Self Writes 16th Century

Self wrote the below section in a tone deliberately deadpan. It’s from her novel, Camarote de Marinero: Voyages.

An archivist to a young missionary who is shortly to depart Spain for the Philippines (1597):

  • As regards your health. The only hospitals are in Manila. You will be ill, but there is no help. There are two seasons, the dry and the wet. Fever is common during the wet season.

Holsten Mason, Making It Up As He Goes Along

Children of Time 2.5: All These Worlds Are Yours

Holsten is a “classicist,” a linguist, but his knowledge of dead languages is what enables him to communicate with “evolved” spiders, go figure! (It’s either evolved spiders or the back-from-cryogeny Dr. Kern. Self will go with spiders, it’s more fun to imagine)

Part of the reason self loves this book so much is that she really feels there is something at stake, and that’s mostly because of Holsten. He is so sure of himself that he tells the spiders the whole history of the Earth and how it died:

. . . he told Kern why they could not go back: because of the war, the Empire’s war from thousands of years before. For so long, scholars had taught that the further the ice receded, the better for the world, and yet nobody had guessed what poisons and sicknesses had been caught up in that ice, like insects in amber . . .

There is no returning to Earth, he sent to the pensively silent satellite. In the end, we could not counterbalance the increasing toxicity of the environment. So we built the ark ships. In the end all we had was old star maps to guide us. We are the human race. And we’ve had no transmissions from any other arks to say that they’ve found anywhere to stay. Doctor Avrana Kern, this is all we have. Please may we settle on your planet?

Stay tuned.

Poetry Saturday 2: Kyi May Kaung


from the chapbook Pelted With Petals: The Burmese Poems (Alaska: Intertext, 1996)

This is what
you’re paid to do
spin doctor to put
a good
surface on
things —

your side says
we’re rude —
you’re recognized
by the UN
no less
defacto —
you don’t lose
your temper – polished in your
suit – cheroot burn in your
tie – big hole in the center –
but remember
truth is sometimes ugly
often ugly —
lies can be beautifully
crafted —
the smoothness of a surface
is not our criterion
lies make us angry – we shout –
blood comes out
through our
nostrils and
all our
orifices —
what can be
uglier and more
truthful than

Kyi May Kaung received her doctorate in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania. She is originally from Rangoon, Burma and has written four collections of poetry and an allegorical novel, She Monkey Goes West, which was a finalist for a Pew Fellowship for fiction. Much of her poetry addresses oppression in Burma, now called Myanmar, as well as the experience of being a woman in relation to others.

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