Sienna, August 15, 1873 (excerpt from my new novel in the making)

My Siren,

How I wish to be other than this man I have built myself to be—Machiavellian and idealist, a policy-maker who challenges the law to show up for what it cannot possibly be, but what it must nevertheless be: a promise fulfilled.

Aw, Siren, how I wish for poetry!

I have misplaced my breath somewhere above the 122nd step of an impossibly crooked tower and it is as a dead man that I crawled out into blinding sky. A flight of birds took off, a tapestry of them woven by instinct, and fear, and mostly by this irrepressible talent they share.

From up here I don’t see Sienna, ancient Italian city. I see the Grand Canyon. I see mythical Aboriginal rocks. I see Earth that has sculpted itself into beauty too painful for humans to bear. So we started wars, we believed that if we conquered and maimed enough of our peers we might succeed in numbing ourselves. We are all medical students, playing pranks over cadavers to convince ourselves that death is but a joke, to forget that life is but a joke.

I have spoken with anarchists and royalists, priests and bankers. The mayor of the city has fed me the most unbelievable thing: a flat bread with tomatoes, savory little black fruit they call olives, and a sprinkle of cow’s cheese. I moaned, Siren. I moaned at the Mayor’s table and he moaned back at me, and all his advisors moaned. It was an orgy of moans, me and these white men, an orgy of minds willing to agree on delight, and to agree that it makes us brothers, this delight, this moaning over shared delight.

You must believe me, Siren, I am not a Black man here. Instead, I am an American.

I can hear you say, Isn’t this what you wanted? It is, Siren. But what use is it to me, here, in Italy, where I am neither citizen nor servant, and cannot act politically?

You were right, Siren. Puritanism has sucked the soul out of our country. Help me save us when I return. Promise we will make love until not one white supremacist can withstand the glory of our true identity.


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