letters on climate change, memory, and things lost

 Amirio Freeman   [Image Description: A person of colour stands in in the surf on a beach a dusk, looking over the water]

Amirio Freeman

[Image Description: A person of colour stands in in the surf on a beach a dusk, looking over the water]

 

i. dear home:

 

thinking of you makes me think of salty pools of mosquitoes—indicators of health. and undoing. i’m afraid of drowning in the earth, with lead in my chest, and you’re afraid of drowning in water. these days, i can’t tell whose undoing is more imminent.

 

jessica lynne[1] brought me to an article/future artifact of a climate archivist: “Built largely on drained swampland and filled-in creek beds, the cities of the Hampton Roads region sit just a few feet above sea level. The Atlantic Ocean is slowly reclaiming them.”[2]

 

home, what’s to become of you? i can see you now at the center of the atlantic’s belly: suspended museum aircrafts set sail; tacky amusement parks turned atlantis; seven metal skulls newly abloom with crabs and haunting things.

 

            and i can also see myself.

 

not my melanin/water/bones. but the vapors of my past needled into you.

 

when your body is always already a target, when the fissure of your skin is sport, memories—those fossils formed from affect, those edges of the not-now—are often the only materials left with which to cohere a self, a subjectivity. and my memories—my blackqueer memories, my flesh—are all over you. home, you are viscous with me, and i am viscous with you. we’re co-constituted. the same consciousness in two bodies, archives of each other. my humanness revealed to be drag.

 

“The land is gradually sinking into the giant meteoric crater that formed the Chesapeake Bay.”

 

home, what’s to become of us? my blackqueer rapture is etched into you. my blackqueer heartbreak. my blackqueer grief. my blackqueer hip-snaking. my blackqueer shimmer. my blackqueer funk. connect the dots and create a new geographical grammar:

 

            drop a pin at where i first kissed d.

 

            drop a pin at my barbershop.

 

            drop a pin at the coordinates of every jack’d hookup.

 

            drop a pin at where i first protested black death.

 

            drop a pin at dad’s bedroom, where i came out to him.

           

            drop a pin at where mom taught me to dance.

 

            drop pins along the bus route i travelled while reading assotto saint.

           

            drop a pin at where m, j, and i played, carefree before careful.

 

            drop a pin at wherever i took a breath and smiled and survived.

 

connect the dots before the ocean swallows everything whole. home, if you’re sinking, then so am i.

 

i could store my blackqueer memories in the caverns of my chest—embody them, enflesh them—but in a world that’s predicated on my rupture (a terroir of terror), my body is too prone to spillage. i could store my blackqueer memories in the cloud, but have you ever considered the amount of environmental ruin it takes to keep the cloud humming?[3] i could continue to store my blackqueer memories into you, home, but you’re a disappearing act.

 

we’re a disappearing act.

 

i already miss the swampy heat, buckroe’s piers, the thrill of an impending neighborhood flood. a homesickness. the ecotone blackness and queerness makes taught me grieving at birth.

 

ii. dear me:

 

i’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that black lives matter. as in black lives physicalize, materialize, spatialize.

 

i’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that black lives matter. as in my maternal grandmother hates to travel, even when leaving her home for a short while. as in my maternal grandmother will likely never move from her home, despite the fact younger generations have. as in i wonder if my father, a naval officer, regrets the many deployments, the many uprootings. as in my father is a country boy at heart who finds passion in aeration. as in my mother has often talked about starting a little garden, mimicking her father. as in my mother has often talked about moving back home, downsizing to a comfortable plot of southern land. as in my younger brother finds refuge in fishing. as in i often wish my mouth held south carolinian clay, washing out suburban gravel and soothing the woes of migration and middle-class aspirations.

 

i’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that black lives matter. as in i’m descended from a line of homes/bodies. as in the history of black folx is a felt history of placelessness and finding familiarity in the soil beneath one’s feet.

 

i’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that black lives matter. as in fuck any white environmentalist who thinks that polar bears will be the only casualty. do you feel me?

 

iii: dear atlantic (a draft):

 

“To visit the region is to witness a slow-motion disaster that no one understands.”

 

the “slow-motion disaster” is colonialism, and you, atlantic, understand it. with seeds of my diaspora buried within your depths, how could you not?

 

a fact: hampton, virginia is the site of the arrival of africans in the “new world.”

 

a maybe fact: hampton, virginia is the site of the “next katrina.”

 

the “slow-motion disaster” is gaining speed, derailing. you’re caught up in its ill-starred acceleration, but your presence feels like a bounty of mutiny.

 

you remind me that “all water has perfect memory” and, atlantic, i know you recall a time before nations, before states, before borders. so is that why you’re here? not out of rage or a vengeful plot against the plots africans tilled, but out of care, out of concern, out of love? is your reclamation a revealing? will your waters bring focus to the horrors of this world, horrors renamed mundane? is existing in the center of your belly a baptism? take us there and remind us of what we’ve always understood, of what we already know to be true, of what we never really forgot (the “slow-motion disaster” is racial capitalism).

 

drown the navy ships, colonial forts, and artificial beaches. free that stolen place called “home.” liberate us all, from pope to pebble. re-member our yearning for a common survival. let my blackqueer memories be fugitive and steal themselves away from the earth’s epidermis into you, into something primordial; let those monuments to minutiae colored black and colored queer transform from terrestrial spooks to gems of the ocean. erode the fulcrum and let it all crumble.

 

disaggregation becomes us, gesturing toward other possibles. a necessary death ritual, a necessary abolition of the futurity of whiteness.

 

iv: dear atlantic (the final):

 

atlantic, we need to dream up unthought visions of life. but what’s fluttering between our eyelashes?

 

with a harvest of loss on the horizon—of people and places and things in between—i’m fatigued by kinship grounded in optimism, in hope, in poetic optics, in revolution, and in little concern for doom and gloom. i don’t want to forget the things that’ll no longer be found. i don’t want to forget that climate change is death by another name. no metaphors. i’m desiring kinship grounded in grief and feeling with and feeling across. kinship between proto-ghosts. i just want to be still, if only for a minute, and feel and feel and feel some more—the weight, the heaviness—and let mourning be my breath. atlantic, can we hold space together and cry with and for each other? you remind me that “all water has perfect memory,” and with all that you’ve witnessed, you deserve to reside in the troughs of your incomprehensible hurt.

 

Originally from Hampton, VA and currently residing in Washington, DC, Amirio Freeman is a Black, queer environmental artist-advocate. More of their work can be found at beinggreenwhileblack.club.