A recently published essay concludes, “What constitutes silence amidst these multitudes of stories”

It has no end punctuation; even question marks have the power to foreclose. If my first publication, “Living Mythically,” articulates a kind of queer awakening, what we might term 19-21, then the more recent “Miri ya Mikongoe,” is very much a product of my twenties, an elegy that begs for answers. In both, published in the past few months, I privilege the elegy as a mode of being in the world. Not mourning or melancholia, but the elegy. This distinction is important.

Over the years, I have tried to argue that “queer” might be a floating historical signifier, as applicable to the Gikuyu of 1885 as the Radical Faeries of 1988. I am startled, though, that each time I begin to write on anything queer, it emerges within the mode known as elegiac, perhaps a symptom that queer emerges from AIDS.

To remark this is to name a certain discomfort I experience with utopian adoptions of the term queer. For years, I have tried to name this nagging sense of wrongness, this joy that seemed out of place. It is not that there is no joy: I ask instead what it means to smile at funerals or to fuck in cemeteries.

“Living Mythically” and “Miri ya Mikongoe” are the first two in a planned series of three essays.

I have been struggling to begin the third, unsure of what it might mean to write, lacking the sense of urgency that propelled the first two, both written in about 3 months, but edited over the course of years.

Perhaps the question is what it might mean to write from a space I call quotidian. Or, to use a more apt word, boring. What might it mean to yoke the term boring and queer, not in a clever, parodic or ironic or satiric mode.

At the moment, all I can do is cite:

. . . I walk in order to divest myself of things, to cleanse myself, to rid myself of a question that haunts me and of which I never speak–desire. I am tired of carrying its insinuations in my body, without being able either to reject them or to make them mine. I shall remain profoundly unconsoled, with a face that is not mine and a desire that I cannot name. (Tahar Ben Jelloun, The Sand Child, 65).

2 thoughts on “Trilogies

  1. Given your alertness to the placement–indeed the ungrammatical but rhetorical barbed absence–of a question mark, it would be safe to venture, dear Keguro, that you are a man with no tolerance for smilies. The internet is murder to irony.

    True freedom: to carry only the insinuations WE want. (A hell of a thing to say to a gay black man in America. Forgive me.)

    Tangentially, I ran into Spivak on Friday, for the first time since I last told you I saw her. She’s startlingly alive, that woman. Textual vigor, or something.

  2. You have unmasked me. I often use smilies in place of conversation, place holders where my real reply should make no appearance.

    They are much like the tight little smiles I learned when I first moved here–I’m still not sure what they signify. A friend from home lost his temper when I used one: “don’t do that smile thing you’ve learned here.” Perhaps the next post should be on tight smiles and the cultural languages of recognition.

    (Now that it’s written as an idea, I will dismiss it. This is how my dissertation is not being written. Ideas are to be mentioned and then dismissed. Condensation, as Freud might say, is murder.)

    Black Gay Man is the title of my favorite book of black queer theory thus far, by Robert Reid-Pharr. It is, I think, one of the first honest examinations of the queer potential of race, which is, I think, mostly nihilistic. A contradiction or paradox? This, too, has disenabled a certain writing.

    I am amused by your description of Spivak, in part because she haunts all my writing, my ungrammatical sentences, a hyper self-consciousness that I find affected but cannot escape, a mode of thinking as necessary condensation, the infamous brilliant aside–all these I find myself miming, even when I want to be clear and expository, of course with much less facility and even less success.

    Black Gay Man in America: often, I think this is reason enough for me to continually ask for pardon. Since I don’t believe in self-hatred, I take this as a conceptual problem.

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