How To Read
Feng Sun Chen's PAUL THEK came from Amazon/Lulu three days ago, but I have not opened it and can't imagine opening it. Eventually, I will. Perhaps I will never cut it out. But for now, I like the membrane-like casing and plush, foamy padding of the object itself. Book as chrysalis event. The cellophane like congealed saliva stretched taut over a content (PAUL THEK) both inert and straining. I have propped it up on the butcher's table for now:
I wanted to read a book but did not. (I wanted to write a book but did not.) "The subject is yet to come," as Cixous writes in my decades-old copy of Lispector's Agua Viva, "and in place of a subject, one has that which constitutes itself, a pre-subject." Is it possible to read a book without opening it? When I was a student in a university, I once slept with Donne beneath my pillow, then Marlowe, then others. Though the others were on my pillow and not beneath it, and they were not dead. As an experiment in non-being, I thought I would pull a card for the subject, then open Feng's book to see—if the card matches up. As "pre." No, I'm too lazy. I'm just going to place my palm on the book, close my eyes and see what comes.
What comes: the image of a horse galloping, very fast, and it's face/muzzle splits down the middle. So that a horse blood outline is now galloping in place. Blood, that is, in the shape of a horse: its membrane a curing: a way for the blood to have surface tension without clotting. The blood is turning black as I look. There is a quality of revolution and if I look behind the horse, to where it's come from, there is someone lying on the floor. The floor is a low-grade paper. Or like outer space grey. The person lying on the floor has been damaged—their wings are thin and oily, like torn lengths of skin. There is a lot of bleeding in this image too: but also regeneration. (This is palmistry.) I see that the lower half of the body is a hand and the upper part is a non-human structure with human features. An angel? The body of an angel merges with a person's hand, but also, it could be that the person's hand is inside it. The angel. Now I look more closely and the blood leaving the angel's body is black.
I think we may need a card after all. The pre of Feng Sun Chen's book resembles a hallucination, an orgy of human and animal causes milking each other for images that have no beginning and no end. The pre-subject makes me dizzy. (That, or I had too much Earl Grey tea this morning, like a non-industrious version of Mark Nowak.)
Card: Alright, this is freaking me out: it's a RED. HORSE. With a pagan vagina beneath it! And graves! And stars falling out of a tree! (This is Rachel Pollack's Shining Tribe deck again. Gorgeous, pathogenic: accurate.) The divinatory meaning is Strength, but also -- the capacity to link present and past in the body's "progress." The head rotating back as one foreleg is outstretched/dynamic. I am not saying that very well and should get the book (Rachel's book), but once again, lazy. And stunned. There is also language in Rachel Pollack's description about the dead, about communicating not with them but with their symbols. The marks on their graves:
Okay, now I will open the book:
I have opened to page 54 and 55. The only thing to do here is to type up some of these lines. Preliminary finding 1.a: It is possible to read a book without opening it. This is not exactly true, but as it is preliminary finding I will leave it as it is. Finding 1.b: Page 54 and 55 address the following subjects, which also occurred in the pre-subject space of the book: blood, blood that was black, penetration, a corpse, rapid re-growth or fecundity, an immigrant body, poetry, a BLACK ANGEL and a complex aggregate of flesh of different kinds.
"It brings out melancholy and auto destruct...
is that like being an immigrant i have never not been
an immigrant....I murder
my work by showing it HASHISH
to make you into my wife Paul Thek
to slip inside of you then bust
out the Alien
you negative hero absolute zero pore me with holes
revolt myself body black angel
who slipped from a tree's heart...
kinbaku ham me Paul thek be my boo."
Also: "in a letter to Paul i said that i was sad because i had a lot offerings and sad i like the black of colors, the vat that is all the other colors. when they are mixed together, it is black, black blood like the crap in my pants, in my lover's rectum, where all the world and love he ate collects...i say to paul, i wish i could be like you. you made a corpse of yourself and threw it away."
Sina Queryas: "The Lyric Conceptualist is not necessarily a feminine body, but it has the stink of the impure, a certain irreverence for the master, therefore it is by default, feminine in construction."
"I see the importance of withdrawing from sex in order to make the progress i wish." (Feng.)
I don't know what else to say except that this started out very casually with me wanting to post a cell phone picture of a book before I opened it up. I wanted to think about linguistics and shame, questions that Feng asked me about in a recent e-mail. I answered her questions in a very weak way, then ordered her book late at night, having renewed my credit card information with Paypal. I had not read her work, and wanted to. I read the works of immigrants and non-immigrants to become one, myself. A duplicate. A fan. A baby.
But now I am somewhere else. I am very far away. Reading this:
this is not about you
it is through you."
Bhanu Kapil lives in Colorado where she teaches at Naropa University. She also teaches in Goddard College’s low-residency MFA. She is the author of a number of full-length works of poetry/prose, including The Vertical Interrogation of Strangers (Kelsey Street Press, 2001), Incubation: a space for monsters (Leon Works, 2006), humanimal...