I’ve been trying to articulate something lately. It’s always framed that way, in my mind, as an articulation, and I imagine a limb reaching out of my mouth, unfurling itself from deep down in my throat out to clutch your cheeks, your face, trying to pour a miasma of only semi-sayable thoughts out right through you your eyes ears mouth right into your brain, my thumb and pinky reaching around into your ears, pointer and ring brushing retina, middle fingering your mouth this hand to mouth a particular articulation:
something about apocalypse, first. it’s a memory of the many apocalypses come before us. it’s a message breaking through the static of the future about a freedom that already exists though we aren’t there yet. so it’s a cyclical coming around again of endrebirth that’s happening happening again now. i want to be buried as my ancestors were in an earthenware urn a mud vessel a clay ship sailing off into space with creative emissions a sparrowhawk that tiny bird inside a deadliness carrying us all in its gentle inside its tender talons to another world just like this one right here but different a new atmosphere indistinguishable enveloping us in the warm blue of the end of the world and you might say of course i’m thinking of the end of the world but to tell you the truth it surprised me, it caught me, slunk up slowly these months until suddenly and i mean epistemologically, not so much where are we going but— where what hell are we coming from? the very idea that we can positivistically progressively rationalize our way out of racism, colonialism, environmental catastrophe, capitalism, is circular logic. and how am i just realizing that’s the rub? i mean i’ve suspected it but to so fully understand the ways i know have been taught conditioned disciplined how to understand can’t break me free. am i the only one slowly waking up to this, have you all known and not told me? crawling out of the university like a sickly eyeliner-melting sleeping beauty from the spell, to a kiss of burning crashing coming down. but the epistemic apocalypse cannot remain so, it is in every sense, crumbling, see how i’m reach reaching for something i can’t quite— and to return to mud, it’s really about that too, good feeling, at core, wandering a glowing city with my beautiful friends (didn’t even realize i was trying to write about that) while little stars fall around us all around us fall the days shrinking somewhere deep inside where not even the tear gas can reach where you can reach through me it’s the future i want to see so badly i could cry i cry sounding like grain on the surface of an led screen an absurdity how we try to put texture back into our boxes of of of the deadly sweep of bluegray wings into a subjective cycle riding currents gyres lazily hunting an end to ends in flight a prolongation of means, that is, seeing, with eyes half closed half here the rest of the senses rush in, proprioception becoming a basis for articulating our meanings circling each other slowing to the rhythm of thought unattainable in language unfurling in simultaneity, double exposures of experience now take a deep your fingers are your mind sigh as an unlock i want to offer you a means to enter patience you can’t find elsewhere as in remember to hum; skip; draw in sand; swing; misunderstand the sky; look around (for you are short); don’t skim, sound it out. if i forget to drink water in my play you will have to do it for me, thanks. i know i sound breathless but i’m saying the same thing in so many different ways all my mouths are open for you watch them enter through your skin your largest membrane it is barely there no different from table feather vapor the roots in the smell of green tea in blood the stuff that once was rock (i’m paraphrasing, pushing my memory, my oral tradition weak) i hope you already know what i’m saying i hope i’m pulling it out of you like i am finding new ways of tugging innards out and matching their pretty shapes to the diagrams of celestial bodies where things don’t quite hang in the balance it’s made out to be more like circling a drain, clumps of hair stuck to the wall, a slippery slidey avoidance
Coming back puts me in my place right when I’m wanting to romanticize, getting pulled slowly into the traps of diaspora— nationalism, idealization, homogenization. I missed the revolution. I will have to carry that onward now, that the thing I waited for since I came into any sort of political consciousness happened while I was in the cradle of neoliberalism and imperialism, studying. Is the function of the academy to distract us from what we already know? From the now already happening, the academy institutionalizes and renders mostly unintelligible to the majority of people the knowledge the people are creating. Here I am again trying to rationalize my way out of reason. Traps everywhere. I deviate so quickly from home. If I were to come back here for good, I feel like all I could do with my foreign Ivy League pedigree would be to shut up and listen, trying to make up for the time I’ve been gone and learning to situate myself once again. But you had to be there, my friend tells me, unable to make more than images of carnival, laughing hysterical terrified running toward the cops cowering behind a hunk of metal found somewhere lying by the street and running away again once punctured by tear gas canister, spending all day in urgent political discussions and protean autonomous spaces, I had to be there, and besides, I’ve never been able to not speak, I listen through repeating back, just look at all these words.
It’s not quite a ghost town I arrive to so much as a town of my ghosts, not so much the ghosts of those I’ve lost, as of what I’ve missed, the streets full of stencils, ACAB ACAB ACAB ACAB everywhere 1312 1312 PIÑERA ASESINO NEWEN the city a blackboard but nothing like what it was, not as in the fact that I can’t tell which bus stop corresponds to which bus anymore because the signs are all gone, pulled straight out of the ground and the little maps which used to be a bit faded but were still mostly legible are shattered now, but as in how many times these walls keep getting painted over and my friend tells me that within days the graffiti murals altars come roaring back, maybe less and certainly never the same but similar enough that I can still feel the revolution I missed in the air between the couples humping in the shade the street dogs scrounging the families with ice cream cones dripping over their masks and waiting for the bus the messages on even the scrawniest corners of downtown LIBERTAD A LXS PRESXS POLITICXS COMPAÑERX CAIDX PRESENTE ACAB DIGNIDAD could all be written by the same hand, like the spray bottle shapes the letters more than the hand that holds it and is it too on the nose to call it a ghost town when people who were here lost their eyes, lost their lives, were getting tortured in these streets on a daily basis (as my friend reminds me, did I need reminding)? What are my ghosts of distance and missing when we cross a corner where a man was electrocuted. I don’t know the names of the dead the way they do, I look them up online when they appear in my friend’s writing. ghosts ghosts ghosts ghosts acab acab ghosts acab ghosts
written every which possible way across the city. Petering out radially in the direction of the high upper neighborhoods (I return to). My friend and I discuss how the too-literal on the noseness of the imagery of the revolution feels like the cops are just making the metaphors for us. Like the fact that cops kick down, wipe away, paint over the homemade altars to the dead in the spots where they were killed by cops: memory is dangerous and political. Like the fact that there were way more cops guarding the largest tallest mall in the country, a massive cock in the middle of Santiago of which only the bottom five floors are actually occupied, than the presidential palace: police protect property, not (even powerful) people. How redundant to write an academic article about the political act of memory when they literally destroy our monuments (to life) and protect theirs (to capital). Who are you writing that for?
There are no means, there are no ends. No form, no content. No man, no woman. Yet in denying these dualisms, I name them, frame my rejection through the very thing I reject. I want to learn how to think and write in a third space, before and beyond the dichotomies.
Before coming back, I didn’t feel so heavily that I’d missed the revolution, the uprising of my lifetime. Hearing my friends tell their stories, attempt to capture how it felt and how it was different from the many protests we were part of in high school, I recognize the depth of what I missed. But I realize that I wasn’t wrong before either; I refuse to believe this was it, that complacency has returned. I remember that our students protests were just as much a part of the revolution as the sudden, massive explosion was: high school students were the ones who started it all, jumping the turnstiles in the subway. I remember that we’ve been rehearsing the revolution for years, that every day we practice resistance, both as a means to survive and in preparation for the future that is always coming, always possible.
During my mother’s childhood, a socialist was elected president and began nationalizing the country’s resources and industries, returning lands to Indigenous people and redistributing wealth. During that revolution, my mom remembers waiting in line for hours to buy bread, one of many food shortages. Then the military, the rich, the U.S., struck back with bombs and the president committed suicide and thousands were killed, tortured, disappeared. I think many of us today think that that level of violent backlash is of the past, but I think a number of people then did, too. Remember that even a democratically-elected revolution (if such a paradox is possible) will be fought back against with tooth and nail (that is what we are up against). And so my mom grew up for 17 years during a brutal dictatorship, when writing something like this was a crime. She hid books for her friends. Parties lasted from toque a toque, from beginning to end of the nightly curfew. She went to protests that were slowly, somewhat, permitted again. She was arrested and released the next day, lucky. Unsure of whether to believe in it, she finally voted against the dictatorship and won, the opposition was allowed to win, euphorically ushering in 30 years of democratic standstill during which neoliberalism only entrenched itself more deeply in the laws, economy, and minds of the country. Then, last year, my mom took part in revolution again, for a second, third, innumerable time. With my younger sister, my cousins, friends, thousands, millions, of strangers, they took the streets for weeks on end, unsure of what exactly they were asking for, or protesting against, aside from everything. The military were ordered out into the streets again, curfew reinstated, the beatings, tear gas, rubber? bullets, water cannons, illegitimate arrests rained down as hard as ever. People were killed and tortured in the streets, again, only less quietly than it had already been happening, had never stopped happening. In Indigenous nations, in poor neighborhoods, in immigrant communities, it didn’t stop after the dictatorship, though they made up new reasons and justifications for the brutality. They drafted laws that specifically allowed them to militarize Indigenous lands. Political prisoners of the Indigenous resistance as well as the uprising are still being held, even as those in power congratulate themselves for listening to the people and quelling all but the most radical. The president has a 5% approval rating now. Quelled with the help of even stricter, everlasting curfews and police-state control to combat the pandemic that is devastating those most marginalized communities the most, controlling while abandoning them. How many front-line protestors, front-line workers, have we lost? And how many presidents, senators, CEOs? I don’t believe I missed the revolution at all. It didn’t come from nowhere, it hasn’t disappeared mysteriously. Inhale, exhale, we will return.
I should write this all with so much more detail, more care, more specificity, less obviousness, as poetry, or a dream, instead, I shouldn’t write at all, I should be acting, not lying, but working with my lovely dysphoric muscles or my little money instead of my mind, no, remember those mind maps of the roles in a revolution, think I can be a different one of those, we can’t all build barricades to burn, I’ve never thought art is useless, have you, art does, act upon the world, upon me, it has, driven deep fissures in the space where theory wishes it could, where politics can’t reach, where ritual and movement and metaphor are the only languages possible necessary or sane, whereof we cannot speak we speak we must, keep it in the bellybutton, the place of connection, see, in all these years away the bougainvillea has expanded across the whole sky of the garden so it almost reaches the curly haired jasmine plant and full apricot tree, so only a skinny sliver of evening sunlight rests on my knees, stomach, cheeks full of mint and lemon peel and lemon verbena tea, tisane to be precise, agüita we call it in Chile, little water, herb tea is a little water I would love to share with you.