/ in my stocking feet. in my stalking feet
/ beautiful, this sky on expenses. and you, well-met mammal,
misguided and exquisite between swagger and reserve, skanking your
pale upsetter’s mojo.
/ animal, through a breakneck bogus dusk.
/ the moon, helpless and technical, with its forecast of paltry
/ life sciences
loom, is a dead fence. animal, braised and gainsaid.
like a dark settee.
/ therapised syllable, straddled and pushed.
/ axe in its neolithic etiquette. exquisite cutting mojo. is the stuff of
nightmares, gracefully proportioned.
/ in my stocking feet. in my stalking feet
/ with my hoarder’s habits, in my poacher’s coat.
/ beautiful. the first bite of extinction’s day-glo cherry. my hurt gulp
as i don’t make it to the –
/ so many nodding mouths. clumsy allegorical bones.
/ i’m a prone ghost. i’m ghostprone.
/ animal, you soused and sonsy wreck. one thousand-thousand
squinting tropes. apply to go formally sauntering.
/ matchbook obsessive.
/ a phrase for all the stations of this pain.
/ your pages have been proved
. your pages have been proofed.
/ in my stocking feet. bloodshot hypotheticals.
/ cambridge eats my rootless scrutinizing mojo.
/ this maze of ravenous errors, vulgar fauna.
/ some designer skinhead, his violently persisting mouth, purged.
/ all your urgent folly.
/ trailing about, a cold swell under us, thinking of animals
long. that woman looks through me. her depthless veto.
/ the sibilant and numbing air. it was shame masquerading as shame.
/ my accent, lushly weaponised.
/ worra fuckin’ liberty
. one-thousand-four-hundred asking hoodies.
/ pastoral’s essentialist shepherd. normy WASP banging on about –
/ clutch my pearls, my beaten pleas.
/ oh aye, you corpsy dope, the usual profiteering gibberish.
/ irksome flesh.
/ in the stuck room, i feed dead things. the slyly grifting fox.
/ an index glitch, i misspell words.
/ how do you think it’s going so far?
the scathed capillary singing.
/ oh, you predictable and excessive baby, your quire of wicked roses.
/ the bruised skin hurried open like a steamed bun.
/ by rejecting error, the dog finds the truth.
/ returns to its vomit.
/ vicious and despoiled.
/ ideologized dysphoria. yes, a perfect and guttering monkey.
/ the vivisectionist unrolls my brain in scarlet banners.
/ my heart and my business be with the hounds
/ meaning my heart will go o-o-o-o-on.
/ speaking of: the ideal entity serves as compensation for
/ the abject entity concentrates or burlesque that wretchedness(in
your own time).
/ in a tinfoil hat, bleeding out like a harpooned monster, an erstwhile
colleague. what are you doing down there with my boot in your face?
these are vipers’ maxims.
/ lucky passions. aw, diddums. is professionally brave. she was vilely
calm, and i hated her. making weird eye-contact, striking my chest
like a stunned hoof hitting the –
/ nonsensuous similarity. language, all frivolous lurking.
/ full squeal ahead. stupefied and forced. i’m a pig.
/ i’m a bag of velvet mutinies. that woman says get out!
in her best
/ trembling and inbred. pitiful and collapsing slogans.
grafted and culled.
/ the thistle’s waltzing mojo. rose-petal, pennyroyal.
/ schlep what idea i have of myself to oi! you lyric shitheads
gagged on a bland generality.
/ tell me who’s that girl, running around with you?
/ she’s the draggy dog, scooting across council linoleum.
/ she’s a frilly wee resistible, dotter of her own regional dialect. spit
on her halt mithering.
/ nah, you’d break against her bovver.
/ tell me who’s that gi-i-irrrl.
/ in her stalking feet.
/ you gurning void. she assembles the pit bull inside of her of mouth.
/ all the rottweilers of a country rupture.
/ real thorough. true rough. another afraid example. the eye enjoined.
/ to be sanctioned, written up small. quaint and warped.
/ gotta love poor people, their camp exaggerations. o! o! o! orphic
/ both stringent and supple. a wild commitment of energy.
/ shadow’s sum. faltered harkening. dim light, flared and slashed
through the library window. this specific, doing body. here. now. my
unhinged attention. revolutionary irony.
/ baudelaire was like: we all have the republican spirit in our veins,
like we have syphilis in our bones. we have all contracted democracy
/ charlie b. in belfast, circa nineteen-ninety-eight.
/ vertigo. to be pinkly swindled, a cold encircling, dizzy attempts on
/ beautiful, this skyline folded into itself like a used tissue. like the
dross of your striver’s iambs.
/ the repeat. the interval. the gut in its good offices wants to –
/ stiletto, both violent and vulnerable. splintered numerals of lust.
/ walking a girl like an aimed animal.
/ all day with the doves, where god poured out his grace and
/ uncommonly exalted
, her widowhood esteemed
/ my plighted frenzy. this worker-bee, this eligible rudeboy. his hard
little body a forensic gonk.
/ a large care worn in obvious flowers.
/ privileged but powerless.
/ powerless yet capable. oh well, back to the garden, the lovely cruel
/ the boa wastes them
/ the corroding seps
is tiny, destroying the bones with the body.
/ what human love can compare with the compassion of fishes?
truss. her deathly airborne mojo.
/ a kiss is an oath, erodes the lying mouth that authored it.
/ my stocking feet. my stalking feet
. trotters in jelly.
/ model my details in fondant. crème pât through a piping bag. twee
cake weeping its black ganache. freeze me until i set.
/ recoil, erupt. touch true emptiness. the spoilers of somnolence.
/ that woman says me to muddle. her numpty reductions.
/ they’re very much like that, the notable and mean.
/ denounced. outed. doxed. but not necessarily in that order.
/ stringent, unflinching. hot-off-the-press with a pragmatists’ mojo.
/ bought a black dress second-hand. to go with my non, je ne regrette
/ animal, predictable kindred. in our oghams, in our straightened
kennings. in our rambles and our warrants.
/ i take myself apart by the photocopier.
/ beautiful. the dim rusk of my face. cloven. cleaved.
Cambridge morning pages #2
“They blew it up, the maniacs!” etc.
/ the devouring.
that which eats into memory, that which memory is
forced to eat.
/ i learn us from a book.
like fawlty towers english.
/ the bird of death
translated as the dead bird
by fucking eejits.
/ this twitching lack, this spinning twig, a tongue.
/ something mulled in the lit mouth, something cooked in the clay, a
thatched flesh roused in heat.
/ they sang their winter into the small of our doing bodies. we were
cold, so cold.
/ some rosy-booted moralist kicks me. first, in the back of the knees,
and then in the head.
/ the curd of thought returned as cud.
/ i heard voices. the stones were pleading to see.
/ could split a tongue we measure in emergencies.
/ the baedeker cracks along its insolent postillions
. and nobody asks
where the swimming pool is.
/ the devouring
is a mouth filling up with forest, is a mouth being
lead like a lame horse through all the idling libraries of europe.
/ where are you from?
an asylum broke between two elms. the heavy
tendon, slashed. a wet log split, the sucked bulb spat.
/ tomorrow is another day. a choir of virtuous axes. and the road
stitched to our staring heads.
/ what they have in spades, a seemly dark embraced in bunkers.
/ one beast with many backs.
/ the snide gape, the hive mind. the hills have eyes. one belly.
/ butter will not melt in their handiwork, in the coppiced campaigns
of a problem halved
/ you are burnt out
, he said. for a moment all i saw was the treeline
slick with fire.
, for pursuer
. and aren’t we all, pursued? this morning, an
admiral – its shocked glyph redly out of season. i braid a wreath, i
wash the dog.
/ dirty, poisoned earth, the crack rock’s pale, incendiary theme, the
jaggery eden of any given fuck. this soil.
/ what a time to be alive.
/ not alive as such, but pre-dead
. grief in the future conditional.
/ preserved, inert. in microplastics.
/ to exist without hope, without spite. to lay down your lungs, their
soft, convalescent possibility.
/ under the clouds’ uncouthly strobing light, you are welcome to the
sparrow, to the wren, to the blackbird and his horny lilting.
/ a bird is a bird. will out-grouse any tippler’s cliché.
/ tilting the stuck day. these monstering flirts, perving the furze.
/ birdy song
with its sawbones elbows working away at itself.
the least of its meaning.
/ to hold the world, not because it is beautiful or because it is
doomed, but because –
/ the world rushes out through a slit in a gunnysack.
/ the world rushes out through a crack in your swag of scrounged
/ they name your estates after the trees they replaced.
/ you sit in grief, not so much haunted as riddled. cracked
by their strivers’ rhizome.
/ these cherries, these birches, these larches, this ash.
/ whore’s thorn?
the thrawn haw hemmed. and you –
/ their bleak instead
made flesh. an aftermath, the shadow cast by
how we concentrate their loss, in splintered cantos speak
it out. the inexorable bird, the gnarly politicking of his song. tak-tak.
/ in sunlight or in shadow,
persecution or reproach.
and turpentine. the colour of money, the colour of
/ a lolly cant that rolls right off the tongue. and all their cheesy
/ the leash intrigues against the dog.
/ the devouring.
swaddling foulness of history.
/ like look, fucker, i don’t know or particularly care what kantian
/ is it something like that advert, telling me to dress for joy?
a polka-dot bikini in a polar vortex.
/ he calls me stupid.
/ i’m not stupid-stupid.
a poem should be thought scalped. the wren,
bent shilling of exquisite survival.
/ what noise does the cow make, johnny? dunno, what’s a cow?
/ and the duck goes –? and the horse goes –? do i look like ben fogle
/ the animal as anticipated meat.
/ what’s that?
it’s a hedgehog. why?
/ hedgehumping hedgebanger.
/ hedgelaureate, hedgelord, hedgestickler.
/ hedgefundamentalist. ah kid, we are all hedgehatched.
/ scorned and savoured.
/ glittering. that which whitens my nightmare.
/ this flock of respectables. cruising the bonemeal, cursing the bone.
gagged, uh-hu, on the aftertaste of my transit. i am the wealth of
nations, the fright of starlings. your panic scammed upside the
sickened yield. the bins of grain. the box of eggs. the glut sack sucked.
my scunnered nimbling. freeze!
you halo my stuckist monologue, my
jaundiced blarney, cynic-sweet. there is a moon river
of me. i was born
under a wandering, under a star the size of an exit. for resourceful
stitchery, for joining a rat to a rat like touching a live wire to a tin
in the rafters, in the attic, in the wings, my vacillating skiffle: crabbing
the turn, gumming the act, layin’ the skids. and mine is uproar’s
motherload. no mincing our improv here. and through the cancelled
gaze of your fever, we’ve truck with tumble, pitch-tuck, turn. to tread
your lubbered sleep to dread, through protocols and strangleholds,
between the sickle and the thirst. deep in the walls, up in the flies. your
most sufficing phantoms. captain absolutes,
outbred albinos. role-play
passenger, hooded stooge.
the midden’s vestal, ditch’s bride. dance my macabre, your mortified
hornpipe in fetters. am whoring the motel horary chart of my eyes, am
mopping your broken thought with the body’s miffed effort. am i not
lovely? will you cradle this encounter in the pit of your stomach, pit of
your startle, pit of your cold shiver mouthed and smothered? i am the
hearth’s curse, poison’s prodigal returned. the spawn. the spore. the
tracked spoor scented. my traipsed musk tracked in. hot glue graze me.
steel box bait me. spring-load and snap neck. through a sheepfold
fallen. my tradecraft whispered in kitchenettes. slit in the gunny, spilt
in the cupboard. this war of granary attrition. moscow rules.
the shrunken gums, the swollen guts. the tail’s vermicular promise.
your marvelled remains, your thin remaindered multiples. you sourced
me, saw me, mistook for meat. something is screwed out of metaphor.
well, even your saviour is sickly: hangs in his waster’s obsessional.
you kiss his wounds. there is no room but a passage. no door but an
arch. no suffering, but flourish. and i am jacob, wrestling in excrement.
you fear me, my glorious body, hindered and nixed. rat is the riddle,
riddled, and you are gagged, uh-hu. festering celebrant. angel-jihadist.
‘The name ‘symbionese’ is taken from the word symbiosis and
we define its meaning as a body of dissimilar bodies and
organisms living in deep and loving harmony and partnership
in the best interest of all within the body’. –
Symbionese Liberation Army Declaration of Revolutionary
War & the Symbionese Program
/ vanguard movement.body of dissimilar bodies
/ the struggle is real, oh composite animal.
/ no, really. nothing easy or fleeting. his hunting gaze all over me,
adrift since dawn and the bowel sounding its rottenness. hey joe, how
the world slackens to receive you.
/ he kerfs this gimp-mask-smile into his –
/ fringed interval.
/ into my –
/ worrying gestures of desperation
/ my body’s listed bucket.
/ hey joe, you’re putting the breaks on. you want to formalise my
/ i want to overflow the naked dog of myself. the blood red lion of
myself, my antlers their own extravagant weather.
/ what the future is made of: lesions, lynchings, scalding rain.
/ a red split in the basket that carries us. that mark on your forehead.
an engineered pain.
/ vanguard movement. body of dissimilar bodies.
/ come drink from my eager reach,
he says. but i won’t.
/ i would rather be –
/ gutshot, decked and resembled.
/ i would rather be –
/ troped flotsam. flat tropes. trapped wind.
/ i would rather be –
/ tightened decisively.
/ the revolution will
be surging, gouged.
/ comrades all, conspicuous and impotent. i shoot spines from my
tail. i am dusty and shunned. a winking martyr, an absolute brigade.
/ he has me on a 24 hr hold, a 48 hr hold. my voice has the sound of
uilleann pipes, a sweating reservoir of melody.
/ in the interview, my hot restless eyelid, testifying and parched.
/ my voice is more power to your chanters, more power to your
drones, more power to your bellows, your reeds, your elbows, your
rummy fucking busking.
/ vanguard movement. body of dissimilar bodies.
/ and his world, expiring under a pall of pleasantries. this new-meant
/ i survive things. blue-green cold uncoiling, this hard brute shore,
this immaculate field.
/ recede. subside. refuse my own tumbling. my ardour delayed. my
gotten heat. all those cities fell to flames. all those boding bodies.
into one sorrowful abated lifetime.
/ i am very still. iconic skyline showing through my lumpy flesh,
digested over a period of years.
/ i can live off your downfall for centuries, make new generations of
/ hypnotising python. my dirty transfixing.
/ thralling eye.
/ he said i had the face of a man
, the rugged individualist, who i also
/ said i was the red specific, paramilitary gnome. and i was.
/ vanguard movement. body of dissimilar bodies.
/ impossible parts, cheaply thrusting. he’d skin me alive. handfuls and handfuls
of delicate strain.
/ the roots exceed the tree. the fruit exceeds the branch.
/ the body, greenly pinioned by new growth. the lit stump, the stifled
trunk. didn’t you know, the forest too is a carnivore?
/ parliament of lathing mouths.
/ it was lures. it was nooses. the lie of escaping. subtract yourself in
order to exit.
/ i am served up on a vellum napkin at half the speed of a slow hand
/ and twice the size.
/ i feel no pain, they said. shadow thrown over their suggested
landscape. what wishing was – an ideal sabotage, a so-called
a pile of brilliant, retorting heads.
/ mounted and itemised.
/ hey joe, they want your irrecuperable loss. they want your explicit
affect, your neat defiance.
/ he fears my far campaigns. our dubious bodies
. their adventurist
/ he said i had the face of a man.
/ which i wear on the flip of my skull in the form of a backward
/ the future is that most-mourned particle of time and to be met
/ or with molotovs.
/ come combination beasts, come body of dissimilar bodies.
angries, you uncontrollables,
you examples, you lessons, you
implausible, leaping things.
/ vanguard movement, whose halt muddle is swagger.
/ he cannot bring himself to picture us.
/ they cannot even frame the thought.
of my wings. where i am the sun,
the stork, and the palm. glyphs
of immolation. i bide my marvels.
of the real. in that way, and in
that way only, i am like science.
of the crows, i rise. with all
upwards. on a dare. the body,
feathers. but, give me a spark.
into riffs of sprinting flame.
this way i rise. wearied, yet
restless. from fire-tousled
absolutes. and you, who’d spite
the bird to sate the eye. to see
me burning, copper-green. i feel
no pain. why should i feel pain?
eyrie’s ilk. phosphor’s failing
spectre, incendiary starling.
you do not know. i am smaller
have forgotten. i have forgotten.
sleep. this island once had
for wasters’ quills. why should
sighs, disport? oh joy of joys.
how even fire cloys. these
stuff, twitting and nimbled.
loins of a burning car. up
what does it mean to embrace feral, to be embraced by feral? – doggy pong, hot breath, rough tongue – are you afraid? face to face with the wealth of her negative affects – the disappointments, the rage, the isolation and anxiety – do you run a mile? or do you see the opportunity to puncture the malign functionality, the manufactured consent of contemporary life? for example: heterosex as the trite condition of limit that produces womanhood. to fail this framework is to be unwoman, animal, thing. feral is the thingness that haunts both her acceptable form, and the acceptable forms of her feminism, organised around accommodation and concession as opposed to rejection, mutation and militant refusal. put it another way: the yoking of animality and womanhood transmitted through art and culture via the ideologically charged woman-as-animal metaphor (cow, bitch, pig, chick, bunny, shrew, etc). the feminised animal is already ‘an abject creature, upon whom are ascribed aspects of otherness’ (Donovan, 2016). the feral female is inferior for being woman, yet figured as doubly so for not living up to the woman she’s supposed to be. failure squared. all those shitty signifiers of race and class – accent, grammar, our prole physicality – are intimately linked to perceptions of femininity, sexual availability and moral worth. to be queer, classed, racialised, aged, or disabled is to be evicted from the hallowed precincts of the feminine, to join the legions of the feral. don’t cry. instead: how dykes undo gender. queer as anti-theatre, queer as fuck-your-pinkwashed-feel-good-picnic-my-people-are-dying. you cannot be assimilated into the airbrushed and agreeable rainbow capitalist borg. you denounce and incite. you are a saboteur, a walking provocation, you stick in the throat of neoliberal culture. feral must manifest what claude cahun called ‘the courage to be repulsive’. don’t “live your truth”. there’s no such thing. their “beauty” is a singular lapse of moral and political nerve.
these thoughts drive me back to the bestiary. feral as an allegory for herself. falls between the literal and the figurative. falls, entangled in herself. what is this book of beasts in which she is trapped? the physiologus, the grandaddy of all medieval bestiaries, is a moralising riff on aristotle’s more matter-of-fact – yet still wildly off-beam – natural history. both sets of text were oriented towards the accumulation of knowledge about the natural world, but aristotle’s medieval imitators seemed driven by the need to situate that knowledge within the compass of a christian metaphysics. feral says they were afraid of the Fall. one of adam’s original perfections was an encyclopaedic knowledge of nature. this knowledge was lost at the Fall, and bestiary texts often feel like a sweaty attempt recuperate that kind of unattainable mastery (Harrison, 1999). the animal becomes fixed in language and in form. our nature is knowable through – and equivalent to – the commentary that accretes around it. feral falls through. the meaning swoon in reason. if god spoke, and, as in paradise lost, ‘the earth obey’d and straight/ op’ning her fertile womb teem’d at a birth/ innumerous living creatures, perfect forms’ (Milton, 1667), then what should the good encyclopaedist make of or do with those multiple imperfect forms? corralled within yet excluded from prevailing conceptions nature. for example, the ‘yena’, ‘hyaena’, ‘gulo’, ‘leucrota’, ‘crocuta’, ‘corocotta’, leucrocuta’, ‘akabo’, ‘alzabo’, ‘zabo’, ‘ana’, ‘belbus’, ‘lupus vesperitinus’, ‘zilis’, ‘lacata’, ‘hyen’, etc. the hyena flickers across the bestiary, a savvy escapist, a quick-change artist, a deceitful, shape-shifting mutant. the profusion of her appearances speaks to an obsessive anxiety, not only about the protean nature of the hyenic body, but about naming itself, and our need to locate particular kinds of human domination within and through language. if the need to nail the hyena to the page is, in part, a contest of mastery, then perhaps her very multiplicity is an expression of doubt as to the ultimate victor in that contest. etymologies are crucial components of bestiary texts, but prone as they are to elaborate invention and bizarre distortion, they form ever-more baroque and desperate attempts at capture and containment. attempts the hyena skilfully evades (de Hamel, 2008).
hyenas are like weeds. like bad ideas. you cut them down and they spring back up, twice as virulent and feisty as before. poltergeists. vermin. never quite exorcised from territory or consciousness. they are a haunting, an incursion. sir Walter Raleigh, in his history of the world (1614), claims of the hyena that it was excluded from noah’s ark. according to Raleigh, only ‘pure’ species were saved, not mongrels or hybrids. stranger still, hyenas somehow reproduced themselves after the deluge, through the unseemly union between a dog and a cat (White, 1984). Hyena, a swaggering survivalist, pivoting between and strutting across categories of species and sex, so that ‘we might marvel at how the hyena changes function, and a moment ago a female, taken from behind by a male, is now a male’ (Ovid). hyena as Valerie Solanas, erupting with queer and prescient rage to tell us we no longer need men, that ‘retaining the male has not even the dubious purpose of reproduction’ (Solanas, 1967). the likely source for the myth of the hyena’s sex-shifting ability is the female spotted hyena’s genitalia. her clitoris extends an astonishing eight inches, and is shaped and positioned exactly like a penis. they can even get erections. further, the spotted hyena’s labia has fused to form a false scrotum, swollen with fatty tissue. as if that were not sufficient, the female spotted hyena is unique among mammals in that she has no external vaginal opening, instead she must urinate, copulate and give birth through her multi-purpose “pseudo-penis”. this last often entails fatal consequences for the hyena, with ten percent of first-time mothers dying in childbirth; for her cubs things are no less precarious: the hyena’s birth canal is twice the length of similar-sized mammals, with a sharp turn halfway down. up to sixty percent of cubs suffocate during birth as a result. female spotted hyenas are “unnatural” and ill-adapted mothers; they are bigger and more aggressive than their male counterparts, whom they dominate sexually. the sight of a large, aggressive “male” animal, giving birth through its “penis” is undoubtedly the foundation for the myth of the hyena’s hermaphroditic flex. but. even now, long after the originating misconception has been corrected, unease persists. it isn’t merely that hyenas flip our relentlessly naturalised gender norms; their bodies actively sabotage the biological processes out of which and through which gender categories are constituted and maintained. i’ve read more than one paper, asking, with varying degrees of levity, what can possibly be the “point” or the “purpose” of an animal “designed” to die in childbirth; whose body is so actively hostile to the life it incubates? the subtext is that hyenas are aberrations, both surplus and counter to the ends of evolution. hyena becomes a queer clarion because she demands a painful expansion in the canon of the natural, or else because she destroys it out-right. for all of us with bodies that betray and fail the reproductive imperatives demanded of them, the hyena can be an icon. while writing hyena! jackal! dog! (2021) my obsessive hyenic research led me back to ireland. specifically to the area around cork, 45,00 years ago. there were hyenas in ireland 45,000 years ago. in the national museum of ireland in dublin, i stared at a prehistoric hyena jawbone, and at the grey, granular thunderstone of its faeces. it is indicative of my mental state at the time that i found these commonplace traces strangely moving. moving because they were commonplace. they represented the limitless horizon of a land not yet named or freighted, and of a creature not yet subject to scrutiny and classification.
the feraltern queer is doubly useless. an avatar of perverse persistence, a joke against god, a hyena: that patron saint of non-normative reproduction. to an extent all identity is performative, but queer identity is performative in highly specific ways. it resists, to paraphrase Peggy Phelan, the balanced logics of finance: ‘it does not save; it only spends’ (Phelan, 1993). the feraltern queer recycles itself, cannot be healed, only transformed, made new. we improvise and reinvent, until we are – once more – all spectacle and no self. smaller and more fabulous with every iteration. bijou means jewel. the damage inflicted upon us, we alchemise into fresh resources. we are a kind of circular miracle; queer is generative but not reproductive, it manifests excess without the organising principal of lineage or heredity. if the body is the clock and the calendar, then queer-time is an impossible feral futurity, always emerging, forever deferred. to ‘spend’ and spin towards no recognisable end, but the pursuit of strange affinities, and new, as yet unimagined forms of social relation.
or, as Georges Bataille writes, in ‘the notion of expenditure’: ‘the term poetry, applied to the least degraded and least intellectualized forms of the expression of a state of loss, can be considered synonymous with expenditure; it in fact signifies, in the most precise way, creation by means of loss. its meaning is therefore closer to that of sacrifice.’ feral is the candle consumes itself. it is a poetics of risk, a poetry that risks. at risk. it is an art of discomfort and vulnerability. feral affect is the abandonment to a sadness and rage long repressed. it is the endless accumulation of that rage converted into furious delivery: compressed, snarling, flailing, contorted. it is the release of unappeased terror in manic intensity. it is the body, the self, as its sole resource. it is irrational, exhaustive and exhausting. Joyelle McSweeney tells us that her writing may amount to ‘a maximal, dandified, camp, ill-gendered, millenarian text’ whose sentences ‘run on past health to Death, a region in which the most blasphemous rituals take place’ and which demand ‘an undue attention to style, flair, garments, gestures rather than actions and plot, descriptions only of things that never were, an uncanny transporting voice not tied to any body, around which flesh accrues and decomposes, a text that does not choose life but might acquire it alongside death’ (2015).
this feral is a site and a mode of failure. it doesn’t fit the dominant culture’s masturbatory fantasy of the body as a neutral and broadly behaving instrument. feral encompasses forms, functions, and glitches ordinarily barred from the canon of classical aesthetics. feral will not reconstitute its wayward bodies as productive workers, model citizens, or ideal consumer subjects. it will not heal. it does not want to get better. feral is the suppressed, clandestine-grotesque body breaking out, ever-open and erupting. feral is multiple and polyvalent, it challenges ‘the individual, strictly limited mass, the impenetrable façade’ of the normative body so that it summons a commons, a collective, an us (Bakhtin, 1984). feral makes other others present in the present, is rampantly relational, an affective solidarity. feral is a failure, is the rejection of the statically perfected individual self as our highest cultural aspiration, will not serve the ends of identity politics, wants a hyenic grammar of irrational possibility. that is, wants to articulate a radical salvation that escapes the toxic logics of competition and success.
in the bestiary i meet my own monstrous and failing body. that with which i was born and that which has been interpolated onto me through poverty, through cultural heritage, by sexuality and gender. composite beasts become spurs for thinking about excess, disability, and the ableist, normative recuperation of strange or suffering bodies. but they also point to barely imagined political possibilities. i orbit obsessively the idea of ‘a body of dissimilar bodies’ as referenced in the opening salvo from the ‘symbionese liberation army declaration of revolutionary war & the symbionese program’. In the context of a vanguard movement like the SLA this refers to the bringing together of various left-wing struggles – feminist, anti-racist, anti-fascist, etc.– but also to the spontaneous and autonomous functioning of individuals and small groups, working separately, disparately, by various militant methodologies towards the same radical and collective ends. yet ‘dissimilar bodies’ are also literal bodies, the bodies of those involved in the struggle: racialised bodies, gendered bodies, classed bodies, queer bodies, imprisoned bodies, bodies marked by the military industrial complex, bodies classified as killable waste. while the biological figure for political movements is an old one, in the manifesto it is performing highly specific work: summoning those bodies abjected by difference, and foregrounding the obtruding presence of those the state in its majesty prefers not to acknowledge, or regards merely as surplus or collateral. the idea of hybrid bodies, especially within the context of black struggle, also gestures to white hysteria surrounding miscegenation, as well as to the fear of queer contagion.
‘body of dissimilar bodies’ brings me back to the animal, and to Donna Haraway, writing in when species meet (2008) of our ‘becoming with’. here Haraway argues that organism is connected, bound together in what she calls ‘material-semiotic nodes or knots in which diverse bodies and meanings co-shape one another’. there is a connection that is prior to the individual organism because every individual organism is constituted in and through ‘intra-and interaction’. in other words, all organisms are constituted in relation to many others, blurring the lines between an individual and a community of diverse organisms. this thought has implications, positing an ‘intra-action’ or an ‘encounter’ between human and nonhuman organisms from which we might learn ‘an ethics and politics committed to the flourishing of significant otherness’ beyond the rules of ‘function and calculation, something not ruled by the logic of the reproduction of the same’.
this flourishing is feral’s utopian aspect. and it bears upon what monsters and so-called monstrous forms can do: how their distortions signal to plenitude, to an excess of meaning that cannot be captured by the tired mimetic representation of everything the world calls “natural”. to encounter the body, truly, as a singular, unbearable, irreparable, unrepeatable event. to enter a state of shock that troubles your knowing calm, your complacency, your smug assurance. a shock that points to an insufficiency of theory, that shakes canons and the value systems that produce them. to receive the de-forming force of our deformity. as if there were no “ugliness”. only a hysterical excess of beauty.