We Live Here
in/extension vol. 1
The Felt: Fulling
to flirt in the morning and a make a casino from chili flakes of affection picante Rican lights put the devil to sleep— shattered grass, wicked drains the fizz of dead gays and others sobbing the broken is stuck jackets fade to pastels to sex work in order to give your torment a way
two seahorses fall in with the flock to make beds from nowhere / he calls seagulls when it’s sunny + sets me on fire when cold / a twisted heart should break more often it becomes stuck sick of its own luck
i lost my poem on the way to class today / sometimes it would write me / most times i would have nothing to say / they barely noticed it was gone i lost my voice in the cold / it sounded more like silence than rage / fear gripped vocal cords until they were cut / not speaking was just as dangerous as saying the wrong thing i lost my gun in his bed / a weapon never looked back / a bullet never touched me like that / a trigger never set off when people watched i lost my home in the white man’s basement / i was forgotten on the milk cartons and no one looked for me / my ancestors were forced to be here too / they pretended the slave ships sunk i did not lose my skin even when i left it at the church steps / it was not mine to lose / it was already lost / it was never really there to begin with i did not lose a hallelujah in the heat / it crept under the trapdoor rug and stayed / someone was telling their Father about me / there was a prayer in my name i did not lose my lungs when he tied up my feet / there were soliloquies blooming in exhales / only i can read my watered eulogy / black girl magic always meant disappearing i did not lose / i am still here / find me even in the night / find me anywhere at all
i. it is always missing from the question "where are you from" like the white wind in Kolkata Decembers that no one would be able to see it if it weren't for the brown dirt floating through. i have lost this home, and it leaves behind a pregnant space of answers that no one likes to hear. the regret haunts me: it looks dark like my skin in the summer, like my father, like my grandmother's tea. shame on me for thinking that i could belong somewhere as i am stuck between one, a beginning, two, an end. maybe i should draw a line to connect them and meet in the middle. ii. how can i unlearn a whole history that i was born with? i need to memorize how to walk backwards first, not ready. i must go back to where i came from, feet inching away from this doorframe, this street, this city, this airplane, this country, this ocean, this terminal. there is a lot to gain in the things you've lost, my grandfather used to say in his warm Bengali. i remember again those syllables when my feet touch this fragrant earth like muscle memory strengthened by this solid gain. this is when i know myself amongst the street noises, the sizzling of round roti, the faces of the past. this is when the place i have lost becomes found, my own again. here, the heat is so sticky that it does not allow for things to be stolen from me, like all those times before.
that’s you — a dark horse ha that’s you as a black unicorn unrelenting and restless ha you runnin before you had teeth ha you delta spillin into mediterranean ha how they raised us ha i know i aint trippin auntie grillin fish ha you ready to bust some embassy windows ha you aint scared ha you know how to play it ha i know you aint just gonna let customs punk you ha we was worlds ha aint had a chance / but to make our own kind of free ha straight up run you ha you know who got that gibnah roomi ha you know how to use a kanakah shit aint hard as it seems ha you keep your galabiyah clean ha you got a lot of life ha some of your cousins dope fiends ha you made to leave ha you dont care how bad it gets you return ha now you stuck here ha you miss your cousins ha this that survival haa we drivin catchin air ha thass the nile ha yea you wish abu simbel and karnak ha everyone knows who our ancestors are ha hatshepsut hieroglyphs now you learnin a new language like rosetta stone ha signed 42 HA
it's like that picture of the titanic with everybody scrolling instead of drowning. we need our idols to shield us from fear. need water to be a filter or just to swim in periphery. perhaps that's what you were trying to tell me. that a political imaginary excluding no one is pretty incredible as the sun begins to fade for people on the ground. that the tyranny of the world, the moon, is desperate tyranny. that's it, a super fragile color. comprehension or method. the of the tide is all method. i can only listen to my music. to be buried in sound is to be buried in grace is just another body & god has known so many. by this time next year, i will be revolved & sore. many things will have pulled earth off this axis. & many calming currents will have soothed tragedy in the knick of time. as you put up christmas there are wars against christmas & as you tear it down someone is tearing up. a confidential submission to posture before the world is being rejected & you cannot control what moths are being produced now. they are already forming from goop & gaining legs in thin air. water crescents gaining light. or a bevel shelling away unknown content.
I’m on top of your shoulders in the biggest crowd ever The rain is pouring and Sonic Youth is playing their final show in Brazil It’s one of those weird moments where time really stops and I’m like, “This is Lollapalooza.” This is Lollapalooza. We can’t do anything about it now. The band doesn’t really want to play. They play on contract/We scream on contract. We’re so obligated to get God to care about us. But, all I want is to be driving through London. On the other side of the road, people die. On the other side of the road, people die. I stay in my lane. I stay in my lane. I gamble it away. I am so lane-less I could cry. You don’t know how this feels. I’m writing you from a hotel room in Tokyo. I’m in a room the size of a sleeve of oreos. And when she started drawing the picture of Africa on the map. She basically made a circle. With a bunch of parallel lines running through it. She pointed to the lines and said, “Does anybody even give a fuck about this?” And we all were like, “Not really.” But, she didn’t get fired. In fact, next year she was the Principal. Anyway, she quit to attend AWP Conference. She used to drive up to me when I would skip class. And ask me if I wanted a ride anywhere. I didn’t but, I always took the same way whenever I skipped. Really the whole world is just a series of acquisitions. "Really the whole world is just a series of acquisitions.” And he fucking just started molesting the shit out of me. It’s so weird how guys act like they think they know everything. And girls are always just standing around agreeing with everything. The way they look in dresses makes me pissed because. I’m never gonna be cute enough. I’m never gonna be cute enough. To vomit on some dick dressed as a body cam. The inaugural quality of a first time throat FUCKING POLICED. I’ll never get to know how that feels. Or get used to the way cum tastes. I’ll always be this half-virgin sleeper cell. Because I fucking live with my parents. I fucking live with my parents. If I tear my skin off, it’s an embed of a Marxist protest. My fucking parents got lynched at a Marxist protest so it’s like really triggering. The dirty silk I scraped off of this papaya came from a worm and might become a handkerchief. My grandma hated being Blackfoot and my mother made me dress as Pocahontas all the time. It’s incredible how dumb these little internet bitches actually act. It’s like 2066 and we haven’t rly found any planets yet.
How to not keep doing the same thing forever except abruptly (dust is a pretty concept – a layer of all the befores remaining – but it doesn’t belong all over everything) / I have observed in myself some patches of magical thinking, how I pretty much believe the things that change other people won’t change me Maybe there is always a space between the happening and the noticing I thought that I could defer loss as long as I don’t sense it, as if you can’t be gone while I am / Let’s be honest about how much pain we’re in. How much we cause how we go about knowing something and then not knowing it anymore Your partner becomes a stranger if they go on hormones or go by another name. Suddenly you choose to not-know everything that has happened between you Is it so hard to know what we want? / I can see my body changing and it’s just as cool as all the vloggers we made fun of made it out to be / Some of the things you post on the internet make me not want to know you – but there are so few of us (transexuals) I’m figuring out that I can feel for someone and still have no fucking time for their bullshit I don’t know what the right thing is. Is it easy to just not bother? It is and it isn’t / I wake up, see the news, the blur of violence that recalls more like it, makes it feel like always Over green margaritas you say you’re looking for the long now the moment broadening to the scale of an epoch There are truckfuls and oceanfuls of migrants left idling or washing up on shores and reading about it on the couch your breath shook and mine too. Your father was lost in the desert for three weeks Then he made it out So when there’s a truckload of asphyxiated refugees who don’t make it out / Time collapses: there is one sadness, presently, but what you feel is every sadness you’ve ever experienced in thin coats of fear and sorrow flaking off / A science-type article says worrying makes the brain feel productive physically satisfied to be working on the problem at hand. Often the problem is the habit of worry. The slipping into it The brain, productive, not like efficient labor but like a cough: a repetitive thought busts open and something emerges from the rupture: new, slimy, generative / I didn’t know that I would like my body enough to show it to you We gazed at each other across a pink bath and fell asleep A new habit of ease, of warm, wet depth. We get to current in it. Softly there begin to be conditions where I could not worry, or less, or when I do there is something to rest on
I can’t find the newspaper account online of a Pilipino who cut off his own penis. I know I didn’t make it up. It was the late 90s. My family subscribed to a Filipino newspaper whose name eludes me now. I remember the newspaper’s name was in bold, red letters. Online, I find the New York-based Filipino Reporter, also bold & red. I type PENIS, MUTILATION in the search bar. Ten results come up but none about the Pilipino who cut off his own penis.
The Filipino Reporter’s tagline is FAIR, FEARLESS, FACTUAL. Lately I’ve been identifying myself as PILIPINO and PINOY, and become conflicted as to when to use the terms and, in conversation, with whom. The Filipino. The Pilipino. When I was a child, how long did it take me to learn to pronounce words that began with F and PH? I am PROM the PEELEEPEENS. I am PAIR, PEARLESS, PACTUAL. The parenthetical of my shame cups words like a mother clutching to her chest something fragile or forbidden, in a hurry to a white doctor who will deem the brown flesh she holds as irreparably damaged.
It was a (touch) & go situation.
The (man) had (cut) off his (own) (penis).
He and his (family) may have lived in Queens.
I unquestioningly imagined the ER doctor who saw them as (white).
He spoke (English).
Was the article in (English) or (Tagalog)?
Or in (Tagalog) with smatterings of (English), as when the doctor spoke?
The (son) had cut off his (own) (penis).
His (mother) found him.
She may have been accompanied by an (aunt).
He was not coherent.
The doctor expressed dismay at the (mother) and (aunt’s) decision to place the (penis)
in a container of (rubbing) (alcohol) and ice.
In her panic, she had (grabbed) her (son’s) dismembered (penis).
She asked her sister to fetch a cup or maybe it was a small cooler.
To fill it with ice and (rubbing) (alcohol).
Was the (penis) surrounded by the ice or did it lie atop the ice, bathed in (rubbing) (alcohol)?
[I realize I have been (fleshing) out the image without blood.
The (rubbing) (alcohol) turned red, and the ice.
The doctor expressed dismay (in English) at the (mother) and (aunt’s) decision to place
the (penis) in a container of (rubbing) (alcohol) and ice.
He may have said the ice was a wise decision, but the (rubbing) (alcohol) was not.
The (rubbing) (alcohol) made it impossible to save the (penis).
The (penis) could not be re-(attached).
a poem for Living Conditions Vol. I, benefit for CUNY CLEAR at Heck Brooklyn, Wednesday, February 8, 2017 in solidarity with those made vulnerable by Trump's travel ban.
let's start with the apocalypse.
everyone quits smoking in the face of unholy.
We used to speak of living in the wake clasp teddy bear tight
the promise of historical materialism. We said refuse
your commitment to economic
glaucoma. Marx claimed, apparently,
we will not turn to sand. Yet, enter
mockery cacophonous wall clocks
relentless announcement. We speak of living in wait
postscript, verdict like blood tests, nostrils
esophagi force fed with clean stench of toxic
fluid wiping above the vein. But who ever heard
of waiting room confidences while we're busy tucking
poisoned prognoses in the arch of our feet, for posterity
preservation? Because history now —
memory fails but I have delusions
of times of languages capacious.
I check my mouth
find it still packed with tongues.
At the podium
I stammer through pulling
teeth from my hair
in the dawn of something
for which I cannot yet force \term.\
someone says to me a whisper,
"allow yourself to feel joy."
old rages rendered ridiculous
are now elaborate, joyous illustrations of our
cunts, carried in the street in our name. Signs
for bodies long scarred by borders
checkpoints ghost stories
traversing ships gloved fingers in
our cavities: summoned,
the glaring thing.
the mirror admits, before the tides of farce
came in you leaned casually on our backs while
the Dow stroked intimately
your face. I'd repeat myself, but who has the energy
for old litanies while digging soil
with bare hands? I don't mean to be uncharitable.
We are well practiced in the arts of hospitality
we accept your invitation to the front line.
what do I say? Since you have a tradition
of giving me my words, give me a chant that explains —
the upstairs neighbor's cell phone vibrates
through the ceiling. It muffles through my walls.
In the face of archive disintegration I lay imitating its underwater
digital sounds, mouth opening and closing
goldfish afflictions before the scream of NPR
against the day.
how do I say?
let's start with the apocalypse.
from girlhood, my mother taught me to fear public restrooms, driving in the city early on-set womanliness and compliments from strange men, because a mother loves like milk sours on the kitchen counter | at noon | inside your locker | at 2AM but a father's love provides metaphor in | on-coming | traffic, rots you to the root— is a soft candy sucked hard against the molar complicit in sweetness a father wants justice to press hard against the man who rapes his daughter, whereas a mother knows no justice except a mother's love
erykah on the stereo bellowing a riff your body follows as you daydream about black mermaids neon pink crowns & brown skin long black plaits & pleated nothings & you question your beauty the bullet it possesses a trigger at your throat sunlight glitters the car the wind enters fumes gently palm trees & hennessy the night reaching for your neck 2am loneliness leading you to the kitchen eating the bloom of some forgotten fruit constellations move through your stellar body the moon & its avenues beckon you plays with the arena of your heart the boi who eats mushrooms every october always pets the bodega cat at every corner store goes to brighton beach in the winter lies in bed measuring his longing has sunflowers for ears calls your name & you cannot answer you simmer in smoke on a sudden corner the night adolescent the words at the heels of your mouth & you cannot find your name in the last hours of daylight the boi who comes to you in a tattered blues singing punk ballads puts your lips to rest on Malcom X blvd lets the clouds linger in your chest touches you where you bloom & leaves you black boi high
the dream always begins in summer smell of lilac in the air tiny departures of sun in the room where the lost hide i find you dressed in yellow i peel you & you tease the animal from my skin your vulnerability showing i hand you lace black vinyl i lie quiet in my skin find new geographies in you i let down my hair & become woman watch boxes fold & open your words softer than tissue i kiss your leaded eyes with a sharp ease knife to a pepper i lie in a pool of your black wonder why revolutions only seem to happen in dreams wonder if its been to long since I cried myself empty wonder how long its been since I've been gathered by a bed of ocean looking for a whole me wonder why I don't wonder when I'm with you
We were all tactility and absence of light and suspended up in space while drawn down into a grounded branching root. A constant mourning was all we called empathy before we didn’t. Roots touching feet touching limbs touching bodies touching empty touching time, until disjunction was the edges we made in the name of nonhuman – just living. Rearticulation becoming obsolete before the temporal resumed. I was nothing before I was, before I was connecting our oneness in function. We curled inward into mountains, speaking light with memory dissolving into everything spanning into time waves we rode until present-tense gesturing, stretching Earth and sky for origin for futurity. Crash, the length of sight allowing all-consuming grey. Flash, red onto structure onto whiteness onto was. Ash, in the lungs of our neighbors until stone. There is no language for the space between, where ascension also descends and the soul leaps at my center.
Ash plume falls into linger. Historical violence suffusing below. Scorched bone streaking brightness. All white and severe. Offending. Upending. Static amid shifting substance. But where is the origin? White wrists. White wrists. Again I obstruct a fracture to hack at. Again a tree reaches out past grey. I grow into ivory fruit above a crowd mid-swell. Until ripe ones drop like weaponry. Like assistance. Begging to match the agitation. Forcing dust quakes into cloud-mass. Shouting cheers of bone collapse. Pile hollow language. Hope a bridge will grow. I see the skeletal contrast but more vivid than before. A body motions standing. A body gathers dust with others. They’re surrounded and it’s all still levity. Dimming my white light pervasion. Processing what’s human while shrinking from the present. Again a fruit slams as distraction. Emotional contagion makes object of a swarming. Makes a mess of collectivity. If sustenance is subject, I starve. Wither into nothing. If this tree branch snaps, I make ruin of rebellion. The shine of me structures into crisis. Placing fear into a fury. There is no space for such reticence.
Trees absorb perverse incentives in biomedical research. It is either a function of the leaves or the malfunction of an expectation surface. Luminous powdered shapes indicate a way out, many ways out. One possible side effect was poriomania (wandering impulse) and we knew this but didn’t know our wandering would be guided by Red Gel X I wondered what it was like to put a cool hand in warm gel, a warm hand in cool gel. I compulsed and tried to reach in; it reached into me instead, a me of pathways variable with reward and reinforcement, a me of romantic executive collapse, the usual fun at the usual time. Poriomania and the question of where: is the place damp or arid? Quaking or still? Are the ley lines defined or is there need to sleuth? Bog, rill, fen, quarry, a grease spot on a simple two-axis graph, a gigantic grease or dumpster fire on a more complicated 3D graph. The clumps that function as labels are different from tonal spread. I/you go into a clearing where I/you see a yellow crash of water on rocks. I am prismatic apodosis; if I bust orpiment capsules in a gorge then you will be buttercup ocean hot yellow and medium hot yellow arsenic sulfide neither vegetable nor destiny streams which exhibit twinning in lifted swish. Venus sure can. I’m regifted spurting cobras fanned out into six separate medium hot yellow swills and the seedbed is wet, a creamy yellow, thinly netted at the worn bits, smooth golden yellow sometimes more clear-- mix your own god goop to stir the thought at which you are trying to arrive. I move all investments into biotech for cosmological Reason; make your own god goop from honeyball tea, orpiment mineral powder is collected from volcanic fumaroles, hot springs, water guns. Here come. Make your own god goop on the level of the neural circuit. I acknowledge subjectivity but don’t insist on it— this is why indignation is poison on the CIE chromacity diagram of my self-hole, a perforated channel of goo to justify the price of demineralized water, subjectivity made of many things; plashing fluo-yellow and sometimes clear god goop reservoirs where canon meets cannibal honoring the institutional role of ineffable purity. The mind is subspecific, held back by body-edge burning for all else. On one hand you have pylons with the foggiest words thus juxtaposed and on the other hand sunglow gush enacting the miasma of being left with goop.
An online journal of poetry and prose produced by Pratt Institute’s MFA in Writing, The Felt is interested in the creation and cultivation of emancipatory poetic spaces for felt sentiments that have been marginalized, displaced, or estranged from the dominant culture. Like the textile of its namesake, The Felt is an intricate entanglement unlimited in every direction. We strive to publish disobedient and daring work that invites departure, resistance, engagement, and the collaborative, tender-hearted making of new knowledge.
Complex experiences invite complex readings. Lived experience shapes and influences what we create and how we create it. We feel it is no longer viable to hold the artist separate from the work, and that the work is not bodiless. It is in the writing that the connection between body and language unfolds endlessly, and with variation. The Felt aims to undermine overwhelming whiteness and interrupt privilege through the creation and conservation of poetic spaces*—including and not limited to feminist, queer, POC, migratory, non-classist, non-ableist—in which revolutionary subjects can cultivate alternative realities.
*We acknowledge that this list is not exhaustive, impossible to complete, and constantly in flux.
Stephon Lawrence is a Brooklyn born & based writer and artist. Her work has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Queen Mob's Teahouse, GlitterMOB, Fanzine, & other places. Her microchap //GERMZ is available from Ghost City Press. And her chapbook //EVIL TWIN is available from Resolving Host. Stephon spends her free time watching anime, yelling about white supremacy, and being cute for the 'gram. You can find her on Twitter @nnohpetss & Instagram @alphaheaux.
Phoebe Glick is a writer interested in preserving queer intimacies under capital. She is the author of the chapbook Period Appropriate (dancing girl press, 2016). Her prose has appeared in Apogee, Entropy, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. She co-hosts Living Conditions, a reading series to benefit individuals in precarious positions due to our messed-up world. @phoebeglick
Luke.Degnan is the author of two chapbooks, MASCOT (forthcoming) and Umbra Nihili: a shady and nihilistic guide to consumers with Maria G. Baker. Previously an editor at BOMB magazine, Luke currently works at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY. His poetry and prose can be found in Word Riot, West Wind Review, Juked, and BOMB among other places. @phonedin
E..Tracy Grinnell is the author of five books, most recently Hell Figures (Nightboat Books) and portrait of a lesser subject (elis press). She lives in Brooklyn and is the editor and director of Litmus Press.