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  • (Black) (Queer) Love
  • Sharon P. Holland (bio)

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Sharon P. Holland

Callaloo © 2012

[End Page 658]

I may be love’s bitch, but at least I’m man enough to admit it”

Spike, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

When an animal gets sick here, they plug it into the wall.

Hushpuppy, from Beasts of the Southern Wild

The Kill Shot

It makes me sad to admit it, but I missed the particular planetary conversion that caused Buffy fever. Just like in high school, I was tuned into another vibe altogether when dinner conversations moved into Buffy-lore; I felt embarrassed by my own ignorance. But, like any twenty-first century multiple-episode watching machine, I have been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes on and off since the beginning of the summer. In one particular moment, Spike, a knock off of Sid Vicious only with real fangs, tries to school Buffy on her “friendship” with rival vampire “Angel”: “You’re not friends. You’ll never be friends. You’ll be in love til it kills you both. You’ll fight and you’ll shag and you’ll hate each other til it makes you quiver, but you’ll never be friends. Love isn’t brains children it’s blood screaming inside you to work its will.” I love Spike. Leave it to the undead to get the human right. Among the definitions of love, his rings truer for me than others because he does have a point about a certain kind of love—the one that straddles the line of hate so fiercely that it shocks you with its appetite for more of the same, please. In more ways than I can count this thing called black love has been packaged for us and on more than one occasion by us as a harsh and cruel thing. It is the forest that grows up between Sethe and Paul D in Beloved (“you got two feet Sethe, not four”), or the ships at a distance in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes; it is the kind of love contoured by the demands of the state in John Berry’s Claudine or fractured by misogyny’s consistent allure in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple. “Screaming inside you to work its will” indeed. What cable dramas like Buffy or even True Blood open up for us is the possibility of l’amour fou—a kind of love beyond our control and marked by the presence of the undead, thus taking on the question of relation, of love outside the boundary of the human. Having placed the category [End Page 659] of the human in a rather uncomfortable predicament vis-à-vis love, I would like to travel through this rather thorny terrain.

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Scene from The Horse

In Charles Burnett’s 1973 short film (13:50), The Horse, the first long shot is of two human figures and a horse in a very dry field next to a rapidly dilapidating two-story clapboard house.1 Music from Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (for voice and orchestra) plays in the background. Despite the idyllic and hopeful notes in the piece, despite the trace of James Agee’s now famous quote about his boyhood in Tennessee as a period of his life where he was “so successfully disguised to myself, as a child,” the scene is menacing in its stillness. The second shot is of a pair of wingtips worn by one of the three white men gathered on the still-standing porch; two talk to one another while the other paces back and forth. Elevated above the parched scene, the men converse and the scene moves to a yet another white man William (Gordon Houston) in a field rubbing his head. The next shot is of the back of a black boy (Maury Wright) rubbing the belly and shoulder of a beautiful, but undernourished dark bay horse.

The scene is one of slow deprivation and hardship, with the fancy shoes and socks and the shiny coat of the horse the only measure of opulence in the film. In the midst...