this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Category: Objects

reflexivity or something like it

23 and already the bags under

my eyes sag. st. stephen’s

face was white when he died. they

called him a saint.

 

consolation is beyond these

lines. like this day

 

it is much too white. camper’s chart of faces

puts the white skull next to the gods

whose faces were marble. of course the color

had long washed off and what

wasn’t was erased. it

was called renovation. i will

 

refresh and refresh this

page again until i learn to see

myself from the internet’s point of view. yes, we have

been here before, already someone’s

 

definition of irony. tonight let’s consign

all our synthetics to the ocean, this

 

residue deeper to marrow, and finally be

honest, waking up inside someone’s idea

of a poem, we wouldn’t

care to read it either

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even the stars fall from the wall

even the stars fall from the wall

 

 

the first moon of the first year doesn’t have

a name anymore.

 

you leant me margaret mead made me gay

which i started last night

under a new moon. we call the moon

new because of how it relates to the

sun. anne

 

hutchinson was called new even

while being accused of all the old heresies.

they called her a witch just like

they called midwives witches. the most

common thing midwives

were accused of was the desire to steal

men’s penises, and

 

they were drowned,

burned at the stake, or crushed under rock.

then and only then could obstetrics emerge

as a science,

that is, a male-only medical profession, with

likewise

the instruments of the male medicinal

imagination, the forceps, which would scoop

the child out, piece by piece if necessary,

while the mother, tied or chained,

lay down, making for easier

 

reach and less strain on the doctor,

who assured the woman that pain was her

natural and allotted curse in life. i read

 

about that the other day and it made

me think of you and those

things you said about

motherhood. i thought

a lot about my

mother and the things

that happened to her when she was

young, how

 

they really happened to me too, at least

in a way. when you

finally met her it was sad

and i was guilty cause how typical,

i mean, me a man, and you, and my mother,

and i don’t

really know why but i cried

 

when i drove home.

after, i couldn’t forgive

anyone about anything for weeks

 

*                             *                             *

 

last year

i fell asleep at eleven while everyone

else welcomed the new year. and,

 

i thought to

myself, that this must mean

something i said and you said you

thought it

probably did too and even though you

didn’t really mean it did, i agreed. i told

you

 

about my uncle then and how i like

twin peaks and how scared i am of open

windows

and you brought up the female

eunuch and i said something about

transphobia and

 

we agreed but that was earlier

in the sun when we changed

our shirts to sit

in the shade. things were so

peaceful then in tank-tops underneath the

californian

sun which is really

the same sun everywhere for

everyone on this

planet. god. this planet. like that really

means anything anymore after

everything

 

*                             *                             *

 

you told me over the phone

you went to a conference where

they wore shirts

that said esther

newton made me gay. that’s

pretty funny.

esther

 

talks a lot about camp and in mother camp she

says something about

coping or transforming the

suffering of others’ fear into a state of irony

or something. i never was very good

 

at that. when i was 6 my dad said chicken

and i asked is that the kind

of chicken you eat or the kind that

flies. the tao

 

says something

about no place for the horn

to enter. no penetration. it would be pretty camp

to be candy

 

darling for halloween

i think, but seeing as i wear a lot of women’s

clothing these

days and what with my identity issues and

fucked

up sexuality,

going as warhol is probably pretty camp

too. i miss you too. i used

 

to be the cop who got shot

when my brothers played

cops and robbers. i hate

 

writing i miss you.

no risk

in the writing. no self staring back in

the

risk of writing. no

crisis of

language. no sainthood or eternality of the

soul or bullshit and

no risk of

bullshit. chickens

 

can’t even fly.

i hate

myself writing like this

 

*                             *                             *

 

i reallymiss how you sucked

my nipples. some

people say the

male nipple is useless. fuck

them and their

teleological bullshit. it was that sort of thinking

that led to clitoridectomies on “hysteric”

women with “erotic tendencies.” if

the 18th century

male bourgeoisie really took themselves

seriously

they’d never stop castrating

themselves. at least they’d

still have

 

nipples. i’d like

 

to think somewhere

there’s a picture of the little

christ child suckling away

at the tit of joseph. i’d like to think

 

it’d be easy to ask

someone to suck my nipples

 

*                             *                             *

 

later, you whispered something of a

new year (you must take this he once

said, and

 

maybe he too

will pass into night. forgotten

 

all implication and finally

be free) but

 

what could i say. for years he

visited me in the dead of night with

sad sad eyes like

 

the eyes of the american

night kerouac loved so much, and

 

i would dream about

those eyes and how they floated in

the bathroom

 

window, even though we lived on a

second-floor,

and how, even from an early age, i

 

wondered anyone got up so high, and

what it was about me and about

 

knowing, about fucking and all the

usual suspects

buried deep down inside. and,

 

here with you, and tonight, i just

really wish I knew

 

*                             *                             *

 

night emissions are what

they called it in

the glory days of 1970s freudian mumbo jumbo

america. this unconscious selffucking was

stranded somewhere on the

wire tight

between shitting and pissing oneself, not

quite as

 

juvenile as (or so they would

say) female clitoral

stimulation, but not quite the anti-social

pathology

of full conscious solo male fucking either. but

that’s what i want to do with this

night, in the heat of it, just fuck

it right out and fuck you

right out

and for once and finally be fucked in

two. of

 

course, we could take this to

mean that semen is like nighttime, emitted

from deep down inside

from some primordial sleeping granddaddy

erection, and every time dusk rolls

around it’s cause some

boy had a big wet one, bringing down both

the stars and moon on us all

 

*                             *                             *

 

in beginners, ewan

mcgregor

summarizes his fetish with spray

painting public property as historical

consciousness. mike mills

directed beginners

and also has a fetish with spray painting

 

public property. this says something

about the

artist and art and what it is to have an

audience and

shit like that. anyway i think

 

that’s what this is. historical

consciousness. you once told me

anthropology wasn’t creative and i

felt really sorry for you then, because

the truth is poetry is just like

ethnography but

with less research. when

 

you said you were

supposed to spend a year

doing research outside of

your own culture i missed you. i mean.

to take the lid

off the thing is beautiful

and liberation is all

we have left, but resonance is

enclosure. also

preservation, health. to uncover is to expose

or enculture, to invite bacteria

and all sort of life. to be

open to the possibility

of life. to bend your ass

bare to the sky. to risk

being fucked

in the fucking. sometimes

 

i admit i don’t know the difference but

 

it was sad when you

left and i got that line from the

poetics of space stuck in my head, how the world

would be a better place if pots

and lids

always stayed together

and i wanted you back

 

*                             *                             *

 

we’re supposed to be

making love. damn that patronizing

sexedup alvie singer.

 

there are some things you can’t

swallow without

gagging. i was

 

annie then, wanting to

be fucked into nothing. you were

nico or jack kerouac maybe,

always ahead of

some careening. we made love

 

the night you

left. it was beautiful in a way. the

semen pooled

onto my chest

in the night. the coolness

 

there. the discharge. the sense of

self

found in the rubbing and

in the loss. you can

never really lose everything

 

you said. when our

broad shoulders touched

and your hands

were on mine

and you

told me about the iliac

crest, it

was the world that

was guilty. when i

couldn’t, the towel

swallowed your cum

 

*                             *                             *

 

maybe

you had to have

something or someone to forgive

unconditionally.

maybe you forgive lovepoems

 

too even though

you have

such a hard time with

people who say the word love like

it has

definite contours.

some people can’t

imagine

 

love spilling out

of itself. that’s

why god killed

onan. such a god lacks the imagination

to love without shame. moses

could only see god’s ass

who was so

afraid that moses would catch

him in

the buff and laugh

at the shame of it. i was kicked

by a bunch of

boys in the balls once in p.e.

and the teacher laughed. i

was obese which

meant i was sick which meant

it was funny to kick me

in the balls. i never

 

really got

the logic but the point is i imagine that’s

how god felt surrounded by

moses and with his

ass sticking out like that i feel

bad for him but

then again

what with the whole creator of everything

bit i kinda expect a little more out

of god

 

*                             *                             *

 

sadeyed lady of the lowlands

came on the other day and i

thought of how we never

listened to blonde on blonde while we

fucked

 

and how germaine

greer said the sadeyed lady and

the girl from north country were

eunuchs but

what does she know about dylan and the

beauty of the soul. when

orson welles

says he’s not a magician but an actor playing

the part of a magician he means

artifice is the only

magic this side of heaven.

you said

 

you weren’t really liberated

until you tasted your own menstrual

blood. well,

germaine, i don’t have menstrual blood okay

the best i can do is taste my

semen which is hardly the same thing. but

 

it’s been getting

sweeter lately. god, even i’m a

 

man. a piece of shit playing

the part of a man. sometimes even

an actor playing shit playing  the part of a

man. i’m

trying to tell you i’m sorry. i’m

 

trying to put this somewhere

 

*                             *                             *

 

the planet’s going to finally die someday

and of course type-1 diabetics will

 

still have diabetes in heaven and

martyrs always wear their scars like

trophies in

icons at the getty so you didn’t

see why diabetics shouldn’t proudly display

 

insertionsite scars and pumps

alongside st bartholomew and his heap of

flayedflesh. and we thought

this was beautiful, and that maybe

somewhere

the world’s flesh might be hung up to dry on

 

some temple wall someday and the

people genuflect and wonder what a world

we must’ve been and what a

death we suffered and what a beauty it all was

before heaven

so wonderfully dispersed its grace like

 

so many tiny bombs and the world fell

asleep in angelic wonder

and never woke up until the following year

sometime past midnight, clear-eyed and

 

fresh and ready

to begin again

as if for the first time in forever

 

*                             *                             *

 

you held me tightly there.

you fucked me

like a man fucks. ground me

down to a pulp of myself.

i wore a

 

love conquers hate

shirt for days. loving

oneself is like being

blind but not like the flower girl

in city lights with her christ imagery

and madonna silence. there’s

something so canned when

chaplin’s mouth gapes open

as wide as his eyes

and those sounds pour out

in a

proper english. but

 

how can you not cry watching the great

dictator

and even laugh when

he fucks the world he blew. you

know anything really

can save this world

except killing it.

 

when you visited

i missed you

and when you left

i missed you. even in kyoto

i long for kyoto goes a hass

translation of basho.

i guess there

is always something lost. even the

 

nightmares

of my uncle and the shit

he did and the night and the fear

of it and all of everything

burns out after awhile. and you get

left with something

tallow

i am much too large

for this day. it sags and pulls

in all the wrong places. i’d shave my head

for this day. yesterday my breast

burned but it was beautiful, clean, young

and tender. you are the body rendered

in these lines. the marble and the marrow. instead i’ll shave

my left thigh. tomorrow

the right. the day after a calf.

imagine my

right thigh tomorrow. imagine my calves on friday.

remember this breast but yesterday

and try to love me.

you are naked

you are naked

 

as a matter of course. even

your anchorage is a

levitation. below, the foothold,

 

a metonymy, something the world

spit up. everything

you hold is an implication really, a

 

line, some condensation on an edge

of the real. did i fail

to mention it’s raining. sometimes

 

it hits so hard it’s the rain

that’s penitent. the

trees were so wet then we wrung

 

them out right onto the carpet. we

dug our feet

deep inside. the coolness.

 

the bits of it sticking to lip

and tongue.

when you wrapped around

 

from behind and held tight till

I was blue, the

window burst, and with your ears

 

falling to the ground, I couldn’t help

but cry till you

whispered stop stop please it’s

 

february the blossoms are in

bloom your palms

are much too cold for this

New Poem and Disclosure

Readers!

Forgive my lack of posting. I’ve wrapped up grad apps (the rejection letters should begin coming in) and been editing a rather long (collection of?) poem(s), all while of course working and just having moved to a new place. So. Been busy but far from unbearably so.

Given the edit edit editing I took a small break to toss this poem out–which is nothing really at all like the poem(s) I’m editing. I hope you enjoy it though and have all been having much love and peaches and hugs and flowers and oh such loveliness.

 

 

what the net leaves behind

 

 

Maybe it begins with a rustling—

you in your top hat and me

 

smaller, beside, your grand

father’s racquet in my hand. He

 

played a game so well, turning

to walk away, you’d cry. What of

 

the pieces of photo of him in the

cabinet, under last night’s toothbrush

 

and paste? Sometimes it’s developing

that’s backwards: and there’s a burning.

 

I do not want this bowl of cherries.

I did not ask for your glass eye. Some

 

day I’ll stuff these crayons down my

throat, lick the bowl, shit a rainbow.

a Fragment

Sick of waking

to find the normal people

gathering bits of it

along the sea—

diving here and there

headlong through salt of

foam and sea-foam

only to know what

of themselves they could

find. As if every

crate were lidless and

every bed unmade by

some sleeping. But all our

shells washed up last night—whited

with the glaze of seaweed and saltpeter.

They promised late week

showers—and later, this afternoon,

calmness, a swell of tide.

And yet, among these stones,

there is not room for us

to break shell, and what

outlet for this heat—

caught on dry wind hurrying

downhill, quietly, toward the basins.

Either way

you piss standing

and we say

 

this is the order

of things. Certain

 

as cigarettes

between our

 

drying fingers.

But peel back

 

and sooner

or later it

 

happens: and

touching—tender,

 

eminent—we

squeeze

 

out the rest.

Doubt, Sacred Objects, & Religious Orientation

Over the past few days I have been having what for me is a fruitful discussion on what ‘religion’ is (although it seems to be mostly geared towards Judeo-Christianity and religions of ‘the book’) over on my Google+. I’ve had a few insights into my own thinking by having to articulate them so I thought it would be worthwhile to share a few excerpts here and get other people’s thoughts and advice.

It begins with the question of orthodoxy, religious certainty, and ‘sacred’ objects:

I personally consider myself a Christian and think the Bible is not inerrant. I attend mass. I consider myself religious. I am certainly not alone in this conviction as many of my friends and acquaintances are in the same boat. I am a Christian in so far as the Bible is a sacred object of study for me, as is Christ, the Eucharist, blah blah. However, these objects are consistently called into question, doubted, and critiqued–this almost seems a precondition to religious belief to me. Of course I doubt god’s existence, question what that existence is. This is my religious belief.

In other words, I agree that there is a difference between an examined/questioned belief and an unexamined one–it is unexamined beliefs, the ones that reveal themselves to us in events and catastrophes (the person who considers hirself fair and charitable until in a context with another that reveals racism, sexism, transphobia, etc), that are rightly fundamentalist convictions. Beliefs deep in us, in others we trust, and in our systems of thought, culture, and politic are “fundamentals”–not the convictions of people who consistently examine, question, deconstruct, scrap, re-construct, etc, these beliefs.

This moved into a discussion over how religion and philosophy are similar and differ, me arguing that philosophy too has historically had ‘sacred’ objects and revered ‘saints’ as well as its host of ‘heretics’ and philosophic ‘profanity,’ i.e. an ‘orthodoxy.’ Which lead to clarifying that,

not all religions preserve such a[n eternal, sure, and certain] sense of orthodoxy, and the ones that think they do (which aren’t terribly many–certain Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox strands of Christianity jump first to mind, but not all RC or EO persons would affirm this at that) fall into countless and obvious contradictions for thinking this way. It seems silly to lump all other religious convictions and expressions in the same boat. Tradition, even in an RC context means precisely that, traditio, to hand down, which is to say to take something from another place and time into another place and time. Even the staunchest of religious dogmatics think that these principles take different forms and are to be questioned and applied differently according to context. Sometimes they are outright done away with.

But as the history of say Christianity shows, even this dogmatism is a minority. Just look at the Reformation. Or the Anglican church. Or the Quakers. Or the Mennonites and on down the line. These are constant perpetual revisions, contradictions, of one particular instantiations of one particular religion–all throwing out heaps of dogmatisms, even what dogmatics fundamentally is, along the way. This isn’t identical to the history of philosophy, of course, but it is to say these things are pretty related and interconnected both in a structural sense and a historic sense.

And lastly then expounding on what doubt of orthodoxy looks like and what this implies about say a theology of god:

As regards doubt, using the language of orientation again, one can pray to a god one doubts exist–this is what a religious orientation is to me. It’s called a risk. I suppose, given how you use the term then, I am agnostic in that gnosis (some sort of ‘special’ revelation) is suspended–but I am oriented towards some*thing*–it may be a fiction, but fictions are certainly things. So what is in question is not whether or not this thing I pray to called god exists or not but what kind of existence it has and the implications of this. I am oriented towards it as an object. It’s almost like a sexual orientation. I am ‘oriented’ towards an ‘orient’ (an other, something unknown, something withdrawn, something in-reserve) by an insatiable erotic attraction . This involves the risk of the thing possibly being revealed to be substantive, a fraud, dead, horrific (Bergman’s spider-god), childish, feminine, masculine, etc. It involves the risk of realizing my desire exceeds me. That I don’t really want what I think I want. Just because this risk exists doesn’t mean I’m suddenly not a theist–just because I do not know with 100% certainty what way or shape a god would look or sound or act like doesn’t mean I can’t orient, pray, revere, and worship one.

Any thoughts?

the breaths are long and deep

First the bending of prong to round the lip of membrane, then the puncturing of tissue. Press, hold, and the body and its pressure fights back the blood for you.

Gauze the wound and press. Soak. Discard all residue.

Leaning forward over the side of saline, wound-first, and right to the stillness of salt and distillation. This is called prevention. Prevent the incoming of foreign matter and prevent all possibility of infection. A closed system is a healthy system.

At night, sleep face-up, block the body inward. Preserve insularity. This is what wellness looks like. Do not touch the wound as the body can turn against itself with its countless and infinitesimal smaller bodies.

Do not wash near or around the wound. Do not scrub or poke. Remember: This is health. You’re finally getting better. Functioning. Proper.

Hold Onto Your Butts: on Bumper-Sticker Beliefs

Today I got stuck behind a car driving through Huntington Beach. On the back was a bumper sticker which read, “Hold onto your butts: keep our beaches and streets clean” featuring a picture of a cigarette butt. Nothing special. The irony, however, was that the driver was in fact smoking a cigarette and proceeded to throw the butt out the window. You know. Onto the street. At the beach.

This stresses to me something fundamental about belief. That is, belief is external, caught between and around and in front of us. It is out there in the world—we are in it, not autonomous possessors of it. This is not meant to completely undermine agency, just to say that oftentimes our so-called personal beliefs and convictions, say the soiling of streets with cigarette butts, goes against, not just our actions (i.e. hypocrisy), but active, external beliefs. This person (assuming the car was hirs and blah blah) had contradictory beliefs, both external convictions, one, that beaches and streets should be clean, and another, that s/he would like to smoke wherever s/he felt like. A lot of people’s reaction to global warming takes on this same contradictory-belief/disavowal quality (“Oh, of course I know global warming is really happening and terrible, but just one [insert environmental abuse here] isn’t going to break the camel’s back…”).

Basically, I’m trying to say that belief is caught up all around us. This includes us of course, like I said, I’m not trying to undermine agency. Who knows. Maybe a lot of good came from that bumper sticker. But nonetheless there was a pronouncement of a so-called “inner” belief (although of course this is wrapped up in external ideologies and mythologies about Nature, a certain health ideal, smoker shaming, etc etc) which, given its internality is presumed to be the person’s “authentic” self, counteracted by an “external” belief (“well, fuck it, I want a cigarette”), which is either viewed as a deeper self (“they’re a hypocrite!”) or  ideological (“look at how the media/corporations/et al have sapped away their agency!!! Aren’t we super great to in no way be influenced by ideology like those heathenz lolz!!1!”). Neither of these options fully satisfies me though.

I think of belief as an aggregate that, although including agents, is also external to myself. If you haven’t read Andy Clark and David Chambers’ fabulous essay on the extended mind, you should. In it, they argue to show the spreading of epistemic credit—that is that the mind is active externally in the objects it thinks “through.” So, for example, when writing a poem, myself, the pencil, and the pad all form an aggregate. I think “through” these things. Likewise with a laptop or even in regards to memory (the Otto and Inga example in the essay).

This is why I am so unsatisfied with most of the responses to the London riots. Either, the poor are demonized and blamed, the “they have revealed their true selves” rhetoric, or, on the opposing side, the rich and systemic forms of ideological and class oppression are to blame. Or, as Philip Blond seems to think, a bizarre form of both (he seems to think ideology is to blame, the destruction of “the individual” and blah blah, but yet somehow he wants to hold “individuals” wholly responsible… or am I reading this wrong?). None of these satisfy me wholly. People are caught up in beliefs, in systems, in ideologies. A person never fully bears the brunt of the belief in its entirety as an agent nor is the belief ever fully outside of the person. The agent is outside of the reach, withdrawn from the belief in some ways (like the smoking in the car with the bumper sticker, not wholly captivated by the belief, or rather, captivated in counteractive ways) and likewise the belief is outside the reach of the individual, they do not realize it in its entirety. No person involved in the London riots bears neither “the criminal” (a la demonization) nor “the oppressed poor” (a la ideological approach—which, for clarification, I do think is much less bigoted and far more insightful than the demonization approach) stereotype fully nor can anyone person be held fully responsible for the systemic beliefs involved therein (whether or not there is legal responsibility or what-have-you is not my concern here).

This is why I’ve decided to stop attending the church I was previously going to. I fully support equality for the LGBTQ community. It is also, unfortunately, hard to find the kind of church I would like to attend that doesn’t go directly against (in terms of verbal and/or financial support) LGBTQ issues and policy. I was attending such a church, and, well, I felt that I was within a system of belief I did not want to be—I was supporting an institute which propagated a certain belief, put me in a belief aggregate, that I did not want to be in. So it was time to leave. It was like smoking in the “hold onto your butts” car (perhaps a cliché is in order: “pulling a ‘hold onto your butts’ ” perhaps?). Despite the fact I didn’t “believe” the policing and hate, it was being believed for me—I was still within a system of belief acting on the world. What I would like to have thought of as a deep-seated, authentic belief was nothing more than a bumper-sticker belief on the engine of a gas-guzzling, beach-littering machine of a counteracting belief. Suffice to say, our beliefs are inherited, interconnected, disavowed, repressed, out-there, and mesh-y things. Mesh-y indeed.