JAI ARUN RAVINE Reviews
POEMS OF THE BLACK OBJECT by RONALDO V. WILSON
(Futurepoem Books, New York, 2009)
In the opening circle of the 2009 Kundiman poetry retreat, Ronaldo V. Wilson was thinking about the texture of his mother’s sewing room. At close we danced to top 40 singles, each break and pop a release, as if we’d both been waiting to beatbox our bodies. Later we leaned on a ramp railing in a campus parking lot, letting night slick our sweat. Soaked, I sat next to Myung Mi Kim, whose laughter had punctuated my diva glam. This is part of it, too, she said.
Am thinking about the moment between feeling and the written text, action and the ‘said’ thing, the ‘felt’ thing, the grasp is the point, but then what is the gasp or the breathing... (46)
PRINT //: SPACE (47)
Borrowing Ronaldo’s curve I use it as a gate, a leant equivalence, an “as to” askance. “//:” = the gasp, the moment when Eileen Tabios “tears up the book,” when limbs fling out, guttural burst.
PRINT //: )SPACE( (47)
At a Small Press Traffic reading in San Francisco on March 13, Ronaldo showed up in an impeccable dress suit and shoes, reading from Poems of the Black Object and talking about cock. His voice cut and slammed words into small crevices, then the corners fell out and air whistled through the letters—I sensed a luminous, dirty, sparkling, pulsating precision of something completely uncontrollable. And then he sang some.
...singing taught me a little something about blackness and being as a collective sight... (43)
As I think of him standing before the microphone the angle was indeed “//:”; I think of the word “gleaned,” the consonant ‘g’ sliding off and into the water below, descending slowly to what we wait and hope to be an end, teasing us in its claim to incompletion, in not letting us see.
To go under, to go down, to avoid, to sink, to slip, to see the idea of confronting the head-on collision in being found. (45)
PRINT //: SPACE
While reading Poems of the Black Object I bookmark the page with a metal clip. Not my usual library checkout receipt, it’s a sloped leaf or back gashed that dips to a bulbous bitten stem. Bent to eat the page, nudged between its teeth until it breaks.
I write notes to Poems of the Black Object on recycled paper with a red uni-ball vision fine point whose tip leaks. A found pen, not my usual blue or black generic 99 cent store purchase. I skim the excess ink off the nib and write “it //: memory (97).”
I think of the composition of Poems of the Black Object as a series of poses, “...breaking apart language and pointing us in new directions and modes through which to spear space. SPEAR!” (46)
COMPOSITION //: POSE
In a bookstore I find a copy of Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man, but not Poems of the Black Object, which I brought in my bag to read bits of on the train before the onset of motion sickness—“The Breaker’s Pose” inbound, outbound through “Vergelioian Space.”
And now, what would a thematics after (gas p) loss, silence, hiding, hindrances, gaps, cuts, slits, vacancies, holes, (ga sp) desecrations, ah-loves, olives pose or manifest or re-pose or (g asp) anti-manifest? (44)
I wanted to hear the gasps between Ronaldo’s words in unpredictable spaces, see the text in motion. A friend and I skirt Union Square and hunker through North Beach to the Poetry Room in City Lights, late. We read Dorothy Parker, Nathaniel Mackey and Audre Lorde out loud, my friend is thinking about Caliban, I pull Aime Cesaire’s A Tempest and Notebook of a Return to the Native Land from the shelf—)“‘I have wandered for a long time and I am coming back to the deserted hideousness of your sores.’”(—and I think about breaking the image.
NARRATIVE //: FOUND PHOTO (57)
Ronaldo’s very tiny Filipino mother throwing a very big, expensive bag at the lead dancer of a Swedish avant-garde version of the Nutcracker (44) made me laugh. It’s one of the reasons I wish my Thai mother and his mother could meet. I imagine them like old junior high BFFs watching tennis on television together, riled and emphatic. Like Ronaldo’s mom she doesn’t have any fat on her either. She stopped eating meat, sugar and carbohydrates. She likes 100% fruit and vegetable juice and Kashi, but only if it’s on sale for $2.25 a box at Big Lots.
NOT TO LOOK AT //: BUT TO THINK OF (57)
In an interview with Bookslut (http://www.bookslut.com/features/2010_03_015753.php), Ronaldo asks, “...what are the ways that one imagines a revised self that detaches into pieces whose embodied fragments mark the process of its own new becoming?”
To identify with the fractured self, the process of the it forced apart by language, again, is where the self explodes out of the text not by narrative as story – one act – but more simply as found photo – another act – as forming poetic. Becoming through narrative, or becoming by reaching lazily under a bed to find something valuable, or again, more simply, digging under one object and stumbling on meaning asks: Does this narrative begin in a black hole? Does it create another diasporic space? Is this space black? Is it a black? (57-58)
Ronaldo’s lines break like the space between frames in a film, where the image breaks into another image similar to but not exactly like it, as in a photograph of a transgender person of color’s brutal murder, published as news, the body misgendered and shadowed again in death. Or the space between pornographic nakedness and a desire for that image to come to life, to fulfill you.
Poems of the Black Object writes itself into a flow as in a dream, where one thing (wet walruses) replaces another (bloody boxers). In “Dream in a Fair” one line replaces the next—Ronaldo writes “one layer of sense into another” (58)—his breath breaks the lines across the gap, after the gaps, becoming lucid—as in the pause between exhale and inhale—as you would between breaths—that turn, that shift, that erasure, that reveal. Like Kazim Ali in Bright Felon—“...one line after another, one thing and then another disappearing....obliteration. What I want to do now is find myself somewhere or to disassemble into air.”
Each shot (photograph, point, poem, sentence) my memory, truncation, embrace, deferral, a poetics, is not writing out of or into, but through the center of whatever I mark to be the current state of what is the deliberate gesture in:
It is impossible to say who I am. (59)
Through the center. Through.
Jai Arun Ravine is a transgender-identified, multi-disciplinary writer, dancer, visual and performing artist of mixed Thai and white American heritage and the author of the chapbook IS THIS JANUARY (Corollary Press, 2010). Jai received an MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University and a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies from Hollins University. A Kundiman fellow, Jai’s work appears most recently in the Journal of Southeast Asian American Education and Advancement and is forthcoming in Drunken Boat. For more information, visit http://jaiarunravine.wordpress.com/