It’s National Poetry Month, and we’re celebrating by sharing a poem with you each Wednesday in April! Today’s choice is from Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s brand-new poetry collection M Archive, which documents the persistence of Black life after an imagined worldwide cataclysm, told from the perspective of a future researcher uncovering evidence of the conditions of late capitalism, antiblackness, & environmental crisis.
this thing about one body. it was the black feminist metaphysicians who first said it wouldn’t be enough. never had been enough. was not the actual scale of breathing. they were the controversial priestesses who came out and said it in a way that people could understand (which is the same as saying they were the ones who said it in a way that the foolish would ignore, and then complain about and then co-opt without ever mentioning the black feminist metaphysicians again, like with intersectionality, but that’s another
the Lorde of their understanding had taught them. this work began before I was born and it will continue . . .
the university taught them through its selective genocide. one body. the unitary body. one body was not a sustainable unit for the project at hand. the project itself being black feminist metaphysics. which is to say, breathing.
hindsight is everything (and also one of the key reasons that the individual body is not a workable unit of impact), but if the biochemists had diverted their energy towards this type of theoretical antioxidant around the time of the explicit emergence of this idea (let’s say the end of the second-to-last century), everything could have been different. if the environmentalists sampling the ozone had factored this in, the possibilities would have expanded exponentially.
that wouldn’t have happened (and of course we see that it didn’t) because of the primary incompatibility. the constitutive element of individualism being adverse, if not antithetical to the dark feminine, which is to say, everything.
to put it in tweetable terms, they believed they had to hate black women in order to be themselves.
even many of the black women believed it sometimes. (which is also to say that some of the people on the planet believed they themselves were actually other than black women. which was a false and impossible belief about origin. they were all, in their origin, maintenance, and measure of survival more parts black woman than anything else.) it was like saying they were no parts water. (which they must have believed as well. you can see what they did to the water.)
the problematic core construct was that in order to be sane, which is to live in one body, which is to live one lifetime at one time, which is to disconnect from the black simultaneity of the universe, you could and must deny black femininity. and somehow breathe. the fundamental fallacy being (obvious now. obscured at the time.) that there is no separation from the black simultaneity of the universe also known as everything also known as the black feminist pragmatic intergenerational sphere. everything is everything.
they thought escaping the dark feminine was the only way to earn breathing room in this life. they were wrong.
you can have breathing and the reality of the radical black porousness of love (aka black feminist metaphysics aka us all of us, us) or you cannot. there is only both or neither. there is no either or. there is no this or that. there is only all.
this was their downfall. they hated the black women who were themselves. a suicidal form of genocide. so that was it. they could only make the planet unbreathable.