“Children, I said to her. For the first little while, they not exactly human, you don't find?”
Nalo Hopkinson

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Thoughts On "Voyager Dust" By Mohja Kahf

Mohja Kahf is a modern storyteller and like Scheherazad her poetry stories keep the listener or reader captivated.

"Voyager Dust" tells the story of immigrants who travel to the United States from another land, from a different culture and language, and have to sink themselves into the American melting pot.  Many of  these people experience consciously or subconsciously a longing for home and the familiar.

Kahf says the immigrant's needs and desires are transmitted by the bearer through the clothes they wear.  Clothes take on the scent of the wearer.  Scent is a metaphor for desires that exude from the Chinese woman on the bus and Kahf mother's scarves.
She and her brother (Kahf) can sense the yearning through what Kahf calls "smell," but that is not what it is.  What it is may be difficult to explain in written language.  

Voyager Dust

When they arrive in the new country,
voyagers carry it on their shoulders,
the dusting of the sky they left behind
The woman on the bus in the downy sweater, 
I could smell it on her clothes
It was voyager dust from China
It lay in the foreign stitching of her placket
It said: We will meet again in Bejing,
in Guangzbou.  We will meet again.
My mother had voyager's dust in her scarves
I imagine her a new student like this woman on the bus,
getting home, shaking out the clothes from her suitcase,
hanging up, one by one, the garments from the old country
On washing day my mother would unroll her scarves
She'd hold one end, my brother or I the other,
and we'd stretch the wet georgette and shake it out
We'd dash, my brother or I, under the canopy,
its soft spray on our face like the ash
of debris after the destruction of a city,
its citizen driven out across the earth.
We never knew
it was voyager dust. It said:
We will meet again in Damascus,
in Aleppo. We will meet again.
It was Syria in her scarves.
We never knew it
Now it is on our shoulders too.


By Mohja Kahf from Emails From Scheherazad, published in 2003 by University of Florida Press, Gainesville, Florida.

The University Press of Florida has some great titles:
A Zora Neale Hurton Companion By Robert W. Croft

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