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5 September 2020

Writing Whiteness: Performance Art for The End of the World by Chris Tse

  a crowd gathers around an empty frame suspended from the ceiling / some see the face of their saviour / others find themselves lost in a tunnel / those at the front with their chequebooks at the ready have the audacity to call it Art / they’re all correct / but they’re also wrong to think a price can be ascribed to something / we’re only meant to talk about and not touch / the crowd is given the option to replace the frame with a mirror that only speaks the truth / like how a bowl of rotting fruit reveals bad luck or a time of death / we can accommodate the truth if we all share an understanding of what it means to be willing to lay down our weapons / long enough to notice the cracks in the ceiling  / even the shortest histories take their time to course correct / to slip against the hands that direct it / but for many in the crowd it’s easier to look through nothing at a familiar than it is to stare an unknown enemy in the eyes / it’s easier to carry on with letters written in invisible ink / even if they’re ultimately mistaken for scrap paper / these are the thoughts that keep me up at night / the policies and quotas they hold up as progress, which I’d generously call white noise / and the realisation we all emerge from the same chaos / slamming headfirst into riot after riot / if we treated diversity panels like performance reviews maybe we’d actually get shit done / instead of slamming fingers in doors then blaming all fingers for provoking doors / heaven allegedly waits in a sky that sounds like a badly dubbed film of two angels arguing over who gets the remote / there’s a correlation between a constant noise designed to soothe and a puzzle we can’t put back together / the crowd asks whether we should all have a say in what deserves to be safe in the frame / I’ve had too many of these conversations under fluorescent lights in offices and lecture theatres / on stages before a paying audience / always running the circuit of acceptable answers in the wild clutches of self-preservation / it’s like being trapped at a party that’s too noisy and getting tired of explaining why your hands are always bloodied / the crowd knows what I’m talking about / give us a frame and we’ll show you what a lifetime of famine looks like / even when we go to sleep with emptiness / we wake with our bodies filled with visions of every possible happening coming true   Watch Chris Tse perform his poem on our Youtube Channel: Chris Tse is a poet and writer based in Wellington, New Zealand. He is a graduate of the International Institute of Modern Letters, where he completed an MA in Creative Writing. He is the author of two poetry collections published by Auckland University Press: How to be Dead in a Year of Snakes and HE'S SO MASCHow to be Dead in a Year of Snakes was a finalist at the 2016 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards and received the Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry. Chris' poetry and non-fiction have been widely published and anthologised in New Zealand and overseas, and he has appeared in festivals throughout New Zealand, Australia and the UK. Chris is currently co-editing an anthology of LGBTQIA+/Takatāpui writers from Aotearoa which will be published in 2021. This poem is published as part of the online coverage for our latest issue, Wasafiri 103 – featuring a special section on ‘Writing Whiteness’ – which you can purchase here
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