Independent pages Wave #3 Essay December 2020

Obi na’onu

Ella Finer & Sheila Chukwulozie

Mother generator, anticipator. Genius voice in the violence of daylight, the eternal morning. In the kind of city light that turns your eyelids red. Immediate work - present tense - sharp, she senses the need before the need appears. Riot nurse. Heart in mouth (an acoustic fit). The beat, the beat, the beat, the beat. The beats… How quickly our hearts make sense in sound.

Still, she sends her love. Love that never lands; love that hovers on the equator at night, wingless. Autocorrect, rarely correct, corrects wombless to wingless. She guesses, womblessness is winglessness - and she knows it is more than a guess. May be the machine telling us something about our floaty flighty bodies. About the maternal architecture of the insides; the spirit of the place we meet.

Some type of lie, that we write with anything less than our body—Anything less than our body searching for another. She makes a promise to herself to look at her hands more when she writes. Hands full of years. Yearful hands yearnful for the shape of the lost body, the searched for. She calls the ones who listen for the lost|the search party - they are there with her, doing the deep strange labour of grief. Searching for some grace|time in the city.

[1] [2] Ocean Vuong, Not Even This. Poetry Foundation, April 2020.

‘Time is a mother.’ [1] Heartbreak is always in the present tense. This truth is part of what I would have wanted…, she breaks the sentence as she speaks. It floats mid-air. It’s better this way, she thinks. Thoughts travel farther when they don’t end. Or maybe the thoughts become clearer in suspension when sound drops out – Hello? Can you hear me? Hello? Hello? Yes- I can hear you. Is there a lag? – when the connection is lost and the words take on new energies.

Find me, she says, in the wake of the words I write – in the body of my writing. If doors and gates can have their genius, why not the page?

And then the sentence appears. Father…don’t end. Heart in mouth she incants, ‘Time is a mother’. Her genius, of the mouth, of the city, where everything is a distraction from the nothing she wants to see \hear \taste \smell \breathe. They say she looks like her father’s mother. Mourning him like she bore him, she finds herself imagining new ways for him to come into this world. This grief of his many lives, lived and unlived. And then the sentence appears again. Father…don’t end. Thoughts travel farther when they don’t end. Or maybe the thoughts become clearer in suspension, when sound drops out, Hello? Can you hear me? Here in the lag –

The voice catches up with itself, but the thought has moved on, or with, or to the municipal graveyard: ‘I promise you, I was here. I felt things that made death so large it was indistinguishable from air.’ [2] Breathe deeper…end farther. This. Time. Farther. Suspended again, in this largeness we breathe into. In this largeness we breathe from. In this largeness that reminds us we are little instruments made of minute bones. Are the bone-hands on the clock face our own? Those that belong to Mother Time, and her father before her? It takes energy to forget, it takes work to make things invisible. It takes long circular reasoning/labour to speak unbelievable truths.

[3] Anne Carson, “Cassandra Float Can.” Float, New York: Knopf, 2016.

‘The prophet must prove to you that she is a prophet by telling you unbelievable news, which you will only believe if you already regard her as a prophet.’ [3]

Seasick in the city, sick with the noise when she wants to hear her heart. In this city, her tongue weighs three cars; her jaw feels made of metals. And in her metal mouth, the heartbeats sound like thunder. Noise is the most uncomfortable sin to bring near the ears of anyone who grieves. Believe, they are making their own. Noise that comes from nausea - no wonder her head is a storm at sea.

Somewhere under noise is an insistence that there is life being generated or that there is life worth generating. What is this under? And is it worth generating? Can the grieving find the strata under the sensorial chaos? She searches sha. She tries the quiet sport of writing. She can’t hear anything when she is writing; the writing swallows her into the frequency of its needing to be written. A frequency of her own, a frequency outside of range. Her outsider art for searching out of range, going under. On the count of three, 1, 2…

[4] Anna Tsing in “The Best of End Times: A Conversation with Anna Tsing.” Edge Effects by Charles Carlin, 2017.

[5] Max Porter, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers. Minneapolis: Graywolf Press 2016.

And while she is under, she reads of ‘other ways of knowing the world—snake spirits and volcanoes,’ [4] of the crow’s ‘warnings with dance and sub-low threats and voodoo and puns and spectacular ancient ugliness.’ [5] And she recomposes the road trip to the city, when she saw the play of the book Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, with a woman who she has lost to time. We got to see the show. I cried a few tears. Madeleine was bawlin’ her eyes out...we got a text from her mom telling her we were both living THE TIME OF OUR LIVES! She looks at the letters (yes in all caps like that) and wonders what on earth this means. [a smirk, then a laugh wide-mouthed at the words].

In the distance (for under is a landscape) she hears the lagging generator. The phase of current lags behind the phase of voltage. The beat and the beats felt. Affording herself some silence, she feels the lag twenty inches in her left side. Parts of the body, like two people on the phone, need to know they can still hear each other. She feels the lag in rhythm with energies from elsewhere - the cosmological shifts. This grace note of the lag, that makes just enough space for her to float.

And in this time, in this city, she was the siren of an open wound. Crying, writing, gliding through the universe. She repulsed. An insult to some that she could tear herself apart and still keep herself so…undead|together. That she was suffering so much, and surviving just as much, was preferred to be imagined and unrealized. Unimaginable and unrealizable. It’s easier to live a certain life when you hold “impossible” close at night, the Voice in her head would say to her in the bathroom, and then continue over breakfast, It is challenging to wake in the morning, only to find that the stagnant noise of “impossible” is a mystery elsewhere and what you thought was the world’s impossibility is only yours. Only your burden and maybe your only burden. The others? All they hear in their dreams is the silence of the possible. The stillness before the storm of what gets born and thus becomes possible. Formed from nothing but a dance of darkness and desire, the possible arrives. A bouncing baby something, born despite the dark womb and definitely because of it.

She chewed her yam. She repulsed. And she lives.


Footnote: Hail Mary, full of Grace. Full of repulsion. Full of creation. I hail thee. And now that there’s a glass in hand, you know what? Hail all my hoes, bad bitches, sun sisters, riot nurses, weird witches, tired of taking shit generators of possible generations orchestrating new possibility, you are full of Grace. You will repulse. And you will live on. Heart in mouth—a beat, a beat a beat, a beat—and still, you will do it. Humming like the strange generator in the violence of daylight…

Go back to The Heart in her Mouth

Go to Het Hart in haar Mond

Go to Alqalbu Fi Fammiha | القَلبُ في فمّها

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