Throughout history, temptation has existed as that thing which draws one away from the good and toward the bad. Both a mediation and a catalyst, the word temptation itself is metonymic for that toward which it leads: “lead me not into temptation” is a second-order request: please make it so that I’m not even tempted to do the thing the temptation leads me towards.
This is not the case with Star Wars Episode VII’s villain, Kylo Ren, for whom the formal structure of temptation remains the same, even though the script is flipped. In an essential scene we find Kylo alone before the famed half-melted helmet of his grandfather, where he monologues: “Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light.” So while for everyone else in Kylo’s family and the universe, temptation is the vacuum of evil, for Kylo it is the opposite: the idea of doing good, of being good, draws him away from his desire to stay bad, be badder, or both.
The whole form of this question feels like that seminal moment of western subjectivity ala Paul’s exposition of the law in Romans chapter seven (verse 15b): “… (f)or what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” Kylo Ren shows how this logic is applicable in all directions, regardless of which law one attempts to obey. A verse later Paul clarifies: “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” It very well might be that in episode VIII we will see Kylo do something good, thus having the occasion to proclaim “it is no longer I who do it, but the light that dwells in me.” Indeed, it is Leia’s insistence that there is “still light in him” that convinces Han to meet his brilliant fate out on that bridge over that gratuitous bottomless pit.
And Han himself plays an essential role in a second script-flipping, itself made possible by the first: here instead of a sacrificial son, we have the sacrificial father. He even gets his own, condensed garden of Gethsemane: moments before he meets his end at the hands of Kylo Ren, Kylo implores him: “I know what I have to do, but I don’t know if I have the strength to do it.” Prescient movie watchers and those of us with perfect hindsight know now that the “it” Kylo speaks of is the act of patricide (probably ordered by Snoke to help make Kylo eviler). But it isn’t only the fact that Kylo asks Han for his help, but that Han responds in the absolute affirmative: “Yes! Anything.” Now to be sure, Han’s fatherly sacrifice has more of an unwittingness to it- it’s hard to believe that Christ, as he was struggling so hard with his own humanity in the garden that he sweated blood, didn’t actually know (him being God and all) what was going to happen before he uttered the Han Soloan dictate: that “not my will, but thine, be done.” But this adds a layer of virtue to Han’s self-emptying, considering the fact that Harrison Ford’s performance doesn’t look as though Han really believes that his son’s about murder him. But alas, he does, and the image of the reverse crucifixion is made even clearer when we realize that Kylo Ren’s sword itself LOOKS LIKE A CROSS.
Yes, the oft-talked-about raggedy broadsword looking impliment is a cross, and it is worth noting that when Kylo finally deals Han’s death blow it is an upside down cross, which is both extremely metal as well as fitting, considering the inverted nature of the narrative.
If the above is the answer to the question we had prior to The Force Awakens- how are they going to mess with the forms essential to Star Wars?- then the new question becomes: did Kylo Ren’s patricidal act do the trick? Did it make him more powerful than Vader? Or Luke Skywalker? Did it make him eviler? Did it- or will it help- push him beyond a threshold from whence there is no returning? In a word: No.
The Christianity that I was familiar with for a long time (Easter Orthodoxy) liked to talk about Christ’s crucifixion as a sort of trick god played on the devil: the metaphor was that of a fishhook, with Christ as the worm. Since the fall the lot of humanity was death- everyone had to do it. But since Christ was both man AND god, and since being god meant being deathless, being life itself, it was therefore impossible for either a) him to *actually* die (though they say he did, and they say that’s the beautiful paradox), but more importantly, b) for the devil to handle that action. Submitting life to death broke the bonds of the latter over the former, and thereby flipped the script on the whole shebang. I think something similar happens with Han & Kylo.
In short, since Han offered to do whatever it was that Kylo needed, Kylo will be forever grateful to him for that. This whole being-the-baddest-dude-in-the-universe thing is obviously really important to Kylo, and since it’s important to Kylo, it’s important to his dad.
Christ tricked the trickster: the devil thought that he’d figure out a way to kill god, but god was all “gotcha!” The same thing happens here: regardless of how heartfelt Kylo’s “torn apart”-edness was, the endgame was to be an eviler Kylo: trick your dad into letting you kill him! But then it turns out that this very act of “letting” nullifies the ends of said patricide, foiling said wicked plans. Unless of course the agent of said plans is really Snoke, in which case Snoke has Kylo exactly where he wants him, just like Han said mere seconds before his death: “Snoke is using you for your power; when he get what he wants, he’ll crush you.” and Han is still right.
At the end of the day, Kylo will never be able to let Han’s kenotic sacrifice go- and that never-letting-go is going to play an essential role in the narrative at some point in the future of the franchise- mark my words.
“Before it was a dramatic liturgy it was a codex of fragments, a mysterious hodgepodge with a multiplicity of mysterious original sources. Only here instead of time ruthlessly and slowly having her way with words written on marble walls, we are the agents by which what does not get said is not read.”
“my poem is the object of your body
with its divots and sluices, bulbous and tremblings
shoulders in high-relief against morning suns and freckles
I shoot my hot self into that which can be filled no further
am folded into myself into a blurred oblivion
only to re-materialize at three in the morning
when she thought that I’d died because I’d died
and been resurrected”
“with ravenous mouth
with wildest hyperbole
with hummingbird heart”
For more info on The Book of Foxes – and to buy it- check out my etsy store.
Last April marked the fourth year of my relationship with my brilliant and beautiful partner, Bonnie Cherry. To commemorate those years I decided to put together a one-off ‘zine, a gift for her, that compiled a wide array of miscellaneous writings, including but not limited to
- text lifted from her old blog- many of which themselves include bits and pieces of texts from everyone from Sappho to Whitman to Neruda to Ginsberg- that I chopped up and splayed out over the page,
- selections from and of my own original poetry, and
- selections from or whole pieces of works from some of our favorite contemporary women poets.
It was because of this last component that publishing the book never seemed like an option. That was: until Bonnie suggested we do it- and our first official collaborative work was born.
The work, entitled “The Book of Foxes,” will be out in early April, and is, according to its preface,
a dramatic liturgy to eros and spring, in celebration of our selves and our genesis. comprised of fragments from a multiplicity of source texts (and a few complete pieces) that have been curated and composed into its present form for the purpose of oral recitation preferably under the influence of holy wine or some such similar beverage in the event of the proper occasion of your choosing, it is a chaotic litany intended to be read dialogically with aplomb, bravado, and increasing levels of inebriation and/ or erotic stimulation.
The work is- just to be clear- an explicit work of eroticism that many would consider #NSFW. What follows is a wee taste, if you will, of a softer passage that yet displays what the text looks, feels, and sounds like: it begins with a poem that I composed specifically for The Book of Foxes, moves to Fragments of Fragments of Sappho, and then to the first of the many curated installations from Bonnie’s old blog, dated May 2009.
غ – Pronouncing Pomegranate
Writing with one’s lips, as it were, as on someone’s skin
the myriad words it takes to touch the word Pomegranate:
of the kingdom plantae and unranked as angiosperm,
eudicots (Eudicotidae or eudicotyledons), rosids;
order: myrtales, of the family lythraceae and the
lonely genus punica; species: p. granatum,
binomial name punica granatum synonym
punica malus (and this by Linnaeus, in seventeen-fifty-eight).
To say it is to trace its surface
but not yet to have plumbed
any of its possible depths:
The seeded – granatum – apple – pomum – the pomum-granatum
mistaken by the early English as the “Apple of Grenada,”
the pomme-grenade, the palm-grenade, the hand grenade
which comes from the Arabic spelled
rayn – raa – nun – alif – thaa – ta-marbuta
(ta-marbuta – thaa – alif – nun – raa – rayn)
atubram-at – aaht – fila – nun – aar – nyar
a language roiling in and around itself in reverse,
the rayn its roiling ‘g’ in the back of one’s throat
speaking with seeds sliding down one’s throat
pronouncing with a rayn the words
and I long and yearn
Eros has shaken my mind,
wind sweeping down the mountain on oaks
I will arrange my limbs
on soft cushions
as long as you are willing
Whitman’s “urge and urge and urge,
I feel an unbelievable urge to destroy:
to break bottles and fine china, to play trumpets and castanets, to hurl red paint at gray walls and, honestly, just burn things down.
and of the almost forgotten feeling of a soaking sweat with a light dusting of street grime
[I have gone marking the atlas of your body with crosses of fire.
My mouth went across: a spider, trying to hide.
In you, behind you, timid, driven by thirst.
Something sings, something climbs to my ravenous mouth.
Oh to be able to celebrate you with all the words of joy.
Sing, burn, flee,
like a belfry at the hands of a madman. My sad tenderness, what comes over you all at once?
When I have reached the most awesome
and the coldest summit
my heart closes like a nocturnal flower.]
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It’s something you have to remember, then remind yourself: Vegas is not Vegas. And this not really in any highfalutin sort of way, either: the Last Vegas Strip isn’t *in* Las Vegas, and it never has been. What it is in isn’t even a city, it’s in an unincorporated community – well, three, actually, (only one of which is Paradise). I’ve said this before, which is also the point. And there is no pure Las Vegas, on or off the strip: looking at Las Vegas is like watching an animated gif of its own history in time lapse, looped: everything grows and burns and grows and burns and grows and burns (controlled burns), reinventing itself as something new and something of the same. But this growth is up, then down, never out. It might be now, in its current moment, with its behemoths clenched up around the boulevard like a sphincter, that things might finally be seen to harden, and Vegas might actually change itself into staying the same (and then it will be able to die?). Maybe that’s what is significant about the seeming de-emphasis on gambling, and the growth of high-end consumer capitalism. But I don’t know: I don’t imagine the two can’t co-exist.
Downtown Vegas (which is actually *in* Vegas) is itself a kitsch re-representation of what it used to be (what it has always only or ever used to be), which might’ve already been that, but that today isn’t sure if it knows it or not. It flickers because it’s an ironic city, maybe even the ironic city- but it’s real. The forces that make Vegas Vegas are material: they have to do with tax bases and legality and policy and wealth: what kind of place is more profitable (what are the profitable possibilities for this kind of place), what is able to be done here as opposed to there, what is able to be said about what is expected to happen once you’ve either agreed to or have already performed the necessary transaction, what must necessarily remain unsaid.
It’s out of this morass that the compulsion to go, to look, to touch and taste and participate- to write- springs. Like a vacuum or a call to worship or a, you know, temptation. Not to make sense or elucidate, but to partake of, up to and against the what-happens-stays injunction: to disclose, to reveal, to undress.