- BLACK VOICES SERIES
JESHUA D. NOEL | Q-Tip Climbers
She trots through the foyer, a misguided mammal on a quest to escape your boyishness. You guess it’s something line 9:05, and you wonder why she’s awake before noon. Three hundred lonely mornings are enough to foster comfort, enough to build a habit; now if you can’t have it your mind might float with the clouds and leave your body on the ground until half-past-three. She wasn’t looking for absence and longing but it follows her around like your cat before breakfast, kneading on a pillow and falling from a windowsill, making a mess. But it’s not a mess. It’s just nothing. And the quiet is broken and the sunrise has ample incentive to keep the day dark should distractions arise. Something about the incessant beeping. You burned breakfast. Memorable. That was hours ago, and it was dinner. You haven’t slept. Her coffee is in the microwave and you don’t ask if it’s fresh and instant or home-brewed and stale. Yesterday’s coffee tastes like hidden morels and bitter handshakes. She says you’re out of Q-tips. The real reason. You think for a moment how long it’s been since she asked you a question that wasn’t a request in trousers. You don’t know. She wouldn’t have either, but taking care of herself is the only grounding she can find this early in a summer’s day and nothing triggers humility like a smudged mirror. You’ve both read that Q-tips shouldn’t even be used to clean ears, but you’re the only one who cares because what unnamed grandparents do for a person project the profoundest influence. So, she had decided to fulfill her duties of implicit ancestor worship, but there’s nothing in the cabinet and now she’s all alone again.
“Can we go to the store?”
“I made a list.”
“A short one. One thing, actually.”
A daily ritual. Bar soap and white bread were your best friends before a self-righteous shadow floated in from outside. You stare at prices and wonder why you work. The world could live without Q-tips and probably without you. Layers of meaning separate you from your needs and you’ve forgotten how to plant things. In the checkout line a five-year-old is trying to choose between a candybar and a Zippo lighter. You left the shadow at home to get some rest. You needed to get out of the house anyways. But a long drive and a morning walk aren’t lovers and latex is so far removed from lead. Some scrambling for a rewards card. Defeat. A phone number. Traffic. You’re home. She’s asleep. You put the Q-tips away and pour the coffee down the drain. She’ll try again, restart the day, fresh this time. She’ll forget the empty spaces and know the Q-tips alone. These kinds of people. The kind to find comfort in plastic and earrings and sometimes both---to whom a number-four trumps Thanksgiving and a heads-up trumps a mystery. She’ll clean her ears and you’ll try to forget, praying for focus while she flits. The sun’s distractions dissipate and a bee buzzes by like the Magic School Bus in the theme song part. Bar soap is for hands and bread is better brown and you wish you could forget.
A few good words with Jeshua
PDS: What does it mean to you to be Black and creating?
JDN: To be Black and creating is to have everything I create contextualized not just by personal events and by my immediate social and professional ties, but by a larger net of expectations that can be both strangling and liberating at the same time. For example: I make music; people assume I rap; I try to explain that it’s not really rap, and now I’m told that I “sound white” while I’m trying to explain myself. I want to be remembered as a great writer, not as a good example of a young Black writer from such-and-such a place in such-and-such a time period. I want to connect with people. But that’s where the silver lining of being a Black creator comes in. There are aspects of my life that are unique to my geography, to my profession, etc. There are also aspects of my life that are unique to my heritage, to my culture, and that is much more powerful than any stigma or
BVS: What moves you/holds you/sets you on fire about Black writing?
JDN: I am a lover of language, of culture, of where the two intersect and intertwine. What sets me on fire about Black Writing is the opportunity to voice, and to hear voiced, not only passions and
problems unique to our heritage but also to hear those expressed in language that is personal and in styles that are distinctive.
BVS: We talk a lot about Black History in February, but I also like to talk about Black Futures--what forthcoming Black-created art (lit, film, music, etc.) are you most looking forward to?
JDN: This just came out, but I’m really excited to see the film Malcolm and Marie. I’ve seen the trailer and done a bit of reading on the plot — the ideas on the table intrigue me. Marie is Malcolm’s muse. His film career is taking off after producing work about her life; how much
credit is due to him for the way he did so, how much is due to her for living the life that told the story? What does this dynamic do to a romantic relationship? I’m looking forward to finding out.
I’m also excited to (hopefully) have the chance to view Deborah Roberts new exhibition, "I’m". She’s a multimedia artist who highlights the vulnerabilities, and the fates, of Black children in America. Her exhibit’s on display in Austin TX until August of this year, so if I can make it down after the semester is over I’ll definitely be checking it out. I explored her "Doro Olowu: Seeing
Chicago" at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art last year, and I spent most of my visit taking in her pieces.
Jeshua D. Noel lives, studies, and writes in his hometown of Hannibal, Missouri. He holds an AA in Teaching from Moberly Area Community College, and is currently pursuing a BA in English from Hannibal-LaGrange University. His academic work has been published in International Linguistics Research and presented in the Biennial Germanic Studies Conference at the University of Texas in Austin. Jeshua is currently working on his fourth collection of creative writing, and will be pursuing a PhD in English studies at Illinois State University beginning in 2021.