It has been raining
at times with intensity
It has been raining
at times with intensity
She is grounded. She does not want to run away from home. She likes the stories that litter the train tracks, the shiny sediments of elsewhere. She collects them. Once, a man carrying a sack offered her money. She turned down the money and asked to look into his sack. The glimpse was reward enough. She is not impractical. She reveres the sacred in things. She would not describe it like that. All she knows is that every so often it is possible to see a glimmer of more.
She describes herself as simple. Elsewhere, she might drive a certain kind of man to lust.
This is a story about elsewhere. It can only take place there.
She is grounded. She grows upwards. She has aerial roots. There is clinging, sometimes with strength. Sediments collect at her base. She has no filters. It is passing through. She will soon have been passed. She has sacking. It will be about practice. If a black finger were to point upwards. She has been charring. There will be worshipping. She caresses aerial roots and erections. She likes the name Helga. It sounds comforting, better than Mary Poppins, which has always irritated with its supposed chirpiness. Books are made into movies. Helga is such a solid name. A downward growing root, impervious to sediment, if occasionally encased in black leather. Like a black finger.
Does encased make sense without sausages and pillows? Sometimes, when leaping from stone to stone, you get tired and want to rest on mossy instability.
*Obvious debts to Gertrude Stein, Angeline Weld Grimke, and Nella Larsen.
From a Daily Nation article by Lucas Barasa:
Mr Oneko told of the fight for independence and his association with [Dedan] Kimathi. The former Cabinet minister thrilled the crowd when he said the site of a major hotel near where Kimathi’s Statue was erected used to be a toilet for Africans during the colonial era.
I have been thinking about casual cruelty. Not the person who will not date you because you weigh a hair too much, though that too is included, but the manner in which we live.
While, on the one hand, I’m not sure I have a handle on injury—what it is, where it happens, to whom it happens—particularly at a time when injury seems so ubiquitous (are there more people to be injured, more people willing to name injury, are we more responsive to claims of injury, is redress not the single most important issue of our time), I feel more able to name cruelty.
Is such naming an acknowledgment of intimacy, of familiarity, akin to detecting cumin in lentils? (I borrow the comparison from Teju, though cumin might be more my palate than his.) Perhaps, though, it is this naming that makes cruelty casual. Casual like dressing in pyjamas.
There is a weight to certain similes. Here, that one’s most comfortable mode of being is that of cruelty. We are able to name cruelty because it is recognizable, the shadowy face that haunts our reflective surfaces.
For years I have resisted thinking of Hitler as inhuman—or inhumane. Hitler, of course, is a metonym (this spatial relationship being more apt, I think, than synecdoche) for evil. Perhaps it is trite to acknowledge that his sins might lurk in my own soul. Certainly it is naïve to imagine that we (a gesture of inclusion) cannot surpass his worst excesses.
And we do.
Sotto voce—I have worried about the singularity of the holocaust in the western imaginary, and I continue to do so. Once I would have asked what this imaginary effaces. Now, I am, I think, less naïve. As long as we can say nothing equals the gas chambers, cruelty remains casual. We might be indifferent, live within limits.
I started to write on evil, spurred, in part, by Teju’s posting on Coetzee. I find that I have returned to a before, a time before his posting, to an idea that has been bouncing around in the wake of my reading Bound to Violence and Graceland and Wizard of the Crow.
I imagine an elaborate ritual where I serve as a make-up artist to evil. Perhaps to my own face.
At first, I was tempted to write about the white man’s burden and the black man’s load, to play with gendered and sexualized constructions of insemination and breeding, of infinite creativity and the pitfalls of sharing seed. I have not yet abandoned play. It will happen.
Amidst ruminations on gendered play and inversion, I was reminded of Zora Neale Hurston’s piquant claim that the black woman is the mule of the world. In place of generation, sterility. In place of loads that give rise to burdens, the absence of futurity.
One is reminded here of debates on whether inter-raced couples could reproduce, a claim that “trafficks” in the selective memory of phenotype. One is also reminded of the black AIDS orphan, that figure of black seed and white obligation.
In Villages Across Africa, so the narrative goes.
Given the weight of these topics, (we use weight and topic so often it begins to sound like one word, weightopic). To resume. Given the weight of these topics, it might seem frivolous to muse on pleasure, the psychic and sensual possibilities of doing it raw, taking and giving seed, insemination with poison, one might call it.
Barebacking is my topic. Logic has it that there are only two possible stances. Again with the pun. One is either for or against, but given the opprobrium of being for, one must be surreptitious. An option between noisy latex and raw feeling. At times, it feels good.
Sensualism (an ugly word) need not be an excuse. But one wonders if one needs alibis. Nodding can be disengaged. Guillotines and castration.
An experiment: find how far this tether stretches (morality, guilt, responsibility, duty, belief in the humankind, language).
I am yet to be convinced that queer lives matter. I am absolutely convinced that the school of “how you think about yourself is what matters most” is mostly deluded. Faced with the banality of violence, it becomes difficult to praise the sanctity of life.
Perhaps our greatest contemporary metaphor: a compromised immune system.
In reply to Prufrock’s question, “would it have been worth it, after all?” one asks for the definition of worth and its tenuous relationship to temporality.
It is no exaggeration to say that AIDS introduced a new calculus into racial negotiations. As stories of its origins and spread were debated, from monkeys to Africans to whites, a messy amalgamation of species, continent, and race, we were also compelled to recognize tourism as sex tourism, holidays as sex vacations, Africans as sex providers, even as the stories reversed direction from white labs to white citizens to Africans, syringes as substitute phalluses, as, finally, the threat of miscegenation as race suicide assumed a new, deadly form.
In Villages Across Africa, so the news goes.
Perhaps the most visible, if unacknowledged, legacy of slavery is our desire and ability to quantify human worth (this is the text of Ian Baucom’s Specters of the Atlantic). Loads and burdens formulated within a racial matrix now dominate a universal imaginary.
One continues to take raw loads.
“A very special kind of adult”-Virginia Heffernan, NYT
One wants, then, a different kind of story. A moment of surprise. If one cannot be singular, one can, at the very least, avoid similes. It will be starting.
On Sundays he prepares communion wafers with a masturbating hand. Earlier they ridiculed voice-overs to the loudest of our preoccupations. It was discovered dialogue enhanced acting. He likes to practice pleasure.
He has begun to lose a sense of certainty about ideas, to slide toward the a-grammatical. He misses perfect sentences. Qualifiers, once marks of respect, have become hiccups. It is driving.
He marvels at how displaced words join space, order, and meaning. He lost his interest in strangers. He wondered if he should mourn. He had once mastered the art of turning ritual into habit. He cannot remember what has been lost.
There was, he felt, some charm left in the world.
*Gwata ndai is a formula used to announce a riddle—to issue the challenge, as it were. For some time now I have wondered what to do with phrases that lead nowhere. This installment might be considered a repository for linguistic detritus. Juxtaposition might accomplish what other failures cannot.
Cribbed from elsewhere (and silently edited):
Is there anything else to you except being gay.
I would love to hear more about your love and history, hope for the future for country and man alike
Best when read alongside Lee Edelman’s No Future. I am hopelessly devoted to comments that capture the essence of complicated arguments.
He has become strident.
One of my favorite moments in contemporary theory comes from Lee Edelman’s No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive:
Fuck the social order and the Child in whose name we’re collectively terrorized; fuck Annie; fuck the waif from Les Mis; fuck the poor, innocent child on the Net; fuck Laws both with capital ls and with small; fuck the whole network of symbolic relations and the future that serves as its prop. (29)
Quite apart from Edelman’s delightful pun on pedophilia (who else dares to pun on pedophilia?), the passage offers such a moment of psychic freedom, a resting place from the (necessary) constraints of hetero-sociability and hetero-placation.
Perhaps one of the most irritating of contemporary queer reactions to a celebratory homophobia (bring balloons and beer to the bashing!) has been an attempt to placate and mollify scared hets. No, really, queer people love each other; it’s not about sex. No, really, we don’t have anal sex, at least not most of us. No, really, our fantasies revolve around food and clothing, nothing bodily. We abjure lust to be accommodating.
We have accepted—or refused to challenge—the silliest propositions. A Kenyan psychologist, for instance, claims that anal and oral sex do not provide pleasure. Against such silliness, the (im)proper queer reaction should be to stage public exhibitions that demonstrate the joys of anal and oral sex.
Against the silliness that refuses queer life in the tired name of tradition, the oppressive name of religion, the confused state of masculinity, the absurd fear of sexual experimentation, the self-righteous justification of hetero-superiority (the list continues), the queer response should never stoop to self-justification.
Against the claim that queer men are stealing married men, we should challenge married women to become better in the bedroom, at the very least to install better security systems. Nail Your Husbands Down!
One should counter absurdity with its like: “I know my orgasms sure as hell are not building the nation. Tell me about yours.” In place of seriousness, queers might affirm the pleasurable irritation of tickling. One might risk appearing silly or frivolous.
Anything but apologetic.
To be continued . . .