May 20, 2008

I'm Afraid of Brazilians or Visiting the Ancestral Homeland is Not the Great Ethnic Experience Promised by Other Memoirs

Against all political correctness,
I must say it,
I must admit:
I'm afraid of Brazilians.

I don't like them.
I don't like this country.
I don't like this language.
I don't even like this currency.

And not in the mystical sense.
Or the abstract.
Or the perfectly hypothetical.

I can't blame this fear
on movies, or television programming,
or the front covers
of Time magazine.

I'm afraid of Brazilians.
I am visiting Brazil
(my mother's country)
and I'm afraid, truly afraid
of every Brazilian I meet.

This is not something you can say
in a poem, you tell me.
Please don't compose this poem
here: in broad daylight
where any self-respecting Brazilian
could feel perfectly justified
peeking over your shoulder
to see what you've written.

Please, not so loud, you say.
You haven't given them a chance.

You're right, I admit.
(I can certainly admit it.)
I've given them no chance
to please me. Don't you

understand, this is the nature
of being afraid, and this is
the nature of the poem
I am writing, which must
get written, no matter
what the climate

or the reception
(here, in my mother's country
or abroad
or in my own ears).

—Priscila Uppal
from Ontological Necessities (Exile Editions, 2006)

Posted by dwaber at May 20, 2008 12:12 PM