VOICES OF DIASPORA
(Mark William Jackson, Angelene Karas and Eunice Andrada)
(edited by Ramon Loyola & Michele Seminara)
Proof of Life
By Mark William Jackson
If asked for proof of identity
I can pull a card from my sacred wallet
that lists a name, address & birthdate.
But in too many stretches, if you seek proof of life,
search their souls to find the holes
where memories were thrown like grenades,
a cavum of screams & cries where love died
in a sandstorm of politics & attempts to escape.
Huddled in the hull of a desperate raft,
holding on to family, hoping for a life.
At the end of mine, through grace and luck,
I hope to say, ‘I’ve enjoyed a full life’.
But so many, grabbing for straws,
can only dream of saying, ‘we survived’.
Because that’s where we all went
By Angelene Karas
1950s. Post-war period. The time when they came by the boatload.
28 days was how long it took to get from Kozani & Vartholomio to Melbourne.
My family, strong and determined, came to Australia when they had no other choice.
‘I came here when I was 21.’
‘Because, where else was I going to go?’
‘What happened when you got here?’
‘I worked many jobs.’
‘Were the people nice?’
‘Some were. There was a gentleman who helped me get to Melbourne from the detention centre in Albury.’
‘Why were you there?’
‘Because that’s where we all went. Our rights were shorn like fleece.’
The advice he gave me: this is the lucky country. Work hard. Be somebody.
And—especially—be better than those who came before you.
(because I am a daughter) of diaspora
By Eunice Andrada
and by default—
an open sea,
what language will not meet me
They convince my mother
her voice is a selfish tide,
claiming words that are not meant
this roiling carcass of ocean
making ragdolls of our foreign limbs.
In the end, nothing less than our brown skin
married to seabed.
When I return to the storm
of my islands
with a belly full of first world,
I wrangle together the language I grew up with
yet still have to rehearse.
I play with the familiar rattle of consonants
on my tongue and do not think myself
I am lost in the strangeness of my hometown.
By the street corner, a man in
speaks to me in careful English.
Where are you going?
I don’t answer,
offended that he recognised
the mongrel flag I call my face.
I want to say to him, We are the same.
Pareho lang po tayo.
I know my bleached accent,
the dollars in my wallet
sing another anthem.
My voice is an open-casket funeral,
haunted by the questions
How long have you been here?
How long are you staying?
I am above water,
holding onto a country that can drown
with or without me.
What they don’t tell you
about returning home
is that home will have already
forgotten your eyes,
hidden away the poems
you wrote for it.
All of diaspora has felt
it in the backs of their throats:
the joke of being unwanted in a new country,
of being unneeded in your own homeland
where the warmest pulsing thing
has already left.
I am off the coast of an island eight hours away from my grandmother’s old Parañaque apartment. The boatman says I swim well and beckons me to go underwater. He wants me to see what he sees. I unclip my vest and dive. Here, the world is prismatic and unspeaking. I kick my legs into a school of fish. It erupts into blue confetti before drawing together again. There are corals that look like bullions of gold; I remind myself, they, too, are homes for smaller creatures. There is the unrelenting deep and the uncertainty of return. There is my half-brother, Lemuel. Another love the ocean refused to return. I break the water’s skin and reintroduce myself to air. I thank him for guiding me. We make the quiet journey back to the mainland, where I plan to waste my money on cheap cocktails and souvenirs. My friend sings under her breath, just loud enough to hear over the motor engine. It is late afternoon and there is the ocean, surrounding us like a reminder. The boat slows to a halt meters away from the shore. The boatmen draw the ladder down to the water and begin to thank us, ushering light-skinned hands down the vessel. One of them turns to me, asks where my mother is from. Iloilo. He nudges the other boatman and they smile, say they could tell from the way I speak. I am reminded of my mother’s hurt. How it never failed to sound like a river, no matter how broken her voice had become. How the name for the people she had come from translates to where the water flows down. The boatman says he can tell from the way I speak. I look to my feet. They are lost underwater.
Mark William Jackson’s work has appeared in various journals including; Best Australian Poems, Popshot, Going Down Swinging, Cordite, Rabbit Poetry Journal, Verity La and Tincture. For more information visit http://markwmjackson.com
Angelene Karas is a Masters of Teaching (Secondary) student in her final year at Western Sydney University. She is currently volunteering at a Sydney non-for-profit poetry based company. Her poetry has been previously published in the CrUWSible magazine and The Wild Goose e-Literary Magazine. Angelene enjoys The Simpsons, coffee and of course, poetry.
Eunice Andrada is a Filipino-Australian poet, journalist and teaching artist based in Sydney. Her poems have been featured in Peril, Voiceworks, and Deep Water Literary Review, among others. Featured in the Guardian, CNN and other media, her poetry has also been performed in diverse international stages, from the Sydney Opera House to the UN Climate Negotiations in Paris. She was awarded the John Marsden & Hachette Australia Poetry Prize in 2014. In 2016, she was honoured by Australian Poetry as the first of their 30 Under 30 Poets. Her first collection of poetry is forthcoming.