Interview for Another World | Julietta Singh

Image courtesy of Julietta Singh

Image courtesy of Julietta Singh

Q: How do you think?

I think what I cannot know. I think what I live too intimately, that force is another way to name living. How the sheepish moon followed me through the cream Pontiac’s window, how it whispered its love before the infamous beating that broke our wooden spoon on my sister’s screaming back. Twins, before we unstitched our flesh-minds from the other, for good. The feeling of infinity. The way we played mind over matter until it was no longer possible to pretend there was any difference.

I think through love songs, written for rotten things.

Q: Where is your memory?

I am not autonomous: having swallowed
my father’s earliest memories, I digested
the Partition of India, making me
a turbaned boy in 1947. As accented mime,
I finally confessed what he never told.
I opened my mouth queerly, and spilled
about the small girls ripped into death
dropping straw dolls from hennaed paws;
their mothers, grand-mothers, diving
into wells to bloat themselves against shame.
Though he did not tell, some small history
(the last human thing he sexed into being)
would learn to read and write, to decipher
such hideously metastasized memories.

Q: What are your seams?

I began to wonder whether the edges of my body were as discernible as they seemed.

Can we look at each other and say this is the distance between us? Or here, this is our edge?

I learned to name the bodily canals that tunnel between inside and out—ear, mouth,
nostril, vagina (I have not forgotten the anus, harder as it is to pronounce):

I learned these with medical authority, articulate conviction.

I began to wonder then whether I was more than an inventory of articulated canals, whether
I was seeping unwitnessed into other openings, imperceptibly devouring other bodies.
Whether I was becoming infinitely more and less than what was perceptible to the eye,
the touch, what we keep naming Science.

Shedding toward and metabolizing the other-object: the delicious fiction of discrete
separation. (We unthinkable creatures.
We fabulous becoming-beasts.)

Q: What births are yours?

i. The viscous jut of animal blood, the tangled ruby membrane
that held a startled gaze, then flushed itself into other lives.

ii. The memory I cannot have of a seasoned uterus expertly contracting
in time with a taxi’s speed. The immigrant driver could not have guessed
that one who mirrored him would pass immanently through this heaving
white woman, her seams widening per kilometer, eager to expunge
the crumpled brown mammal, to return to the labor of other mothering.

iii. The one who dreams she might detach these coveted breasts
from my body and fire them in the kiln that smokes behind the house,
to preserve them for another life. This murderous maternal dis-
memberment, her most coveted wish.

Q: Why do you bleed?

The bleeding you imagine is temporary, and mine.

You wonder over the menstrual, the sloughing
and shedding.

But let me answer to other blood, other kinds
of bleeding.

1a) I knew a woman once whose nose would spurt
red every time she was held by an intimate;
This posed a kind of problem for intimacy.

1b) The summer I felt captive in the woods, my ears
were swarmed and ravaged by small insects

whose life spans were vitally miniscule. The fire
and swell of my appendages were other-worldly,
monstrously sculptural. I became, almost, mad

with the pus and bloody ooze of them.

1c) My body leaks feeling and fluid, leaving me
to wonder how Lake Agassiz dried and withered,

how decay could become so effortlessly stunning.

2a) The pedagogy of my mother was a practice
of ceaseless work, of forgetting the body.

In my youth, she left sanitary napkins, saturated,
affixed in abandonment beside the toilet:

What lesson was this? The pulse and intrigue
of peeling away her cyclical forgetting.

What a hushed, meticulous life it was—to become
the stealth disposer of another’s bodily detritus,

to learn life through the erotic spill of a mother’s
fleshy, cast-off love.

Author Bio:

Julietta Singh is Associate Professor of English and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at the University of Richmond. She writes and teaches at the intersections of postcolonial studies, feminist and queer theory, and the environmental humanities. She is the author of Unthinking Mastery: Dehumanism and Decolonial Entanglements (Duke University Press, 2017). Her creative work has appeared or is forthcoming in poetry and cultural criticism venues such as American Poetry Review, Social Text, and the Journal of Postcolonial Writing.

Women & Performance