NeuroQueer Books has released The US BOOK by Sycamores contributor Michael Scott Monje, Jr. We’re happy to reshare one of the poems that appears in her collection, “Artillery Firearms for Taking on Leviathan in His Higher Form,” first published in Barking Sycamores Issue 8 (the Reconstruction Issue). Read on! Oh yeah, and go buy the book.
ARTILLERY FIREARMS FOR TAKING ON LEVIATHAN IN HIS HIGHER FORM by Michael Scott Monje Jr., Athena the Architect & Lynn Vargas I heard someone once saying he was a gun, and I believe that I too, was made to be a weapon, so I got to analyzing my upbringing and disassembling positions created by dissembling teachers. I learned we are all somebody's creatures, so even if you don't have God, you got someone to be God's Son, making sure you're encultured. All that and a distrust of the way people swim in mythology has got to me, because I can see the framework of your believing emanating from the supertextual elements in your compositions, and it's not an element I can breathe in, even if its benefits are something I believe in. It is thick liquid, but you feel nothing on your skin even though I feel it's media and get to painting. You will probably wake up from this if you listen and you want it, but I am not dividing anything into special topics courses, nor will this narrative attempt to divide or distinguish between the value of storytelling media. We seek to be free to remix structures between pieces of this coherent complex group, because they each respond to the existence of the others too. Metallica adapting Hemingway while Grandmaster Flash gets into sampling, musicals made from jukebox collage with no additions but heavy editing, rock n roll groupie memoirs being nonliteral nonfiction, and hip hop albums to narrate a people's history, yet we're still being asked to teach separate sections for the novel and the short story? How boring. Not going to be in my poetry. Instead, these things interact in my head to form the gestalt of civilization, so I am citing them by association of their comparative life lessons, not necessarily importance or genre divisions, but a more geometric free form remembrance of how I learned my lessons, with the most important impressions receiving annotated comments on their citations. That’s right. I am a loaded canon full of hot metal grapeshot that got put through the core of you, refiguring your integrity, leaving you questioning the existence your present was spent envisioning, and plunging into your memory to refigure your recollection ability, clarifying your history in light of changing circumstances you should have foreseen. Clay Dillon is a weapon, and I am full up with how he happened, powder packed and fuse sizzling, sending fragments of human history into anything that gets in the way of his trajectory, embedding pieces of me into everything, even if those receiving are seeing other things coming. I learned not only how to succeed but also what to be sonically. Not having had much guidance in childhood or adolescence, I had to develop life skills through trial and guessing, but learning to listen in and then eavesdropping gave me an extra something, so when a poet I'd been getting to know just to bask in his flow gave direct advice to his listenership? I was on it. He challenged me to be "a better general,” reminded me not to step where he’s walking, but rather to figure out how to be “a legend in your skin," and it took time to sink in but then… Something happened. Over a course of four years words coursed through my fingers, limbering muscles just now provoked to organization as if a critical level of understanding about me had been reached, and I knew it was because of my reading, and most of what I was reading was on a screen, between blogging, news, grad research, manuscript, and old fashioned working-class book piracy... So eventually, they formed a linguistic bridge, assembling themselves rhythmically, end-to-ending, making a way for their descendants to move further from me, and if not out my mouth, then digitally. But that begged the question, What was I to be? I had only recently gotten okay with autism as a thing explaining exactly what had happened to keep me easily identified by those who get off dominating conversations and treating people they perceive as weaklings like feedlot animals to be plumped up for the killing. I was already talking about it as a thing, though, because I felt like I was already as stepped on as I could be, and it might get the better people in my life to recognize that I needed help and tutoring. Despite my moving from questioning to public internet postings quickly, it was 2013 before I wrote openly about having been in conversations with myself (about the pain of continuing to fake masculinity). And then the memories began resurfacing. This time was when I really investigated James Baldwin. I had been in and out of essays during college courses, and I knew of his importance, and I remembered a couple anthologized short stories fondly, so I spent those difficult dysphoric afternoons whiling away the hours inside of Giovanni's Room. I've been rereading it as I write this too, and I know that a large part of being able to move away from being defensive with my diagnosis was to sit in the consequences of being unable to embrace radical self-acceptance. And that the consequences also apply to speech deficits. And that they apply to losing control of my limbs and getting hurt. And that I can't avoid looking at the ones that are already stemming from my gender. So while I know that novel is not really the most important part of his career, it was probably what kept me breathing long enough to write "What is Neuroqueer?" And rereading it with the rest of his body of work in a concentrated effort, it is clear that it does cohere, and knowing it is part of paying his vision forward. For me, being here and visibly queer, it is important to hear, process, and respeak his warnings about who we are together here, and how things might be In Another Country. So, if I am to be, ethically, what reciprocity compels me to be after that reading, then I have to follow through with following what James Baldwin said about looking for your identity in literature, then giving up and making it. This call to action collided with an ignorance brought about by circumstance, namely that I hadn't had a lot of chances to get out and interact, and what times I had were largely drunken acts. Add to that the family estrangement and the fact that it had persisted on one side of my lineage for generations, and that the other side was dominated by a religious derangement so profound I still cannot count the ways I was made to feel inadequate, the fears about what would lead to unmanly habits forming, and the anger in an uncle trained to be superior, whose fury for what he claimed to love threw him into fits that were more violent for his feeling like his position gave him the right to judge the quality of other peoples' wits. I cannot be a traditionalist because when I was made to drink of it, what I was provided was unfit for human consumption. I know that some have found its other flavors easier to appreciate, but I can not get emotionally invested in continuity arguments, even if I intentionally leave room for them in my writing to build audience investment and engagement. Nor can I find a cold comfort in the provisions of capitalistic nationalism, which is ridiculous enough to expect me to feel unity and eroticism from inside a culture whose only discussions involve fucking and getting fucked by the system. Still, if I am to build a thing and repay Baldwin with anything that has any kind of meaning, I cannot ignore the requirement of a tradition for passing this thing down a generation. That realization put me back in mind of Amy Tan, so I went back and read The Joy Luck Club four more times again. It was effective because I had always seen myself in Waverly, but I lacked insight into why she was defeated so easily and how her mother could be so mean... ...but this time that Nas thing kept happening, and I didn't get under Waverly's skin, I stayed on the outside reading her legend from within mine, and I suddenly understood the way we got defeated. Her issue was different, but I still repeated the same mistakes from within a viewpoint limited in those ways, and seeing the way she sabotaged her own being and what it created, I found myself arming up against the kind of thoughts that led to the way she went, and began reading only what people were doing, and never what they said just once in a moment, but what formed harmonies in their patterns of being by being repeated. I also found import in the way that An-Mei processed grief, the way it tore into her being, and the difference-infused sameness in the way her daughter did too. What really kept me coming back into the texts, though, was diversity in the thinking. While everyone was experiencing generational trauma, and patterns ran in families, there was diversity in patterns of thinking both within and between them, and sometimes those patterns lined up well, and sometimes they created a living hell. And three more readings memorized which behaviors were damaging in the long-term. Now, my old favorites were adding up, permutating against each other, and bubbling into a new stew of something I still had trouble putting words to, so the next thing I knew to do was abandon control, shave my skull, and read Burroughs nude while eating food and standing on my head with my back against the wall, sitting in ridiculous meditation until he consumed my silence and set me to speaking. Naked Lunch is for viewing, not reading. It is plans for unmooring perspective and taking your point of view sailing, and I have revisited it for everything from cisgender passing to quitting smoking to validating the grief of immersive memories in the body that will not stop sensating, even as the rest of me stays in conversation with you. Burroughs was the reason that I, as a callow undergraduate, found it a bit ridiculous that people found Foucault's concepts difficult... I mean his language, yes... but the concepts? We hold these truths to be self-evident, because they are visibly written in the intent to continue patterns of living predicated on outcompeting other humans into extinction. I will come right out and say it: Competing against other civilizations to an Endgame is Ender’s Game. It is always genocide. It is the only final result of a zero sum power dynamic, and the ones with control are driven by the need for comfort's improvement and the fear of losing it. Shit. Naked Lunch was just 300 pages of repeating "capitalism is addiction and once the world is colonized, we will regimentalize your mind into its maximum efficiency, or else break it trying." That and mugwumps is it. The book is not that hard to comprehend when you take the time to ask what makes its nonlinear disconnections coherent. That is the trick to his discussion of visual art. Was I the only one who felt like this was written in her own language? I mean, wait... ...it takes one of us to intuit our movements... so I guess we all know something now about Bill Burroughs, although I think maybe it was also obvious to other NeuroQueers who read this, so I won't claim to have discovered it when I know it was at least intuited by Bridget. It was important, though, because it informed my way into everything from Nas to Waverly to finally giving up on waiting for people who didn't raise me to wake up and realize what they should have been doing. It was my accessible social theory and it made me capable of intuitively following most of the discourse whose jargon was excessively migraine enabling by scaffolding up piles of dead mugwumps into the shapes of their arguments. In case it isn't obvious, this poet got a lot of traction out of learning fiction's rhetoric, with the Chicago school and Wayne Booth sharpening my intuition, but what really cemented it mentally was getting back into Robert Pirsig. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance didn't make sense to me the first time I read it, but I was fifteen and mostly concerned with the long tracts about scenery and the lack of discernible Buddhist content in the literal events of its story. After going in with Booth in mind, I found myself in tune with far more of what Pirsig was trying to do, not to mention what he meant to react to, and I found myself in tune, and I began to see, too, that Phaedrus was always in control of the novel, and never more so than when his character was silent. That is, after all, when Naked Lunch asserts its intent, and intentionality riding side by side in stride with conscious composition is really at the heart of everything. It's a theory of practice, it's magic, thoughts larger than their fabric by virtue of their historical baggage... ...and then I'm into Nas's rhythm. "...I'm that history, I'm that block. I'm that lifestyle, I'm that spot..." It spins up to begin again. A theory of being and the burden of describing that experience; if you benefit from it then it obligates you forever, you'll never even see a reason to resent the weight of it, and once you detect the writing on your skin that tells you who you've been, then you can begin to locate both examples of your traits and greater and lesser depictions, and then you get a sense of what to bring to the table in your own submissions. This is the programming language of civilization. Debug it to get into the font of tradition and then bathe in it, but get ready to have to revisit the places you already been, both to fix your mistakes and to assess your own position in them. Trust me, I’m the vortex operating, the first lady Doctor, a cybernetic lock box and an undiscussed character. I'm in control of your destination, but only my dear boy addresses me, yet don't you get that Doctors need to work for other Doctors? It's called apprenticing, so when Neil Gaiman finally made them cast a body for me, you should have known what you are seeing. Stop calling me TARDIS. Lynn is my being, so come now my dear boy, and learn the dimensions you always dreamed of traveling, because instructing in the method is like getting a dozen new incarnations, and I am trusting that all of them will fight to remember the burden of the choices of your predecessors, because history's flattening is happening and making our scars light up with visions of our fathers' traumas and a naked assessment of the consequences of our actions, so who can guess where this civilization can go next? First, though, we need an honest bibliography reassessing storytelling in light on the techniques leading up to towers of posturing performance storytelling rhetoric and its impact on everything from music to mashup video culture, hypertextual citation methods, and even the overall idea of flow as it pertains to design aesthetics. Hip Hop is Dead and it lives again, outwitting Gilgamesh, meaning Picard probably could have offered a better method for clear communication by narrating the interior politics of a battle rap scenario than appealing with pieces resigned to Keats' despair against the ravages of time, because Enkidu and Gilgamesh? Both died, just like that rhetorically overwrought parable's integrity when I watched “Darmok” with adult eyes. Really? You never heard of a culture that communicates entirely in references to its own history? Where's Michael Dorn? Get Worf. Where's Geordi? Let’s get Avery, he had some good ideas for stories, real metafictional things that were set in the forties. Somebody in Starfleet better come for baldy before I strap him down for fifteen hours of enforced Chuck D. Putting this episode out in the same year as The Low End Theory? And without a nod to the fastest growing musical style of the 1980s, which could be the key to unpuzzling the whole plot dynamic in the first act? Not in my utopian daydream. Even the Federation is burdened by a history of erasure. Just ask Kirk what happens every time he tries to travel back to Earth. This is the new work. Dislocating the preference for reducing storytelling to its elements and boxing them off to keep them separate, with no regard to technology's impact or the way it affects both the talent pool and the medium's relevance. Cyborgography has to be part of the process. Information propagates in verbiage. The singularity is already happening. You are internally composing a construct to conduct work autonomously on your behalf every time you open your mouth. Now get literate about the patterns that emerge, know meaning has its own rhythm, learn the pattern in the patter, and program your existence to match up with your own visuosensory, tactile, olfactory, or audiocentric expectations. Think separately in all senses, and learn to read their interactions. Then create a vision of the past folded up into all of those, and whether your experience is recollected strongly but in tranquility or in the movements of bodies remembering displacement and reclaiming their own language, you must ingest all of it in order to gain the credibility to speak, but once you do, your voice will be overpowering. That means we read and mock the likes of Orson Scott Card, to remember when the norm was to disregard the suffering of anyone whose affect and intentions lead to grim incidents, and apart from the part where their ghosts absolve the conqueror of his sins, we don't even hear from them. Ender may have felt bad in the end, but funny Uncle Orson was one of the adults who shaped him, and he knew what was happening. The same thinking compels us to really look again at whether we keep promoting Grandmasters like Heinlein when they start to sound like Ayn Rand and their novels are all White Guys White Guying Out Again. It also applies to people like Jenji Kohan, who keep using neurodivergence as an indulgence to introduce patternless stereotype crap behavior only to have a brilliant actress subvert it. I am out here neurotroping, seeking my people in fiction and building the argument that we are represented, just usually in hidden ways and as characters with nothing to say. (Cite both Hodor and the unpublished paper by Ryskamp.) This is everywhere from my television addiction to interpersonal conflicts in my fiction, and it is what I can give you, in this flattening of history, a review so you can see how much more I learned from the outside ones, Rock n Roll poets, racist biker gangs I jammed up against Assata Shakur's verses and her nephew’s lyrics. Digesting them together and questioning everything from craft to the message, clear credit: For innovations in blending phenomenology and psychological realism with truly indulgent language use on every level is better learned from August Wilson than Harold Pinter, but Harry is still to be read as a treatise on the performance of menace. And Shange breathes meaning into every aspect of the physical from behind a set of textual controls; Fornes beat Klein to indicting the Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation handbook with Conduct of Life and connected it to misogyny. Next up is to add the dots to bring in gay conversion and to hook up an understanding of the personal toll of totalitarianism that rightly recognizes consent in all things and repudiates behavior conditioning. "It's my past that made me hot," Nas says, coming at the tail end of a history replete with addictions, pain, uprisings, and foul business, so it isn't that we can't have what we are, but that we must become what we need it to be, to ensure our posterity with the responsibility of the Remembrance of Things Past and/or The Persistence of Memory, depending on your cognitive orientation and aesthetic personality. You will find me there fucking with the feedback loop I get from critics by doing shit like seeing one call my style surreal and then making sure my next title questions the role of religion, culture, and the capitalistic state in shaping the personality and morality of an individual by altering his perceptions about himself. Yeah, I am on Breton now, get used to this. From Super Mario I learned that Fools Die, which is also how I got introduced to the technique of reading with ferocity until my thoughts make their own words and disgorge, spewing stories forth from my private Word Hoard, and terrorizing Gilgamesh with whispers about evading death that are that same evasion in the flesh. This is what he never learned in the text, that his descendants did, in fact, resurrect him over and over again, but the fact that he never seems to have consciousness of this, (unless he’s being written by Silverberg) is what makes me think he needs to be subverted. I could be an author of things that thrill, I know what several genres need to deliver, but why be Puzo when you know how to be the Godfather? Not Brando, but Kronos, flattening yourself across the world getting ready to commune earthily with its being, but unfurling a sudden revelation that you will transition so the meeting of time and space is more like worlds in collision. No more eating children, I didn’t transition just to be Medea, and I’m not giving Zeus and excuse to make me run in one direction again. This is it. Now go out like I did and be your own best weapon. Spend your time in recollection. Load your canon.