“there is no absolute, only / surface rise on top of rise” —Christopher Gilbert, “Blues/The Blue Case against the Lack Of”
Not necessarily an urge, not immediacy, not definition as truth, but definition as when I notice the flex of my arm when I lift something heavy, to see a particular part working, straining, even, against something else, which is the measure of closing a sentence. That the sentence has done its work, in the time of the sentence and beyond its time, has flexed as a muscle does, briefly, to make a gesture, such as lifting water to my mouth and setting the glass down. The sentence being a bright passage into another sentence, as turning a corner is to see that this morning I’m facing east and so walking toward the sun as it pours out in front of me.
I’d just begun to turn my notebook horizontally and take up more space within the line when I noticed that I had no clue what a sentence was. That I’d lived thus far making declarations, saying yes and no, believing righteously in what I believed, unwavering in my use of definite articles. I had no clue what I meant when I was in the process of meaning things. I couldn’t close and I didn’t have the feeling to.
I’d been, for some time, unfamiliar with my own voice, having stepped back into the world of Inheritance when it was first published to read poems from it, to talk about it, meaning having to be hailed in a particular way, namely as the writer of these poems, the one who’d done it and was of it, was it. I wanted that sentence to be open, to put within it my friend who let me live in her house, and within it, too, all the people I’d loved and who I shared intimacy with, and Ms. V who I would get coffee from when I was far off in my mind and pulling language from the wind.
I spent some time believing in my liberation as an artist, believing in the contrived position of an artist. This crisis of closing, of being definite, mirrored a crisis I was having with being hailed in the world. I wondered if moving from one set of pronouns to another would align myself on the side of being defined a certain way, that there could be a legible sentence written about me. I’d turned my notebook horizontally to take up more space, yes, but also because I was interested in my own breathing, believing that the orientation of the page would elongate my breath, would expand my capacity for breathing, which was twinned with the knowledge that when I’m wearing a binder I reach the point of exhaustion within a spoken sentence quicker because the capacity for my lungs to expand hits up against the direct sentence of the cotton and elastic obscuring what they’ve been tasked to obscure, thus concealing my capacity for breath.
I wanted to believe deeply in my ability to be myself with half my breath. I decided to wear a binder while I was working in fast food and had no real reason to open my mouth. I would spend my break reading Sula out loud to myself, measuring the breaths I would need to say something like thank you when I got my check. My check being so small it was breathless. I told a friend I want to write breathless anytime I’m asked to note my gender on a form. I usually leave it blank or write transcendent which is akin to how I felt walking around around DC especially in the heat, held so tightly to myself my mind is air and I have a whisper left to say what I am or why I’m sitting out until dawn waiting for the sun to make me over.
“I’m listening,” I used to tell Face who was my first teacher who lived outside who I would buy lunch for if I could spare it, who passed me his language sometimes so I could breathe in mine, and would say “I’ll show you real liberation,” then leave for weeks as the streets changed clothes. I didn’t believe in the closed sentence of the city and gave my breath to open it up, to tell about it as the air went out. Sometimes I’d get lost looking for my breath, I’d walk the city with my eyes closed calling its many names: bad as hell walking in front of me, Potomac River, Nacotchtank, crossroads, southside hills, deer-by-the-creek, my second mind, unending.