Cupids Health

Amongness by Taylor Johnson | Poetry Foundation

“On the streets there was word / of a presence. You were among / the throng caught up in the moment.” – Christopher Gilbert, “You, the Piece That Was There”

Some of my teachers live outside. Consider the dendritic reaching, above and below ground, of trees, their thinking involves me as I pass below a branch, a bit of green lighting my way, or, as sometimes happens in my walking, an inch worm will mistake my hair for a branch, and ride with me until I notice. That the inch worm would enter into my ecosystem, would break the idea of “my” such that I’m given to the circumstance wherein the inch worm, its bright green body almost unbelievable, falling maybe on its way to becoming a moth, would choose to be among my thinking as I’m walking, becomes involved in my thinking as I’m walking, my thinking becoming bright green almost unbelievable now. I’m thinking about being among and giving myself away in that amongness.

What does it mean to lose myself in service of a particular amongness? Among meaning in the company of, in the presence of, beheld by. When I wrote Inheritance I was experimenting with and experiencing many types of amongness, many modes of being outside myself. I was among the brilliance of other poets, my people!, who I’d been looking for, our shared air becoming our shared thinking toggling between liquidity and shape. I was among the city I loved and was losing, and its black indigenous sound which is go-go music. I was in the crowd of that sound. Being among that sound is to be on the threshold of surrendering myself, if I let go in the sound.

I step outside myself, outside being where my teachers live, and step into the shape language of the moment, the moment being percussive and folding in on itself. I’m inside that shape language, beyond dance, but the felt presence of the black crowd as we study our amongness together. We practice letting ourselves go, me and my others listening with our feet in our open chorus of coming together, the spontaneous kinetic orality that forms the scaffolding of how we come together. We fold in on our selves, our selfhood given up in the collective move of being held tenderly, being held together by the pocket, in the pocket being beheld by the band. Our amongness being a liberatory sound of collapsing individuality, of becoming one and nothing together alongside this entropic mode of taking up physical space as a result of sound and how it passes through our body. Our amongness being so brief and out of time.

I was compelled to write poems that enact this kind of sociality, this kind of taking up space where there are no spectators. In the process of writing these poems, I watched the erasure of DC. The summer before I left, two friends came to visit me and I brought them to all the streets and intersections and green spaces and storefronts that are a part of who I am, though coming to one corner, 9th and U, I forget what I remember about what used to be there. The buildings, all homogenous now in their architecture of displacement, rose before me as a block to my memory, or even the imagination of my memory. I was a stranger in my home, a stranger even to my conception of my home.

The sense of amongness that I came to define myself by in DC slipped away. In my grief, which I struggle to name as such knowing that the land can’t be owned even by my memory, knowing that ultimately, the specter of the land being both capital and capitol is the larger trauma, I wondered in my walking about what a liberatory architecture could look like, one that resists the commodification of capitalism, one that resists cultural displacement, one that creates a physical language of being with, knowing that none of this belongs to me. The architecture would begin with the language I used, I thought, so I wrote these poems, go-go poems, that implicate the breath and movement of the reader.

In my thinking beyond poems, I play around with graphing go-go’s physicalized echo on a Laban graph and hear June Jordan say “rhythm as vertical event…as in palpable momentum.” My study in amongeness began in sound and was translated into language, hopefully a felt language, and now I’m seeking something outside language, how to build a refuge in amongness.


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