Victims of Unreason

John Keene, in an interview with Tonya Foster in Bomb Magazine, Fall 2015, posits “[c]apitalism being the quintessence of reason, in one way, and of unreason, in another,” and speaks, later, of “the victims of unreason…”

Until they’re all converted, every block has a skinny white lady of indeterminate age with an underbite and a cigarette in her right hand swinging as she makes her way down the block. Sometimes this lady organizes the trash in the courtyard in the middle of the night into neat bundles of bulk, bags and recycling. Sometimes this lady screams through the wall that you’re a whore and he’s a faggot or mumbles under her breath when you pass her in the hallway, the street, the bodega. She wears the same small blue jacket and gray hoodie all winter, face the very image of the moon in Le voyage dans la Lune, space capsule in her

eye. Until they’re replaced,” she may or may not have children, who may or may not be bigger than her, may or may not be wholly or partially white, who indicate some sort of dalliance with boundaries she seems loathe to cross, at least socially, now, and they may or may not also smoke cigarettes, organize the trash or clean the sidewalk, or mumble beneath their breath when you pass. None of them is the super or the super’s family or in any way connected with anything official like the super, but they keep the building, and it’s environs, clean, and for this they earn a begrudging respect from their neighbors, until they are gone.

Until the buildings are all filled with white people who have money to spend at cafés and wine bars, and for a little while thereafter, there is, on every block, a black man dressed for all seasons in a camel hair coat, hat with ear flaps, and tattered leather gloves who paces the street speaking to no one In particular in a language no one the neighborhood understands; not Arabic, Spanish, Nahuatl, or English. This man may or may not have a small white dog he pushes in a stroller, he may or may not pull a toddler out of the path of an oncoming car; the ambulance may or may not call at his door repeatedly, the health department may or may

not issue repeated summons. Until they are gone, the people of the block will feed him from the block party proceeds, and the bodega will make of him an honored guest; he may or may not carry a boombox or plastic bag he uses to pick up detritus of the night’s garbage wind and under snow melt remainings. Until he is displaced, he may or may not have a house or apartment, space which is only entered by him, his shopping cart and himself alone, and when he approaches his own threshold his shouts and cries turn to low and coarse offerings at keyholes, punic columns of books in a foyer of grime, until they are gone.

From Letters to the Future: Black Women, Radical Writing (Kore Press, 2017) by R. Erica Doyle. Copyright © 2017 R. Erica Doyle. Used with the permission of the author.