June 15, 2020
Dear Whoever, my love,
The moods? Anxious, authoritarian and anti-authoritarian, deep cuts of grief, slivers of relief—they slip in. Like, what, quicksilver. Some “early summer.”
Early summer. I’m on an island again, as I always am when I write for this platform. (That is, twice.) You asked about the mood, though. I slipped up and read “moon” and almost told you: huge, “super,” with a copper mood and real aura. A reddish, granular tint, grit like confetti crossing the sky, or some Sahara.
No one cares about the mood or moons these days or everyone does. I wake up and watch the season finale of my favorite show. Mostly, though? I look forward to the chorus of comments that follow. The silvering wit of the audience, it pours into my wound, my mood—what a relief. I am thankful for the language. Its litter of light.
The moon thinks we’re trash, I think.
In films it destroys us or hosts us, a hospitality we return by effortlessly trashing its surface. Its judgment comes at a distance: its remove is novelistic or imperial. That said, bureaucratic and brutal. Like pale coin, the treasuries of tribute whose marble records stand or slump like bodies in the cool basement of the museum just down the hill.
Some season, as I’ve mentioned. Could be June. My show’s season is over but this one—pandemic, protest, the long deathgrip of white power, its deep extractions and constant violence, all the practiced forms of—is still shooting. Authoritarianism in the air or the streets, at least, which are full of the authorities, their static and glitchy violence. I am too far away—
To feel hopeful, I mean. Closer is the new party in power here that ran on a Law & Order platform (without irony). In the early morning they call the local media to make their little films together: pulling families out of squats and loading them onto buses, mostly. In the early evening they show them on the news. The cops in riot gear to infer criminality. The cops in medical gear to infer disease. Children crying in the street; their parents distressed, exhausted. Disappeared to camps outside the city.
After the buses leave, the cops brick up the doorways of the buildings with cinderblocks, to be covered in graffiti by night. The op-eds the next day talk, in measured, genteel tones, about property rights, certain values, water and land borders (both closed), terrorism, sometimes even women’s rights, if they’re feeling extra shameless.
I wonder about the brutality they infer of their audience. That is, their viewers and voters and readers (these are, maybe, the same thing).
The party leader with the soft, cartoon face—a bit of a blur, better for distanciating the easy fascism of his policies—was filmed yesterday, at sunset, suited and seated in front of one of the more beautiful island views. One leg crossed over another, hands folded in his lap, a soft smile. An appeal for tourists from the north. The moon was left out of the shot. Had it even risen yet. Yes and no.
The mood. Yes and no.
The sunset gradient. Yes and no.
The loosened quarantine. Yes and no.
The fig tree in the ruin. Yes and no.
The jasmine vine burning on the terrace. Yes and no.
The unseasonable weather. Yes and no.
The air of pandemic and Bergamot. Yes and no.
The cops riding double. Yes and no.
The long lines outside the food pantry. Yes and no.
The man selling braided fluorescent bracelets. Yes and no.
The man selling packets of tissues. Yes and no.
The old woman showing her bandaged knees for coins. Yes and no.
The question about ancestors. Yes and no.
The letter to a hovering drone. Yes and no.
The medical masks in the gutter. Yes and no.
The camps that continue. Yes and no.
The full moon in Capricorn, super and copper of tint, as it rises above the village, the electrical lines crossing and scripting it with some thin writing on power.
Yes and no, friends.
Yes and no, family.
A father in the west, on his own. Yes and no.
A daughter in the east, on her own. Yes and no.
Multiple displacements, a disassembling mood. Yes and no.
Yes or no, cousins, sisters, sorrows, studies.
In the short story by the southern writer gone north, the mother calls her daughter—what—sister. My mother would never. The fictional mother has a wonderful sense of irony about the daughter who fled. Did mine, I wonder. What kind of fiction was she. What kind of irony.
“Not a poet, she produced a poet’s prose.”
I linger over that line printed in small type on the back of the book. It rocks like a ship in my mouth. I sense the water on both sides, and the moonlight loose and laboring on top of it.
I pronounce silently, clicking my teeth.
These nights, this season, we feel more unsafe on the streets, my women friends and I note casually to each other in texts. The new cops hired by the new party in power, called, unironically, New Democracy, have increased not just the violence but the feeling of violence. Both. There are too many men in the street, we write, our jaws clenched. Too many guns. Too many addicts that are feeling too desperate. The new-old story of politics, violence, vulnerability.
Late night, in taxis, not wanting to walk home, we ask our drivers to put on their masks. Old men who sigh then fish one out of their front seat littered with coffee cups.
But now we are on the island surrounded by small animals who cry into the night, along the cliffs and into the valleys, as I read news about people in the streets of the cities I used to live in.
There are so many ways to die, to try to not die. Notes for the next shoot. Notes for the next season. Notes for everyone I love, some dead, some alive. Notes for the makers of films of violence in every city, every country, notes for those enacting that violence.
What am I trying to tell you, my love? My love and grief and anger which has no object but the moon, a mood.
The moon, a mood.
The moon, a mood.
Yours, yes and no,