Trilobite

Theary

Thom Donovan

After Glissant

Are we in

The same boat, the

Open boat? I don't

Know. I'd like to

Think so. Basically,

In encountering you,

I would like to

Find some way to

Not totally fuck you

Up. Which is to say,

Do violence, do harm.

How is my being

Here with you at

All just fucking you

Up? How is our

Being related? I

Want to give you

Back something, and

I'm not sure what,

But things are hard

To return. This return

If we could

Return to the earth

What was taken from

The earth. This

Return if we could

Return everything

That was done to the

Sky. Now I'm putting

My fingers in your

Mouth again, wondering

If there's any way

This could be non-

Violent. You're slobbering

All over me but

I suspend any pre-

Sumption that I see

You, that you are

Anything I can

Recognize or comprehend.

While fucking may not

Save us perhaps the

Most improbable of

Actions can. What

If I let you

Throw up a little

In my mouth?

What if I asked

You if you could

Give me a piggy

Back ride? What

If we had a

Staring contest or

Cooked each other

Meals or changed

All the nouns

To verbs? The

Right to opacity

Is a right to

Remain unrecognized

And illegible to

Another, but also

An inducement to

Share — to exchange —

While remaining in-

comprehensible. So we

Floated like islands

Projected into the

Future of an unknown

Sea. What we said

To each other

Was a poem.

If only some-

One had wrote it down.

After Ahmed (I)

One of the few

Ethics I can value

Is that of caring

For the stranger.

I think of that

Story by Flaubert,

The Legend of

St. Julian the

Hospitalier,

About the man

Who loves the leper

And then unites

With the leper

Until he realizes

That the leper

Is Christ. Strangers

Are not lepers

Per se, but they

Are treated in

A similar manner.

As a contagion

To be contained

(disciplined/in-

carcerated) or

Expelled. It makes

Sense to me that

The stranger would

Be the messiah

Since both incite

The projection of

An individual

As both constituting

Time and space

And without it.

Messiah as excluded

Kernel of the real,

God and mortal,

That which is

To come and yet

Here, what Walter

Benjamin described

After Matthew as

Having a "straight

Gate." Is

The messiah a kind

Of portal that

Opens in the air

Upon another

Dimension?

Paradise or some

Such optative

Thing? The stranger

Is untouchable in

The sense that no

One would want

To touch them

On account of their

Rough or dirty

Or 'dark' or sketchy

Or unkempt or

Diseased or malformed

Or malodorous ap-

pearance. And while

Christ by all accounts

Was handsome,

Indeed beautifully

Proportioned, he was

Also supposedly

Untouchable, purified

By celibacy and ascesis,

And being with and

Without (original) sin,

The constitutive state

Of mortal subjects.

I guess what I'm suggesting

Is to make this world

Paradisical by mingling

As much as possible

With strangers. Ask

Them questions, have

A conversation with them,

Drink from their cup

And likewise them from

Yours. Repast with them.

Freely exchange words,

Substances, bodily

Fluids. Fuck them if

You so desire, as Flaubert's

Julian. Become a God,

Anything that isn't human.

Love your proximity

To that unknowing,

To that thing/person

You have been taught

To hate. Feel their breath

On your face, on your

Back. Become them a

Bit if you can, but not

In a weird way (violently

Appropriative). Don't

Eat them in other words.

Don't eat their flesh

At least — though this

Would be most Christ-like.

To come into being

By being partaken of.

After Chen

I don't know

About you, but

Most days I'd

Like to be

Alive rather than

Dead. Even more

So, I'd like

To know that

My children and

Friends and family

Will survive. Then

I think of

The ways we

Once bonded over

Death, whether in

Dress or attitude,

Or the poems

We used to

Write, or the

Drugs we imbibed,

Or the sexual

Escapades we had,

Or the chances

We took… all

Of this a

Kind of worship

Of death. But

Now that I

Can actually foresee

My death all

I want is

To live, and

Not only live,

But be more

Alive. How cavalierly

You dismiss the

Idea that we

Might find each

Other in this

Hell and try

Not to make

A heaven but

Resist dying and

Disease. How nonchalantly

You wonder about

The fate of

The toxins tenuously

Binding us. When

Will an army

Of the sick

And dying raise

Again against the

Catastrophe? Intoxication

Can be cool but

I really don't

Want to lose you.

After Lorde

I envy you

Your "corporate effort,"

That you were

Supported when you

Needed it most,

I envy that

Higher love you

Found, that family,

That person you

Became through suffering,

That you were

Proud of your

Truth, your breastplate,

The silicon wound

So everyone could

See, your tool

Being, the way

Everything works when

We are not

Ill — but we

Are always ill,

I am sick

With this grief

For the things

I haven't even

Lost yet, like

My daughter upon

Losing her first

Tooth says, "I

Will still hug

You even though

I am all grown

Up now" — does

She sense my

Condition? Though I

Am not surprised

It makes me

Sad again that

COVID should not

Be an event

That creates conditions

For a universal

Subject of (revolutionary)

Change, let alone

Cancer, and all

The things that

Threaten us imperceptibly.

All I can

Cling to is

My love for

You, this ethics

Of eros because

Starting from anywhere

Else I sense

Might do harm.

How to make

The corporate effort

Larger without diminishing

The particularity (opacity?)

Of relation? How

To make the

Corporate effort larger

Without fantasizing our

Losses are commensurable?

After Marx

Most of all

I think of

The ground under

My feet. I

Look down and

Get dizzy. I

Look down to

Where my feet

Should be and

Mostly see blood.

I don't know

Whose blood it

Is but I

Don't think it's

Mine. I am

So insensate I

Can't actually be

Sure. All these

Years of my

Working for you.

All these years

Of you working

For me. All

The things we

Exchanged that were

Not love, that

We didn't even

Really like. Like

Some toy cast-off

When the party's

Over. Its plastic

Will live for

Ever like this

Feeling I can't

Shake. This world

Will never be

True, or if

It is only

When we cease

To be useful.

When we touch

Things and they

Don't seep blood.

When we touch

Things and this

Typical distance is

Insufficient. The distance

From who made

Them, and where,

And under what

Circumstances. I wonder

All the ways

To avoid it,

To be outside

Not just the

Economy but the

Logic of the

Economy. I wonder

If we can

Love each other

Without the blood-sucking.

What it would

Mean to give

Dead labor back

To the dead.

I love pleasure —

Who doesn't? — but

Is it worth

It? I would

Like to steal

Every pleasure back

They took. I

Don't know why

More people haven't

Turned to crime.

I have never

Understood why taking

Back the things

That were ours

To begin with

Should be considered

Criminal.

After Spivak

I don't want

To save anyone

And I don't

Want to be

Saved, but it

Would be nice

To be loved.

It would be

Nice to change,

To be mutable,

If that's what

They all meant

By "the unrepresentable."

Like, it's not

Exactly that I

Don't want you

To look at

Me, I just

Don't like to

Be recognized. Why

When you speak

Of the necessity

Of representation my

Ears prick up

In suspicion. Because

I don't know

Why anyone would

Want a seat

At the table

Of power. And

I honestly wonder

If the real

Problem doesn't lie

In the material

Conditions that make

Representation a battlefield.

What if one

Gets representation without

Any change in

Their material conditions?

I always wonder

About this in

Art, when historically

One hand-wrings about

The status of

Their subject, as

Though an ethical

Encounter with another's

Image can be

Had. Just give

Them the fucking

Camera, which is

To say, give

Them the means

By which they

Might represent themselves

To the world.

Maybe that's all

You mean by

Speaking.

After Wang

I'm interested in

How innocence and

Whiteness are synonymous,

And what it

Might mean to

Weaponize innocence, thus

Whiteness, for something

Other than reproducing

Racial capital. The

Idea came from

Playing with my

Kids really. What

If children's stories

And drawings were

Trojan horses for

Radical ideas and

Slogans? What if

Domestic interiority, and

The insularity of

A semi-urban

Enclave clashed with

Radical exteriority, whether

Political martyrs, documents

Of left-wing radicalism,

Or poignant phrases

From the history

Of a radical

Left broadly defined?

What would it

Mean for a

Viewer to be

Drawn into the

Picture by qualities

Some would probably

Say are childish

And crude, folkish

And psychedelic, only

To realize they

Are looking at

The acronym "ACAB,"

Or reading a

Quotation from Frederick

Douglas, or Marx,

Or Octavia Butler?

What if people

Bought the works

And the proceeds

Went to a

Bail fund, or

To feeding people,

Or to creating

Free schools, or

To organizing for

The close of

Prisons?

After Fanon

How can I

Explain to the

Students that I

Admire him not

Because he had

The theory in

Advance (which he

Did) or that

He knew what

To do (which

He seemed to)

But that everything

He did, everything

He was, led

Him to that

Decision to take

Action, which is

All anyone can

Do I suppose.

But it is

So rarely thought

Of like this,

As if militants

Must study for

Years before they

Can become militants

(Or maybe it's

Just what they

Studied wasn't offered

In the typical

Curriculum?). Then there

Is the expectation

That one was

Was always radical,

Or worse, looking

To be radical,

Which surely you

Weren't, having fallen

Under the spell

Of French nationalism

In your youth.

Mainly, you saw

People in pain.

As a doctor

You saw people

In pain, and

At some point

The only way

To help them

Heal, as your

Patient, was to

Take up arms

For their independence.

Wasn't it as

Simple as that?

You followed the

Hippocratic oath, to

Not do harm.

"What do you

Do with an

Unconscious that hates

You?," David Marriott

Writes. You fight

It, you go

To war with

It, you go

To war with

The forces that

Sustain it, which

Are racism, and

Settler-colonialism, and

Capitalism. You want

To make the

Patient better, even

If the patient

Is a whole

Culture. Believing at

The time in

The therapeutic value

Of shock therapy,

You wanted to

Shock the patient/culture

Into taking action

Against this foe,

To jumpstart a

Reaction (where, in

The words of

Ralph Ellison's Invisible

Man, you had

Already taken your

"Preparation for an

Action"). …How can

I tell them

You were most

Likely killed by

The CIA? How

Can I tell

Them that freedom

Is only attained

Through conflict? How

Can I tell

Them of the

Productivity, indeed the

Fecundity sometimes in

"zones of non-being."

How can I

Speculate about the

Text's lyricism? How

Can I speculate

About its orality,

As a dictation

Of your living

Speech? How can

I talk with

Them about what

Jackie Wang means

When she calls

Herself a Fanonian?

After Tuck & Wang

For the most

Part I agree.

Why constantly hold

All this pain?

Why be defined

By pain when

There is a

Whole spectrum of

Emotions, not

Least of which

Is joy? Why

Make someone hate

That they could

Possibly be happy,

Let alone bored,

Or apathetic, or

Jealous, or compassionate

(You get the

Picture)? First the

Body is dominated,

Then the emotions,

Then everything else

(Or maybe the

Emotions come first?).

I want you

To be everything

You can be.

I don't want

Certain things to

Be visible, like

A wound or

Anything that may,

Albeit unwittingly, give

Me enjoyment at

Another's expense (whether

Castration, or rape,

Or a rope

Around someone's neck).

Nor do I

Want to harvest

Data about ancestry.

Nor do I

Care to explore

The silence in

Your words, or

Demand another explain

Themselves. Nor do I

Want anything but

Another kind of

Time to wash

Over me, another

Type of world

To unfold so

That we wouldn't

Be concerned about

What we do

Or don't do

In the academy,

What any university

Cares about, least

Of all how

We fuck each

Other, least of

All who actually

Believes in the

Earth. Decolonization

Is a lot

Of work. The

Amount of work

It entails boggles

The mind. It

Has us arguing,

For instance, whether

A non-human animal's

Life is worth

More than a

Human animal's, or

Vice versa, to

Which I wonder

What has gotten

Us to the point

Where this is

Even debatable (industrial

Agriculture? Capitalism? Racism?

All of the above).

You seem to

Want to tear

Each other apart.

One of you

Appears to need

To blow your

Nose (have you

Been crying and

I didn't notice?).

Non-human animals suffer

Horrible deaths not

Because we need

Protein but because

Their lives and

Deaths are reified

By the currently

Dominant (political) economy.

To honor non-human

Animal life means

To refuse that

Currently dominant economy

In whatever ways

We can. Mostly

I think decolonization

Would involve such

A radical restructuring

Of the world

That very few

Of us can

See its possibility,

Let alone its

Contours. Giving back

Land is one

Thing (though a

Thing that for

The most part

Has yet to

Happen), giving back

An ontology another.

How to give

Back both? Were

Both given back

What would the

Future hold for

The academy? What

Are the aesthetic

Strategies that would

Bring such a

Condition into existence?

What are political

Strategies that may

Far outweigh the

Aesthetic ones? Land

Recognition is one

Thing but fighting

The state as

An enemy nation

Another. Is the

Limit to (academic)

Undercommoning not more

Often than not

A gun?

After Ahmed (II)

It overwhelms me

To think of

Everything, everyone in

The "background." It's

Like asking the

Impossible question, "Who

Enables you to

Be here?" — to

Exist at all,

To thrive, to

Survive. But what

If, during COVID,

To some extent

I became part

Of the background?

All those meals

Cooked, clothes washed,

Hugs and kisses

Given, outings in

The park, dishes

Done, homework checked…

What if all

This allowed someone

Else's life to

Thrive? I guess

I'm thinking about

What it means

To become a

Woman under (racial)

Capital. How much

More terrible to

Have the prospect

Of (social) reproduction

Rent apart — to

Be a slave

Or dispossessed and

Not just subject

To someone else's

Wages, the exploitation

Of their labor

For the accumulation

Of surplus value?

I know it

Is different for

(White) men. I

Can still walk

Through the world

And there is

A different expectation

Of me. To

Tell you the

Truth, I kind

Of enjoy being

In the background,

All that I

Have learned by

Having a wage

Denied to me,

By being a

Dependent upon whom

Two small beings

Depend. I tried

To make the

Most of it.

I tried to

Provide experiences for

The kids. Like

Tramping through piles

Of leaves, and

Climbing trees, and

Searching for mermaids

In the river,

And judging the

Handsomest dog, and

Sledding, and water

Coloring, and drawing,

And having a

Jam session, and

Making cocoa, and

Popcorn, and smores,

And making up

Stories, and cooking

Dinner together, and

Reading our favorite

Books. Mostly I

Stopped caring about

Producing, or having

Work for the

Sake of it,

Or doing things

I really didn't

Care about, like

Being a man.

Like wanting anything

Other than the

Memories you will

Have had of

Us playing together,

Laughing together, being

Together last forever.

After Campt

It was odd

To hear a student

Speak of the

"sub-frequencies" as a

Kind of quiet,

A quiet they

Could feel of

Domesticity, and interiority,

And privacy, when

I think of

The sub-frequencies as

Being so low

They affect us

Without noticing them,

Do their low

Work invisibly, which

Makes sense too

Given the word's

Provenance (Ralph Ellison's Invisible

Man). What aesthetic

Question I sometimes

Wonder is more

Profound than that of

What sound adds

To sight, sight

To sound? What it

Means to combine

Any sense with

Another, or to

Take one away?

What would it

Mean as well

To augment sense?

I think sometimes

And tell my

Students so that

The poem or

Any work of

Art is like

A mixing board.

If something isn't

Working, turn-up one

Channel while perhaps

Turning another down.

Pan left, or

Right. Cut in

And out. Cut

Off. Filter. Autotune.

Whatever you have

To do. It

Is so easy

To forget that

The senses are

All we have

With the exception

Of the central nervous

System, the brain

To which they

Are routed. The

Revolutionary force of

Art and art's

Reception never forgets

This. Shakespeare was

Most radical when

He conceived of

Bottom's dream as

A problem of

The commons, of

Common sense, and

This is what Louis Zukosfky picked

Up on. This

Is why so

Much politically and

Socially 'committed' poetry

Fails. And why

'reactionary' or 'conservative'

Or ostensibly 'fascistic'

Poetry sometimes succeeds.

Because the artist

Understands something about

The distribution of

The sensible as

A distribution of

A (collective) subject.

And this is

Why one pays

Attention to the

Lower and the

Higher frequencies, and

To the overtonal. Because

This is where

The senses — the

Sense of hearing

In relation to

The other senses —

Most subtly act

Upon us. That's

Why Sergei Eisenstein used

The metaphor of

Overtonality for his

"dialectical montage."

And this accounts

For the real

Significance of Tony

Conrad's 'drone' — to,

Like Ellison's Louis

Armstrong, "bend" drone

Back, if only

Prefiguratively, from its

Military purpose. Years

Ago someone told

Me about the

Brown note, a

Note that could

Make anyone who

Heard it shit,

A sub-frequency. I

Still don't know

If the brown

Note is a

Real thing, but

One forgets sometimes

How much art —

Visual art, sonic

Art, language art —

Is about power.

The literal power

Not just to

Represent a world,

But to affect

Bodies, to even

Perhaps make them

Shit. When this

Sense of 'seeing'

The sub-frequencies becomes

Lost I wonder

If art hasn't

Lost its way,

Particularly the relationship

That music and

Poetry (prosody) share.

Something else lost

In your essay

Is the history

Of seeing vs.

Hearing as embodying

Distinct ontologies,

Or ethics. For

Example, to a

Thinker like Emmanuel

Levinas, and in

Terms of what

Jean Francois-Lyotard takes

Away from him,

To see in

Such a way

That doesn't also

Hear, or indeed

Bear witness, risks

Doing violence to

Another. This is

Another reason to

See with the

Sub-frequencies, because it

Is here that

Ones senses can

Become more alert

To their operation,

If only their

Need to shut

Down — as in

Levinas' (and Fred

Moten's) gaze that

Must turn away

To truly 'see,'

Thus 'hear,' thus

'Bear witness.' Hearing

Here compensates for

A failure to

Witness, whereas sight

Might do the

Same were we

Not so inured

By its preeminence.

What if a

Sound were so

Overwhelming, so horrifying

That we must

Turn away from

It, avert our

Ears's 'gaze' as

It were. Maybe

It's like in

Black Christmas when

The presence of

The prank caller/slasher

Is too much,

Too strange, too

Perverse, too terrifying,

That the women

Can only look

At each other

In disbelief, and

Hang-up. I'm

Sure there are

Better examples. I

Guess what I

Value most in

Your thesis is

The sense that

Photographs must supplement

Other photographs, much

Like sight supplements

Sound, and sound sight,

And words both

Sight and sound

And vice versa.

And that social

History would be

Much less reified —

More dialectical sensorially

Or aesthetically — if

We did supplement

In such a

Manner. But why'd

You have to

Leave out so

Much of the

Good stuff — studium

To your punctum?