for R.P., who lent me her pen 


Years ago, a friend and I shuffled off to Buffalo to visit my grandfather, to pay our respects to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. We sat on Jenny Holzer benches. I wanted to do rubbings of them. (Like once upon a time, I wanted to do gravestone rubbings of our nation’s forefathers. Boston strong!) I wanted to take off my clothes and imprint her words in my thighs’ impressionable flesh. But, all eyes were on me. So, instead, I exited through the gift shop. I bought two pencils that sported clever Holzer phrases. (They were original artworks, but so reasonably priced!) I lost one somewhere between Ithaca and Durham… Durham and Chicago… Chicago and Ann Arbor. Or, maybe some malicious lover filched it before she defriended me? I don’t remember. It doesn’t matter. I’ve never been able to sharpen to a point, “YOU ARE TRAPPED ON THE EARTH SO YOU WILL EXPLODE.” I also don’t watch chick-flicks anymore. We have Young Sherlock Holmes. Around 1995, the good Christian Book Bök derived with his soon-to-be best friend Kenny Goldsmith a movement. He’d shuffled off to Buffalo, too. Who knew? They were a “garage band,” “didn’t plan strategically,” “You know: We must have a Black man from Chicago, a lesbian from Timbuktu… It was an idea—conceptual poetry.” A one-ring-to-rule-them-all circus. An allegory. Dun dun… Now, The Xenotext’s options prove equally limited. When English is king, the Deinococcus radiodurans only glows red for a single pairing. Or, has the “unkillable” bacterium’s vocabulary been censored intentionally? Done, done... “Elementary, my dear Watson.” Bök concedes a sensorium, “I wanted to incorporate the word language, but that spawned copyboys.” My Emily Dickinson! My pataphysical explorations to disrupt reality! Pink noise, I hear you.  





“I see Mexicans dead people.”


Stealth Mexicans. They sneak in to steal your native. Ethnographers, everything you know about who is what and why could go Latina. Then, grow… big as beans! Stalk. Speak Spanish when they banish the snow. I know: Next door those loonies will not show me their passports. “Stinkin’ papers.” We don’t need no INS to watch them bleed. ICE the lady. First, the lightest: She should have known better than to be rooted in darker company! Orále. Orally. Happy trails. (The trouble with passing.) Mixed race is always one. (Or, the Other.)










When I first noticed the drift, I worried daily about it. I took to pulling out my hair. On the couch, in the kitchen, everywhere. I’d wake at night, sit in the darkness, and take some comfort in the editing process. My head itched. I told a friend. She empathized, “Tenure-track is a bitch. Center yourself with meditation. These psychosomatic symptoms cannot be overcome.” I lay on my PVC-free yoga mat. I repeated aloud, “Do not scratch.” Everyday the sensation worsened until I went to the doctor. (A rash covered the back of my neck and ears.) I bowed my head. Matter-of-factly, but with a hint of disdain, she diagnosed, “You have hair lice.” Hair lice! Sometimes an itch is really an itch. I lost my eyesight picking nits, buying prescription gels, shampoos, combs, spray. No, really! The ophthalmologist informed me that I needed progressive lenses. Not bifocals, but progressives (although nothing strikes me as progressive about them when I’m scaling stairs, late to class). Suddenly I understood the meaning of “Don’t be so nitpicky.” Meanwhile, the well-meaning overshared their wisdoms with me: “Blondes do not get lice.” “The best way to kill nits? Wrap a kerosene-soaked towel like a Sikh’s turban around your head.” “Try mayonnaise with a shower-cap.” I reinvented the Mayo Clinic. I washed and bagged and bombed the carpet. I practically embalmed us. Still, the drift expanded like cinema. Deeper, wider, its dérive enveloped the house. I mused, “I can’t put my finger on this, but it feels like something’s terribly wrong. As if— He grows… sideways.” I stood in front of the mirror. I thought, “I don’t need this anymore.” I recalled Frida Kahlo’s Autorretrato con pelo corto (1940). Then, I chopped savagely. (I was a detective after all!) I torch-sung, “Michigan, why can’t you love your Mexicans?” During the 1930s Great Repatriation, Kahlo miscarried in Henry Ford Hospital. Her ghost like the hospital casts a shadow over me whenever I venture into free Detroit. You fell, your body, convulsing violently. Before I saw I heard the gurgling. From the kitchen, “What’s that noise?” (I’d never witnessed anything like it before.) Your eyes rolled back in your head.Breathe, please, breathe!” I experienced disassociation, “NO, NO, NO!” Clear as snow, muddied in March. The right side of your face drooped, Todd’s paresis. (Who’s Todd?) When you finally spoke your speech slurred—into us—into a puddle on the bathroom floor. Let’s be clearer: It was a “genuinely clarifying” Christmas afternoon. (Recall: I had the nerve to write, “Carpe diem!” on our holiday cards that season.) The months that followed, freeze-framed as absence seizures. Their aura, “very aurora borealis.” Elmo’s fire. The lines, the cables, the wires writhed. Tapped. To pass the time, I collected white hairs. Like rare specimens until I realized true religion. Temporality: “Soy pelirroja. But, for always?” I code-switched. Tactics. (It’s in the bag.) One year preserved in Ziplocs. Rapunzel, Goldilocks, Kahlo, shorn as electric sheep—androids’ dreams. You don’t have a thing on me. Tan, tan. Edward Said wrote, “[B]eginnings have to be made… to enable what follows from them.” Okay, it’s all been said. Be. “Fore!”

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