Vibing With Montero

“I need time to give up just like before/I love it how you know I’d only come right back for more”

And so the chorus goes, with its roundabout search for love and belonging. It’s a habit and a talisman of heartbreak. Lil Nas X doesn’t shy away from the vicarious pleasure of being hurt, of having and holding a broken heart. He does things differently because he knows what he is doing with himself and in music. That is what makes his debut album Montero so alluring. The quoted lyrics from Lost In The Citadel is but a small sample of the experience of a deeply queer story.

The term ‘queer’ has in many ways lost meaning today. It still seems to be the only word capable of capturing any deviance from the norm of a cis-het existence on this broken planet. There is always another dimension to what we call a queer experience. So, I would be amiss to call Lil Nas X’s work representing any sort of universal queerness. What I received from it is not an objective standard for good and bad either (I will leave that job to the critics), but I vibed with it in a way that novelist Brandon Taylor considers vibes as an aesthetic value. On the release date, Lil Nas X was the most streamed artist on Spotify reaching over 46 million streams globally. Many felt those vibes indeed.

All the hype and interest that lead to this massive release had a lot to do with how Lil Nas X represents himself, and of course his excellent marketing. Right from the release of the eponymous single of the album and the controversy around blood shoes to the veritably curious pictures of a pregnant Lil Nas X giving birth to his album, he embraced his queerness and it stood out in a world of sanitised pre-release publicity (and sometimes silly artifice). It wasn’t shock value, but his way to evoke and provoke that made him so special. It riled his critics and all the haters (including many racist and queerphobic assholes) and also brought him a heck load of publicity.

Being a black queer man, Lil Nas X is not the ‘ideal image’ of queerness represented by popular white ‘twink’ boys (like Troye Sivan), or like Harry Styles and Timothée Chalamet who are packaged in this manner of desirability for conservative appeal. He is queer in a way that is messy and beautiful and chaotic and sometimes deeply melancholic. Some have referred to this album as a paean to sadness, but I find it deeply humbling as this sadness is also about survival.

His complicated relationship with his biological family is apparent in Dead Right Now and Tales of Dominica, where he provides a heartrending portrayal of his dynamic with his mother, who has suffered from drug addiction. Not similar, it still reminds me how it is difficult for me to have a simple conversation with my parents. After all the pleasantries while talking to my mother, there is an emptiness in how we broach subjects as if I am not enough. It’s perhaps because I am not enough for her. I have to manage my emotions and hide behind the note of cordiality. I can finally breathe with relief after putting down the phone.

As someone who has long struggled with gender identity and ‘sexual deviancy’, I feel it when Lil Nas X speaks of this loneliness in Void or the constant need to run away from life and living on Sun Goes Down. Also, that break in the tension like the sunbeam bursting through after the thunderstorm: “But there’s much more to life than dyin’/Over your past mistakes”.

And the pain of heartbreak is never far behind. His offer to be a part-time lover in Life After Salem is that desperate attempt to cling to something that was (maybe) good once. This inescapable and inexplicable sense of loss has an acrid taste of spent tears during lonely sunsets. I gulp down invisible tears when he croons with Miley Cyrus in Am I Dreaming: “Never forget me”. Our histories have been invisibilised and erased for so long. Lil Nas X is giving a name to this history by reclaiming his story. Though gruesome in its pain, this album is also an ode to his success and the hope for more.

When I listen to him, I believe in that hope. Hope is what anchors us to another tomorrow. And I will wait to let it play out its tune.

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Frankly, Amy

I read about it first on the news feed of Yahoo! It was a short piece; I do not remember much—I must have been sad, but I remember I was in awe of the touch of death. So close at hand (too far), so near, so hungry, and I felt the need to cry. That year was the year of knowing death for me. And it all started with Amy.

“All I can ever be to you/Is a darkness that we know/And this regret I got accustomed to…” she begins and lets the tears flow without restraint. I would perk up with those first few words and then wait for the refrain. She was good company for that lonely summer. Things were changing so quickly, and I had lost my bearing. But I had her. When she would indulge me with that groan of a sound in Rehab, “I just…ooh…I just need a friend”, I felt understood. That was one of the very few places where I felt understood.

I was already hurting, and suicidal ideation was creeping up on me like vines on a derelict wall. I remember the black dots of my vision when I would feel faint. I remember when I started starving myself. I remember the purple wall behind and the frame of the bed where I gave up on saving myself every day and every night. I don’t remember much of her death or my immediate response to it, but I remember that it was just the beginning.

Losing Amy was like losing the last vestiges of my innocence. More death followed that year. Someone I had once called a friend (who had moved on to another city for her education), a relative taken by cancer. So grew my fascination with what the end would mean. When life seemed to be slipping out of me one drop at a time, I felt a kinship with death. I followed its voice in my dreams — its whispers provided a relief from the pain, its silence was always punctuated with another hurt. I ached for it, I thought I needed it to fulfil what I could not in life.

Through it all, I still clung to Amy. I found others in later years—those voices with the Siren call, with the touch of a crystal cleanness, with the darkness of suffocation and breaking away from it.

“And life is like a pipe/And I’m a tiny penny/Rolling up the walls inside…” I repeated and repeated after my first heartbreak, and all the times I felt deceived by myself. She was there, as I delved into the exuberance of a tomorrow and the hopelessness of today, during my metro journeys to college. “As far as my heart, I’d rather be restless/Second I stop, the sleep catches up and I’m breathless…” remained in my head through the emptiness, as I found myself trapped in the pattern of my breaking.

But she was also there when I found myself in the company of friends. “Since I’ve come home/Well, my body’s been a mess/And I miss your ginger hair/And the way you like to dress”: I would forget my discomfort with my voice and sing out loud with Chi Chi, finding the joy of Amy in what has often been a lonely journey.

Whenever I find it creeping on me—the death that still vies for my attention, that is always going to be there—I think of Amy, and I think of the life that is here in this moment now. Not always. I falter, I get lured away by the pleasure of a funereal fantasy. But my love for her has remained the same. So much has remained the same, and yet so much has changed as well.

When I hear her voice, I do not regret all of it. I do not regret any of my falls and hurts. I remember them fondly, I am learning to live with them.

If there is a ‘beyond’, I hope it is restful and kind. Thank you, Amy!

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© Anmol HA

Something for the 10 years of passing of Amy Winehouse

I am not very active on this blog anymore. If you would like to stay in touch, find me on Twitter or Instagram. f you like my work, I would appreciate if you share it with others in your circle. You can also Buy Me A Coffee.

of lovely things

brooke_david_05
rise and flow, reach out and billow —
the caress of star-bedecked cheeks, of
coffee-skins resplendent with flavors
of earth, slings, of two-days old sweat,

encounter the mirth of every golden
brow – never else would be any but
for a poem lovely as a full-throated
ease of a desire – the divine delights

of souls quivering to the lip-service
of lust, one-two-inches deep – glassy
wounds – eager, ephemeral feelings
rising, flowing, deluging, dazzling –

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Image source: Getting Rid of My Desire by Brooke David

For With Real Toads’ Micro Poetry

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RIP, Queen of Soul

Baby… my love for thee…

baby… my love for thee

is a story of the day,

I store my night away,

in a tight cocoon, with barricades,

within which, I play my spades,

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baby… my love for thee

is the light of the sun,

shoot me with your love gun,

riding, through the dreams,

taste of freshly whipped cream,

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baby… my love for thee

is the dance with the blues,

the sax(on) glittering hues,

a slight convulse of the waist,

music in my numb ears, I taste,

 .

oh baby… my love for thee,

can’t speak… I am so full of glee,

 .

baby… baby… baby…

 .

I am an old soul but the night is young,

sweet-bitter saliva at tongue,

metallic… I see you in darkness,

don’t you go make me digress,

 .

oh babe-ey … it is the woody voice of bass,

this harmony, we cannot pass,

oh babe-ey… the drums beat soothing,

let us join hands and go brooding,

 .

baby… my love for thee

is the string of guitar,

the effervescent music of sitar,

oh babe-ey… piano beckons us,

we talk in language of Damascus,

 .

baby… my love for thee,

poisoned wine dripping from flute,

it may make me go mute,

oh babe-ey… but I will live for you,

and for my love for blues,

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baby… my love for thee,

can’t speak, I am so full of glee

* I like jazz. This poem is written in consideration of dVerse Meeting the Bar. I don’t know whether I have done justice with it or not but I wrote it, just as it came to me.

Music Therapy Haibun

There are certain moments when you don’t want to think. You need your mind to cease to rotate the cog-wheels of the entire thought process. These are the moments when I seek some loud music to make my ears hurt so that I could find my escape from my own mind. The high-pitch noise of the songs sound somehow pleasant to me. But the smooth calming songs also work because i tend to hum along with them. There are some songs that punch me in the gut, leaving me dazed and there are some which makes me feel at peace. The best ones are also the worst ones because they make me vibrate and touch me at the ever present gaping hole of my chest, I so try to hide; listening to them is like laughing and weeping simultaneously.

music therapy

flee from the disturbing thoughts

lost in the lyrics

~

the best and worst songs

finding dark hole in the chest

laughingly weeping