Biomythography

I want to try to keep this blog as a place where I showcase my current writing, stuff that is shorter and more relevant in a blog setting. However, last year, I wrote a biomythography for my freshman year english class that I think is relevant to the topics in this space. We read Zami by Audre Lorde, one of the most impactful and freeing texts I’ve ever experienced. I wrote this for my class.

Recently one of my classmates reached out to me and gave me the most wonderful job of tutoring second grade writer to two girls. She said she thought of my name because of the biomythography I wrote from class. I am so grateful to her.

*(note: some text effect might be formatted weird for some viewers).

When I first started to write this I was going to initially cover gender and sexuality structures of power and difference. But after covering that in my final essay I realized I didn’t want to tell the same story. And the idea that I only really had that story to tell made me think about something else that we’ve talked about in this class: privilege. I wanted to write about privilege in a way that wasn’t analytical or merely just explaining what it is: I wanted to show what it is. I decided to pick a setting of my summer home in New Hampshire to tell this narrative because the amount of my life I’ve spent there is shorter and therefore it would naturally simplify my narrative of my realizations I have had with what my privilege is and what that means. I drew a lot of Inspiration from A Letter to My Sisters Who Showed Up For Islan Nettles & Ourselves at the Vigil because there it talked a lot about appropriation, and privilege in regards to not taking up space in a space that isn’t yours, that just because you belong to a community doesn’t mean you can speak up for everyone in your community, and it also started to explore saviorism complexes that specifically politicians have. I’ve recently been doing a lot of reading about white saviorism so that was another topic I wanted to include. I decided to break my work into six chapters that include a paragraph of a story of a literal event that happened at my house and then a poem about one of the topics in the paragraph. I wanted to make the poems into the shape of the topic of the chapter because I’ve always been fascinated by the structure of lines of sentences in poems so I wanted to include something more visual to stimulate the reader.  I wanted all the chapters to advance as the next one came, for them to layer on top of each other. And I also wanted all the chapters to mean something to the other. I wanted to talk about privilege in a more nuanced and creative way, one where the main point isn’t necessarily stated, but shown through my words. I hope that by the end of the sixth chapter the reader understands the whole point I was trying to make. 

I. Slant

In the rolling hills of South West New Hampshire sits a tiny town called Richmond. In 1810 a house on a hill was built, in 1910 it was purchased by my great great uncle. We’ve called it Hillside for as long as I could remember. We have a treehouse and a lake across the street that can sometimes feel like we’re the only ones in the world who know its there. In the afternoon the wind always comes in and the trees make a rustling sound that sounds like how I imagine the waves would be if there was a long beach for them to lap onto. We don’t have any nice furniture except for the stuff Aunt Helen nailed down because burglars come every autumn. When I was little I thought we called it Hillside because the side with the porch was about to fall into the hill. It was only used by my grandpa to do yoga in the morning with his pink underwear on but everyone always told him he was being crazy, that he would fall through at any moment. It tilted so much that by the time we gathered up all the savings from all the cousins to repair it, the porch was hanging on almost a thirty degree angle. 

What does it mean

          For something as sturdy

                    As a wooden floor with nails

                               Something whose only purpose

                                           Is to be stood on

                                                       What does it mean when that thing

                                                                        Needs support from you now?

II. Cross

I have lots of really great memories at our house in New Hampshire, swimming the whole distance of Sandy Pond, picking wild blackberries in our backyard, yelling into the woods to try to talk to Honey the Bear, hanging out with my cousins, some of which I would never meet again. Later my mom would tell me it was fetal alcohol syndrome which made Katelin and Shawn act like that. Every single married couple connected to that house except for my grandparents and parents are divorced now. They don’t usually come to Hillside anymore. I remember my mom used to take us to this blueberry festival every year until she found out that the church that is trying to buy every single property in Richmond ran it. Later I would learn that there were rumors in the nearby towns of Winchester and Swanzey that they were stealing little boys too. Winchester was also an important part of Hillside for me. Just four years ago did they start to sell veggies in their grocery store that we could buy instead of having to drive all the way to Keene. Most of the people who work there are addicted to opioids and meth, when I was little I was scared to look at them. 

Little boys

Are being

Snatched

But

You can’t

Call the

Police

When they

Are the

Same People

That are snatching the boys

You can’t call the Police when those in blue are those at service

Those in the church, ringing the bell, asking for donations

Telling you God will forgive your sins, your bad conscious

Buying property

Buying the town

Buying the mayor

Buying the pipeline

Buying the media

Buying the newspaper

You can’t call

The police

When the

Police

Are the ones

Who are

Stealing our

Boys 

III. Home

There is a camp across the street from us that is almost one hundred years old. Camp Wiyaka. We had to swim the Polar Bear every morning because it was our familial tradition of running into the ice cold lake at 7 am. Just last year did they take the Native American face off of their sign when you pull up onto the dirt road, and I’m sure they only did that because the sign was about to fall off just like our porch. Multiple generations of my family have gone to it so when I first entered middle school I knew it was my turn. I remember when I first showed up with my trunk I saw a lot of kids who looked like Katelin and Shawn and a lot of parents who acted like the cashiers in Koolicks grocery store in Winchester. The kids who went to the camp were from Athol and Orange Massachusetts, my cousin, my twin sister and I, were known as the Brokenshires (our family name), or “the kids who lived across the street in the big white house”. We were different and they knew it. About half of the kids didn’t believe my sister and I were related to my cousin because she’s half black, they did not understand how that could work at all. Besides a brown girl named Lexie who had a belly button piercing, my cousin Sofie was the only person of color there, and perhaps the only POC many of those kids had ever seen.

My

Home is

Flannel sheets and

Olive oil rings on the counter and

Solid wooden doors with cracked paint and

Blue tile bathroom with grout that really needs a clean and

That house smell that your friends tell you your house has

Toilet paper without the cardboard roll- save the trees!!!!!!!

Furniture we got from when my uncle sold his second house

Food that tastes like how my mom hugs, how my dad talks

Coins that someone left on the table, waiting to go upstairs

A piano with three trombones and two and a half clarinets

Hillside is my home in the summer and it is safe and familiar

A refuge for crickets and mice and dragonflies and ants and 

Warm, metallic water to wash my hands and feet and face

IV. Gravestone

 I’d later learn that Athol Mass is an old town struck hard by the Great Depression and ruined by the closing of the mill. They have one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the country, murders are not rare, and that substances run through the blood of families. There were four “M’kayla’s” at this camp, three girls named “Haylee” a couple girls named “Mariah”, and five girls named “Marrisa”. I learned what falling down the stairs meant and what metal coat hangers are for. I learned what it meant to live next to the “graveyard”. I listened to Kayla tell me about how her brother was shot right in front of her and how Marrissa’s dad and mom both overdosed and died when she was at camp last year. While little Ella was forced to reckon with big ideas like systemic drug abuse, unsafe and underground abortions, the familial pattern of teen pregnancy, rape, murder, loss, I also had my own “problems” I was trying to figure out. I remember my aunt on my dad’s side sent me a package with candy and money and I felt so good giving Kayla the five dollar after crying about her sunglasses she dropped in the lake earlier that day because her dad had given them to her from the dollar store. A saviorism complex that I had inadvertently yet still developed from this exchange. 

When we were little they 

used to tell us “don’t waste water” 

because kids in Africa don’t have any.

They used to tell us that kids in “third world 

countries” would not complain in the ways 

we do. We were supposed to admire White 

Folk who came to talk to our class about the 

amazing work they did in Africa. They’d show 

us pictures of kids with swollen bellies. “This 

little girl changed my life” They’d say. I remember 

asking one of them what the little girl’s name was in 

the picture “Oh it’s some complicated name I can’t

 even pronounce”. I ask him what country she was 

from “Oh all the countries we went to blur together”.

I ask him why we can’t all go on this trip “Oh it’s very 

expensive for us to all get there you know” I ask him

 why they were the ones building houses not contractors

“Oh we thought it would be more impactful for Us”  I ask 

him why there’s a picture of him with a stethoscope 

even though he’s not a doctor “Oh they’re just grateful 

that we gave them medical attention at all” I ask him why 

they’re so poor in the first place “Oh they just are, but 

don’t worry, we helped them by building a house!”

V. Sparrow

I used to run 10ks a lot so I would always run on the mountain behind my house. There’s a government facility building that has an electric wire around its boundaries and a lot of weird planes and jets that fly over our field to get to. When you run to the top you see the building and you know it’s time to turn around. When you run down the mountain your legs are tense but they start to relax. Your lungs are heaving but they start to find a rhythm. Your neck bobs with your head and with your steps and you actually start to feel like you might make it down the mountain alive. I was running with my uncle one time and there was an injured sparrow in the dirt road ahead. Sam the dog had no interest in it but we soon figured out to move it out of the middle of the road to the side with some leaves. We kept running until we get to the base of the mountain and then we jumped into the ice cold lake that felt like velvet and running in slow motion. As I swam to Bare Ass Beach I thought back to the bird that was injured. But it is not me and for right now I am flying with breastroke in the lake that cannot hold me back. I say a prayer to the god I do not believe in- hoping it will be okay, and then, I move on with my life. Right?

The 

bird of love 

my uncle said.

 I think about 

the jet flying above my head to the top of the mountain we were just at and I wish that this 

little sparrow was flying high with it. I ask myself why a beautiful creature like this is shivering on the ground when a gas guzzling, brown child murdering, corrupt money funded machine gets to fly in the beautiful blue around. This bird is the bird of love and yet we do not love it. We love machines and big corporations and unruly aspirations 

through capitalism 

 and imperialism. 

We love black 

culture but not 

black lives. We 

Pray for “the

“Middle East”

 but not Palestinian children. 

We love jets but not sparrows I realize. 

VI. Eyes

There’s nothing like being out on the water right when the sun is going down. The bats start to come out and fly across the purple sky. The frogs start to sing in their choir that won’t stop throughout the whole night. Owls that sound like coyotes and coyotes that sound like owls. If you take the pink kayak out to the middle of the lake when the sun is about to set then you can be apart of it in a way. The purple sky becomes purple ripples of water. The trees rustle. The moon is in charge now. We can get a good campfire started and make smores and salmon. I love the popping and cracking noises that the fire makes when we really get it going. I love sitting next to the people in my family. Not worrying in this moment about how my dad has advanced cancer. Knowing the kids at Wiyaka are in their bunks by now. Mosquitoes bite my ankles but for right now it doesn’t matter. When the sun sets and the moon comes out to play, I can’t help but think a lot. I think about how the porch used to be falling, and boys are being stolen, and home is a word of comfort, and that I used to think I was better than all the kids at Wiyaka, and a sparrow was once on this dirt road. A sparrow that I do not know anything about now. I think about how privilege and saviorism have made my eyes think a certain way. Privilege that I was born with, a saviorism complex that I later developed. I sit there hoping that the sparrow replaced that jet. That the cross and the gravestone were merely a slanted porch that needed to be replaced. Home for me is a word of comfort and that is a privilege that I need to acknowledge. The government has never infested my communities with drugs, my ancestors weren’t stolen and taken here as hostages, the town I live in does not have a shut down mill, I have never used opioids, metal coat hangers in my closet are only used to hang coats, I think about what my eyes see, and I know that I just got really lucky. 

Privilege

Is the fact that when I came out

My parents still loved me. It is going skinny dipping in

Sandy Pond at night. It is when my grandma asks me what colleges I am applying

To, not if I am. It is being the family from the White House across the street. It is having sneakers

With laces. Privilege is writing stories for fun. Privilege is whiteness. Privilege is knowing people are

Being systematically murdered and still buying things from the culprit. Privilege is a jet hogging the skies when Sparrows should be able to fly too. It is looking through your eyes and ignoring what you see because it doesn’t affect you. Privilege is something that can be used for good things but rarely is. It is homemade packed lunches, new basketball sneakers every six months, another pair of sunglasses when they fall in the lake, not getting that call from the hospital. Privilege is the smoking gun used to shoot down hopes of resistance. It is

 a pink pussy hat but no solidarity for trans victims. I think a lot about the person I used to be. I was creative and thoughtful, a real joy at least I think. But as I’ve grown older and especially at Hillside I’ve started to realize that privilege is me and I am privilege. Being queer and a woman sucks sometimes

But I have a home even if its porch slants occasionally. And it is my

 Responsibility to make sure a sparrow can

Fly high. Just like the jets do. 

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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