Scattered notes on love, counterpublics, queer time, the care industry & Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You"

From Dr. Herukhuti’s Ocean’s of Love Letter: Is one black man loving another man the revolutionary act of the 21st Century?:

In choosing to communicate through the simile, “I feel like a free man,” rather than saying he was a free man, Ocean provided us with a painful truth for black men in, what Ibrahim Farajajé (formerly Elias Farajajé-Jones) in his essay Holy Fuck called, a “dominating culture [that] expends incredible amounts of time, money, and energy controlling and policing our bodies and the ways we decide to use them.” By not definitively claiming and owning freedom in the journal entry, Ocean acknowledged the task at hand for him and other black queer men, as Farajaje described, “the physical/spiritual/psychological process of making our bodies and our desire our own.” It is a process—rather than a destination to which we arrive and reside—that will not allow for easy definitions of who we are or interpretations of our artistic or life choices.

Supporters and detractors of Ocean have made the themes of his album and his Tumblr post mean much more than Ocean himself may have intended. In 2012, some folks find it more provocative that a black man has loved another man than if he had done violence against one. Joseph Beam once wrote, “black men loving black men is the revolutionary act of the eighties.” Honoring our capacity to love other men and women in a society that makes it more easy to use and abuse others is the work of making our bodies and desires our own. Ocean clearly seeks to put the work into that project, at least for the time being. But one young, gifted black man does not a revolution make, particularly if he is still understanding his relationship to that revolution. Revolutions require many committed others working “in sober uncompromising moments, to reflect on the comedy of concern we all enact when it comes to our precious images!” Where’s your love letter? How much truth does it tell?

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Stories For Women

if you think you read this previously on a personal blog which no longer exists, i have two words for you: prove it.

My wife says I should listen to her more often. Perhaps.

Then again, Frank Ocean’s Nostalgia, Ultra grows on me. It’s still “okay” in the “it’s not wack” sense, but I’m not ready to jump on the bandwagon. That said, I see the appeal–infectious beats coupled with “young-man” lyrics.

Often, I thought as I listened, “Grow up,” but that’s my problem, not Frank Ocean’s, I’m sure.

Favorite joints so far: “novacane,” “songs for women,” and “lovecrimes.”

In “songs for women,” Ocean muses about singing and writing songs to get with women. I can’t sing, but I figured–once upon a time–that literature would do. Yeah, I just assumed women would drop panties at the sight of a postmodern parable on love and loss…written in prosaic form, no less.

Which begs the question: are there literary groupies? If I go on a book tour, would I have to deal with freaky, busty librarians who want their “cover pages” autographed?

Now, I’ve heard about some of the debauchery at such events as AWP, so–I mean–is it a stretch?

Baby, I’m the new Proust…just roll with me. No?


In my early writing days, I kept my passion a secret. I’d bring my high school girlfriends home–it helped to have a workaholic father–and we’d converse, laugh and giggle, make out and take it there.

But I was no fool–when her bra dropped, that was not the time to compare the styles of Langston Hughes and Nikki Giovanni. And let’s be real, I was a young lad with a wavy haircut and navy-hued Jordans unlaced; though fat, I had dimples and orthodontically-correct teeth, so I didn’t need to write poetry or stories for women.

Besides, what could I say?

“Yeah girl, I was in the lab–in the studio–working on these stanzas, trying to lay down these paragraphs for the novel.”

Music translates to literature, sure–but it’s not a clean connection.



And every time somebody ask me if I write stories to get at women, I say “yeah,” they say “no fair no fair, that’s cheating,” I say “shit, oh well, oh well.”


But okay, I wrote poetry for my high school sweetheart to lose my virginity. Yeah, I loved her–yeah, it all came from the heart–but she swooned and swayed and covered her lips [licked] like, “It’s like that?”

So I understood the power. By the time I dropped out of college, I used it haphazardly. It got me in trouble. “Trouble” is defined as serial cheating [emotional, for the most part] and serial getting-caught. Seriously breaking hearts–serial killer of sorts.

I thought it was cute in the “I’m an artist and I got appetites” sense, but I grew up. The cute shit just left behind a trail of embittered women and left me lonely; my nonsense precluded any opportunity for future friendships with them, so


Now every time somebody ask me if I write stories to get my women, I say “nah,” they say “okay I don’t believe it,” I say “no, I swear I never do it.”


Dudes like Frank Ocean remind me of my age. I’m still young, but not quite–time slips–and it’s a new paradigm to navigate. It shouldn’t scare me to get old, to become irrelevant, to be the elderly man holding up a gaggle of teenagers rushing to walk up the block–but it does. It frightens me more than death, but that’s regret talking. Wishing I was a little bolder during my younger youth, a little more confident, a little–dare I say–swag in my repertoire. Maybe–just maybe–I would’ve worn my hat tilted and donned my eyeglasses more often, shared my love of Miles Davis with girls, escorted them to my bedroom and before legs splayed, I could’ve opened my notebook to show them the power of literature, of expression, of creation–

I mean, we ended up creating a baby accidentally, but that’s not what I mean.

The could’ve, would’ve, should’ve–each in plural form–mount up like the years.

mensah demary, whose prose has appeared or is forthcoming in various publications, is co-founder & editor-in-chief of Specter Literary Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @mensahdemary or trolling his own author site at