Pet

I wake and want to be different
from my self. I split the word
in two to show the goshdarn seriousness
of my intent. I do this for a someone
watching me (inside) who probably isn’t me,
but who ‘s always there anyway.
I mean the one who walks the other one
like a pet on a retractable leash.
These walks with our little wild friend
can be stressful. They can walk us,
and it’s embarrassing when others see.
Other times?  I’m not so sure.
We might enjoy the fun of having
a wolf take us for a ride.

The Bed

I saw you die into my life
like a bird sucked into a wind tunnel

you try not to laugh
when it is a cartoon death

maybe they all are
ours too

So you would rise every day
as if from a grave with candles around your body

a map of the otherworld
that is all your body was anymore

our bedroom I called Haiti
I would blow out the candles, muss your hair

But one day I covered the bed in bread
slices of white bread

they touched shoulder to shoulder
and we lay down on them

and came into each other’s arms
I needed you to feel it

the springiness of bread

what it is to be alive

Marguerite Duras on Writing

Marguerite Duras has been one of my favorite writers since almost my childhood.

No other writer of prose quite does for me what her strange, preternatural tone of address does for me. The address is to her reader, a very direct form of address, quite often, but also an address to the world as subject matter. As subject matter remade in the act of writing, which is mostly the acts of looking and listening. It is a tone of intimacy but, somehow, an earned one. This stranger is no stranger. Already, she is under your skin.

I find her voice hypnotic and addictive, a drug.

I only recently found this later book, titled simply Writing, brought out by Lumen Editions (Cambridge, MA) in 1998.

This book includes five works, each of them unclassifiable in terms of genre or form. The safest thing would be to call them “essays,” but if they are indeed that, they are certainly mutations of the form.

But then Duras is generally conceded to have created a new genre with The Lover. It fell somewhere between the memoir and the novel, a strange amalgamation whose loosely-basted, deconstructed vignettes could probably only have been written by a creator versed in dramaturgy (as Duras was).

The works, in order, included in this little book are “Writing,” “The Death of the Young British Pilot,” “Roma,” “The Pure Number,” and “The Painting Exhibition.”

I wanted to share some of my favorite passages from the first essay, “Writing,” because I find her so astute in this nearly hallucinatory piece. She puts her finger on so much of what makes writing not merely an avocation but a qualitatively different life.

Maybe you will find something here that resonates with your process or acts as a sort of confirmation to continue in exactly what you are doing.

(These are excerpted in the order in which they appear in the essay, the paragraphs, but are presented discontinuously.)

“The solitude of writing is a solitude without which writing could not be produced, or would crumble, drained bloodless by the search for something else to write. When it loses its blood, its author stops recognizing it. And first and foremost, it must never be dictated to a secretary, however capable he may be, nor ever given to a publisher to read at that stage.”

“The person who writes books must always be enveloped by a separation from others. That is one kind of solitude. It is the solitude of the author, of writing. To begin with, one must ask oneself what the silence surrounding oneself is–with practically every step one takes in a house, at every moment of the day, in every kind of light, whether light from outside or from lamps lit in daytime. This real, corporeal solitude becomes the inviolable silence of writing. I’ve never spoken about this to anyone.  By the time of my first solitude, I had already discovered that what I had to do was write. I’d already gotten confirmation of this from Raymond Queneau. The only judgment Raymond Queneau ever pronounced was this sentence: “Don’t do anything but write.”

 

“One does not find solitude, one creates it. Solitude is created alone. I have created it. Because I decided that here was where I would be alone, that I would be alone to write books. It happened this way. I was alone in this house. I shut myself in–of course, I was afraid. And then I began to love it. This house became the house of writing. My books come from this house. From this light as well, and from the garden. From the light reflecting off the pond. It has taken me twenty years to write what I just said.”

 

“In life there comes a moment, and I believe that it’s unavoidable, that one cannot escape it, when everything is put in doubt: marriage, friends, especially friends of the couple. Not children. Children are never put in doubt. And this doubt grows around one. This doubt is alone, it is the doubt of solitude. It is born of solitude. We can already speak the word. I believe that most people couldn’t stand what I’m saying here, that they’d run away from it. This might be the reason why not everyone is a writer. Yes. That’s the difference. That is the truth. No other. Doubt equals writing. So it also equals the writer. And for the writer, everyone writes. We’ve always known this.”

 

“When I was writing in the house, everything wrote. Writing was everywhere. And sometimes when I saw friends, I hardly recognized them. Several years were spent like that, difficult ones for me, yes, this might have lasted for ten years. And even when close friends came to see me, that, too, was horrible. My friends knew nothing about me: they meant well and they came out of kindness, believing they would do me good. And strangest of all is that I thought nothing of it.”

 

“A writer is an odd thing. He’s a contradiction and he makes no sense. Writing also means not speaking. Keeping silent. Screaming without sound. A writer is often quite restful; she listens a lot. She doesn’t speak much because it’s impossible to speak to someone about a book one has written, and especially about a book one is writing. It’s impossible. It’s the opposite of cinema, the theater and other performances. it’s the opposite of all kinds of reading. It’s the hardest of all. It’s the worst. Because a book is the unknown, it’s the night, it’s closed off, and that’s that. It’s the book that advances, grows, advances in directions one thought one had explored; that advances towards its own fate and the fate of its author, who is annihilated by its publication: her separation from it, the dream book, like the last-born child, always the best loved.”

 

“I wrote every morning. But without any kind of schedule. Never. Except for cooking. I knew exactly when to come to make something boil or keep something from burning. And for my books I knew it, too. I swear it. I swear all of it I have never lied in a book. Nor even in my life. Except to men. Never. And this is because my mother had terrified me with the lie that killed children who lied.”

 

“I don’t know what a book is. No one knows. But we know when there is one. And when there’s nothing, one knows it the way one know one is not yet dead.”

 

“Personally, I’m like everyone else. i don’t believe anyone ever turned around to look at me in the street. I am banality itself. The triumph of banality. Like the old woman in my book Le Camion [The Truck].”

 

“One is never alone. One is never physically alone. Anywhere. One is always somewhere. One hears noises in the kitchen, noises from the television, or the radio, or the neighboring apartments, throughout the building. Especially when one has never demanded silence, as I always have.”

 

“The death of a fly is still death. It’s death marching toward a certain end of the world, which widens the field of the final sleep. When you see a dog die, or a horse die, you say something, like poor thing…But when a fly dies, nothing is said, no one records it, nothing.”

 

“I’m going to speak of nothing.

Of nothing.”

 

“Often with the end of work comes the memory of the greatest injustice of all. I’m talking about the ordinariness of life. Not in the morning, only in the evening does this come, even into the houses, to us. And if one isn’t that way, then one isn’t anything at all.  One is nothing. And always, in every case, in every village, this is known.”

 

“Deliverance comes when night begins to settle in. When work stops outside. What remains is the luxury we all share, the ability to write about it at night. We can write at any hour of the day. We are not sanctioned by orders, schedules, bosses, weapons, fines, insults, cops, bosses and bosses. Nor by the brooding hens of tomorrow’s fascisms.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joggers in Cemeteries

Sometimes, on the final memorial
The stone so white it glows at night
We find a pair of praying hands
Closed like lobster claws
Against the world, a game of peekaboo
A game of fox and grapes
You want to put your real hands
Over the rainsmooth ones

You rarely see chiseled hands doing anything
Other than this       they have made peace
Or a pretend peace     for the lightning above
Lightning angrier even than ours

Partial we are to the hands threading a needle
Or trying on a golden ring as the last form
Doves might be alighting on them
In an ancient form of television program
Or they may be getting the turn-down service from heaven
It may be two doves descending carrying a green wreath of air
If it is a tiny creation        it may be a lamb
Then there are not even hands
No faces         not even knowing Janus
Just the representation of a beast we often eat

Emblem of innocence      a thing hands cannot even hold

But

But I wanted love to be a quickening like sugar, she said, as we entered the dark park. We entered the dark slope of the park in autumn. We had all breath sucked out of us going downhill. It was entering a Brueghel painting. Or worse.

Dark park slope, read us.

The trees reached for us. They were in their own motives. Trees bare of leaves, no longer possessed of the business of themselves. Or so it seemed. They had to do what, just dream all winter long? Just keep the sap moving, I guess. How not to think of neon, loneliness used to outline bars. Leftover humans. It makes me think of leftover humans with rug burns. Talking about them forever.

All our muses were stray dogs.

On ledges.

The serrated park was separated from the prison on the hill by a creek where the Canada geese had their menages in summer. They had their menages on the water. Mostly fighting with other couples. There were really just four of them. Maybe they had lovers too. A filthy creek. The prison, we looked up to it. Just then: no geese. The light bulbs were coming on inside, out. It was a unification principle. Some of the lights were odd greens. Getting dark early, the men must have stirred harder.

The men with figures in their heads, constantly counting back to acts. Who does that?  Useless, locked up ponytails.

Farming the human body gets you there. I mean menders with drugs.

We flowed down the hill talking blithely of sugar, love, death, vegetables gone sour. Here eat this, she said, meaning a strange fruit she had picked from the ground like a poison dream in a fairy tale. I laughed. There was a jagged glass ring on a branch end, neck of a broken bottle someone (probably a kid) had stuck there. The bethrothal. I marry you, forced nature, with this piece of broken glass.

There had been an actual wedding here a week ago. Parks are never safe from brides and grooms. Pastel tissue flowers melted in the rain. There was inexplicably a hunk of watermelon. The dogs jerked back like Frankenstein’s monsters when we screamed. The watermelon was a bomb, we told them. Dogs will believe anything. We are a social state suddenly. When we have pets. Other people had touched it. All the animals that follow, who come after other people have left, they must have had their mouths all over it. Easy watermelon, I distrust you. If something is dropped or dipped in nature, it will be much scrutinized and then enter all mouths when the appropriate, manipulative stars shine.

There is a hatred of easiness, easiness.

We were in relation to each other but bugging.

It is a way to be, sitting on tree trunks as we were now never known, listening to our own stories like skeins of geese that had passed over us quite some time back, giving us a reference point for the narrative we would soon chuck into the all night grocery store. Maybe 3 a.m. talking to overlapping lobsters, milling carapaces in a glass tank refracts them in ways they will never know.

What you said, what I said, as the prison on the hill dreamt.

Process

I understand.

There is a part of you that you wish
would die. It won’t. There’s a part
of you that you wish to live,
to finally understand how to
unfold. It stalls in the bargaining
minotaur of process.

You look up at the evening sky,  fire
over the empty parking lot. You’re the last one
come out. Tunisian sky is the color of thinskin
strangely-bred tulips. Bright yellow,
neon orange,
eyes bothered, watery veins red.

Look at it reflected in the windshield
of your car and it suddenly
more real. Why?

Is this only     chrome feeling?

What is it about reflections,
how they understand where the world
fails to be more?

Is chromatic only        timed feeling?

Sometimes staring into burnished steel
of elevator doors before they have opened,
you feel similar.
They open.
You braid his body to yours in memory.
as if he were merely wicker,
bird, this wickerwork. A pleasant
thought to hold, to braid.

Apostrophes     wraiths

The Celtic form of it finished
and hung out in snow.

You have the hands of the crone
come to the crow. Winter grammar.

This is the part where your dreams stutter,
that is where you lose your place.

Remembering it is like visiting
a cemetery. You must pretend you are
a queen of daft caterpillar feelings. Wed them
as a people. A country
of dead citizens. Be quiet
and it is one-sided as if someone
were dead, though no one is.

It is tolling, only       sand on frozen road.

The wedding ring, his     this caterpillar.