The morning was clear and the colors vivid: yellow brush, white ocean froth against cobalt sky. In front of me, dense gray volcanic stone appeared to consume the light. I stood in salty mist before an altar on the north coast of Rapa Nui, Easter Island. A single toppled moai lay in violent chunks on the ground. At 9:00 a.m. the sun still hovered tight at the horizon. Rapa Nui, which is part of Chile 2,300 miles away, is kept closer to mainland time than by geographical rights it should be. The sun rises gray and sticky at 8:30 in the morning, and sets late, too. This is not the only disorienting thing about Rapa Nui, but rather the most objective example.
A young child, I was privy to hearing this word in my household, around my uncle and his friends reminiscent of his schoolboy youth. A part of a pidgin I could never participate in for fear that the broken English might have too much of an essence, might tarnish my own English. They would not let me code switch thinking the pidgin would overtake me
You can’t defeat nature, you can only work with it. Just as speculating on a perpetrator’s motives—sex as power, power as hard exercise of a phantom sense of impotence, blah, blah, blah—is trackless, so too is asking what does it want, it wants far less than you or I could ever envision in our least released lives. It means no harm. It needs a warm host. We invoke genre to accommodate events terrible and intimate, to give fleshly narrative to cataclysms of globular dimension—private/public, macro/micro —samskara, samskara, these fictions sizzling through the World Wide Gap, racist, replicant, and species-specific.
It’s like knowing there’s
a house on fire and only
you have the key, but
there’s no address, the
streets keep changing
numbers, and if you
don’t make it in time,
everybody inside dies.
Even the houseplants.
You never make it in
time. I still like my
brain. This feels as
impossible as crown
shyness, but it’s true—I
feel its lure flash like a
camera bulb sometimes,
the magic and the grief
like two rivers necking
where they meet.
The night river calms me with its slow dirty movements. I walk home briskly, in a black baseball cap. I work at the fringes of the day. I write poetry in bed and criticism in the bath. Among my friends here, I have a man who calls me love names in four languages. Once, in a moment, I thought I wanted to die of his pleasure, but that was a wound speaking. The history of this place abounds with wounds. Mobs of vandals have ransacked the villas. A very rich man on his deathbed from a corrupt family who loves the arts was fed a medicine of powdered pearls.
I went to the for water, although I had no thirst, again
unable to find Not sleeping, roaming restless, hunting at 2am for on my phone, no rabbit hole too deep, however dull, aching tired as though I had been Only three days into this, asked how mywas going, I launched into a tense that the question even deservedand saw how hard, again, I was trying not to the plain fact that right in front of us,
again, the cop had emptied his into a human, now yet shackled to his hospital bed. That again, a young had taken down a human with a military grade yet away from the scene unhindered. And that, again, we were being asked
to choke offthoughts, stifle any sound, stave and belt the chest to our agitation, keep breathing because, again,
There are books of poems that in their creation seem, for the poet, to rise out of a sheaf like an oasis, something unknown, unmapped, to be discovered in all its vivifying magic. Then there are books of poems that the poet always seemed to know the map to, where a central insight or trope allowed the book to unscroll itself in the poet’s tongue and brain and heart.
Ricardo Wilson speaks to managing editor Emily Everett about his poem, “nigrescence,” which appears in The Common’s spring issue. In this conversation, Ricardo talks about his new collection Apparent Horizon and Other Stories, winner of the PANK Book Contest in fiction. The collection includes several short poetic fragments scattered amongst stories and novellas, with both historic and contemporary storylines. He discusses his process for writing from historical research, and what it’s like writing creative and critical work at the same time. Ricardo also talks about Outpost, a fully-funded residency in Vermont for creative writers of color from the US and Latin America.
This is the fourth installment of an online series highlighting work by Black authors published in The Common. To read The Common’s statement in support of the nationwide protests against anti-Black racism, white supremacy, and police brutality, click here.