this, that, and the Other

identity, alterity, and everything in between

Category: Time

Updates and “advice for a new you”

Hello one and all. Sorry for being mildly absent (aren’t we all?), but I am in the process of some serious editing before sending off poems to journals and magazines and the like. Also in the process of looking for an apartment among other things. Other things include: stressful conversations, money issues, mild car issues, coming out as queer/fluid/bisexual/WHATEVER/Just-josh to the fam, birthdays, weddings, and other things that actually seem like excuses now that I type them all out. Anyway one of the poems I am editing I thought I would share with you, the reading world. I wrote it in the midst of all the above mentioned things while also reading some Heather Christle, Judith Butler, Julia Serano, Suzanne Buffam, Ish Klein, among others. So I give it to you from this context and wash my hands of this context. Cheers and love.

advice for a new you

 

you were sorry

in a personal way. a

description of things like settling

rain, a description of umbrellas. don’t

tell me about the sky or the origin

of things. the light is what we

left behind. backdrop to

shadow. tomorrow the glorious will

come, spend its night, whisper

of dawn and the kingdom

that is in your breast. you have half

of everything already, the

rest: alarm. to find that inner

beauty they tell you about,

first bury yourself, wait

three days, then

make new friends

 

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.

draft for a longer poem

it’s funny, 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

this was funny and even though you didn’t

really mean it was funny I agreed; I told you about

my uncle then and how I like David Lynch 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 and 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, I said, this planet, like that

really means anything anymore after everything

 

*                             *                             *

 

later,fog along the mirror ( and you whispered

something of a new year, twin peak dreamfuck

of him: you must take this he said, and maybe he

too will pass into night—forgotten all implication

and finally be free) but you know you can never

ever everever ever  forgive him no matter who

or what or how the pain, be it like stricture,like

painting by numbers of him on each and every

limb,like his love in spite of his love,like eyes

in the windows of your room,like father’s fist full

of him breathless to your chest,like yourself

remembering and forgetting and remembering

and so on and on until some touch or heat-of-breath

when you wake to see in so many ways unalike her

sadness deep inside this wakeless shithole of a night

 

*                             *                             *

 

“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

 

*                             *                             *

 

of course the planet’s going to die someday you said

and of course type-1 diabetics will still have diabetes in

heaven and you said martyrs always wear their scars

like trophies in icons at the Getty so you didn’t see

why diabetics shouldn’t proudly display insertion site

scars and pumps alongside St. Bartholomew and his

heap of flayed flesh 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

love poem

I love you like ass

or maybe the smell

of sex that pours

out when we open

and close like two

lids on a mattress.

I love you like a hole,

like digging myself

out of a hole or losing

myself in a hole and

being a hole for you

to be wholly and utterly

lost in. What spaces

this mouth has for

you tonight! and what

mornings this body

has inside for you.

I am here and wet with

desire like morning

dew. I love you like

the taste of loving you.

Ithaca

To come to rest again, if only
for a time, on such sands—left
behind the depths of insatiable
questioning, the vessels of
transport tossed aside to deeper
waters. Sure, I fucked it up,
you fucked it up, who hasn’t,
really, fucked it all up from
time to time? Isn’t that what
return means—to find yourself
facing that way, open, alone,
finally and totally fucked dry,
a mere by-product awoken
in a stream, unsure of this
haunted feeling of familiarity
as you drift among the stones,
downward, toward the sea?

Salve

Your body was here

before you found it.

 

No point in starting

over now, you’ve

 

come too far to hold

on to it. First, was

 

an opening—then

the repetition that

 

was his love for you,

full, and the wound of

 

its fullness. Forgetting

this will be an eternity.

 

doppelgangers

Thinking of people, memory, identity–what stories and things we tell ourselves to make-up ourselves. This poem is meant not to be didactic or moralizing but more of a space to inhabit and let these questions arise: not an answer, but a dwelling.

 

doppelgangers

 

I could swear from

behind it was you

 

or from the front

and from a distance,

 

you walked right

by and didn’t even

 

double-take as I

thought of all you

 

did and might have

done given the time

 

or whim and I decided

then and there to

 

forgive you, put it

all behind us, start

 

over, afresh, right

from the beginning,

 

and forgive myself

too, even for the things

 

undone and half

done, and, I must

 

admit, I felt a little

sorry as he reached

 

out and grabbed

your arm, slowly

 

and tightly pulling

inward, wrapping you

 

around himself,

kissing your lips.

piecemeal-assemblage

I have been thinking about people–what it means to “understand” or “get” a person–I mean, what the hell does that mean after all? I think here of the stereotypical Derridean mantra “all reading is misreading.” Sometimes I feel this way about people. Just as no one “understands” a text except in that there is some dissonance or difference between the author’s intention/interpretation-of-the-text and the reader’s, so is there no understanding of people except in the tension of intention and reception that we call the person’s personality (the inbetweeness of the person, the she or he that exists in the world that is between the self and the other).

However, this inbetweeness of the other (Heideggerian mitsein, being-with) can cover-up the other’s fundamental otherness. I may think I know my roommate well but there are still moments of surprise, moments when I ask myself, “I thought I knew Ian, but do I really? I never thought he was capable of X, but…” etc. There are moments when the being-with, the comfortablility of a world-between is shattered by us having to stand face-to-face with the other. Suffice to say these were the thoughts behind this short series–the event of facing otherness in what has been covered up by sameness, by the shared world which lies between the otherness of individual persons, which appears to me to be a sort of assemblage built slowly and contingently, shattered and rebuilt, and then shattered and rebuilt, piece by piece.

 

piecemeal—assemblage


Some Sundays

visiting church or

family I get the feeling

of being spread-out,

naked, a leg dangling

over the wood railing

and God-for-certain

not one condom

in reach.

 

* * *

 

We, that is,

you & I, shopped

for clothes,

 

a “new style,”

something different:

afternoon,

 

slight of wind,

holding coats, shoes,

pull-over

 

sweaters, and

I realized then how

much it was

 

like language,

like words in our

mouths

 

speaking, and

I had to tell you it

was like

 

this—and words,

and language speak

-ing mouths.

 

* * *

 

Sure, it was lent,

but sometimes mushrooms

and cigarettes and drinking

and love-making happen:

and when you walked

behind, down the stairs,

your eyes tightly closed,

(the blind leading, &c.)

and silent, I knew

then, that no one

was following

anyone.

 

Initiation

Still processing things and all–specifically as regards event and what it means to begin, to be beginning, ie what is it that makes this any different from that? Why does a certain “phase” present itself so distinctly against what we expect? Why is there surprise in our personal histories/narratives? This all gets particularly complicated given that narrative as regards self emerges somewhat alongside while ahead-of the event itself–when catastrophe happens it is only “catastrophe” as regards its narrative once I have narrated it as such, once I have structured it, built and apportioned rooms out of its traumatic void and inhabited and walked about those rooms. Suffice to say things are always complicated and enmeshed. Always enmeshed.

 

Initiation

 

Sometimes such things

begin like a thundering—

or maybe more like

walking right on

through a thundering

of some terrible surface

of such things, sometimes,

just this way, a little like

beginning.

 

 

What is Listening, prt. II

When did I first listen? This question can have no definitive answer and is as unfruitful a question as “what and when was the first word spoken?” From the moment I had ears to hear within the womb my body heard and vibrated to the natural rhythm of my mother’s pulse. It was from the womb I first experienced aural space, reverberation, the echo, and “entered” into listening. The ethnomusicologist John Blacking notes that just as the child never had to learn the formal structure of language before he began speaking, so too the child responds to aural organization “before he has been taught to recognize” the sounds as such. From our very first memories we are creatures that listen.

Listening is a finding-an-order to sounds, a making sense of the natural depth of the world around us. Because we have listened from such a young age and have learned what to listen for, we often take for granted how complex this finding-an-order is. Dr. Oliver Sacks in his recent book Musicophilia expounds upon the phenomenon of musical hallucinations, when music sounds to an individual seemingly out of nowhere. These hallucinations are usually brought on by a hearing loss and can last for many years—the patient constantly hearing the playing of music, often spontaneous and “composed,” for his or her entire conscious existence. Such hallucinations can also temporarily be induced by stroke, ischemic attacks, or cerebral aneurysms.

Although Dr. Sacks says little in the way of interpreting this phenomenon or what it “means” to how we as human beings listen, one patient does comment that when mowing the lawn, “a motif starts up in my head which I recognize as only happening when the mower is on.” Many of the patients experience similar occurrences, like a high ringing before slowly changing into a recurring theme. The hallucinatory music then is a finding-an-order but to a cognitively dissonant extreme. Whereas most of us notice musicality in sounds, the rhythm and loud voice of the lawn mower for instance, the patient literally transcribes or arranges these sounds into music. Just as visual hallucinations are a way of “making sense” of disconcerting visual phenomena, so too musical hallucinations are an ordering of sound that reveal how listening is an ordering of sound.

Sounds not only arouse the cerebellum, basal ganglia, or any other one portion of the brain, but like language, vast portions of it. These sounds in turn lead to rhythmic motor function, whether that be playing or singing along with the music, tapping, or even sitting still—for listening attunes us to what we are listening to, we vibrate to it, reverberate it back. These aural rhythms felt throughout our body are in turn taken up by the mind. We take up musical structures both on the psychological level of anticipation/fulfillment or appropriation/denial, as well as on the neurological level. Our motor rhythms influence the rhythm that our neurons fire in, taking the rhythms up as a temporal template. Listening as finding-an-order literally influences how our brains “move” in time. As in Plato’s Republic the “rhythm and harmony [of music] permeate the inner part of the soul,” ordering our thoughts and the sounds of the world around us.