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Sylph Set
From Conjunctions 79

I saw it in this very particular slide of swell’s,
the sylphspun silk of the sylph, she sideways,
her garage is paradise in masque, her sweep
is saturn, szturn im sturm & string, install’d
in the area’s traverse. he follows that lucky
old sun, the gesture of her lining and loose
knot, and pulls herself through burns and a
dry wash and some soft lead. in discorporate
minerals, or in the sharing of the black sleek
sharing with the wild man in her soft shoes,
all over the panes of the various sworld and
out into the superhighway of bywater, hard
by marigny. to flow through one to another
indetermination, the posture of their brush
must be immaculate fray, all them, all they.



sylph said, naw, we selfless. soul said, shit yeah, we look back, wonder, visit whirlwind, be the dusty air we in like little violent stones, varnishing, then vanish on shore and curve and cursive and straight mumble in the prefatory secret we press down on, real quiet through sun and moon, like a sylphide etching where we whisper “etching!—recess! withdraw! erosion! nonsense!—massive fête!” while we dance while we at rest.

self, that motherfucker, said, we write that we don’t have to write together. we never want to take our solemn pleasure. we write together like we don’t, so what we write is barely born. self said that shit like he was sad. why we act like we ain’t a band? soul said. see that? rob brown just saw kidd jordan sound like daniel carter lifted by the air he breathes. lifted out of self like soul at visiting. soul smiled, visiting our ass off is how we grind and underbreathe, off edge and ground and fly. look here, now, here we go! sylph said, in ruins, through

ruins. sylph’s alternate flesh tone be brown B♭, soul said. not in between the elements of air and earth, sylph said. spirits blow real pretty but dirty, the good alert of soul in selflessness, for ruins, soul said, then here come kidd downstairs, and william said, you alright, kidd? and wadada said, he alright, he just blew his heart out. kidd’s alright, sylph said, in ruins, in that windblown stance the wind blow, conquered but ain’t kilt yet in the general strike of breathing, soul said, when we be kneeling, tilling, pulled, shipped, held up in leaves.

sylph said, tree dance. their visit is the secret life of plants, them cutthroat palm blades. ain’t nothing to get but feel, soul said, on precarious string. feel not in between touch and slash what fronds feel, hold up sever in the same breath, which sylph lays down on blue. all y’all air always be fighting, somebody said to all y’all air. somebody be saying that shit all the time and it’s true. our air? soul said. that clear, brown motion kidd blow while daniel lift how we be fighting all the time? we be running through how they leave us in ruins, orange

in bright red on that rock and looking for sticks. and let me say, soul said, before we say another word, that somehow you sure look good that way you visit through the wall. you visit through the wall like jeff be sensing music—seismically, sylph said, in broken strokes of pointbrush, all elvin and mysterious and mischievous indexical cyan, in that secret we all know but cyaan believe it. you mean almost to scream in ruins in deliverance of bridges as a secret structure; you mean every wordlessness in blistered, gliding, tout-monded, double- and triple-tongued mindfulness, air river, riffer, rifter of air, sylph said to soul, soul smiling all alto in the all too spiral sun.

after all is said and done, we always got something else to say about sylph’s grime, soul said, all that bottom in the way they breathe. sylph breathe like henry grimes, soul said, their flight like bottom land not in between your toes, tapping in and out of shoes depending on the weather and y’all weaponry. weather seem like it’s always bad, sylph said. chicago just a town in mexico. we just messing with velvet, soul, said sylph, which is all we want. self don’t want no softness on his hands while we be burning. let’s blow that shit away before we burn.

the way we live now is a map of living won’t approach

but today, with my friend, in artery,
        we meet who’ve grown from bodies, we surface scientists of
sound, we pray seawall window, we feel we feel together,
we got so much work to do, we need to go outside and play.

        as witness, we can’t be the opposite.
locks touch the ground like tentacles in spray.
        now, we see the sylphs have come to light.
        what if we talk with us of what we see, with how we see this
move through ordered air in tore-up song,

that’s breathturn, right, pierre? irregular salon come incorrect. we
talk with what we see, right, jean-pierre?

existence is arboreal, then menus emerge.
        lópez lopes. cleaver cleaves.
        without corinna, sho’ don’t mean, sho’ don’t mean a nachel thang.

For Jo Wood-Brown

Fred Moten is a contributing editor of Conjunctions and​ teaches performance studies and comparative literature at NYU. He is the author of more than ten books of poetry and critical theory, including Hughson’s Tavern, The Feel Trio, The Little Edges, In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition, and The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study, co-authored with Stefano Harney. His new book of poems, Perennial Fashion Presence Falling (Wave Books), will be out in 2023.