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Words to Our Now

Words to Our Now: Imagination and Dissent

Thomas Glave
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Words to Our Now
    Book Description:

    In these lyrical and powerful essays, Thomas Glave draws on his experiences as a politically committed, gay Jamaican American to deliver a condemnation of the prejudices and inhumanities that persist in the United States and elsewhere. From the death of poet Essex Hemphill to the revelations of abuse at Abu Ghraib, Glave puts forth a deeply ethical understanding of human rights._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9783-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Baychester: A Memory
    (pp. 1-17)

    AS WE STEP FROM THE CAR OUT ONTO THE GROUND THAT is still muddy from last night’s gentle rain, feeling its sucking at our feet as we imprint our soles on it, a light breath of spring blows the first scents of wildflowers to us: shovel in hand, I close my eyes and breathe in, deeply. Queen Anne’s lace and honeysuckle, I tell my father, above me at my side; already preoccupied with our coming tasks, he smiles at my youthful enthusiasm but does not reply. These thicker morning fragrances, which never find their way as easily into dreams as...

  4. Toward a Nobility of the Imagination: Jamaica’s Shame (An Open Letter to the peopel of jamaica)
    (pp. 18-22)

    BECAUSE IN FACT WE ARE NOT NOBLE. WE ARE COWARDS, hypocrites. Hysterical in our hatred and ignorance, seeking to cast aspersions and impose ostracism via state and social persecution—death sentences—upon those whom we consider already damned. Upon lesbians and gay men: those whom we would briskly vilify as “sodomites” or “abominations”— denunciations heard in recent public discussions about homosexuality in Jamaica.¹ But how swift and smug our judgments. How devoid of simple human compassion. How shallow our reasoning.

    In truth, we as a society barely know what the word “humanity” means. For in failing to love and support...

  5. (Re-) Recalling Essex Hemphill: World to Our Now
    (pp. 23-30)

    AND SO ALWAYS, NOW: RECALLING A LIFE AND THE EVER renascent power of vision that yet fuels the source and matrix of an essence; invoking thenowof your undying spirit and refeeling it, reclaiming it, it is to you, of course, whom I write, Essex. In thisnowthat is here. And always now. Resolute. Writing to you with the certainty that the abiding force of your passion has not ceased refiguring you and your words ever bolder in our memory. We need only hark to the spirit; it beckons. We need only listen; it speaks:

    I prowl in...

  6. Fire and lnk: Toward a Quest for Language, History, and a Moral Imagination
    (pp. 31-42)

    I MIGHT STAND HERE BEFORE YOU TONIGHT AT THIS HISTORIC conference and invoke, by way of paraphrase, the well-wrought words of our departed sister/mother Audre Lorde: that, like some of you, I am a black gay writer doing my very best to do my work, come to tell you that I know many of you are doing yours—that work, its urgency and necessity, that has at last brought us here, in each other’s company, together. I could tell you how, over these long yet short years since Audre’s passing (ten years this year), I have longed, viscerally, for the...

  7. Whose Caribbean? An Allegory, in Part
    (pp. 43-58)

    AND SO IT CAME TO PASS THAT UPON THAT TIME, NOT SO long ago, in that part of the world, there lived a child who dreamed. I am not so sure even now as to the definitive facial features of that child, but I am fairly certain, having myself wandered through various dreams that became stories that were told and did not fade over time, that the child was both female and male—a common enough occurrence in that place of the child’s origin at that time, as, contrary to numerous prevailing opinions, happens frequently today. The child—let us...

  8. These Blocks, Not Square (Five Movements)
    (pp. 59-71)

    But then you know and see immediately that they are not square, these Baychester blocks. They go on and on, on and on, forever: ragged-edged, bordered by dirty lawns in some places and unkempt gardens in others. Gardens restrained behind fences or shamelessly flaunting their loud colors where the sidewalk ends and arms slung over gates begin. If you are staunch enough and willing enough to walk these blocks as far as they will take you, a soldierly distance indeed, you will quickly learn that you have a superb chance of ending up someplace that is, like here, nearly nowhere:...

  9. The Death and Light of Brian Williamson
    (pp. 72-77)

    THIS MUCH IS TRUE: THE BRAVE, LOVING MAN WHO WAS murdered in Kingston last week (on the morning of June 9, exactly) will not be forgotten. His name was Brian Ribton Bernard Williamson. None of us who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual will forget him, and neither will many others.

    He was a founding member of the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays (J-FLAG). I remember him from that time. That was where I first met him—where I first had the privilege of getting to know him. We all were meeting in great trust, hardly sensing at that...

  10. Regarding Carolivia Herron’s Thereafter Johnnie, So Long Swept Aside: Why?
    (pp. 78-89)

    AND WHY, INDEED? FOR IT IS WITHOUT QUESTION A BRILLIANT work of art. A formidable one. A novel without which, whether we know it or not, we all, every single one of us, would be far poorer. Do not the opening lines of the first chapter, “Vesperus,” already provide us some intimation of what we might expect—strangeness, unpredictability, luminousness, and more?

    Now she is a light flitting through the halls of the Old Carnegie Library. They closed it down, then gave it to the University of the District of Columbia. They stopped having classes there. The black folk left,...

  11. Between Jamaica (n) and (North) America(n): Convergent (Divergent) Territories
    (pp. 90-115)

    But first of all, he thinks, the accent. His. He is aware of it on this day, in this moment, which, whether in memory, imagining, actuality, or all three, is Jamaica. Kingston, without doubt; upper St. Andrew, to be sure; the two places in Jamaica that, to him, since childhood, ever since he can remember, have been and continue to be, even more than the northern Clarendon and Manchester centers of his patrilineal ancestors, home. Here, at the Norman Manley airport (which in his childhood was called Palisadoes), long before he arrives at his beloved New Kingston apartment, he suddenly...

  12. On the Difficulty of Confiding, with Complete Love and Trust, in Some Heterosexual “Friends”
    (pp. 116-129)

    And so it has been true that from time to time—often—you have wanted to confide in them. Very much. Of course. You have wanted to tell them how things were and might have been for you that week, that month; on those two clear days between ponderous rain during which you waited for and spent time withhim—the man you loved at that time, hoped to love; were working so hard at loving. That man whom you desired, about whom you thought and dreamed and—yes, whose most intimate smells you summoned beneath you and beside you...

  13. Panic, Despair: When the Words Do Not Come (But Then an Unexpected Journey)
    (pp. 130-145)

    AND WHEN THEY DO NOT COME, AN AWFUL OCCURRENCE that has happened before and will—yes, rest assured—happen again, you do panic, of course. You freeze; slump; retreat into the secrecy and banality of masks, “ordinary” greetings, and pleasantries not at all pleasant, strangely illumined by that smile produced so automatically if not quite easily—that smile, acid-tinged just beneath the surface, which leads, with others, to the dissembling banalities of “How are you?” and “Sure, I’m fine, how are you?” and “How’s the writing going?”—the worst possible question in those times when the words will not come...

  14. Regarding a Black Male Monica Lewinsky, Anal Penetration, and Bill Clinton’s Sacred White Anus
    (pp. 146-164)

    BUT THEN WHY ALL THE SHOCK—MORTIFICATION—registered so clearly on all those gaping faces? Why that deeply stunned silence, as if all present had been completely undone by the question I’d just asked? For in truth, I hadn’t meant to shock anyone, not even myself. I’d wanted only to posit what had struck me on reflection as a fascinating idea—one that had electrified my own caught-off-guard imagination. For the question, as it came to me, had startled me, to be sure; but I’d never thought, given the general level of evident boredom with everyday life and cynicism evinced...

  15. On the Importance of Returning from Abroad to the United States in a Time of Imperialism and War (A Meditation on Dissent)
    (pp. 165-179)

    YET THE UNCOMFORTABLE TRUTH WAS AND REMAINS THAT on that morning in April 2003 he was someone I neither fully liked nor trusted—in fact someone whom, though unbeknownst to him, I could often barely stand, luminous and interesting and even entertaining though he frequently was. Perhaps seeking to avoid unnecessary conflict, or because I was ambivalent, dishonest about my own feelings, just a regular old coward, or some combination of all three, I remained hypocritically polite in his presence but never told him. Never told him how much his socially overbearing manner and frequent self-absorption wore on my nerves....

  16. Autumn’s Relentlessness: Crimes against Humanity
    (pp. 180-193)

    FOR YES—IT IS RELENTLESS. THIS SEASON, ONE OF FLAME that, more than ever, now does not end. The season itself as perennial as human stupidity, but generally more pleasing to the eye. As unceasing as hatred itself, the sire of viciousness that “gazes keenly at the future,” one voice succinctly told us, “as only it can.”¹ But autumn occasionally also reconstituted as love: as reliable as sunset, as gorgeous as the spreading, open, illimitable sea. This autumn, 2001, providing many noteworthy things: weather (some stunningly sunny, clear days), human behavior (a capacity for both generosity and cruelty, survival and...

  17. Re-membering Steen Fenrich: Not a Candidate for Matthew Shepardhood
    (pp. 194-206)

    IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER STEEN FENRICH. I WISH very much to re-member Steen Fenrich. I want—yes, through memory, though I never knew him, and through writing—to put him back together. To bring him once again before my gaze, a gaze I did not have the opportunity, during his life, to turn upon him.

    While I do desire to re-member Steen Fenrich, I in no way wish to suggest, by my choice of words, any sort of gruesome or sick joke, or “irony.” What happened to Steen Keith Fenrich in the last (nineteenth) year of his life, discovered...

  18. Abu Ghraib: Fragments against Forgetting
    (pp. 207-221)

    But it must not. Must not ever fade. Cannot. In the fading lies the danger of repetition: the ever-recurring danger. The danger of brutality. More of it. More cruelty. Stupidity. Evil. We never did this or that, some might think, will want to think, unschooled in history. Yetthat,that terrible thing, that awful sequence of horrendous things, is precisely what wedodo, again and again, and again. What we do while ignorant of history, or unmindful of it. While indifferent to it. Uncaring. As arrogant as ever.

    The human degradation that occurred in that prison in Iraq: much,...

  19. Again, the Sea
    (pp. 222-236)

    AND LARGER AND LARGER AND EVER LARGER THAN ME, O sea: water: waves and foam: this girlpoet this womantongue does speak the truth, says I: does speak the truth, she womantongue, from she selfsame mouth. Poet, poetry. Make she come back to she island and sing to me and we. Make she come back and read she words to we. Make she tell we what we does already know: how the sea would take I and wrap I deep in it. How it would drown I, mash I up, wash I into bits. The girlpoet with she womantongue and she...

  20. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 237-238)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 239-262)
  22. Publication History
    (pp. 263-264)
  23. Back Matter
    (pp. 265-265)