An Introduction

This week marks the one year anniversary of AAWW closing down its New York City office and beginning a period of work-from-home. One year ago, billions of people entered a period of isolation, a period of suspended and manifold grief, a period from which the world has yet to emerge. In this sense, the world lingers in a liminal state: not what it was before, not yet what it will be after.

The lullabies offered in this notebook of the Transpacific Literary Project are in no way a direct response to or reflection on the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, the lullabies gathered here swirl in various transitional spaces and threshold crossings: a woman’s twilight walk home from work, a mother’s self melted into her baby’s, a baby’s first encounter with earth, a spirit’s waiting for reincarnation, a body’s waiting for its funeral, a body’s physical decomposition, a face’s nighttime disappearance, a dream’s sacred knowledge, a people’s exodus to the sea, and a music’s enduring resistance to silence.

In the tradition of rather dark music, some of the lullabies presented here carry pain and tears. And because sadnesses cannot be (just) written, each text in this notebook of Lullabies is accompanied by the human voice of its writer and translator. The utterances of song, chant, poem, and story allow for their words to occasionally vaporize into the wordless textures of mourning, and possibly radiate a consoling embrace.

It’s possible that the lullabies of this notebook might shake up as much as soothe. But perhaps, like after a fit of tearful screams into a pillow, there can be a kind of surrender on the other side of this shaking. And I do hope, with a very long shhhh, that all this leads you somewhere just a bit closer to a deep, good sleep.

Zzzz—Kaitlin Rees
March 8, 2021

They say singing makes them recall the peaceful time in Arakan, that once upon a time, they used to sing these folksongs freely and proudly

Her grandma had once asked her how you could tell the difference between something that had disappeared and something that had escaped

Kutenun seikat mimpi / dari telapak pemigi | I weave a bundle of dreams / from the palm of the pemigi loom

거울로 들어가는 문을 찾지 못해 / 내게는 오늘의 밤이 계속된다 | Since I / can’t find the door, the night ceases to end

និស្វាសវាត / អស្សាសវាត / បស្សាសនៃ / ខ្យល់ចេញមិនចូល | In, out, held – / so goes the breath. / Winds leave but no longer come

Sudah hampir sepuluh tahun Ambe terbaring di sumbung | Ambe has been lying on top of the casket for almost ten years now

O ngồi đó chờ đợi một linh hồn lạ mặt vẫn còn sống/ như cánh-đồng-tử-cung của bình minh | O sits there waiting for an unknown soul that is still alive / like a uterus-meadow at dawn

They sit surrounded by items they have prepared for the ritual of Jejak Tanah: fine sand, peat soil, pea gravel, petals from seven kinds of flowers, a baby bathtub, and a large terrarium bowl

今夜我抱着我妈 今夜我唱着夜曲 | Tonight I hold my mother in my arms

But the children are frolicking inside the palace of their mother’s empty stomach. They can’t say whether it’s day or night.

The Transpacific Literary Project is calling for writing from the space between waking and sleep, consciousness and dream, between the living world and the underworld

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