sweat caught in oil slick
shake colour colour thick
blocked up and spilled to the top and covered
with a hot pressure rice-cooker lid
shake shake pain between bone a trapped nerve
bone pain back bone
i smell the good food like oil that steals the air away
from subcutaneous blood
the hand hurts where the nerves hurt
the table moved onto my wrist as they collide
as i fell
onto a soft wrist with my hard wood bones
hands heavily propped
at 90 degrees bent i’m carrying the world
under my wooden lid
i hid and i cry without face just the head
and in my head i said
i miss you feeling my sadness
with your thick yellow thread
when i cry or don’t cry
I find it hard, and have always found it hard to read people. I know this because I am told that I’m flirting, I try too hard, come on too close or too strong. Or maybe I won’t remember your face and name, again and again.
Sometimes – that thickness, numbness – it works. If I feel like I should tell someone something urgent, like when I have a secret and everyone is drinking and I need to tell you, I can just pull you aside when I want to talk. I don’t feel anxious about the telling, all I know is that I want to talk, that it is you I want to talk to, that I want this right now.
But sometimes it kinda fucks me up. Sometimes I trust someone, first thing in the morning, last thing at night. I trust with my proximity. My feelings, my body. My secrets.
My feelings, most of the time, are strong and singular. If I feel something, I have trouble stepping back. I fight for it even when I shouldn’t. Sometimes it’s stupid. Sometimes it’s not.
Sometimes, I think scenario A is going on, but then I realise it’s been B all along, figure it out when I’m in too deep. I think you are my friend, but maybe you are not and you are trying to fuck – me – up – and I just let you and don’t say anything or do anything to stop it until it gets too close.
I have trouble saying no when something like that happens. I don’t know whether I am comfortable with something. If I have ‘mixed’ feelings, they all tend to be strong. Pulling me in lots of directions. I freeze, I shut up, paralysed.
It’s like shopping for food when anorexic. I stand in front of things and I don’t know how I feel, I don’t know what I want. I look at boxes of the same thing, reading the back although I know what the label will say already. I walk away with nothing, paralysed. When simple, strong feelings clash, I can’t tell them apart anymore.
When anorexic, food to me is animated. It has a kind of force field. You could say it’s a ‘mental’ force field, for lack of a better word. Mental makes it sounds like there’s something not quite real about it, ‘airy-fairy’ as some philosophers like to put it. And yet all the same, it pulls me, it pushes. It has a power over me in the sense that it is manipulating me and I don’t even know it. I just feel the effects. Delayed, when it is too late.
Maybe an eating disorder is just a deeply unequal relation to food, where food controls you & you get more and more rigid, developing rules to protect yourself from its control. I fear food because I don’t know what it will do to me. I struggle to ‘predict’ its actions, I struggle to predict what it will ‘decide’ to do to me so I try to make up for that in other ways, by setting more rules, by learning more facts. I’m not obsessed, just Taking A Special Interest. I know that we – food and I, you and I – are already connecting, connected somehow but I just can’t see it. A radical machinic panpsychism is desire that works fastest at zero ‘theory of mind’.
People can be like food. I want to touch them, but I can’t. I want them so much but I can’t cos I’m scared to be played like a pack of cards so I chew and spit, but still, they cling onto my teeth, my nails, my fingers. They try to play me by biting my ears, by trying to kiss me first thing in the morning, or was it already last thing at night. Or was it instead a secret they told me that I took a bite of and spat out but I can still feel it in me, playing hop-scotch with me, churning me in the stomach, reading me like a book.
I stare the chalk, down
I soak the wall, in
The music is too, loud
Too loud and the fragments of chalk sandpaper
Too loud and scratch patterns of chalking paper
Swim tightly, crushing my teeth, lightly
Chalk powdering wet crumb-boulders
into my shrunken
I give into the heat
and my hands go hard
Letting my blood go thick
I’m letting my people drown
On either side of
And I feel the veins hit me
in my chalk-ribbed rocking boat
My lips – sails
My legs – ropes
And in a thousand high chords
The strings of anxiety of my wrists
Are pulling a million invisible seams
Apart until I
I think a reasonable way to begin is here, right now. I am sitting in one of the research centres of my university. It is a space for research postgraduate students like me to do their work. It is one of the few places on campus where I am able to do so, but it is far from being somewhere I can do so best. Despite all the emphasis on the ‘facilities’ that are provided for our ‘community’, like a hot water tap and a couple of extra computers, the main aspect of study for me is sensory. What it feels like, literally, to work in a certain space.
Here, the lights are copious and bright, and the white light seems to reflect in depthless white sheets off the white smooth of rounded plastic tables. All the surfaces are smooth and depthless, just like the single-hue sculptures of Anish Kapoor, sharply and economically framed, but concave, convex without end. The tabletop is brighter, more luminous than my computer screen. There seems to be no meaningful distance between the white light and me. There is no depth to the room. Everything is here, happening – to me – at the same time. I try to imagine a different sensory point of view to mine, what might it be like to work here in a different body and I cannot.
I just left a talk given by Nina Power. She gave a paper on the public, the state, protest, legal subjects. She considered a number of concepts like ‘public space’, ‘public opinion’, ‘public order’, and their relationship with the polis, police, policy. She considered the simultaneity of these fictions and functions. Negatively affected by the state that segregates those it exploits from its definition of ’the public’, negative publics emerge. Refugee and migrant movements, police violence movements, free education movements, Sisters Uncut. Nina talked about the way in which those excluded from the fictional ‘public’ (in the name of which the law acts as such, punishing or permitting X as it sees fit) – whether by virtue of the fact of their documentation and/or dissent – find themselves excluded on all counts. That is, temporally, spatially, politically. Collectivities are constituted in the negative. This is, in a way, the real public, or that pole of ‘the public’ with actual bodies.
The university has its own privatised spaces that are meant to be shared and common. I think of sensory exclusion as another mode of slicing the public into fantasies of the good of the public and the ghosts that are its threat. What kind of body can withstand the private, prestigious, card-access-only spaces of the (public) university? What is the individual body implied? The light is too bright for me means body unfit for the light, unfit for the room or in other words failing of test of fitness, of fitness for academia. I fail the reasonable test for access, I lose my membership to the room, my citizenship of the polis (Goodley et al:20). The university is not a tower but an ivory city-state, and to identify with the polis is to coincide with police, the law of the land, the law of the good proper.