When you enter here there is the feel of ice between your teeth. There are three-piece suits floating down the river asking to be fished out and distributed among the town. There is safety in the corners of rooms you can enter via four individual doors or a hole in the floor. The world of Giada Scodellaro’s Some of Them Will Carry Me offers up everything tantalizing about a dream. A debut collection I cannot more highly recommend, the book consists of many sensually surreal micro fictions, most lasting only one or two pages, the longest coming in at just fifteen.
Exploring the intimate spaces of Black womanhood, each story opens with a declaration and the type of concision and strength that’s needed to vividly pull you into a world built of only 200 words. “And it’s not what you believe it to be,” she asserts at the opening of “Adult Head,” before launching into an extended list of what it is, which consists of ever more specific colors, a forest, and a mountain in those same blues and greens and reds. The title image hovers in your periphery so close you can feel it if not see it clearly.
The way each woman moves and exists in the world is described with careful precision. Scodellaro forefronts the small things: “This woman drank gallons of water the way her skin was. A swan. On her head a hive. When she laughed her head bent back.” As a reader you are given a loving positionality, the way you would notice and appreciate small aspects of a best friend or lover. Of her character in “Barbershop” Scodellaro writes:
And her eyes go everywhere, her eyes traveled, they caught the whole room, and she made eye contact with the person across from her, with the waitress and with the manager. She ate cherries and grapes two at a time, spitting the seeds into an ashtray. When she ate she let the toothpick fall to the table. On her tongue there was a tongue ring and a cherry pit. The seed. Gold hoop earrings.
From the first page, a skilled poetic prose reveals Scodellaro’s ability to draw a full picture from very few words. This is emphasized by a focus on poetic list-making, dizzying trains of thought, and sudden shifts, such as footnotes from the perspective of a yellow kitchen wall. It laments the way its thin curtains did nothing to conceal, insulate, or keep the light out, and “moved like the hands of anxious children.”
Synesthesic atmospheres leave the reader awash in colors, sounds, and the feel of language. In “Wet Sand Used As An Abrasive Element,” an unexplained rumor is making its way through history, starting with three friends sitting on a beach, extending to their “children’s children’s children” and to the very landscape itself: “When we arrived and opened the car door the grass moved, and when we slammed the car door the grass moved so even the grass seemed to know the rumor.” The friends explain how the rumor traveled:
The front door creaked; the steps creaked. We ran a bath. The water was loud as it rushed out; it knew. The artificial sand was everywhere, under our toenails and on the wooden steps, inside the mahogany china cabinet, in our eyebrows, on the purple painting, and on the banister, on the knowing banister.
The stories could be more accurately described as dreamscapes, meticulously crafted; they throw you straight into a world you don’t quite understand but immediately accept. In “Spalding,” a woman’s partner leaves without warning. She gathers “all the items he had forgotten—the basketball, the cocoa butter, the cans of chicken soup, the cans of corn, the canned peas, the floral table cloth, the rusted bicycle.” She puts all of these things into their bed under the sheets on his side and lays with them. Later, when a knock at the door introduces another character only referred to as “the small woman” she notices the Spalding brand basketball is gone. She touches the woman’s belly. Her “index finger landed first, and she felt the S the P the A the L the D the ING humming underneath.”
In “Freedom of White Boys in the Sand,” white men are going extinct and everyone knows it. “There were no white boys splashing, there were no white boys left,” Scodellaro writes. “There are only the white men, who are beginning to get sick and would soon die—everyone knew.” Like any dream, there is an acceptance of a logic without the burden of explanation. The white men wear three-piece suits that wash ashore on the river one day. They gather in a field and stare at the sky, oblivious to the crowd gathered to stare at them. The stories are not directly connected in a linear sense and time moves quickly. Several stories later, in another landscape altogether, white men have been extinct since the narrator’s grandparent’s time. The grown grandchildren do not want to wear the three-piece suits or anything with buttons for that matter, though that’s not the focus of this particular story—that would be seven roommates sharing one bed. The loose association hits you with the soft force of dream logic: yes I do remember them going extinct a while ago, yes I remember the washing ashore of the suits, and yes this is the logical conclusion. The narrative, scattered throughout the book, is connected by your own immersion within the many worlds.
There is a trust in the reader to be able to draw their own conclusions from the work, something rare and refreshing. The book also has a certain breathlessness, a sense of urgency. Most if not all of the stories end abruptly, making it at times difficult to decide whether it is better to sit with the world you have just been drawn into and rapidly expelled from, or to dive head first into the next world nestled so closely nearby. With no blank pages between stories, a pause is available for the reader only within this moment of decision.
The stories have an erotic tinge and a tendency towards non-conclusion. Throughout runs the tension of a dream touch you want badly, that writhes through your body, but that fades abruptly as you walk into a neighboring story. The power dynamics are not clearly defined as antagonists and antagonized, but unfold with their narrators’ thoughtful and unique consciousnesses. In “YYYY” a man and a woman share a single large room. After much bickering, they decide to diplomatically split the room into their own spaces, the man taking the center of the room and the woman taking the corners. But don’t worry, Scodellaro assures you: “It’s not something to be misunderstood —The corners are where the woman resides. After many weeks of quarreling over the space, they came to this decision together. The woman comes alive in the corners.” She relishes her space even as she is watched from the center of the room. The focus is on what her body feels, what her eyes see. The man senses the importance of her thoughts but he is not privy to them. The stark and obvious sensuality of her unspoken desires is fulfilled. The man wonders what the embrace of the walls would be like, and whether he made the wrong decision in choosing the center. From the man’s perspective, we too can only guess at her thoughts, though we are witness to both her smile and, through the narrator’s words, to her tears.
Scodellaro’s characters have autonomy, know their comforts and desires, and find space and safety in the corners of forgotten places. They grieve on countertops, chewing ice and waiting for the return of a lover who has left for another. They experience queer love easily, with the simplicity inherent in love without explanation. If there is trouble it comes from outside, from the changing movements of the town, or the constant change and renewal of one hundred construction workers all building, all repairing, all day by day leaving new holes.
With Some of Them Will Carry Me, Scodellaro achieves something wondrous, a world where the brown skin of her characters is implicit and ranging, the characters existing in dark brown, navy, light brown, and more. All these tones play and build off each other, building a world that is comforting even in its grief. In “540i,” “Bruna’s hands make her seem older than she is. In fact, Bruna is definitively young. Someone broke up with her because of the look of her dry hands. She places her dry hands on the steering wheel. Bruna refuses to hide them, she refuses to be ashamed.” The worlds of these stories are as safe, trusting, and heartbreaking as their movements and logic are unpredictable. Bruna’s BMW 540i is then suddenly splashed with dirt and oil, a treatment we are told she paid for her car to receive. These are Black characters whose existence in their surreal landscape is as natural as the soft mentions of cocoa butter on thighs. A world immediately recognizable even in its strangeness. A world confident in and of itself. These are the soft and fragrant spaces of the dreams of Black writers and readers alike. The wholeness of the marginalized existence, what it is like inside the body and inside the love when not viewed from the outside.
Some of Them Will Carry Me belongs on the shelves of lovers of the craft and thought of Octavia Butler’s short stories, the language play of Renee Gladman, the off-balance feel of Italo Calvino, and the absurdist worlds of Haruki Murakami. It is for anyone who feels at home in the sound and landscape of the surreal, who yearns to immerse themselves in a vivid dreamscape, who isn’t deterred by the swift movements of a brain alive with its own associative logic.