post-truth / new year’s song


by Legacy Russell

This is the ocean that leads back to you           :           it bleeds salt.

What is the bottom of the bottom        /           The inside of inside

Missing is cavernous it wants and never wanes          it dines on you alive

Here are the things we weave but never wear :

What is the base of this rage? It never ends, it eclipses

The ticker tape of replays        those things you wish to reminisce
Those creatures of culture remain on auto-replay          you have no choice
but to watch

FACT: we have zero agency

FACT: whiteness is a super-pac

FACT: yes      as a feminist    i’ll still choose migos

Toxic masculinity lends itself to a particular brand of contempt          one that tastes
in my mouth as it is a borrowed petal a tangy peel             not tangible

there is no belonging               it is thorny

I want some

maybe it will help me become ascendant
that pathetic reach toward cosmic that we dream of
when we find ourselves knee-deep in the sunken place

and the spoon keeps spinning

the worst set ever played for an audience of 7.6 billion

Here are the rules:

I stay open

I keep cavities tight and candied
(those things that throb and never rot)

When I fuck like kimye it’s toward an enthusiastic invisibility

Word on the street is that you can get a break as a ghost

Am I your man                        /          Can we dissolve together

Is the rectum a grave
I’m pretty sure it’s that money shot where I can get my groove back like stella

Maybe vapor is the real freedom
that wild thing that doesn’t need biometrics
that assassin that can pass through the pulp of borders without a passport

If vapor is a type of freedom               is vaping then a political act?

Someone once described to me the ‘act of vaping’ as a ‘joke on humanity’                :
wobbly bodies             walking around                         giving head to alien prosthetics
while                         real aliens watch us                      from mars
      in their north face jackets            jacking off

Here’s a hypothetical:

We are all assholes

It’s cold out there

Can I be your girl tonight

I asked you to keep me warm in this war        but offered you nothing in return
Since heat can only travel out                 we both died
/           My bad

Still      we sing and suffer
You keep calling to ask me what I’m doing but then blame it on butt-dial

I text thefting words from ‘lil kim: “Laying in the cut like a bandage. Come thru!”

You don’t get it / You don’t believe me / You don’t accept my invitation / How is
it possible your ass still knows my number by heart / How is it possible that you
still use read-receipts

Take a hike      /           It doesn’t take florence nightingale to identify the wound here

We go all night like disco to block the blood hoping the hurt will coagulate

Alone on this mountaintop
with my hand on your mouth
and      fingers pinching your nose      I still can’t tell if there’s injury

See, this is where we can’t keep going just as it used to be

No, in five years when we look back on this collapse I won’t wish you were here
No, in five dog years when we are done digging I won’t excavate you
No, in five light years when we return to this planet I won’t expect it
to still to be habitable

All that wishing is heteronormative     /           Our therapist . fucking . sucks.

The anthropocene is a massacre like jonestown          it’s super angsty

The depth of trauma and how close it cuts to the bone shouldn’t be the evidence
we need
of how loved we were                 /           yet we want it
that absence as a weapon
it is a chalk outline

Here are the forensics:

There’s a science to drake, I swear it

Those nights where we threw our hands up                after too many glasses of wine
hotlined a pathway to headache with a riri imaginary at our fingertips
just out of        reach

That sexy-ass solstice we spent on our pluto
years after the real thing was demoted to a dwarf        poor thing

all the other planets laughed                /           how sizeist
that was our post-mortem

The modernity of love is an eclipse                 /
pretty weird to navigate but with special stripes in hi-vis

To be planetary is aspirational anyway            !
don’t be naive, everyone knows the canon is a cannon

The romance of aesthetics is bigoted
don’t forget that beauty is the native tongue of this capitalist conspiracy
keep your eyes on the road
you don’t get to climb out of the car whenever you please

The wedding-industrial complex began with chivalry             and so did the construct of
romantic love

Neither were sprung for bodies like ours        both vapid in the blender of fairytale

There’s no victory within victorianism

the queen couldn’t care less about what position you take in bed nor in politic

don’t expect she’ll find forgiveness now for her swans that we ate
while starved for one another
just because now meghan markle’s on the scene
That’s not socialist

There have been so many shadowy hours

Those days where the penny-wish is that the bottom of the bathtub drops away and swallows me
whole along with my arnica

Heartbreak is neoliberal           so is apathy                it is saleable by hallmark
on bad days I literally don’t care enough to die           I’m too mindful

On Instagram sliding up into my DMs is that friend of mine who
burning,           never sleeps on the world
That restless one who
in the pale watery hours of a new year dawning
alongside an excellence of emojis
fit for egyptian royals of an early dynastic
wonders whether erica garner’s heart was ‘just too full’

Girl, I feel you                         Hey, I feel it

Hey, post-script           :           there is a danger in #blackgirlmagic
that thing that parades and celebrates   /
that thing that suggests our trying for superhuman

is magic allowed to hurt?

activism is not alchemy           it is a mantra

sometimes humanity is all we have left though          but it is slippery / it excludes

there ain’t nothing super about it

Here are those resolutions:

They will come for you           /           They will never take you

(erica, we lost a daddy, too)

In state-sanctioned love, I promise to fail
And in this new condition       broken now     to never seek safety

I’m sorry         I’m not sorry

My problem is that I’ve been too much of an empath
all the universe rushes through me
yet somehow I am blamed for being devoid of compassion

I don’t want to live your life right       this life I live
I make it          now

(In these hearts            all things are kept)
(In these rooms           all things must be saved)

Here’s the edict:

The body is a burning building

We take what we can and don’t look back

Don’t believe what they say                we’ll see to it that it fails and falters

we’ll rebuild without blueprints so it fits just right      without the speculative seize of a
patriarchal architect

They’ll see :

You’ll see :

We’ll see         maybe

clarice lispector said    All the world began with a yes.

How many worlds will we make ours?

Yes, yes, a thousand times      —


This poem was performed at The Poetry Project in New York City on 5 January 2018.

Cover image by Amanda Hirsch.

About the Author:

Legacy Russell is a writer and curator. Born and raised in New York City, she is the Associate Curator of Exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Recent exhibitions include Projects 110 : Michael Armitage, organized with Thelma Golden and The Studio Museum in Harlem at MoMA (2019); Dozie Kanu : Function (2019), Chloë Bass : Wayfinding (2019), Radical Reading Room (2019) at The Studio Museum in Harlem; and MOOD : Studio Museum Artists in Residence 2018-19 (2019) at MoMA PS1. Russell’s ongoing academic work and research focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, internet idolatry, and new media ritual. She is Visual Arts Editor of Apogee Journal, a Contributing Editor for BOMB Magazine online, and a Senior Editor at Berfrois. Russell is the recipient of the Thoma Foundation 2019 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art and a 2020 Rauschenberg Residency Fellow. Her first book, Glitch Feminism, is forthcoming from Verso Books in Fall 2020. | Instagram: @ellerustle | Twitter: @legacyrussell.