The commitment to repair is how a refusal to represent terror redoubles the logic of representation. The refusal of our ongoing afterlife can only ever replicate a worn-out grammar. The event remains, in the depths. The event-remains are deep and we stand before them, to express them, as their expression. These bits are a mystery, a new machine for the incalculable, which is next, having defied its starting place. I almost remembered this in a dream, where we were just talking, and nothing happened, then it was over, until just now, with your hands, and light on the breeze’s edge. I just can’t help feeling that this is what we’re supposed to do—to conserve what we are and what we can do by expansion whose prompt, more often than not shows up as loss (which shows up, more often than not, as a prompt). More shows up more often than nought if you can stand it.

But all this assumes a relation (rather than some absolute break) between the new thing and memory that remains to be thought. What the fuck does it mean to rebuild Haiti? Stories abound of people surviving after being trapped for days. Yes. The imposition of underdevelopment, and the impossible social life that emerges from it, is an historical condition. Rebuilding or repair, both of which are predicated on their necessary relation to the story, are re-situated by a question of depth. Re: Zong! What’s behind, but also, who or what stands in front of the poem, in order to be moved, reformatted? There is a mutual transformation that occurs by way of an intense engagement with the thing, a mutual supplementation, rather than the enactment of a fantasy of repair, or ennoblement, that is always manifest as getting through or past or behind it to its message or its essence. What if the message were displaced by the ongoing production of code, which is our social life and what our social life is meant to conserve? What if what we talked about under the rubric of silence were discussed under the rubric of space? Or, in a different register, air and water? What is it like to be in the world with some other thing? I’m trying to think about the spatial relations between the reader, the poem and history. What does it mean, first of all, to consider that this is a spatial relation? Or, better yet, to speak of the space-time of articulation (as futurity, projection)?

Originally Published: February 6th, 2010

Fred Moten lives in Los Angeles, where he teaches at the University of California, Riverside. He is author of Arkansas (Pressed Wafer); In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition (University of Minnesota Press); I ran from it but was still in it. (Cusp Books); Hughson’s Tavern (Leon Works); B Jenkins (Duke...

  1. February 7, 2010
     Bhanu Kapil

    "The event-remains are deep and we stand before them, to express them, as their expression." Fred: the writer a kind of progeny of these impossible codes?

  2. February 8, 2010
     Amy Catanzano

    Fred, your "space-time of articulation" makes me think about the spacetime of the poem, how the poem works with space and time as literary devices, but also how the poem warps spacetime, too, outside of the poem. \r

    Fred & Bhanu: If the reader, the poem, and history have a spatial relation, they might have a unique time signature as well, a spacetime that situates history in the future. Christian Bok's Xenotext Experiment--in which he is encoding a poem into a live bacterium to create a cultural archive that could outlive humans–seems to be a good example of futurity as a poetic device within a spacetime of impossible codes.

  3. February 8, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Hey Bhanu, yeah, progeny, I think. And there's this mixture of literal and figural when I think about this with regard to Zong! and consider what it is to be the descendants of the one who have no descendants, who were robbed of their capacity to make generations, as Gayl Jones/Ursa Corregidora would say but also robbed even of the capacity to have, let alone tell, their story, but, whose remains are expressive, who remain in that they express, somehow, anyway, and in a way that doesn't try to recover or repair but only demands the expression that it pulls from you and that you are.

  4. February 8, 2010
     Fred Moten

    And, Amy, those, are the ones I stand before. Or, what I mean is, they are in and animate Zong! as I stand before it, try to figure out how to read it, just as Philip stood before the event, the historical and legal texts and all that they erase and all that that erasure could never have fully erased (traces/bits/fragments that are not erasable). To stand before the poem and the event that is behind it. But I don't believe in that spatial model, which is also a temporal model. I want to believe, so I guess I do believe, in a kind of ecstatic temporality of the poem, the poem as a kind of benjaminian constellation. And what's so cool in what you say comes out now, I would hope: that the poem's spacetime warps the spacetime that is outside it, holds the possibilities of massive transportations, big-ass jumps in and to some proximate other worlds, that, it turns out, people have been living in, otherwise, all, or almost all, along.\r

    And this is, from here and now, which must mean something different because of the way we're talking "here and now," absolutely about futurity. What CB is doing kinda scares me a little bit, and I'm not too interested in anything that would outlive humans because I have a soft spot in my heart for us, but there is a kind of futurity in the present, as C.L.R. James would kinda say that for me is all bound up with the way that the poem, even in the face of the unimaginable horror that might lie behind it, is encoded with another way to live. On the other hand, who knows how cool this new creature Christian sings up might be!

  5. February 8, 2010
     Amy Catanzano

    Anything is possible! Fred, how will you invent a way to read Zong!? In your standing before the poem and the event that is behind it, is this so that the book can find a way to read you, too? Is this what you meant above by the “mutual transformation” and by the whoever-whatever being “moved, reformatted”? With thanks--

  6. February 9, 2010
     Fred Moten

    Hey Amy, \r

    Invent, as in come upon, discover (what was already there, inside it or in the new thing that is our encounter. And the reading is, as you say, mutual! There is movement, there is being moved. I think I wanna engage Zong!--or to move knowingly in what I have already unknowingly agreed upon--in some kind of contact improvisation: a choreopoem, as Shange might have it or, maybe more precisely some kind of phonochoreography: sounded (deep as the sea) movement in relation to one another.

  7. February 10, 2010
     Amy Catanzano

    Ntozake Shange! Her play was the first book I ever taught. Introduction to Literature. Learning how to read, mutually. Thank you, Fred.

  8. February 10, 2010
     John Oliver Simon

    And For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf was first published – and printed – by Alta, at Shameless Hussy Press.

  9. February 10, 2010
     Amy Catanzano

    Didn't know that--thanks. I have the Bantam edition.

  10. February 10, 2010

    (the poem) reading (the reader) as in sounding. the reader being sounded out via the sounds the poem makes in her. (i can't stop myself from thinking of *sounder* here, though it comes in at angle.)