To the Next Attempt

Experiments in style.

Reconstruct. The world is shaped by art. Also, by protest. Challenge the world, the art, the protest. One artist, revealing her best kept secret, confessed I have none. When it comes to the crisis of creating anything, style attempts to negotiate some resolution. Even so, the thing is perpetually unsolved. One devises systems based in numbers, another according to stars, another traces bodily systems, weather patterns. Others make their own instruments, new forms; move the frame, alter the angle, change the lens. Apply the medium upside-down. Apply the medium while suspended from the ceiling. Apply the feet to handheld instruments, lend the ear to color, taste the next note.

Yes, but to what end?

To not ending.

Bloom

Budding notes.

Who is the creature in this jungle of words, coiling from crown to neck, vining spirals across the chest, tight against breath, against pivot of hips and swing of the leg into step? Bound like this, there is nothing to do but wait, bouncing toes until they rest, splayed flat in damp earth until whatever holds me here starts pulling. If this were a poem, it would end the way other things end, with flowers. 

What Resists

Instruments for fluid forms.

When the source of the moment is the vessel and not the stream, and the tool at hand is a knife and not a cup, it’s so difficult to harvest anything. All I wanted was a coherent paragraph, some excerpt to offer a guest. But I’m all vessel today, and have perhaps absorbed too much, and attempts to slice water are studies in futility. 

I will say this, though. It is frustrating insofar as I continue trying to cut anything. Abandoning this, the continued movement of the knife becomes a way to trace the resistance of fluid. My cutting impulse begins to still, and what replaces it is something else. Whatever it is, it won’t be named. 

I think of the wonder on an infant’s face when she first discovers the resistance of the surface of water. The slapping and splashing that follows, cooing between laughs. Over and again, she brings it down to feel what pushes back, as the echo of her laugh reverberates into any nearby vessel, shaking all that is barely held, now spilling again.  

Animal Vegetable

Faces seen and unseen.

Was it Kafka who said that we are most human when admittedly animals? I can’t remember. The elephant would.  We give each other pet names and share our own names, homes, and fashion motifs with pets.  We are much less willing to engage with our vegetable sides. 

The snap pea is probably great company, and no doubt leeks have dimension. When it comes to tubers, I can only imagine. Perhaps we have a hard time opening conversations with the ones whose faces are not––well, faces; whose beings are arranged in ways we can less readily recognize from mirrors and photo albums.

Maybe it intimidates us to interact on a conversational level with living forms that will not run, fly, or swim from us, who can’t make us heroes for luring them to our realms. Maybe we don’t know how to open conversations that don’t begin with a chase. These vegetables, they just show up––or don’t, allowing or resisting growth, harvest, cultivation. We can’t always find the narrative line of their movements, and it perplexes us. 

Or maybe we don’t like to entertain the possibility of admitting when we are only seeds or going out of season; ripe for harvest or willing to be met by moles. The cat offers an easy meme and endless punchlines, and most of her jokes are on me. If this is any model, it’s likely the vegetables are doing something similar. From a plastic bag on the counter, the armed potatoes wave. 

Repair Work

Best done in darkness.

Considering the challenge of writing among the dead; the fabrics connecting blood and screens to war machines, it can be helpful to keep attention in the unlit regions. This is why I prefer the dark corners, the spaces where all I can do with language is acknowledge its opacity, and all I can do with looking is notice the limits of sight. So much of what passes for light is blinding. I am suspicious of acts of solving and fixing, when applied to the living. I can’t fix anything, have no solutions, and prefer not to be distracted from the living by any more offers from those that claim they do. Leave me to the tender work of mending instead.

Ways to Hold

The body, de Beauvoir, observes, is an instrument for holding onto the world. Same for a body of work. In this light, it’s truly an odd (modern, western) impulse that insists on classifying literary works into camps of fiction and nonfiction. We are supposed to be used to this by now but try asking a painter or sculptor to make the same distinction. Anything we make––or are, for that matter, is always an alchemy of observation, response, and dream.

Why This News

On regional announcements.

Some mornings when I have a strong hunch about being not up to reading the dispatches of certain outlets of official News, I go to Craigslist because I want to be reminded that someone, somewhere, is finding a lost tabby, taking her in, and taking time with the announcement, she is here, and that someone else only wants to hear of your ghost story, your art, your interest in being featured in an indie film, your interest in time spent over coffee, talking questions and making use of some ideas you never knew where to put, finding what one calls other creative spirits and a way to be united toward a sea change and to return––this time––the tabby, the golden, the rabbit, the parrot. 

To be clear, they stress no offers, list their numbers in the ads, and being wary, write out the last four. Please call, they say, and it must be comfort I find in this chorus of suspended invocations, awaiting some response––as though nothing has yet happened to sever the heartbeat, hoping, as though what seems to be for the time being, utterly––

may only have strayed, gone dormant or been temporarily misplaced. That it waits somewhere, calling here and please call.

Correction

By the resident oracle.

Some days it looks like a litany of minor losses––keys, money, what passed for discipline; traffic and burnt popcorn, and the pain at the temples only calls to mind other pains, and the only words that come when you call are all wrong, and too late, dressed for some other occasion, unknown. 

And then comes the cat, unbidden, winding her eloquent tail across your face and back again like a wiper blade in the rain, to remind you, with the calm focus that can only be acquired by one who has just risen from the day’s tenth nap, that you are once again missing the joke.

Working With Silence

With Jorie Graham.

Recognize this astonishment, this awe, this resistance to the hurry of speech. Its pressure signals the weight of what language battles. Here is the rupture, the interrupter; partner; opponent; interrogator; monument. Watch it.

To meet it on its own terms is to welcome some erosion. Each confrontation will put an end to the original witness, the one who meant to do the looking, and wrest from her womb a new creature, sharply aware of being watched.

When the word fists stop swinging, held behind the back, and the shouting mouth surrenders to its hold, what emerges? Here are the boundaries between flesh and time, sealed and open, the words we speak and those unspeaking us.

***

The above are notes while reading Jorie Graham’s essay “Some Notes on Silence” in By Herself: Women Reclaim Poetry (2000), edited by Molly McQuade. The italicized phrases are Graham’s.

Bonus Post: Inaugural Video

Notes for travelers in uncertain times.

Hi friends. I am trying a new thing. Often as I do these daily posts, something emerges that tells me it is part of another thing. When this one came up, I decided it was “The Unknowing Project.” Here’s an early iteration. As 2023 unfolds, I intend to do a few more. With love, Stacey.

Storm Photo by Anandu Vinod on Unsplash/ Score: “Alice in Winter”by Azure Instrumental via Soundstripe.