GRIS GRIS

by dean bowen

chased into a no-man’s-land & got lost. i’ve seen its ugly. un-named it border between heart & aching. i’ve known both to cast shadows & there is a viciousness behind these facades. a masking of not a pure thought born from a nagging hunger buried inside this thing fearing its own obsolescence & i tease it out. call it fire. let it embrace me whole as i hold my breath. this is a strategy for survival. a daily death-defying to be shared with others anointed within this blazing, raging & i’ve known this since i was called ‘child, you see too much’. how some shades of dark are axioms, borne. like skin. a shapeshifting dynamic allowed through a dominant gaze. i was bred to maintain within this haunting & i’ve let it drag me into alternative slumbers. a speculative paradigm to shift & maybe this is just some of what was intended for somewhere else. or some time else but do you remember (?) how you too believed in something we both now fail to recall. remember (?) how there’s no unburdened version of boy, considering boy was told to fare light. to bury everything, known or owned within borders of body. yes, sir. no sir, as only valid responses to a routine assault & i do not carry any last demands. no bullets for an impending conflict & hold onto no love letters for no one that got away. sometimes compromise is a pressed ear to hot asphalt. listening for the rumblings of a memory guiding us back to familiarity. a texture reclaimed through a pulsing earth, mimicking my grandfather’s dying & there’s always that rhythm leading us to somewhere, we’ve been before & call a temporary home. i’ve done this too often. made myself at home within someone or somewhere i didn’t belong, too often. try however not to burden any of you. discerned that we all heal in disparate ways, but i’ve got something crimson alive in me & at my pockets. tried presupposing something akin to a god. lost it in a drunken lull & i drink so well. there’s nothing to see here. there’s everything to forget. like how i too remained in the thralls of a mounted beast i call church or chain or endless & aren’t we all endured by something decaying beneath us. birthing a fertile soil cradling all of what we were intended to become & it’s become that time of year again. spring sees colorful the blooming of our histories & that scent is strong. is my momma’ cooking. a season iridescent. booming instruments of a secret second line & a hidden presence talking in too thick a french creole accent laden with whatever was these horrors’ true north. i’ve willed all of it into existence. have scoured the empty of my native lands & brushed them up against the elements eroding everything which was to be called return. to be called…whatever, as long as we kept it intact. now i recognize boy merely as an anatomy to wound before it may emerge again & in doing so, i have painted him an american gothic, revamped. an attempt at entering through a magic sanctioned in the code-switch. every mark is a mark & rests upon something received. a cut through the odd of my ways. reduced to that modality called inbetween & through these meditations i’ve become negative space; an ikebana approach to a wasteful backdrop. a rigorous actualization deterred. i was learning to listen. found only how to hold a tongue. to mold body into attentive gesture. i am softshell pose now, made into distortion like un-naming is a border & am a foregoing of narrative. now ask me. if this is all that’s left of my love. i will say it’s a wanting to hurt so intensely, it is to be understood as a desire for heritage or heresy. i’ve acquired nothing here. this is not that kind of story. not a memory to hold for an expansive generational divide. i wanted to converge in the garden. r.i.p. something apart in the garden but these blossoms are too thick & wild & thorn. i know this to be no escape. nor an active refusal of what was shaped to be origin & isn’t origin merely a mispronunciation of a foreign account. boy is fighting to become boy again, if only to avoid mistakes made & scarred over. in this craquelure, i am very much my father’s son, but a momma’s boy separated by almost one third of a planet’s timelines & battling all my worst instincts. maybe new orleans is a bad instinct or the way of things i’m not able to avoid. a temporality exposed for bargaining chips, because who’s got time for an honest wager? gentlemen play gentle games, but death is a guest too familiar in this playhouse. boys do not grow into gentle men, if guests become native to their home. ‘when?’ is a question i don’t familiarize myself with. ‘when?’ is for those afforded that time. trust only this bullseye of black body, though i have obtained a vocabulary capable of projecting it into future tense. say things like: ‘i will know, what i’ve always wanted to become.’ now tread softly. for you tread on no dream deferred. we won’t disturb the neighbors again. there’s blood we know that was spilt there & we needn’t upset the contrast. preferentially, i’d rather see lover in unsure resurrection become tradition to my mornings. why would anything else matter. we’re sinking away. all of us, sinking away in louisiana swampland. see us now building our castles in the sky & burying our kin on top of land distilled, not for us of hollowed out existence. analog to a variable empty while tipping the vendors of our solace a dollar a drink. i know of nothing to be held self-evident & no one to be created equal. all of it is afflicted. all of it addicted to cold brew, cocaine & bloody mary sainthood. falling is tremendously light glee. trauma the mere impact of aforementioned messiness. i take no delight in baring the lesions in this tongue twisted, like braid of trans-atlantic discomfort & settler neutrality. i was raised by this common era to be an audacious denial of a common cause. to exchange mere pleasantries camouflaging the volatility of my nucleus. this fission of emotional labor, last hoorahs & fuck-what-you-heard dialectics, is resistance to a side-eyeing pig & the old daughter of older men not fit for modern times. i have heard no niggers directed at me, felt more nigger than ever before. yesterday, i was flower sprouting from umbilical cord. a boy sitting under a singing tree. today, i am doubled negation. maybe i’ve done this before. maybe there’s value in collecting these moments of impact depression to sequence from them, a score for orchestral amplification. boy is suspicious man working through some shit, but don’t leave him alone. we’ve been left alone for too long & went rogue. now look at us. don’t we look lost? i’ve been chasing my own shadows. saw in them only possible ways of ending up. an outline for suffering & neighborhood warzones. they’ve accounted for our lesser desires, but who challenges the sentinels on the corners? menacing interludes to a knock-knock joke. let us think at this absurdity. stumble through what is no language for. a violence familiar to a global articulation opened as another echo of theories considered universal. they speak of bell curve & none of it is metaphor. none of it that mania called melancholy. it can’t be. these are no stories for bedtime habits. my dear friend. i’ll try & recall all of our encounters as key episodes of a turbulent life. but how does one talk of wilder days when all we do is clean up after ourselves. we are mixed intentionality. a progressive gesture flaunted on our way back to a homeland being occupied. they’ll grant us our rations of allegory, fatigue & sign-language wielding. such is the ability to repeat our most destructive instincts, but once upon a time, i remembered how presence wasn’t the same as attention. aired out my biases & became two with my nature. now, reimagined through honest eyes, i find myself an unpleasant critique of attitudes held up to the altar of my isolation. ritualizing the differences. ferociously on the move, for a dopamine fix. i have no idea how to distinguish between absence & inadequacy. this being a lifespan already & i’ve used that time to build an ark for missisppi-delta fickleness. say now what you’ve come to say. my time is limited & alchemy is still a new endeavor i’ve yet to explore. do not step on this galaxy-sized tapestry laid out before you. it is all we’ve yet to grow into. dear america, i’ve seen what cherished blackness looks like. my european tainting rendering me safer than boy on corner mobilized. what fictions do we tell ourselves & which ring true in a silence imposed? i’m not optimistic about our chances. how many times will we be allowed to return to this starting point. too much is napalm scorched yesteryear, ignored. years ago, everything changed. now boringly everything still does. we crescent upward into translation. a piercing dialect & who remembers what home sound like anyway. i hold a key to a locked door & find a hidden speakeasy in the backyard. ‘thank you’ for sharing these hidden gems. ‘thank you all’ for reminding me of myself as thing amongst these things. an unconfirmed expectation in a discomforted glance, revealed as the underpinning inertia of not yet despair. whether we were too loud, or they too unconcerned, all of our heavens are unruly & ecstatic possibility. finite nimble boy now tries to decipher the blisters of when he outstretched his arms to an unforgiving sun in thick blanket southern air. boy, as a symbol of a languishing decorum espoused by elegant creatures, makes no attempt at reaching for an ointment of sorts to soothe the sting. bread & games distract from any empathy thrust inward. i too, complicit while an uber-driver drops me off at a maple leaf bar for a pilgrimage to holy ground. a small haven for ragged souls craving the residue of an infectious affirmation. they’re of a similar tribe & amongst these living works, I serve no purpose other than breathing into. all this life as a self-affirming ambition that speaks continuously of other. doug & megan & sky are others & a lineage sung into. maybe we should turn around while we still can. detour past the railway tracks & disappear. ‘when?’ seems an inevitable question, bubbling up, but now i’ve got no strategy for attacking it. maybe, i was wrong before. maybe, all of this out loud thinking is enough. i remember now. this is what I came for. to be reminded, i’m from everywhere else. if i die at the end of this sentence. don’t think it was of a labored life but a fallowed searching in a hungry world, navigated to where we death trapped all angels for political depths. if ever, you were to think of this moment again. crack open a window & whisper ‘I remember that boy.’