Steel Trap/Sad Black Enby Theory - VISUAL

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art &
The George Bernard Shaw Theatre

Steel Trap/Sad Black Enby Theory

Weaving poetry with theory, critic and curator Diana Bamimeke has written a prose poem in response to VISUAL’s Speech Sounds exhibition. The poem directly addresses a number of the artists included in the exhibition (Bridget O’Gorman, Dita Hashi, and Ebun Sopido) as well as Rye, the protagonist of Octavia Butler’s short story Speech Sounds, after which the exhibition was titled.

Steel Trap/Sad Black Enby Theory

Diana Bamimeke

Bridget, the outline of this body makes me think of mine
I’m in front of your posters
I have blood in me that begs to be let out

Bridget, I’m thinking now about a theory
It’s a marriage of Sad Girl Phenomenology,
Sick Woman Theory,
and intimate medical encounters
Cold speculum pry
Silver tinkle, blister pack
I call it Sad Black Enby Theory

(Why have a mind like a steel trap?
What, exactly, am I ensnaring, up there?)

Down on the ground, I circle the wooden promontory
The beams offer me a window outside myself

Dita, I see your water
It kisses the waves
With the same intimacy I draw out from lovers
Your gradient sun is slung low in the sky
Your trees jagged, as if scratched on
And I see your message:
Love and blessings from Black people from the future
Received with care, my fellow identi-nauts

Up on the cratered planet, I follow the star-map
Ebun, I heard my pin-prick song in your chorus
Even as those voices fanned out to an echo
Rolling around the high corners—
I want to believe our frequencies cling to the concrete, still


Rye, come here
Set down your gun
Sit beside me, I’ll explain all about my theory
When I’ve said what I need to
Maybe you’ll tell me a story—
If you like

Sad Black Enby Theory describes a condition made abject by history
(But first, let me say something, Rye
Don’t ever let the guards ask you
If you’ve ever attempted—they ask not out of care
Only to minimise the clean-up)

Now, then,
apply the theory, see abjection’s cage rattle loose
Apply it, break apart that steel trap
GNIB-springs and sertraline-hinges
Family thumbscrews, turned by seized labour
Apply it, and see the wretched cage fall apart


(Rye, I see your pendant
I have my name-symbol, too
A crescent moon
Like the shape and gleam of the one my forebears gazed at)

Through your tale, Rye, I formed some gestures
I made them to describe the dullness behind my eyes
A dullness so paradoxically acute.
First, I draw my palm across my forehead
All the way to crook of elbow and back
Then my teeth, I gnash, and grind,
Heaving against a stoic wall. I push my knuckles into my forehead too,
then begin again the whole sorry sequence

This is the theory as performed for my GP.
If she cannot hear me when I talk,
perhaps she’ll read my gestures
Then finally, know

Diana Bamimeke is an independent curator, art writer and maker from Blanchardstown, West Dublin, interested in curating & producing socially engaged art, with a focus on collective engagements and criticality

Speech Sounds, curated by Iarlaith Ni Fheorais, was at VISUAL Carlow from 9 June – 21 August 2022