- The Word’s Image—Self-Portrait as a Conscious Lie
From where I am sitting—at my Moroccan table in my Parisian studio flat back from Corsica, the isle of France to depart from and go back to, in the summertime transition, between family and friends, cousins and neighbors, anonymous night lovers and the parts of the self to hold to, books unread, half-read, to be read, shamelessly spread on the table and by the bed, Bill Readings’s Dans les ruines de l’université, Lawrence P. Jackson’s The Indignant Generation, Jane Anna Gordon’s Creolizing Political Theory, and, on the right, slightly further, on the extra-bed shifting tangent of beloved bodies curled in silence from the muffled noisy streets of the capital city, neatly framed by turquoise and pink cushions that my mother disturbs when she visits, alone, not read yet, Foucault’s Subjectivité et vérité. They suspend the gaze trajectory, the unfolding room. The syncopating walls behind which I know they lie and hide, Jean-Noel Pancrazi’s Indétectable, Paul Gilroy’s Black Britain, Fatou Diome’s Celles qui attendent—read—Emmanuel Carrère’s L’Adversaire and La Classe de neige—no, they’re back on the bookshelves but I’ve read them (there is no room)—Marguerite Duras’s Ecrire—re-read—Dany Laferrière’s L’Enigme du retour—unread—the French translation of John Ashbery’s The Vermont Notebook—half-read, half-understood (which half?)—possibly not understood at all, but salvaged, still. For “forsythia.” The remanent “forsythia”: the whistling tree that grows on page sixty-nine and in my home garden, back in Corsica, and whose song sings alike in both tongues—French and English. Wondering how it sounds in Corsican. I don’t know my own tongue. My father’s tongue and mine rolling around men’s long devouring kisses of meat and spit. Fleshing words before they can be mouthed. In the garden, in Corsica, our home, [End Page 225] my father calling its name. Forsythia. The real forsythia. In French. Not his mother tongue. Forsythia (even more beautiful in italics and whistling still).
From where I look—the perspective narrowing like a camera focus, through the in-between space left by the wall, maimed or unfinished, of the split room—at a short distance, almost at hand and arranged aesthetically, I thought (it’s not aesthetics, it’s room), I see them. Blue and red. Oblong shapes of tense muscles—the fantasy to come of arching bodies and faces distorted with pleasure and pain—repeating the same to and fro movement. Down the road in the neighborhood swimming pool, the blue waters of the bathhouse, red towels covering naked men’s waists circling—I, too, am a stranger—the white hollow, the lighted curve between the walls of soon emptied cabins. I see it. The vanishing opening fissure that has no name. It stares at me.
The pictures hang on the wall and I can see five of them. The other two are invisible but felt and remembered enough to be written about. A journey and a pause. This is what they stand for and what it is all about. Trajectory. I keep those unseen for the end.
Génération is for my mother and her family. After Toni Morrison. The story not to pass on, Beloved ’s 60 million and more flowing through my sleepless English nights, as I awakened in the dead, emptying myself like a fucking meteor. I made it in one night in a bathtub. The coffee color is real coffee, beans and liquid. In the febrile emergency of those who know they are dying (there is no time) and with what I had at hand. Coffee, teabags, paper, cardboard, my schoolboy pastels. Bare feet in the bathtub spilling coffee over everyone and the teabags, now absorbed in the board fabric, like disoriented arrows in search of meaning slipping through the continents, slaving for Europe’s and America’s wealth and paradigms of signification, watching, impatient, my impatient watching, what would come out of my memory cooking. From the black blood ocean I midwifed in...