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| Delayed glitch loop of the interview dance, double presence. |

Hearing your voice again brings everything back. Not that that, everything, no longer exists. It is ovunque, everywhere. It is a memory-virus, living in its un-living way, buried inside of “we,” awaiting only the factors that will enable it to come again. Solo per godere. A zombie cowgirl riding cells, tickling cilia, in the fold.

Hearing your voice shakes me out of the depression. Reanimates the (collective) trauma that was the loss of our home. Seethes out from under the misapplied anti-biotic administered by an undead technocrat: Dr. Mayor. In my dream, he is dragged out onto the street in the morning darkness. The researcher looks back. The scientist isolates an organism in a laboratory. We are a laboratory too, but ours is not a space of isolation, we perform our operation without a mask. It is the un-masc-ing. We are not wrested from the conditions of worldly lives to be understood as models for genere. What happens outside of those walls, beyond our bodies, therein the aberration. We call to them. “We are the suspended solution. We in/form-d ourselves there. We are that self-organizing reality. We are the refusal of that brutality. We are the affirmation of what we know to be true without yet having (or ever needing, finding) the language of proof +”

And so, as ever, a slogan: Frocia chi ascolta.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL - 1983: Caribbean-American writer, poet and activist Audre Lorde lectures students at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Lorde was a Master Artist in Residence at the Central Florida arts center in 1983. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)

Audre Lorde in New Smyrna Beach, FL (1983)

It has been some time since I have written here. Today seems like the perfect day to return to mark 36 years since Audre Lorde spoke her profound truth under the title “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.” Lorde’s frequently quoted axiom titled an intervention she made at the New York University Institute for the Humanities Second Sex Conference on a panel titled “The Personal and the Political.”

Lorde’s intervention––as much philosophical as urgently political; as much material as deeply informed by spirit––challenged the theoretical terms of “difference” as it had been imagined in both the content of the panel and the formal organization of the conference itself. Lorde witnesses:

It is a particular academic arrogance to assume any discussion of feminist theory without examining our many differences, and without a significant input from poor women, Black and Third World women, and lesbians. And yet, I stand here as a Black lesbian feminist, having been invited to comment within the only panel at this conference where the input of Black feminists and lesbians is represented. What this says about the vision of this conference is sad, in a country where racism, sexism, and homophobia are inseparable. To read this program is to assume that lesbian and Black women have nothing to say about existentialism, the erotic, women’s culture and silence, developing feminist theory, or heterosexuality and power. And what does it mean in personal and political terms when even the two Black women who did present here were literally found at the last hour? What does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy? It means that only the most narrow perimeters of change are possible and allowable.

Speaking of the weight of that “last hour” at which “the two Black women who did present [there] were literally found,” Lorde offers what would likely travel under the academic-legal terminology of an intersectional––not to mention immanent––critique. But, the term “intersectional” itself had not been coined in 1979, so we see behind and through the things that it has a tendency to shorthand when we hear it today.

Stepping through the erasures of the conference––imagining Lorde’s voice and wondering if it is a part of the archival documentation of the event itself––her words are perhaps best understood when read aloud:

Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the I to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive be and the active being.

Lorde’s truth is poetic and poetry is her truth. Eschewing the prolonged and inappropriately universalized language of White European Philosophy, Lorde reaches the core quickly. Time is limited for the appointed representatives of difference in the spaces of sameness:

Advocating the mere tolerance of difference between women is the grossest reformism. It is a total denial of the creative function of difference in our lives. Difference must be not merely tolerated, but seen as a fund of necessary polarities between which our creativity can spark like a dialectic. Only then does the necessity for interdependency become unthreatening. Only within that interdependency of different strengths, acknowledged and equal, can the power to seek new ways of being in the world generate, as well as the courage and sustenance to act where there are no charters.

Perhaps seeing the need to assuage an audience that would be threatened by both her profound presence and her Truth telling, Lorde reroutes the discomfort, rendering interdependency as a relation revelatory of difference’s generative power. This conference needs what she has to say. It is dependent on her vision and practice of interdependency. This makes her a Teacher. The open-ended-ness of the word “generate,” free of object, teaches that difference is not a localizable phenomenon to be represented by specific bodies, but a confrontation that necessarily “sparks” outside of the institution, even if it also lands there on this, or any, occasion.

Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference—those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older—know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.

Having arrived there, in that particular institution, Lorde asks a series of questions that might easily be posed in the many academic institutions today. Especially where such institutions make explicit claims to feminist and queer knowledges, practices, and politics:

Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference? Why were two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names of Black feminists? And although the Black panelist’s paper ends on an important and powerful connection of love between women, what about interracial cooperation between feminists who don’t love each other?

The organizer in me is challenged by these questions, set afloat on the fast moving stream of officially sanctioned action. Anyone who has asked a difficult question of someone in power will understand how that act immediately thrusts you outside of the smooth reproduction of the institutional order. You hit a rough rock in the stream and it cuts you as it also becomes your refuge. If you “speak from difference” it may not differ from your quotidian experience. But if you are assumed to speak from a position of institutionally sanctioned power and authority, you will feel the sense of betrayal on the part of those who rely on your silence to justify their own.

It may seem easy to emphasize love––not for anyone who has actually loved, still––but Lorde goes further than already existing or hard fought for love. She questions everything else. She makes explicit the implicit affects that effected the very organization of the conference itself. For the timid, for those who might not yet feel it, she entrusts her point to a white Truth teller, someone who can show how to take responsibility:

In academic feminist circles, the answer to these questions is often, “We did not know who to ask.” But that is the same evasion of responsibility, the same cop-out, that keeps Black women’s art out of women’s exhibitions, Black women’s work out of most feminist publications except for the occasional “Special Third World Women’s Issue,” and Black women’s texts off your reading lists. But as Adrienne Rich pointed out in a recent talk, white feminists have educated themselves about such an enormous amount over the past ten years, how come you haven’t also educated yourselves about Black women and the differences between us—white and Black—when it is key to our survival as a movement?

Lorde references the feminist movement in a move that carries us to the coda of intervention. She speaks to and from the depth of feminism and the breadth of all it can learn if it moves beyond the mere gesture of inclusion toward the substantive and substantiating act of collective self-inquiry (auto-coscenza):

Women of today are still being called upon to stretch across the gap of male ignorance and to educate men as to our existence and our needs. This is an old and primary tool of all oppressors to keep the oppressed occupied with the master’s concerns. Now we hear that it is the task of women of Color to educate white women—in the face of tremendous resistance—as to our existence, our differences, our relative roles in our joint survival. This is a diversion of energies and a tragic repetition of racist patriarchal thought.

The tragic multiplication of labor, the fractious “repetition of racist patriarchal though,” the redirected power of erosion: None is particularly surprising to the Warrior Poet, but each new iteration seems to demand another call to justice. And so we are called, in terms that honour what the space of intervention––the conference itself––is actually trying to do despite itself. Lorde brings us there in words that, thirty-six years later, fall like heavy raindrops on the still thirsty, root thick soil of early autumn:

Simone de Beauvoir once said: “It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for acting.”

Racism and homophobia are real conditions of all our lives in this place and time. I urge each one of us here to reach down into that deep place of knowledge inside herself and touch that terror and loathing of any difference that lives there. See whose face it wears. Then the personal as the political can begin to illuminate all our choices.

Read all of “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House” here.
(Try doing it out loud.)

Ecology: to be at home in a world.

Queerness: the strangeness of being torn asunder; what it means to be at home in this broken world.

Urban: second, third, or n-th nature, an abject sediment of ever settling dust blown on the hot wind of history.

This city or that, all these sicksweet theaters of friction where we are tugged and shoved into forgetting that we make it as much as it makes us.

Thrown, torn, displaced;
landed, permitted, professionalized;
sucked, spat, and swallowed.

Queer urban ecology speaks of these movements and of the rest.

The rest I find in incessancy.

There are conditions for my presence here in this troubled space of possibilities. I ride into this ring on a horse made of debts. My mind is mortgaged, sectioned by the speculative economy, promised to five different banks and one Federal Government, divided and subdivided, securitized and resold. Somewhere a man is ordering offal. Foreclosure is a failure of the imagination. Poverty, if not yet, is always about to be. Precarity is a tinnitating torment, a financial tattoo.

One of my loans, originated by a now bankrupt company called My Rich Uncle, claimed to determine the interest rate based on academic potential through a program called PrePrime™, funded by a German bank. The bank used a proprietary algorithm to determine intellectual value. This is the loan that carries the highest rate, a bigger cliff than the rest. It has doubled in size. And I am there, singing a smart tune, a fool dancing at the edge with a little flower, a tiny dog nipping at my heels. My bottom line is a looming fiction of red ink and proliferating zeros. My ability to survive is directly related to my ability to materialize thought. I am forestalling crisis. Deferment is a weak tactic, but a necessary one. I’m trying not to let this house of promissory paper implode under the weight of external pressure. I’d rather burn it from the inside. 

Better yet, I hope that the ground itself is moving. Movement portends an earthquake, tectonic tactics. In the wake of a disaster of the ‘real economy,’ the speculative economy of my mental activities might be freed from the burden of all this financial history. All this paper. All these fictions. I’d never make the same mistake twice. Of course, I can still wish for Jubilee, but I don’t hold my breath. We, the lost generation of debtors demand the right to bankruptcy! Or else, We Refuse To Pay! As it stands, we simply can’t.

The speculation I name is distinct from the speculation of philosophical detachment. Instead, it is wrought by real conditions in which the object called my mind is claimed by speculative capital. My resistance often feels like feeling more than it looks like action. Speculation is what would force me to take possession of my mind, to intensify my relationship to my mind beyond the point where it is clear what belongs to whom. My mind to me or me to my mind? What’s the difference anyway? I can never forget the body that aches, that grabs my mind at the root, pulls it down my spine, returning it to the ground, upside down, stood on its head––or––right way around again. 

The body loves, even if the mind is slow to figure out the cost of proliferating zeros.

Instead of possessing my mind, I try to make and remake it without forgetting where I am from and without presuming where I am going. I carry my house on my back. I dig and dig an dig into the floor beneath, seeking a different geology and geography, one of shifting grounds and antipodean alliances. My dwelling is not a house of cards, but a tent, a collapsable shell, wind whipped, held down only by my laying weight. As I dream it onto the page, this tent not a dwelling at all, but a conveyance to other worlds.

My challenge, at least in this context, is to turn the foolishness of messianic hopes––the hope for a freedom to be bankrupted, to demon-etize work such that the art and joy of living and loving is enough, not just for me, but for all––into a different kind of (non)work.

 A work of justice and imagination, a work of collaboration and transformation. I need this space as much as I want it. It is already here and yet to come. Each book in the stack is another contribution to a library of dreams: a vast hallucinatory apparatus made of paper and ink and imagination. Not enough, but sufficient to muddle through, good enough for now.

My readings are preludes and postscripts. Preludes to the worldly work to come, postscripts to eight years of trying to locate myself intellectually in and through urban studies, geography, anthropology, and sociology. (There was work before as well. And locations after.) Eight years of failing to locate myself definitively and seeking to make this failure a virtue. Nomadism, yes. But more queer than nomad; wandering with a weedy sensibility, taking root around, growing fast, moving on, returning in a season, or else when the ground is disturbed. I’m tough to get rid of! I move as a means to survive and strive. In movement I find multiple relationships (family friendspartnerslovers) which serve as loving landmarks in an otherwise harsh landscape. Response-ability to these lands is a longer term geographic and emotional struggle en route to becoming more fully political and ethical.

My readings are also smokescreens for the work I do everyday, work beyond and beholden to value. They are attempts at inhabiting texts; at finding, in texts, a habit. They are not final destinations. They are not conclusive statements. They are renderings, wrestings, and recapitulations. 

Even though I have spent considerable time reading, I have spent a less considerable amount of time writing. I was distracted by doing, organizing, feeling like I was making space for something yet unknown. I was responding to the ‘fierce urgency of now.’ I needed those spaces and times to find the courage to share readings that I know are incomplete, inevitably imperfect, and, at times, in/appropriations of the work of others. They are a product and a process. A project of the univers(e/ity), that most complicated social location for particular kinds of imperfect dreams. That place for dreaming amidst real and ruined lives. Is it expanding or contracting? Either way, it is not yet a free space, it is not yet what it needs to be.

I suspect that I appear to be very comfortable with abstraction, or at least fond of it. And, while there is a fondness (a groundedness, fond) in abstraction, it is not on account of comfort. That ground is more about testing a limit, testing how uncomfortable I can remain. If I can make this discomfort a virtue. That is where I feel most ready to change. I am ready for new kinds of discomfort, new kinds of uprooting and overturning, new kinds of action, reading, writing, and doing. 

But discomfort cuts both ways. It can be a high summer day with no air conditioning, a discomfort that makes you want to be suspended in the middle of a block of ice, no clothes to cloy the skin, every rhythm slowed down, barely a heartbeat. Comatose until the rush of fall, the Academic New Year (of the Horse), wakes you again. Or it can be the warm discomfort of a room where you know you belong, a room where your presence alone is a good indication of your willingness to let presuppositions die. “I don’t know who I am here and I’m going to fuck this up.” I never find it easy to know which rooms these are and I am never certain who will mistake my fallen body for another stone on the broken road.

I follow weeds (whether I write them or not) because they lead to disturbed grounds. They push through pavement. We work together. Borne on wind, dropped in shit, cast away from the intended crops, we land in places where we just may grow. No less striving for hoping to remain unnoticed. No less interior for needing to be recognized in our unfolding.

Mine is a history of unlikely alliances. Queer marriages stretching across oceans despite apparently irreconcilable differences. So, my writing is always in and through queerness as my lived specific, but generalizing, difference. Writing difference in a philosophical––conceptual, practical, political––mode is, for me, always already writing queerness, which is what brings me here in any case and in all actual cases.

My readings are also always ‘about queerness’ in some sense, if queerness is my wandering, my constant attempt at turning over old ground, never settling in one place for too long. I move even if I wish I never had to get out of bed, that soft paradise of immobilities, belonging to another time, the sweet oblivions of sleep. I never know for sure who I am, never know for sure whom I will encounter. What responsibilities will be born in that encounter? Such openness may be foolish, but I don’t care or I can’t help it or both. It is just this world. I find it necessary to start with love and deal later with the consequences. 

Lately, my strategy has been too small or the world has felt too big. Love, the beginning, is stretched too thinly across oceans, enfleshed worlds stretched by late liberalism. These memories require enormous energy to stay afloat, to keep from sinking to a soft landing on the abyssal plains of the Ocean of Betweenness. A flight is lost at sea. I’ve killed so many dinosaurs back and forth back and forth back and forth. I cannot afford it, but there’s always credit. Symptom of my generation. Fake money supports emotional globalization. We put it to use creating different, better fictions. Our little G8 summits, just you and me, leaders of our free world. Autonomous states of feeling. Calling into being new collectives. Making new rituals. Taking care of her.

In some sense, these readings are personal, they are a live struggle, even as they are trying to avoid solipsism. They are part of a long attempt to be and become otherwise, to grow and die seasonally. They are uncertain in that I have never been sure if the academy is best for me, even if I have also never been sure that I can live without it. Intelligence is not enough at this point, survival needs more than intelligence. Thriving even more. Courage is hard to come by. These readings are not courageous enough for me, but they are a start.

Still, I’m ready for scrutiny. Please push. I know I don’t need to invite you to push, that is why I am here, dancing on the edge of the cliff. I’m ready! But it feels more honest if we name what we are doing and if we know what it is we are being invited to do. Especially when our positions are not equal and may never be, differentiated by age and titles, money and origin, sensibility and experience. Yet we are joined by the tender threads of shared interest and a commitment to knowledge and to each other, to a world ‘other than what?’ We do not know. To a world folded out of the that one we do. At least I think so. Maybe I should ask. Maybe I don’t yet know what binds us to each other other than these words and the room we’ll share to discuss them, the institution and its spaces, its archives and ways of knowing. In both moments, I deeply appreciate that what we are doing is an unfolding, a getting-to-know-you, full of excitements and unspoken joys, full of fears and strange mysteries, not without abundances and privations, oriented toward precarious and actual professionalization.

My readings are a place to start, again. They are a hinge between the thinking and the doing and the thinking again. They are a roll of the dice, an old game, a rare privilege, a necessary passage, a wrestling with giants, a glamorous flip of my hair on the edge of a broken heel, a handful of glitter thrown out a window on a grey winter day.

They are not finished but it is time to move on. To shuffle again.

Reference

Lefebvre, H. 2008 [1981]. Critique of Everyday Life: From Modernity to Modernism (Toward a Metaphilosophy of Daily Life). London, UK: Verso.

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1 The Fool (Le Mat or Il Matto, the Italian word that appears on some earlier versions of the Tarocchi, can be translated not only as ‘the fool,’ but also as ‘the beggar,’ ‘the madman,’ or ‘the lunatic.’) is the only unnumbered card in the Tarot de Marseille (In other decks it is numbered zero.) The Fool is placeless and numberless. It is the card of beginnings and endings – a card more concerned with movement and temporality than with location and spatiality – alternately counted as the highest or the lowest of the trumps. The Fool ascends and descends the order of the Tarot.

The card itself depicts a vagabond whose torn pantaloons are playfully pawed at by an indeterminate species of animal; perhaps a companion, perhaps a vigilant guard chasing a stranger out of town. Regardless, the figure seems undisturbed. They* carry a rather thin knapsack filled with few possessions. They look ahead with a youthful freshness and naïveté. The Fool approaches the threshold of the card itself, bearing their ass to the opposite side as if to say, “I don’t need your acceptance! Onward!”

The Fool is taking the initial steps on a relational drama that unfolds across the Major Arcana, or the first twenty-one cards of the Tarot. If we understand the Tarot as a complete system of interpretation, The Fool is the figure who sets that system into motion. The Fool is the animator of archetypes. On the one hand, they are a figure of great openness to the multiplicity of encounters which will ensue on the journey and, on the other, they are a figure great stupidity, even madness. In both guises, The Fool is something like a Simmelian stranger, embodying the tense relationship between absolute fixity to a point of origin (zero-point of lowest trump, preceding The Magician I/The High Priestess II; absolute reterritorialization) and utter detachment from any spatial specificity (zero-point of highest trump, succeeding The World XXI; absolute deterritorialization).

The Fool’s journey through the Major Arcana culminates in Le Monde, The World, sometimes called The Universe. This is a card of accomplishment and completion. On it, we find an androgynous  human figure, dancing at the center of a yonic wreath. In the Tarot de Marseille, the wreath is surrounded by four classic elemental figures, or the tetramorph: the cherub/human figure (Aquarius/air), the eagle (Scorpio/water), the lion (Leo/fire), and the bull (Taurus/earth). Assembled together, the figures are joined in celebration of the historical accomplishment of the Fool’s journey. This is a card of human triumph in the formation of a world. The world is both an abstract and an earthly card. It is practical; a card which crowns cyclicality, renewal, and unity. It is at once emancipatory and inaugural, suggesting in the notion of completion, the inevitability of return. The World is a card of rhythms and wholeness. It suggests a freedom guided by the teacherly values of responsibility, discipline, and contemplation. The world, in a word, is totality.

The Tarot, of course, is a game of chance as much as it is a tool or system of interpretation. The act of reading Tarot generally requires the querent to focus on a particular problem – or at least the outline of a problem. The acts of shuffling, drawing, placing, and reading the cards affirm a commitment to engage a problem through both the order and the arrangement of the cards in the reading itself and in terms of the overall architecture of the Tarot. Cards from the Major Arcana suggest overarching principles of consciousness and action, so-called ‘court cards’ indicate personae and individuals, and cards from the Minor Arcana speak to transformational struggles and victories that unfold in everyday life.

A reading is spatial in that the relationship of the cards to each other must be considered in terms of the geography of generally agreed upon positions in the map of the reading itself. (The first position being that of the querent, the second of their immediate obstacle or opportunity, etc.) A reading is temporal in the sense that it takes place with respect to a situation that is ‘present’ to the querent and insofar as the order in which the cards are drawn is the singular factor in determining their position. The manner in which a reader draws connections between cards is therefore expressed in an art of spatio-temporal analysis.

I invite you to draw a card.

* While some traditions gender The Fool as a male, others portray The Fool as androgynous. Therefore, I use ‘they’ rather than ‘he’ or ‘she’ to preserve this indeterminacy.

These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men [sic] are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before. “The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light.” We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to ad just to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. This has driven many to feel that only Marxism has the revolutionary spirit. Therefore, communism is a judgment against our failure to make democracy real and follow through on the revolutions that we initiated. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.

We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.

Now let us begin. Now let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Every year, on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (US), I listen to “Beyond Vietnam,” as well as several other speeches by Dr. King.  His clear and powerful voice falls heavily on the jagged tyrannies of capital, war, racism, and exploitation. The recording reaches me as if I sat there in Riverside Church, my back pulled away from the hard wooden pew – too many memories of church. My bones rattle, echoing as chills on my skin, which seizes up as his succinct insights into the nature of power and domination resonate throughout the space. This speech invariably brings me to tears, tears for the unresolved nature of this particular call to action, this particular set of truths.

“Beyond Vietnam,” in my opinion, should be the speech with which Americans, and those around the world, commence their annual memorialization of Dr. King. We would do well to remember that this speech, delivered one year to the day that he was viscously assassinated in Memphis, names the United States Government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” Should it not still be “incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war[s]”?

What has changed?

Who are the clear voices for justice in the world today?

What would change if we recalled not only Dr. King’s anti-racism and non-violence, but also his anti-imperial and anti-war stances? His deft ability to connect war, poverty, racism, and globalization? His pro-labor activism?

Remember him today.

Toronto, Winter 2013; Credit: Darren Patrick

Back in January 2011, just a few months after QUE was born, I wrote a piece called The Erotics of Drainage. Inspired, in part, by Bruce Nauman’s Body Pressure (1974), this was my first attempt at writing a method of everyday embodiment.

At the time, I was living in a decadent Victorian house near Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park. The house had the most magnificently large bathroom, complete with a freestanding tub. Having spent the previous year living in Hungary in what amounted to a one-star hotel room with a stall shower scarcely large enough to contain the flow of water, I had forgotten the discrete pleasure of a long hot soak. So, inadvertently channeling Laura‘s Waldo, I took to bathing as a sort of auto-erotic practice of body work. (For a queer reading of Laura, see Lee Edelman’s [1994] chapter “Imagining the Homosexual: Laura and the Other Face of Gender” in Homographesis: Essays in Gay and Literary Cultural Theory)

As the 2011 post established in the format of a set of instructions, the bath (or ‘a drainage’) became something of a method not just for relaxation, but also for the exploration of erotic architectures – articulations of my body with the sound and force of the old house – as well as a way to experiment with self-dismantling and reconstruction, both of which circulated around experiential engagements with weight and density.

Despite no longer taking daily baths, the method retains a cohesion which means that I can no longer simply ‘soak for a few.’ Instead, each bath is another instant in the series of moments which consist in their own temporality – a long embodied performance for nobody. Each drainage witnesses changes in my body and consciousness. This summer, I engaged the method in Italy, where I experienced a particularly powerful drainage culminating in the temporary detachment of my penis: It just floated away down the drain with the last of the water, leaving a small purple patch of skin in its place. Being temporarily freed from this part of my anatomy felt liberating, giddy, lightening; like the method was working on me. Unfortunately, after I stood up, it came back.

I have also tried the method in my new house, where, despite having a much smaller bathroom, I am fortunate to have a luxuriously deep tub. While I typically don’t write reflections on the drainages anymore, I did come across a journal entry from Fall 2013 which seemed worthy of reporting as a ‘state of the method’:

Every time I have a bath I am reborn into the weight of this body.

Senselessly hot. My heart races while my face sweats, desperately trying to cool me down as my legs, too wet with the water of first entry, refuse evaporation in the smoke thick steam filling the tiny tiled room. I am relaxing after a long day. If (and only if) my muscles give way to bone, I am lucky to float a little bit, legs jacked up on the faucet side of things, ass pointed out, yielding to nothing but senselessly hot.

A tiny bit of residual piss is the only new matter here; the bath is an art of diminishment. I promise to try to make it until the evening offering has burnt through, but I didn’t turn that damned noisy fan on so the air is overly thick with molecules of bergamot, clove, orange, nutmeg. Without the usual meditation, I let go of the golden thread of breath long enough to thoughtlessly turn the stopper. My only important decision is when to drain. From now, I take only one position, again floating 4, in a figure four turned on its side. [symbol].

A plumber came last week and snaked my drain so theres no sweet slowness. No. Water doesn’t wait now, it flows fast and, with some conversational level of sound, becomes waste. The wasted parts of today. The last flecks of my poorly peeled nail polish from this weekend’s drag.

No bubbles today to fizz and tickle my exposed parts. Once the water is out, leaving only a tidal pool on the small of my back, I’m just a wet body. I still hear the liquid sound of my heartbeat as if under water; my veins lined with innumerable tiny ears each pulling my attention in bump bump starts. But the usual attention to that rhythm soon fades back into my perpetual background ringing; a legacy of loudness, a tattoo heard but never seen.

My eyes are open now – maybe they were before, but not to see – and now they seek out some line. From my sacral nubs to the occiput, I break the curve of my spine, turning my head toward the opaque window, magnesium orange light diffused through slowly dripping tidal waves of condensation. Hundreds of tiny rivers making vertical terrain against a towering line of polypropylene bottles.

I do not – can not – move. My mind is rushed upon by these words. They’re seeking a line of escape from the bottom of the tub, but I only want to go back under wherever I am now that words replace water in this tub. They are already trying to drain themselves onto the page that is in the other room, empty in my notebook.

I still can’t move. Don’t move. Don’t want to move. I’m coming back now. Wondering if the offering is done now. Its smell still hangs heavily in the steam rising from my slowly drying body, but I cannot see where it sat because my legs have fallen open like a book with only one page in it, unsure of whether to fall this way or that. My spine is rolled out again, unbroken, pressing quite firmly into the shell of the tub. The pain of this weight, uncushioned, becomes a motivation. Still, I don’t move. I have no idea how long, but wondering makes me know: almost long enough.

I start to consider the move. Once it happens, I can’t start again or stop because the work is too hard. My muscles don’t plead, they simply refuse to animate bone. If I could float out, if I could float! But I am almost a little bit dry and the clove resin is raining back down on me, making me want to vomit and that can’t be my first move. So, I start with my hands.

I lift them from my ribcage where they had been resting, wings folded in, one hand over the other, keeping my heart contained, calm, beating its liquid stop and go sympathy. Now its an internal rhythm again and I’m stuck with the external so I reach for the outside of my knees and begin to close the book, which, indifferent to the pages, creaks from my hip until my knees meet. I release their heft to the right. This space is small and deep and not configured for elegance.

My movements are interrupted by the sputtering of rubber wet skin pulling against the still shallow eddies of the tub floor. Movement is not easy. It involves enormous and minute effort. It involves immense coordination. I may not get out, I may sleep here until I am too cold. Then B might think I’m dead. He usually leaves the bath full when he gets out “To dissipate the energy so it isn’t wasted” and I’ve not done that, of course.

I will not sleep, I am already folded as an absurdly large fetus in a water broken womb, hard edged and unwelcoming; I’d rather not, I’d really rather not. You’ll pardon the image because its me in the tub now, not Oedipus. This is nobody’s fault. All reprieves are temporary, so don’t blame the method.

I start to push. It doesn’t work at first; I feel too heavy on my own tender joints. With a swift inward breath, I push again and I am on all fours, head heavy, always the last to go, I’d leave it if I could, but, now, thats really the decapitation fantasy; not about suicide at all, but about the monstrosity of having this head demanding uprightness.

With an unplanned ease, mismatched to the moment, I grip the sides of the tub and swing my feet beneath me. Noodling my spine to vertical, meeting the window written map of condensation trails, I am, once again, too heavy to be still.

Stepping out, I furtively grab my towel. There is little left to dry that wasn’t already taken by the smoke sweet mist, now vapor, soon to be evacuated by the exhaust fan, rumbling. Another escaping particle.

I to bed.

The drainpipe will be relieved that the water’s scheduled to be shut off tomorrow.

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