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Notes for “Third”

She does not know if she’s an “opportunist”; this probably means she is an opportunist; She wonders if there is Judgement Day before the revolution; She forces all of her sexual partners to watch The Battle of Algiers.

September 18, 2020

Editor’s Note: The following piece closes our series on The Margins responding to the idea of unfreedom and the continuous and connected struggles for freedom globally. Don’t miss watching “The Sweat of Love and the Fire of Truth: A Reading,” our event featuring writers who reflect on freedoms, whether they be collective, practiced out in the world, or of the body and mind.

Here, Zaina Alsous writes in conversation with her poem “Third,” first published in the Poetry Project Spring/Summer 2019 Newsletter.

She avoids the piling laundry; She avoids the homeland news; She lets him finish; She doesn’t know how to wake up and want a genealogy; She digs a hole into We: The We Question; She remembers reading Fidel between shifts at the bakery, how much like brothers we all are; She remembers reading Fidel on a tombstone in Santiago; She remembers reading Fidel in the arms of women trade unionists in state sanctioned grief; She remembers reading as her entry point into living; She tells this to the somatics coach, he tells her good practice; he says return to that place when the despair of men chokes all of the windows; She feasts on epigraphs that don’t belong to her, a terrible wholeness is Amiri is ode to music but She was looking for the two thirds of the world at Bandung; She tries to evade the anxiety of Europe but it’s in the swimming pool, and the photograph, and the slogans at the rally, and the numbers in every account; She avoids returning to the village of her grandparents when given the opportunity; She stares at the vacancy of rubble, once George Habash’s house, and brings back to the colony a porcelain mug; Almost 200 men, women, and children were massacred in this mosque; She reads later about the families that stayed in Lydd in the wake, foraging for food between fences at night; How do you love the dead so much that you keep yourself alive to return them to the land? She is afraid her memory will be insufficient and used against her at war; She is not asked to strip at the airport; She wishes she had presented as more dangerous; She wishes she were more saliva and immolation; She asks the ouji board if there are comrades who would like to be interviewed; She wonders about the role of the imperceptible in class struggle; how well will the scene hover and when does it arrive? She avoids the tear gas in the streets but shows up for jail support; She reads more Fidel; She reads Cabral; She feigns the recreational, stares outward at the duration of rippling and brown wing of seaweed; ugliness is so useful for resisting tourism; She stops finishing her poems; She stretches the syllables of n a t i o n a l cuuuuultuuuree; She imagines an epigram dedicated to unnamed armed sisters in Nicaragua; She writes DO NOT SURRENDER in her notebook; She writes a failed poem about poincianas in Cuba; She writes a failed poem about the Working Day; She writes a failed poem about the Non-Aligned Movement; She evades pregnancy and her mother’s calls; She does not know if she’s an “opportunist”; this probably means she is an opportunist; She wonders if there is Judgement Day before the revolution; She forces all of her sexual partners to watch The Battle of Algiers; She reads; the despair of men are busy with prophets in another room; in a smaller colony’s museum she watches a painting: UNTITLED WOMAN; an infinity of distortions forged out of the intonations and silhouettes of her—pulsating, alive; unnamed fractals congealed then smoothed, becoming reflective; She reads reflections from women in the North Vietnam army, Sometimes women would get killed or hurt by fragments. We were skilled, but we saw terrible things; How do we watch ourselves without the anxiety of Europe? How do we arm ourselves without the anxiety of Europe? How many despair spectators will use a piece of her in order to see themselves? Who possesses the riot line? Where is the red flag? For Yusra. Latfiah. Amina. Leila. Djamila. Nora. Luisa. Claudia. June. Vilma. Fannie. Suzanne. Rosa. Bao. Grace. Narmada. Marielle. Here is the clear and present danger of Third; Here is the irreconcilable character of Third; Here is the Principal Contradiction: Towards An Other Other Reproduction; a whispering epoch of Third; the non vulgar communalism of Third; She will terrible; She will expectancy beauty without surveillance; She will unclutter the doorway to demand everything; She will prepare green pigment for footprints—who leave living behind in salt water; She will prepare picket lines absent rape for those who want to stay; She will live to bury and return the rest. Next time, we’ll be. 

If this piece could define unfreedom: “Third defines ‘unfreedom’ as the distance between the individual and the assembly; the people are making a history against extinction; won’t you come closer?”