Post-Colonial Studies or How To Be An Other Writer  Chris Ingraham



First, suffer. Start early, when you're only a girl. Carry the weight of those before you. Come from somewhere else. Feel your ancestors in your bones. Remember what they told you about what they were told. Learn their recipes. Imagine the laughter that peals between damp walls and scares off tropical birds. See a small cracked window on the wall and tell what you see. Learn that you are not telling stories; you are witnessing. Believe only the true fairy tales.


As a child, sleep on grass then sleep on dirt then wake up thinking of the ocean. You could braid hair since you were born. What, did you think you'd learned it? Listen to your mother when she's in the kitchen. Smile when she's at the table. Ask questions when you're both outside. Trust men by the size of their hands. Drink from palm fronds. Yes, dance. Best you not get that new dress dirty. Practice your purples.


When you have learned to talk with your hands learn to write with your mouth. Don't think it's going to be easy. Bake your anger into bread. That's right you cook the chicken with the bones. Sing the song that makes you cry. Save a tablespoon of tears for dinner. Start all over again, this time clap your hands the right way, there are a hundred ways to clap, you ought to know they all say something different. Put that coin in a safe place, that's a lot of money.


Go ahead and read then. Read white women writers if you think you're a big girl. Appreciate Jean Rhys. Loathe Jean Rhys. Marvel at Jean Rhys. Discover a writer named Lorrie Moore, who seems foreign. Discover other writers who make you angry. Feel lost every time you turn on the TV. Crave plantains. Stop and taste the flowers. Violet. Lilac. Heliotrope. Rap a seashell on a window. Get their attention. Are you going to let them just go on speaking for you, about you, to you? Know the names of fishermen in Capetown. Shop for spices in burlap sacks at the market in Bombay. In Port-au-prince eat mango slices from the edge of rusted knifes.


Write about good men and bad, and the only kind you know, which are both. You are a woman not shy about enjoying sex. Let no one think that's a compromise. Study Post-Colonial theory—let them have their name for it. You know what time it is by the color of your skin. Lavender. Mauve. Perse. Time was… Now people (some) want (somewhat) to try (impossibly) to hear (listen) to what you've witnessed. They want to see you prepare a bonfire. They want to leap over it saying, “Give us your glowing color. Take back our sickly pallor.” Give them the smoke that wets eyes and stinks hair.


Don't set your table for those who aren't hungry. Eggplant. Plum. Mulberry. Grape. Believe only the obvious superstitions. Concentrate every movement to the single cause of healing. Remember your home. Smile to yourself. Know who you are. Italicize your hyphens then wonder at the lack of difference. And when you think you're ready to begin, suffer more than you already have.