Back to Issue Twenty-Seven.

The Negro Speaking



The Negro Speaking

This is the Negro speaking on Love. I would like to begin with a quote: “The only possible proof of the existence of water, the most convincing and the most intimately true proof, is thirst.”—Franz von Baader. Here, I’d like to introduce the problematic but yet intriguing diasporic slave trade, the centuries of the law-affirming ability to transport, purchase and sell the Negro human. I do not mean to imply that this mode of historical terrorism is a form of Love, but rather look at the act of keeping the Negro alive through it all as the true form of its wretchedness. Von Baader says the only proof of water is thirst. Could it be that Love exists out of our fear of extinction, or worse, being the only one left alive? I want to keep you alive. I want you to scream for the words to cease. The aforementioned thirst, tortures me into the idea that Love can potentially be under the guise of horror. I’d actually prefer this, since this would guide us to consider that death and the intentional act of it is a form of Love. Once one begins an evil, isn’t it difficult to return to its counterpart? Or is it in our nature to fall further into the madness we curate, create, or cater to? This is only a preface to the ideas I’d attempt to tackle. I know this is a failed essay. The essayistic approach to Love, it seems, does not have a place in my penned descriptions, but what does have a place are my thoughts on what Love truly is when held to a mirror:


The Negro Speaking

This is the Negro speaking on the Looking. I might as well be called a skeptic of the will to vision, the seeing of a supposed world, choosing to live inside it. I’ve only just become self-aware. It’s a feeling that grabs you like a shadow, it walks in your wake, knowing that you can differentiate between you and the world of the body. It makes windows all the more dangerous. In a poem, I explain a theory in which, if we think long enough on the concept of “form,” we’d arrive at the notion that transcending its physicality leaves us unable to answer its puzzling purpose. It’s as if our current systems and logics could exist both in a field that extends further and behind the idea of “form.” In the poem, an artist is inside another artist, which had me ruminate on the thought of me being inside the head of another entity while in a room. Think of the room you are currently inside of, couldn’t it make sense that there’s a further consciousness operating on the knowledge of that room, the windows being the eyes looking outward into their own world? But how aware of yourself you’d have to become to deal with the opposite and more isolating concept that the windows may in fact be the holes that other consciousnesses look inside to see you!? In walking through the world, I’d have to consider who is doing the looking. This stems from the idea of the interaction between our community of selves. This is to say that our experience in this world is dictated by the perspective experience of another world residing in the mind, and their minds holding other minds. This reverts me back to my skepticism on will and more specifically, the will to see. If one becomes hyper-aware of the self, you may find yourself beginning to ponder on or question the philosophy and meaning of whatever you look at. On the road to self-seeing, I believe that this realm that which we inhabit is a portion of a consciousness that we are all collectively producing thought for, and they in turn produce for some other.


The Negro Speaking

This is the Negro speaking on Music. Glenn Gould plays Schoenberg. “Drei Klavierstucke Op. 11: II. Mӓssig, 1959”. The passages lead, deceptively, toward lighter spaces, only for them to be tainted by a kind of darker air. The music is a suffering I enjoy. Rather than explore the intangible concept of the human emotion through his music, Gould perverts the idea of space and separation with Schoenberg’s insistent insanities, the melodies provoking the mind to reconsider the existence of the word “compart-mentalization.” This has us hear sound by way of a 3-dimensional method. We have no choice but to let the music pull us into invented cultures without any pre-existing guidelines to comfortably foretell how one will experience one’s self as the piece progresses. This is poetry. The almost gothic texture is welcoming. Never have I ever been more at ease about Death, to the point I develop the theory that proposes that Death is Life daydreaming at midnight.

This is the Negro speaking on Music. Charles Mingus’ “Mingus Ah Um” album can be viewed as almost a tutorial of navigation. However, here he navigates through, outside of, and ahead of time, creating cohesive conversations between the listener and performer. The project explores the degree of which a song can become conscious of itself. In that case, we are only then the vessels that which the intellect of sound courses inside of and then out. While I am disturbed by this thought, I am simultaneously excited, excited at the possibility that the music we hear and engage with could potentially not even need the body to achieve its function. The members of Mingus’ group dances, bobs and weaves as if possessed. The melodies operate not horizontally or vertically or in any form of directional motion, but rather in the motion of expansion, and from that expansion it expands again. This is not to say that the music grows outward, but considers a world without a concept of direction, just analytical and spiritual inhabitance, to think and to feel more.

This is the Negro speaking on Music. If you think about it, every instrument seems to be only half of itself. A guitar or cello expose their strings, music escaping their body. Imagine an animal with bared teeth, no lips or flesh to hide its glistening faces, that’s a piano. Imagine a row of flattened bones with skulls hanging underneath, that’s a marimba. What proves the human’s incompletion are our scattered holes, and from it, we make music. The music of excretion, the music of breathing, the music of a kiss. A man kills another, and he screams a kind of music. If only for that, I will pardon my criticism through my rage. Once, I was beaten by a man and almost bled. Once, I held an animal so tight I watched its eyes almost bleed out. I learned from that how to play the Blues. I know I am filled with songs of malice. I know the human to be, in our moments, wicked. Reader, I am sorry you had to witness, yet, I thank you for your witness. I now wish to explain in a song for the sake of all of our moments of err that it’s from the mouth of evil, I beg for mercy.

Nkosi Nkululeko, writer, chess player and musician, is a 2017 Poets House fellow. His poetry is currently published or forthcoming in Callaloo, the Collagist, Michigan Quarterly Review, Ploughshares, Third Coast, and more. He has been included in the Best American Poetry 2018 Anthology. Nkosi Nkululeko lives in Harlem, New York.


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