Found: A Letter for the Art of Love and Colors

Dear,

In Safe and Sound,

 

I write as the crow flies—ashore, on the hard. Something’s happened, my friend. I’m aground, at liberty, and I think you must know. You’re on a run, of course, and a leg from the vanishing angle. There’s nothing so much to say, after all. A sliding pond across the pond, to think of it! And so, I write to you, the manifest all theirs.

I was leadsman and three sheets to the wind after a jump. The shifting tides felt like wild gleams, and yelling, “La mal du siècle est le fin de siècle!”

The quiet quite still and, the ocean conceiving itself a pond, so said staid:

“At times, there arrives a silence of such definitive conviction, only breathlessness awaits in reply. Before a heavy void, abrupt in infinitesimal place, broad-bosomed earth spawns light, deities, and creatures. And yet void stands, eerily genial in a forbidding concealedness it abides, exact—heavy-handed with the awesome settling of null. There are, of course, those remnants of Iapetus’ progeny: a thoughtful, doomed unconcealedness of the world.”

There were dripping sounds at this, I remember, and the wet of tell-tale and the atmosphere. Some of us had silently smoked, like xylological fumes. We were trees, my friend, and the pond was… always water and wet. The drink. Something was happening.

“The world is everything that is the case.”

And, said so, that pond in the middle of the forest talked with the batch of banked reeds about how little our Sol’s rays were involved in its ecosystem. The whole forest listened quietly, and over the following seasons many limbs slowly spread above the pond, until it sighed its happy content of a cool summer to the reeds. As autumn set, the brisk air began ossifying all these ponderous bodies, crisping icy plates on its blooming surface which melted each morning, inviting fauna and flora to sink themselves with stark refreshment.

Appreciating such communal spirit, the pond rippled a quiet return to the forest and limbs.

Later, in a womb of the icing winter, the pond lazily sludged along its floor shipping nutrient muds and clays below its breeding, frozen husk. Snuggled with the earth beneath, it glowed its reverent anticipation of the coming spring thaw. Then, it glimmered, it would banter its banks and banked reeds with freshwater biota and loudly call in laughter to the limbs just above, swinging:

“A no-sided, 4-sided figure is unfathomable—even confusingly so—to our so natural bodies, but what about that rule entails that there, in fact, is or is not a round square object, somewhere? All objects are possible objects?”

Like at some Jack a Jonah rippling the state, we’d listened poised—frozen by such cold.

“In such a proposition—and eo ipso statement, etc., etc.—is it not that its subject noun’s adjective is epistemically dissimilar, categorically, from the predicate noun’s adjective, such that render the proposition’s truth ambiguous without some formality of warrant?”

The arc of visibility the dead wake of a question. It was a wonder indeed, my friend. You would’ve imagined it admirable, as it were.

“Indeed, O Limbs, when contemplating this, prodigious, I think to remember ‘All’ as adjective, and the phrase ‘objects are possible objects’ metaphysical triviality—for, as we all well know, the convention of beginning such cosmic inferences with ‘All’ is merely convention only, useful in determining the universal from the particular formally, carrying no ontological information to the semantic table that isn’t there with the noun—and, in point of fact, serving, in this most serious of cases, that of our sea trial, to build common cloud over the way of inference. An ox-eye, O Limbs. Removing the adjective—using, instead, ‘Objects are possible objects’—might help the clear: to suggest the proposition ‘true’ is to want of warrant for why possibility is universality here. Would not there only then be unity?”

The doldrums becalmed, my friend! The forest spelled. I was forgotten, for the moment, I think.

“That we can’t conceive the experience of a round, square object has, at best, obscure bearing on the existence of such objects in such sense as said.”

Silence, some thought, hearing—already ready to stove in. Scud and iron wind. Sailors, you know.

“Though, such talk is, yes, suspect. As it should be, experience being what it is as the origin of this digression.”

The pond let lit by losing the forest among these trees, and the scat of conversants. All the talk of those aboard, that time, I remember, that cat and the devil to pay.

I won’t ask about the weather of being still at sea, my friend. There’s enough play to run with such paws.

“The map is make-able but never at all necessarily made,” rustled the limbs, “there’s just the effort of trying, ever unable to deduce whether what’s got is right, all, or some. Knowledge doesn’t exist outside knowing minds but its content is everything.”

I think here the pilot coughed, if memory serves. I mean, I’m not sure if any else of us heard, it is.

“It’s that, we understand or misunderstand the world, and the world is. For us, what the world is, what it will be, what it was, and what it can and can’t be, are common features of metaphysics, sought-for but unreached in the concepts of minds trying—some nihilism perhaps excluded. For the world, what it is, what it will be, what it was, and what it can and can’t be are logical categories which denote everything, from the geology of obsidian to this.”

It became a glacial wood soon to be warmed by the heat of summer, and all the many rays of bright shine that’s growth and substance. The master at arms with no room to swing a cat, I guess.

Taiga.

And so, at this, like some carpenter the pond replied in allegory, “The clear of an annulled sky.”

“‘I’ll participate in what you believe if you give me the attention’, came tumbling over the pearls and the bloodied beaver, Limbs.”

The limbs listened as a brush is swept, the forest petrified—fossilized fuels bearing the point, as it were. I remember it said it looked like a mirror. Something about… some hellenic and theophanic rope and yarn, I think. The pond had begun to speak of being a body of water.

“Jackal surveys the land,” the pond had sounded, “edifying Paintings’ touched and embalming the ideal. ‘Say that again?’ With concussion, Lettuce extrapolates. Those binary cartographers imbibe hilarity—albeit, Jackal’s cross and preempts her own ostensible fury by way of a barking cough.”

“Lettuce in chagrin—perplexed.”

Groves, it was by then. I could’ve heard such story, myself—stories like storied buildings.

I think of the fact that, it’s here I find myself found writing letters to you, my friend. Nothing short for lamplight, however much I should have to say, in the end. I’ve even written poems, but that of late and dire.

The pond kept up swinging the lamp like lead.

“All her pink, translucent schemata want of reality—of ossification. Painting mediates: what better than to supplant a foe by fouling foliage? The land fallow, Jackal honors the entreatment—one’s employer reigns this solar day. ‘Painting,’ Jackal claims, ‘we’re apt to mark off the upper ridge for agriculture, the mountain for The Captain’s roost, and the shoals for a defense buttress, leaving the basin for folks.’ Parched, the ink dries and the anxiety of the panorama sets with the star entombing the now elucidated police in time.”

At this, some of the limbs laughed and, in the way, taunted: “Jackal sighs at Lettuce’s prone attack, and revives facility?”

The pond waved isomorphic.

“Jackal spoke: ‘Lettuce… my beliefs are of liquid. I attend objects only, and them with a definite distance.’ Lettuce would gasp. ‘And, Lettuce, I’m a cartographer. Too narrow for your width.’ A fountain, Lettuce pontificates medium, naturalizing chaos. That the Jackal stares, cessation swiftly returning to Painting’s palette the bounty of a nearly aerial view of what—if for Painting only—is ideally incommensurable with identity. So much tranquil settling, as obviating Lettuce’s receding futility and path traversing below.”

“To Painting Jackal inscribes, ‘I am bulimic.’ A laugh, then jest in rebuke, ‘You are?’ They leave the sight.”

The limbs were silent still, having chanted the reflection that: “The beginning of the end is the end of the beginning. To begin the reason is the reason to begin the reason to have begun. The end of the beginning is the beginning of the end. The reason to begin is to begin the reason to have begun.”

I would’ve said something, then, my friend. I write you now, because that wasn’t what happened. The pond took what was a spell to mull and sludge, and was soon quite on, again, about it all.

“It’s that there’s a difference between. An oil portrait by Villers comes to mind.”


OTA-Villers-Young-1801

Marie-Denise Villers
Portrait of Charlotte du Val d’Ognes
, 1801


“An artist is painted by the painter drawing the painter—looking out at us, studying studying while they work. They paint the artist as drawing within a room, face away from a large window to their left. Through that window, we see the view out into painted open air, and, in the near distance, a painted couple walks close together alongside a painted building separated from that within which we see the artists sit, each working at their craft.”

At this submerged and aesthetic mise en abyme, even I was knocked down, my friend. It was as if liminality were sublimity.

“Villers depicts the artist as turned away from the couple without, from that life-style and choice to be one in a relationship, one outside, there walking and heavily clothed, as having chosen to remain within, at methodic vocation and a sole focus on us—the viewer, the painted. The subject.”

The pond pondered paint in prodigious profundity—paying, by and large by the board. Pelagic, at last it remarked:

“Kierkegaard was polite as ever to the King when at court, yet his journals characterize Christian VIII in language beneath a private subject of an enlightened sovereign! Logic leads, and I heckle and foray riotous! Nobody ever understands him, anyway, you know! The works!”

The limbs, like the Dormouse at tea and, perhaps, Aristotle, were quite asleep. As slumbering arms, indeed, there among the wood and water—the brightwork and deadwood of boatwrights. I’d said nothing—snagged and foul.

I write this all, my friend, because Heraclitus once said aloud that, that war and strife are the facts of life—that to think even of something like a Pax Romana is still yet that lit lamp of the sea state.

We’re at war, my friend. Extremis. This world of war. Sailing wind-over-tide, line astern without letter of marque. A rogue wave.

Be vigilant. Sail.

 

Your prize, In all regard,
And for the art of love and colors,

Fair winds and following seas,
Anon, Anon,

Away

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Playing ‘Exquisite Corpse’ By Myself

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Photo by author

    “And it kills me, the word sorry. As if something like music

 

should be forgiven. He nuzzles into the wood like a lover,

  inhales, and at the first slow stroke, the crescendo

     seeps through our skin like warm water, we

 

who have nothing but destinations, who dream of light

   but descend into the mouths of tunnels, searching.”

from Ocean Vuong’s “Song on the Subway”

 

“I am trying to check my habits of seeing, to counter them for the sake of a greater freshness. I am trying to be unfamiliar with what I’m doing.”

Susan Sontag, As Consciousness Is Harnessed to Flesh: Journals and Notebooks, 1964-1980

 

“Well let’s think for a moment. What type of orange are you?” Our professor asks us.

On a Thursday night we discuss how to teach metaphor in our Poetry and Pedagogy class. We are reading Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions translated by William O’Daly. Dr. Berlin has asked us what it feels like to be an orange.

“I’m a blood orange,” my classmate responded. We all laughed. “I’m red and juicy on the inside.”

“Who gets the most sun and who decides on these matters?” someone wondered.

“I would think the biggest oranges would get the most sun,” another classmate said.

“What if the bigger oranges are bigger because they get the most sun?” I posed.

“This is not a Marxist tree!” the Blood Orange shouts. People laugh, I audibly eye roll.

People began calling out, “Everyone gets equal sun!”

“Where are these oranges growing? Is this a private farm or someone’s garden?”

“Did you hear about the peach tree they cut down on campus and replaced with Dogwood. That’s nice for about one month of the year, but I want peaches!”

“Now,” I start in, “what if everyone thinks I’m an orange but I’m really a grapefruit?”

As people laugh someone says something about me being bitter.

“What if,” I begin, “we are all those genetically modified mini-oranges engineered for children under 5 and we just think we are real oranges? We’re all in a crate together being shipped to the supermarket. We’re derivative oranges,” now I’m being a bit of an ass.

“Are we the types of oranges used in perfumery?” Someone starts looking up what type of oranges those are on their phone.

One classmate says they are a Florida-hating, navel gazing navel orange from Florida.

We discuss zen koans now:

Can a koan change a life?

My professor asks if we all remember the Marx Brothers. She wonders if people growing up today have sufficient exposure to absurdity; she comes from the era of Vaudeville.

I would think it’s clear absurdity is palpable now. Especially politically.

“Do people today have something like ‘The Shirt Song’? It’s just a guy talking about how he wants his shirt,” Dr. Berlin starts singing it.

He wants his shirt!

                                                                       I want my shirt! 

He won’t be happy without his shirt!

 

I think about when I used to do prank calls as a teenager with my friends Danny and Anthony.

An answering machine beeps (Danny, barely disguising voice trailing off laughing): “HELLO DERE! Come on down to Wal’er’s Park this weekend for some hotdooogs and sode-y!” 

Videos exist of Anthony on the couch in a friend’s basement:

“Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of MAURY where today we will be discussing: ‘Help, My Daughter is Having Sex with…Pilot Lights.’”

There’s a clip on that video tape of a high school acquaintance laying sideways and rubbing his body atop a cafeteria table saying “Lemon Curry,” in a sensual way. Quickly: a cut to my friend Danielle in art class sharing her series of “feeling papers”: about 40 papers of possible human feelings. She reads each of them to me in discordant voices, pointing at all of the papers which are decorated with a hodge podge of art supplies, peaking slightly over the top of the papers and giggling after each one.

*Danielle in a shrieky voice* “Hopefulllll:” as in are youuu hopefulllll? I hope you’reee hopefulllll *laughter*

We used to laugh at anything when we were that age. In a high school play we performed, And Then There Was One, there was a line I said in the role of Detective Horatio Miles: “What does anyone do in the pantry?” It was tech rehearsal and someone in the audience yelled “Masturbate!” We laughed so hard and our teacher made us this t-shirt.

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Photo and food(?)/paint(?) stain by author

 

Last week I try to make feeling flashcards:
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They are terrible and not like Danielle’s.

I made “privacy” an emotion, too, so if you want to be technical they are no longer feeling flashcards, now they are just cards with words on them.

“Should I watch the videos again,” I wonder now, “or just remember them?”

 

**********

 

On a Thursday night in 2017 we continue discussing metaphor. My professor says: “What if I say: the universe is the smell of pee?” I got lost somewhere and now we’re here and “the universe is the smell of pee.”

Can a metaphor change a life? A law? An economy?

John Tarrant, in Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans That Will Save Your Life, says asking questions, specifically in the form of koans will encourage doubt and curiosity, lead you to see life as funny rather than tragic, and change the idea of who you are. He thinks at the bottom of people’s motives is love.

I ask myself if this can be true.

To prepare for class we read Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions. Neruda references Nixon, lemons, roses, and Rimbaud. 

In “Night in Hell” Rimbaud says:

But I am still alive! – Suppose damnation is eternal! A man who wants to mutilate himself is certainly damned, isn’t he? I believe I am in Hell, therefore I am.

Shams Tabrizi said this much earlier:

Don’t search for heaven and hell in the future. Both are now present. Whenever we manage to love without expectations, calculations, negotiations, we are indeed in heaven. Whenever we fight, hate, we are in hell.

I try reading Neruda in the style of Jerry Seinfeld:

Ya knowww…

“With the virtues that I forgot

Could I sew a new suit?”

 

I meannnn…

 

“Why did the best rivers

leave to flow to France?”

 

“And why is the sun such a bad companion

To the traveler in the desert?”

 

Can a question change a life?

 

*********

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Photo by author

“Hello, Love!” Katrina, the barista at Java City, says when a customer walks in, sometimes alternated with, “Hello, sweetie!”

As someone who enjoys observational research, I listen to the way Katrina talks to other customers. “Hello, Love!” “Hello, sweetie!” would ring out from the cafe as I did some reading in the nearby library study area. “It’s so good to see you today!”

I feel as a cynical academic I could have just said “she is infantalizing me,” but I think that’s also bullshit, she wasn’t, this can’t be academonized. 

One day Katrina and I talk about the power of being happy. I think about this a lot. 

Katrina treats everyone with the same happiness. I believe she is happy. We talk about smiling. She says she is 53 and decided she didn’t ever want to be unhappy again. I wonder how this works, not in a shitty sarcastic way, I actually wonder.

Emotional labor debates are not because we don’t want to ever do emotional labor–they are so people recognize the labor we perform. No one has to be good to anyone. All emotions are labor. But what would be the point if no one ever did emotional labor? Should we all stop emoting? I don’t want to stop emoting. 

I don’t think that’s the point.

There are “occupational hazard” emotions to some identities.

Calling someone “angry” can be a way to immediately shut down discourse. Telling someone to smile or be happy is intrusive. These can be ways of policing behavior when it’s threatening to power. But in terms of survival and on a more personal level–what does it do to someone’s health when they are angry a good deal of the time?

In Jessi Gan’s “Still at the Back of the Bus” (an essay from Are All the Women Still White?) Gan brings out that anger as a tool  for social equity is an essential yet alienating reality. She mentions the story of Silvia Rivera: marginalization even on the margins.

“I just want to be who I am. I am living in the way Silvia wants to live. I’m not living in the straight world; I’m not living in the gay world; I’m just living in my own world with Julia and my friends.”

Rivera, along with Marsha P. Johnson, founded “Street Transvestites Action Revolutionaries.” Even in queer communities, people told Rivera she wasn’t welcome, beating her up, telling her she was an affront to “real” womanhood, making fun of her language abilities, telling her sex workers did not have a place in the movement. “Progressive” queer people ignored Rivera’s plee to financially help homeless queer youth, so she did it herself.

Queer people, especially of color, gender non-conforming and gender nonbinary are consistently barraged with demands on their identity and forced outings:

          “But who are you?”

Silvia was a founding member of Gay Liberation Front and the Gay Activists Alliance and was shit on by her own “group” so she left.

The answer “I’m me” is not good enough and “who are you as it applies to what serves me?” seems to be the real question when people deny identities.

This should be cause for anger. With this anger can come alienation–the angered pick up the tab for this. They are blamed for the symptom, the anger, when the anger had a causal relationship to something else.

Calling out anger can be a form of shutting down discourse, but the anger that is dwelling inside comes at a cost to the angered, not just the receiver of the anger.

Anger can poison your organs. Anger can kill you.

*Someone in the back of the room says “everything kills you someday” and they are being an ass.*

Practitioners of allopathic as well as hollistic medicine believe anger is stored in the liver. People use alcohol and drugs to cope with anger, too, which further impacts the liver. Silvia Rivera died of liver cancer.

What are the ways people kill people?

No Answer Barthes
from Roland Barthes’ A Lover’s Discourse

 

 

*********

“Sodom-y and Gonorrhea” and “Minced Oathe” were stories I wrote about breaking faith and questioning the ego when I was 19. I wonder if we are born with more wisdom than we gain and if we lose it over time; I’d write based on dreams I had.

My Grandmother was a Bible school teacher. Everything is apocalyptic revelation.

In “Sodom-y and Gonorrhea” the subject of the dream lays naked in the desert sipping a White Russian reading magazines. Most of the people are naked and imbibing, white metal bunk beds are placed all over in the sand. A natural disaster rips through the place and everyone dies except the subject of the dream.

“You killed some people who didn’t deserve it.”

They look for clothes to cover themself and only find some on a person who has been decapitated. They put the clothes on as a figure on a Hummer*** drives through.

*On a Hummer not in a Hummer because it’s a dream and: dream logic.

*

*It’s a dream, shut up.

 

Though this character is just introduced, and this seems like the beginning of the story, it’s like we know them already. They go off together through a bar where Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” plays. Jesus is the bartender’s name. Jesus knows what you want before you even ask.

The characters talk for a bit and the subject says:

“Whenever I am hating you I am only hating myself.”

 

                                                                                      Jesus swept.

 

 

 

 

Dating While Melanated and Educated

In the age of social media and academic decadence, dating or hooking up has become an intricate Argentinian tango. Whether you’re battling the probability of having a rewarding career, a partner and children or just looking for Mr. or Ms. Right Now, the prospects for finding a decent person is best described as a trial by fire (optimistically you don’t develop permanent scar tissue). As a person who vacillates between academic and non-academic spaces dating becomes the topic of discussion. The infamous question begins with:

“Are you seeing someone?”

If I answer “no…”

the response is: “But why? You’re such a catch!”

If I say “yes…”

then I am subjected to the lightening quick response of “who is the lucky contender?”

They’re not asking simply because they wish me well or that I am no longer continuing the “my intellectual and spiritual endeavors are all I have time for” narrative. They want to know whether my potential mate is black or at the very least a non-white person. Just because someone is educated, queer identified or an ally, and politically (very liberal) doesn’t negate race-thought. Largely due to population of white vs. non-white, level of education, socio-economic status, and sexuality men and women of color are confronted with the possibility of engaging in an interracial or inter-ethnic relationship.

For example, the focus (or at least the top two) of this season’s The Bachelorette, is Rachel Lindsay’s racial consideration: whether she will choose the only black guy who’s left in the competition because he’s black. Yet, is there an intrinsically known safety in choosing to partner with someone of your own race? Simply stated, yes.

Rachel Lindsay of The Bachelorette

However, it doesn’t negate the issues of class and socialization. For example, if someone who is LatinX dates another LatinX person there is the probability of being from the same country and the ability to speak the same language with your partner. However, there is the issue of class and colonial ideology. If you’re Black there are various types of Black. Black people from the Midwest are different than East or West Coast Black folk (or what I call Coastal Blacks). Dialectically speaking, they are more aligned with Southern Blacks because their parents or grandparents are usually from the south and the cuisine and socialization are similar. There are other things such as inter and intra-racism that is known that one may not be aware of when it comes to coastal blacks. If racism within and between is experienced there is the issue of provincialism that Blacks from the Midwest and southern states experience from Coastal Blacks. It is best said from a quote from the film Amistad.

 “People from the north view southerners [and I will add, Midwesterners] as not only being geographically below but also intellectually inferior.”

That statement, which is ironically stated by a white slave owner and United States Senator, is simply based on the assumption of based on someone’s geographical origin within the United States.

To add to the topic of geographical difference, there are the issues of colorism within Black American communities and communities of color. There are also the interactions Black people encounter among Caribbean, LatinX, and immigrants and/or the children of immigrants from African countries. This is not to exclude Asian communities if anything this is to include them in the conversation. These issues are not foreign to them either. For example, Asians face the issues of colorism, assimilation and being deemed the model minority within their community as well as, from potential white partners.

To add to the complexity of dating within one’s community, people of color also deal with the issues of class which are both intellectual and economic markers of difference. This is not to cast the bulk of the blame on communities of color because racism by whites is real. The biggest overt example, is dating/hook up applications. These places make it all too painful as to what potential white partners don’t want. And yes, LGBTQ apps are often the most racist. In addition to Dating/Hooking up, online pornography re-enforces these racist sexually exploitative fantasies. I will not bother with listing titles or search topics because a simple Google search will list all that you need to know. This is not a new frontier of discourse; writers like Zora N. Hurston, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Gayl Jones, David H. Hwang, and James Earl Hardy have explored the ways in which men and women of color are subjected to racist sexual objectification. This is an opposition to Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, Karl Van Vechten’s Nigger Heaven, or the novels of Kyle Onstott. Lance Horner and Henry Whittington aka Ashley Carter.  Onstott’s novel Mandingo was adapted into a play in 1961, and performed in New York City at the Lyceum Theater, and later made into a film in 1975. Sequels to Mandigo were written by Lance Horner and Henry Whittington (aka Ashley Carter). One of those sequels Drum was made into a film in 1976.

The novel Mandingo takes place in an 1830s Alabama plantation named Falconhurst and trials and tribulations of a slave named Ganymede or Mede.

Promotional poster for Mandingo (1975)

The later novel Drum is based on an entertainment fighter who was conceived through a sexual relationship with a white prostitute). Not only was Drum conceived through an illegal relationship but he came out looking far too black. So, the white prostitute lies and said that Drum’s mother was her female slave’s and not her own. Like his Ganymede/Mede, Drum was not only enslaved but forced to fight other slaves for the entertainment and profit of their master. The novels of Onstott, Whittington and Horner doesn’t just focus on the material capital of the black body but also on sexual/fetishistic taboo. Their works focus on rape by slave masters, their daughters and their wives, inter-racial desire/fetishization, incest, slave breeding, and same sex rape. For example, not only does Drum’s mother have an illegal relationship with his father but she also rapes her female slaves. Both Ganymede/Mede and Drum are forced to have sex with other female slaves and they were subjected to being raped by their master or various slave owners too. Whether the novels were part of their own fetishistic fantasies or the tales were told to him in various parlor rooms. Onstott’s novels and films are the fuel that feeds the very real fear of people of color.

Drum, novel reissue (1981)

Recently, an article written by Donovan Trott, called “Race-Play 101: My Introduction into the World of Racist Sex Fantasies,” is about the ways in which the author experienced being exposed to the racialized-sex fantasies of potential partners.

It is an unfortunate and sobering reminder of the far too often reality of what people of color experience despite their gender, sexuality and body composition.  It is one of many written articles that serve as a reminder to those who are of color and informs those that are white as to the anxieties that people of color face when dating while melanated and educated. This is not to promote a West Side Story mentality of “stick to your own kind,”  nor deny someone the freedom of dating someone outside of their own culture or race. However, it is to bring attention as to what it means when a person of color chooses to date within their culture or race and the issues one may encounter if they choose to date someone outside of their race or culture.

Bibliography

Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man. 1952. 

Franzoni, David. Amistad. 1997.

Haywood, Corey Alexander. “(The Black Hat) 10 Ways That Dating A White Girl Will Open A Black Man’s Eyes to Racism.”

Hurston, Zora N. Their Eyes Were Watching God. 1937.

Hwang, H. David. M. Butterfly. 1987.

Jones, Gayl. Corregidora. 1975.

Jones, Owen. No Asians No black people. Why do Gay People Tolerate blatant racism?

Kirkland, Jack. Mandingo (Play), 1961.

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. 1970

—. Beloved. 1987.

—. Playing in The Dark. 1992.

Onstott, Kyle. Mandingo (Novel), 1957.

Puccini and Giacosa. Madama Butterfly, 1903.

Trott, Donovan. “Raceplay 101: My Introduction to the world of Racist Sex Fantasies.”

Van Vechten, Carl. Nigger Heaven 1926.

Wexler, Norman. Mandingo. (Film)1975.

—. Drum (Film) 1976.

—.”Racial Dating: Why you swipe right for some and not others.”

 

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Auxochrome-Chromophore

Do you believe in a love that informs, enriches, and encourages creativity? What is the purpose of love, if not to uplift us, becalm us, and embalm our broken spirits? We do not want to be crippled and asphyxiated in love, we must be able to soar; our spirits must be free.

Two women, two artists, and two lovers from two disparate corners of the world decided to redefine love. Their love for their respective partners was so great that they were ready to efface themselves. What is so uncanny is that they lived, loved, and worked in two very different time periods. One was born in the 19th century and the other in the 20th. One in England, the other in Mexico. Despite their different births, different cultures, and different sensibilities,  their lives followed quite identical trajectories.

Born as the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Liverpool, Dora Carrington, was essentially a free spirit. She always felt stifled at home, owing to the domineering nature of her mother. Her father was old and passive and completely at her mother’s mercy. The motherly lessons of morality and propriety were too much for Dora to bear. So when she earned herself a scholarship at the prestigious Slade School of Art at University College, London, she happily set foot on a journey that would change her life forever. Her decision to break away from the bourgeois roots and strike new ones into the fertile expanses of the creative and intellectual bohemia of the 20th century London helped her realize what she truly wanted: Lytton Strachey. Lytton was thirteen years her senior and a homosexual. But that never deterred Dora from loving him more than anything or anyone, even herself. So great was her love for Lytton that she even married his lover Ralph Partridge to enjoy the sustained proximity of her beloved. The three of them, Dora, Lytton, and Ralph lived together in the same house, and Dora continued to devote all her love and attention to Lytton. He was a key member of the celebrated Bloomsbury Group of London that constituted of such luminaries as E.M.Forster, John Maynard Keynes, Virginia Woolf etc. He was a man of letters, and his brilliance and erudition so awed Dora that she could hardly ever speak in his presence. Even though she was in her own right and by her own merit a painter par brilliance, she chose to carry on with her life as Lytton’s shadow; a mere sidekick or not even that. Many of her artwork bear testimony to this facet of her psyche, because she too was an autobiographical painter just like my next artist, Frida Kahlo.It is strange that these two women would live such identical lives.

Frida Kahlo, born to Guillermo Kahlo, a Mexican of German origin and Matilde, of mixed Spanish and Mexican ancestry, in the outskirts of Mexico, was always a sickly child. Polio had rendered one of her legs thinner and shorter than the other, giving rise to her lifelong discomfort with her own physicality. Then at the age of eighteen, she suffered a terrible near death bus accident, leading to a broken spinal cord, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. In addition, an iron handrail from the bus had pierced her abdomen and her uterus, compromising her reproductive capabilities. Gerry Souter in his biography of Kahlo writes, “The scene of the accident was gruesome. Somehow the collision tore off Frida’s clothes, dumping her nude onto the shattered floor of the bus. Seated near Frida had been a painter or an artisan carrying a paper packet of gold gilt powder. It burst, showering her naked body.” She lay there like a vision in gold. That is how she continued to be, a striking beauty in the face of the most extreme affliction, anguish, and physical discomfiture. She was such a resolute and strong woman that she overcame her physical limitations; her broken body, her damaged leg, her degenerative neurological disease; getting back on her feet, doing what she loved best, paint, and love like no other women could have. She fell in love with the famous muralist, Diego Rivera, who had been commissioned to paint the walls in her school. Diego Rivera was a fubsy old man, much married, a communist, and a celebrated lady killer. Frida married him knowing well enough that this man would never be faithful to her. That it is his work and his perversions that were going to take precedence in their lives and she would have to be content with playing the part of the doting wife.

Both Dora and Frida were great artists, who lived a bohemian life. They were bisexual. They had innumerable affairs and liaisons with people of both the sexes. They were both critical of their own work and never believed in the value of their art. They were both bruised in love and yet their love was way beyond any form of self-love. They were happy with their place in the periphery, willingly pushing their more successful lovers into the center stage.  They both believed that their love for their partners was the source of all their creative energy, yet their partners hardly ever played such a motivational role in their lives.  Probably that is why these women are known to the world, more for their personalities, lifestyle, and love lives, than for the oeuvre of their artwork. Whereas Frida’s works were mainly canvas painting in the Retablo mold, Dora had dabbled in a lot of other forms of artwork, such as furniture painting, glass painting, woodwork and so on. Her trompe l’oeil artwork has been considered as some of her most masterful creations. Dora was very secretive about her work and never wanted to display it to the public. In that respect, after her divorce from Rivera, Frida had finally been able to overcome her fear of showing her work to the people. Before that, she would only circulate her stuff among friends just like Dora.

Frida and Dora were always in touch with their feminine as well as their masculine sides. They cut their hair short and experimented with androgynous dressing. The images below bear testimony to that:

 

 

 

The portraits of friends and acquaintances by Dora and Frida share a likelihood in terms of the honest depiction, sense of melancholia, and profundity of emotions depicted in the same.

 

Although Frida’s self-portraits are often allegorical and quite sinister unlike those of Dora’s, they are alike in their brilliant detailing and use of colors.

 

 

It is quite surprising that separated by a decade, in two different parts of the world, two women would think, feel, and paint so alike. That they would be riddled with the same questions of birth and identity, use their work as a personal blog, love someone with an ardor rare to find, happy to glow in the light of their more successful partners, and eventually die an unnatural death.

It is well known that Dora shot herself in the head following the untimely demise of Lytton Strachey. It is said Frida died of heart attack, but it is widely believed that she died of a self-induced overdose of drugs.

Both of them were also known for having written quite a number of letters in their lifetime. Letters that give us a glimpse into their complex psyche, their love, their pain, and their desires. Written in lucid words, overflowing with passion, and creativity (Dora used to doodle in her letters) these written testimonials are a mirror to their unique spirits.

In a letter, Frida writes:

“My Diego:

Mirror of the night

Your eyes green swords inside my flesh. waves between our hands.

All of you in a space full of sounds — in the shade and in the light. You were called AUXOCHROME— the one who captures color. I CHROMOPHORE — the one who gives color.

You are all the combinations of numbers. life. My wish is to understand lines form shades movement. You fulfill and I receive. Your word travels the entirety of space and reaches my cells which are my stars then goes to yours which are [sic] my light.”

So much for love.

My love inspires me to speak my mind, to pen down all those words jostling in my head in search of an articulation. It is not just an Auxochrome, it is a Chromophore too. Shouldn’t love be a Chromophore too? I wish it were for Dora and Frida because they are way too close to my heart now that I have looked into their beautiful souls and realized how lucky I am.

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DARK MATTERS: NAKED

I will not work for Physicality

I will work for Experience not Things

Things are nice, but useless

Because they all end up disappearing

In the Wrong Hands

The Light that disowns the Evil Places

Inside each Vessel

Is your obsession based on Love?

Who is your Authority?

And to acknowledge the Dark is to bring to Light

To face Yourself in bareness

That was absent of The World before

Naked thy enter

Naked thy depart

Naked thy return terse work

Mixed media by MMM

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To Love Edward Said

Edward Said
Edward Said

I must confess to my own sins here: there is a small part of me that has fallen in love with Edward Said. I do not mean this in the sense that I admire his scholarship and think of him as a role model (though that is very much the case). I mean that I have actually fallen in love with this man—the way that Patti Smith wrote about falling in love with the poet Rimbaud, who died many years before she was even born. Even as I confess to this, I wonder if I am falling into the trap that Edward Said has warned us against–if I am romanticizing the other, am I creating an idea of this other person to fill some need that I have in my own life? Looking at photographs of Said as a young man–and even as a middle-aged man–it is apparent that he cut a dashing figure, contesting the portrait I have seen of Derrida in a trench coat, walking along the streets of New York, collar up against the wind, smoking, and actively participating in the spiritual recreation of Humphrey Bogart as an Algerian philosopher.

Derrida as Bogart
Derrida as Bogart, from Derrida

I do not, at least, write Edward Said’s name with little hearts around it in my diary.

I recently saw a speech by Dr. Colleen Clemens exploring the way that the Malala narrative has been utilized in American discourse. She connected this narrative with the story of Mukhtar Mai, and I began to wonder where the differences lay. The attention paid to women’s rights in the context of Muslim and Middle Eastern identity, she says, shows less care for the rights of women specifically than for a desire to boost support for military operations: “I do not want to see the same thing done with Malala or her story, when she and it are no longer serving this country’s military or nationalistic needs.” I began to think as well about the ways in which particular women seem to come forward, hold a moment in light as the oppressed Muslim woman, suffering under terrorism and misogyny (which is a form of terrorism under a different label). Soon after, these women disappear, often without their situation vastly improving, or rather without a serious shift within the larger culture they belong to. Things go back as they were until the next military intervention. I see these books come in at my store all of the time–I am Nujood: Aged 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali, My Forbidden Face by Latifa, and even Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s duel memoirs, Nomad and Infidel—the former of which includes the subtitle I’m sure so many of us would itch to deconstruct: “From Islam to America.” There is something about these narratives that suggest sympathy and apathy at one. If they cause a change of heart in the ideological xenophobe, I have not yet seen it. I notice none of the people who read these books have any interest when I talk to them about Nawal El Saadawi.

I think of the picture of the “Afghan Girl,” a 1985 cover image for National Geographic that became synonymous with the refugee crisis arising from the Afghan War. Her name is Sharbat Gula. No one knew her name for almost twenty years after the picture was taken because the photographer did not record her name at the time. In 2016, she was deported from Pakistan back to Afghanistan for living there with false documents. Her children were deported with her. At the same time, her image was reprinted all over the world as the cover of various collected editions of the “Most Iconic Photographs” ever taken. Gula went to court before she was deported in a full burqa. Newspapers remarked on the fact that these famous eyes were now covered by the veil, forgetting perhaps that her eyes and her image belongs first and foremost to her—not any photographer on the court steps. There was a moment in which her image served a purpose (be it a valuable one) before she was abandoned and marginalized once the interest of the mainstream discourse shifts.

There is a need to develop a critical awareness of what the term “Orientalism” specifically means in this context. The specific locale, what might be termed the “Middle East” in the 21st Century (engulfing the idea of a “Near East”), and what was called “the Orient” until the mid-20th Century. Said places his primary focus in Orientalism on American, French and British perceptions of the “Orient.” The history of the term is a study of the varying ways in which a geographical territory was interpreted by three primary colonizing powers. The after-effects of these particular divisions in thought, and the discourses produced by them, are still lingering with us in some of the examples previously given.

Orientalism is the perpetuation of a “once-removed” perspective. The Orientalist perspective expands, cuts and repeats the narratives of other writers–journalists and travel writers–to create a fictional sense of a place as it sees fit. The Orient, as presented in the minds of these writers to their readers, is not a coherent place that can be marked as individual countries and cultures. These works were the frame on which to hang forbidden desires, the thirst for the exotic and fantastic, and the desire for adventure–often without direct experience of the lands being described. Talking for a moment about German perceptions, Said notes:

There is some significance in the fact that the two most renowned German works on the Orient, Goethe’s Wesröstlicher Diwan and Friedrich Schlegel’s Über die Sprache und Weisheit see Indier, were based respectively on a Rhine journey and on hours spent in Paris libraries. What German Oriental scholarship did was to refine and elaborate techniques whose application was to texts, myths, ideas, and languages almost literally gathered from the Orient by imperial Britain and France. (85-86)

It is through these manipulations, craftings, and reworkings of another culture that these Western empires were able to better to envision themselves. While one can question the importance of hindsight in analyzing how much of this was a consciously sustained practice (like the production of nationalist propaganda in a Presidential campaign), there is little doubt that this series of motifs were (and to an extent still are) perpetuated in a meaningful and detrimental way. Said again, “Orientalism, therefore, is not an airy European fantasy about the Orient, but a created body of theory and practice in which, for many generations, there has been a considerable material investment” (75).

Music by Mohammet Fairouz, who has incorporated Said’s work into several of his compositions.

Orientalism “is rather a distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philological texts” (80). It is a way of confronting the way in which colonialism is constructed. “…nearly every nineteenth-century writer (and the same is true enough of writers in earlier periods) was extraordinarily well aware of the fact of empire,” Said writes (81). This awareness of empire did not always connect to a critical awareness of the mechanisms of empire, and Said acknowledges examples of thinkers whose works advocated for republics and self-government for the “west” and colonization with limited control for the “east” (81-82). There is the Dr. Schweitzer quote that has followed all humanitarians either as a warning or an implicit guide: “The African is my brother, but he is my younger brother.”

I think it is important to recognize the directness with which Said situates himself within the context of his study. He addresses what he perceives as a misconception about the divisions in the Middle East and the way in which his experience has been, occasionally, misconstrued as perpetuating or condoning antisemitism:

In addition, and by an almost inescapable logic, I have found myself writing the history of a strange, secret, sharer or Western anti-Semitism. That anti-Semitism and, as I have discussed it in its Islamic branch, Orientalism resemble each other very closely is a historical, cultural, and political truth that only needs to be mentioned to an Arab Palestinian for its irony to be perfectly understood (92).

As a term that historically does not always equate itself with specifically Jewish identity, Said finds an irony that he–a person who would be described as Semitic–could be accused of perpetuating antisemitism in a whirlpool of learned self-hatred. The famous photograph of Said—by this point no longer living leukemia but dying of it—throwing a rock (or a broken cell phone, depending on which story you have heard) at an Israeli guardhouse in Lebanon is a gesture not of antisemitism but of aggravation towards a body of power, as if to say, “Words have failed to impress you. Let me show you my feelings.” It was something little children do, and had been doing that day before Said came upon the scene and joined them.It was a moment in which the individual sees the power of the state and chooses to stand anyway.

said_lebanon_border1
Said throws

Said suggests these Semitic, colonized cultures which are perpetually presented in the West as if they were doomed to perpetual struggle have, in reality, more in common with each other through their shared history of misrepresentation and abuse than they do with their colonizers or imperial allies. Said never loses the sense of urgency behind the cool collectiveness of his prose, and the passion of his debates are apparent in this text, which serves as the introduction not only to a particular book, but also to a life’s work.

A Late interview with Edward Said, discussing Reflections on Exile and other essays

An earlier version of this column appeared in PostColonial Minds as “The Love of Edward Said”

 

 

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