Letter to the editor ("I am its excess spit into the world. I am the city's counterfeit body, the queer it expelled, the queer it now calls on to confess.")

by on Jun.28, 2012

[I get a lot of letters from people I don’t know but who read my poems and/or Montevidayo; it is actually very nice (when the letters are nice, they are just as often full of hate). I just got this letter the other day from Sean Wehle, and I thought it was moving so I decided to post it. Of course I am – as I noted in my post on Dear Ra – very interested in the epistolary form.]

Dear Johannes,

I’ve been spurred by the moment to send you this note, though this moment could also have been any moment in the past two years. I’m a college student, but more importantly, a very frequent flyer over Montevidayo. You and Joyelle and everyone are teachers I learn from everyday and I cannot separate myself now from your one little URL.

I don’t remember what happened. First I found myself in Joyelle’s Loser Occult. “Outside the campus bookstore a few weeks ago, I glimpsed a white minivan with a green bumper sticker reading ‘I miss Ronald Reagen’ in big goopy white Snoopy toothpaste font.” She would soon incant, “the borders of the text fray away,” and I realized suddenly where I was standing: Notre Dame, somewhere between the alumni association center and the guard gate leading me out of the parking lot, into the graveyard. I did a little research on the spot to puzzle out that Joyelle and you, indeed, both live in South Bend, and work at the university. Somehow I had returned — I myself was born in South Bend, and probably at some point already died there. But I did live there for 18 years, with my mother in a house across from ‘White Field’ parking lot, just behind the new golf course. In fact neither of those ‘landmarks’ existed for the majority of those years; my time growing up in that neighborhood is marked out for me by the slow compression of space the university pressured. I left for college to lift up. I can’t be blamed for needing a lift. But when I became a member of the loser occult and began reading Montevidayo, I saw everywhere only signs of the city I left. But its value — transformed. I recognize my luck having been born against a necropastoral, learning to drive in a quarantined parking lot, or seeing my cardboard trash repossessed by men carrying print-outs of protesting dead babies, or visiting my schizophrenic aunt as she hosted salons at Kinko’s. I had always thought my past life produced a sense. I understand now how it only destroyed me.

Against the necropastoral I picked up Reinaldo Arenas and William Burroughs from the central library downtown, wrapped them up in a plastic bag, and thought I was getting away with it all. Of course I was only gazing at the sky in the ground. I wrote stories where I dreamed my way through my T.V.’s late night B-Movies into the 1893 Chicago’s World Fair. There I fantasied about the serial killer that would arrest me in lincoln park. Both drug-addicted, we would set up camp and occupy the zoo.

I had a teacher in high school who took me to the back of the room and opened up Foucault’s Discipline and Punish from her bookshelf. Another time she selected me to participate in a timed national writing competition. The prompt asked us to write a ‘fable’ using a certain number of listed items, such as “a set of an item of your choice.” I naturally thought up a set of knives, and nominated as my protagonist that inert beautiful boy in class I had a crush on, and who I wrote out planning an assassination attempt on the president. This same teacher screamed when she saw me carrying a copy Burrough’s Junky after class, fearful of its power to possess me. In this same class I first experienced the waste of poetry, my muscles drained after reading T.S. Eliot’s The Hollow Men. Life in my town, I was bared to learn, is as long as the fall of a shadow.

Maybe this note could be my own personal response to the considerations of ‘sincerity’ going around. I can only be sincere about South Bend, because I am its excess spit into the world. I am the city’s counterfeit body, the queer it expelled, the queer it now calls on to confess.

I still move in its maps, and thanks to your work and the work of Montevidayo I can still say I’m exploring. I now study art history, having been drawn to the sexy work of image and fantasy, and from what you publish on Montevidayo (I apologize if I overwhelm or emphasize you here) I’ve become methodologically free to uninhibitedly take as my subjects of study the most banal details of time I can find — that which is banally grotesque, banally evil, banally violent. This is one gift I joyously tear apart.

thank you!
Sean Wehle

1 comment for this entry:
  1. Kim

    This was a wonderfully surreal read! Enjoyed muchly.