By: Arthur Kayzakian

In the words of Michael Fawaz, “Is my blood and heart not document enough?” Then from what I say, am I not a redacted document? What makes us whole as human beings? Since my sense of self circulates in this body, and the universes embedded in my thoughts comprise part of my brain, am I able to articulate my whole being with language? My best guess: Not even a fraction. 

What I say is always redacted from what I think. 

In this sense, the practice of speaking is an art of removal. Lately, I have been thinking about my citizenship. I have been thinking about my picture: The one that represents my whole being in a snapshot etched into my certificate with numbers next to my name. The self in the portrait that surfaced that day. I woke up early and drove Downtown. I had not eaten, and I felt like a heckle of birds were chasing me. There was an odd moment of immigrants stacked row upon row in foldable chairs. We sat in the middle of a big gymnasium, or was it a convention center? I don’t remember. But we sat there waiting for our number to be called after the pledge.

One nation, under…

There was a big screen of Donald Trump welcoming us to America. I don’t think anyone was paying attention to the conventional greeting. Everyone seemed occupied with trying to stay in the country. Does this document make me legitimate? Does it officiate my practice of living more than my heartbeat? I have been chasing documents all my life. Money is a document of the tree, I suppose. Ripped from its root and stamped in the name of a God we trust. I have chased money my whole life to survive. Even though, ironically, trees produce oxygen.

Image of a map of the world.

Perhaps maps are an act of removal, a reduction of land.

I have been thinking about maps as documents that officiate land into a city, a state, a country. To replace landscape with an ownership of an abstract idea of destiny. When someone asks me, “How are you doing?” What I say is, “Good.” Anything else is outside of the map, out of context, out of convention. Disruptive. It will slow the passing pleasantries between lattes and errands. The unsaid tradition of small talk: We must stick to the redacted version of the self. The part missing or stolen, or removed, violently and silently, and always we must remain a page torn from the country we live in.

Liberty & Justice For All?

Do not speak about your dying father in the hallway while passing Xerox machines; do not mention how today there was a hole in your hope right above your clavicle as the coffee shop employee calls your name; do not question the confirmation of a person’s identity in the middle of a sauna session after a workout. Such disturbances violate the dream that the act of speaking is not a failure to tell the truth.

About the author: Arthur Kayzakian is a poet, editor and teacher who lives in California. He was born in Tehran, Iran. His family sought political asylum in London when he was three years old to escape the Iranian Revolution.  He earned his MFA from San Diego State University. He is a contributing editor at Poetry International. His chapbook, My Burning City, was a finalist for the Locked Horn Press Chapbook Prize and Two Sylvias Press Chapbook Prize. He is a recipient of the Minas Savvas Fellowship, and his poems and translations have appeared in or are forthcoming from several publications including Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, COUNTERCLOCK, Chicago Review, Locked Horn Press and Prairie Schooner.