FEELD, BY JOS CHARLES
“ i am off corse speeching off ivorie / i am off
corse speeching a mouthe / over detremind bye ants”
Let’s say it’s July, you’re reading feeld outside an Arkansas Walmart waiting for your tires to be rotated. Let’s say an older gentleman catches the corner of your eye, pulls up in a white pickup, and rolls the window down. You’re a reader? Here. This book will save your life. There is a Jesus pamphlet flung in your direction, an intrusion into your space, and this cis-hetero-normative oil change energy is driving you nowhere good. The parking lot: populated by shop-carting ants. Your options: laugh, cry, keep reading. You fall back into feeld’s pages.
Momentary intrusions like this are what Jos Charles pushes back against throughout her entire collection:
“ speeching off trees
from the inside / u can growe
deer 2 one / onlie from the inside / I took pryde”
In feeld, Charles is breaking language in order to rebuild a system of knowledge that lives outside the context of the cis-heteronormative. But Charles’ gentle takeover of language is less bent on deconstruction and more bent on rebuilding. She writes:
“i 2 rejekted a whord
onlie 2 see it grone
tangibel / “
feeld creates a linguistic realm that both disorients and resituates the reader, reversing the relationship of a transgender speaker to the cis-normative majority, and ultimately disempowers normative language through her creation of a separate world—by invention and syntax and stark imagery.
“ the sirfase extends / &
it is tragyck / being undre
stood / any 1 off us wuldve dropd
more / if wee culd ”
Perhaps Charles drops more in her lyricism than the reader initially notices: subtle word changes (surface to sirfase, whole to hole, understood to undre & stood) create double-meanings and powerful new connotations for these word-tools through which we make meaning. The field of value we create within ourselves so often starts with the language we learn and utilize. To undermine and recreate our tools of value is a revolutionary act. Jos Charles’ feeld unpacks and repacks the histories of each word with compelling lyricism, recreating the metaphors we live with and subscribe to inside.