You live in one country. Your husband–another. You can’t enter his. He can’t enter yours. You can leave your country, but he can’t leave his.
Excerpt from “Two Stories” by Autumn Watts, with photography by Kristin Giordano, and published in Guernica Magazine.
Watts, an author based here as well as a lecturer at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, offers up two prose poems presenting very different perspectives on the country most of us call home.
The first half of the work, entitled “The Cities of Animals” is something of a glimpse of Qatar through the eyes of the animal kingdom, detailing the realms of birds, dogs, cats and horses. It opens thusly:
In Qatar, the birds have built their own hidden city. They live in the towers and stairwells of an abandoned palace. Their feathers carpet the ground. They build nests in the sinks of the empty bathrooms.
Haunting photos by Kristin Giordano, who prefers to work with antique and experimental cameras, mesh evocatively with Watts’ fantastical fables.
The second story, which the opening quote is from, is called “Husband Stories.” Taking known facts of migrant labor and gender disparity here, Watts shifts the issues to a matter of husbands and wives, separated seemingly senselessly:
…at least be comforted by this thought: a city of a million missing husbands, a million missing wives. Imagine their absence stacked in the labor camps, between the narrow bunks; crouched in the dark solitude of a city of silent maid’s quarters.
Although approached as a work of fiction here, the migrant labor issue is one Watts certainly knows something about, having co-editing the book Constructing Qatar: Migrant Narratives from the Margins of the Global System, which seeks to illuminate laborer’s stories. She’s also editing a book of collected oral Qatari folktales, and worked with the Doha Film Institute to adapt one such tale into the animated short film “Rain.”
What do you make of it all?
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