On Failure: Clifton Gachagua

I’d promised to write you a letter. After a while here I now know the chances of that happening are few. Every morning I wake up hopeful I will finally be able to write you, and I drink coffee, walk the streets on this side of the island, say hello to the cats (something you taught me), and come back and sit at the lobby and Dear T my way into hesitation, staccato, fear, the unknown, regret, shame, forgotten histories. At the end of it all I manage nothing more than one hundred words about coffee, this side of the island, the call to prayers, the smell of the lobby, like at night imagine it is a small hotel for cat jinns with very small bladders, or maybe the leaky faucets have found their ways into my dreams. I fear I’m afraid of coming to terms with some truths here, truths that have been apparent since we met but have nonetheless been readily suppressed. Should I be asking myself other questions, as has been the nature of this all, our entire time together, questions with no answers, that our bodies beget nothing but the sound of mourning and rain, that when we touch there’s not even the slightest hint of want, desire? Lost landscapes within the body––haggard and lush terrains––/North and South Poles suspended between pleasure and understanding. So not this. What is in a letter between two people who cannot agree on the limitations of love, the body, between people whose only ideas of being together are that they agree one ought to keep a garden, one ought to be kind to animals, that the oceans are rising, that pilipili ya mahindi choma is a genius invention but when used for those ukambani mangoes? So to make up for this letter I cannot write you I want to offer you something else. Compared to what you have offered me it seems very little. Hear me out. I want to offer you an erratic journal of my time in Zanzibar, whatever little I managed to write, also coincidentally written on the notebook you gave me because when I left Nairobi I had not packed a bag and couldn’t even find a pen; also we’d been drinking until very late that morning and I could not really manage to find paper in a house full of books. Please have these notes. In a way this journal serves another purpose: a few months ago, when we were still getting to know each other, you let me read a couple of your old journals (diaries?), where you lay yourself bare on the page (remember I was so shocked by this willingness to be so kind and open to a stranger, what I called an act of daring you shrugged off as commonplace)—now I offer mine. This is not compromise. I’m simply trying to offer you lands in my mind that have so far been so occupied by doubt and other maladies, that have been so removed from me that they remind me of their existence by interrupting my dreams so that instead of tropical fish what I’m left with is drowning in black water, falling off buildings. I’m reading Carl Phillips: restlessness sets risk into motion, and that the two are catalysts for imagination and, by extension, the making of art. What I want to believe is that our restlessness set into motion our love. Or that there was a conversation to be had there that we’ve never quite reached. And if love isn’t/ eternal, what’s the point?

June, 2018

At some point in the late afternoon I come across kids standing on the Forodhani barrier, hurling stones at something in the water. I approach the wall and scale it, curious. I cannot tell what is in the water. Seaweed, squid, octopus. Not because the sky reflects the dark of the clouds, but that I suddenly feel a rush of blood into my head, the pull of the ocean is too strong. Even at less than ten feet I can sense the pull. I’ve explained to you why this happens. For a moment I cannot move. For a moment there’s no movement in the water. I can feel the breeze and feel something salty in my mouth. The children seem possessed, there’s nothing behind their eyes. The blackness of their pupils seems sublime, like that of newborns. Their throwing of stones into the water feels robotic, but in a slow-motion way, something demented and cruel, like how the first day of school must have felt, and yet some shared inner mechanism is choreographing it, something that while cruel, is meant to make sense. Although I long for luminous ecstasies, I wouldn’t ask for any, because I know they are followed by great depressions.


Zanzibar Ferry Terminal. Azam. Are there other ferries really? I’ve just taken the one-and-a-half-hour crossing. Took a lower deck, away from the spray of the sea huko juu. Last time I was up there I could not move my feet. At the back end of my deck there was a family transporting a body on a stretcher, wrapped in white—from where I was sitting there was no way of telling if he was dead or alive. Somehow this made me scared. And I lost my appetite. After a few beers (a sok each) and lunch (one-fifty) somewhere off Maktaba Street waiting for the 3 p.m. ferry (somehow I got here at midday because I’d been warned about traffic). I was still hungry. And really thirsty. The previous night had been spent on Kilimanjaros and mishikaki after a trip from Arusha where I only got an hour to shower and change. So I got nuts and biscuits and water but after seeing the body I could not eat. Strangely enough the lady sitting next to me had motion sickness as soon as we crossed the Kigamboni Terminal and kept puking into a bag. As we approached the island the views of Tele and Pange were comforting, and how I love the slow docking of Kilimanjaro III, the rush of bodies afterwards, the navy guys in their uniforms, the self-assured captain, the rude potters, the taxi drivers who for some reason immediately know I’m not local and switch to English, the immigration officers. Somehow, this from my crippling fear of the sea, I always feel like I should be congratulated by these officers, medals of valour and all that, so I never feel like how you I’m sure you feel at a Norwegian airport for instance, where the sea is an altogether different thing, but also their fear of melanin. And I love the word archipelago. How fucking beautiful. When will we be rich enough to write tour guides of places we don’t care about? So finally after Immigration I carry my luggage and leave the terminal. Confident. Mjuaji. Msafiri Kakiri. Playlist: Juwata Jazz, Mbaraka Mwinshehe, Remmy Ongala, Maroon Commandos, Mbilia Bel. And Diamond, of course. The music won’t matter until much later, when the loneliness of travelling alone sets in. First I need to find a drink before they close at 5 p.m. There’s no way I’m going to make it to Shangani, on the opposite direction of where I need to be, with my luggage. No matter. I have a better sense of the island now, this being my third visit, so I’ll rush, but as soon as I get to Cine Afrique I have no idea where I’m going. After a few unanswered calls to the hostels someone finally picks up. I got a vodacom line in Namanga for a sok, and I’ve been buying credit and data so I’m set. In a way this makes TZ a nicer place, much kinder than most African countries I’ve been to (they are few).


The receptionist at the hostel is nice. I guess it’s her job. She’s pretty, too. I try to make small talk but our Swahilis are worlds apart. The other day I had such a hard time with the cab driver, trying to give him directions from wherever he was to Shekilango then to Mbezi (I sound like I know the place but, Google Maps, plus Vodacom data is really cheap). We were both speaking Swa but somehow not speaking Swa. While someone else gave me directions from the ferry (I got lost a lot) to the hostel, it was she who booked me in, showed me to my bunk bed. She’s kind. While I know it is her job, I like this about he, a stranger’s kindness always remembered because a stranger’s kindness, like time itself, heals our wounds in the end


After two days I feel like I’m beginning to have a good time. Since my arrival I’ve been trying to map the festival, where I need to be and at what time, which films to prioritise, when to be away from it all and take long quiet walks, see the sea again, read some Carl Phillips. Eventually I’ve learnt to say fuck it all, nitafika nikifika, and if something is boring I walk out mid-screening. Today was mostly a day of walking, like any other day really. I wake up at 6 a.m. and immediately set out to look for bottled water my throat perched from last night’s drinking (why is it that in Kenya and TZ you cannot drink tap water anywhere near the ocean?). At this time most of the shops are closed. From Funguni Road I must make my way through most of Benjamin Mkapa Road to Market Street. After ages of walking I come across a shop with a mammoth fridge. Someone has just opened shop. So much bottled water, so much soda. Just the thought of the bottles in the white light of that fridge, the buzzing of its mechanism, the coolness when I finally open it for my half-litre Pepsi, all those bottles like hundreds of angels in a parade, welcoming the holy into heaven, this calms me. I get myself a Pepsi and some water to keep the hangover at bay.

The hostels are a minute away from Malindi Fish Market, near the Funguni Shipyard. I’ve been going there since my arrival. I’m not sure why. At the moment I’m drinking my soda, I’m near Christ Church. Somehow I’ve taken a detour to Mkunazini. Going back to Malindi then taking the long walk back to Ngome Kubwa through Mzingani Road feels like a lot, especially in my state. Quite a distance. Yaani I could be at Maru Maru (where they are screening Tanzanian films today) in at most ten minutes. I’m not sure how to make these distances make sense. Imagine being given the option of getting to your place from Ngong Road through Mimosa or first having to go all the way to Tao. So as much as I’d like to, as soon as I leave the hostels I often have to go straight to the festival. Unless it’s just for coffee.

So. T. You see. My life has come to this—useless notes on streets and roads and distances, and my laziness.

I’m reading Cioran’s On The Heights of Despair (lyricism reaches its ultimate form of expression only through delirium. Absolute lyricism is the lyricism of last moments) and I’m really liking The Schmargendorf Diary bit in Rilke’s Diaries of a Young Poet, which I’d really like to imitate, but as it is I’m unable to write anything worth reading. Why say what is? Why afflict the things with their meaning?

Writing has been so difficult I’m thinking of giving it up all together. I have made the mistake of conflating writing and existing, with life. Do do i say fuck it all? But what then? What comes after? I’ve been in the bus for fourteen hours, nothing at all in my mind. Not even Shakara makes me giddy. I watch the entire country pass by, each small town like the other, so much expanse of sky, and I think about you, about the difficult conversations we’ve had to have in the last few weeks, all the new things I’m learning from you. This is what I call travel/ But there’s nothing in it of me/ Besides my dream of the journey/ The rest is just land and sky. Maybe I’m finally at a place where I’ve been made to confront myself and in that self the ruins are so far gone what used to be a temple the archeologist concludes is a tomb. Nothing is more ridiculous than to make a hierarchy of suicides and divide them between the noble and the vulgar. Taking one’s life is sufficiently impressive to forestall any petty hunt for motives. We’ve talked about the fuck-it-all. Abound finding another country. Mostly as a joke but now I feel it could be a possibility.

and so he tried to write about the writing and in writing

the writing became pretty gold and blur

and so the boy tried leaving the writing

and in leaving he became pretty gold and blue

and so the boy became the water

Edwin Torres. And In Trying. From Ameriscopa.


And now back to the mundane of the everyday. Will be at the Ngome Kubwa amphitheater today. Beer is 3,000 bob. One-fifty, that is. Expensive by the standards of my last few days in this Jamhuri ya Muungano. At the moment the exchange rate should be twenty-five bob but I’ve so far managed 22.50 in Namanga, 21.50 in Dar. That’s one shilling brathe. A lot of money. At the border I’d exchanged little of what I have thinking rates would be better in Dar, where there are bureaus instead of men carrying bundles of suspect notes. Lessons from my mother: make sure uko at least na kidogo kwa mfuko in case of anything. Ole wale. Now that I’m here I have to use the Barclays ATM. I don’t want to imagine how much I’m being charged and punished for my lack of foresight. Anyway. Pesa otas. From this part of the fort the shortest war was fought. This is something I’m not really interested in. But right at the seafront there’s Forodhani, and while I like it for the food and sunsets you’d love it for the cats, and for the peace and quiet of it all the morning after, the contrast of it all. Abandon marks the early mornings when I’ve been here, all the people and cats gone, maybe a few women cleaning (it is women who clean the streets of Stone Town), the restaurants and shops brewing coffee. This was the old market of the island since the era of Majib bin Said. I don’t want you to think I’m not interested in the history of this all, the Omanis and Indians and the backs of slaves who carried the stones that shaped all this, in the ‘64 revolution; I know these are things you’re particularly keen on. But to me, in the state I find myself in, in this apathy and inertia, I only want to know why they call the things they’re selling me every night pizzas, why I cannot tell apart the different kinds of meats in the dishes I order, why I feel so safe staggering back to Funguni Road past midnight, safer than I’ve ever felt in any Nairobi street at such an hour (you remember that night we went out looking for a Kibao at midnight and I kept panicking every time I saw headlights because I thought we were done for despite your assuring me I was safe?). Does this sound self-involved, this lack of interest in the histories? I don’t want to go there but I think there’s something very Kenyan about wanting to forget. We’ve been so silent and in the desperate business of forgetting for so long there’s a generation of kids born, not with the inherited trauma of all this, but the nostalgia for it, so that it is a distant light they one day hope to get to, with no idea of the reckoning awaiting them.


Food hasn’t been on my mind much but jana I had lunch for three hundred bob. Today for the same I paid half that. Biryani. This at Darajani. I have nothing to report on the taste of food that is not either too fatty or too salty. Although in the rice was this huge chunk of bone, bigger than my fist, that I spent half an hour on. Just me and the road and the abandonment of it all, unaware that Darajani was a creek, that the high tide would separate the small Stone Town from the rest of the Island, that this creek would be used as a social barrier only after the British landed on the island. Darajani is the busiest street, I feel. When I’m lost I try to find the major streets and roads. There’s a sense of permanence in them. And I don’t mean this is a good thing, it’s just that when you’re staggering crazy drunk in the Stone Town circuitry you really need some bearing if you want to fall asleep in your bed. I wasn’t aware Darajani is called Benjamin Mkapa. I suppose it’s that way we have of retaining the names of places long after they’ve changed. Like I keep telling you to alight at Caltex even when the station no longer exists. Anyway. From where Maru Maru is hizo sides all the restaurants are for tourists and really expensive. Found my way eating biryani then. By lunch time I love to get lost in Stone Town, knowing I’ll eventually find myself to a familiar place. There was chips and chicken but mi ni mtu wa Nai and nimezoea kuku ya Tennessee pale Ambassadeur at 2 a.m. on your way home from thambi and there’s no sense in letting other healthier fried chicken mess with an uneducated palate.


I came across Christ Church again, the Anglican Cathedral on Mkunazini. Add to the list of my shortcomings the inability to describe the grace of cathedrals. I really wish you were here to see it. And St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Dar, right next to the ferry where I bought you the rosary. I was so taken I forgot to take pictures (but there is another thought here I don’t want to get into, at least not right now). It breaks my heart that one of the things after all this is done is that we will never be able to be in these great churches together, the boundaries between prayer and devotion nonexistent. What matters is to be/ inside the prayer of your body. The idea for the trip is to leave on Friday but should I be inspired to stay longer the plan is to come for service here, not for religious purposes as I keep telling myself, I know this is only the remnant of all that childhood psychoanalytic mess, those Bangla days I’ve told you about, but just for the quietness of it all, the peace. A poster outside the Old Slave Market announces an Exhibition for Saturday. I’ll try do that as well. Celebrating Mass and an exhibition. Maybe I should not overthink that.

It is our nature to make a heaven out of places to which we can never return.


I met H. E and A. M and M. O. All people I’ve worked with in the past, in my screenwriting days. It was actually because of A. M that I got my first long distance trip outside Kenya, that Abuja trip. None of them recognized me. Or if they did they didn’t want to betray it. Haidhuru. Also, fucking bastards. I’ve watched the shit they are peddling and you know what, wacha nisiongee.


The strangest thing happened at Park Hyatt today. They screened the pilot of a show that’s exactly what I was trying to do with the guys at Room. I thought it was really good—a detective show following a group of cops, also a study on radicalization. The producers and directors are here looking for funding. At the QnA I asked something about the choice of language in Kenyan TV and Film, something that’s been a main concern of mine for a while now. You should have heard how pretentious I sounded. Even crossed my legs as I was asking this. I’m really a fool. What’s scary is that I’m aware of it.


4 p.m. now. I’m back at the hostels charging my phone before going back to Ngome Kubwa for tonight’s gala. They’ll be screening The Cut, a Kenyan film. While the Kenyan shows I’ve seen are superior in terms of production, they lack the pathos and imagination and sense of (an accepted, even celebrated) identity as the TZ ones have. These comparisons sound unfair. Maybe I lack the right critical language to make these distinctions. I watched a TZ show that reminded me of Tausi. Or Tahamaki. Which one had the ghost of a woman in white?


So. I didn’t go to the gala. Instead I went to Forodhani and ate a lot of food. I was there an hour before watching them set up and there was this overwhelming sadness in me. Difficult to explain. Maybe that feeling of drowning in black water. If I’m being honest there’s something about ceremonies that puts me off. I still wonder if this is all. I found a really nice spot and ate my pizza, fed some meat to a cat. Mostly because the bastard wanted to risk it all for my food. I read Carl Phillips from my phone. What is it, about nighttime and fragment/

seeming made for each other? Robin Coste Lewis. Dionne Brand. Terrance Hayes. Ishion Hutchinson. Haphazard. Without method. Without purpose or intent. If an ampersand or comma belongs in a certain space it can belong to another. I was sad on those concrete slabs. Had this overwhelming sense of my body leaving me. My entire trip through Arusha (a town I love to Moshi) to staying at Mbezi Beach with a friend meant nothing. It was all amounting to nothing but marginalis. And even in the breeze, watching the current bring the boats and fishermen home, the beauty of it all, all the cruel untold history I was after, the possibilities of Story, I felt lost. I felt alone

We make of the fragments of self a form that holds, briefly—that’s the poem—then we watch it shatter again—which is, I suppose, that space that the poem fooled us into believing we’d left behind us, for a time, world of fragmented selves, hard truths, glinting ambiguities to be negotiated, navigated through as we make our disoriented way forward, or what we have to believe is forward. Like being mapless in tough territory, and knowing, somewhere inside, we’d choose this life, and this one only, if in fact we could choose. Carl Philips. The Art of Daring.


The frustration I have is that while I’m constantly reminded that I am not a tourist—and, by definition, white—is that I still remain an outsider. My Swa is not the Swa spoken here. Zanzibaris seem really proud of themselves. Every gesture, even a simple hello, seems a celebration. I carry my self-hate with me like an amulet. Is this a personal or Kenyan thing? I am suspicious of everyone. I smile to be kind while at the same time I loathe myself for it, even more so when this kindness is not returned. I am embarrassed to see katiaing and haggling efforts in English aimed at white tourists (a redundancy here) fail, even when those making the effort seem to not mind it, seem, in fact, amused and proud.

I did not come here to try and make sense of the place or social codes. My intention was to come and watch films, to be away from my life in Umoja, to be away from what has become our failing love, away from the feelings we seem to be unable to explain.

And now, on the fourth day, at Funguni where I do not stand out as much, I am a bit happy. People move about me without noticing me.

I’m yet to eat gizzards, which, as you know, I really like. Also if my body allows I’ll rent a bike and go for a long ride, somewhere outside Stone Town. Between my sense of direction and balance and my unwavering body I’m sure these narrow streets would kill me. I keep thinking I should have rented a nice AirBnB. Every day I pass by the market I stand at every other shop, reading the names of spices, asking for prices. I even go into the shipyard next door and watch people weigh marine life and haggle. Octopus, tuna, squid, sailfish, pweza, marlin. Every single day I stand in that sweet stench and watch and listen, paying attention to the prices for a next time I need to buy. With travel there’s always a next time. The present bears no fascination. Anxiety and worry have been childhood companions. And here I am, in the middle of a spice island, my nose (not) learning to tell smells apart, learning new funky names for things, telling (lying to) myself that next time I take the ferry I must bring money for cloves and cardamom. I’m almost regretting the hostel. If I had a ka-house with a kitchen, saa hii ningekua nakaranga vitunguu na nyanya na pweza nikikunya Serengeti yangu baridi. Or even make a cucumber sandwich and sit at the balcony. Next time. I’m saving up. I’m saving up.

Poetry has been impossible to get into. There’s a restlessness that keeps us up at night, the kind whose catalyst isn’t uncertainty, or a quest to know what isn’t known, but is guilt. Whatever I write feels false and forced. I keep waiting for it to come back to me. Was it ever with me to begin with? Has all this just been some sick elaborate joke? That I’m seeing and experiencing so much means nothing, there’s a huge gap between all that and the lines on my notebook. I keep thinking it might be a good idea to get into a mat and go as further inland I can, leave the familiarity of Stone Town—maybe that might inspire me. Maybe if I get myself so lost in the unfamiliar inland the panic and excitement might do something for me. Or, despite my great fear of water, take one of those dangerous-looking boats to Pemba. Mafia. Instead I walk. The narrow streets are supposed to inspire me, right? The food, the cats, the Indian Ocean, the beautiful boys jumping into the water in such dangerous succession I keep waiting for an accident to happen. In the evenings I walk to Forodhani and eat all kinds of meat, drinking Konyagi from a water bottle, watching cats scavenge, tourists kiss with sticky sauces on their faces. I want something I cannot name. Cioran: Although I long for luminous ecstasies, I wouldn’t ask for any, because I know they are followed by great depressions.


Let me say this of my experience of the night. From a beer at Livingstone I walk to Shangani. Past Freddye Mercury’s I take Gizemba Street. From there you can close your eyes. You can somehow end up at Ngome Kubwa, in which case you can make your way back through the main street to wherever, or you can find yourself at St. Joseph’s Cathedral. If you take this route you might have gone in a circle and back to Shangani. Or at that bastard Tippu Tip’s house. But you can also just keep going up until Benjamin Mkapa, which means a whole new world. The inbetweens are for a beginner all about luck, especially for someone like me.

It feels like I’ve always been unable to care about the simple pleasures of the material. Two weeks before making the trip I was so excited looking at AirBnbs. The possibilities. This until I saw the prices. After days of looking for a place that ad trackers—fuck Outlook, fuck Google, power to the people—started sending me ad pop ups while I was looking at emails, I found out that I could get a room for as cheap as five dollars. My budget was something between ten and twenty five dollars. Everything prior to this was over twenty five dollars. Didn’t take me much to book the hostel. I’ve not been much of a traveler so the shock of what exactly that hostel was is still with me. But I keep telling myself all I needed was a place to sleep (blackout), shower, leave my things: books, clothes, sandals (the most valuable thing on me being my phone and the cash which I kept with me at all times). I console myself that this trip is about my poetry, my struggles with the sentence, finding a new vocabulary, getting outside my body, getting lost, unencumbered, woking through doubt, losing myself (not the same as getting lost, btw), that this trip is about Work, although, as far as I can tell from my time here, the definition of Work is becoming fluid. New meaning is what I’m after. Maybe even failure. The poet is a faker/ Who’s so good at his act/ He even fakes the pain/ Of pain he feels in fact.

My second time here two years ago I mailed myself a letter home. Never really read it. While I like writing letters I have so little use for those sent to me; they’re at home locked away somewhere, half read. I’m supposed to do the same this time. Hard as I try there’s really nothing I want to tell myself. The harder truth is that I’m not ready for the things I finally need to come to terms with, not even ready to admit this to myself. And so what if I name these truths, what then? I’m still left with myself. I opt for the lazy explanation that it is far more interesting to stick to the lies, invent new ones if need be, invent a thousand heteronyms, escaping to whichever at will. For instance: I’ve come here to get away, watch films, say a few critical things about them. The real reason, the truth, would make all of this unimportant, dark, scary. And I’m afraid of that. So for days I wake up at 6 a.m., listen to the call to prayer, walk to Malawi Road and share in the silence of the old men as we all drink coffee. I come back to the lobby and manage to write maybe a single page on good days, aware of the receptionist’s stares at the corner of my eye. I go upstairs, shower and dress to the sound of the white backpackers. Most of them stay out late and sleep in in the mornings. On my way out I attempt small talk with the receptionist, the dark-skinned one. The other one has this cold look, not once has she said hello except to ask if I’ve paid for my bunk bed, surprised to see on the computer that I’ve paid the full amount on checking in and still somehow looking disappointed about this. Outside I become self-aware in an unusual way. It happens to me all the time but here it is more acute. This leads to a lot of shikamoos that go unanswered. Should I be polite? Should I just mind my business? My hair is a dreadlocked mess and stands out everywhere I go, from the streets to the air-conditioned lobby of Park Hyatt. See, these are the things that worry me. I should be instead thinking about the intersection of poetry and social engagement, things like what tourism is doing to the island’s people and religion, not why a thirty-one-old man feels so out of place, so self-conscious, among people who share his skin color and poverty—wait, am I, already thinking about intersections? Have I stumbled onto something here? No. I find myself unable to write, unable even to lose myself in the Stone Town maze. Often I stick to the main streets and roads. My time is spent at the fort and Park Hyatt and Maru Maru, the two hotels hosting the festival. If I wander a little it is to find food, not that I’m hungry, but because I know if I don’t eat whatever looms will leave me in bed for days. So far, I’ve had little interest in revisiting the old places that so inspired me when I first visited the island, the cemetary near Seyyida, the cemetery in Kijitonyama, the cemetery in Arusha, the Mont-Kamba cemetery in Mabancous’ The Lights of Pointe Noire, places that inevitably found a way into my psyche and work, into my dreams. The Shangani Post Office, where from Masa’s balcony I once sat with a dear friend as we witnessed a marriage ceremony with so much color, deciding at that moment that it would be adapted into the final scene of the novel I was working on, has now lost its appeal except for the fact that it is the building opposite the only Wines & Spirits I’ve come across.

All is suffering is a bad modernist translation.

What the Buddha really said is: It’s all a mixed bag. Shit

is complicated. Everything’s fucked up. Everything’s gorgeous. Even

Death contains pleasure—six feet below understanding.

Lewis Robin Coste. Voyage of the Sable Venus: and Other Poems.

This inability to be in the moment is not surprising. This slow death, this always waiting for something. What surprises me is my inability to write you the letter I promised, you who I claim to love, to tell you I’m willing to approach your definitions of it. I’m learning that perhaps this inability to both work and write to you are connected by inability to naming things as they are, to finding truth. I’ve also considered writing as both the result of and the enactment of a restlessness of imagination, a desire to abandon ourselves to what we suspect we should resist, even as we know that to resist entirely would likely lead to a form of death-in-life, which is somehow worse than death itself—isn’t it? I return to you, to the question of what comes when I take the bus back home. At each farewell the question not asked is always there: Will I see you again? Only by fully preparing oneself for people’s absence can one be at ease with their presence. See you soon, T.

Notes (Works Cited)

Robin Coste Lewis. Voyage of the Sable Genius and Other Poem
E. M. Cioran. On the Heights of Despair
Yiyun Li. Gold Boy, Emerald Girl
Carl Phillips. The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination.
Poetry (2019). Carl Philips. This Far In

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