Josey Rose Duncan

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How 2 make a Drake: A collaborative art show

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Collaboration is a chance for me, as a writer, to be part of creating something I would never be able to make on my own; to tell a story through multiple mediums, through different perspectives. To yawn, stretch, and reach my writing arms out wider than they could go on their own.

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“How 2 make a Drake” is a narrative art show about duality; racism and anti-Semitism; love; and how Biblical narratives play out in pop culture. My partner, Jonathan Carroll aka SUPERCHIEFJERONIMO!, the genius artist who proposed this concept and that we collaborate, created the show’s 18 visual pieces; I wrote 18 accompanying vignettes (well, I wrote nearly 18—a few are just Drake quotes).

We debuted Jonathan’s art on September 4th, 2015 at the Trap x Art group show at Monroe SF.

Some visual selections are below as well as my 18 written pieces—and you can check out our website to see the full show—but I hope you get to see the whole show in real life very, very soon.

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Step 1. He wasn’t human. When you stand near him you hear a whirring, whirring sound. A dull beep, beep, beep. His eyes were oil-dark but there was light behind them.

Step 2. Second soul, reincarnated soul, second being of the girl behind the bookcase, second World War’s sweetheart, second sweet girl (after the fact). Skin grows rosy with every smile, with every bag of cement, every snuck morsel of bread beneath the infirmary walls. Where we lay, shivering. Where we lay, scratching with caked-dirt nails.

Step 3. He was sent there to kill her. Ultimate weapon. Eyes dark as oil but there was light behind.

Step 4. “I wrote to you long before they forged you, from iron and microchips. I wrote to you from under the clattering hummeri, hip-bones; beneath lice. I wrote to tell you where to find me. I was prepared to rest for centuries under dusty skeletons, turning light enough to be wind-carried, to be smoke.”

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Step 5. Designated weapons-grade, the ultimate weapon, Hitler’s wettest dream, never made in his image, of him but never-him, every thing he dreamed of being but never was, every thing he hated, every thing he feared, he made. He was sent there to kill her but they forgot one thing: You can’t give a cyborg a heart; even a heart made of metal; cooled by whirring blades; a ticking, ticking bomb—and not expect him to love.

Step 6. “You are made of galaxies! You are metal and icons; oil eyes. You are of space, but also the heaven in which neither of us should believe.”

Step 7. Jealousy is just love and hate at the same time.

Step 8. I like a woman with a future in the past.

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Step 9. Its 5am and sun yawns, stirs, wipes crust from eyelashes, stretches arms across plains. Dawn is tangled feet, starched sheets half-pulled off the mattress; dawn is the air conditioner purring awake in the half-shadow of half-closed black-out drapes. The penthouse is on the 18th floor near the place where rain is made. Sun reaches bony fingers toward thirsty derricks, sunken neon, dying stars, telomerase. In these liminal hours, a cyborg and a dead girl loved each other very much.

Step 10. We had the type of nights where morning comes too soon and nothing was the same.

Step 11. “We cannot be caught because we exist outside of time. We cannot be caught the way people want to catch and capture other people, the way they want to keep them in cages, with chains and scraps of cloth. They way they want to keep us, want to catch us, we cannot be caught—will never be caught.”

Step 12. “My father is from Memphis.”

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Step 13. Three times six is 18. March is liminal. Shoulder season, fly-over season, forgotten by vultures and barn owls. Dawn light peers past near-drawn 18th floor drapes that float absentmindedly in the air conditioning. Six am shadow: late nights sour with cocaine and cigarettes; early mornings, heavy eyelids, sugar syrup, March 6th. The cosmic roar of worker bee wings, Spring strapped to their ankles.

Step 14. October’s Very Own.

Step 15. He came out wet and spitting rhymes. Amniotic wine / blood and sunshine. Black hair matted, eyes green like American money. They named Baby Houston after Paris. 18th-floor, A-bomb daybreak. After central air brewing lightning in hotel walls. H-town baby. A dead girl and a cyborg morphed Nazi nightmares into champagne.

Step 16. When the wall crumbled they forged champagne dreams from the rubble. Follow me, he beckoned (finger stroke, cat-tongue) and they stepped through the hole in the Gold Curtain. On the other side everything was different and nothing was the same. West and East came from Cuba on a glass-bottomed boat. Jupiter pulled Saturn’s face close to his chest. Lady Liberty shook off sandals, lit a blunt, cooled her toes in Mariana’s Trench. When the wall fell.

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Step 17. I blew myself up, I’m on some martyr shit/Carry the weight for my city like a cargo ship.

Step 18. 18 billion years ago Universe slithered out from between your ribs and took its tail in its mouth. It was the same year you became a man. Same year the River Jordan kissed your feet; same year you looked down at the river snaking through your toes, licked the corner of your thumb, and drew smoke rings on its forehead. Universe is a microphone, choking on its chord. 18 billion bubbles, 18 billion spotlight years. 18 years from now you became the greatest rapper in the galaxy. Your father and mother drank champagne at dawn, like their father and mother before them, and before them, and before them. 18 years ago you slithered out from between your own ribs, grabbed a mic, became smoke.

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—Josey Rose Duncan



When we drink

I embarked on my first bender because I got dumped. Even when you know it’s coming, when you’re nineteen—and maybe, when you’re not—it sucks. After pleading and crying and empty threats, I called some friends, went to the Greyhound station, got hit-on by a dude on his way to a Job Corps forestry program, and tearfully rode the bus to Santa Cruz, where I wallowed in cheap vodka, puked up cheap vodka, and might have at some point eaten a burrito. I stumbled through five misty, hazy days before catching a ride home. Splitting headache and trembling hands aside, I felt much better than I had before I left. I felt cleansed.

I embarked on my next bender for every graduation, promotion, win, completion, or triumph. Birthdays and weddings and new apartments in San Francisco with working fireplaces and picture windows with crane-necked views of the Bay Bridge and the bay (happy housewarming).

When we tied the knot, we toasted with guests and shots of Black Maple Hill bourbon poured into square glasses printed with our initials. I celebrated with white and red wines, and club soda spiked with vodka or bourbon, through the midnight reception, until almost sunrise. We cheered and spilled and sang and shattered glasses and bendered because we were happy.

After a death, after the blood drains from behind your eyes and the world rushes past and is frozen at the same time, there are drinks. Numbing the exposed, while hugging the fresh pain close. Memories and tears cascade steady with each swig, the glass bottle bottom a story’s end. Pour a little out on the asphalt or the dirt.

Wit chases drinks. Now there is talking to strangers who are no longer strange. There is that song, that one song, and that thing that happened one time that you both think about a lot when your minds wander, when you are alone. And there is far, far less fidgeting, and arms uncross and hands gesture loudly. If you’ve panicked, you’ll know that feeling of tight-chest and pressed-against. And you’ll know that sweet booze is the deepest breath.

When new love is found or fake love is gone or decayed love falls away completely and our raw, wet selves are exposed, when we are lost or have discovered exactly what we are looking for—this is when we drink. When we must drink.

And sometimes there is nothing. There is the morning. Or the sunset, or the almost-sunrise. 12:34 or 5:13 or 7:06 and it is not-bright or too-bright or it is a dim room or it is not a room at all. There is an outside-your-fluttering-blinds where it’s not hot, or it is raining and there is thunder. Or it is one weird week of sticky Portland in December snow. Or there is fog, because it is San Francisco and there is always fog. Blinking away last night, or the last 10 hours of crisp-eyed-awake, or your last-seen 10 am, you press your neurons to spark and feel the day or night ahead and still there is nothing, except a bender.

There are always drinks. And after drinks possibilities rise like after-rain steam on sweaty sidewalks, from your warming body in the dark or the sun or the dim room with the blinking bright numbers. And you are alone or you are with someone who is so a part of you that you are basically one, one alone, or you are alone, alone, and don’t feel alone. The sweetest smoke spilling from the coldest fire that grows as you sip, and then you swig, spilling.

—Josey Rose Duncan

Read for Quiet Lighting at Public Works (San Francisco), January 2011 and published in sparkle + blink. Watch a recording of the reading here.