Q&A with Nijinsky’s Head, aka Kyle Coma-Thompson

If nothing else we Meeklings believe in Wittgenstein and his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and the way it articulates so clearly an idea we summoned when making The Meekling Review: “The limit can, therefore, only be drawn in language and what lies on the other side of the limit will be simply nonsense.’ What is that limit? How far can we overshoot? We grasped towards it with words and searched for it in work that bathed us in so much nonsense we couldn’t help but make sense of it. We had our contributors cloak themselves in false identities, too.

Nijinsky’s Head, better known as Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of ‘Mutiny in Heaven,’ a poem whose narrator insists on the performance of other selves, one of whom is possibly Njininsky: “Truth is, I am someone else alive in the leap,” he says. We published an excerpt from Kyle’s poem earlier this week. In today’s Q&A we asked him some questions about the poem:

 

What inspired “Mutiny in Heaven”?

Over a span of six and a half weeks, while living in Switzerland at the beginning of WWI, Nijinsky writes his diaries. Thirty-one years later, he dies, having spent half his life in what can only be called “poor mental health.” Thirty-three years later, the Australian group The Birthday Party makes their last recording, the Mutiny! EP. The last song on that recording is a hilarious ear-orgy of gored, grotesque sound, titled a bit cheekily “Mutiny In Heaven”. Thirty years after that some quiet American sits down to listen to the Mutiny! EP while simultaneously leafing through Nijinsky’s diaries and finds himself duly humbled and moved by the poignancy and ferocity of last works. So to commemorate the occasion, he writes a poem.

 

The events of the past week(s)—including the commander in chief’s telling the FEMA chief that he’d become “ very famous” as a result of Hurricane Harvey, and his excuse of timing Joe Arpaio’s pardon to ‘maximize’ ratings—are a hollow echo of “Mutiny in Heaven”’s  observations regarding  power and authority and celebrity. Is our narrator Nijinsky prophetic? Chronology says he precedes our times and yet he’s a keen reader of them….

Nijinsky was Russian and a celebrity in his time. So you could say he was acquainted with the worst aspects of human nature, by design. But then, he was able to render such beautiful movements with something so small and fragile as the human body. So his vision of the contradictions of our current moment, you could say, was comprehensive, and total.

 

With regard to identity: I came away from recently reading Catherine Lacey’s The Answers, thinking of the narrator’s claim that “Love is a compromise for only getting to be one person,” I liked the sound of this, but then when confronting the narrator of “Mutiny in Heaven”, he refutes this idea of only having to be one person, stating, “Truth is I am someone else, alive in the leap.” I like the sound of this too. If identity is shifting, how does the narrator perform this, and what is the price for getting to be many people?

 Maybe best to say: having to be one body is the price we pay for getting to be many people. And that that’s a paradox that leads so many of us into so much trouble.

I would say, being the narrator of a poem titled “Mutiny in Heaven” instead of a novel titled The Answers, it seems to me many hope that love will do the opposite—keep them still, in place, stable, only one person. Being multiple is a restless confusion; so maybe it’d be safer to be only one thing to one person—if that’s love. Which, of course, it isn’t. Not the kind that lasts. But then, this is only one version of me that’s saying this. There’re others in here who’d say different. And so it goes, the comedy of the human condition—outrageous, subtle, relentless.

 

What do you think of this Nijinsky’s head, Nijinsky’s Head? (below, by Auguste Rodin) Why not cast your feet? What is  most overlooked with regard to Nijinsky? And what does he overlook himself?

Dancing begins in the mind, so it only makes sense A. Rodin would sculpt my head. My feet are in my mind…so you have to look me in the face if you want to appreciate them—while they’re in movement, while I’m thinking them.

What’s most overlooked? The thirty years I spent in exile at the end of my life, away from what everyone expected of me.  I feel like poor Robert Walser. Only long after I’m gone do comfortable people feel moved to take up my name and speak of me as if I were always alongside them—instead of beneath them, for a very, very long time. God help them. And me too.

 

Nijinsky’s Head was born on Apr. 8th 1950 in London, England. It has been rolling towards you ever since, and will continue to do so long after you’re gone.

Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of short story collections The Lucky Body (Dock Street Press, 2014) and Night in the Sun (Dock Street Press, 2016). The title story for this book was included by Ben Marcus in the anthology New American Stories (Vintage, 2015)

 

get your own damn copy!?

 

from MUTINY IN HEAVEN

by Nijinsky’s Head

“He also gave a final dance concert, before an invited audience, at a near-by hotel, the Suvretta House. As Romola describes the performance, Nijinsky began by taking a chair, sitting down in front of the audience, and staring at them for what seemed like half an hour. Eventually he unrolled two lengths of velvet, one white, one black, to form a cross on the floor. Standing at the head of the cross, he addressed the audience: ‘Now I will dance you the war… the war which you will not prevent.’”

*

 

Father, Son & Holy Ferret, I want rest, I want rest, I want rest. From up the zero rectum of this great green void, at last I’ve come out as sane as my mother before she made me. Was it the voice of the Authority still on me like sleek afterbirth that I heard, shaking my head a bit to knock loose the amniotic fluid still trapped within my ears? “Are you willing to be a nobody? Yes?” Yes. “Then you are free. I condemn you.”

 

*

 

So, condemned as such, besmirched like a louse fresh from the crush of a thumb, I was spat out like human realism, cast out. The churches would not have me. The halfway houses would not have me. The myriad jackbag jobs would not have me. And yet, was I not a spy as I was–a devout Christian, homeless, diseased with criminal drugs? To the nearest low wage I took myself and from the incredible hours passing through me made something measly. Under the awning above the grocery loading dock, I stood half in sunlight and submitted myself to a coworker’s lessons on smoking. Hold the cigarette like so. Suck. Hold the smoke, then let it flow out, or blow. Out both nostrils if you are a true animal. And if you are so skilled, out of one only. Best to be elegant with your cancer.

 

*

 

The somebodies, what of them? The somebodies, they say, are deeply weak for their identities, which, of course, we give them. We kill them to be one thing and one thing only. Here one comes walking along, snipping people’s ears off with scissors. In their presence everyone learns to listen. The end of God is a mouth. Blah blah. The end of the mouth is God. Now that sounds more like it. A sweet day for the nobodies, who have had to stand by for so long, moving through the vanishing circuits like so much Zen money. For today, like us, they drag God from his inborn lair, face-down through the streets of his literature.

 

*

 

Because he was one of the first, wasn’t he? For I am full of increase now, moving through the bowels of Authority’s communal ego—I can, and will say it! Celebrities are feces of the disenchanted, the anonymous, blandly downtrodden, lives too dumb to rise. Here is Monica Belluci, here is Beyonce, here is Jack Nicholson and Andy Warhol and, yes, barely last and mostly least, yours only—Nijinksy! Then we are, here we go, on our mobile thrones, carried across wasteland relevance atop a velvet pillow. As our pallbearers crumble, their children step to take up pillow. The burden, as they hate themselves praising us so, is more than they could ever know!

 

*

 

To dance the war, then! A pornography of realism. I lay no preexisting claims on what will happen next. Ballet is life lunging out of death. It says much—that no one now would dare believe it. As I have established, I am of these beings, vibrating among them along the nimble continual string of consciousness. Each time I seize one and become them, I tell them: every day I meet my maker, because I am him. They only believe in their condition, as if it were selected for them, like a body. A body is there to leap out of time, to shame space and gravity, and just as vigilantly, sculpt it! These weaklings, these inborn wraiths, who have never allowed themselves to be brushed so by the unreal greatness of their bodies!

 

*

 

A good hard living look. A good look at them. And there they go, one by one: staring back. What do they think I think they are? They should know, I am full gone obliterated back through the insane navel of my animal. Whilst they sit and stare, reduced, like just that: an audience. Cast out at breakneck speed into helplessness. Though to them it feels like waiting for no one else.

 

*

 

As I am! No one! One with a body, a Nobody! A Nobody flooding space like a ghost! Hold me close, Holy Ghost! Drowning in the now, new as a death-throe, as full tight with birth as roe.

 

*

 

Look up, and there you are. A leap suspends us—you, me, every one of me as you—above and below, unknown!

 

*

 

The meaning of life is power. The meaning of life is self-interest in flower. Those who can’t climb it, hallucinate it. Ranting, doctors would later say, is the sympathetic magic of madness. Imagine how dangerous I would be if I were useful! High on the view from up here, where I leapt with a lonely body, and then, from that simple height, one by one, dropped them.

 

*

Nijinsky’s Head was born on Apr. 8th 1950 in London, England. It has been rolling towards you ever since, and will continue to do so long after you’re gone.

 

Kyle Coma-Thompson is the author of short story collections The Lucky Body (Dock Street Press, 2014) and Night in the Sun (Dock Street Press, 2016). The title story for this book was included by Ben Marcus in the anthology New American Stories (Vintage, 2015)

 

WANT TO KEEP READING?

Find the full text of ‘Mutiny in Heaven’ in The Meekling Review: