Sometimes when my words are hiding in some corner refusing to come out when called, I wonder what is really going on, and then have to admit that I can’t blame them for being fed up with me. So much of the use of syllables in daily life involves costuming their original forms in these ridiculous get-ups, the sort we raged against as children, the sort I would never dream of inflicting on the cat.
To even mention the appropriateness of abandoning sentences for a full-throated scream at a time like this is cliché by now, inviting memories of scolds: only dullards state the obvious, and with these, cringing recollections of times when I did not consider what was and was not obvious when speaking with––as the tired saying went, a full heart––because the whole point was to know what was new and raw, thrilling at the cut of it, the constant overflow, I could not keep my fingers from a scab and if someone had pressed me to define what this was, exactly, I might have gushed Everything!––and of course it was.
It’s not like I didn’t know of death, not that I didn’t see it, dream it, smell it under the porch, only that I had yet to discover how I carried it in such devastating abundance, or why people costumed and embalmed it to such great lengths for ceremonial viewing. I had yet to understand why the truly devastated, those who have wept long enough to feel irritated by the uselessness of solemnity, will sometimes scream in wild laughter at a wake.
A map to the door of a fragile heaven.
This body is a landscape on the move, morphing to elude the easy mark. This animating force is interstitial pressure systems of fluid and light, now dark. This body is history, a possibility. It means to remember with total abandon, something denied.
The vines of my tongue become tethers from which these limbs swing from the branches of a mother rumored obsolete but see my knee where it bleeds, cutting my skin against the rough bark of her refuge, finding mine––now a universe unto itself, now a fragment to rupture the worn sky.
Inspired by the work of Felipe Baeza.
Wolf, you have taken another pelt and I can’t bear to calculate who is the next of our missing to provide it, and now you enter the herd. But I can see the space between your first and second skins and it smells like tainted meat. How weary we are of these poisons. Muscles ache with fatigue. It won’t be long before another surrenders, too tired to keep standing in it.
And yet. Here is an artist whose medium is bombshells. He changes them by touch and attention. This one is a flowerpot, this one a vase. He makes a mobile from the casings. From one that could have killed everyone assembled, he makes a temple bell.
This is no disguise, but an undoing. Here is an invitation to the living, to hear another sound, to repurpose the old husk, to offer instead of obscure. Even to you, wolf. You can take off your cloak, unstop your ears. The bodies you left are still sounding, each a bell.
Inspired by the work of Tuan Andrew Nguyen, as presented in a New York Times article I read this morning. The title of this post comes from the centerpiece of an exhibition set to open at the end of the month, at New York City’s New Museum.
Instead of a poem, this thing.
What are you doing right now? we asked each other and then had to admit it was nothing in particular. With a caveat, of course, that something highly particular would come later––most likely, eventually. Which would have a feel of greatness, or something adjacent.
And so, a suggestion. Let’s go to the roof. That sounded good. We went as we were, thinking Air. Thinking Bird’s Eye View, and its attendant image-phrases: Sky and being Above It All.
There’s a poem here somewhere, and maybe someday I will find it. Eventually. It doesn’t have to do with the sky, though, or the skyline I imagined, or some transcendent epiphany.
It’s about the way that there were rooftops in every direction, all of them with people on them, standing in haphazard arrangements, in their ordinary clothes and various states of unkempt undress. How we were all there, missing something or someone––somehow, but we couldn’t say, so we made a vague music instead of stale clichés, commenting on the watercolor sky, how awesome, and wow, and how lame we felt repeating these expressions. And how we were unable to help ourselves, somehow. And how wonderful it was just doing that. Just wonderful.
My encounter with the phrase I borrow for the title (which, apparently, is used in various contexts with some frequency although it’s delightfully new to me as of this morning) comes from a Todd Bienvenu exhibit.
We were a constellation, each complicated by the gravity of the others and held in place by it. Individual desires, fears––whatever these might have been, if they ever had been––were opaque to us, except when they involved another.
We had only our rituals, and by these choreographies each could lose it all again and find a state adjacent to what we thought people of another time might have called holy, might have called grace, or something like a visitation.
Having arrived long after the date for believing that anyone might come to save us, long after whatever might have been offered at another time had surely been squandered beyond repair or recognition, we knew only to hold in this suspended state, for as long as possible, lighting the utter doom.
There was laughter in that space, never expected. And song. Yes, that too.
Take the long view, starting from any horizon where it gathers like rain. Then try a movement in time, leaving reason behind. Go from moment to moment to moment, but no bridges between them. Cellar doors will do, no stairs. This allows for the sudden drop from one to the next.
We move these tiny flames on sticks, and then wait. One sign is the flash of sunrise around the window. Another is a breath of letters flooding the veins, flowering tongues, chiming the ear.
These are useful reminders. Let go, syntax, let’s go. There are more ways to arrange a voice beyond the tired grooves of your worn paths. You can cut the ankles again on low thorns, catch webs in the mouth, know your face by the cheek kissing the cat tail, and forget the mirrors.
Across this wide, crenulated landscape, these internal contradictions pulse our continuance.
Each fold a valley of storms, each groove a supernova. Light into mirror and back again––as it was once, body without organs, and will be.
Watch how we shine in an absence of light. Would you dissect the sea for its parts? You may try, but none of us, separate from the rest, will retain an original form.
Underwater, our flying forms draped in starlight, we are watched equally by mothers and monsters, and lose our faces to know our substance.
Inspired by the work of Warren Neidich as well as Katherine Bradford.
This is more than a box, more than any one thing at a time. More than the sharp line or the sum of coordinates of any of my known locations. This geometry is made of history, and it is personal.
Secret language of liquid belonging, live. Return me to the distance, remind me back to its original embrace.
Inspired by the art of Torkwase Dyson, borrowing phrases from her installations: Unkeeping (2016), Liquid Belonging (2022) and I Belong to the Distance (2016).
Because your first language was translation between surface and depth, solid and void, active touch, and bodily abstraction, many were prone to fantasies of keeping you, collecting you in tomb-like cells of preservation. For time, they said, but you splashed in it.
Your nature was evasive as the substance of shadow and prone to grow and renew its seeming self out of bounds, and convictions had a way of sliding over your skin like bathwater, the force of you resolute in its refusal of definition beyond liquidity, demanding to be passed between vessels, your eye forever in your mouth.