Karissa Lang: New People

Chinese ancestral worship postcard postmarked Shanghai 1908. Source: worthpoint.com

We all descend from someone ancient, and contrary to what is generally believed in the West, they never leave us. Whether you are mystical or logical in nature, the idea sticks. For the former, ancestors spiritually guide us from beyond the grave. For the latter, science now dictates that we genetically inherit their memories and phobias. Either way, an ancestor is someone who passes on information—be it through stories, values, behavior, DNA, or supernatural means—and what distinguishes a good ancestor from a bad one is the quality of this information: a good ancestor hands down wisdom, a bad one gifts us with their pain.

My mother is a bad ancestor and her mother was a bad ancestor too​, a​nd if I can’t be a good one, I’d at least like to be better. I come from a lineage of mothers who did not want children. Mean women, selfish women, indifferent women who resented where they came from and had no idea how to nurture what they’d created. Women who buried their aborted babies in the backyard. Women who abandoned their children to others. Women who raged without really knowing why. Absent women who felt unwanted and unloved and unconsciously groomed every last one of their descendants to experience the same.

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Yasmine Seale: A Poem by Dakhtanus bint Laqit

Six images of the Rub al Khali (Empty Quarter) by Stuart Franklin, 2008. Source: magnumphotos.com

He came early with the news:

the best of Khindif, full-grown

and young combined, is dead.

No one brought their enemies

more fear, nor saved so many

held captive. Their pearl. Excellent

in war, undaunted, always the one

to meet kings: it did them proud

when he spoke. His bloodline

was perfect: you could trace it

back, a column reaching all the way

to the tribe’s origin. As a bright star

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