Navigating the subtle ways language (con)forms the body, Levitations spans childhood, community, and love to explore how we might break free from the cultural demands of normalcy. Imagined as “a preface for the work to come," Levitations unfolds like a sketchbook of emergent architectures, valuing queer hope in a time of vertically integrated and insidiously embodied imperialist rule.
Published by Timeless, Infinite Light, 2015.
Praise for Levitations:
"To stain the wall the room the city the cry language the bodies blanked out. To leave a trace to refuse to be invisible. 'Because the earth, in its twirl, lacks the energy to continue dying.' To give this energy to the earth to help it die and live differently. 'I will be your smudge' says JH Phrydas in this beautiful invitation to join him in the shapeshifting the stain begins to suggest past 'the revulsion of 10,000 eyes' towards a new type 'of longing, another form to tremble near.' For anyone who has ever felt personal and political shame and where those two meet in the death and bondage on the floor. The rare chance to levitate above it, with it."
-- Melissa Buzzeo
"JH Phrydas is a poet who brutally pins his hopes on the sun and moon to come. If neoliberalism is the enemy of our utopian longings, Levitations refuses to be stuck: “With a hatchet, I could fuck this floor up. I could hack a hole through which to pull him, up into her warmth.” Pushing against its own elegance, this writing moves by the light of incipience as shed only and ever at the limits of the self, demanding a collectivity where the “receiving body itself dissolved.”
-- Lucas de Lima
"Unmoored from fated constellations of gender and state, Levitations moves like an insurgent star across the uncharted skies of a fugitive queer communism. In spare and elegant phrasing—“words wrapped around empty space to contain / a figure”—JH Phrydas enacts an odyssey of transfiguration, using its lines to build new architectures for nonviolent habitation. From discotheque to city street, this book wrests the body away from social cruelty, “truthful to the point of breaking.”
-- Rob Halpern
Excerpt from "Descente" in Levitations
I dreamt I was sitting in my mother’s lung.
A wooden chair.
I wanted to see if the wild still existed.
I wanted to know what it felt like to look from above, an overhead shot of how we used to lie close when a child. The bed became a triangle the way we pulled the sheets: ridges of cream, saffron, and red.
Our legs were like sundials.
Imagine a wine-colored Persian rug ripped along its edge, surrounded by walls. Dormers lit by fluorescent bulbs: hidden behind the frame.
A room on a TV set, shot from above. Two figures on a bed. We liked it here, away from outside.
The smell of pine sap.
Look at the stillness in a family who naps. A fort of body parts, water glasses, books: splayed on the cloth. Sleeping mouths and the removal of institutional hustle. Academic push-around. Educational torment.
This small body: blanked out.
In her lung, a row of chairs. This was not a funeral, although it resembled one. Set up furniture pre-event. An empty room in wait, but:
My mother’s lung is not a room.
Not a room, there was room to move, no lights obstructing, no spotlights to evade.
A form in the back.
I wanted to stay here.
I wanted to keep this darkness, she limiting outside. She limiting bright bulbs. She couching against daily acts and roaming hoards. Small people fed anxiety. Contours amplified by their height. Looked at from above, hurled words dotted lines across the room.
Impossible to survive here, the space of perforation.
To go out and out.
Pacing the walls, I could catch her perfume, a scent like a daze: alone, open windows, shaded by twisted dogwood and oak.
The swamp not far off.
The swamp is a street made of hot asphalt.
This is the South,
where the ground flexes saturated with blood.
A muscle pressed between moist air and granite:
decomposing muscle molded from clay.
A feeling of imbalance and slight nausea when you remember.
The roads mark it.
The roads we bicycle later in cutoffs, a dying sun in our pumping legs and wet bangs that sting our eyes as they enter us in turn.
Veins failing to connect,
we cry out:
Descend and make us lines!
Ordain us art,
pinks and teal globs.
I’ll be your smudge,
Your bit of paint!
Rub us into texture that still holds
the whorls of your fingertips:
We fall over.
We shit and eat.
And find ancestry along other routes
while the silent figures nap,
as, in the basement,
we dip into—
water mixing, loose stone,
a moist language.
Language that transversely beckons
along the sidewalk
across the way:
skin glinting want.
-- 2014 (Nederland, CO)