The Thing of Nature That Defies or Defers, Rather Than Presupposes, Representation

I’m cool standing, we say to the studio chaise’s cooling board ambition. The photographer sets for a fruitless still life. Attempted portraits of us are inclined to landscape orientation. It isn’t that we’d fish-eye the lens, but that some eyes’ lenses insist something fishy. The shutterbug keeps on checking that the camera’s uncapped. We get it, we get it: though is it we be constricting light, or vacay it to rich space? Photog cocks a new angle, bent on composing what rubatos composure and composition. The kamera kalkulates us as low light; seems we might be a dim holt, in a damp hull, or a damned hole (in it or itself). Though is it we (who) be conscripting eyes, or melee them to sic race? And-a-one, two, three: say cheese! We say life, inclined to insist on checking that constricting, bent low might (damned in itself—sick, too). This very teeming skeeves some, its accommodation of objects into a body, its embodiment of objecthood, we are actor and scene—the frame only part of the production. We quit the sitting, since the work to our living’s an off-camera oeuvre. That surveillance produces the nothing it suspects we are. Please don’t throw me in that periphery, says the rabbit figment.

The Irregular and/or Anti- and Ante- Regulative

Did not but didn’t not or did not not did? Woke up 
a rando hour in that ol’ double-bind of suspicions of 
activity (didn’t not did, did not’d). No sich thang ez 
reppytishun. Didn’t not not’d no such thing as. Only 
insistence, amplification of. Rigor, please!—I’ve 
been in a steady residency studying doing sans 
getting done (-) in. When abroad for the 
conference RE: conspiratorial unsuspicious 
activity, I insisted our syncopated metrics tender 
on the International Measure Exchange. To the 
registration: “Our data tight AF, Boo-Boo; toot 
sweet with my tote bag,” my lanyard swang Jesus 
piecey as I crooked bootied to the keynote. I sat in 
the not doing of doing what I did not. By&by 
came Q&A, I Q’ed: “can self-disciplined inactivity 
be considered inactivity as the disciplining of the 
self is a praxis and—.” In come Security a rented 
roughshod, all There they are, misconjugating where 
I stood. I stayed to rephrase my Q. I believed this 
a discourse. Security fixed to quantize my “offed” 
conduct with they copse of batons. I was a present 
ruckus, recused for actively inactivating me by 
vice and versa. This collabo took the discipline to 
the next level!

The Black Woman’s Tears Swap Meet Is Open Every Day

some black women are my friends & their tears seem the hems
                           of blue dresses.   I ball un-ball
my pocketed palms
                           & think on stockings, bells.

among my students sometimes number black women—
I wish their tears were rungs;  such desire may too be grease,                tho.

my mother’s youngest sister’s torn calendar tears,
             Mondays, Marches, 29ths, ’91s & ’83s
till wicker bins choke, shredder hacks.

a couple of tears, middle sister pinches at her eye,
a black woman’s spyglass. she peers
through the wide between her &.

my older cousins, black women, their tears are:
             (a)  fresh batteries in broken clocks
             (b)  ruined coin souvenirs
             (c)  wheatbread heels jim crowed in fridges
             (d)  what pitted the yellow linoleum thus

the black mother of the black woman who married me,
her tears’re sunk ships:
coral polyps load the lode  & awful hopeful at it.

...!!!] then I’m at last quiet.
                                       my daughter, black girl, rattles,
at me, her scabbard of tears.

my younger cousins, black women, their tears are:
            (a)  pill bottles
            (b)  in pill bottles
            (c)  lids you press down, then turn to loose
            (d)  anything bottled & near bathroom mirrors

likely my father’s oldest sister, black woman,
kept her tears where they’d pass for shotgun:
            slant shade the jamb threw as simmering mask.
            my father’s other sister, her tears stop his mouth,
or they’re wood doves, cote’d in his chestnut mind?

grandmother, my black father’s mother? gone.
her tears were empty chairs: pine
                                                  among pine-ware.

white bowl      though the rice there was tears of my great aunt,
black woman.

these days, my grandmother, black woman who mothered my               mother,
mislays her tears—she always finds them in the,
                                                            finds them in,
                                                            finds them—.

the black woman who married me,
her tears inside her out like black church stockings   /     runs.

& my black mother dead.

Related Poems

freedom terrors

“The Plurality of Abolitionism,” Groundings Podcast, Joy James: “what’s the plan? how long is the dreaming going to last? … i don’t trust dreams that don’t allow the possibility of nightmares.” 

“Alain and Esthetics” from Writings of Dissent (1941-1945), ed. By Daniel Maximin, translated by Keith L. Walker, Suzanne Césaire: “What is the role of poetry? Like music, it helps us to move beyond ourselves, and it goes yet further. It leads us into ‘a new time,’ into a new world. The true and real poem, which shows us the human in terror, in terror, and in horror even, …” 

Sylvia Rivera She was More than Stonewall Documentary, Life Documentary of Mother Sylvia Rivera, CT Trans History and Archives (Youtube), Sylvia Rivera: “They [incarcerated queer and trans people] write to S.T.A.R. because we’re trying to do something for them. … But, do you [cis gay and lesbian “activists” at the 1973 Christopher Street Liberation March, before the question became pride, before march became parade] try to do anything for them? no, you all tell me go and hide my tail between my legs. I will not prolong or put up with this shit. … I tell these stories of my life because I know that my children and, in the later years, my transgender community will understand—we have to stand up for ourselves—we saved their lives—we were the frontlines of the so-called 1969 rebellion of the Stonewall. I don’t know how long I’m going to be around, but I want it to be told the way I feel it.”

“An Open Letter from Original Black Panther Party Members to Black (Hip-Hop) Artists Who Have an Interest in Our Community” originally posted to and quoted in “Revolution is Illegal: Revisiting the Panther 21 at 50,” Spectre Journal, by Orisanmi Burton, Original Black Panther Party Members: “much of our history in people’s struggle has been kept away from you and seemingly unavailable to your generation as you reinvent what was done in the past.” 

“The BPP and the Case of the New York 21,” Annette T. Rubinstein & Robert Rhodes, Lili Solomon, Janet Townsend, report reads: “By 1 a.m. that same day—Wednesday, April 1, 1969—an obliging jury had indicted the 12 who had been arrested, and 7 more named by the D.A. on a 12-count indictment for conspiring to murder New York City policemen and to dynamite five mid-town department stores, a police precinct, six railroad rights-of-way, and the New York Botanical Gardens (or as—The Black Panther newspaper—put it, ‘6,000 tulip bulbs’).” 

“Revolution is Illegal: Revisiting the Panther 21 at 50,” Spectre Journal, Orisanmi Burton: “Amidst raucous cheers from the audience, the jury foreman uttered ‘not guilty’ 156 times.” 

“3. We Are All Lindeners (For Bauxite Workers and Their Families),” originally titled “The Violence of the State Demands that we Stand Up and Answer the Question: How Will We Organize to Live,” from “Four Letters in Defense of Workers & Families” in The Point is to Change the World, ed. By Alissa Trotz, Andaiye, Jocelyn Bacchus, Karen de Souza, Joy Marcus, Alissa Trotz: “How will we organize to live?”

by tending to the seeds sewn                    amongst the 6,000 tulips
covered                                                          beneath layers of conspiracy 
what the emperor’s magistrates of          fascist’s troops of           
                                                           master’s overseers of the grounds 

dreamed they’d bury in the tombs           

pen them into sentences / no legalese / no alternative grammar 
                                                                            / could free them from

                                                                         the threat of panthers in the garden 
wz never about bombs, bt the threat of life liberated from the planter’s estate// 
the persistence & proliferation of  serpents to keep out those 
                                    who might nurture the dormant seeds in the clearing

a genius & his collaborator snuck into this raided sanctuary in the clearing
propped up a pulpit        dug a moat in     
call it the undercommons           peddle snake oil from this perch

they promise flight , dreams of salvation to come                             
                                            w/o nightmares w/o the rupture of night terror’s 
so long as u pledge yourself to refusal               they call it living other/wise,
the response is non/sense,              lack there of
they ask u to emulate the flight path of an ostrich, 

bury ur head in the shifting sands, or live forever on the run;
                                                                  the gospel according to fugitive planning
sans&                             if it were the gospel according to Black study then
y rename the railroad? y re-route history? the song goes

ain’t gon’ let nobody turn me ‘round, marchin’ on to freedom land       how 
did freedom become synonym of eternal fugitive?              
wht do you think u’re doing anyway? 

do u try to do anything? other/wise non/sense
                                 have u ever opened up your g(r)a(n)ted commons to 

the exiles that tended this garden under siege before you sought this refuge

            all this terror, all this terror, horror before, a new time 

in wait                                         underground the seeds still dormant 
                                         the tortured hands that 1st sewed them toiling still
                                                        the breath of life to come after

Self-Portrait as the Bootblack in Daguerre’s Boulevard du Temple

An erasure of Grant Allen’s Recalled to Life

I don’t believe
I thought

or gave names
in any known language.

I spoke
of myself always

in the third person.
What led up to it,

I hadn’t the faintest idea. 
I only knew the Event

itself took place. Constant
discrepancies. To throw them

off, I laughed,
talked—all games

and amusements—to escape
from the burden of my own

internal history. 
But I was there

trying for once
to see you,

longed so
to see you.

I might meet you
in the street:

a bicycle leaning
up against the wall

by the window. Rendered
laws of my country

played before my face. 
Historical, two-souled,

forgotten, unknown
freaks of memory.
The matter of debts,
the violent death

of a near relation,
and all landing

at the faintest conception.
Dark. Blue. And then.

All I can remember
is when I saw you. 

It was you
or anyone else. 

The shot
seemed to end

all. It belongs
to the New World:

the Present
all entangled, unable

to move. Everything
turned round

and looked
at you.