Letter from New York

Tekst: Vladimir Lucien

Illustratie: Tara Donaldson

Vladimir Lucien is a writer from St. Lucia. He is the author of Sounding Ground (Peepal Tree Press, 2014) which won the OCM Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in 2015. Lucien is also the editor of Sent Lisi: Poem and Art from St. Lucia and the screenwriter of the documentary The Merikins. He was one of the guests of Read My World 2014.

Tara Donaldson is a multimedia journalist who loves to travel. She tells stories from all over the world.

Chippin’: A Dance to Dance Forever

What if I told you that I could teach you a dance that you could dance forever? It is a simple dance. In it the body seems almost dead, but yet it isn’t. In it the body almost seems to be tottering, dragging itself onward, somewhere on the edge of life — wherever it is that is (for it could be anywhere). And this dance could be done anywhere, in fact, it is difficult to discern it from walking. It is slow, it is languid, it is leisurely, but it is in its slow, languid, leisurely way, insistent, urgent, and determined. It is life unfinished— life as always unfinished, and thus ongoing, eternal. The steps are short, almost imperceptible, and even direction is uncertain, but the steps, those short steps are there, are certain in themselves, in their small and simple knowledge that the direction is in them, in the steps themselves, in their rhythm’s demand for loyalty and devotion, the blind devotion of feet who never know where our minds, the errands of our lives, the errands of our souls are taking them.

“What if I told you that I could teach you a dance that you could dance forever?”

In this dance, the body is not a monument upon the pedestal of feet, nor are the feet drawing any attention to themselves. What it insists, in the most minute ways, is this infinitesimal similarity between these two things between which it should teeter or totter, but doesn’t. Between this certain and particular life, and this certain and general and yet particular death. It is the certainty of earth, it is the certainty of feet, and the secret certainty of their meeting where they share over and over the the secret of life and death. And in this dance, the feet assert life. Without ostentation. Without involving the rest of the body much. It is the feet appealing, softly, yet emphatically, presenting the bedraggled and grateful body above it to the earth, and earth listening, listening to the persistent petition of feet, to the hard grace of the haggard body.

This dance, we call, chipping. It is the dance that is danced on the road for carnival in the Caribbean. One of the dances. But it is the dance that outlasts all others. For it is the dance of the beginning and the dance that resists the end. The dance that wants to begin forever. Undistinguished, unadorned, it is bare. It is walking but walking does not beg, does not ask. Walking bears the calm and arrogance of the sentence, walking assumes its completion. Walking forgets the earth. This dance, chipping, is an entreaty, a question we ask both of the earth and of ourselves— can we keep going? Can we do this forever? And the earth, hardened to us, gives a slow answer accumulating in our steps, the earth allows us to answer ourselves, the earth shares the answer between itself and our feet and that secret and sacred point where they meet, bound by the pact of rhythm, by their shared inheritance of gravity, by their shared stake in the sound of footsteps.

“Can we dance this life? Can we bring this dance to life?”

What we ask in light, the earth answers in shadow, what the earth asks in shadow, we answer in light. “Can we dance through this time?” we ask the earth; we ask ourselves. Can we devise a dance so slight, so patient, so utterly invested in each inelegant step? Can we ‘chip’ at this time, at this world, can we ask questions while we keep moving? Can we slow down? Can we devise a pace at which we can dance forever, both humble and challenging? Can we ‘chip’? Can we ‘chip’ away at the new world being carved by our ‘chipping’?

Can we dance this life? Can we bring this dance to life? Can we dance this dance which is like walking which is like questioning which is like carrying-on which is its own tired and untiring certainty of life     of death    of hope    of the tomorrow growing secretly underneath our feet.

Vladimir Lucien

Vertaling: Nadia de Vries

  • “To write is to enter a dark space and find that you are not alone.”

    Letter from New Orleans

    Maurice Ruffin >
  • “The swallow I raised on my wrist and which returned at my father’s funeral now taps at my window bearing his face.”

    Letter from Haifa

    Asmaa Azaizeh >
  • “This period, while nerve-wracking for many of us, is, in my view, an opportunity to shift our focus to appreciate what really matters.”

    Letter from Paris

    Rokhaya Diallo >
  • “What all the aunts and mothers never succeeded in doing, did happen through a microscopic piece of genetic material enveloped in a thin layer of fat. I baked roti’s last week.”

    Letter from Paramaribo

    Sharda Ganga >
  • “Language has not come to me, but rather I have gone towards it, crawling like a small child, seeking it under things, corners, my fingers searching for sparks, for soft squishy things, for sound.”

    Letter from Malaysia

    Bernice Chauly >
  • “Public remembering in Germany sometimes feels like a redemption story.”

    Letter from Berlin

    Max Czollek >
  • “The social body is on the ground. I set myself the task of reanimating it.”

    Letter from Rome

    Donatella Della Ratta >
  • “Perhaps to be silent is the closest one can come to realising what it means to be a human being, in the primitive, noble sense.”

    Letter from Bruxelles

    Sulaiman Addonia >
  • “Did I spit out one extra frog from my mouth or did it stay inside me?”

    Letter from Istanbul

    Süreyyya Evren >
  • “What if I told you that I could teach you a dance that you could dance forever?”

    Letter from New York

    Vladimir Lucien >