(ESSAY) ‘BodiesTM: Poetry. City. Whiteness.’ by Elliot C. Mason


A provocation on whiteness, futurity, capitalism and the fricative movements of racialised and gendered embodiment in contemporary poetics, by Elliot C. Mason. 


> Capitalism keeps time in a centrifugal swirl that expands as space. The myth of the future is sucked in to the endless present of working time, the working day that never ends but rather blurrily recalibrates its always-changing relation to the past (the time before Capital, that horrific barbarism which could be called Communism, Africa or Keynesian Social Capitalism, depending on the context) and the future. The mythical future is total temporal accumulation, when the life-times of the disenfranchised are finally worth nothing and the life-times of the Tech-Execs, the Winners, the Exemplary Individuals are worth so much time that they have reached secular eternity: a capitalist immortality. The working time of people is pulled into the blurring vortex, this weightless phantasmagoria, and it expands imperially, ideologically, a waxed leg in steel-capped boots, over geographical codes. The move is architectural, strategically ordering bodies under spatial blocks and signs.


          // James Nixon / Ars Poetica #5 //


> The violent horror of this vortex is that it is not there at all. We cannot see it. Our way of seeing is mutually constituted with what we see; Capital’s expansion is simply our sight. Precisely what makes capitalism so different to other ways of organising money and people is that it takes over everything. It destroys religion and becomes God itself. It makes every interaction geared towards accumulation. Dating is like opening a betting account, like browsing estate agents’ windows. The end of a relationship in 2019 is not when you stop seeing each other – it’s when you find each other on a dating app. But this has been happening since the beginnings of this system. Modern sciences are ways of justifying slavery, which Capital needed to produce far more than feudal farmers ever could; the city and its divisive architecture are a response to the need to keep laborers close to factories, to houses given by the factory-owners, to food provided by the factory-owners: to the total subsumption of life in a single Capital. In the beginning there was nothing, and then we traded commodities to accumulate labortime in the imperial movement of endlessly expanding architecture.

our new home has cockroaches.

an exterminator came –

it’s smart how the poisoned gel spreads through the colony

by cannibalism. he explains that they will eat their family,

that the poison will spread faster that way.

          / AK Blakemore / nymphs //


> The creation of the body and its technological assemblages that constitute race and racial thinking are necessary components of these movements. The body in other systems is dependent on context: there is the body on the farm who picks tomatoes, the body in the family who teaches children how to speak, the body in the factory who welds iron, the body at war who receives bullet holes; the body is alive, and at any moment, for any misdemeanour, the lord or the law can kill it. The body in capitalism is always a laboring body, always awaiting work: we ask why that mother doesn’t have a job, why that homeless man isn’t working, we ask children what job they want and lament the misery of our jobless friends, hoping only that one day they will enter an office and reproduce some capital; the body is at work, and if it resists work, at any moment the economy can force it to stay painfully and agonisingly alive until it makes some fucking money! This is the totalizing development of the body as a machine of money-production in capitalism, in which each one of us is a camera for capturing space, pushing those architectural movements of Capital a little further on.

look, i’m not going to manufacture

any more sadness. it happened.

it’s happening.

America might kill me before i get the chance.

my blood is in cahoots with the law.

but today i’m alive, which is to say

i survived yesterday, spent it

ducking bullets, some

flying toward me & some

trying to rip their way out

          // Danez Smith / every day is a funeral & a miracle //


> The white body can never quite die, though, because whiteness is ownership. The white body is coded as the proper owner of Capital. The Black body is coded as property, and it belongs to the white body. The Indigenous body is coded as a misuser of property, the body that doesn’t know how to turn the land into an industrially productive machine and property into an expansive force of racialization. In the racial architecture of capitalism, the white body is property-ownership, the racialized other body is property. And so what this way of seeing in the vortex consuming time does is maintain a spatial boundary between bodies allowed into one racial category and bodies relegated to another, and this space creates existence: the white body lives and must die; it is narrated as the pinnacle of History and its property must be inherited, passed on to the next imperial body in the patriarchal line – it must become a statue marking space in the city. The racialized other body dies and must live; it is always on the periphery of every narrative, of History, of Capital, of wars and events and statues and the school syllabus (EUROPEANS INVENTED EVERYTHING), always on the edge of existence (AFRICA NEEDS HELP), always in the past (CHINA IS BECOMING WESTERN), and yet it can never die, it must work more, it must join the factory, get a loan from a bank, invest in property, make a classic slapstick YouTube clip, date on a narrowboat with fruity IPA and be saved by the bloody claws of white saviourism.

I chose my brother over my desire

To be invisible.

We thought your brother was dead…

He is.

And his death made you


You only see me

When I carry a man on my back.

          // Jericho Brown / The Interrogation. Part ii: The Cross-Examination //


> Seeing is capturing. The city sees, and in the racializing city the police maintain the neat division of which body captures and which is captured, which is inside the wall, which outside, which is allowed into the private park and which is not, all the while keeping up the imperial distraction of the ceremony: nothing to see here! Some bodies are allowed protection from this capturing, and must work endlessly for that protection. To have a body becomes a war, an endless body-on-body battle for superiority, the superiority of more accumulated Capital. Some bodies are accumulated, others accumulate. There is no longer any option but these two, and both these options are endless war. To see – to have a body – is not a secret war, a war by other methods: it is war. The very language and code of being becomes the body-on-body bloody war.

Language has no body.              

The message is a virus.                              

The message cannot be killed.



> Time is taken into this fight, stolen from the bodies in their endless war, and more space is made. Space pushing forwards into open land, making it a battlefield. Space-as-Capital conquers everything and then moves upwards, scanning the land with drones now that the whole world is a warzone. As the drone indiscriminately flies above the areas of extraction, every speck of life everywhere is a possibility, another battlefield for producing profit. Every space is coded as before the present of American Capital, and every space needs to be violently hauled into now. Everywhere that was unspeakable in the grammar of Capital is retroactively certified as nothing but primordial barbarity always awaiting benediction by Capital, a zone marked for extraction, for abstraction, into the language of spatial domination and the force of being defined as a racialized body with no purpose but reproduction.

I was one burnt daughter

in a genealogy.

Stepped into the oil

spill like a siren

emerged dyed black

backed with the wings

of a tanker’s logo

jangling stranded

in the outer ocean

// Rachael Allen / Apostles Burning //


> This force is whiteness, and it is everywhere because it is unspeakable. Language cannot speak itself. Like the Law that opens everything but itself to condemnation, the centre cannot be self-seen, cannot be captured by the capturing mechanism of the photographic eye that functions only dialectically – the holder of the camera, of the eye, looking at the object and creating subjectivity through the object-status of the other. There is necessarily always an exemption to the rule, and the expansion of white supremacist Capital is exempted from its own language. It is a violence that constantly labels everything, but which disappears when turned to. A violence that abstracts itself as immovable/unspeakable myth above the rest, God to the Apostles, approachable only through the mediation of the myth itself.

Where are you I am not there for

You. I’m morning in the milkiest decade

of all, a piece of white snow in a snow dome.

Make happy, make ache vanish or dispel well

out on the winter’s wish well well well well

           // Amy De’Ath / Holey //