Some poems unlock with a single word. "Spillage" by Nisha Atalie from Breakwater Review, Issue 31, is such a poem. If you speed past the key word in this poem, you're liable to lose the whole thing. Read the poem through by clicking the picture above and see if you can spot the key.
That's right, it's the word "mixed." Without this single word, it's unlikely that even a close reader would Sherlock out the poem's deeper theme. Yes, it's about race and identity, but it's actually about going beyond race and identity to find selfhood. I've got essays on perceptual psychology, poetry, Plath, philosophy, and mysticism that fall right in line with Atalie's theme, you can find them in the navigation menu up top, and I truly hope you'll read and think about them, but poems are a lot more fun.
So, if "mixed" is the key word, what does it unlock? It unlocks the "lie of apparition" that's anything or anyone that appears to be, or believes themselves to be, unmixed.
The word "mixed" actually means the imperceptible fine gradations of Self, the Alchemy of the Soul. Or if you prefer a more mundane nomenclature: the endlessness of self-identify.
Lines like these refute the default notion that heritage or race defines Self:
... Ancestors laugh
in opposing cadences. Who will edit me now,
who will pluck or disentangle,
decipher me all the way into the deep?
The "spillage" of the self reaches a place without name:
predicated on exception.
The entire poem is a masterful display of what figurative language can accomplish. The big lesson here is: whoever you now think you are, it's a metaphor. And every metaphor you read or write, brings you closer to another self. You can despair at the "mix" or start adding in your own colors.
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