The ideal rock & roll song is 3 minutes long | Ren (Rachel) Ellis Neyra

To be read aloud.
In memoriam, José Muñoz and Terry Adkins.


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.


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’.


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.]

Rev (Rachel) Ellis Neyra is a Cancer sun, Capricorn moon, poetic theorist of Cuban descent who grew up in the U.S. south. They're an Assistant Professor of English at Wesleyan University, where they teach Caribbean, Latinx, and Black American poetics. Ren is currently completing their academic book manuscript, Cry Bomba: Brown Poetic Listening. Cry Bomba offers a method to do multi-sensorial, poetic, and queer attentive listenings with 1970s Salsa, Chicanx and Black poetry, and Nuyorican and Puerto Rican poetics, performance, and cinema that rehearse abnormal insurgencies and small, deviant refusals of assimilation.