The Poetry Project

On Lyric Relation

Jos Charles

xxxxxIn order to speak, to begin speaking of Glissant and what I have learned before, at, his work, I feel I must start too before it in terms of argument, yet after in terms of time. Especially when thinking through that term, relation, which this talk derives its title from. I have to think through intersectionality, or one appropriation of it, in order to think through what of relation has been of such use to me as, less an alternative, a condition of it. A version of intersectionality that sees identity as points and, like a map, attempts to explore and fill in the placement of these points, equivalent in presence, but in different locations merely. Glissant leads us both before and after this map. His use of relation seems to me more like pins on a wall before any totalizing measurement or system, but also a burning of the map, the series of points still on the wall, along with the possible appearance of totality still imaginable, only without a ground by which to refer. A totality imaginable but never drawn in. Perhaps even a pile of ash on the floor, the map that once was, a remnant of something failed, something gone.


xxxxxRhetorics of identity often take the shape of spatial metaphors. Intersectionality, for instance, conjures lines, cross-sections, identifiable, multiple, definable cross-hatches, equally clear elisions. There are points, positions, given as legible, with a clear reference, even as the referent might change, with a fixed presence. In this model, it is not a question of reach—like a parabola approaching an asymptote—lines forever reaching toward a definite point, but extension, following a measurement, like reaching down to measure the length of a floorboard. Not all treatments of identity need necessarily be so caught up with presence and measurement certainly, but the language and its metaphors can at times enable or encourage it. It is not only identity, though, but the political more broadly which is spoken of as measurable in this way. A varied deployment of violences and power with as varied a deployment of resistances, all legible, understandable, strengthened, by the analogizing of those ‘points’ or positions as equivalent.
xxxxxBy way of example, let’s consider a brief passage of Simone de Beauvoir’s treatment of identity in the introduction of The Second Sex as exemplary for this kind of measurement and equivalence:

For the native of a country inhabitants of other countries are viewed as “foreigners”; Jews are the “others” for anti-Semites, blacks for racist Americans, indigenous people for colonists, proletarians for the propertied classes. […] These phenomena could not be understood if human reality were solely a Mitsein based on solidarity and friendship. On the contrary, they become clear if, following Hegel, a fundamental hostility to any other consciousness is found in consciousness itself; the subject posits itself only in opposition; it asserts itself as the essential and sets up the other as inessential, as the object. (26-27)

Difference certainly exists here, but all these positions are shown as having a kind of equivalence too. They all operate according to opposition as if the same. Each is like each through an act of metaphor, a poetic act. The suffering has its differences, maybe, but at least this kind of polarity, oppressor to oppressed, looks, is measurable, as equivalent. This is how I mean equivalence in presence. The oppressed is negated that the oppressor might be posited. These positions are dialectical, i.e. we could say by analogizing further the trans woman ‘needs’ the cis woman in order to ‘become’ a trans woman, as a kind of promise or claim that is denied. The two poles are identifiable as poles, alike in their polarity, in their attachment, yet distinct in their placement within it. Beauvoir goes as far as invoking a Heideggerian Mitsein [or being-with] even as she’s critical of it. In short, the one who resists, or carrying the example above, the trans woman, posits herself against a subject she cannot be allowed to be, the position different, opposite, even as the presence of each is the same. It is by such opposition resistance might form, or, at least enable the articulation of the position of the other, as resisting the polarity it has been pulled into. Beauvoir goes on:

We will then attempt to positively demonstrate how “feminine reality” has been constituted, why woman has been defined as Other, and what the consequences have been from men’s point of view. Then we will describe the world from the woman’s point of view such as it is offered to her, and we will see the difficulties women are up against just when, trying to escape the sphere they have been assigned until now, they seek to be part of the human Mitsein (38).

Let’s move past thinking ‘the woman’ as universal here, i.e. white and cis, I know, a very, very big thing to move past, there is much to be critical in all this, in order to continue this kind of rhetorical analysis of spatial metaphors at work. ‘The woman’, by being put into a subordinate position, has the possibility of self-discovery and determination. By being given a position she can speak back to power as people are fond of saying. Inversion becomes possible. The assignment is named, clear, organization becomes possible, revolution becomes possible, a transfer of power becomes possible. Feminist utopia, dictatorship of the proletariat, and so on.
xxxxxAgain, there are critiques to be levied. This is very European and very white and very essentializing. It is not exactly what we’d call intersectional. Plus this is all a rather unfortunate situation to be stuck with, the rules of the game, the language of the oppressor, his or her metaphysics. Beauvoir is arguing for a kind of equivalence, appealing to it. So that the wheel might turn, a new position, equal in presence, legibility, and so on, is now on top, able to self-determine. The articulation of the subordinated’s position as if equivalent to the oppressor is, through an act of resistance or insurgence, raised to an equivalent consciousness, or power, or being.
xxxxxI give this example, to direct back to our opening, rather than shittalk Beauvoir, though we could, but to use this passage as a kind of shorthand for one account of identity. Even as these forms of oppression can be spoken of as different, they all are equally available to be demonstrated within the same language of position, line, figure. This is, or so it seems to me, essentially the same framework, the same metaphors, often used today: the rhetoric of charting and discovery, mapping the playing field, in order to attempt to address the multiplicity of such polarities the subject may be caught within.


xxxxxYet in a kind of bad faith intersectionality appropriated out of, for example, the work of Kimberlé Crenshaw—who across her work calls attention again and again to intersectionality as strategy and metaphor, i.e. how to address a social issue intersectionally rather than identity as a theoretical framework for the social as such—we can see a kind of recuperation of measurement, equivalence, and spatial metaphor. As example, let’s consider the Wikipedia definition of intersectionality, less as an authority, but as one such example:

Intersectionality is a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege. Examples of these aspects are gender, caste, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, disability, physical appearance,[1][2] and height.[3] Intersectionality identifies advantages and disadvantages that are experienced by people due to a combination of factors.[4] These intersecting and overlapping social identities may be both empowering and oppressing.[5][6]

xxxxxWe have different ‘aspects’ able to be put alongside each other as examples of identity as sites of ‘discrimination and privilege’. Discrimination may very well be moral here, i.e. there’s no mention of history, what generates this effect or symptom called discrimination. So too with privilege, which is just another position. Some people are privileged in one way but not in another, discriminated against in one way, but not in another. Here intersectionality is less a strategy for aid, as in Crenshaw, and an entire theoretical framework for accounting for identity. It is a measurement, a third thing to reference, to affix to, which might structure the encounter in an ethical or political way.
xxxxxAnother example: I bend to a floor to measure the length of a room so I know if a rug will fit. It is however-many-inches and so is the rug and all is well. This is very useful. It’s relatively clear in this exchange I know ‘inches’ are made up, or I’m using them very functionally, toward a task. The history of ‘inches’, say in relation to the metric system, its libidinal and historical life, i.e. why inches, how inches, withdraws. This is good. I just want a rug to fit in my room. But that doesn’t mean why or how are bad questions, just irrelevant to the task at hand. The question of why one measures how one does, in what language, in reference to what, for which tasks and not for others, whether or not there ought to be others, and so on, are, in fact, fairly important questions. All this is covered up in the day-to-day use of inches which slowly sediments, naturalizes itself. One almost starts to believe an ‘inch’ is something fixed because it ought to be rather than because it is a convenient cultural development that happens to work.
xxxxxThe scope of identity is a bit more charged here, of course. Identities are not given ex nihilo but made up, they are sustained, they are undone, they are being made anew, they beat out according to a rhythm, according to lots of bad terrifying things noticeably absent from our Wikipedia article. Granted, it’s a Wikipedia article, not a psychopolitical account of why and how identities are made. Yet this definition presents a lot of metrics and measurements of identity as strictly spatial, that is, able to be abstracted outside of time, outside how things unfold, for whom, in relation to what. A quick google of intersectionality shows this as well—with a whole series of venn diagrams and charts and maps. To cover up why and how, to naturalize this, risks a great deal more, and it’s here, what it is that is wanted, what is dreamed, desired, of measurement, I’d like to turn.


xxxxxBefore getting back to Glissant though, I’d like to think with a few other thinkers first. There is this one passage in Frantz Fanon that I return to regularly, that always struck me as an alternative to spatial metaphorics, as well as even temporal metaphorics, by uniting them in the example of tempo. In this passage Fanon takes up rhythm and tempo as guiding, determining a broader context under which positions become identifiable, legible. There is something or someone beating time out. Measurement is guided by history and desire. Content is knowable still here, but it unfolds according to a time which orders it, in accordance with a withdrawn velocity driving it. Fanon makes the brief aside in “Algeria Unveiled” drawing from his psychoanalytic practice:

Whenever, in dreams having an erotic content, a European meets an Algerian woman, the specific features of his relations with the colonized society manifest themselves. These dreams evolve neither on the same erotic plane, nor at the same tempo, as those that involve a European woman. (49)

Fanon manages to hold both to the plane and tempo, positionality and temporality, as exemplified in rhythm. Even as the dream is a manifestation of political relation, the political and psychoanalytic seem to follow a kind of tempo revealed within the dream. It is the form in which, temporally, spatially, completely, the political articulates itself, even as it’s a manifestation, a consequence, of it. The dream is a manifestation of a political landscape that, itself, follows a tempo marked out in dream.
xxxxxThe word I think of here is anterior. As in something before another. But not quite like facing, or to encounter face-to-face, equally, spatially, but also temporally before. To, in every sense, come before another. What is so curious, at least to me, in the Fanon, is that even as this tempo is anterior—temporally and spatially before—the political playing field, the dream it occurs within is entirely a manifestation of the political. Desire, in other words, is a cause that is also a consequent of its own effect. An aesthetic desire, learned from the political, builds up into this unconscious dream-world which upholds, extends, builds that political world.
xxxxxThis is also like our example with the rug. Imagine no system of measurement, or, perhaps more realistic, a lack of tape measure, and one needing to quickly measure out. Maybe one uses their hands or feet or some other thing to measure out. The whole system of measurement is made up for this task which, retroactively, becomes articulated, legible, by the system which made it up.
xxxxxI think here of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak who uses the term metalepsis to refer to a similar process. That is, when an effect of an effect substitutes itself as the cause. For Spivak, the author, or the subject, is the prime example of this:

A subject-effect can be briefly plotted as follows: that which seems to operate as a subject may be part of an immense continuous network (“text” in the general sense) of strands that may be termed politics, ideology, economics, history, sexuality, language, and so on. (Each of these strands, if they are isolated, can also be seen as woven of many strands.) Different knottings and configurations of these strands, determined by heterogeneous determinations which are themselves dependent upon myriad circumstances, produce the effect of an operating subject. Yet the continuist and homogenist deliberative consciousness symptomatically requires a continuous and homogenous cause for this effect and thus posits a sovereign and determining subject. This latter is, then, the effect of an effect, and its positing a metalepsis, or the substitution of an effect for a cause.

Spivakian metalepsis is not unlike our example from Fanon. We see a host of spatial terms, strands, weavings, which are given an originary ‘knot’ which is, in fact, their effect. This is authorship and the text as much as identity and the political. The origin is an effect of an effect, a substitution. My invocation of monuments earlier is, or so I tried, an anticipation of this. The monument too creates the history it says it invokes. A kind of authorship. One constructs a statue in order to justify the history the statue, in fact, is making. This anterior process, this metalepsis, this tempo, does not ‘upset’ or ‘trouble’ the political, it is precisely how it is guaranteed and enabled. There would be no “history” its monumentalization, no “subject” without a retroactive, anteriorally posited “will.”


xxxxxThis all relates to poetry for me because here too, literally, rhythm is experienced temporally before meaning, i.e. one ‘feels’ the pulse and sonics which order meaning before that meaning arrives, which, upon arrival, seems to have fulfilled or guaranteed that rhythm. Poetry is wholly concerned with anterior relation—the way an aesthetic commitment to what is pleasurable, what sounds pleasurable, scripts what semantic meaning is possible, even as that meaning is then, after the fact, given denotative meaning. Or, perhaps more accurately, the reader gives over to the poem a kind of faith, an anticipation of meaning, which allows for the rhythm to unfold as if toward some kind of discovery, even as that arrival may never occur. For my purposes, this is what the lyric is, and if this talk had a thesis, and I’m not sure it does, it would be that the lyric uses, exploits—and I use this word painfully—the rhythms, the monuments, the beats, it makes. Thus repetitions, quasi-repetitions, returns, rhymes, slant rhymes, refrains, and so on is, like the statue to history, the poem continuously re-inaugurating its existence, its meaning, a way of making itself continuous with itself. It’s libidinal. These repetitions all attempt to make something to hold to, something like a statue, a material that ceases to be material once spoken of again, a way to orient and enter, replacing, displacing, the thing invoked.


xxxxxNow, admittedly, poetry ‘works’ this way simply because language ‘works’ this way. A sentence starts and, in an act of good-faith, we presume it knows where it’s heading, how it will end up. This working can be good, sure, but also very, very violent. It depends entirely on the sentence, who is speaking, the situation. In any context though this guiding enplotment—a mess of libidinal attachments, a history relegated to the category of aesthetics, how words sound and feel and where they came from, what often gets called ‘the music’ of language—a kind of exhalation, wearing down of strings, stretch of dead skin on drum—is always being covered up with semantic meaning, the creation of something withdrawing in order to resonate, an impossibility made possible, always being made possible, the limit of a life wearing itself to death, the logic of elegy.


xxxxxI know I am risking obfuscation. My hope is by risking one kind, I avoid another, one I see as more dangerous—certain day-to-day, normal obfuscations. I also have been speaking myself rather anteriorally, anticipating what is not a surprise, but a fulfillment, Glissant, who I had, almost a year prior, set out to write and talk about with you today. I turn to the critical work of Éduoard Glissant as he established, across genres, decades, a lexicon which consistently moves away from terminologies of relation being a priori constituted by a historical or political ground, towards an aesthetic one, neither outside nor exemplary of the political, but, as I’ve been nudging us towards, anterior to it.
xxxxxIn the early albeit seminal Poetics of Intention (1969), Glissant writes, “to be born into the world, is at last to conceive (to live) the world as a relation: as a composed necessity, a consenting reaction, a poetics (and not a morality)” (15). The contrast is one between consent and poetry on one side—that consenting, faith I spoke of, that the reader gives over to the author—and ethico-systematic thinking on the other. In Poetics of Relation (1990), he writes, “recognition of the other” is not “a moral obligation,” but “an aesthetic constituent” of that relation (29). Recognition is aesthetic, shot through with desire, and its history, its creation, who demands it, what form it must or must not take, for whom, in whose language, and so on. Rather than two positions, each equal in presence, transparent, knowing how they ‘fit’ according to an external measurement, Glissant points to this aesethetic constitution of the encounter to begin with. Upon arrival, there is already something like a manifestation of tempo and dream, what has been imagined and desired, consciously or not.
xxxxxThis ties into that frequent term of Glissant’s, opacity. Opacity is what withdraws, that which cannot be reduced, the ash piled up where a map once was, or who knows, maybe it was never a map, some remnant, something that occurred, something irreducible. What the skin of the drum covers which only exists by way of the covering.
xxxxxIn poetry, this withdrawn content, I believe, and why I use the word lyric here, is the music that has become abstracted out of poetry. Of course, poetry is a kind of music as language is a kind of music. Sounds arranged for a kind of pleasurable exchange with rhythms and pitch and so on. Language communicates but also according to a tempo. But somewhere—and this is another project beyond our scope here—meaning became abstracted, in Europe, in the West, in English, I honestly don’t know, as if communication wasn’t present in music, as if it were distinct from music. Poetry was said to have lost some kind of music, the lyre, some imagined continuity with a Greek past, a trademark of a modernist white historiography, with the accompanying instrument, or the eternal music, or the music of the spheres, or whatever, withdrawing from it, while, nonetheless, animating it. The lost history that the statue points to. That this privileged position was apportioned to poetry as the one place in language music was not ousted from, but resided in a withdrawn way, is certainly strange. Songs exist after all, music exists, plenty of pleasurable, musical ways of speaking. All ways of speaking, in fact. The same faith the listener gives the speaker that a sentence heads towards an end which will fulfill it, close it, and guarantee meaning, animates poetry. For whatever reason, it is more readily noticeable, acceptable, taught, within poetry.
xxxxxBut I digress. As music withdraws from poetry, so too much withdraws from the subject, much that isn’t reducible to semantic meaning or content, and in fact is what structures that content. The hollow of the drum that resonates the visible skin. This faith I spoke of is consent for Glissant. And one, in encounter, consents not only to the opacity of oneself, but, too, to this “opacity of the other” (Relation, 162). The ethico-system, which we can tie in with a fixed positional thinking, semantic meaning making, assumes a self-reflexivity of thought that Glissant, as psychoanalysis or psychopolitics points to as well, contends. Not only is one not transparent to oneself, what I don’t notice about myself, but one is also enmeshed with others and without others, not just what I notice or don’t about them, but what they do or don’t notice about themselves. One is not merely what one tells oneself, nor what one doesn’t tell oneself as per Freud, nor yet a Levinasian other which confounds in what she knows but may or may not tell, but, one is too, as Glissant writes, “the fallow aspect, the unconscious, the unknown and excessively known part of the other” (Intention, 23). Attending to this “fallowness,” the opacity of another, or attempting to, even as it remains, as it must, imaginative and fantastical, is, for me, the closest to a definition of ‘lyrical’—no, not diction, but a lyrical attentiveness—I can offer.
xxxxxIt is precisely because this fallow aspect withdraws, is unknown, or is given as unknown, that an act of imagination is able to lyrically encounter the possible, unknown, excess, of the other, of the world. In the Poetics of Relation, this often takes the language of errancy. Writing of an ideal “poetics of Relation,” Glissant writes, “one who is errant (who is no longer traveler, discoverer, or conqueror) strives to know the totality of the world yet already knows he will never accomplish this—and knows that this is precisely where the threatened beauty of the world resides” (20). To encounter the world, in other words, is to offer over to the world, to give to it, a sense of totality—here, we might say, the political, the measurable—even as each individual ‘component’ of that totality slips away into the unknown, the opaque, the impossible, which the imaginative and hermeneutic force of encounter attempts to ‘fill in’. To this we might add, however, that when not errant, when conqueror, this same process occurs, merely as an act of imagination of capture, transference, mastery. Violence is often motivated by what one imagines is obscure in the other. The history of the lyric, or a lyric, I should say, no more so than the English lyric—which has its conquerors of course, and the errant too, full of its own fallow grounds—bares these kind of violences out. There is good faith as well as bad faith. Neither party—the errant nor the conqueror—has left the imaginative realm, merely one brings to light, arranges, places, reorders, imagines, fills in, with no regard for consent, while the other, the prior, recognizes he is the imaginative totality to the other, and passes by with or without a word, together or not, known or unknown, given over to a kind of consensual and indifferent faith.* What ‘allows’ for encounter, what resonates it, is the opacity of the other. “Relation,” as Glissant writes in the Philosophie de la relation (as appears in Michael Wiedorn), “does not posit any of our moral principles, it’s up to us to write them into it, via a very individual effort of both mind and our imaginary representations of the world” (73-4).
xxxxxImportantly though, I do not think this is unique to poetry for Glissant, but that poetry merely has come to be made to exemplify this more general and ‘lyric’ fact of language as we too were considering. Continuing in Poetic Intention he writes relation “is not in effect a language of communication […] but on the other hand a possible community (and, if possible, regular) between mutually liberated opacities, differences, languages” (44). The strategy, capacity of lyric attention, becomes possible precisely because in such moments of encounter this attention opens up an imagining, attends to in an act of imagination, what is unsaid. Encounter as such is structured less like a narrative in Glissant—which settles and orders—and more like a poem: with co-occurances, multiple logics of line and sentence, speech and writing, record and memory, reader and speaker. This is not apolitical—poems, encounters, are often horrid. The examples of these are many and reflected throughout Glissant’s work. That this kind of lyrical attendance can disempower and empower, foreclose relations while enabling one(s), is far from utopian, but pre-utopian, pre-ethical, pre-political. Relation is what is anterior to the political, to ethics. Merely and only, the relation is there, already composing, remaining—following Fred Moten—“not-in-between” but distinctly and wholly in each, a speaker and reader, a self and world, made resonant by all that is not known, cannot be known, too known, within the other. To return to the lyric, one is able to identify a cohered ‘lyric’—whatever content might fill that in—precisely because this relational gesture of giving over on behalf of the encounterer or reader, this totality of “the work” that the reader imagines as promised to them, which it is, but only in the imagining and giving, an attentiveness towards meaning, an impossible reaping of a fallowness of the text, a text which might never appear—an imagined thing very much not “in” the individual author—that the lyric becomes identifiable. It is this not-in-between relational thing—prior to the political, the logic of conquering and discovery, meaning—which is lyric reading.


xxxxxEven as Glissant’s critical work engaged here is more and more in English contexts, treatments of Glissant’s poetic work remain fewer. Even in the more canonical treatments of Glissant within English, say, for instance, within J. Michael Dash’s vital contextualizing work of Glissant’s vast oeuvre, Glissant’s poetics is portrayed as “indeterminate” and “avoid[ing] the predictable themes of race” or “anti-colonial polemic” (37). Even so much so, when Dash does treat the section in particular forthcoming, “Bois des Hauts,” Dash reads the work in a chapter devoted to the novel Malemort, discussing it briefly to clarify Glissant’s relation to local, Martinique politics and broader ideas of globalization. “Bois des Hauts,” however, plays out numerous of the ideas roughly sketched above, much clearer, or at least so it seems to me, than in much of the critical work. Consider, even, the opening section of “Bois des Hauts” entitled Prose:

When dream calves only a bundle of roses, cleaves
a shriek of ember and star, fused, too written out
we press language out, fallen long ago to its ravine
like one raving limps into a mangrove

stiffer than thorned in wood, more
insufferable than wooded in**

xxxxxIt is dream which is active and constituting the layout, what emerges, as scenic within the poem. This recalls Fanon. Language, meanwhile, is overdetermined, “too written out.” Too pressed out. Dream, though, is also in excess of any attempt at being “wooded in,” harder, less flexible than the violence of containment. It is not language or violence that is active, but this aspirational violence which determines how each appears.
xxxxxThis doesn’t make liberatory or insurgent projects futile, but necessitates them—they merely are another action too motivated by dream, by effect, by desire, imagination, fantasy, which is totalizing and given over in encounter. The flippant yet certain turn in Language serves as a stark example:


xxxxxStar grinds the letter down, the city ballot box.
All no-papers coming up yes. Certain monsieur
Lespirit’s secret.
xxxxxAh, for a flint stone.

xxxxxThe civic scene is interrupted, guided to, seen as only fulfillable, in the stone, whether starting a fire to keep warm, to burn down, to throw through a window.
xxxxxThe overall shape of the series moves the reader from this mythopoetic birth scene through multiple scenes of local, global, scenes of colonial violence, only to lead us to, perhaps, one of the starkest developments of relation within Glissant’s work within Country. While Glissant exemplifies what Relation is throughout his oeuvre, straightforward definitions are rare. In Country the scenic fragments connect, relay each to each, while also putting the reader in the seat of encounter, enabled to imagine precisely the relation of the terms—both in what maintains them and what could narrativize them. The poem utilizes a series of “ins”—as you’ll hear, this will be my closing—which asks of the reader to imagine the relation of their parts.
xxxxxAs, I hope by now, I’ve tried to impress, this is not unique. Every sentence assumes a reader suturing its parts. But what is unique is the power, frankly, Glissant acknowledges the reader as having. Writing of Boises, Jonathan Monroe describes this as an “appositional poetics” which is “post-oppositional,” enabling “the play of the imagination to take up and become other than, not simply to oppose, past poetic practices” (170). To circle back to Moten, this is like the “appositional collision” he outlines of the lyric itself—“a complex recasting of the dialectic” that rings true to a Glissantian totality. In this piece, which closes out the series, “Bois des Hauts,” by having removed the explicit relation, any mastery of said relation, from the syntax of the sentence itself, the reader is put into a position to imagine precisely what relates the appositional lines to each other. Nothing is covered up—one encounters a kind of bare relation of scenes. The reader must imagine relation—though, again, not as exceptional, but exemplary of meaning-making. Glissant seems to hand the right to imagine relation right back to the reader, where it has always been, as the hand that fashions meaning, the political life of the poem. The poem, in its very strictures, is set up to imagine a totality even as the relation of each part remains opaque. Glissant writes almost the rhythm only. The ash only. The imagining, the attending to the fallowness which necessitates new measurement, new configurations, is presented. The old measurements will not do here. It is newer, softer than that. Or, as Country tells us, it is in such “preciosity” the poem, the lyric, relation, comes. Contingent and open. I will end with Glissant’s words as they are much more useful and clear than my own. I also want to thank you all for attending to this, my few comments which trail behind the thinkers included, the many not included, the many who have yet to be legible as included or not.


xxxxxIn the alley south of here. In briny morning frost. In the energy of clay earthing destiny up. In the wavering flats of palms. In the voice, waterspouts in deserts, of infinity. In echo without crash or wave. In the asking for alms. In a cut deep into green darknesses. In mud loosing bamboo from cement and in an old man nude watching lightning through the night. In a body unearthed by freighters. In crawling under. In a driver gone mad leaving his pale tractor behind. In preciosity. In the jowls of a lying and political fish. In the alarm at the heart of rock, your whole heart. Where all earth comes to you.

* Relatedly, here, this silence could also be called translation—another act of imagining the fallow, of giving it over to the other, while respecting the isolately, respective fallowness of each (compared to imposition of the colonial monolanguage). As Glissant puts it, “What every translation suggests in essence, via the passing from one language to another that is intrinsic to it, is the preeminence of all the languages of the world. And translation for this very reason indicates and offers us proof that we must conceive in our imaginations this totality of languages” (Introduction à une poétique du Divers, 45, as appears in Coombes).

** The word used here, boise—so like the title of the collection, Boises—is used here communicating a nexus of potential meanings, in addition to the repetition of boit, bois, boise within the poem. While used here as an act of yoking, hitching, wooding in, the meaning of boises as referring “to the wooden collars worn by slaves” should be noted as well (Dash, 16).

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