There was always the one. that walked the dirt path crooked infringing on the grass. that cleared the forest in some adinkra design that for sure could only be seen from heaven. that wore out the outside of one shoe and the inside of the other from their everyday crooked tendencies. the one that danced, planted, plotted and eventually drove as if he was falling down, as if his ear loved the ground, as if he was suspended from above by a lazy god he loved enough to keep believing in.
there was one. every village, every small town, eventually every zip code had one. and needed that one so they could measure their straightness, ninety degree their angles, perpendicular their walks. you know, relief. but then something happened and the sideways dancers, dirt path deviators, asymptote tracers started to lean towards each other more and more and they found each other on corners stunned and grateful to have people who could look into their diagonal eyes, their own people with no desire to adjust their half-cocked hats. they found each other and they reshaped the streets together with their feet tending to tiltsphere.
and the townships who had lost their tilters questioned their own straightness, shaped themselves to questions, curved in other ways. they didn’t think to wish that their crooked fools had stayed, they just looked up to the sky and asked and listened to the ground and didn’t realize that their angles grew acutely towards the sound of walking sideways and they found themselves leaving town down the same routes that had erstwhile always led them home. they roamed out of earshot of the talking drums and bells that had forever held them well and they found music that made them doubt and made them jump and tilt and shout. they found each other.
and then the tilting magic spread like a lightness in the head, an orientation towards the dead while we’re still living. and our streets became forgiving and our buildings became round we gave up straightness and guess what? nothing at all was missing.
The title, “an element of radical waywardness,” is from Hortense Spillers’s “Formalism Comes to Harlem,” in Black White and In Color.
This essay is excerpted from the forthcoming multi-genre anthology Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices, edited by Helen Klonaris and Amir Rabiyah. As Writing the Walls Down goes to print, Trans-Genre Press is striving to raise $9,000 for its launch. All the donations will go directly to the press, will help print the first 1,000 copies of the anthology, pay shipping costs, and pay contributors. Readers can donate, pre-order, or both by visiting Trans-Genre Publishing.