Secondary Trauma by Cklara Moradian
by Cklara Moradian
Kurdish babies born in refugee camps are given names like Sangar (barricade), Awara (displaced), Revin (escape), Zindan (prisoner), Ranjbar (someone who suffers), Firmesk (tears), Bezar (spiteful), Xabat (fight), Tola (revenge), Hawar (wailing) Rizgar (rescued), Snoor (border), Lana (home).
They are victims of geography, survivors of a map.
They grow to sow their lips in protest and they carve symbols into their skin, coordinates of their birthplace as if to say “when you find me, send me home.”
Mothers spend hours lulling their restless children to sleep, singing lullabies that tell of a journey filled with rage. They do not migrate through the process of abscission. They are plucked in violence, deported.
What pains are passed on in these names? What wisdom?
It’s called secondary trauma, as if the seconds it takes to cut the umbilical cord from my mother could insulate me from the torture inflicted on her bones by the state, by displacement, by despair.
As if the lines that separate me from you is drawn in red, or in yellow tape, marking a departure clear enough for me to really feel where you end and I begin. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
I didn’t have to be there to see my uncles hanged for speaking their mother tongue to taste the bitter end of my roots flicker as I try to speak my language, the fluency of which escapes me now.
I didn’t have to be there to know of what you went through during forced confessions, Father. I didn’t have to hear the wailing of my imprisoned kin to now be startled awake by their cries.
Visions of my ancestors forced from the mountains into the desert with blistering feet keep me awake. I walk barefoot on tiptoes as if my feet are blistered. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
What is secondary about this intergenerational heirloom, passed down to me without my consent? What massacres happened in this crossing from one continent to the other? What comes first? Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
They say I have not differentiated myself enough (not in my identity formation). The subtleties of my individuality have become murky in the passage of loss from one generation to the other.
I close my eyelids to find refuge but my memory is fact. It is in my DNA, in epigenetic shapeshifting. The past is present.
What is secondary about waking every day to the news of another genocide, another friend dead, another aunt, sister enslaved? Another exodus? What is secondary about ritual mourning? Every morning! When can we heal? When can we fully grieve when it is never-ending? Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
I once read that pain flows from one family member to the next until someone is ready to feel it. I feel it. I feel it in my flesh, in the marrow of my bones, in my gut. It is like pins right under my fingernails, accumulating in somatic bruises on my thighs. And it shows when I reach out to you and say “I bear witness.” Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
At night, I twist and turn into the fetal position, my belly sounding off my people’s history. I carry it in my posture, the way I am weight down by sorrows I have no names for. I hold it in my voice when it vibrates with fear. I am anchored to the agony of exile. It is all-consuming. It is water. It is in the heaviness of the air that does not fully fill my lungs. It is in the space where I sit with all that has been done to you, in all the places where your jawlines were broken by armed men in uniform Father, beaten to shatters until you could not eat for days.
I remember so you can go on forgetting because you need to forget. I remember so you can go on forgetting.
Every time I look in the mirror, the outline of your silhouette is reflecting back your pain. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
What is secondary about this pain? To me, it has been an offering. It has been a profound loss, wrapped in every conversation, gifted to me in passing. That “all things are lost” is imparted in disorganized attachment, in denial, melancholia, in the sense of betrayal, in bedtime stories of persecution.
My mother, pregnant and imprisoned at 18, was beaten black and blue until she miscarried. I grew up knowing I was not her first child. Grief has come in abundance. Safety was scarce. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
Where is the line between lived experience and being raised with the knowledge of all that has been lost? Tell me, what is loss?
In the journey of displacement, I have lost language, I have lost language (s). I have lost birth certificates, passports, a state. I have lost the promise of return to a land forever stolen from me. I have lost count of my losses. Tell me, where do you end and I begin?
The coordinates of my birthplace is Latitude 36°14′ 47″N Longitude 46° 15′ 59″ E. I am another refugee child with a mispronounced name. When I die, send me home!