Black Girl Notes to/on Sándor Ferenczi

by JESSICA LANAY

July 2014. West Palm Beach

You would have appreciated the mock documentary. My mother and I sat on the couch, our bodies like nautilus chambers. Me curved smaller against her curving. The CGI enlivened the slick black bodies of merpeople. The thesis was that people did not plop from a tree—like some burden of fruit. But that they writhed onto land, and after many sufferings, learned to take in air. No wonder we have such a hard time, why we linger at water’s edge. The backlash was total. The mock documentary was considered misleading, too real, inaccurate. My mother was in it for the merpeople. But the idea rested in me like bread on water, the tiny minnows of my thought picking away. If this is at all plausible—the whole white kernel of the world becomes wrong—even you.

February 2015. Bronx, NYC

Let’s be clear. You and your teacher, Freud, were rampant racists. I don’t even exist in your catalog of human specimens. I think I am at a point now that I can talk to you because if you were reincarnated in my kitchen; some purple jelly slopped from my sandwich that takes your form like a scene from Hellraiser, I know at least five mothers who live on my floor that can re-educate you. I would make you read Helen Oyeyemi—she writes and lives in your country of birth. I suspect that your apprenticeship to Freud was fraught. That he was sure of my inferiority, but that you were in it for the funding. Your notions of water origin and vagina centered worlds got you laughed out of the academy. Still, that’s a start.

May 2015. Macon, GA

I am at a bar where the wood is sticky like my tongue. I am stomping my feet and the lyrics to the bluegrass come from my mouth like bolts of yellow silk evaporating. I sway like a plum coral fan planted on a reef. And I can’t help but recall what you say about sex. That it is fueled by needing to cool off, return to water. That we push and grunt our way into each other, grapple with our skins, trying to go home. Etútú. Sandór, that means “to cool” in Yoruba. It is what my auntie’s tongues click out when they call our godfolk from the water.

January 2016. Savannah, GA

I love cities where the living know their place. All my folks come from cities like that. Entire places rimmed by sea line, choked with salt that provides the air on which the dead drink. I am explaining you to my auntie who draws people’s blood for a living. Her scrubs are decorated in little spots of coral. Suddenly my everything below my belly button is like a ruffled yellow bird, chirping and popping up and down like a hot seed in an oily pan. I stop and drink a glass of water, say to my aunt that I want to go swimming. She replies, “But baby, you know it is jellyfish season.”

September 2016. Pittsburgh, PA

Your letters to Freud can be boiled down to you shouting, “Please believe me!” But with all the attention he was getting, you were hardly worth the trouble. So much for friendship and scholarly attachments. My professor and I talk during break about taking your theories in essence and reviving them through a black feminist queer lens. In short—someone needs to tell you about your sorry ass, about what you really meant to say all that time.

Jessica Lanay is a poet and short story writer, originally from the Florida Keys, who is interested in writing towards the incalculable nature of human emotions, psychology and metaphysical dilemmas. Jessica Lanay is a Cave Canem Fellow, Callaloo Fellow, and Kimbilio Fellow. Currently, she is pursuing her MFA in Poetry at the University of Pittsburgh and works at the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics. Her work can be found in Salt Hill Journal, Tahoma Literary Review, Sugar House Review, Acentos Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Duende, Five Quarterly and others.