Category Archives: Mas Rhetorica

Winers in the Hands of an Angry God: A Sermon on the Monk

We is a oil and water people.
A cocoa in the sun people.
A carnival people.
To soak this kingdom, yuh don’t need much—just some rain.
— a Mas Man
“Wherefore, my beloved,
as ye have always obeyed,
not as in my presence only,
but now much more in my absence,
work out your own salvation
with fear and trembling.”
— Philippians 2:12, KJV
“This is my story, this is my song.
Praising my Savior all the day long.”
— Frances J. Crosby, 1873
“You say you want a leader,
but you can’t seem to make up your mind.
I think you better close it, and let me guide you.”
— Prince, Purple Rain, 1984


Carnival coming.
People go fly.
The dead go rise.
The living go play them.
Iron go knock.
Bottle go break.
Knee go bend.
Tongue go confess.
Kingdom—a Soca Kingdom—go come.

I have listened to Rudder’s “High Mas” and wept.
I have fallen drunk and risen to the dholak that carved a spine through Shorty’s “Indrani.”

Despers was my Damascus, once. All Stars, another time.

I have spun and spun at a crossroads in Port of Spain to Ella and Devon—Eshu, Ase.
I have seen a Blue Boy fly.
I have seen a Golden Boy beat a magic drum.
I have seen a Golden Calf become a Mad Bull.

I have seen things, so let me testify:
Carnival coming.
Jump high, jump low, it coming.
And the road will be your church,
the Savannah will be your cathedral.
And Soca will be your praisesong.
We, the people of moments and movements, of shame and of spectacle, will sing.

So sing, my people.

Sing a hymn to soothe your weary souls from the drudgery of everyday life. It will bring you peace, a peace you must also seek. You must go out in the road, put your hands up, close your eyes, breathe deep, and wine like hell for the salvation of your Carnival spirit. Even in the silence of streets you are afraid to walk, you will remember what it is like to feel. Wring the pan and drum from your spine, wring it from your shoulders. Wring out your heart. No one will stop you. Who will dare to tell you how to feel? Who dares to silence your grief? Or mine? We dance to save ourselves out of the abyss, chipping away at its walls.


Carnival coming, and people in fear will dance their terror in the hope that it will save their lives. People forced to numb themselves, who live in a country gripped with fear of death and unspeakable violence, will pulse and break open, dancing a hymn soaked in adrenaline and painted in blooFor them—us—a Road March is the theme song of a funeral procession. Public pain, set to music. We dance at funerals. We sing.


And so it will come to pass that a people on an island will forget they are in a wilderness. Rising waters lift all ships, the people will say, forgetting how to swim. A people who think themselves free will come to call themselves a “kingdom” without asking who among them is king. They forget the blind have no king. The dead have no kingdom.

But we’re still here, you and I. Neither dead nor blind. You and I. Still alive, in a way. Since we’re here, let us think together a bit. First, a couple basic points:

1. Machel is a boss. Late release is good strategy.
2. Popular culture is driven by the market.
3. “Soca Kingdom” might be shit.

Let us at least concede that. He may be easy enough to dislike, but he’s the hero in his own tropical Jungian matrix. In that matrix, Super Blue is the elder—his senex. Super Blue is also a boss, our hearts wrapped in blue. (He’s seen his share of falls and ascendencies. We love and respect him.) Bunji is obviously his shadow (the opposite is true in Bunji’s Jedi/Jungian references in “Vintage Garlin”). Faye-Ann is yet to be factored in (in public).

Archetypes aside, there’s no accounting for taste. And unless you play a song nonstop from now till Carnival, you can’t really force people to like something. (Can you?) It’s not like there’s a “Soca Mafia” silencing other artists, interrupting their competitors’ songs with drivel. (Right? Right.)

The song follows a well-worn formula, as far as songs like this go. The lyrics are also what we should expect them to be: basic. “Stamping” your name on the stage, for example, evokes that civil servant ethos, the standing in lines for hours at a time, only to be dismissed, insulted. But it also reminds us of our desire to legitimize our behavior (bad and good, if there is such a thing), to claim the space (personal), to own it outright. To own ourselves. Stamping the stage is how unfree people free themselves. We stage our liberation in such a way. We dispute squatter’s rights all the time, but squatters—and the landowners who despise them—always find a way to share the road when the time comes.

The fact that it’s “a process about a process” makes it at once a tautology and a metaprocess: a matrix not unlike the one he warns us about in “Take It Slow.” That, I suppose, is something to consider. Coupled with the reference to wining “in front of de people business place,” we could speculate on whether the “Rituals” 😉 of confrontation at the heart of Carnival can make a difference in the ways that matter to us. Or, are we on Charlotte Street, where everybody business is literally on the road? Or are we talking about people who have no business being on the road? Or is it just too late? Who can say? Double-entendres have their uses, though they can sometimes lose their sting—seeming quite numb (before numbing us).

I’m not so concerned with those things, right now, but with the beat. The heart of the matter, so to speak. It, too, is simple. This simplicity—what we may call its elegance—makes the song and the moment brilliant af.

Soca says,“Feel.”
Not “if you don’t hear, you will feel.”
No, Soca says, “Feel. Listen, if you want. Take apart the construction and the arrangement, if you must. But feel! If you do nothing else, feel!”

And I’m here for that. Simply put, if Calypso is the voice of the people, Soca is its soul.

According to Connor Towne O’Neill, when Ed Watson declared calypso dead in 1971, Lord Shorty was “determined to find a music that the young people could be part of.” He went in search of its soul. Led by the prophetic vision of what the soul of a sound might feel like, he went looking for us, feeling around for us in the dark.

It was a moment of existential and sensory transcendence. When he took the “so” from calypso and fused it with “kah,” he didn’t just connect a predominantly West African form to an East Indian one. He also orchestrated the completion of a sonic cycle that, in order to move, had to appear to simplify itself. Some would say too simple, but would follow eventually.

Shorty argued, with music, that to truly express its complexity, Caribbeanness (as he understood it) would have to transcend its form. It would have to transform. To evolve, the power of the word would have to shed its form for another—something more emotionally abstract. Not “soul calypso,” but something simpler and more elemental:

Soca is the afterlife of calypso, a praisesong for people in grief.

In this open yard of black, brown, bronzed, and blackened friars, each song is a hymn, an anthem for lovers, warriors, and heathens. It is a conduit to memory’s future. It is the sublime soundtrack of tormented people. A lovesong for people in search of themselves, a liberation that occurs in spite of themselves.
In a very real sense, then, Soca is a Mas—
and Machel may be its Minshall or its Minstrel.

He may be both. We have helped make him this way. Do we see our handiwork? Do you feel it?

Don’t worry. It coming.

Every rupture will bring forth a Messiah.
Every crisis will produce for us a prophet.
We are Carnival people; our prophets have always been different.

We’ve had Invaders and Executioners,
Stalins and Bombers,
Nelsons and Kitcheners.
We’ve had Sparrows and Swallows,
Roses and Rudders,
Melodies and Shadows.

If we fail to make a prophet, will he not make himself out of dust? Will she not carve herself from stone? Will they not make iron talk when the season comes, bending and hammering themselves into shape? Will we not try to summon that power now, when we need it most? We are a Carnival people—you and I—and our prophets have always been different. Let us chant the incantation like a chorus of our difference and desperate beauty, let us whisper it like a prayer:

We are a Carnival people.
We are a Carnival people.
We are a Carnival people!

Carnival coming, and it must not catch us sleeping. We must not say to ourselves that a kingdom without a king is just an incomplete colony—a colony of missing parts and missing people. We already know that. We must not wonder if Soca is a praisesong. For if it is, then for what are we giving praise? To whom? Through whom?


This pain is proof that we’ve made it to a new year. (Many did not.) To be alive in this dangerous and numbing time, who wouldn’t want to feel something real? We need it. We need something. Who can blame us? Who dares to? Who can judge us?
And who, but a prophet of our making, will lead us in our present libations? Who will decode for us the “Spirit in the spell” we find ourselves in? In the court of public opinion, I am a fool. Who am I to name prophets, to say whether a song is shit or not? What do I know?

What I know is that Carnival coming. And all kinda thing does happen. You just have to pay attention. I have seen a man call himself a rocket man, a minister, a monk, a god—with my own eyes, I’ve seen him descend from the heavens. Others followed.

Is this not something we ought to expect from ourselves? As grounded people—people who can no longer fly—don’t our traditions demand these transformations? Don’t we suspend our own disbelief to sacrifice our bodies on the altar of our misshapen histories? Don’t we turn to ash in this hot sun, mix our ash with water, and bathe ourselves? Don’t we know the feel of sharp sand on our tongues? Or, are we so starved, so desperate that we no longer see ourselves for who we are?


Are we so damaged that we no longer see Carnival for the Mas? Are we that lost? Have we forgotten how to pray, or forgotten what it is to be preyed upon and corrupted?

The answer to all of these questions is Yes.

We are starved and desperate.
We are damaged.
We are corrupt and corrupted.
We forget and have forgotten.
We are cynical.
We are tired.
We are lost.
We—every single one ah we—are in crisis.

So who will lead us?

To soak a kingdom, all you need is saturation. Rain. We were promised the fire next time, but we’ve had a lot of rain. We are soaked to the bone. And still, no king has come.

Who reigns when there is no king?A queen? (No, they beat women here.)
Will a child lead us? (No. We hunt and eat our children here.)

What kingdom comes of a future we have eaten? How can we breathe when our love and our rage and our sex are all so poorly staged? Will Soca reign, or will it rein us in? That, it seems, is the answer. But what is the question? What is the question, and who will come forward to ask it?

What is the difference between the prophets we make and the profits made of us? None.
The difference between a Road March and a funeral procession? None.

Who will lead us if we don’t know the difference between a monk and a Mas? We will sing and take the jamming, wining for our lives while we wait for an answer to come.

Kevin Adonis Browne (@drbrowne) is the author of High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture (2018) and Tropic Tendencies: Rhetoric, Popular Culture, and the Anglophone Caribbean (2013).


Of Time Travel and ​Trigger Warnings; Or, Somewhere Between #BoycottHM and #BoycottHandM

My friends are like family. Which means they don’t seem to care much about trigger warnings. They just go ahead and send me things:

• mixed-race jokes
• porn-inflected jokes
• gender-based violence jokes
• the occasional mutilation joke
• jokes about misogyny and missing teeth and pain and other assorted cruelties.

And I know why they do it: not because they secretly hate me and think I’m a bit too detached from my world to be bothered by a disembowelment when set to uninteresting music, but because I’m as likely to ignore the violence as break into a full-throated analysis of one thing or another.

I know what you’re thinking, because I think the same thing from time to time: I need better friends. It’s true, but I love them all (if not equally), so what can I do? People need some way to deal with the pathology of the society of which they are a part–a society from which they hope to remain apart. It is a futile hope. And their apathy–ours, really–is nothing short of Macchiavellian. The justification, poor as it is, does work. Family, amirite? (I call people “darlings” and “beautiful badasses” on here, so it’s whatever.)

Anyway, I was minding other people’s business on social media, when I get a version of the image on this post–just the child on the left. I only saw the child on the right this morning on a Crisis Magazine tweet. My first reaction was, “cute kid.” I didn’t take the bait. I responded with a bit of cynicism–“we keep expecting these people to do right by us”–and kept it moving.

Reaction (❤, mostly).

Repeat. Damn.

I didn’t say that if the child on the left makes it past the age of 12, learns the principles of black liberation, has “The Talk” (birds, bees, bullets), and avoids Hotep fallacies, coconut oil, and kale, he’ll be as much a “survival expert” as his apparent counterpart. And that his apparent counterpart–framed as a conservative, capitalist, colonialist, imperialist mashup in the shape of a boy cut to fit a sweatshirt–not only views his blackness as a thing to be conquered, but also as an aspiration. No, he doesn’t want to be black–why would he? Rather, he is a projection of a whiteness I recognize. A child made to portray a desire for the condition of being “the coolest monkey in the jungle.” Not in the Jane Goodall sense of cool, obviously (chimps are apes, after all).

Because we know neither of those children resides in any real jungle, we can (must) assume that the metaphor is what matters here. Viewed in such a way (and because symbolic language is not what it is but what it might be), it’s reasonable to look at this child on the right as a prefabricated hipster conservative, and his gaze as a parable of inevitable gentrification. Stoops and corners, like ruins in the memory. Eminent domain, and the bodies made to represent it. Bodies designed, as it were, to desire and be displaced from it.

I didn’t say that I was thrown back–because all sweatshirts are a throwback, in the age of clima-cool. In an age of breathable clothes worn by bodies that can’t breathe, I saw this child (the one on the left) as representing something of a hybrid–a visual prelude-postscript to a very particular set of issues that plague contemporary life. In short, you could say I saw him as a superhero. I saw him, foolishly, as a young Luke Cage: developing his love for sweatshirts from a young age, causing trouble in the concrete jungle of Harlem or Bed-Stuy (or wherever black bodies are stripped of their black minds and black spirits, wherever they’re either forced or inclined to run and fight for their lives with hands up or throats clenched or hearts broken, wherever death–black death–is not a metaphor, but a reality). A young Luke Cage, before becoming a caricature of our suffering, before Black Panther shows up, takes the wheel, slaps the #Oprah2020 out of our mouths, and redeems us all.

And why not? Escapism (like desensitization and terrible Whatsapp etiquette) is a strategy for people like us. From “Flying Africans” of Modernity and Black Antiquity to the elemental Earth, Wind & Fire.

We fly. We stay fly. We be fly.

It’s how people like us, who seem to have no power, deal with shit. And I’m no different, so you can believe I’d go with Luke Cage who, before he was bulletproof, badass, or beefcake was not unlike the child on the left. Black.

And when Black Panther comes like Black Jesus, I’ll make of this sweatshirted child a young T’Challa on a visit to America, throwing shade as an unapologetic embodiment of a Signifying Monkey in this prison industrial complex of language–with its marketplaces and parlors. Before that happens, though, I try to get my mind right. I turn the conversation inward.

Me: Why Luke Cage, which was immediately (and ultimately) disappointing?

Also Me: Because I’m bound, like everyone else, by the symbols I’m given. And there aren’t enough black Jedi.

Me: Why not read this image as an homage to Trayvon Martin?

Also Me: Because while the easy imposition of black death and white superiority on children’s bodies causes me anxiety (almost as if it were prophecy), trauma is not a badge of honor–nor is resilience synonymous with recovery. There is blood on all of our shrines.

Me: Why not remix the irony of red-green colorblindness and ridicule the construction of race as an example of a dilapidated discourse, as an uninhabitable idea?

Also Me: Because the “red-black-green” progression from Martin to Luke to Cool is as much a “semiotic slight” as “sleight of hand”–a move from child to man to child; a broken promise that takes us forward from bullet riddles to cages to jungles, as if it were progress. Because “the red, the black, and the green” is how many of us learned to spell “Justice.” Because it is a nostalgia that mirrors the tragic-comic-absurd of throwback sweatshirts in contemporary culture over the past decade. Oh, Luke. If only your projections could save us.
(Also Also Me: Wait, darling, T’Challa is coming. Again. And Carnival. Wait.)

Me: Why not reach for the image of Trayvon, a child who would be 23 next month, pluck him out of the memes that made light of his black death, bring him forward in time, forward into 2018, imagining him as a smaller child now, bending time to give him more time, giving him a restart on his clock, summoning my mystical manipulation of time and flight and travel to save this child’s life before his love of candy and iced tea?

Also Me: Because I’m waiting for a future, a mothership prophesied in Soca and Funk, sanctified in Fire and Water, and reified in Black Magic. Because I’m not yet what I’ve longed for.

Me: Why not scoff at the absurdity of false equivalency and the problem of signs?

Also Me: It was an interpretive choice, obviously. And a self-care choice, as well. Because black death is as much a reflex for us as for those who would destroy us. Because I only appear to respond to an absurdity with an absurdity, something like a phenomenon to offset the silliness of sacrificing the image of children to the diseases we’ve learned to worship. There are children, lodged between #BoycottHM and #BoycottHandM. Boys, as it turns out, being anything but themselves.

There’s a larger, simpler point: it’s impossible to escape from a trap that I set for myself, no less possible to remove my skin and burst into flames. A trigger warning, after the bullet, in between the ceaseless volley of hurts that we must negotiate–often, and unfortunately, at the cellular level–for people like us.

People like us, who know the trigger is the weapon–that language is a perfect violence, one we cannot boycott. And so it is, that with all perfect violences, the perfect villains will often look just like us. Until they don’t.

Let the church say, “Ase!”

High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture (2018)

fb_img_1503075388656-07-1190533247.jpegI’m pleased to announce the publication of High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture by the University Press of Mississippi. High Mas is a book of images and essays inspired by the art of Mas in Trinidad, the practice of Caribbean photography as a rhetoric of seeing, and my own fear of blindness.

Here’s the abstract: High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture is a book of contemporary Caribbean thought and practice. In it, Kevin Adonis Browne combines the arts of photography and the lyric essay to devise a way of seeing the Caribbean, the world, and the self. Responding to the myths and crises of identity, of nation, and of belonging that persist in the region, High Mas complicates assumptions about Trinidad Carnival as an exemplary festival of local freedoms. Instead, Browne explores the spirit of Mas as a deeply generative means of vernacular expression. Using the performance of Mas as a lens for reading the contemporary Caribbean, Browne draws particular inspiration from the performances of Blue Devils, La Diablesse, and Moko Jumbies—all of whom were photographed by the author between 2014 and 2017.

Essays accompany each series and frame the author’s ideas of “Caribbeanist Photography” as a practice that is both reflective and refractive. Beginning with memoir, and moving progressively toward a more extensive treatment of Caribbeanness as performance—as Mas—the book is a celebration of the Caribbean subject. It is, furthermore, a declaration of the agency of ordinary people who take it upon themselves to do extraordinary things, who deconstruct the vagaries of everyday life to construct meaning. Like its overarching theme, High Mas disrupts conventional assumptions of what Mas—and the people who make Mas—can do. Relying simultaneously on aspects of memory, experience, imaging, and inquiry, High Mas is an intricate argument for the relevance of vision to the Caribbean voice.

(Keywords: Caribbean Poetics, Trinidad, Photography, Carnival, Cultural Rhetoric)

Read or download a pdf of Chapter Summaries here.

High Mas: Carnival and the Poetics of Caribbean Culture  will be my second book—in my view, a more practical application of Caribbean Rhetoric that I theorize in Tropic Tendencies(2013). And a more personal one.

“Seeing Blue”

For all the seeing it can enable, Caribbeanist Photography is also an art of conjuring our missing pieces. Missing pieces. It is the collection and tenuous resetting of broken bones and of kept, forgotten pieces. It is a conjuring up of missing things that cannot be bestowed with sight alone, but also with vision: to see what exists beyond the boundary of the frame and in the mystery of unexplored shadow. Emerging from a need to respond to the ubiquitous stain of Empire, it does not memorialize, nor can it create what is not there to be seen. (In time, you will see that neither Mas nor this craft will allow those things.) It is, rather, the art of memory’s inadequacy, the declaration that there is something worth remembering, worth seeing, and worth looking for—and that it is gone away from you (returning, now and again, in parts, like a flawed lover to your mad and vulnerable days). We are here to embrace all of it, knowing we entangle ourselves as much in loss and missing as with challenges of sight.

Paramin and Port of Spain, 2014

“La Femme des Revenants”

We see differently because we are different. The objective of Caribbeanist Photography, demonstrated in these photographs, is not merely to adopt or mimic conventional ways of seeing that simulate power, and then to creolize them. Rather, the objective is to incorporate, complicate, and ultimately relegate them to the periphery. Caribbeanist photographers have enough to do as it is: struggling for who struggle to be seen, deriving our vision from the tenuous traditions that have forged us and those we see, navigating the irreconcilable distances and silences between us. If we are, in fact, beautiful and dangerous (and we are), we should know that it is a hard-worn beauty, a danger tempered with grievance and blood, rebellion and failure. Our way of seeing gives us leave to note the visible silences caught in the still life of frozen eyes and blackened mouths, the pains of aging locked in shadowed wrinkles too old to dance in the light. (How their translucent edges glisten on the asphalt.) With the lens, we seem to dance a dance for the seen and the unseen.

Port of Spain, 2015

“Moko Jumbies of the South”

Behind the lens, I am (I tell myself) alone, driven only by my intentions. (Who else would it be operating the shutter and rings, fumbling my way to an image?) It is a fiction, I know. But if I hope to devise an imaging of Mas or a cohesive self, or an idea of my people who call themselves into awareness and account, I’m compelled to ask the Moko Jumbies about their Mas. “Why Stick?” The response is so matter of fact, so obvious, that I might have been embarrassed to repeat it.

“Stick?” she laughs, “Stick is life, boy. Stick is joy. Stick is happiness. Stick is everything. Yeah. I could be in real pain, like serious pain. Like, for instance, last year (2015), I was in serious pain, and I want to walk on that stick, to cross the stage. That was the night of Dimanche Gras. I fell the night of the Finals. I fell and I damaged my knee. And I gone up on the stage. Yeah. Them telling me let somebody else walk it. I want to walk that stick. Have to. Stick? Stick is a love, yes. Stick is life.”

Yes. These things we do by faith—not by sight alone, but by feel.

Spirit,” she adds “at the end of the day.”

This is a terrifying thing, this terrible clarity. At least, for me.

Ste. Madeleine and Tarodale, 2015-6

I’ve never been good at self-promotion, but I believe in this project. I believe in the people represented in it. I believe this book will give you, the reader, a chance to reflect on how you see–how you see yourself. Caribbean or not, you will see yourself in it.
To inquire or order prints, please contact me on social media (Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram).

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is under contract with the University Press of Mississippi and is licensed in this form under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

On Mango Sucking

The problem of mango string in your teeth is neither the mango’s fault nor your own. Find the right mango variety, and you’ll have less of a problem. The greater problem, assuming there aren’t any other varieties available, is the lack of choice. As in, I have no choice but to eat this mango all the way down to the seed. 

Then, of course…

What remains between our teeth is regretful, to be sure. (It’s what I imagine floss would be if it had a personality disorder and dressed in costume, tormenting others to make itself relevant.) But because it is derived from our previous pleasures, it is not essentially a regret.

It’s important to know the difference, as we walk sucking our teeth among strangers for whom discontent is the norm. Or, in the comfort of our homes, taking an adolescent pleasure in running our tongues along those teeth and smiling broadly at the bowl of skins and seeds resting on our lap.

The Cure for Tabanca

This is what I have told myself…

Tabanca is love gone bad, or so they say. The only cure I know of is this: knowing that there are two ends. The first “end” is the ending that causes the pain I feel right now. It is inevitable, always happening or about to happen. As certain as death, my human frailty, once recognized, will betray me (and others). Every character trait has a finite quality that will fall short of whatever expectations I set for them. 

The second “end” is the end of my pain, which no person can ease until it has run its course and done what it is meant to do. Whether I think of it as a poison or an elixir, I should know that what I feel is not the absence of the other, but my own, unavoidable, presence. Not the inarticulable hurt that seems to herald these bouts of maddening loss, nor the fact that I have always been a little mad, but the unsatisfying truth that I am who I am. Not the selective remembering that defines my grief and heartbreak, but the unmistakeable beating of a heart I’ve learned to ignore, caught up as  I’ve been in other sounds, other noises, bodies, mouths, eyes, tongues, words. And while I may have played at exploring the anatomy of love, I cannot escape my heart–the thing beating [within] me. It is always with me. This is why we sometimes feel like we want to die, that we will die–either because of the pain, or to escape it. So strong is the idea that this pain must subside, then disappear, that I forget that I am the source of what I feel. And while I may feel as though I want the end to come, my pain is proof that I’m not yet ready to let go. I still feel. It is a frailty that (like all other things about myself) I must accept. 

The end, in this sense, is both teleological and ontological–or, more accurately, the purpose and possible outcome (telos) of my experience is the rediscovery of my damaged, dormant, and muted self (ontos). That is the lesson, a lesson that I’ve sought to understand without taking the time to question. It is also a fact, one I’ve pretended to forget: by shifting my attentions from myself to another, I’ve only changed the direction of those attentions, not their source or their quality. And though it may be tempting to suggest that how badly I feel is a direct result of how deeply I’ve loved, the opposite may be more accurate. That is, how badly I feel is a direct result of how badly I’ve loved–and how well. Pain is pain, no matter the cause. 

But since we know that our capacity for denial is the inevitable precursor to Tabanca–a symptom, if you like–then reflection may be viewed as treatment. Recognition is your recovery. Acceptance, in this vein, is the cure. But all this denial says is that you’ve been misdiagnosed. Love gone bad was never love to begin with, only a placebo that has expired, leaving you with little choice but to withdraw. That withdrawal is nothing more than a painful return to a state you never really left: yourself.

Then I think of something pithy to say, to mask the fact that I’m as disappointing as I am disappointed. Failing to do that, I choose a kind of silence.

Regarding the Cost of My Book…

Some thoughts ahead of the publication of my book, Between Still Life and Afterlife: Mas, Photography, and the Self (UP Mississippi, forthcoming).

First, know this: you will lose what you hope to keep. Those of us who create know that our creations–and what we think of as our creativity–come at a cost. They do not simply appear out of a vacuum. No. Something must be given and given up in exchange for what we create. A sacrifice, in a way, without the expectation of a blessing. A curse is as likely to come. Or nothing.

The inevitability of loss is the only gain, the only reward. Know this. Accept it, if you can. Ignore it, if you must. But expect it.

Nothing is sacrosanct that existed before that created thing. No one is safe from it. (And yes, they know this and try to love you anyway, thinking themselves safe and special–almost immune. You think it, too. I think it. They try to stay, to take you as you are, but they know. No excuse can suffice, nor weak justifications satisfy. Lies, yours and mine and theirs, cannot hold. It is what it is: a reality greater than you.) No reward awaits you for admitting, publicly or in private, that there is no depth to which you will not go to defile yourself, all for the creation of a thing.

It’s a violence no one is bound to understand, one done to yourself and to others, existing beyond the limits of perfect conscience, beyond the reach of hand, heart, and mind. A violence that transcends its own inadequate morality, one that leads you to a truth that is even more inadequate: no art, no image, no words, no melody will ever bear the burden that comes from their expression. Instead, it is you who must bear it. This is how it is with something you know will outlive you, outlasting even the impulse of its birth.

I’m thinking of what I’ve caused to bring into this world, and sometimes the enormity of what it cost is too much to bear. But to see what others have not seen, you must either see differently or see different things. Each will lead you away from what, and who, you know. Each will move you, or move others. Each will bring you through the loss, through the blur of your tears, to a dissatisfaction glorious enough to see you create, again, in spite of the cost. You push, though you haven’t seemed to move.

There you sit–between the still life of what you perceive and the afterlife of a thing you have conceived but cannot articulate–understanding that though the cost is great, your creation knows no currency.

It is you who must have the courage, or the desperation, to pay.


Between Still Life and Afterlife: Mas, Photography, and the Self


Please donate and share the link below, as I try to raise money to make this book a reality. #BetweenStillLifeandAfterlife

Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World

Repeating Islands


Opening tomorrow:

Impressionism and the Caribbean

June 14 – September 6, 2015

From the Blanton Museum’s website:

The Blanton Museum presents Impressionism and the Caribbean: Francisco Oller and His Transatlantic World, an exhibition of approximately eighty paintings by Realist-Impressionist painter Francisco Oller (1833–1917) and his contemporaries. Organized by the Brooklyn Museum and debuting at the Blanton, the exhibition reveals Oller’s important contributions to both the Paris avant-garde and the Puerto Rican school of painting. Providing historical, geographic, and cultural context for Oller’s work, the exhibition also features paintings by nineteenth-century masters Paul Cézanne, Winslow Homer, Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, and others. The Blanton’s presentation also includes a small selection of works by contemporaneous Texas artists working on both sides of the Atlantic.

One of the most distinguished transatlantic painters of his day, Oller helped transform painting in the Caribbean. Over the course of his career, he traveled between Europe…

View original post 661 more words