by Kathryn R. Kent, Williams College
Please Come Flying1
From Brooklyn, over the Brooklyn Bridge, on this fine morning,
please come flying…
Come with the pointed toe of each black shoe
trailing a sapphire highlight,
with a black capeful of butterfly wings and bon-mots,
with heaven knows how many angels all riding
on the broad black brim of your hat,
please come flying.
Bearing a musical inaudible abacus,
a slight censorious frown, and blue ribbons,
please come flying.
Facts and skyscrapers glint in the tide; Manhattan
is all awash with morals this fine morning,
so please come flying.
Mounting the sky with natural heroism,
above the accidents, above the malignant movies,
the taxicabs and injustices at large,
while horns are resounding in your beautiful ears…
…please come flying.
On the second-to-last page of Cruising Utopia, José cites my analysis of Elizabeth Bishop’s encomium-as-inducement-as-enticement, “Invitation to Miss Marianne Moore.” He summarizes the heart of my reading: “Kent explains the ways in which Bishop’s work signaled a queer discourse of invitation that did not subsume the other but instead was additive” (188). Not “subsum[ing] the other” but inviting, inciting them–this might just as well describe José’s presence, his understanding of friendship, his sometimes fierce teasing, which pushed me to recognize and own my weaknesses as a critic, an activist, a writer, a co-conspirator, as well as my strengths. I don’t think I could have fathomed the dynamics of this poem if I hadn’t spent six years in graduate school with José as my constant, loving, demanding interlocutor. As he writes of the Bishop poem, “[t]his invitation, this plea, is made despite the crushing force of the dynasty of the here and now. It is an invitation to desire differently, to desire more, to desire better” (189). How many times did so many of us find José’s work, and his way of being—itself, in his words, a form of “performative provocation”—calling us to “collective political becoming,” to a “stepping out of this place and time to something, fuller, vaster, more sensual, and brighter” (ibid.)? In that somewhere, someplace, not yet here, I like to imagine José is waiting, not always so patiently, for the rest of us to, in Bishop’s words, “please come flying.”
Visit the full José Esteban Muñoz gallery here.
1. Elizabeth Bishop, The Complete Poems: 1927-1979 (New York: Farrar Strauss Giroux, 1987), 82-83.
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