. . . . . . . Supervalent Thought

The Whole Ethic of Sleepless Evidence

#2 in the series.

I spent most of the summer reading the kind of fierce poetry that moves fearlessly into barely inhabitable breathing space three beats beyond the object that was supposed to anchor attention.  A poetics of associology whose noise world sits me down in disbelief at the rare freedom of other people’s minds. Not because attention gets things right (any more than attachment guarantees love), and not because there’s always in operation productive energy that can never be tamed but because—in these poems, and for me–revolt requires curiosity, a tipping over on a verge.

I can’t remember how I heard of  C. D. Wright; this book written from within incarcerated space seems to have migrated onto my desk from a lateral impulse I must have had once. People who liked this also liked. It’s been in a pile of revealed intention that I’ve been reading up and down.

iphone 2011 july 107

Le ciel est, par-dessus le toit is one version of the commons: C.D. Wright includes it as a kind of acid irony.  After all, the next line, si bleu, si calme, isn’t available as realism to the incarcerated–or the manumitted for now who swerve around aggressively while looking down at their feet, or anyone with a stomach overfull of the indigestible. I read this book and my brain clicked around over it all summer: glory hole, dream hole, peephole.

My decoupled brain collected holes.  An episode of Louie begins with him in a bathroom looking at a hole in the wall captioned HEAVEN in black magic marker whose magic is not apparent to him.

An older conservatively dressed white man comes in, washes his hands, and turns to insert his penis in the hole.  Louie asks him, “Why would you do that?”  The man says, “HEAVEN, it says right there!”  Louie, after a beat:  How do you know something terrible’s not going to happen to you, why would you take that risk?” The stranger:  “I don’t know, you have to have faith.”  The rest of the show explains why he doesn’t have faith.  In the end it’s exchanged for ethics and a donut.  Not having faith is here propped on not being sucked off or sucking off, not reaching with your dick toward heaven, a rough-edged hole on the other side of which, who knows?  The atmosphere of this whole series involves its fearless projectile extension of situations into the place where something might happen to interrupt the familiar’s sour reappearance. Oh it says HEAVEN, so put your dick there, because not risking is so much worse than wrapping it all up so tight in the blanket of one’s own homestyle timidity. The show goes where Louie can’t.

It’s even more intricate than this:  the HEAVEN episode follows an episode where Louie is fellated. He has gone to a gentle dentist’s office, an office for people who fear oral penetration and care. So of course under sedation Louie dreams of convincing Osama bin Laden that he is an asshole, at the same time as his gentle dentist outside the dream is sticking his dick in Louie’s mouth, aka HEAVEN, the hole out of which all of his beautiful intelligence comes.  Accepting another man’s dick in his mouth is a fantasy that moves throughout this series, in the absence of which many other things are put there, like ice cream (formless) and donuts (defined by the hole).  There’s a bit where he says it’s too late in life for him to do three things:  fighting, blowing guys, and skiing . . . . Who starts blowing guys at 42?” Louie can’t process his own swerve toward fellating with men but he can’t not go there either, and the frankness is of a quality I can’t stop admiring. As Sedgwick says in Epistemology, “Many people have their richest mental/emotional involvement with sexual acts that they don’t do, or even don’t want to do” (25). His object choice could be disavowed–or it could be in an attachment to his swerve away at the limit that is also a hole.  As my father used to say in Yiddish about women, Louie is a hole that can never be filled–in the absence of which he fills up the hole of the world. Foucault writes, “My way of being no longer the same is, by definition, the most singular part of what I am”: Louie is in between not being the same and being something else.

In this show, what would usually induce fatalism always gets another beat, another scene or two, to interrupt the hard end one more time.  But as one of his friends says, he’s afraid of life.  Yet the verge Louie shimmies on is the failure of the failure to thrive.  He is astonished at how massively awkward he is at living.  But he is desperate to not stop trying to have a style of becoming different.

Desire punches a hole in the wall.  Yes it does.

In Wright’s prison poem the dream hole must mean something beautiful (attuned) about the way being revolts against being controlled: the dream hole is what you’re willing to destroy your body for if it might light up a new something to follow through to, and the question of “ultimate consequences” gets left on the side of the road. The incarcerated people Wright listens to experience the proliferation and richness of desires, in the absence of access to which they keep punching holes in the world.  They get caught for the holes they punch and put up for life.  She is either witnessing or recording the cushionlessness they navigate. The privileged usually get protected and bailed out, you know, after they punch holes in the wall of the world.  And sex remains one of the main places where the aggression and desire to have a simple and chaotic pleasure, to be and to punch the hole, gets replayed as a tableau always violently underdescribed by the unambivalence of any adjective.

4 Comments so far
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this entry inspired me to go the OED and look up “hole.” it says, “a hollow place or cavity in a solid body.” so then i thought about “glory hole” and tried to forge connections with gaga’s “edge of glory,” but also how the hole is the unformed within the form, the unfinished business of the always mysterious, the in-between of biology, ontology, and psychoanalysis process of giving form to matter. old ideas, yes. but the vocabulary of giving-and-taking form still works for me, if not philosophically, then at least in moments when giving and taking happen erotically.

Comment by Ali Altaf Mian

Beautiful, but there’s more here too, because the hole has rough edges here and yet it’s Heaven, and there’s a thing it’s not giving form to, just giving access to, if you can bear to be in the room with what’s unformed on the other side. I love the unstated transition between the violence that produces the dream hole and the thing it had to be named to rescue the force of its unstated register.

Comment by supervalentthought

Your entry and your talk yesterday make me think of Jorie Graham as well — many of her poems are also about nonsovereign space, and the non-unified meanings of directionality. In “Underneath (9)” she writes:

Up, up you go, you must be introduced.
You must learn belonging to (no one)
Drenched in the white veil (day)
The circle of minutes pushed gleaming onto your finger.
Gaps pocking the brightness where you try to see in.
Missing: corners, fields,
completeness: holes growing in it where the eye looks hardest…

Comment by Wai Chee Dimock

[…] The Whole Ethic of Sleepless Evidence « . . . . . . . Supervalent ThoughtSep 24, 2011 … In the end it’s exchanged for ethics and a donut. … so then i thought about “glory hole” and tried to forge connections with gaga’s “edge of glory,” … […]

Pingback by Ethic gloryholes | Ericjonphelps

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