“There is a world which poets cannot seem to enter. It is the world everybody else lives in. And the only thing poets seem to have in common is their yearning to enter this world.”—Mary Ruefle, Someone Reading a Book is a Sign of Order in the World (via itgivesitthew)
In the days when a man would hold a swarm of words inside his belly, nestled against his spleen, singing.
In the days of night riders when life tongued a reed till blues & sorrow song called out of the deep night: Another man done gone. Another man done gone.
In the days when one could lose oneself all up inside love that way, & then moan on the bone till the gods cried out in someone’s sleep.
Today, already I’ve seen three dark-skinned men discussing the weather with demons & angels, gazing up at the clouds & squinting down into iron grates along the fast streets of luminous encounters.
I double-check my reflection in plate glass & wonder, Am I passing another Lucky Thompson or Marion Brown cornered by a blue dementia, another dark-skinned man who woke up dreaming one morning & then walked out of himself dreaming? Did this one dare to step on a crack in the sidewalk, to turn a midnight corner & never come back whole, or did he try to stare down a look that shoved a blade into his heart? I mean, I also know something about night riders & catgut. Yeah, honey, I know something about talking with ghosts.
“Stop worrying about your identity and concern yourself with the people you care about, ideas that matter to you, beliefs you can stand by, tickets you can run on. Intelligent humans make those choices with their brain and hearts and they make them alone. The world does not deliver meaning to you. You have to make it meaningful…and decide what you want and need and must do. It’s a tough, unimaginably lonely and complicated way to be in the world. But that’s the deal: you have to live; you can’t live by slogans, dead ideas, clichés, or national flags. Finding an identity is easy. It’s the easy way out.”—Zadie Smith, On Beauty. (via jillsies)
This is what your dying looks like. You believe in the sun. You believe I don’t love you. Always be closing, Said our favorite professor before He let the gun go off in his mouth. I turned 29 the way any man turns In his sleep, unaware of the earth Moving beneath him, its plates in Their places, a dated disagreement. Let’s fight it out, baby. You have Only so long left. A man turns In his sleep, so I take a picture. He won’t look at it, of course. It’s His bad side, his Mr. Hyde, the hole In a husband’s head, the O Of his wife’s mouth. Every night, I take a pill. Miss one, and I’m gone. Miss two, and we’re through. Hotels Bore me, unless I get a mountain view, A room in which my cell won’t work, And there’s nothing to do but see The sun go down into the ground That cradles us as any coffin can.
It was like the moment when a bird decides not to eat from your hand, and flies, just before it flies, the moment the rivers seem to still and stop because a storm is coming, but there is no storm, as when a hundred starlings lift and bank together before they wheel and drop, very much like the moment, driving on bad ice, when it occurs to you your car could spin, just before it slowly begins to spin, like the moment just before you forgot what it was you were about to say, it was like that, and after that, it was still like that, only all the time.
A bit of light that descends the springhead of a gaze twin shadow of the eyelash and the rainbow on a face and round about who goes there angelically ambling Woman the current weather the current weather matters little to me my life is always ahead of a hurricane you are the morning that swoops down on the lamp a night stone between its teeth you are the passage of seabirds as well you who are the wind through the salty ipomeas of consciousness insinuating yourself from another world Woman you are a dragon whose lovely color is dispersed and darkens so as to constitute the inevitable tenor of things I am used to brush fires I am used to ashen bush rats and the bronze ibis of the flame Woman binder of the foresail gorgeous ghost helmet of algae of eucalyptus dawn isn’t it and in the abandon of the ribbands very savory swimmer
They wanted me to tell the truth, so I said I’d lived among them, for years, a spy, but all that I wanted was love. They said they couldn’t love a spy. Couldn’t I tell them other truths? I said I was emotionally bankrupt, would turn any of them in for a kiss. I told them how a kiss feels when it’s especially undeserved; I thought they’d understand. They wanted me to say I was sorry, so I told them I was sorry. They didn’t like it that I laughed. They asked what I’d seen them do, and what I do with what I know. I told them: find out who you are before you die. Tell us, they insisted, what you saw. I saw the hawk kill a smaller bird. I said like is one long leavetaking. They wanted me to speak like a journalist. I’ll try, I said. I told them I could depict the end of the world, and my hand wouldn’t tremble. I said nothing’s serious except destruction. They wanted to help me then. They wanted me to share with them, that was the word they used, share. I said it’s bad taste to want to agree with many people. I told them I’ve tried to give as often as I’ve betrayed. They wanted to know my superiors, to whom did I report? I told them I accounted to no one, that each of us is his own punishment. If I love you, one of them cried out, what would you give up? There were others before you, I wanted to say, and you’d be the one before someone else. Everything, I said.
Woman, I wish I didn’t know your name. What could you be? Silence in my house & the front yard where the dogwood wouldn’t make up its mind about flowers. Aren’t you Nature? A stem cringing, half- shadowed beneath a torque of rain. I too am leaving. I too am half-spun. The other day near the river I bent down & Narcissus turned his immaculate mouth away, refusing to caress my howls. Silence in the trees all around the shotgun house & that scent of cedar whenever I dream. I turn the light around on the ground, sweeping the red mud, holding the light like a rattler. Like a hood of poison, fitted over my face. Cobra woman, slicked with copperhead flutes. I too am fleeing. My face born in a caul of music. Bravado. The men come into the yard & pull all my clothes off, walk me into the house, into my own kitchen. Tell me not to say say I’m wrong.
“Although we all want to know love, we talk about the search for true love as though it is always and only a solitary quest. I am disturbed by the weighty emphasis on self in so much New Age writing on the topic, and in our culture as a whole. When I would talk about my yearning for a loving partner, people told me over and over that I did not need anyone else. They would say I did not need a companion and/or a circle of loved ones to feel complete, that I should be complete inside myself. While it is definitely true that inner contentedness and a sense of fulfillment can be there whether or not we commune in love with others, it is equally meaningful to give voice to that longing for communion. Life without communion in love with others would be less fulfilling no matter the extent of one’s self-love.
All over the world people live in intimate daily contact with one another. They wash together, eat and sleep together, face challenges together, share joy and sorrow. The rugged individual who relies on no one else is a figure who can only exist in a culture of domination where a privileged few use more of the world’s resources that the many who must daily do without. Worship of individualism has in part led use to the unhealthy culture of narcissism that is so all pervasive in our society.”—bell hooks, All About Love: New Visions (via shana-elmsford)
I remember Michigan fondly as the place I go to be in Michigan. The right hand of America waving from maps or the left pressing into clay a mold to take home from kindergarten to Mother. I lived in Michigan forty-three years. The state bird is a chained factory gate. The state flower is Lake Superior, which sounds egotistical though it is merely cold and deep as truth. A Midwesterner can use the word “truth,” can sincerely use the word “sincere.” In truth the Midwest is not mid or west. When I go back to Michigan I drive through Ohio. There is off I-75 in Ohio a mosque, so life goes corn corn corn mosque, I wave at Islam, which we’re not getting along with on account of the Towers as I pass. Then Ohio goes corn corn corn billboard, goodbye, Islam. You never forget how to be from Michigan when you’re from Michigan. It’s like riding a bike of ice and fly fishing. The Upper Peninsula is a spare state in case Michigan goes flat. I live now in Virginia, which has no backup plan but is named the same as my mother, I live in my mother again, which is creepy but so is what the skin under my chin is doing, suddenly there’s a pouch like marsupials are needed. The state joy is spring. “Osiris, we beseech thee, rise and give us baseball” is how we might sound were we Egyptian in April, when February hasn’t ended. February is thirteen months long in Michigan. We are a people who by February want to kill the sky for being so gray and angry at us. “What did we do?” is the state motto. There’s a day in May when we’re all tumblers, gymnastics is everywhere, and daffodils are asked by young men to be their wives. When a man elopes with a daffodil, you know where he’s from. In this way I have given you a primer. Let us all be from somewhere. Let us tell each other everything we can.
I don’t want to hurt a man, but I like to hear one beg. Two people touch twice a month in ten hotels, and We call it long distance. He holds down one coast. I wander the other like any African American, Africa With its condition and America with its condition And black folk born in this nation content to carry Half of each. I shoulder my share. My man flies To touch me. Sky on our side. Sky above his world I wish to write. Which is where I go wrong. Words Are a sense of sound. I get smart. My mother shakes Her head. My grandmother sighs: He ain’t got no Sense. My grandmother is dead. She lives with me. I hear my mother shake her head over the phone. Somebody cut the cord. We have a long distance Relationship. I lost half of her to a stroke. God Gives to each a body. God gives every body its pains. When pain mounts in my body, I try thinking of my White forefathers who hurt their black bastards quite Legally. I hate to say it, but one pain can ease another. Doctors rather I take pills. My man wants me to see A doctor. What are you when you leave your man Wanting? What am I now that I think so fondly Of airplanes? What’s my name, whose is it, while we Make love. My lover leaves me with words I wish To write. Flies from one side of a nation to the outside Of our world. I don’t want the world. I only want African sense of American sound. Him. Touching. This body. Aware of its pains. Greetings, Earthlings. My name is Slow And Stumbling. I come from planet Trouble. I am here to leave you uncomfortable.
I am sometimes the clarinet your parents bought your first year in band, my whole body alive in your fingers, my one ear warmed by the music you breathe into it. I hear your shy laugh among the girls at practice. I am not your small wrist rising & falling as you turn the sheet music, but I want to be. Or pinky bone, clavicle. When you walk home from school, birds call to you in a language only clarinets decipher. The leaves whistle and gawk as you pass. Locked in my skinny box, I want to be at least one of the branches leaning above you.
Some Part of Yourself, Then—Vast, Repeating by Todd Fredson
Sometimes I climb myself. I hear her holding her breath so that her breathing does not obscure the sound of the rain, does not push our bedroom like a paper boat through the window out into the cedar boughs.
And I am waving black flags of sand, blotting out the nights I truly was gone, had hopped the high wall of my body to travel that labyrinth back to you.
The girl shepherd on the farm beyond has been taken from school now she is twelve, and her life is over. I got my genius brother a summer job in the mills and he stayed all his life. I lived with a woman four years who went crazy later, escaped from the hospital, hitchhiked across America terrified and in the snow without a coat, and was raped by most men who gave her a ride. I crank my heart even so and it turns over. Ranges high in the sun over continents and eruptions of mortality, through windows and immensities of rain falling for miles. Until all the world is overcome by what goes up and up in us, singing and dancing and throwing down flowers as we continue north taking the maimed with us, keeping the sad parts carefully.
God keeps unfurling me with God’s gigantic helium. There are scratchmarks all over my life. That’s from my mitts. Other human, this unfurliness is far too spacious. Would you lend me some muscle? Let’s write a sermon on control. Let’s write a love song for heavyweights and by heavyweights I mean everyone.
We were in the car. We were heading home when Christian with his wholly American name & manic chatter told his girlfriend the woman we saw walking on the road with no umbrella was a symbol of torment.We were in the backseat— you with that face making the windows & the black world beyond the windows beautiful, the roadside figure of a woman in the rain beautiful & I knew later I’d be writing these lines, caught in that space between personal & public: a woman’s torment or symbol of it & our love & goddamn everybody’s sins scribbled here for show. We were in the car heading home when Christian said the woman on the road was probably fresh from a fight with her husband, but he didn’t say his fists gave his last girlfriend bruises & I didn’t say it either… The woman was walking alone on the shoulder & meant something different & utterly the same to each of us— her lit up life & husband left looking from a window, as I have looked from a window, guilty. But Guilt ain’t nobody’s business. We were in the car, we saw a woman walking on the road. There was a woman who, after our quarrels, would steal my car, a little blue Datsun with a dented fender. She’d drive from our dorm to the blank streets of the town we lived in; she’d drive past the empty classrooms, the soccer field, to God knows where & I wanted her, then, away from me— two red lights, a tired engine leaving smoke. But one night I groped in the darkness beneathe my hood until I disconnected something & if there is such a thing as malice, that was it— a man sabotaging his own car so his lover couldn’t run… I’m shaking my head because I want to say I’m different now, like Christian— someone with a new face beside him & a pain no one can see, perhaps, settled in his chest. Your new face beside me. I am damaged, I have bruised. We fought over something stupid & she came so close I knew she could smell my blood. Have I come far enough to say I hit her; to say my hand left a cloud on her cheek? Have I come far enough to say, I’m sorry? We were in the car, you with that face making the windows & the world beyond the windows real; the figure of a woman on the road telling the truth. Once in my small brutal past a woman left me, walked from my lit up fingers to the street with a storm on her face. It was raining. I watched from the window & could not follow, my car sat in the lot disconnected, unopened, unmoved.
Much needed post by Elizabeth Humphrys on the classism and maliciousness in memes like #boganmovies and #tightsarenotpants. Even if you’re not on Twitter and unfamiliar with these memes, you would be aware of (or perhaps participated in) some of this behaviour towards “bogans” and the policing of women’s fashion choices.
Well, you put Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Fouad Ajami, Azar Nafisi, Ibn Warraq, Irshad Manji, Salman Rushdie, et al together on one side and Frantz Fanon, Edward Said, and Theodore Adorno on the other and you can pretty much imagine what “topics, issues and literatures” I address! The principal topic is the role of comprador intellectuals in the ideological formations of a globalized imperialism — both in its North American and Western European contexts. The main issue is the rise of a group of exilic intellectuals who have no emotive connection to any home or moral principle by which they do what they do. They are aye-sayers to power, as Edward Said used to categorize them, or borrowing from Malcolm X, “House Muslims,” as I call them. They have immigrated into the bosom of power. They have realized that the fastest way to cut corners and get successful and prominent is to tell the dominant imperial power something or another about their “native” culture that facilities their subjugation. They are native disinformers. They don’t tell their employers what they need to know, but what they want to hear.
The literature that I cover is basically their writings and interviews — a ghastly read, I tell you. It was cruel and unusual punishment to sit down and read so much banality. My salvation, I tell you now, was Ella Fitzgerald. Without her I would have gone mad reading so much gibberish. I listened to a lot of Sister Ella to keep my soul and sanity clean. Otherwise these people pull you down if you spend too much time with them. I would read them and write in the morning and listen to Ella Fitzgerald in the evening to restore my soul and sanity. So when I was done and got the book out of my system, all I could remember was the glorious Ella whispering to my ear, smiling:
Oh, the shark has pearly teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has MacHeath, dear
And he keeps it out of sight … .
So my strong recommendation to all those who do critical writing is that when you must read much horror in order to criticize it, do make sure you have some solid source of beauty, eloquence, and truth by your side.
After the evening prayers at the mosque, came the looters in masks, and you three stood, beloved in your neighbourhood, brave, bright, brothers, to be who you were – a hafiz is one who has memorised the entire Koran; a devout man – then the man in the speeding car who purposefully mounted the kerb …
I think we all should kneel on that English street, where he widowed your pregnant wife, Shazad, tossed your soul to the air, Abdul, and brought your father, Haroon, to his knees, his face masked in only your blood on the rolling news where nobody’s children riot and burn.
I still love words. When we make love in the morning, your skin damp from a shower, the day calms. Shadenfreude may be the best way to name the covering of adulthood, the powdered sugar on a black shirt. I am
alone now on the top floor pulled by obsession, the ink on my fingers. And sometimes it is a difficult name. Sometimes it is like the world before America, the kin- ship of fools and hunters, the children, the dazed dream
of mothers with no style. A word can be the boot print in a square of fresh cement and the glaze of morning. Your response to my kiss is I have a cavity. I am in love with incompletion. I am clinging to your moorings.
Yes, I have a pretty good idea what beauty is. It survives alright. It aches like an open book. It makes it difficult to live.