April 3, 2013
It’s surprisingly difficult to find a photo of the two of them. In fact I found only one. Yet they’ve been together since 1976, a companionship of almost 40 years.
Maybe photos aren’t the point? Maybe the visual medium isn’t what it takes for this particular relation? Maybe something other — more fluid, less straightforward — yields something more satisfying?
I’d like to think that the sound of animals is a plausible alternative medium. Cliff gestures towards it in the title of her first novel, “Abeng,” a word used by overseers to summon slaves to the sugar fields, but originally a word from the Twi langauge of the Akan people, meaning “cow horn.” The maroons used it as a musical instrument as well as a means of communication.
Here’s Rich: “I am an instrument in the shape/ of a woman trying to translate pulsations/ into images for the relief of the body/ and the reconstruction of the mind.”
The visual field is still there, in those lines, but not in these: “For a human animal to call for help/ on another animal/ is the most riven the most revolted cry on earth/ come a long way down/ Go back far enough it means tearing and torn endless and sudden/ back far enough it blurts.”