and then the corpses of so many of my literary heroes burst open from the writings of Terrance Hayes, a major influence whose poetry not only led me to peculiar spaces to investigate the black imagination but he also scribes historical markers throughout his work, each poem acting as both a body of art and its own footnote, revealing to the reader shadows of figures such as Ellison, Knight, Brooks, and the mythical Orpheus he speaks through, even here, in one of my favorite poems “Cocktails with Orpheus,” where he seems to recreate the image of Orpheus and Eurydice by inserting one of his selves (the infamous 3 Terrance’s) behind the character of a woman whose “skirt is hiked above her hips, as bound / as touch permits,” and the inversion of this myth has one contemplate, as Hayes has, the question of who is the poet in this scene, having me more intrigued with the following line Hayes writes in the voice of the woman who says:
[…] don’t forget me when I become the liquid out of which names are born, salt-milk, milk-sweet, and animal made.
and of this moment, in which it is indeed the woman (as well as Geneva who, according to Orpheus “did not perish, she was not turned to ash in the brutal light”— hints of the underworld, perhaps?) who offers us this beautiful but truth-haunting language, I wish to share how this provoked me to explore more of the mechanisms of poetry and the importance of lineage in literature (and the linguistics of tragedy), always revising who is doing the looking, what is omitted from vision and whose eyes the poet dares to look through,
[…] When Orpheus hands me his sunglasses, I see how fire changes everything. In the mind
the mind seeming to be a continuation of the previous line describing what fire changes, which helps me in not only the (re)writing of my own history, but taking into consideration my actions in the world, which could be inspiration to imagine more words, me becoming a period in question, the whirling of his mind showing no end to which any one situation can be observed, unconsciously leading me to discover lines in my own work such as:
I make the bars I put you behind here. I tend my own prisons and disappear.
which is me exploring the confusing incarcerated states of the artistic exhibitionist, wondering if it is the reader I am capturing with my whimsical language, or is it I that I imprison with the limitation of whimsy:
I know decent lives in the word descent.
—Hayes states in his hazed state in the imagined bar room, the kind of rooms I knew very well as a child, me in venues such as St. Nick’s Pub or Sista’s Place, with my mother and father, on separate occasions, each of them in their own way, telling me the history of the musicians I adored, studying the Miles Davis notion of “Cool,” which I later learned could be viewed as a descendant of the sophisticated style of Ellington, Basie, the genius of Charlie Parker, these revelations incredibly revealing, leaving me hungry, daring and determined to unravel the web that connects the minds of generations, and so many of these ideas have me realize that I wouldn’t think twice about wearing the sunglasses of a man I’ve randomly met at a bar, who calls himself Orpheus; because even at the edge of tragedy or hills leading me to danger, I couldn’t and still can’t resist uncovering deep and scathing truths and turning that into language, something my mother would chant to me as a child:
You lie, you cheat, you cheat, you steal, you steal, you kill.
and in my suite of poems, each is dedicated to someone I feel I am a descendant of, from Terrance Hayes to MF Doom, I am searching for the proximity between a lie and a kill with the equally dangerous truth and immortality, therefore, bringing me back to the poem “Cocktails with Orpheus” nearly accomplishing the amount of lines to be a sonnet, the most popular form that survived centuries without falling out of fashion, but the poem does not accomplish it, and it may have not intended to, but the distance between the sonnet and non-sonnet matters to me, reiterating what I know about my own life, how I am very much of my parent’s lineage even though I do not bear either of their last names (though I am joined to them by blood), this rumination of names, genetics, and sonnets tells me to tackle my difficulties with intimacy through a philosophical path, consequently leading me to tackle that same problem through form, and creating my own form in the “Twenty-Seven w/” poems (a poem required to reach 27 lines as well as creating an additional form within it that correlates in some way with the intended character), which are encased in the already established sonnet ("Sonneticalities," "Sonnet of Doom"), and I adopt part of Haye's reasoning to use form: for practice, taking upon the challenge of creating a series to further push my handling of language within confinement, and to conclude, I wish again, to express my deep obsession with the playful language arranged by Terrance Hayes, paying attention so deeply to the work he works to scrupulously word on a page, so I write, almost parodically, this essay as a long sentence that he used in his book to inform us of the importance of reflecting on the lengthy struggles of the Invisible Man or the indivisible, manic man, for which I utilize this, celebrating how his poems constantly prod, probe my poetics and their own quaint (or quibbling) philosophies.