from & for sugar
because the light is beautiful
from & for sugar
F. Scott Fitzgerald saw it. To the bottom of every bottle. Which, early—44—killed him.
No matter. He got it right. Wrote the Great American Novel. The Great Gatsby. Which ends with this:
Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away. Until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.
Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . . And one fine morning—
So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.
The green light, it will never be attained, as Fitzgerald knew, on this continent, by white people. Because they do not belong here. It was a mistake, for them to ever to have come. To this place. Because it is not their place.
The green light, they can bask in it—the white people—when, “boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,” they return to from where they came. Where they should, forever, have remained.
the little bird; all that there is
Ofelia lived in two worlds. One was the ordinary level of ration lines and bus lines, of streets of rubble, of the blue trickle of electricity that allowed Fidel to flicker on the television screen, of oppressive heat that made her two daughters spread like butterflies on the cool tiles of the floor. The other was a deeper universe as real as the veins beneath the skin, of the voluptuous Oshun, maternal Yemaya, thundering Chango, spirits good and bad that brought blood to the face, taste to the mouth, color to the eye and dwelled in everyone if they were evoked. Just as drums carried a kola seed that was the soul of the drum, that only spoke when the drum was played, every person carried a spirit that spoke through their own heartbeat if they would only listen. So Ofelia Osorio carried the fire of the sun hidden behind her dark mask and saw with a penetrating light the double worlds of Havana.
—Martin Cruz Smith, Havana Bay
(For, as ever, mi Anacaona, and all the Taino. And also for all and every life extinguished by racist genocidal killers, such as the unnamed victim of the unrepentant ARacistPoet, member in good standing of the smirking laughing gas-chamber StormKos, a.k.a. the DailyKlan.)
They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Taino, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. Fuku americanus, or more colloquially, fuku—generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World. Also called the fuku of the Admiral because the Admiral was both its midwife and one of its great European victims; despite “discovering” the New World the Admiral died miserable and syphilitic, hearing (dique) divine voices. In Santo Domingo, the Land He Loved Best, the Admiral’s very name has become synonymous with both kinds of fuku, little and large; to say his name aloud or even to hear it is to invite calamity on the heads of you and yours.
No matter what its name or provenance, it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed the fuku on the world, and we’ve all been in the shit ever since. Santo Domingo might be fuku’s Kilometer Zero, its port of entry, but we are all of us its children, whether we know it or not . . . .
—Junot Diaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Much about the Admiral is not known. Where he was born, and when: these are not known. The arc of his early years, when and what he studied at the University of Pavia: these, too, are not known. Where he obtained his ideas of geography, this is not known. The Admiral, it developed, did not know geography: he believed, to the end of his days, that where he landed in 1492 marked the far eastern fringe of Asia.
What is known is that when the Admiral stepped ashore on Hispaniola, he brought original sin to the New World. For the policies he pursued there exterminated that island’s people, the Taino. Every one.
“All the Indians of these islands were allotted by the Admiral . . . to all the settlers who came to live in these parts; and in the opinion of many who saw what happened and speak of it as eyewitnesses, the Admiral, when he discovered these islands, passed sentence of death on a million or more Indians, men and women, of all ages, adults and children. Of this number and of those since born, it is believed that there do not survive today, in this year 1548, 500 Indians, adults and children, who are natives and who are offspring of the stock of those he found on arrival.”
Today, “the Taino survive in the shape of one’s eyes, the outline of one’s face, the idiom of one’s language.” All the rest, is gone.
Michelangelo was a sculptor. That’s all of who he was. The rich rat bastards, they kept paying him for paintings—he didn’t want to paint, but painting was where the money was. So, he painted.
A sculptor—what he really was—involved selecting and regarding a block of marble. Seeing what it was meant to be. Knowing the interior. The finished glowing being. Then, having to go, through time and effort and time, the tiresome endless work, of bringing out what was already there. The already happened.
Chip. Chip. Chip.
In the last decades of his life, Michelangelo approached marble, chipped away for a time, then stood back, saying he was finished.
No one, at the time, could see how he could possibly say that he was the least bit finished.
To this day, people do not understand what he meant. By “finished.”
His, here, is an avenue of art, that no one, over the past umpteen-hundred years, has pursued. Because it appears to be nothing but “unfinished.” Like, maybe, probably, he just gave up.
Bollocks. This is the man who had already used chisel and stone to depict the most precise and divine representations of human beings in the entire history of sculpture. Before, or since.
So, when he moved elsewhere, people should have paid attention.
But they didn’t. And they still don’t.
The “unfinished” Michelangelo pictured above is called “Awakening Slave.” From the title alone, it should be obvious, to anyone employing brain cells, that it is absolutely right, that the slave is unable to fully emerge from the marble. Michelangelo’s choice, here, was absolutely right.
He said that the marble spoke to him. And, when it said, stop carving, he stopped.
True artists don’t listen to the bullshit. They listen to the art.
Writing is like regarding a block of marble. The task is to chip away the bullshit, the effluvia, the waste, revealing, relating, only what is.
That is why, when I was 16, and first regarded the “unfinished” sculptures of Michelangelo, I knew exactly what they were about. He had gone beyond the mere perfection of form. To regarding, and representing, perfection attempting to emerge, yet held back, by the muck.
Now that I am older, I see a second reason why he went with the “unfinished.” Because, for decades, he’d put it all out there, in the way that they wanted to see it. Yet, they still didn’t get it. So: fuck ’em. Go with the quantum. The finished/unfinished. The way it really is.
So, uh, this piece, that follows, I had grand finished plans for the thing, some weeks ago, when I wanted to both Snowden, and Zimmerman. I was first concerned about those in my karass so hurt by the Zimmerman verdict. And, next, those, also in my karass, so wounded by the Snowden revelations. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever got around to serving, in what I have here written, completely, either. Much less both. The piece is unfinished. But I’ve decided to put it out there anyway. In hopes people can regard what is there, and see also into the marble. To what was meant to be. To what is.
(for robin and denise and amazing and adept and time and sephius and conk and tree and trayvon and sooth and seeta and ms. turn-up-your-radio and my pooldar anacaona and she-be-hawaiian-feet and the far rambling planet and all whose skins and souls burn 24/7 with the lies of this nation . . . . )
The Snowden uproar has been driven mostly by white people.
In garment-rending frenzy, that maybe government folks, are ear-trumpeting their phone conversations, goggle-eyeing their email.
Like, checking them.
People of color have, generally, been less exercised. Because, from when they first become conscious in this country, in this culture, people of color naturally assume they are being checked. Watched. Listened to. Tracked. As a condition of their very lives. Because, everything about their lives, about their history, teaches them that they are.
(The exception was when the Bolivian president’s homeward-bound plane was forced to the ground: people of color, then, particularly south of the border, they for sure, then uproared, over that. Because it was, so humiliatingly, typical of their lives, their history. To wit: white people won’t believe them. Will naturally assume them of involvement in nefariousness. Will physically roust them. Whenever they feel like it. Even if the rousted is the president of a sovereign nation.
(So let it be written. So let it be done.
(Same as it ever was.)
What people of color in this country would like, it is something more basic than freedom from a government-snout snorting about in their email.
What they would like, is a guarantee of physical safety.
That, maybe, they can feel free, to, oh, say, walk to the store, and back again, without getting shot.
And what the Zimmerman verdict tells them is that, once again, this—this is a forlorn hope.
Because what the Zimmerman verdict tells people of color is: no, really, they can’t—still “not yet”—walk to the store and back, without fear of being shot.
And white people, they have no idea, what that means.
To live, day in, day out, every day, like that.
Knowing they might be killed. For just walking the streets.
As they continue to squeal. The white people. About a snout. Maybe in their email.
I received, in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, an email from a person of color, who has succumbed to despair.
A lot of what I came up believing, spouted ad nauseam by Jose Marti and Rev Dr. King? I am doubting any of it now. I don’t believe for a New York minute we shall overcome, or “not too long.” This seems like the weakest pabulum and fairy tale imaginable. It’s open season on people of color.
What can I say to her?