Festival Readings: Untitled by Patrick Gunasekera

Here at EWF, we’ve selected some of our favourite pieces that were originally performed at the 2020 Emerging Writers’ Festival to publish. We hope you will read and enjoy them as much as we did!

For this instalment of Festival Readings, we’re sharing a poem by Patrick Gunasekera, which was written between sessions Patrick attended at this year’s National Writers’ Conference. Untitled was performed later that same evening as part of the event Through the Looking Glass, which featured artists from Perth’s Centre for Stories.

When I say to be brown is to be brilliant
I mean
The theory of race was invented for cash
as in
The English word curry was created to categorise
hundreds of distinct worlds
As one
for efficiency

When they smelt my lion’s blood
my Sinhala
They named me Portuguese Ceylon, Dutch Ceylon, British Ceylon
after which
I learned to give myself a name
and a border
a nationalism

Everyone is the same as their own language
except when
One is occupied by another’s
In a language that never alleges biology to be defective
unless, perhaps, for parable
And in a language that never complements a sequestering
of capital
There is no possible way
to represent disability as item

The protection of the individual or collective self
through the impairment of another
Is one example
of an extreme manifestation
Of fear
which is also
A manifestation of idea
or of memory

Did God, did the land, teach us to be brutal
Did God, did the land, teach us to be brutal
out of fear

Existence has a way of being truth
just as
Life has a way of cultivating life
which is to say
Everything is everything
Always was, always will be

The notion of brown is synonymous with struggle
The notion of brown emerged
from struggle

Brown was not birthed
as to birth is to yield life

Brown was not created
as to create is to verbalise

Brown was product, a causation sustained
for strategy
and ours

To contradict our multiplicities of endlessness
in a story of dominion

And to remember our everlasting endurance
such as
When I say to be brown is to be brilliant