The physical is a social fact

The Poetry of Cheena Marie Lo

cheena marie lo sent us selections from two manuscripts: a series of un/natural/disasters and an untitled manuscript we will call its word doc name: they is a word or a form.

direct sunlight looking over 4725 dauphine street creates black shadow straight line broken by either an arch on a porch roof or just the way the light bends


green lines, also peeling, of presumably a doorway and certainly a window perpendicular to eight lines of parallel panels in the frame painted grey and peeling.

Everything is a symbol a gesture a referent. Nothing is a reference to this body.

To take the place of a name. This is a body.

natural disasters, debt foreclosures and gender multiplicities are blurring together.

i want to begin here because of course when i read the actual pages you copied for me they were physically blurred together (meaning the two documents were not titled and they were collated together as if part of one thing).

the blur of distinction between documents makes sense, the movement from the house coming apart to a letter coming in the mail that can suggest foreclosure, although it is bankruptcy—i mean to say that the letter—is it mediated or unmediated—comes, projecting a solution to a 'complicated' situation by hinging itself upon a  series of binaries: foreclosed-bankrupt/solvent, masculine/feminine, employed/unemployed, part of /alienated from…language.

who wrote this letter that arrives is a question in lo’s work. to add to the binaries: corporate copy/intimacy of home.

foundation damaged by force of flood, yellow house leaning forward.

the inventory of the house and the damage done to the house is listed in a way that makes it hard to stretch the fact. this seems similar to the body not knowing how to be or change inside itself but tries by pushing inward.

lo explicitly makes these connection between a series of un/natural/disasters: the natural disaster, the breakdown of a house, the foreclosure of a home, the ambiguity of community, the loss of work and the impossibility of gender definition:

i am learning how to be in my own body in relation to foreclosure and underwater mortgage rates. i am learning how to be in my own body in relation to 1 in every 730 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing in september 2012.

the poetry is a house that holds it all—even the mail you want to not see or the way it clutters. like the binder compression shirt that comes in the mail has a funny insert label, a description of its double efficacy:

two full powerful powernet panels throughout the front provide extra chest and mid-section compression for full binding effect.

inside they is a word or a form it’s always a question thrown back at the body and the body is never ready. in reference to how having a sometimes bulging chest lo writes:

i don’t connect with the way that they look on my body, how they pull my shirt open in between the second and third buttons, how they mark me as something that i’m not sure i want to be marked as.

they as a referent can then take on the they as pronoun:

they is paying attention to the rules.

only they can say which side they are on.

they get tired of saying so most of the time.

i don't want to call it dysphoria in they is a word or a form because it's more a continual proclamation of non-resolution. what i mean is when something is "new" but not "new" to the person experiencing it. the difference between shifting and refreshing. starting at a new job means less explaining—of the older (outgoing?) version of a self.

what do you think about commentary that gets distracted from itself? “they,” a pronoun plus, as a meditation, not a definition.

i think the repetition of all the never-ending and different types of “they” gets pitted against one’s desire for arrival. (for me, this—the impossible arrival—is the, or is one very good, definition of poetry.)

the repetition starts to be an intense and confusing play on words like sharpening a tool, against arrival or blithe use, as in contracts that refuse the soft body (the ambivalence toward the binder's hardening/calcifying the body). another example of a repetition that sharpens without hardening: lo’s use of 'social media': throughout the poems, lo repeats "it's complicated" which is one of the tags you may use for your 'relationship status' on facebook. from a series of un/natural/disasters, a series of possible social relations, made more present by social media:

It is complicated

I am learning how to be in my own body in relation to people I love fiercely and people I really like and people I kind of like and people I don’t respect and people who I never even think about and people I’ve never met and people I’d like to meet someday and people who I see from afar, in passing and people who will show up in the important ways and people who will show up only sometimes and people who will disappoint and people who will leave eventually

There are exceptions

 this calls up the wrangling one must do to get xir/their/her/his 'official' category to be neither m or f – i still haven't figured out how to do this on facebook and so there i go by he, thinking this throws into question gender marking but of course it is flawed.

one of the reasons i am not on fb is because i stop at the gender selection f/m and think this system was born broken and i'm not going to rebirth some version of myself within it.

i have had a lot of conversations about the using of the pronoun "they" recently as i am using it also. how to introduce it, how to defend it. i wonder if lo’s work, with its quoting of instructional manuals, form letters, phrases from the internet, statistics, could demonstrate the failure and yet necessity on poetic terms for a “they” guide.

at one point in time i wondered if 'they' as marker for trans people did not originate alongside by the facebook platform, helped along by it being one way out from the she-he binary in that site, ‘they’ an option for a single ‘profile’ while other terms invented by trans people, for examples, xee or zee or s/he, were not. it seems that i was very wrong about this origin and yet, i do think that lo is pointing to the power, incursions into language usage, that these platforms exert by the repeated use of terms like 'it's complicated.'

They is inside of it.

They is also outside.