwork.

—————-
Now playing: Missy Higgins – Stuff and Nonsense
via FoxyTunes

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16 thoughts on “Crossed Cultures

  1. Where are the comments? Fallen from most commented blog ever, to a ghost town? I thought I’d be standing in line to do this! Is it because you went away to geek out at NDF2011? Do your fans feel slighted that they didn’t feel your virtual presence here in your physical absence? Have you thought about using a CG “bot” to give that obviously *much* needed continuity? Are you sick of my prattling yet? 🙂

    I like that you have a song attached to your posts, presumably of your choosing. I like Missy Higgins a lot … based on knowing ONE song! “Where I Stood” is a favorite of mine.

    So. Right. Commenting on the post. I like this poem, the mash really, too … thanks for sharing it. I agree that the themes are powerful. The one of being in a place, yet still being foreign, or not at home, or alone, and feeling pain unnoticed by others … is so very powerful.

    Welcome back, CG … thanks again, and I hope your week is going in a good way for you.

    Michael

    • Hi Michael,

      This is a difficult post to comment on… I have a feeling that it was about needing to be in a certain place, at a certain time. I was sitting in the conference, really struggling, and the image of the girl falling with the line “not daring to fall” across the big screen. I felt an immediate connection to the piece, and the poem. When I first tried to read the full poem, I had to walk away from the display stand which was showing the winners of the awards… it struck such a chord about trying to fit in; trying so very hard to be what others wanted me to be; trying to find acceptance – but never finding it, because I could never accept myself…

      Poetry is also deeply personal, so what one person will like, another will consider to be boring.

      Have you heard Missy’s version of Stuff and Nonsense? It’s a Finn brothers song (Split Enz). I like the simplicity of it, as well as the poignancy. I love her voice 🙂

      I have several CG bots, unfortunately, even they have been working overtime lately… and not getting enough sleep!

      Thank you and take care,
      CG

      • Hi CG,

        It’s nice to hear the story behind your finding this poem. I’m not sure what to say … you describe your experience so well, and expressing that pain so well, too. It is hard to hear about people whom you admire not accepting themselves. But maybe that is part of healing … standing together in the discomfort, in the dissonance, struggling with the experience’s inherent conflicts. Connection can cause crisis, as well as bolster us and give us a hand up as we walk new ground. I do wish you many, many avenues to feel and be who you are … and to simply listen, rather than judge. Naturally, that is so much more easier said, than done.

        About Missy Higgins, I really do like her voice, too. Certain people’s voices I can listen to over and over. Thank you … Stuff and Nonsense IS a beautiful song. And I very much agree about poetry. Songs are like that for me, too. I will connect to a song for a very personal reason … something others may not even hear.

        You take care as well, I hope.
        Michael

        • Hi Michael,

          I had to smile at you describing my experience so well, as yesterday most of my session with Allison was talking about how I don’t communicate my experiences in a meaningful way. It’s a long standing problem that I have – I appear to be good at communicating, but I’m not. Well, nothing personal anyway – I can talk about work related things ok, but anything else comes in a code.

          I do think you’re right… standing or sitting with the discomfort is a huge part of the healing process. Allowing someone to see, hear or be with you during that pain can be difficult. There’s a vulnerability in that which can be uncomfortable and challenging. It can build strong connections, but those connections are often what I shy away from.

          It’s amazing how any form of creative expression can touch you, when others don’t – even from the same artist. It can seem like the artist is speaking directly to you, or for you. Another form of connection 🙂

          Take care,
          CG

          • CG wrote: “standing or sitting with the discomfort is a huge part of the healing process. Allowing someone to see, hear or be with you during that pain can be difficult. There’s a vulnerability in that which can be uncomfortable and challenging. It can build strong connections, but those connections are often what I shy away from.”

            Just reading… wondering why everything has to hurt so much.

            rl

        • Michael wrote: “But maybe that is part of healing … standing together in the discomfort, in the dissonance, struggling with the experience’s inherent conflicts. Connection can cause crisis, as well as bolster us and give us a hand up as we walk new ground.”

          Just reading…

          rl

  2. I couldn’t stop reading this poem, CG. Like Michael, I read the email, but hesitated to comment… because of the line idea.

    I’m so glad you posted this. It’s beautiful. It’s poignant, and I’m glad you posted it. It touched me in many memories.

    My best,

    ~meredith~

  3. When I read this I could absolutely see why it resonated with you. The parts about trying to fit in and especially saying that you’re “fine”? Wow.

    The part about the shadow and being told you’re not like everyone else also got me. This poem may be about culture but it definitely crosses over. Maybe it applies because we try to fit into the culture of people that have never been abused?

    I’m glad you put this up. It resonated with me as well. I felt compassion for the child in the poem. Did it hit you the same way?

    • Hi tb,

      The part about the shadow resonated with me, because I associated it with trying to disappear and be invisible.

      It contains universal themes, but there is definitely a feeling that as survivors of CSA, we don’t quite fit in with society… but for me, that is more about feeling worthless, disgusting and less than human.

      It helped me empathise with the child’s plight. So much confusion and mixed messages.

      While I’m sorry that you identified with the poem tb, but also glad that it can help us feel less alone and isolated…

      Take care,
      CG

  4. Thank you for sharing this profoundly emotive poem.

    For me it makes me think of my desire to go unnoticed and not draw attention to myself for fear that others will see what’s really beneath the surface. It’s about finding the trick to hiding in plain site, as it’s better to not be seen at all than to face the scrutiny of other people.

    It also makes me think of the desperate attempts to maintain the facade of normalcy when people *do* happen to notice. There’s so much to take from this poem, which varies slightly with each reader.

    Very beautiful piece. It’s always good to read something that prompts us look inside.

    As for Missy Higgins… I’m such a big fan of hers. Her lyrics are so meaningful, and her voice just stunningly beautiful. Brilliant musical artist.

    Again… thanks for sharing. I hope you’ve been able to rest up from the conference you attended.

    ~ Mareeya

    • Hi Mareeya,

      I’m glad you found something within the poem too… But again, sorry that it is identifying with the pain. I know that it is healing to have such connections, but I hate to know that people I know, and like, are feeling pain in any way.

      You’re right, each reader will potentially get something different from each piece of creative expression – and I know several artists who say that this is what they hope for. They want people to connect in their own way, and for their piece to be evocative in some way. I found it interesting that the people that I was with also connected to the poem, and the way that Allan presented it. I don’t know all of their backgrounds, but they are what you would describe as “outwardly balanced and happy”.

      Somehow I thought you might be another fan of Missy’s 🙂

      Take care,
      CG

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