AGAINST CONSOLIDATION

GEORGE ABRAHAM

“There is no loneliness when you have the whole world inside of you.” — Vanessa Meng

i want to write about the blueberries i picked from the throat of a New England fall afternoon; how my hands plucked each branch like a familiar melody.

& suddenly, it is 2008. i am small and unremarkable, standing in a blueberry orchard in northern california with my brown cousins. maybe summer is a form of muscle memory.

it is important to mention that the phrase, brown, in the previous sentence was used unironically, so as to normalize the existence of a particular subject in a particular landscape. one could call this poem a form of painting, but that would assume it exists within a physical color scheme & landscape, neither of which are essential to the poem’s existence.

i mean to say, this is a poem about muscle memory – a phenomenon which, after decades of studies, still has no explanation. a leading theory suggests that memories undergo consolidation: the process of stabilization from short to long-term memory.

perhaps we can infer the existence of a thing without knowing its internal structure; perhaps, like music, the hands remember even when the ear cannot; the body remembers a music by the hollow dancing it leaves behind –

many mathematical proofs of existence rely on inference & the limitations of a given logical framework, as opposed to an explicit construction. hence, we can construct sets for which we can assign no logical measure without being able to visualize or even describe them abstractly.

one tool for such proofs of existence is the axiom of choice – metaphorically speaking, it too is a form of unconscious memory. it states that, given a tree with infinite branches, it is possible to pluck one blueberry from each branch –

that’s not the point. i mean, choice is not inherent to every system of logic.

the first time i learned choice is not inherent to every system of logic was not in the context of mathematics, or countries,…………..or bodies.

i want to write about my country & mean country. such a silly tithe, forgiving sacrifice; something i didn’t have to cough out like praying with tiny flags caught in my teeth.

i want to write a poem about home & not have to mean country. or death – or how easily the two can be mistaken for one another–

one could say this is a consequence of neither concept being well-defined; hence the lack of a former can give rise to a definitive latter, or vice versa, in most logical frameworks.

a professor warns me that a consequence of the axiom of choice leads to many mathematical paradoxes that violate our conceptions of mass, space, and time. such ill-desired behavior is labelled pathological.

for instance, it is possible to decompose one sphere into two identical spheres, hence four hence infinitely many; from one life, springs two, hence four, hence infinitely many.

one could say death is poorly defined in such a logical framework.

or perhaps every death is an unobservable construction; consider, for instance, the ancestors resurrected in every poem. how i was fluent in the language of their death before ever being fluent in the Arabic they spoke before me – allah yerhama, allah yerhama –

& perhaps this is the job of the poet, much like the mathematician; to give language to that which cannot be constructed; to un-eviscerate the flesh, give muscle memory to every chaos of limbs.

1998 – my earliest memory is being lost in a sea of cousins at a Christmas party. i do not stand out from the crowd until the dabke starts – the music shaking the floor beneath my tiny feet & i danced like there was no earthquake beneath me; i danced & parted my cousins like every ocean my ancestors split before me; like my body knew i was Palestinian before i did –

or maybe it was the lurch of my gut the last time i visited my queer aunt’s unmarked grave; how even in remembrance, her ghost was but an erasure of her former self.

it is important to mention that the last woman i loved was buried in the same cemetery, just yards away, & yet, i have spanned entire galaxies & failed poems trying to reconstruct her laughter; how the body remembers not the beloved but the music she left behind –

how the last time i visited her grave, the gray skies parted, no metaphor, leaking light onto blank stone for the first time all week & in coincidence or faith, i am inclined to call that grace –

i want to write about tiny miracles: i woke up this morning. i woke up this morning.

contrary to expectation, the repetition in the previous statement was not intended to provide emphasis, and yet, you are inclined to revisit the sentiment once more. one could say this is an instance of pathological behavior.

or perhaps the first noted instance of pathological behavior was when i first mentioned the word country. or the space between countries & bodies in line 9.

perhaps, since this is a poem about memory, it is discontinuous by necessity; there are hands, hence there will always be breakage –

current neurological theory argues against consolidation; says that, perhaps, memories never stabilize, but are encoded in parallel architectures.

this suggests we encode reality in multiplicities, hence, every perception of reality is, by construction, a multiverse of complexity.

i want to write about the first Arab i met in grad school like she wasn’t a miracle; or maybe every Palestinian is a parallel universe.

i want to write about new year’s eve in Bethlehem: the house, swelling with cousins & their pillowfight laughter. i want to talk about george, who was always first to throw the pillow but had the sweetest face when his mother came around; his father outside, roasting kabab, talking about those fuckers & their checkpoints ruining his morning commute; & nathalie who paraded her hand-stitched gowns throughout the house like she owned the place & in the same breath, lectured us on god’s grace; how jesus cured her cancer before the chemo could; she sounded so much like my teta i swear i was home or at least somewhere she was allowed to exist whole; i want to write about nadia who knew more english than her mother & still counted down to midnight in arabic; the whole house, dancing to a music they didn’t know but understood; i want to remember my homeland this way: the city alight but not ablaze.

i want to write about nights in Palestine where the last thing we thought about was death; about being smoked out in Ramallah like she knows she’ll rise with barbed wire teeth & a steel-tipped boot to the face; that reality exists without saying, so give us tonight to dance without words –

let me remember, first, the dance & not the ensuing exile; let me write about home without writing its unbecoming –

& i confess, i have spent too much time revolving around my own unbecoming;

the way time dilates around a black hole, reality diverging at the point where not even light escapes –

i confess, dear reader, that by reading this you have become my new test subject: the specimen is biting back. i speak not of this poem, but of the memory of it – the parallel worlds your mind will inhabit, patching together my every image in your universe of perception.

i mean to say, there will always be a universe in your mind & in that universe, there will always be a Palestine with children laughing.

men have turned entire countries into test subjects without their consent. neither the men nor countries are named in this poem, so as to restrict this reality from the universes of this poem.

& it follows that every poem is a false god; maybe not in sin but in the confession of it all: how every implosion is only beautiful in unraveling – not in the breath held before the collapse

between poem…………………………& reality………………………… & perception of poem
…………………in the fringes ………………..between reality & perception of reality –
i began this poem……..THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE with blueberries
with muscle memory .THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE ……….& hands –
…………………………………………..(or maybe i never had control
………………………………………………….over the narrative – )
being ill-defined…………….THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE
when i say…………….////…….THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE .His hands smelled
……………………………………….THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE ….like blueberries,
I mean California, 2008: THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE
i am small & insignificant ……………….THE SYSTEM ……………../..Philadelphia, 2015:
…………………………………………………(yes, He made a massacre of me –
…………………………………………………(yes, i was his for the taking –
…………………………………………///…………..DOES NOT ……………….i am small
……………… ………………. …………….///.//….CONVERGE …………. i am insignificant
the poem is both circling back. ..THE SYSTEM DOES NOT ……….& diverging
the poem assumes multiple ………..//.. CONVERGE ……………………………….. realities,
meanings …………………THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE …..the hands
in this way ………………. ……………….THE SYSTEM FAILS ………the poem intersects with
………………. ………………. ………………….TO CONVERGE ………..the reality of the reader
the poem remembers ……..THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE …..what the reader
cannot, the hands, ………….THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE ……… always –
………………. ………………. ……………….(the hands, for instance
………………. ………………. ………………the poem remembers always ……the hands–
………………. ……………………THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE
………………. ……………………THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE
………………. ………………………THE POEM DOES NOT CONVERGE
………………. ………………………..THE POEM FAILS TO CONVERGE
………………. ……………………..THE SYSTEM DOES NOT CONVERGE
………………. ………………………THE SYSTEM FAILS TO CONVERGE

GEORGE ABRAHAM is a Palestinian-American poet, writer, and Bioengineering PhD candidate at Harvard University. They are the author of two poetry chapbooks: the specimen’s apology (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2019) and al youm – for yesterday & her inherited traumas (the Atlas Review, 2017). He is the recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, The Poetry Foundation, and The Watering Hole, as well as the honor of Best Poet from the College Union Poetry Slam International. Their writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Tin House, Boston Review, LitHub, The Rumpus, Beloit Poetry Journal, and anthologies such as Nepantla, Bettering American Poetry, and Beyond Memory – an Anthology of Arab American Creative Nonfiction (University of Arkansas Press, 2019). Their first full-length poetry collection, Birthright, is forthcoming with Button Poetry in 2020.