‘Take, eat’ THIS mr. Mision Work

as some of you know, one of my major research interests is the intersection of poetry and ethnography. i wrote two reviews exploring what i call ‘poethnography’ here and here.

mission work, by aaron baker, seems like a book that’s also in this tradition. 2 posts ago, i was very careful to express my reservations about the book without condemning it, since i haven’t read the work and do not plan to. as barbara alluded to, there’s just too much other shite to do.

however, in the comments of my earlier post, gary very kindly pointed me to two of Baker’s poems online that seem like they belong in the book and he seems crazy enough to think i might have something interesting to say. gary is right tho, engagement with the actual poems is important since it raises important questions. since i’m a sucker for bait, and since it’s NaBlogWrMo, i’ll devote this post and my next one tomorrow to these two poems. however, i will only blog everyday if you, gentle reader, comment and encourage on during the difficulties of blogging everyday.

So the first poem is called “Chimbu Wedding”, which can be found here (READ HIS POEM FIRST PLEASE). weddings, in any culture, are major life events. but look at how baker characterizes the chimbu wedding: he only focuses on the ‘primitive’ killing of pigs (newsflash to mr baker, you gotta kill the pigs to eat the pigs, nothing real exotic ’bout it.). this primitizing caricature of an indigenous wedding is insulting. the rest of the poem reiterates the paternalistic tone as baker directs his white readers to see / learn from the lessons he learned as a missionary son. apparently, baker has access to a special indigenous knowledge that he wants to share with ‘you’.

in honor of NaPoWrMo, i’ve written a poem inspired by baker. it goes a little something like this:

The Wedding of Ms. Shun Airy Sun & Mr. Poe Tree

When the the guests stake out a hundred mini pigs-
in-a-blanket, invading with toothpicks,
watch how they sail, cold as light out of heaven,
above the scene. When the cocktail shrimp, with
their heads cut off, dive into the bloody marinara,
remember that not one thing in this world
will be spared. Not one SUV. Not one
tower in any city center. See the women
hauling empty glasses to the free-bar,
the boys kneeling to collect beer
from half empty bottles, and think of Rev. Wright’s
vision: many-horned creatures descending
on a ballot, the sky saying, “Hope, audacity.”
Learn to sit in the hotel lobby with hunger sated
as children play with fruit cakes they kick around
like soccer balls. Learn a new language
for fetiship, and when you walk home
through the parking lot see if you can translate
the gum-wrapper’s sad whisper
as Home. Then, if there’s a Motel 6
prepared for missionaries, you will know
which exit to take on the freeway.
You will not trouble the clerk at the McDonald’s
take-out window for a way past her register. You will
not remember what gaze washed you clean.

*

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4 thoughts on “‘Take, eat’ THIS mr. Mision Work

  1. Killing mee! So f***ing funny! Blogging everyday is such a hardship, so I commend you and support you through it. Yours in Christ.

  2. bless you child.

    for cursing in my commentional, you must recite 4 rilke elegies.

    go in peace,
    st perez

  3. i think you have gravely misread baker’s poem. at the very least, you have assumed a centrality for his voice – the voice of a child, mind you – which i do not believe the poem itself invites. there’s been a lot of muck slung across the blogosphere about this poem recently, so i was glad to see that someone actually read mr. baker’s work before condeming it. now that i have, i am afraid your reading is no more convincing than the rest.

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