Bushra Rehman / Corona / It Sucks When The Whole Of Your Relationship Fits Into One T-Mobile Bill
Bushra Rehman Artist Statement
My art springs from the experience of my family coming from the wilderness of Pakistan, the North West Frontier Province, into the wilderness of New York City in the Seventies. I have memories of my mother climbing cherry trees in Queens and neighbors looking on in wonder, of being a child left to roam the streets to find whatever adventures I could among the lingering grape vines, the weeds growing in parking lots. I have memories of witnessing the first masjid of NYC, Masjid Alfalah, rise up from a cement parking lot into a holy place of minarets and domes. This was my world, where the city met the pulse of irrepressible wildlife, where my parents and their friends created a Muslim community from scratch. It is this world and the leaving of it I recreate in my writing.
I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was ten years old. At the time I poured all my hidden thoughts into my diaries and poems. In my twenties, I discovered communities of artists and activists including the South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, Women in Literature and Letters, the South Asian Lesbian and Gay Association. I started performing poetry at their fundraisers and realized there was an audience for my work. Soon, the stories I wanted to tell were larger than my poems could contain, so I stopped performing as much and started to write fiction.
For the last ten years, I’ve been working on a novel about Razia Mirza, an adventurous, radical Pakistani girl. Corona is a dark comedy about being South Asian in the United States, a poetic on-the-road-adventure. In Corona, I wanted to create an original character, a Desi woman who lives outside of the box. Razia doesn’t come from the suburbs; she doesn’t wish she were white, and she is dangerously drawn to others in the underbelly of this country. Not surprisingly, it was difficult to find a mainstream publisher for this book. I was thrilled though when the fabulous, independent Sibling Rivalry Press picked it up. Working with a queer, politicized publisher has been a dream come true. Although we are on a shoestring budget, the experience of sharing this book with the world has reminded me how fortunate I am to be a part of a vibrant network of artists and activists.
Corona (and I’m not talking about the beer)
I’m talking about a place that is a little village
perched under the number 7 train in Queens
between Junction Boulevard and 111th St.
I’m talking about the Corona Ice King
Spaghetti Park and P.S. 19.
The Corona F. Scott Fitzgerald
called the valley of ashes
as the Great Gatsby drove past it
on his night of carousal, but what me
and my own know as home.
And we didn’t know about any valley of ashes
because by then it had been topped off by our houses.
The kind made from brick this tan color
no self-respecting brick would be at all.
I’m talking about Flushing Meadows Park
home of World’s Fair relics
where it felt as if some ancient tribe
of white people had lived there long ago.
It was our own Stonehenge
our own Easter Island sculptures
made from a time when New York City
and all the country
was imagining the world’s future.
Back when the future
still seemed exciting and glossy,
like some kind of old stainless steel
science fiction movie
not now when the future seems
like the inside of a dark coat sleeve.
I’m talking about Corona
under the shadow of Shea Stadium
where brown men became famous
and moved to Long Island
where our brothers played baseball
in the tar school yards on the weekends.
our brothers’ futures
were so open and they were so close
they all dreamed the same dream together
That with the crack of a bat
and the pull of their skinny brown legs
they could run away from the smell of garbage
the fear on the streets
the boys beating them up
when they came out of the masjids
in the evening.
They could hit that bat and it would land them
all the way into the safety of Shea Stadium
and then passed that into the island
that was long and rich
where all the baseball stars lived.
It Sucks When The Whole Of Your Relationship Fits Into One T-Mobile Bill
this is where you texted:
last night, what a joy
this is where
forty cents were waived
this is where the calls cut off
we were together every day
this is where the fights began
the slow dissolution of our joy
this is where the calls stopped
when we couldn’t trust ourselves to speak
and this, my old friend, my old lover
is what I have left to pay:
taxes, federal, universal, gross,
excise, money used to fund wars
against people like us
and this is what I know:
I’ll be paying for this
for a very long time