APR 2019

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OBRIGADO (FOR/FROM/AND/WITH)

The question of any you that emerges as you draw language out of you can only be partially answered by the writing itself. Barthes: "The text you write must prove to me that it desires me. This proof exists: it is writing."1 The you is always there, just like every text is fucked up in some way; but does the writing know it and what does that have to do with the power it grants you. How do we write to ourselves in honor of an other between a beloved and a nightmare—grateful, beholden, forced, bound, indebted; I needs you. But as the time of my living and writing goes on, my allergy to the presumption of shared values (as a function of pronouns, tone, you name it) in conversations and writing has become a full-on condition. My intensity hums between the necessity and the problem of such presumption between I and you. But to communicate is urgent. I feels charged with messages.

Some part of me wants to get through to you, to convince you of something.2

*

Sometimes I think I learn most about you—Moten's sometime "flex principle"3—from durational readings of full texts in rooms full of people with a single book open on our laps, a procession of singular voices coming through some mic on some dais, some echoic corner, my own internal reading voice, and all the internal voices, almost as audible. All the differences in the sounds and cadences you make up there, the one in my own body, against the text you shares, the constant reminder of other bodies making their own internal sounds, meanings.

*

I want to know if you believe her, this Kristeva, at the end of Revolution in Poetic Language, if you can digest the dare. What controls what words I release from myself, is it a you opposing another you, how big is that you, and who does what you include? Moreover: what do I lose by really naming the process which has constructed me and you as beings in language, through my language? What destroys, what creates, what destroys in creation, what creates in destruction—sometimes this is you, and this becomes an ethical question. "The ethical cannot be stated, instead it is practiced to the point of loss, and the text is one of the most accomplished examples of such a practice…"4

To make a practice of refusing a certain legibility as a condition of my I, how does this cast you. Kristeva's dare: what's "crazy" is believing that the meaning of the word you "choose" (in the language you use, among so many languages) can be controlled by you. What's "sane" is throwing the dice of this language and marrying yourself to chance as a fundamental condition of you (the reader?) your language, how it flies outward, how it is received.5

*

Freedom for/from the you? My language comes from me coming from a you that exceeds the present and the singular. I know this through being and reading, shadowing and singing other people, texts, songs—feeling them as though they were mine, not mine. "A colonizer's language:" I wrote, "English, to long for other languages."6 And for that longing to be expressed as theft, or to fire vital reparation. For the longing to write from belief: I, meaning a mix of matter and possibility beyond the I.

*

When I want my "you" to surge from the particular to the unpredictable many. Renee Gladman: "an act was everything and location was everywhere."7 There is something irresponsible about this, but it has meant the development of a practice of losing control from inside the goal of trying hard, of seeking to identify beyond myself toward meaning I can't predict. Still naked, still reading The Pleasure of the Text out loud in your bed. To insist on my own multiplicity, to verge the polyvocal does not preclude this radically particular, structurally shaped and signifying body in its contexts, with its powers, its (in)capacities, its needs.

*

Admit to the you born of damage, and the you born of intimate study, of devoted, demanding attention, increasingly, of the willingness to fail with love. In the fantasy, like a child, like a teacher, I want to be in the room in the clearing with you and the text, make sounds of it, accept the degrees of light and darkness there are to work with, return the words to the bodies, receive the testimony, sense the nature of the sensing instrument of what's given, reckon with the devastation and the awe. I want to excavate the names of the room, the land, where it is, what funds it, acknowledge who is there, who isn't, what you are and are not allowed to do there—in the poem. With you, I want the you to be working for lived intensity and the real questions of the being with.



  1. Roland Barthes, Pleasure of the Text (Hill and Wang, 1976), 6.
  2. You are on the 2 train that makes my building rumble; you were reading "to me" last night; you do and do not think you know what I believe; you long, you wait, you eat, you pace, you write; you, your lives are determined by a carceral state; you signal my presence with a nod; you are at a desk in a windowless box made of concrete brick; you ask for more money with a sound and a letter; you touch my face after a long time; you suffer from a pain that lights up every sign; you walk right through me as though I do not exist; you initiate the bureaucracy; you are plain you are glorious; you are present in your absence; you buy me a drink I do not want; you chew the soil with your wet heart all open; you aggress and forbid with your purchase; you're far away, preoccupied with a power dynamic that defines your life; you're on your bike on your way to my place with something beautiful in your bag; you...
  3. Fred Moten, The Feel Trio (Letter Machine Editions, 2014), 16.
  4. Julia Kristeva, Revolution in Poetic Language, (Columbia UP, 1984), 234. 
  5. I am singing with Queen's "Love of My Life" over and over as I write this, with the lyrics open on the side, because it's been playing in my mind since a friend of mine sang it as part of their show, "because you don't know what it means to me," because poetry should refuse a romantic you that circumscribes the possibilities of acting toward love.
  6. Sara Jane Stoner, BAC Story: James Allister Spring, Jan. 15, 2019.
  7. Renee Gladman, Calamities, (Wave Books, 2016), 70.

Contributor

Sara Jane Stoner

Sara Jane Stoner is a teacher, writer, and PhD candidate in English at CUNY Graduate Center. She is the author of Experience in the Medium of Destruction (Portable Press @ Yo-Yo Labs, 2015), nominated for a Lambda Award in poetry.

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APR 2019

All Issues