Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Frantz Fanon
Every effort is made to bring the colonised person to admit
the inferiority of his culture...
And there are days when storms hover Over my house, their brooding just this side of rage, An open hand about to slap a face. You won't believe me When I tell you it is not personal. It isn't. It only feels That way because the face is yours. So what if it is the only Face you've got? Listen, a storm will grab the first thing In its path, a Persian cat, a sixth grade boy on his way home From school, an old woman watering her roses, a black Man running down a street (late to a dinner with his wife), A white guy buying cigarettes at the corner store. A storm Will grab a young woman trying to escape her boyfriend, A garbage can, a Mexican busboy with no papers, you. We are all collateral damage for someone's beautiful Ideology, all of us inanimate in the face of the onslaught. My father had the biggest hands I've ever seen. He never Wore a wedding ring. Somehow, it would have looked lost, Misplaced on his thick worker's hands that were, to me, As large as Africa. There have been a good many storms In Africa over the centuries. One was called colonialism (Though I confess to loving Tarzan as a boy). In my thirties, I read a book by Frantz Fanon. I fell in love With the storms in his book even though they broke My heart and made me want to scream. What good Is screaming? Even a bad actress in a horror flick Can do that. In my twenties, I had fallen in love With the storms in the essays of James Baldwin. They were like perfect poems. His friends called Him Jimmy. People didn't think he was beautiful. Oh God, but he was. He could make a hand that was Slapping you into something that was loving, loving you. He could make rage sound elegant. Have you ever Read "Stranger in the Village?" How would you like To feel like a fucking storm every time someone looked At you? One time I was At a party. Some guy asked me: What are you, anyway? I downed my beer. Mexican I said. Really he said, Do You play soccer? No I said but I drink Tequila. He smiled At me, That's cool. I smiled back So what are you? What do you think I am he said. An asshole I said. People Hate you when you're right. Especially if you're Mexican. And every time I leave town, I pray that people will stop Repeating You're from El Paso with that same tone Of voice they use when they see a rat running across Their living rooms, interrupting their second glass Of scotch. My father's dead (Though sometimes I wake And swear he has never been more alive—especially when I see him staring back at me as I shave in the morning). Even though I understand something about hating a man I have never really understood the logic of slavery. What do I know? I don't particularly like the idea of cheap Labor. I don't like guns. And I don't even believe White men are superior. Do you? I wanted to be St. Francis. I took this ambition very seriously. Instead I wound up becoming a middle-aged man who dreams Storms where all the animals wind up dead. It scares Me to think I have this dream inside me. Still, I love dogs—even mean ones. I could forgive A dog that bit me. But if a man bit me, that would be Another story. I have made my peace with cats. I am especially in love with hummingbirds (though They're as mean as roosters in a cock fight). Have You ever seen the storms in the eyes of men who Were betting on a cock fight? Last night, there was hail, thunder, A tornado touching down in the desert—though I was Away and was not a first hand witness. I was in another Place, listening to the waves of the ocean crash against The shore. Sometimes I think the sea is angry. Who Can blame it? There are a million things to be angry About. Have you noticed that some people don't give A damn and just keep on shopping? Doesn't that make you Angry? A storm is like God. You don't have to see it To believe—sometimes you just have to place Your faith in it. When my father walked into a room It felt like that. Like the crashing waves. You know, Like a storm. This is the truth of the matter: I am The son of a storm. Look, every one has to be the son Of something. The thing to do when you are caught In the middle of a storm is to abandon your car, Keep quiet. Pray. Wait. Tell that to the men Who were sleeping on the Arizona when The Japanese dropped their bombs. War is the worst Kind of storm. The truth is I have never met a breathing Human being who did not have at least one scar On his body. Bombs and bullets do more than leave A permanent mark on the skin. I have never liked The expression they were out for blood. There are days When there are so many storms hovering around My house that I cannot even see the blue in the sky. My father loved the sky. He was trying to memorize The clouds before he died. I confess to being Jealous of the sky. On Sunday Mornings I picture Frantz Fanon as an old man. He is looking up At the pure African sky. He is trying to imagine how it appeared Before the white men came. I don't want to dream all the dead Animals we have made extinct. I want to dream a sky Full of hummingbirds. I would like to die in such a storm.
From The Book of What Remains by Benjamin Alire Sáenz . Copyright © 2010 by Benjamin Alire Sáenz . Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.