writing a poem opens a portal to the dead, desutures our certainty we are alive. jack spicer wrote that poems are how “we dead men write to each other” in his conversation with the ghost of garcia locra. anthony mccann writes, last i knew in the desert of joshua tree, in order to be with the dead, to feel them, to listen to them—a necrosociality. john keats continues to speak to me, by way of anthony always, “this living hand, now warm and capable / of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold / and in the icy silence of the tomb / so haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights / … / i hold it towards you.”
what spectral hands reach toward us, each day, each moment? each poem we read, by the dead or living, is the refuse of a ghost. when i read my friend annelyse’s poem, published last february, i enter it beyond in some spectral sphere because there is no other way to enter a poem—we speak and listen to each other as ghosts. it demands, it activates, it resonates affects, positions, subjectivities with refuse-al. how does one survive listening to a ghost? “one by one, the components of feeling / slide around his body without touching his / body. his body is a snow globe. his thoughts / snow. in him on him falls the snow. he is / buried, utterly, like the sea is buried by rain.”
to really write or to really listen to a poem you must abandon history and reconceive the world inundated by the screams, cries, whispers, voices, and icy hands of the past. lost futures only call sweetly and melancholically to us; but lost pasts tear time and into us—they require sacrifice. in their refusal to be ignored they infinitely ask for retribution, for solidarity, for action, for preparation by way of the ‘no’ and the negative. how can we listen to this? not in the banal sense in which we passively hear their cries, but rather via listening as a mode of being, that is, from the standpoint, as benjamin says, of an “excessive fatigue…in a brightly-lit room”.xq
exhausted we listen to be overtaken because we are already overtaken—
we move with ghosts as a joyful practice
Luke Martin lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and is an experimental composer, performer, and writer. He is currently getting a PhD in Comparative Literature and focuses mainly on anarchist thought, experimental music, and speculative materialism.