Washington Square Review

Jennifer Tamayo

The Pain of You; the Pain of Me;
The Ecstasy of You; The Ecstasy of Me

Jennifer Tamayo


*and the most revelatory moment is the realization that my anger
has not only been distanced from me—in that i'm drawn to graceful
reactions in moments in which grace is not the appropriate
response—but also obscured from me. i can't tell anger from all the
other things i'm feeling: from ennui or distaste. or even pleasure.
in ways, this is superb. the unfurling of my emotional life like
an undefined territory which can remain unstable, undefined,
totally private. totally mine. the safety of an anger (per se anger)
unchallenged by a border that might contextualize it. might
orienteer the anger toward me or them or most painfully you,
friends & lovers.
but right now my anger has no discernible topography in my life.
i supposed i feel its ink in moments when an exasperated [white]
woman argues that writing the [white] self is the only way to begin
discussion—extrapolating the experience of a 'person of color' is
just not useful in this space (because it's too distant? too alien? too
ventriloquist?) not useful in this space not yet. We can't nor want
to speak for others. i suppose she means that the way to connection
across differences begins through self-recognition, self-implication
and, ultimately, empathy. i agree. i agree. but I know where this
ends. we become so entangled in self that others seem like too much
to tackle. how is it possible to hold ourselves and others in our
hearts. what kind of body can absorb so much suffering and keep it
simultaneous to itself without dissolving. the pain of you; the pain
of me; the ecstasy of you; the ecstasy of me. this seems like too much
to ask for one human body. is it callous to admit that i wonder about
the limits of empathy? i want to say this: i find this trust between us, 
this belief in the climax of empathy, to be blind and dangerous.

a list of moments when i should have felt anger but instead
felt something else:

1. the man at the liquor store says i'm a dog, "dark and hairy"—in
the moment, i feel nothing. then in a cab, i feel hurt. then I feel like
laughing. then nothing again.
2. the docent at the New Museum insists that my friend's book
launch event is too full and the doors are officially closed but
minutes later makes room for 6 white men from "The New
Yorker"—i feel indignant. i cry in the cab. i watch Moonstruck by
myself and an episode of The New Girl. then The Daily Show. then
it's 1:30 a.m. then i feel nothing.
3. when a friend of a friend refers to bar as "you know, ghetto" and
clearly means a bar with many black people. S says something, asks
her to say what she means. i say nothing and give him the shut up
stare because i just don't want to hate another person. i feel drunk.
then I feel bored. then i feel nothing.
5. when a poet on the internet tells me my boycotting of all nyc
poetry readings featuring only white writers is misguided. i feel sad
for the poet. i feel sad for feeling sad. a friend tells me i should feel
angry or i should feel something else. but instead i am confused cuz
i just feel compassion for this poet. then i feel annoyed. then i feel
6. when my mom and dad say XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX
what to feel. i don't want to cry. but I don't feel nothing. mostly.
7. when friends use the word "minorities."
8. when in a bout of depression my grandma says to me, "Choose joy,
jenny, choose joy." and i think, fuck grandma. and feel badly so badly.
then nothing.
9. when a poet says "i like how you are going about
way," and i laugh and agree and say, "yes—i know. isn't that great."
when inside i feel like crying because i just can't speak about this
with her. then i stare at the Jane Freilicher. then i feel something.
then nothing again.
i can't stay with the list like my 15 year old self can't look at
my her/my face and consider its flaws. it's fat. it's brown.
XXXXXXXXXXXXX. thoughts I know are epic and historic.
thoughts I don't entertain every moment of every day but I know
are in me like a fantastic plague. the erotic wants me to consider my
body as a site of resistance and these thoughts as the poison that
undermine the impulses that have made my friends strong, resilient,
connected to each other. but I can't stay with the list feeling
the delicacy between anger and hatred and empathy and then
nothingness and total obliterating nothingness too intensely. those
feelings empathetic to each other.

*read, without redactions, for Samantha Giles's Deadfalls & Snares
book release party.