Dissonance(s): Nathanaël’s The Horses That Come Out of Our Heads
Continuous movement coupled with the inability or unwillingness to settle down in one place or another is not exactly something that most people are accustomed to grasp without harsh judgment (acknowledged or not), especially when the subject of movement is perceived as a “woman” expected to embody domesticity, or more accurately, docility. On such adverse terms, experiencing an acute sense of displacement and alienation comes as no surprise, and eventually, the force of gravity inflicted by the reality might force one’s thoughts to materialize into words on paper, even if the paper might very well be shredded to pieces later.
Registering rituals of migration similar to the ones performed by non-humans while also trying to wipe out distances of various nature, Nathanaël’s The Horses That Come Out of Our Heads is forwarded as a chapbook that folds and unfolds according to its own invisible maps, in the same way non-humans (particularly birds) use landmarks to chart their territories and movement patterns, landmarks that are most likely to stay imperceptible to the human eyesight and logic. It is a sequence of arrivals and departures, all marked by the dreary feeling that there is actually no escape from constant surveillance, internal or external — in fact, all animals see to be living under a totalitarian regime of some sort and humans are no exception.
There are shelters along the way, spaces inhabited by silences and ambiguity that are safe as long as they preserve their anonymity. They are spaces that also function as places of passing and mourning. But the defensive, even murderous architecture, with structures and patterns that refuse comfort to the homeless while also erasing the brutality of colonial past and enslaved labor, is still here, a reminder that “natural” flows have been interfered with and manipulated by humans in a narcissistic endeavor to reflect their own image. One might choose to look at such buildings in awe, but this would also mean that the gaze has been tamed as well — to naturalize murder by erasing any evidence of it.
The French, as much as the Americans, are more or less dissimulated arms dealers; even though it is said that hunting grounds are better managed in the United States — but this relativism is already suspect to me — I question this word management which is nothing more than a permission to kill, which cloaks itself, then, in the force of the law in order to exonerate itself both of its malicious intent, and its wile.
The admiration that a cathedral or some ancient construction can incite should at least be mitigated by just as vast a sentiment of horror as to what its construction entailed in slavery, and brought about as mortality (murder).
More often than not, voyages stand for mere escapism — immersing oneself in trendy scenery but without really listening or paying attention to the newly emerging contexts. These are also the kind of voyages that one takes without leaving preconceived ideas behind and which do little more than reaffirming the human expansion at the expense of everything else while compassion gets directed only at oneself, leaving no room for empathy towards other persons and getting replaced by narcissism in no time.
But with its sketches of blurred geographies and doses of memories and writing that collide against instances of biting loneliness and self doubt, The Horses That Come Out of Our Heads does more than simply defying conventional genres, particularly the linear, chronological storytelling avowed by the memoir genre. It also refuses any kind of closure or nostalgia despite being assembled from memories that might stand for a subtle attempt at surviving banalities and disturbing realities without using journeys as an easy way out. One’s body might find rest in self-imposed solitude and the spaces between things without limiting them, either by defining them in human terms or perceiving them exclusively through normative lens only to modify them later. Writing attempts that are not committed to recalling anything can even obscure this body, but not its desires.
The most atrocious orgasm is the one that arises in sleep. The wound of what sleeps, and sleeping, breaks against the body, the very rock of the capsized, all drowned, off the shore of that unhabituated desire.
I sleep and I come. You are waiting for me there as ever you have awaited me, younger, alive. There are no ghosts, only the extension of a cruelty which belongs to oblivion. You come out of oblivion and you say: You love me. More than anything and anyone.
Nathanaël is a Chicago-based Canadian writer, educator and literary translator whose most recent work includes Feder (Nightboat Books, 2016) and The Middle Notebookes (Nightboat Books, 2015), awarded the inaugural Publishing Triangle Award for Trans and Gender-Variant Literature.
O’clock Press is an independent poetry press based in Oakland, CA and Philadelphia, PA.