Words When There Are No Words

No links today. The world is heavy and Audre Lorde is speaking to us through time. —LJ

 

Afterimages

BY AUDRE LORDE

    I
However the image enters
its force remains within
my eyes
rockstrewn caves where dragonfish evolve
wild for life, relentless and acquisitive
learning to survive
where there is no food
my eyes are always hungry
and remembering
however the image enters
its force remains.
A white woman stands bereft and empty
a black boy hacked into a murderous lesson
recalled in me forever
like a lurch of earth on the edge of sleep
etched into my visions
food for dragonfish that learn
to live upon whatever they must eat
fused images beneath my pain.
 
    II
The Pearl River floods through the streets of Jackson
A Mississippi summer televised.
Trapped houses kneel like sinners in the rain
a white woman climbs from her roof to a passing boat
her fingers tarry for a moment on the chimney
now awash
tearless and no longer young, she holds
a tattered baby’s blanket in her arms.
In a flickering afterimage of the nightmare rain
a microphone
thrust up against her flat bewildered words
          “we jest come from the bank yestiddy
                   borrowing money to pay the income tax
                   now everything’s gone. I never knew
                   it could be so hard.”
Despair weighs down her voice like Pearl River mud
caked around the edges
her pale eyes scanning the camera for help or explanation
unanswered
she shifts her search across the watered street, dry-eyed
                   “hard, but not this hard.”
Two tow-headed children hurl themselves against her
hanging upon her coat like mirrors
until a man with ham-like hands pulls her aside
snarling “She ain’t got nothing more to say!”
and that lie hangs in his mouth
like a shred of rotting meat.
 
    III
I inherited Jackson, Mississippi.
For my majority it gave me Emmett Till
his 15 years puffed out like bruises
on plump boy-cheeks
his only Mississippi summer
whistling a 21 gun salute to Dixie
as a white girl passed him in the street
and he was baptized my son forever
in the midnight waters of the Pearl.
 
His broken body is the afterimage of my 21st year
when I walked through a northern summer
my eyes averted
from each corner’s photographies
newspapers protest posters magazines
Police Story, Confidential, True
the avid insistence of detail
pretending insight or information
the length of gash across the dead boy’s loins
his grieving mother’s lamentation
the severed lips, how many burns
his gouged out eyes
sewed shut upon the screaming covers
louder than life
all over
the veiled warning, the secret relish
of a black child’s mutilated body
fingered by street-corner eyes
bruise upon livid bruise
and wherever I looked that summer
I learned to be at home with children’s blood
with savored violence
with pictures of black broken flesh
used, crumpled, and discarded
lying amid the sidewalk refuse
like a raped woman’s face.
 
A black boy from Chicago
whistled on the streets of Jackson, Mississippi
testing what he’d been taught was a manly thing to do
his teachers
ripped his eyes out his sex his tongue
and flung him to the Pearl weighted with stone
in the name of white womanhood
they took their aroused honor
back to Jackson
and celebrated in a whorehouse
the double ritual of white manhood
confirmed.
 
    IV
    “If earth and air and water do not judge them who are
      we to refuse a crust of bread?”
 
Emmett Till rides the crest of the Pearl, whistling
24 years his ghost lay like the shade of a raped woman
and a white girl has grown older in costly honor
(what did she pay to never know its price?)
now the Pearl River speaks its muddy judgment
and I can withhold my pity and my bread.
 
            “Hard, but not this hard.”
Her face is flat with resignation and despair
with ancient and familiar sorrows
a woman surveying her crumpled future
as the white girl besmirched by Emmett’s whistle
never allowed her own tongue
without power or conclusion
unvoiced
she stands adrift in the ruins of her honor
and a man with an executioner’s face
pulls her away.
 
Within my eyes
the flickering afterimages of a nightmare rain
a woman wrings her hands
beneath the weight of agonies remembered
I wade through summer ghosts
betrayed by vision
hers and my own
becoming dragonfish to survive
the horrors we are living
with tortured lungs
adapting to breathe blood.
 
A woman measures her life’s damage
my eyes are caves, chunks of etched rock
tied to the ghost of a black boy
whistling
crying and frightened
her tow-headed children cluster
like little mirrors of despair
their father’s hands upon them
and soundlessly
a woman begins to weep.

Image Credit

Towards a Better World

GET WOKE
An incredible article about Harry Belafonte and the Civil Rights Movement
The distress of the privileged and how to talk about it
Misrepresenting the white working class: what the narrating class gets wrong
In the Harvard Business Review: there is no invisible hand
Women were included in the Civil Rights Act as a joke
Explaining white privilege to a broke white person
How to explain what is wrong with #AllLivesMatter as a response to #BlackLivesMatter
Map of 73 years of lynchings
Gender bias in Academe
The case of the missing perpetrator: disappearing men
Free books on race, gender, sexuality and class

FILM
Fact checking Alec Baldwin’s monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross
The Ace of Hearts (1927) silent movie online
Confidence at The Barbershop about Women
Jimmy Durante in Palooka (1934)

MUSIC
The oldest melody in existence
Tom Waits Burma Shave (full video)
Cher and David Bowie Young Americans medley
Shovels and Rope, Gasoline
Dolly Parton and Pentatonix sing Jolene acappella

Image credit
Pro-tip: email subscribers click title for pic of young Dolly Parton holding a kitten

Furtive Friday

POLITIK
Since when do rednecks like cops?
In a Manner That Must Shame God Himself: Kurt Vonnegut on the 1972 Republican Convention in Harper’s Magazine,* November 1972.
Rihanna WORK parody, re: Donald Trump JERK

*It’s behind a paywall—I know—but I swear, it’s the best $6.99 you’ll spend this year. 

ZANIES AND SLACKS
Livin and Lovin in NYC* discusses CRUISING
Cameron Esposito promises no lesbians die in Take My Wife
A map of the lands of human sexuality

*Those in the know are quite aware of this badass podcast started in 2015 by yours truly and the one and only Victator, aka Victoria Davis. We’ve even been featured in the Village VoiceSavage Love, WNYC, and Thrillist. Gale Mayness is ably holding forth as the new cohost, and if you’ve never listened, you’ve got a lot of catching up to do. 

ART BECAUSE LIFE
On Diane Arbus and her life as an artist
Natural history illustrations from the 1500s
Beer can artwork

BARDS AND TROUBADORS
The Tallest Man On Earth, The Wild Hunt full album
Quantic y Anita Tijoux

PURE FUN
Shaquille O’Neal in drag lip-syncing to Beyoncé
James Corden and Michelle Obama in carpool karaoke with Missy Elliott

THE CUTE SET
An owl rides a toy horse
Kitten emerges from pillows

Image credit.

Whoa Wednesday

THEY SAY
Sidney Poitier is still alive and can sometimes be seen at the dinosaur McDonald’s* on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, ordering pancakes at all hours of the day. At least, this is what I learned on Monday evening when Tye Pemberton and I were sitting in our living room discussing the important details of McDonald’s new all-day breakfast policy (p.s. all-day breakfast menus vary by location). While I have never been to L.A., it didn’t surprise me that a place known as the dinosaur McDonald’s—soherenamed because it used to be a Sinclair fill-up station—would have an all-day pancake policy for one. Poitier deserves all the delicious pancakes he can eat. The man is a living national treasure. When I asked Mr. Pemberton how he knew the dinosaur McDonald’s would make pancakes for Poitier whenever he wanted them, Mr. Pemberton said he had seen it himself when he was in college.** The staff even wrote Poitier a note on his to-go box: “Only for you, Mr. Poitier.” This much is true: I don’t doubt Mr. Pemberton, and neither should you.     —LJ

*Current L.A. residents invited to confirm or deny whether the dinosaur McDonald’s still stands.
**Over a decade ago.

JUST SO YOU KNOW, BLACK LIVES MATTER
In light of Steve King’s recent remarks, perhaps it is time to brush up on the subtle linguistics of polite white supremacy?
Writer Kiese Laymon takes us to church on facebook
Why I am skeptical of white liberals in the black lives matter movement

THE WORLD OUTSIDE AMERICA
What happened in Turkey?
People in China are REALLY hating on the Hague’s South China Sea decision

LITERATURE MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO WAKE UP IN THE MORNING
A new generation hilariously discovers Moby Dick
Famous authors’ handwritten outlines for great works of literature
David Foster Wallace’s syllabus for English 102 (in which he used popular fiction to blow little undergraduate minds

SWIFTBOATING KANYE: A PRIMER
Here’s what Taylor Swift did to Kanye and then what Kim did to defend him
Here is why Taylor Swift is all kinds of fucked up, plus bonus metaphor “Darth Susan” for that coworker you despise

ART BECAUSE LIFE
Black contemporary art tumblr of glory
Do you have to be rich to make it as an artist?
Searchable database of Japanese woodcuts
Hot pictures of hot books (some NSFW)

CINEMA OBSCURA
Detour, the 1945 film noir classic (only one hour long)
The Nude Restaurant by Andy Warhol (NSFW)

MEN’S ISSUES
Nobody showed up at the Women For Trump event at the RNC
BREXIT and the glass cliff
An interview with Lisa Mae Brunson about diversifying the white bro world of tech
On the appetites of men and women
Can a woman’s voice ever be right?

FUN TIME IS ANY TIME
Chris Fleming makes me laugh

Doge dancing

Image Credit: Columbia Pictures, Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, 1967.

LJ Algorithm

What is the LJ Algorithm? 
Hard to define, more difficult to hold onto, the LJ Algorithm is the engine behind this newsletter / blogroll / whatever of links and anecdotes from around the web.

ART BECAUSE LIFE
Women of the Iowa Railroad: April 1943
The Work of Annu Palakunnathu Matthew: Indian American artist and photographer
Detroit 1982, by Robert Monaghan

LITERATURE MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR ME TO WAKE UP IN THE MORNING
W.H. Auden’s Syllabus
Fuck the Straight Line: How Story Rebels Against Expectation
The Creative Process, by James Baldwin

NEWS AND SHIT
Stephen Colbert Hijacked the RNC Stage
More Than 1,000 Attend Black Lives Matter Police Cook-Out in Wichita, Kansas
Women Were Included in the Civil Rights Act as a Joke

THE CUTE SET
Puppies Livestream
Kitten Gets So Excited He Jumps Up and Down

BONUS MISC.
101 Ways to Say Died

Image credit: Laura Jean Moore, New Jersey Beach, digital photograph, 2048 × 1152, 2015.