I‘m in the kitchen at the restaurant I work in, a clocked-in body leaning coccyx against metal counter. Trino is chopping tomatoes.
“Trino,” I say, “como se dice ‘entrañas’? In English, I mean.”
“Entrañas?” says Trino, short for Trinidad, buzzcut. He lays the knife on the counter, considers, “Entrañas. I don’t know, güey.”
“It’s all good,” I say. We’re not communicating well, which happens to bodies when there are a couple languages,
kitchen counters, and two different brains separating them. I look at the open Chrome browser in the phone in my hand, at the Spanish-English translation. Entrañas. Bowels. I put my hand on my stomach.
“Entrañas,” says Trino, sticking the knife in a tomato and letting the juice run over the ridge of his hand onto the cutting board top. “Skirt steak.”
I rest two fingers on my lips.
There’s not much separating bowels and skirt steak, really; it’s all meat, variously consuming or being consumed. An act of translation invokes a movement of meaning between two fixed points; we engage two words in two languages and say they mean the same thing. But that slipperiness of meaning (of what it means to mean, maybe) makes the trick of translating things an exercise in happy futility: how do we know we got it right? And what about the in-between thing, the it being translated? Frost said it was poetry. Here now, it’s Arca’s Entrañas.
It was dropped on us as a body without borders, parts hard to parse: tracklists promise resolution, so where does this thing end, and where does the next begin? We hoped to identify it, translate Arca like Beckett, like The Unnamable (“Where now? Who now? When now?”) and turn it into meaning (“Questions, hypotheses, call them that. Keep going, going on, call that going, call that on.”) We call it translating, identifying, understanding, but Maggie Nelson, like Beckett, like Arca, shakes her head, laments our translation apps. “The presumptuousness of it all,” she writes in The Argonauts: “On the one hand, the Aristotelian, perhaps evolutionary need to put everything into categories — predator, twilight, edible — on the other, the need to pay homage to the transitive, the flight, the great soup of being in which we actually live.”
Entrañas is the transitive text, the great soup of being. It is long-form self-investigation/-celebration, the body looking into its self, sensing a tension, getting a thrill. Entrañas is the self swallowing: can we find us in our guts? “Perdida” and “Torero” are cloister and throb, the self coursing in its veins, a flesh becoming-inward; “Culebra” is flange assertion of a new space in which to see inside-out, flesh becoming-self. On Mutant, Arca looked upward, to escape and to disembodiment, but in the mixtape space of Entrañas (no barriers; songs bleed; inward motion, not forward), it’s a re-engagement with what we mean when we mean us.
It’s ugly, because translation isn’t clean: a self can’t be translated perfectly (“Vicar” is the tension, stomp and stop, whips or wonder? A shout or a belch? Ecstasy or pain?). Entrañas is guts and bowels and entrails (and meat), and Entrañas is image digestion, self-processing. If you find an alien inside you, but the alien feels right, the alien is you.
“Baby Doll,” an alien voice: “Girls can wear jeans/ Cut their hair short/ Wear shirts and boots/ Because it’s okay to be a boy.“Art, like gender, doesn’t have to exist in a single fixed space: we can be at odds with our guts (“But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading/ Because you think that being a girl is degrading/ But secretly you’d love to know what it’s like/ Wouldn’t you?”) Arca’s art is fluidity, bodies chewing through boundaries and sounds, and the ventricles around Entrañas are personal. We can live as a becoming-text, between binaries and album releases and formats and identities. We don’t have to be on our way to a fixed point (Nelson: “How to explain, in a culture frantic for resolution, that sometimes the shit stays messy.”) But fixed points intrude, pressurize the safe space in our stomachs, implant their rigidity. “
The shit stays messy.
The sound and squirt of tomato innards pile up between the hands and the knife spilling them.
My hand is still on my stomach. My fingers are still on my lips.
“Trino,” I say. “Do you mind?”
“I don’t know, güey,” says Trino.
I open my mouth, let my fingers inch in, see how much of me I can get in that dark between-space that leads down into inside me. I imagine the knife in my stomach and then panic, a wash of shock, a heaving realization: I spill my guts.
“Clocked” is the first assault, not on the flesh but on the becoming-self, a rapid-fire othering of what it means to mean (“I notice you, I expose you: you don’t get to be who you are.”) “Clocked” dismisses humanity, shoves us and our insides into one fixed point or another until the bones are broken in the slurry grinding of “Pargo.” Entrañas establishes our innards as a safe space for the becoming-self, a club where every sound is welcome: the promise of “Turnt.” But the clanging and the grinding trap us, behind locked doors, in the stampede of fixed points. Entrañas is the transitive text, and Entrañas is the post-Pulse text. “Ghirasol” is trauma, the safe club-space invaded by violent fixers. A voice laments but the foreground is all fists pounding walls and doors, frantic screaming: we choose our selves, we don’t choose our world; Entrañas imagines safe space and confronts trauma, a double mirror in the operating room, the thing that makes us vomit until we’re clean or worse.
“Where now? Who now? When now?” We’re left trying to straighten out the mess of the world, the tragedy of entrails outside their bodies. The unnameable is the celebrated self, always becoming, always becoming more; the unnameable is the threat of unwavering fixedness that kills; the unnameable is the feeling we get from “Sin Rumbo,” the last words Arca has on the subject for now. Translation is messy, slippery. Translation saps the transitive of poetry, but: Sin Rumbo. Aimlessly. Like wandering or dying in the violated Pulse. Like the rapid-fire discounting of selves that a gun and a threat can be. Like the awful devastation on Alejandro Ghersi’s face, the space for glitter and bruises and the fluidity with which a body can move between them.
Entrañas is the unnameable us, the fireworks and the semi-automatics. It seeks uncovering (“You must go on”) and discovers trauma (“I can’t go on”). It is elegy and bruise, sound and echo. It screams in the face of silence.
“I’ll go on.”