over coffee, H says, i hate poems about bodies. they are sitting across from me, one leg neatly draped over the other.
the next time i see H, they say, i am writing a poem about bodies. the first line is, ‘my body is disgusting’. the rest of the poem, apparently, is about the footy.
i picture tall, blonde bodies sluicing through air. slick with sweat and mud. wet blades of grass stuck to powerful haunches, muscles a kind of thick knotty rope. my body is disgusting.
i have spent many hours turning jenny zhang’s question around in my head: ‘where are my carefree writers of colour at?’. type < carefree > into my search bar and the essay pre-fills. but after four years of thinking on the answer i fuck it up and fuck it up so badly. say: i’m going to write a thing about a kind of love and maybe this time there will be no ‘race stuff’. tired of writing ‘race stuff’. a misled desire. but
do you remember that time we lay under those cherry trees in the late afternoon, let blossoms fall onto our faces, you caught one mid-air or did you, am i just misremembering. i was tired, am tired, settled my head on your chest as we talked about things now so distant i can’t even misremember them, our conversation winding in a way you once said felt like we had never finished a single one. i wondered then if you liked talking to me or if you were just staying until you found an ending.
and -- under branches blossom-heavy, your hand resting on that slice of skin just under the lip of my shirt, this is what i want to write about --
want to write about bodies in that way.
but then,,, when i try -- a few days later fraser anning asks for a whiter australia, (bleach pure, snow white, drenched,)
and a few weeks later ross cameron describes me as yellow-skinned, slanty-eyed, waiting for disneyland.
when i hear cameron’s soundbite a laugh that isn’t my own ripples out from my body. i mean to say, it’s not like i’m waiting. australia already a Haunted Mansion. but -- can you choose not to see the ghosts?
je pense, donc je suis or um I think therefore I am (maybe) or, let’s try the latin: cogito, ergo sum. rené descartes, yes fine ok ok ok -- fine
but if i can flip the words fast enough will you believe me: cogito ergo sum ergo cogito ergo sum, cogito, cogito cogito.
sum, ergo cogito: expectation assigned to my body before it begins.
how i cannot decide for myself who i am or might be, cannot think it into being. doesn’t matter how many times i trace these lines, still a sum unknown, unknowable: a sum, incognito
-- think about wearing a t-shirt to a panel (DESTROY WHITE SUPREMACY, size XL mens, enough room to fit another person inside, another country) -- but my body already demarcates a kind of destruction, on this panel next to three white people, under the ceiling of the melbourne town hall. my body an accidental and unwilling performance, each limb weighted with something not my own: a heaviness.
my body an aberration, in this room lined with portraits of white men larger than life. if one were to fall from the wall it would crack your skull. how many of these men would want my skull cracked, would see my body and in one moment dismiss my mind. enter this room and think, these walls not made for me, this stained glass ceiling not made for me, this thick carpet under my feet this mahogany bannister this golden gleam this hallowed, heavy, haunted hall -- not made for me --
sum ergo crack,
during the panel i say the phrase < > and the moderator’s eyebrows shoot up so high they disappear into his perfectly coiffed hair.
when you kiss me it is unexpected. late afternoon and we try to go to ikea but it’s too hot to consider even driving to the deep blue labyrinth of plastic and plywood. instead, we lay around drinking glasses of water, ice melting. losing chess to each other in light that could only be a late summer gold. you play piano as i lie on the floor, watching light move across the ceiling. at some point our conversation looping around became limbs looping around, talking and tangled, your face close to mine or mine to yours and one of us said can i kiss you and the other replied really? and then.
i read an article recently about a man who had misdirected all of the arrows in ikea, pushing bodies into a mobius strip of swedish meatballs and storage solutions. no exit in sight.
a neat but perfect metaphor,
if it hadn’t been an internet hoax: a misdirection upon a misdirection.
i worry about admitting moments of bodily discomfort. to admit them is to admit a kind of defeat. to admit them is to admit a kind of difference, diffidence, deference: to admit them. you know.
like if i say -- once i came into work and my boss was sitting for some reason at my desk and she looked up at me and pulled each eyelid to the side and said ‘i’m you!’ and in response i laughed politely and five minutes later excused myself went into the bathroom and sobbed my fucking heart out. after, i examined my puffy eyes for a slant. has there been one there the whole time have i just not noticed it.
how did i miss this about myself is the thing.
of course carver’s best line is about the body: I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark. oh oh oh what a rush to be human noise, what a privilege to be still.
-- run into H at a party. i am stressed about you, or maybe the next person i will fall in love with, have fallen in love with. sit down next to H, slump against a cold brick wall. H turns, maybe senses the stress pulsating off my body, reaches out to hold my hand, doesn’t skip a beat, keeps talking. parties for these collisions: this weaving in-between bodies. that flush as M touches my hip in passing (weeks later, still so blurred by this gesture,)
moving through the house and into another room, become entangled, legs over legs, my face in or against L’s neck, mumble hello. the heat of this body,
blood running hot
sometimes easy to forget my body is not a body.
and then, i guess --
of course the question of carefree writing is rhetorical. But can you imagine: a world where we could sit in the room as it darkens, silent and unsilent, pure human noise.
your body just a body.
blood running hot
remember how you handed me a cherry blossom, one which had fallen on your chest, or maybe one you had caught mid-flight. how you stood up, gently brushed a leaf from my hair, held the tiny flower out to me, as we made our way back to the car.
the blossom sat on my windowsill for months,,, until a few weeks ago, when it ticked over into six months of us not talking,
not a single word