PANK Magazine [blog]: Let’s Not Fuck Each Other Up: An Invitation from Arisa White

Dear Reader, If you’re a bastard, send me a letter. If your father was absent from your life, please do write. If you haven’t talked to your father in years and don’t know if you will– because he’s a bastard—an epistle of any style is welcome. Use words or visuals, no limit. I’m collecting letters from individuals who have been affected by the absence of their fathers for dear Gerald, an epistolary project I have been working on for the past two years.

We all seem to suffer fatherlessness, be it a particular father loss, through degrees of unavailability, estrangement, abandonment or death, and since we all are offspring of capitalist patriarchal societies, I find this to be interesting.



dear Gerald, a collection of epistolary poems, which came to be because my mom asked me if I wanted to write my father in Guyana. It was my 33rd birthday. Last time I saw my father, I was 3 years old. Some years later, I’m not sure when, he was deported back to his homeland, never to return to the States. Because I wasn’t sure what to say, I wrote poems instead.

dear Gerald,

I broke away
from murmuration and murder,
do you stand in the crowd?

There must be a theater where you show,
a marquee with your billing.
Selective and unapologetic,
you’ve wandered shore to shore.

England doesn’t ask you
where you’ve been,
doesn’t tumble from your neglect.

No, she will not cry,
not puzzle over your roll.

No cry Brooklyn, Georgetown.
No tear London, Kingston.
Tobago, Chicago—not even.

But into our brothers’ arms,
we supine and cry.

The poems inspired a project idea: Self-publish the collection to exchange for letters from people who are estranged from their fathers. The letters will be used for a second collection, which I’m considering titling Who’s Your Daddy? And lastly, go to Guyana and give my father a copy of dear Gerald. The project has been funded by the Center for Cultural Innovation in California. dear Gerald, like most of my writing, attempts to uncover, reclaim, and restore, which means that I’m often writing from a place of loss.

Dear Dad,

Now at 31, for my sanity, my heart, my soul- daddy I need you to understand that I don’t blame you.  You need to understand that no matter what anyone said, you were always my father and I love you, now forever and always.  I want you to know that I pray for you every night. My greatest fear is that primo will call and my next visit with you will be the one where I, as your oldest child, will have to make your final arrangements.

I moved to Oakland seven years ago, and the Bay Area lost a lot of folks to the Jonestown Massacre, which happened in 1978, in Guyana. This is how most people know of the country. Kool-Aid was never the same after I learned that detailed associated with my father’s birthplace. For several years, I strung together a series of facts or stories or yarns about him, constructing a man of my mythical imagination. Through this creative act, I was asking: who is my father? Who is the man who taught my 19-year old mom to drive with his Cadillac? Whose ancestors were from a marooned colony in Venezuela? Whose police officer father was found drowned? I wanted to give him a location in my life, a kind of hereness that allows me to put myself at the center of the narrative and deepen my understanding of who I am.

Dear Tennyson,

Then there’s this father thing: thorny, complicated, despairing.  Without you, my persona was blurred; for what did I have to wrap around me, but a tatterdemalion of indifference and lost empowerment?  If fathers are crucial to our confidence in navigating the world, then what of me?  Through much of my life, you hardly knew me: my talents, my friends and concerns; my loneliness and how I could remain stubbornly stone-faced. Did this bother you?  Did I matter?

To read the complete article, go to:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s