November 16th, 2006

dream, thoughtful, quiet

Thought of the Day: California's Ahistorical Nature

A hat tip to Hugo Schwyzer. If you grew up in California, you'll understand this poem. If you're not, let me just say that California has a tendency to be somewhat ahistorical, and leave it at that.

(If you're curious, I once did an essay attempting to explain why history, which touches on some of the same subjects, but it's not very good. I plan to revise it soon.)

The Politics of Memory
Kevin Heard

I was born in a state
where everything had to be named twice
to survive:
where Hangtown became Placerville,
where La Brea couldn’t hold its bones
in Spanish, but had to be redundant
and bi-lingual ---
The La Brea Tar Pits,
redundant, like the Sierra Nevada Mountains,
in name only;

a state so arid in parts
that what has been forgotten
is blown to dust
in the wind across the alkali flats;
a state where you change the name
and all is forgiven:
where Gospel Swamp
loses both its muck and its religion
to emerge the model suburb

Fountain Valley forgives the swamp,
but what of Manzanar?
In a state where everything
has to be named twice
or be forgotten,
who will remember Manzanar
(a place in exile
from the maps)? The detention camp is closed,
but I was born in this state
and, for now, I know the name.