If The World Collapsed Tomorrow, Whose Tears Will We Hear First

when you get older

you will sit with histories

that converge at the nexus point

of where

your body meets your mind

and you will try

to make sense of it.


sense is a trap

sense can be made of anything, of all things

of every thing.



to sit


your senses. 

– r.i.w.h. 

black girl, black girl
you is my mama
black girl, black girl
my mama is you
black girl, black girl
if yo son has hurtcha
black girl, black girl
then i hurtcha too
black girl, black girl
i’se sorry i has
black girl, black girl
what is left to do
black girl, black girl
let’s undo the world
for the black girls dat hurt
and the black boys too.

– r.i.w.h. p2.


Renounce yo’ sympathies

Uncarry yo’ burdens

Speak in yo’ language

Till dey close da curtains

Remove yo’ body

From takin’ up space

Dis world ain’t made for you and me.


dis world ain’t made for you and me.

– r.i.w.h. p3.

How you finna tell me
that I don’t really luh you
when luhvin’ you
is all i’se tryna do?

How you finna tell me
that I don’t really luh you
when luhvin’ you’s
my one and only troof?

How you finna tell me
that I don’t really luh you
when luhvin’ you
has kept me from dat noose?

– r.i.w.h. p4.


I ain’t eva been

mo sincere den when I say

“I hate’cha” ta meh.

–  ha(te)ik(yo)u

We who know the realities (plural) of the World are told to not be shocked by the harshness of their manifestations and yet, there is no getting used to the sensation that there are being-bodies that are endlessly pummeled into dereliction. There is no way to attune oneself to the violence that structures everything that gets to get known. There is no way of understanding or of making sense of things divorced from this intimacy with disaster. The World is fire and brimstone. What unstable grounds to build a “civilization.” But the question I ask is: If the World collapsed tomorrow, whose tears will we hear first? And how long will it take for us get to the black girls?

We should know there is no one who has not done an incredible injustice to these being-bodies at the bottom of sonic representation. If the materiality of their incipient integration into representation was/is/will be a matter of making-beings-in-and-through-violence then, it is quite a shame that the phonic materiality of their cries register at frequencies determined as lacking value. Understand, I come as no angel. I come as Nigger, as Black boy, as Black man, as always already ain’t-shit-Nigga. I come as Lucifer’s Nocturne.

“Lucifer’s nocturne … is inspired by the combination and dissolution of the opposition of light and dark, night and day, as well as by the doubled representation of dawn and dusk, those phases of indefiniteness that confound our spatiotemporal moorings by definition. To think of black men and boys, and of black masculinity more generally, as the effect of such creative, deconstructive labor suggests not only a redefinition of the terms of evil incarnate, but also, more importantly, a method of operating from within the dominant terms of engagement, a marshaling of resources immanent to the imposed situation, resources that are renewable and ready at hand because they are inherent to the constitution of the encounter itself.”

– Jared Sexton, “Black Men, Black Feminism: Lucifer’s Nocturne”

Indeed, this is the Devil’s advocacy and the advocacy statement is rather simple: Do better. Everyday. And in doing better, one does not undo the damage that has been done over and over and over and over again. A damage that is you, You, and the World that made you, You and the World. One does not do something worthy of praise. One does not secure their stature as a being worthy of approbation. You are Lucifer’s nocturne and we are not Satanist. In doing better, one participates in a practice of structural listening that gets to the center of a structural prohibition to refuse to hear the sounds of black women, which share rhythms and texture with the sounds of black queer folks, which is always already the repressed gendered/ungendered formation of anything that might be called a “black man.” If the World collapsed tomorrow, you might here yourself screaming first. But who are you? Hortense Spillers provides a clue.

The African-American male has been touched, therefore, by the mother, handed by her in ways that he cannot escape, and in ways that the white American male is allowed to temporize by a fatherly reprieve. This human and historic development – the text that has been inscribed on the benighted heart of the continent-takes us to the center of an inexorable difference in the depths of American women’s community: the African-American woman, the mother, the daughter, becomes historically the powerful and shadowy evocation of a cultural synthesis long evaporated – the law of the Mother- only and precisely because legal enslavement removed the African-American male not so much from sight as from mimetic view as a partner in the prevailing social fiction of the Father’s name, the Father’s law. Therefore, the female, in this order of things, breaks in upon the imagination with a forcefulness that marks both a denial and an “illegitimacy.” Because of this peculiar American denial, the black American male embodies the only American community of males which has had the specific occasion to learn who the female is within itself, the infant child who bears the life against the could-be fateful gamble, against the odds of pulverization and murder, including her own. It is the heritage of the mother that the African-American male must regain as an aspect of his own personhood – the power of “yes” to the “female” within.

– Hortense Spillers, “Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe: An American Grammar Book

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