by Legacy Russell

The thing about new blooms is that they tend to bleed—

Those petals birthed / hugging close
that come warmer weather are tricked into jumping away from one another
(((a gentle suicide)))

The green of those crushed!velvet!seats! at that bar somewhere in Upper East outer space

the stickiness that made the satin of my pants sing close to the backs of my knees,
those places dotted with freckles that no one else should ever know
somehow you know to look for them, a constellation

Tonight it is the way the seats swing and squeak their betrayal
a siren song to my discomfort in this skin—this place—the lilt and gendered curve of a
glass white-knuckled in its negotiation of a gin martini—

it is this simple moment that will eventually make this evening black blend and blur

How can I ever begin to explain to you the way things were?

Bare and open / no bones broken

This space *before* in those dark recesses of loving you~~~~
that passageway when curled within I could forget that I was born dying

What does it mean to stand outside of a body???
a belonging without a place
an occupation without a calling
a longing without a within : no house to hold it

All the ghosts within me are beating at this birdcage of ribs
a fluttering rage of awe wings and wonderment

Every moment we move together I feel the boats of my ancestors shifting              inside of me

those wild whispers all the mothers
who held their children and with wills and wishes

determined a future

You are every father I have never known / every mother I have ever wanted / every child I want to make / every sibling I search for

I see all those bound up in that beat-beating : the dubstep that hums            between us
when you
collapse           the       space
that confirms our separate selfhoods
and like the cliche goes, makes us one

Yes yes the caress of this construct your adoration a divine contagion         Hallelujah!

I didn’t know it was possible to get lost
I make a doctorate of that wandering
like a good student I memorize and dissertate all your rooms
there is nothing more painful than having to reject that canon
please don’t make me go—

We have gone nowhere, seen nothing, before seeing one another

That is the kind of savage desperation that comes
with setting sight on the world
for the first time
and knowing

yes! yes!yes!

this is what was promised us when we seized our right to live
and claimed our whole selves and one another
as black and really real and really human      it dazzles

These summer nights make a hiss and crackle of the wires in my head
the lines that draw the wrinkles in the sheets
that cut of light slicing through the room
a shard of glass against my legs that in its edit

makes a motion picture of us both     :

What is a sacrifice / what does that even mean now / who are we fighting for / why are we fighting one another still ???

I will never kneel for no one no thing no flag no country but to look up at you
Seeing me from above is a gift           ~          your eye a God-given drone

Here and now I can barely imagine
what words we’ve shared that
we now share with others
a treachery we swore and sweat against

Right here
Right now
this world
would have us end
again and
again and

again               in a standing ovation of 2.5 million views

Wandering in this wilderness we can’t
walk alone !
cash a check !
plan a party !
take out our wallets !
hold a hair brush !
lock our doors !
read a book !
look out the window !
go jogging !
sleep ! / nor breathe ! without confronting that diamond blue sky
made scarred and holy with    the rope of power lines—

All I want to do is escape today and have this blackness be soft again
but have spent my whole life pacing in place
this place is a treadmill           /           hold out your hand, I’ll prove it
that is the gun that keeps us going

Before this world, you taught me how to hold myself

I taught you how to hum quietly while playing with these little wooden blocks

stolen from us those just might build our lucky casket

Perhaps that holding and humming prepared us both for this moment of sensory deprivation

This mourning
every               single              thing
is mediated by electric mirrors

Will they believe us when we say
even now
that this was real / I saved your letters
to convince
even myself
that *before* was even a thing

Somewhere I had planned to meet you tho

One step ahead before this next life found us two~~~~

somewhere on that dance floor in the dark with that song playing

the one that surges between us like a volt / I had planned to search for you / Will we ever
meet again / What is an accident now / Even a hug in this next chapter will have its ticket timed

Before this world, we were alone but at least we were in it together

Graceful orifice           an oracle

This alone is something new it licks like fire / missing in this moment in this kind of place is a chemical burn

I don’t want to go back to how it was / I don’t know if I believe this is a cosmic [r]evolution

I don’t want to light sage and, like, reset, babe

I want to get fucked up and forget  / I don’t know if I want to be a lonely drunk forever

Yes my mask makes me Donatello
and a goddess
and the hits online as we come for them will make us all fetish too

When no one’s looking I turn off Video View™ on that conference call
and eat those oreos I rescued from the trash
naked & listening to Lil Uzi Vert

I lie daily as my queer little socialist coping mechanism / it is my quiet rebellion, denying this
world of knowing me in full / you do this too,   we are filled with secrets behind the
detention of these tiny teeth

the truth is:      weeping, I want to be forgiven and to be kept / the truth is:  we watch each other
in these steely rotations across the ballroom as the ball spins and glints and salts our eyes until
they sea

Those secrets exchanged, still shelved, redacted in plain view
they make us new romantics! / all guts and glitter! / searching for ***brave meaning*** /
trying to wind our tepid living around a$trological sign$~, babe!          So is f@ci$m!

Darling, will you write to me? Do I spell my name in your sable sleep?

Here are all the things I’ll miss when we’re dead:

~The fact that we will each never know how the other butters toast             this is the greatest loss
~The potential argument we might have had about the electoral college come November
~The sound of your reading to me on the train, a prosthetic to your presence
~Your pacing like a panther through the night                    the dawn that comes where we sweat
and sneeze without care or consequence
~The bottles of wine half-drunk that we couldn’t finish before last call
~The flowers that wilted and could not be replaced due to closures
~The cataclysmic collapse of the space between
that confirms our separate selfhoods

and like the cliche goes

makes us us


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.