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Hide the Honey:
An ancestral dialogue on the use/lessness of tinder, soil, and styl

Lisa Jarrett

[Published by Portland Art Museum in Triple Candie's "Of What Use: Considering the Alternative" catalog, 2021. ISBN 9781883124458] 




Hide the Honey... is an unlikely iteration of my 100 Questions Workshop, an ongoing project wherein participants collectively generate a list of 100 questions around a prompt. For Hide the Honey, I instead generated a list of questions (presented as a transcript) of an imaginary dialogue between me and my deceased grandmothers, and great grandmothers–Opal, Ophelia, Martha, and Ella–while they did my hair on a Sunday afternoon. In reality, I only knew one of these women and they did not all know each other. What would we talk about? What could this teach me about collective processes of becoming? Now I wonder about the use/lessness of this attempt and the sorrow, anticipation, and joy that it brought me. 


As an artist who is invested in world-building across generations I am necessarily curious about the way/s Black people embody past, present, and future in our work; and how we represent (via the forms we make or choose) to do that work. When the sheer volume of content becomes overwhelming, I have been using the list as an aesthetic frame. Can a litany, as an organizing principle, be a container for intergenerational dialogue? Can it hold the unstable shapes and musicality of familial conversations without the expected signifiers? In the absence of those signifiers, can an ordered list convey the limitations that artistic and literary conventions perpetuate about our lived experiences? Is it legible? Is it vernacular enough? Sometimes. Maybe.


It seems to me that a list, like a query, is concerned with unfinished business. It offers us, with all of our uncertainties, some assurance that we are always in process and precisely on time. 


Lisa Jarrett (In conversation with Opal, Ophelia, Martha, and Ella)

Hide the Honey: An ancestral dialogue on the use/lessness of tinder, soil, and style


Dimensions variable



  1. What were you wearing the day you realized your beauty was useless?

  2. What will you do when you find your archives destroyed?

  3. What about the sun and the sea?

  4. Do you study the studies?

  5. Why bother?

  6. How will you keep your softness?

  7. How do you give a relationship a name?

  8. “I say, where is your fire?” (Sonia Sanchez)

  9. Were you dressed to fit the description?

  10. But wasn’t it pretty on the model?

  11. Well, isn’t it new to you?

  12. Are you wearing shoes you can run in?

  13. (Momma, will I make it?)

  14. Was curiosity indicted after all that cat killing business?

  15. How long can you make do?

  16. Are you still tenderheaded?

  17. How did you fix the heartache problem?

  18. Can you witness black death without hollering?

  19. Did we grow up on the same advice?

  20. What is the structure of doubt?

  21. “What’s your price?” (August Wilson)

  22. When will snow peas taste like snow?

  23. “Do you organize down here from where the kids are sitting?” (Kent Ford)

  24. Does your work have a public act of consequence?

  25. How much time do you need?

  26. Is it too late?

  27. What’s your problem, anyway?

  28. Which parts of your humanity are worth saving?

  29. Was that helpful?

  30. Why would you want to stay inside a question?

  31. Isn’t limbo glorious?

  32. What kind of advice is that?

  33. Haven’t you ever felt ecstatic joy and shark-toothed rage?

  34. Do you still believe in sexual healing?

  35. Did you make a megascope yet?

  36. Are you tracking the cycles?

  37. Will you taste it?

  38. When did you learn how to stop (dreaming of teeth)?

  39. Is survival the thing at stake here?

  40. Do you like the way she works it?

  41. Don’t you feel better in the dark?

  42. If I tell you everything, will you leave me alone?

  43. Don’t you wonder what it’s like to be able to forget?

  44. Are you always watching?

  45. Is there a way out of this?

  46. Did you pawn your tenderness for tinder?

  47. How many times are you going to read that?

  48. Why won’t you look at me?

  49. Remember how the nodding used to upset you?

  50. Why don’t you hold my hand?

  51. Are there apple trees growing in there yet?

  52. Isn’t it a pity?

  53. What did you plant in your field (of study)?

  54. Did you swallow the seeds again?

  55. Do you remember how those stories changed you?

  56. What if you were the spy that saved the Union?

  57. Is repetition like oxygen?

  58. Do you recall what it smelled like down there?

  59. “Now do you know where you are?” (C.D. Wright)

  60. Do you remember her eyes before she got religion?

  61. What about the mouthfeel of all your lovers?

  62. Doesn’t watching your tone feel like summer?

  63. Are you certain?

  64. Didn’t you believe you would turn into a tree though?

  65. Why is it so hard to make work about her?

  66. What is your organizing principle? 

  67. Who can read your mind?

  68. Do you think all that dirt-eating made her crazy after all?

  69. What do you want to talk about now?

  70. Remember that time in the elevator; after she forgot his name?

  71. How long did she stay inside?

  72. With all of this in mind, what matters now?

  73. “What part of the wall should the hole go in?” (July Cole)

  74. Is art still on your mind?

  75. Isn’t this what you predicted? 

  76. Why are you talking around the issues?

  77. You’ve been keeping score?

  78. What happened to all that radical acceptance?

  79. Don’t actions speak louder?

  80. Can projects act on your behalf?

  81. Are communities engaged by definition?

  82. Can you save face?

  83. What’s happening to you?

  84. Don’t you see it too?

  85. Are your grievances justified?

  86. “What have you done for me lately?” (Janet Jackson)

  87. How many ways can I say that devastation is not a material witness?

  88. You want a certification in Uncertainty?

  89. Is there a degree for staging uncertainties?

  90. Do you remember what Lorde taught us?

  91. Is this rhetoric a clever refusal or an academic exercise as praxis?

  92. How will I find you when the institutions collapse, after they cut out my tongue?

  93. Did you plant the grains and seeds I wove into your hair, child?

  94. Yes, but where did you hide the honey?

  95. Did they transfuse your blood-memory or what?

  96. Girl, when was the last time you combed this?

  97. Do you have a knife on you?

  98. Aren’t reparations about choice?

  99. Do you smell burnt sugar down here too?

  100. Is this a usable past?

  101. Do you believe that they owned what they sold?

  102. Baby, why don’t you come over here and give me some sugar?

  103. You think she knows how we shaped her braids as a map home?

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