ARC Fellows: Vincente Perez

Time of Death

By Vincente Perez, 2021/22 Poetry & the Senses Fellow

(Graduate/Theater, Dance, & Performance Studies)

A black is born with a time of death. 

Benjamin button’s origin story 
Strip(p)ed black life of its truth
And paraded itself as unique. 

Black longevity is a progression to birth
Misread as a sidestep of death

A sacrificial man teleported 
3 days later than death had planned 
For whiteness this was mere teleportation 
For many others, alien abduction of time and space
A repatriation of life forced into the rhetoric of conquest 

Fixed to a cross that was pushed into the ground. 
Blood salty as seawater
Makes you wonder if The Second Coming 
Is a new or separate Event

Cops are now sanctified 
disciplined like Judas
Willing to kill, devout

A Black seeming alive,
A concerned citizen call,
Cops come cocked already 
aimed at the perceived End

Things are different when a dangerous thing is pointed at another Thing

Black describes the gun, 
the night  
the propertied thing too 

Parking lot graveyards, granite curb tombstones. 
Corner Liquor store catering
Mumble rap dying hymns  

if I’m ever given a parking lot procession, I pray
surrounding Business 
Catches fire 
Like I had to

The analogy mystifies the Black
Into oblivion. Cop, coroner, citizen
Keep narrating their life through my death.

I dance, I announce the end
You just see a stumbling figure, 
dancing, dying, Being.

Boogie down production 
Lacing love and toxin 
Into a groove meant to kill

Dance floor communions 
There is no waiting in line
Backs to walls
You can’t miss out on your destiny  

A black is born with a time of death
Primordial scream
Oxygen less breath 
The heartbeat is telling 

The sentimental doctor
Puts the date on the ledger 
While the elders welcome
Another to their ranks 

“Human beings are magical. Bios and Logos. Words made flesh, muscle and bone animated by hope and desire, belief materialized in deeds, deeds which crystallize our actualities […] And the maps of spring always have to be redrawn again, in undared forms.” (Wynter 1995: 35)

Words like coexistence are ideologies
Packaged like bite sized candies
Rotten ingredients easily digested
With a tablespoon of sugar labeled “Freedom”

My work starts from the premise that slavery is process that is currently ongoing, and that Black voice is always (already) constrained by a white supremacist violence that hides its destruction behind liberal ideals such as progress, The Human, multiculturalism and more. My work narrates conditions from an “otherwise” vantage point that places concepts such as the origin story and racial coexistence within their proper theoretical frameworks (Extensions of white supremacy and setter colonialism). I explore social death and alternative repertoires housed within the bodies, peoples, and cultural practices of Black poets. For me, Narrating Otherwise is an attempt to think about the way that whiteness attempts to force LIFE itself to capitulate to its demands. Whiteness demands people find a way to live while coexisting with systems, institutions, and structures that produce slow death. Even pointing out the death we all see around us is a political statement that seems to fly in the face of coexistence. For me, I’ve found coexistence within white supremacist terms to mean violent silence… a living with things that FEEL like death. Narrating otherwise exploring the connections that whiteness sutures to produce meaning within a life lived according to its antiblack dictates. What does it look sound and feel like to explore relations with other forms of life that whiteness deems impossible? 

What kind of poems come from thingliness… from objects resisting… from waywardness… from no origin… from formlessness…

Vincente Perez (He/They) is a Black Mexican-American performance poet, scholar, and writer working at the intersections of Poetry, Hip-Hop, and Digital Black cultural praxis with an interest in the way that artists use narrative to resist dominant stories that attempt to erase, subjugate, or enact violence on marginalized communities. Their work centers Black and Latinx lived experience with a stylistic approach that samples and (re)mixes Hip-Hop and Performance Poetry into counternarratives. He is a PhD Candidate in the Performance Studies program (Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

Note: Over the course of the fall semester, each 2021-22 ARC Fellow will submit a short blog post relating to the theme coexistence. We hope you will enjoy these short readings! Poetry and the Senses creates meaningful opportunities for engagement, research, and collaboration. This multi-year initiative explores the relevance and urgency of lyrical making and storytelling in times of political crisis, and the value of engaging the senses as an act of care, mindfulness, and resistance. To learn more about the program, click here.