Against the Archive

Satpreet Kahlon
MFA SC 2019

This poem was written to accompany Against the Archive: A Solo Exhibition by Satpreet Kahlon, on view through January 30, 2019, at Brown University's Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender. The exhibition includes a scanner placed on a studio stool that rocks with the scanner's motion, creating print-outs whose glitches suggest the possibility of opening a space in the archive for gendered and racialized bodies who have thus far been underrepresented.

i wonder and don’t wonder about the history of
this room, this house, its namesake
the people who have lived here and laughed
here and quite possibly died here.
i wonder and don’t wonder, because i know.
what i will find, if i go searching. i know what i
will find, and what will not

be findable.

tired of my fingers tracing the same lines that
make up the same words that make up the
same story that i see myself haunting only in
the spaces between the sentences, the place
where the ink leaves the page untouched.

can the absence paint a picture?

can the descendants of the absence read the
picture if its painted?

when your eyes trace the changing light on
your bedroom ceiling on a morning when the
absence has made an anchor of your chest,
do you wonder what the light must know and
remember? carrying with it an eon of
knowledge of a universe gone by.

does it hit your upturned face, your silent body,
and think how similar you look to your

the way her nose curved to the left, her brows
sat low on her face, the way her body was an
anchor too, sometimes.

can you hold that light somehow and use it to
undo the heavy knot of absence that moors you
- containing the multitude of histories and fu-
tures you can never know or imagine - a long
black thread pulled from the back of your throat
that comes and comes and keeps coming

what can the light tell you that you do not know?
what can the light tell you that you do not know?

does it remember the silence? the space be-
tween words, closed lips, between bodies in
repose, between borders made and erased and
made again uncrossable?

could it paint you a picture?

would you recognize that picture if it were ever

Born in India, raised in the Midwest, and having lived most of her adult life on the West Coast, Satpreet Khalon has amassed a complicated geographical cultural identity, which includes a love for organic produce, superfoods, and hiking that complements, rather than rivals, her love for ornate gold jewelry, Punjabi Bhangra, cheesy potatoes, and saying things like, “Yeah, it's cold, but have you ever walked two miles to class in a Michigan winter?”