I met Vidhu Aggarwal on a freezing-cold day in March 2015 in a poorly lit corridor at the University of Montana, where we were participating in a conference on race and creative writing, Thinking Its Presence: The Racial Imaginary. Vidhu and Bishakh Som, her artist-architect collaborator, had just realized that there was a mix-up in the timing of their own presentation and nobody would be able to attend. In the moment, we decided that they would come with me immediately, without any preparation, to be integrated into the panel—aptly on intervention and infiltration—I was about to chair with Eunsong Kim, Ricardo Dominguez, and Gregory Laynor. Vidhu and Bishakh were brilliant. Hilarious. Incredibly smart about what the structural risk and potential of a transdisciplinary or transnational collaboration might be.

As the year passed, I got to know Vidhu’s work through a close reading of her recent collection, The Trouble With Humpadori. It is an extraordinary book, in which notions of radical, non-local embodiment and the “conduit”—thoroughfare, reverse migration, crossings of various kinds, a “moving ravenous”—converge in the abject narration of HUMP, a creature introduced to us through questions of touch, or more precisely, the capacity to receive/resist touch in turn. I read these body-life moments in her work as a mode of proprioception: alliance and kinship are “indented” upon the skin, “my insides, my kindreds.” This is a writing in the tradition of the feminine monstrous, though it is as interested in the contemporary African American tradition as in the construction of diasporic territories, entities, or verse. Is form an entity? Aggarwal’s “Humpiverse” suggests it is also an esophagus lined by red, bursting cells (“HUMP’s pink membranes,” as Aggarawal writes). In the selection presented here, we also have Som’s incredible design and play as a severely brilliant accompaniment to the Humpiverse Aggarwal produces and emits at every turn.  

—Bhanu Kapil

Gold Tail

Moving ravenous      HUMP slicks down the rare mandala underwire

and twists the gold erectile into place—
                                                 HUMP is a place that ruptures and expands all space

                                                 his nerves twitching                              her sprouts of rage

tearing into the gargantuan hoverspace

Gone supernova, HUMP’s mad

skills overkill/collide—
                                            HUMP asks: Don’t you think it’s nice
                                    to be swinging from errant
leafy revolutions looping though space-time anomalies
                           knowing no one
                                                 will ever really-really love you?

                  The gold tail makes everything
                          possible-like: simultaneous pause and leap

                  a skewer of
                                       bloody coils and poings, filaments splintering open

                            the hot warp
                   of HUMP’s core

                                      skanking the precious
                                               monkey luster unevenly across the cosmos.

Sheherazade Loves HUMP

I was in a car crash.

I turned a page, my carriage

                         I had a constant

I must have been
in a daze.

Beautiful Humpina

whispering in my ear: “Let’s make a deal. You will enter
into the harem of a killer sultan. He’s our ace in the hole, old chum.
Every night, you’ll spell

an arcade of rhizomatic stories. Play Parcheesi

with Death.

Be not
afraid, desperado. You will not

undertake the hazard alone. I’ll caddy around

the corpse-girls night after night. I will reach into your dermis
for the storied tumors. Soon he’ll be caught

in the skinmaze

of our sonic nerve chador.”

Avatar of the Virus (from Outer Space)

I hollow out
jelly bodies, I survive
the hiatus
shaped like a torus. Harrow space-time with my spoor
so in the expanding universe,
you are not alone. I rupture/
eras, retrofit
the heir
apparent for seismic
battles. Arouse
the primordial ooze. Hirsute
in the microscope, among my many virtues
I travel
well. I ride the trade winds while meditating in situ.
Like Shiva
on a petri dish— I don’t bother counting the hours,
I frustrate
my many suitors,
entering chupke-chupke without their knowledge. You can read my vita
in your antibodies, in your err-
or messages, so many variants
barebacking the river—
on the visa
of your liver, urethra, vitreous
in your mysterious fat
stores: the server, the harvest. Your fevers:
bird, abraxas, HIV.
I begin in nothing – rev
up auroras
of desire/psychosis. Install
my megalo-symptoms into your constellations, your cells
mutating with my each arrival. I revive
the outbreak, saturate
calamity with my plural strains,
empty your body into the sacred flames. Svaha.

Avatar of the Flood

                        I need more food
I need another lover,

I need a heat-
seeking radar
for more lovers more lovers    a blue taffeta
kimono, a machine gun, whole rodeos

of cowboys and radical pricks. And ammo more ammo. I need some help.
I’m going to loot
the world bazaar. Crude
oil and fizzing sodas, I’ve got no filter.
My lust is fatal

like the Russian roulette of gods. Shiva shot one hot
seed into the ocean floor,
a fetal
of larvae
and my sizzling waves frothed
in an aarti of lava,

over land and nation, mountain and fjord—a mare on fire.

In the meltmouth of glaciers, the ocean’s raffle,

I revolt—red hot snorts
of pure heat—

I barf up steaming piles of polymer surf in the love hotel
I drool
upon the rood
of time. I fuel though deltas

of offal.
I feel for a loose tooth

in the crown of civilization, and crash through. I see a fool
on a neon raft, a final fool.
I can’t be sure if it’s friend or foe,
or my one and only Mahadev sitting in meditation on the roof

of a mountain, whoever—the last guy left—
I lick his foot
in devotion. I offer
up the loofa
of a boat, my entire body
of knowledge—wave after wave. . . of nausea . . . an upload of a single dove.