A New Way to Love
- By Sean Felix
- November 1, 2021
Searching for myself on the streets of Paris.
The DMV isn’t normally seen as a place full of truth and honesty, but it’s those ideals that writers here, whether they be poets, fiction, or nonfiction writers, are trying to find. And the beauty of living and writing in this nexus of local, national, and international life is that we can draw on incredibly diverse perspectives to see ourselves fully.
As a Black artist, this vision is of paramount importance to me. Interacting with spaces and philosophies that aren’t part of the constructed narrative around Black bodies and minds, I find new ways to see myself and other ways to experience love.
Toward the end of Jean Luc Godard’s “Vivre Sa Vie,” Nana, the protagonist, has a conversation with an older man she meets in a café. It is one of the few moments of peace she has with a man in the film. Initially, they talk about the nature of words and speech, both of which Nana has discovered are often used to deceive. Despondently, she says, “The more one talks, the less words mean,” to which the man relates that it would be possible not to have to use words if perhaps “we loved one another more.”
They parley back and forth about the nature of thought, silence, and speech until the conversation turns toward love and the truth of love. The man tells her that the love of youth is different from “true” love, because youthful love hinges on experiences. He concludes that “to be completely at one with what you love takes maturity. That means searching. That’s the truth of life. That’s why love is a solution, but on the condition that it be true.”
In many ways, I follow Nana’s train of thought about the nature and fallibility of words to express our truest selves. But when I reflect on my place in society, the process of writing my book, Did You Even Know I Was Here?, France, and the nature of love, the old man’s understanding of finding truth through searching and becoming more mature sings out gloriously from Godard’s black-and-white café.
From there, I think of James Baldwin leaving the U.S. for France because America was killing him. To find the man that he eventually became, he needed to travel to seek his truth and the love that could only come from knowing himself. Reflecting on the streets of Paris in 2019, my ears searched for the music that Baldwin once heard from across the sea.
I walked that city and tried to connect with DC, a place that I loved, from afar. I longed to understand and see myself in Paris’ reflection. The beauty of the trip, which I grasped in my book, came from the fact that my tongue was broken. I got as close to Nana and the old man’s ideal of love without language. Immersing myself in the place, I fell in love with the contradictions and conflict of empire and the republic, revolution, and colonization; with being a Black American versus being a Black French/African — simultaneously conspicuous yet invisible.
As an artist in DC, I am surrounded by many of these same contradictions in a city that never truly belonged to anyone except the people on the Hill. From this space, I continue to search for truth and document that search in my artistic pursuits. In this world where we need to see each other face to face so that we can learn to love again, I ask: Did you even know I was here? Will you remember me when I’m gone?
[Editor’s note: This piece is in support of the Inner Loop’s “Author’s Corner,” a monthly campaign that spotlights a DC-area writer and their recently published work from a small to medium-sized publisher. The Inner Loop connects talented local authors to lit lovers in the community through live readings, author interviews, featured book sales at Potter's House, and through Eat.Drink.Read., a collaboration with restaurant partners Pie Shop, Shaw’s Tavern, and Reveler’s Hour to promote the author through special events and menu and takeout inserts.]
Sean Felix (he/his/him) is a poet from Washington, DC. He’s written for most of his life and been involved in poetry communities off and on for the past 25 years. His first book, Did You Even Know I Was Here?, was released last year, and he’s read with the Inner Loop and Poetry on the Pike literary reading series. He has published poems in Bloodroot Lit Journal and Sunday Mornings at the River Anthology One, 2020, where he was also a digital editor. He is soon to be published in Beyond the Veil’s Mental Health Poetry Anthology and the Haiku Society of America’s Mentorship Student Anthology. You can listen to his podcast recording for the Inner Loop Radio, Taking Back Time, on Soundcloud or iTunes. You can reach him and learn more about his writing and art at his website and on Instagram at @thedawnwriter.