So many foreigners and cops out in Haebangchon tonight, for “HBC Fest”, I was compelled to say a prayer to Saint Seldom-Seen.
“A Poem of Poets”
Beloved Enrico made this for me and Grant and it’s so beautiful I cried. I’m lucky to count these artists and poets as my friends, and I really do hope that we tell these poems and stories together in a garden (virtual reality or “real life”) when we’re old.
(Click through and expand)
The first is a utilitarian nihilism, unable to identify the meaningful difference between different kinds of deaths. Surely lives are reducible to one another, interchangeable, measurable, quantifiable, surely they are, if we allow them to be. This is a problem that begins with the rhetorical question, “What’s the difference between this dead child and that one,” and the ugly sneering tone it takes, as the speaker tries to cover up a very real and important question. What is the difference, because there is one, why is there a difference, because there is one, what does that difference mean for us, because there is a difference after all between incidents of mass starvation and mass murder, between those who die of illness and those who are shot to death in their classroom, between those who die in war and those who are gunned down behind their desks. A specious distinction? Truly. But our specious distinction, the one that is evident to us, as long as we haven’t been thoroughly disciplined, to negate our instincts, to hate our emotions, or to feel adequately, correctly, appropriately, simply.
And yet of course, it’s always another submission, either to the instinct and its failures, failures to draw coherent, clear, pure, consistent, rational conclusions, or submission to the mechanism of a rhetorical device, something clean, prepared, thought through, something to do the work of thinking for us, to ensure we have the same response to every so-called similar circumstance— what a stupid posture. To submit to the latter, that pretense of right-thinking, all while feverishly cutting away from your mistake-filled body. Utilitarian nihilism, the ugly little story that the only values that matter are the ones that you can’t feel.
The second is a political nihilism, a nihilism of inertia and simplicity. There were more variations of this sentiment, from the creepy gun-owners brigade who hung their mouths open and let talking points pour out of them like shit, or the articles that said, knowing almost nothing about the actual circumstances, that the real problem was mental health access or white male privilege or school security or whatever it is that person writes on the rest of the year, which is amazingly the answer to this specific tragedy. It should be obvious why that shit is worthless. I chose instead the sentiment of Obama’s tears. This simple complaint, a retort to a person’s sadness, conveys the whole bleak emptiness. There’s the self-satisfaction, unable to cry, we scorn those who do for never crying enough. And the cold-bloodedness, able to see a person in a moment of pain and deep empathy and still work up a sneer. It retains the small and single-mindedness that views all events as happening in the light of a single struggle, always narcissistic, always our struggle (Imagine for a moment, someone saying “This shooting doesn’t involve any issue I care or know about, I leave it to others to figure out what is to be done.”)
Worst, most embarrassing perhaps, is the weakness of it. To hate Obama, or his government, or their war crimes, is neither unusual or misplaced. But the need to remind oneself of that hate constantly, particularly at times of that person’s sorrow, gives that hate a pathetic quality. Are they worried that they won’t be able to speak out against american war crimes tomorrow, if today they understand that their “enemy” is a person who weeps for dead children? What kind of hate is so simple that it needs constantly to be reminded of itself. To hate someone isn’t to erase their human being, isn’t to ignore when we feel close to them, when we identify with them, it’s to hate them appropriately, when they commit the wicked act, cover up the war crime, excuse and aid apartheid, all of it.
These are not the nihilisms of potential, that enliven us, that shake off moribund patterns and values whose persistence is only in having-previously-persisted. These instead are nihilisms of consistency, preemptive attacks on meaning designed to regulate a conversation. They’re unthinking, and simple-minded, idealized and abstracted, but worst of all they’re cowardly. Scared to have a mistaken thought, scared that a thought might not advance a rhetorical device adequately, scared that in a painful moment we might empathize wrongly or with the wrong people or in the wrong way, scared that we might empathize today and not tomorrow, scared fucking cowards, scared, consistent fucking cowards.
My book of poetry, I Don’t Want to Die in the Ocean, is a collection of more than sixty poems and images composed over the last five years. A pdf copy is $5.00, (paypal to gm.leuning at gmail dot com, with print copies coming soon.
Grant is one of my favourite poets and everyone please buy this.
me reading illi [see reblog above]
wisest thing I ever heard said was
the wisest thing I ever heard said was:
‘We know we’re stuck but that’s just
the end of the story. we know we’re
stuck because we’re stuck striving,
we’re born, runner and digger, and
now we know we’re born stuck, runner
and digger born, born stuck striving.
We’re all the more stuck or stuck all
more obvious because for our know-
ing, we keep on in striving, stuck
striving, born runner and digger, the
day won’t come, neither we rest nor
we forget, and even against that nor-
neither, we can neither resign nor
Born stuck, born stuck striving, now
born stuck knowing born stuck striv-
ing.’ and then she fucked off out of
town and nobody could stand to go
out to the bridge no-more, it was five
youths fighting off nostalgia.
“This Latter, This Combat.”
A Portrait of Menardian Youth
In an instant, three teenagers learn that pocahontas halloween costumes are appropriative. Each teenager moves to their computer, moves at the same speed, over the same distance, and each begins to type out their thoughts onto tumblr. They share between them an anger and hurt over the racist and white supremacist persistence of this trope, worse than some other kinds of racism given the particular brutality and continued oppression of native people in america. They also share a shame and a feeling a bit stupid for not having known before, or having known but not having thought of it, feeling maybe not stupid but thoughtless, careless, interpellated by systemic white supremacy. And they feel hostility toward about other people who don’t know it now, after they’ve learned it; to the one in South Carolina, because of youth, everything feels learned last, so if hem know it, so should them. The other two are struck more by the obviousness of it, when you think about it for even a second, and each by separate and unrelatable memories of youthful “indian” activities, that despite their difference induce in each an identical feeling of sadness and guilt at how their privilege allowed them a happy ignorance and complicity. This mess of feelings occurs in each of them strong and loudly enough to push their otherwise different emotional and material lives together, like three violins coming to share the same note. Each of the teenagers decides to begin their piece the same way, with the same words, as if the words were the most obvious thing in the world, the only thing one could say, and for having an identical origin, the rest of their sentences flow from that moment, encountering the same conceptual resistances, and therefore edits, deletions, replacings, in two of the teenagers the same misspelling, but not so in the third, but remember, this typing, these thoughts, they are happening simultaneous, this is the temporal inside the eternal, now each finishes their thought, then their last sentence in the same moment, that is the sound of the finite and the infinite collapsing, and now they publish, their abstract words run and rile through real virtual communities, this is body and soul, combined, conjoined and co-existent.
If you were to pick you favorite hour of the day,
would you choose by the aesthetics of the hour,
either the light of that time or the arrangement
of clock hands or your favorite or luckiest numerals,
or would you choose it by events common to that
time or a feeling of certain hours being fruitful or
scary or charged, or would you choose it by some
“It’s just what the sea does.” He was so exasperated at his boy for not just accepting the waves as they were.
One of my co-workers asked me a question on Monday, the first time I’d ever been asked it, after a conversation about our weekends and what we had done, she said, “What kind of man are you toward women?” I didn’t know what to say to it, and the look on my face had given me away, how powerful a question had struck me. I still couldn’t answer, but I’ve thought about it for two days, and I suppose it’s the kind of question that any man or male should be asked, straight to his face.
A biology professor is carefully explaining to the the man why fire is not also a kind of organism. The man does not look convinced.
The biology professor’s first mistake was to agree to the posit about viruses, that doomed him in the man’s eyes, left very little leeway.
Will someone patiently explain to the overly extravagant man, why fire is not alive, please, he is digging through his Heraclitus now.
“The dry soul is the wisest and the best,” the man sings. The Professor tries to calm him down, “Please, why are you singing, can we please have a rational discussion about this.”
”Life is not a simple idea,” the professor begins again. The man continues to sing, but more softly, “It involves a lot of processes and aspects, to be sure, that fire may exhibit. But look into the material, son, that’s where our answer lies. We are all, the animals, the viruses, the bacteria, we are all of the same /material/.”
He is riling him up! What a distinction, material! How could this man, our man, care about material!
”It breathes!” sang the man, “It eats, it devours, it excretes! it dies, but only from suffocating it, or starving it, no less than a dog or a rat!”
The professor is sounding desperate, why does he need this man to understand so badly.
The man devours the whine in the voice, the beginnings of anger, he is more convinced every time the professor speaks, in every example he sees the fire’s constitution.
The material! shouts the professor, the man repeats it, giddy, material, material, pieces moving in their same direction, is that it, old man, yes, the old man yells, yes, shouts back the man, yes, strife! Strife and striving!
The professor tries to strike him, and misses.
”Nothing left, old man, nothing but to strive for food and air, for persistence, for growth, you small match head, you old man small match,” the man laughs again, and pushes the professor back into his chair, “Puff!”
It was, two long strides made the width of the room,
four long strides to the length, “tile begins in a pattern
near the far corner but the mason fell bored, or mad,”
the boy said, two scrawl-marks run down the door,
Another libertine child, without his confession.