Today is my first day in residence at E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore! For the next three months, I’ll be working on my current project, On Exhaustion, a dry lyric essay on the accumulation of subthreshold violences under capitalism.
Emailed Bhanu. A question of condensation. “I am in Philadelphia,” I wrote, “and even the trees shudder in the wind more slowly here.” Sitting in a cafe as light mottles wooden surfaces, listening to a new song by a friend who left Oakland for other architectures.
“After reading the reading in New York,” I wrote, “riding the train back, I pressed my thumb into the hollow of Melissa’s palm. To see. Behind the eyes. A burst of bright dark purple. As if a cloud. Bhanu,” I asked, “What is the meaning of purple?”
The meaning of purple is that night is coming on. Light a candle. Against that brutal dusk. As Lorca did. So long ago.
A bruise. Blooming just beneath
the static present.
Doing Nothing: Performing the Practice of Everyday Life was a durational, participatory poetic event that took place for three hours on the closing nights of the Open Embodiments conference, hosted by the LGBT Studies program at University of Arizona. This iteration of the performance happened at Solar Culture Gallery in Tucson, in a large open room where many other installations and performances were happening simultaneously.
For the duration of Doing Nothing, each poet repeatedly embodied one of their own non-productive habits, transforming this habit into a generative writing practice. Zoe Tuck obsessively documented the performance on social media. Angel Dominguez tried to nap. Joel Gregory had mirror time. My habit: Getting drunk.
For three hours, I sat at a table with three open chairs beside an accumulation of beer bottles. You want a beer? I’d ask, when someone would walk by, or stop to see what I was doing. Most people would say yes and sit down. There’s a catch, I’d say. You have stay and talk with me for as long as it takes to drink your beer. I flipped through a stack of my notebooks on the table, picked one. Turning to a random page, I put my finger down, and read the line as a question.
What are you simultaneously attracted to, yet repulsed by?
or, How have you crossed the delineated boundary?
or, How have you internalized your own replaceability?
or, When have you failed to become ready?
Or something like that. Attempting, throughout, to maintain a heightened texture of intimacy. Through conversation. Drinking for the duration. I had covered the beer labels with stark white labels. Snatching fragments from the conversation, writing onto this blankness. Others would sit down, and I would offer them a beer, flip through my notebooks, ask another vague or open or overwrought question. Gather the fragments. Whenever someone finished their beer and got up to leave. Wait, I’d interject, would you help me read aloud the fragments? And usually they would, and the others at the table would join in.
Having almost reached the end of the three hours, too drunk to continue, I wandered into Angel Dominguez’s performance and lay down. Others continued to drink and talk at the table.
This month, I was invited to read at the HUNDY, an event hosted by The Other Fabulous Reading Series, in which 100 poets will read over the course of 15 days at Wolfman Books. For this event, I chose to read excerpts from my Journals.
Home. to bike. to BART. to Daniel Goldstein’s studio where we climbed up and down ladders where we clamped wires from the rafters where the armature hung suspended until we cut it down and lowered it to the floor where we did all this while soft leftists spoke in midwestern accents on NPR through a solar-powered speaker in Bayview where the air is rotting until you get used to it and then again to bike. to BART. to bike. and home.
I only worked for two hours today, 1/4 of my paycheck went to transportation, 1/3 went to lunch, 1/10 to coffee. I return four hours later with $9.50.
left for work late. Kaylee pulled me to the front of the line at Farleys. ‘hey,’ she said, ‘what would you like?’ ‘Just a coffee,’ I said, ‘I have my own cup.’ I got out some cash. ‘Don’t worry about it,’ she said, waving away the gesture with her hand.
I walked out, picking through the contents of my bag. No BART card, no debit card, no ID. I stand on the sidewalk not unlocking my bike. The sky, overcast, reflected golden in the windows of the building across the street. A breeze licks the hair on my upper lip. Red cafe tables. Kaylee. Passing cars. Kaylee. I txt Daniel ‘how about if i come in tomorrow instead of today.’
Next door outside Anfilo, a man sweeps the sidewalk. the back of his shirt reads YA BASTA.
I am wondering, if this is a purely aesthetic project, what the politics of it are.
Elaine, performing Horsebladder at Woolsey
her heel pumping the carpet down and into back and from knees lurching forward the movement repeated a downward weight she pushes the ground farther with every gesture.
before the show Amy Berkowitz in a puff-paint dinosaur t-shirt, ‘Everyone asks if i made it,’ she said. ‘I didn’t. A child made it.’ And we loop into a conversation that we have had before, about the dress that the woman wore in Wild at Heart and about the trope of the manic pixie dream girl. ‘it was made before the trope, she’s wild and crazy, but what’s so great about that movie,’ Amy says, ‘is that she completely destroys his life.’
‘every disfigurement of the human,’ falls from the mouth of Michael Cross as smoke filters in through the open window in these, the final days of summer.
‘in hopes of genuine derivation,’ he says, ‘be moved.’
two nights ago encountered DB and B at the Ave. ‘How did you sneak past us,’ DB asks. He tells me he has prostate cancer. ‘Found out a month ago.’
Olive says that Deleuze says, “the proper way to read is to ass-fuck a text”
and when we looked up the quote on Joel’s phone it was slightly different from this, but we decided that we liked Olive’s Deleuze better than Deleuze’s Deleuze, and I wrote it down on this page.
or, as Bhanu Kapil said last month, quoting Petra Kuppers, ‘i am not interested in confession,” Bhanu/Petra says, “i am interested in discharge.’
in a letter to Divya Victor’s students, i write: to tear down the border that separates writer from reader, to inhabit a text so thoroughly that the very act of reading becomes an act of writing, recognized for the violence that it, ultimately, is.
Emily just walked out onto the porch with a white ceramic mug. Bright pink inside the lip. ‘Do you know whose mug this is?’ E asks Joel. “I don’t,” J says, “Why?” “I want to smash it,” E says. I ask E how come. Printed inside the mug in san serif letters, the phrase: IT DOESN’T GET ANY BETTER THAN THIS. Emily looking into the mug, says, “It makes me feel depressed. Emily walks out to the top of the red concrete stairs, holds the mug out, then throws it to the ground. E looks at the wreckage, white shards on red concrete. “That was dumb,” E says and walks back inside. E returns carrying a broom in one hand, a rusted pan in the other, and sweeps the walkway clear.
haven’t written in weeks. $13 in my checking acct.
not enough to get to LA and back.
the sign on Juliana’s office door that read:
TURN SOFT AND LOVELY
EVERY TIME YOU HAVE THE CHANCE
after days in the streets and alternately on facebook, have paused for long enough to read Citizen by Claudia Rankine. detailed stripped down narratives of daily micro-aggressions, and, as in life, these accumulate into moments of rupture more easily recognized as racism. a tense ricochet between invisibility and hypervisibility, the inability to ever just be.
second day of dizziness
five days of riots since Darren Wilson was not indicted for the murder of Michael Brown.
this country’s usual occlusion of racist structures made starkly overt.
“don’t congratulate yourself,” ted says when i tell him how i had jumped through the police line. “don’t make a martyr your experience”—he’s right. we all just do what we need to. we all just do what we can’t not do. And when my white body runs from the police, it does not get shot.
woke curled around M in the soft white linen morning again to a soundtrack of breaking glass from the recycling center across the street. each of us wearing no shirt, just M’s briefs—powder blue, rust red. we wake slow big spoon small spoon big spoon and so on i press my nose deep into M’s chest hair and breathe through my mouth. M gets up, puts on a long pink robe, gets cookies from the kitchen, is being interviewed by KBOO, a Portland radio station, from the phone: a high pitched voice with a British accent, muted, and goes outside for a cigarette. i will go now and record the sound of breaking glass.
reading The New Jim Crow on the flight from Tucson to Las Vegas. With the plane descending, the white woman beside me asks about it. “The prison industrial complex,” I say, “Ferguson,” and “mass incarceration,” she seems interested. The white woman next to her also seems interested. Both say that they are definitely going to read it. The woman in the aisle seat leans in and lowers her voice to a whisper when she says “black people,” then brings her voice back to its usual volume to finish the sentence. She gives me her drink voucher. I already had one. I thank her. I see her once more in the women’s restroom. She says again that she is definitely going to read it. Again, I say thank you.
Boarding the connecting flight to Oakland. Empty middle seat between a black man and a black woman; I think of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, of her writing on the perpetually empty seat beside the black man on public transit. I sit down in the seat.
The woman has driven AC Transit buses in Oakland for 35 years. She asks if I am from Oakland. “No, I say, “Virginia. Just outside DC.” I ask if she wants a drink voucher, that I have an extra one. She does. He is wearing headphones, grey track pants, grey hoodie. I reach up to the comfort panel above me; i loosen an aperture and cool stale air streams against the palm of my hand.
I tire of my own dialogic realism. How much is not said in speaking.
We sit quietly in the context of our shared colonial history.
We arrive in Oakland.
Kristen has loaned me The Address Book by Sophie Calle. “It is on you to remember to return it,” she said this morning, leaning across the table, “I will not remind you.”
this piece was written out in long lines on pieces of paper. i created a loop that i could carry around, a paper tape that wound from one spool to another, the words disappearing as i wrote. i had two constraints: the first being that each time i began to write, i begin with the joining phrase “as if”, or “more like,” the second being that i could not write about, but intstead write in gestural strokes, as if circling inward, more like approaching.
(from the archive, 2012)
as if slices in the wood left after the onion skins are gone
as if below the surface of sound
as if a plaster cast of a torso and cut into the cavern: a book
as if gingerly
as if a hand resting to the small of your back
as if a closed cavern mouth and letting the words collect there
as if we were all just emerging from the ground
as if map as autobiography
as if someone else as a map of your torso
as if a book could be balanced between the shoulder blades the shaking at the core that means that something is off, how the smell of unspeakable yous are some what call memory
as if you could be anywhere
as if anywhere your faces weren’t melting from the bone somewhere
as if it wasn’t enough to just take because the voices would not stop and you wanted them to
as if had not come awed and cracking when open
as if strings, tapes, webs,
as if thousands missing
as if a flight, leaving some of yourself in everyone you meet there must be thousands left inside you
as if settled somewhere closer to the spine, yellow, drained,
as if slightly parted,
as if thoughts, a thing we all moved on from,
as though not yet left the soil
as if charred exoskeletons: the frames of cars in hollow forests
as if clearing or clotted lines where you have walked you are learning to trust your hands
as if laughter or the shrieks of children who live only in the wind
as if conveyed or strung up by the talons and shrieking in protest to the closening death
as if a head in the hands and the weight of it
as if eight pounds twelve ounces your tether not yet clipped
as if hope for the blue translucency of skin
as if plotting courses on the highways of skeleton leaves, pointing at veins
as if the blue handed highways of your grandmother,
as if pointing at
as if squinteyed and spinning and saying there
as if we could, como si esta complicado, como si soy yo, solo yo
as if you were not yourself comes up from the creek bed to collect your hands and feet they are swarming, snakes, underneath the blue-shuttered playhouse,
as if a sign you would not play there anymore,
as if low lit hallways as if dim mornings
as if footsteps recede as if never there in the first place
as if your day is almost over, your day is almost over,
as if you are almost home
as if day is a word for work and home, well, home
as if a hard mass in the throat where
as if the softness behind the ear at the hip’s smile lines, the buttercup chin,
as if now stories just pour out of you
as if up to your knees in them makes walking around difficult like waking up is difficult
as if the bleary eyed world would not accept you
more like something kept in the basement or kept in the lower back
more like hands and how they form letters through memory and the movements of muscles
more like imagining
more like when you said i love you all
more like saying i have imagined your disembowelment many times
more like the sad fact of leaving
more like the weight of your whole body suddenly upon or
more like sleeping more like a tangle of your own two legs
more like a body seen bony through the sheet,
more like wading, the long dew drenched grasses
more like up to the knees in wind
more like sky that crawls across the skin raising gooseflesh
more like a real hand or like delight
more like your own real hand suddenly unrecognizable as
more like over there
more like the vast stretching out before you
more like the more parts touching other parts touching other parts
more like you before voices
more like submersion
more like yours or your voice from the elevator the smell of the generation next to die
more like the in breath as you close
more like the planned for thing more like with your back pressed against knowing
more like the palm of a girl
more like a girl or just below the surface of the skin
more like woe or the roaring of feet pushing the city
more like everything left in a desk drawer
more like these overworn gestures wringing out
more like the pasts within you, we stumble on the edges of these unfamiliar days
The students in Divya Victor’s writing class at Nanyang Technological Institute in Sinapore “occupied” almost any shit will do. They had 15 minutes to collaborate and “live in” the text as part of enacting many different readings of the book.
Here are some of the photos from their inhabitations, with captions written from Divya Victor’s facebook:
they said: “when ripped apart these words are senseless until they recombine; become collectives,” “the ink is a stain, connective”
they said: “the charge of verbs changes with movement, we wanted to create more movements”
(this is writing using the grime on the wheels of a chair) the poem was read: “crushing whiteness/whiteness crushing”