The ideal rock & roll song is 3 minutes long | Rachel Ellis Neyra
To be read aloud. In memoriam, José Muñoz and Terry Adkins.
1. The ideal rock and roll song is 3 minutes long, and I’m Listening for it like it’s living to listen for sensual disclosure.
Ennobled things caress my ears awash in Atlantis deep water Sounds that change to gut-wrenched viscera
And change again so that viscera becomes a hibiscus Crooning to light’s soft-petal touch.
Tympani trumps organon. José and Terry are gone, are At work, at play drumming messages on philosophy’s chest:
Dear incarcerated and stultifying world, stop presenting as Desirous. Let the good times roll.
Westlake street lights on brown palms. Numinous lambency. Red-lit exit. Ear to the hold and feet cut running. But running still.
Engel and Auto-wah. Mu-tron and Duino. The Muse circles Nothingness and it blooms fracture. Mu flips into Wu and fractures
So there’s a chance for those who we are not to live, And to know in the not that we wooed towards them.
2. Rise in six, thought, fall back in five, but form survives by some Variation on the theme. So I wonder,
Is Utopia where the blessed but in debt are twice as blessed And there is no debt
‘Cause the creditor converted to postmorality, Or just hung it the fuck up, as in, was ruined.
Destroyed again and again. Again and again You play it just to feel being one more time.
Is Utopia like The Arctic: the end of the world That is already here as at the edges of here
Which erupts a little bit of here into there as there flirts with here But mostly allows there to just be there.
So is it like The Ideal Club. Like a brown on black on blue no-place Becoming a dance floor for beast-angel Virgils
Whose erstwhile immanence is so dirty it’s funky, Since funky’s the only way to survive this shit.
A Cuban poet for a cyber-bitch. So, now and then when it really feels like it Can I say, I’m such a Cuban poet. This bridge called
I wanna be your dog. Fort, da dámelo todo, you demand, Gimme gimme that
Not more emptiness as self-identical misery-maintenance, Will, but as Wu this, Wu that.
I’ll Mu yours if you’ll Mu mine. And I wish in the face of Wú,
Bring the motherfuckin’ ruckus. Fist up and fist banging. Wu Tsang and Wu- Tang verge so that two Wus make a Yes.
Two wrong lives don’t make a right but bottle-it up and Go for heaven as ruckus.
Meteor Stream and Polar Star. Black Beethoven and Muffled Drum. The Accompanist plays time into left field.
Just cruising toilets in the lit-up brown commons. El tiempo es prestado y lo cambia todo. World-making as exit strategy.
Terry and José asymmetrize our asymptotia because almost touching For infinity is our condition, and it ain’t enough, motherfucker. Torn up.
Gone. Gone. Gone. Remaindered. Now layered. Now dropped one onto the other in This room. This uncanny mix-tape bends my body, like
Iggy Pop, like my spine was pawned for an alien Muscle that lets me kiss my own ass,
Re-shapes me like what’s at stake is the very deconstruction of Heaven and hell.
They make me want to shape another world’s promise to the sound Of Empty Foxhole and Lexicon Devil, the lullaby.
Like Cherry, like Braxton, like Hendrix, Crash’s Germs and Bad Brains, they make Wildness and rumpus and woulds become Yeses: Yes-worlds.
Shape a statement like a tickled tummy. Like a pickled pepper.
Like a belly giggle that gives over to Leadbelly’s blues.
Like okra and arroz con pollo and Sun-Ra On a silver platter.
José’s munching ice, crunching ice and rocking himself into speech Shadowing Katie in her escapes. Que cabrón.
Terry’s saying Unknown Unknown Unknown like he’s God Saying Banishéd for the first time.
Their end of the world noises, Fred says, are inventing The beginning of the world.
I’m going to believe that as blackly as I can. Like I believe that all the lynchings
Under all that law extend the sea monster tentacles of enlightenment That your Lone Wolf sounds wrestle, Terry,
Wrestle down, turning history’s maw’s death groan into a crow’s Crossed with a brontosaurus’.
3. You’re farther out there than the Jetsons. Or Planet of the Apes’ plot. Way way Way way out there. Past my fingertips, which are the end of what I know.
You’re sharing a rocket now, ecstatic, reciting Delany and laughing Together at how scared you were at how scared you were the time when
Your breath left and your heart broke like an over-tuned drumhead. Broke hard. And then you realized you were outside yourself.
But that you’d always been this world’s best friend even on its coldest nights. That you’d spilled ink and blistered blood for it,
What’s wrong with it, what’s more livable than it. Dark as duende, Diviner than circumference are the sounds of their worlds, love.
Cut it short, punk. Let Black Beethoven blow like he’s sending this bitter earth into a black hole.
[This elegy was written shortly after José’s and Terry’s deaths. Both scholar-artists were to participate in the symposium, “Thinking in Sonic Terms,” at The University of Pennsylvania in March of 2014; this and a poem by Tsitsi Jaji, my friend and collaborator, were performed in their reserved places. It is a strange dexterous act to praise and invoke two bodies that have passed; and it is also a fantasy of the two makers’ sonic works coming together in the same room – stanza, for elastic temporality. Thanks to Isaac Butler-Brown for grabbing open the recorded sounds. Con cariño for Ira Livingston, & for Katie Brewer Ball, amor.]
Rachel Ellis Neyra is a Cancer-Capricorn, Cuban-American, of sorts, raised in the U.S. Deep South. She has carried her linguistic apotheca into becoming an Assistant Professor of English at Wesleyan University. A poet-theorist, she's writing an academic monograph called The Cry Articulates: Contemporary Radical Brown and Black Poetics.