You cannot coax the pleasure back into your fingers said the lover to the lover. You cannot coax when the has been pleasure unhad for months now. What is the difference between the uncut nails and the morning sex says the lover to the other lover; the blood was not the answer, the blood was only the symptom. One lover picks up Bluets and cries, the other wants to understand, but is too deep in love to understand.
Bluets opens with the line “Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color.” Something that began as “[a]n appreciation, an affinity” became something “more serious” and then “it became somehow personal”. The 240 prose entries that follow open us into a philosophical journey that simultaneously deny the personal and deny anything but the personal.
I read Bluets by Maggie Neilson on the heals of reading The Argonauts, with hope that this short text would too invite me into an intimate conversation of sex, sexuality, poetry, philosophy, and other voices. In The Nelson Way, Bluets is inconclusive, horny, crass, intellectual, unforgiving, and intimate. Bluets is heartbreak. Bluets screams out “love me, love me, I do not deserve to be loved, love me, stop unloving me”. Bluets is a meditation on the color blue that is entirely erotic.
It’s hard not to make this review about me, to not come to where Nelson’s work has called me: into the most maroon parts of desire. Bluets is about confession, about secrets; I finish the meditation and change my Tinder bio “dirty talk me with quotes from Bluets”, by which I mean tell me your deepest intuition. “Fucking leaves everything as it is. Fucking may in no way interfere with the actual use of language. For it cannot give it any foundation either. It leaves everything as it is” arrives in my inbox and I feel chilled at the intrusion. I finish Bluets and want to coax pleasure from the pinkest parts of my body. I touch myself and cry. I finish, and want to push the book on everyone I know, but don’t, afraid what it might reveal about my own desires. My impulse is to point to the page, to confess as Nelson did:
“For my part I have no interest in catching a glimpse of or offering you an unblemished ass or an airbrushed cunt. I am interested in having three orifices stuffed full of thick, veiny cock in the most unforgiving of poses and light”.
But Nelson is interested in so much more than confession; Nelson is interested in what it is we mean when we say the color blue. She is interested in love and its antithesis. What does it mean to look, and who is doing the looking? Where is love stored and when does it dissolve as if a mint along the tongue? How do we know when, or how, or whom to love and let love? What does pleasure mean to by body and how do I obtain it?
Is sexuality something I do or something I am, I ask while reading Bluets. In the middle of doing and being is the backbone of my answer, the cusp where I make the decision about what books to read and how to speak, how to fuck. I buy books and craft my own history. I buy books and somehow parented, somehow more queer. Nelson get’s asks what’s her pleasure and I respond with jealousy. If asked, I’d lay back-flat on the gym’s leather bench because there is no language that speaks desire the way hands do when wrapped around something pulsing.
i’m bent over/ the leather weeping/ inside the cement room/ inside the place i grow/ you stand above me/horse built from black/ plates & bars & beer cans/ i’m sweating/ but you’re still covered/ in that other girl/ in her sweat/ she paid you/ they all pay you/you do me for free/ i say do what you need/ to me you do/ / i have arms & legs & this mouth/ & you work them equally/ you work/ & in turn work me/ stand above me/ your hands wrapped around me/ said you couldn’t stop/ thinking of me/said you wouldn’t stop/ that this is strictly professional/ i don’t pay you/ with money/you stand above me / it’s professional/ this tension/ between us/ between my muscles & my mind/ I’m bent over/ the leather bench/ making everything wet/making everything smell/ of my want of you/ of my want for size/ you are training me/ in size/ making me work it/ making me take it/ you horse built of muscle & creatine/ you dyke built of yes/ you dyke working me/ pulling the salt from my body/ smelling the salt on my body/ tasting/ i end up on my back/ it’s unsurprising this power/ this desire/i have an ass & chest & tongue/ & you work them all equally/ like a horse/ like a dyke/ built of yes & muscle/ you stand above me/ telling me what to do/ & at what speed/ & for how long/ i say do what you want/ you say you’re going to work me hard/ that you want me to feel it/ that you want my body/ to remember the way/ you worked me/ over & over
What is more generative than poetry that insists that its prose? What is more enticing than prose that is poetry: a lyrical suffering that tackles the personal losses of love or the expedition of color, in an attempt to make sense. What is more original than using a color to explore the self? Nelson fuses form: autobiography, philosophy, and poetry, to move beyond the tidy bounds of memoir into literary criticism while also moving from criticism back into the self.
Or perhaps love is beyond the self, as all things of light are.