Forum — From the February 2017 issue

Trump: A Resister’s Guide

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In End Time

By Simone White

For some time, I’ve been experimenting with the possibility of my work becoming polyglot. The poems tap out from various sources an arrangement of words that are encircled by the facts of living. I had a child. I separated from my husband. I sank into a depression that did not feel like depression, that felt like revelation or the end of time or the end-time. I didn’t have enough money. I thought long and seriously about the music of Future (and superstardom constituted by a narrative of slow black death), I thought about Kanye West (not the first among rappers to anoint himself a prophet: Jesus-ish Yeezy, St. Pablo), I thought about this black art while living with and through crisis, and it was a comfort to me; it helped me to understand. I changed my life, not for the first time. I felt love again and then again. I had many jobs. I had no sex at all. I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I: I wrote as a black woman, as a single mother, as a person who is called to speech.

Nothing happens in my poems. They are not histories. I’m not in the business of telling people what to do. I think storytelling as a contemporary poetic act gives off an odor of death. (My life, my work, is counternarrative.) I push my art toward language that affixes itself to the energetic flux of events. The poem must ride the moment of danger.

For all these reasons, because I am struggling to survive the conditions of my life — a charmed life, in which I am free to exercise the right of imagination, to have pain and disturbance and loss and lack — I could barely acknowledge the political ascent of Donald Trump. This was not because I take no interest in elections or political processes or law. I trained as a lawyer because there is a part of me that believes freedom is structurally achievable, although that part is always fighting the part that believes it is impossible to eradicate hatred of black people, hatred of difference, fear of being different. As I struggled to maintain my health, my capacity to work two full-time jobs, my self-respect as a black mother entering into the narrative thicket of a failed marriage to a white man, I refused to watch Trump slither his way into a position of terrifying power on this, our only earth.

I began “MESSENGER,” the poem I have been writing for the past year, as a record of rededication during crisis to the calling of poetry, which is the practice of radical, transformative acts of imagination. I wrote in the light of the flashes of what I understood about the gap in time and language that experience had pushed me into. In my poem, which is not religious because I have no faith as such, a message is given by a figure who is variously a child, a lover, an angel, a punisher, a redeemer (whom I refer to as “?????????,” the evangelist). The writing has been a mode of communication, a lifeline, a gift, a refuge when the exterior world bore down with extreme and unbearable force.

I consider the president-elect of the United States an enemy of all that has made my life possible. But his election does not change my work, which is now and always has been imagining the possibility of un-bossed thought and life. There are no words yet for what is happening, but I listen for them gathering. The work is to wedge some language into the gap while the great change happens, to keep the space for language open. I will not be governed like that, I will not be governed by them.

????????? addresses the mother with no mate the mother who panics the mother who watches the others with dread and wonder the careless pleasure of other mothers in the presence of their children the hours spent in fear the isolation of motherhood the metempsychotic deprivation of sleep nothing you have is yours not even deposits of fat you are the nothing toward which the man nods in acknowledgment of your motherhood which is grand which is prostration which is the deactivation of all known powers which is the evacuation of power your share in the speechless condition of your baby speech rushes you freeze in the weakness of joint potentiality you cannot share yet you share you have no faith yet you must have faith this is a test this is not a test everything that was has been evacuated in your arms someone has fainted someone’s got a mote in her eye someone is pricked by ?????????, hunter.

I write books that few people read in a language that some people claim not to understand. I try to put my self and my work into the service of understanding the incomprehensible, which is, regardless, happening. I think it is possible to go crazy.

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