sometimes i pick something up and it snags, so i pick at it. so it pricks me (picks me) then dissolve-sticks like a triaminic thin strip, aftertaste mixing in with my own spit. so i guess this is just how my mouth tastes now, for now, until i swallow. which is i guess like memory: cherry-fade noticing.
in october, marie ruefle clicked and loop-looped, somersaulting her summer salt. in madness rack and honey she writes, “the only purpose of this lecture, this letter, my only intent, goal, object, desire” — tossing word after frantic word to plug up the current, to tread in the middle of her own sentence — “is to waste time.”
she quotes john ashberry: “you can’t really use this wasted time. you have to have it wasted.”
but of course, even nothing drifts. eventually, it wafts into something.
ruefle quoting again, this time mary oppen: “[heidegger] allies boredom very closely with that moment of awe in which one’s mind begins to reach beyond.”
“and that is a poetry moment, in which a poem might well have been written.”
time’s compost: the ideal environment for spontaneous germination.
into, for example, metaphor, “an exchange of energy between two things” which will “arise and subside like any event.” a wastebud that poetry tries to petrify even as it instantaneously collapses, even as energy keeps bustling through.
other than the entire point of writing this column being to bottle used air, i wasted october by:
-reading rilke in the german, slamming into already curt boundaries atrophied from disuse, accidentally learning that mountains and recovery are siblings (Bergen and bergen). reading in just-english suddenly feeling like walking a floor just after a treadmill, the ground-page slipping under my feet-eyes.
-rewatching just the end of stage fright, when jenny slate sock-pivots in the pink light of her parents’ jukebox, in an outfit i hope is at least partially borrowed from their closet. she sings along to “ghost town” in the house she says is filled with ghosts, crocheted blanket turned to wings in her window silhouette. when the song ends, her exhale, her tired ringlets, let at least one spirit go.
crywatching her lonely dance, her couldn’t-have-known, her “goodness ... coming” (kim addonizio). (earlier in the special she asks her sisters, “do you feel lucky in love?” because she, divorced, doesn’t. the news just before this special came out: she’s in love again.)
rewatching, recrying, released into renewed grief, as in newed-again, nude again. as in, not stuck. (a fear of which is probably why my word association sprints and ducks). my cry for couldn’t-have-knowns turns into one for newness always already arriving. my own cry is the proof. proof of old absences, sure, but also new ways of still loving them.
marie again: “the wasting of time is the most personal, most private, most intimate” — again with her word stuffing (to my word sprinting) — “form of conversation with oneself, as well as another.” in the latter clause, she is referring to letter-writing. so, most importantly:
- writing another letter to lee and rewatching “handsome devil” two and a half times just to text him about it. texting nathan, josh, leah-and-joia. kate nicole nadia. xinhe and brendan. i wrote seventeen emails to nivi alone. what waste. what lucky excess.
during a reading at concordia last year, eileen myles said that if poems are to be places, and real ones, then they need waste. they need litter and rhythm so that cherry nothing bobs up, gleams through.
this one goes out to the lovers: a column about songs that get stuck in ur heart,
published on v-day each month.
sometimes a flash stamps itself under my eyelids, ricochets gold. that i blink, blink, i can’t blink out. for a little while, anyway. like the hesitant strobe of a listening mouth, or a leaf-turned-flare somehow landing, perfectly centred, on a child’s gleaming head. in september, i couldn’t stop seeing a chapter called sanctuary from lydia yuknavitch’s memoir “the chronology of water.”
after hurting and hurtling for so long, riding right on the edge-edge, yuknavitch — daughter, survivor, dropout, alcoholic, addict, convict, wife, wife, wife — arrives at a house in the oregon woods. 25 minutes from the university where she will teach and 45 minutes from portland. she, her third husband andy, their infant. iridescence. hummingbirds and dragonflies. “days that ran into nights that ran back into days.”
to be clear, i wasn’t seduced by a paradise; there are gnawed cores all over the grass. by which i mean this chapter’s idyll isn’t a return to some nostalgic mirage or a past obliviousness; negative spaces inhabit the hallways. yuknavitch fills them out with indignant joy, but the outlines are there. like couch legs, imprinted on carpet.
nor does it claim the finality of some kind of heaven. in the following chapter, trauma still shouts from their throats. but because they can safely be their whole-hurt selves together, they “give it a form.” they let it move through them. just like how, son to chest in the bath, she feels a “life force bigger than the night sky.” just like how this new world — the river, the elk — runs through their bodies, broken and trying.
what i’m saying is this alcove’s preciousness is amplified by the knowledge of its stakes. this house, this warm wood in spite of.
andy, “making the impossible sound ordinary,” calls it “what’s next.” lidia calls it a “green world,” a term Northrop Frye attributed to the bewitched middle-places in shakespeare’s plays. the frenzy of “a midsummer night’s dream” or the foliage of romeo and juliet’s desire. dark green delirium. spring fever outside of reason/season. the green world: not a beginning or an end but a forgiveness. vertical line, redrawn horizontal. horizon. in another word, home.
maybe this is the wrong comfort for me, a person who used to jump from island to green island (shell to turtle shell), but i think this is different. this a graspable endlessness. it doesn’t escape into a speculative vanishing point; it runs on a loop of a sungreen day. “what’s next.” a fresh day to keep waking to.
it’s not that i want the details of this life for myself; the magic, the clue, is in how this specific world replaces yuknavitch’s shadows, so meticulously, with light. the “thunder coming through” the bathing bodies of her and her child is the “exact opposite of the heart implosion” she felt for her first lost baby. and instead of the cruel “smoke and anger pouring out” from her father’s office, her house smells like “douglas fir and glee.” it smells like unfurling, like the marimbas their landlord makes in the workshop that she says “smell like life.” a life that smells like wood that smells like music.
that last sentence is a chiasmus, tiny green “world within a world where transformation is possible,” where “first meanings are undone and remade,” a switchback sentence structure that yuknavitch holds in her mind as she rocks her green child in the middle of the night. “thunderhearted.” jolted by his enormity. maybe a rocking from the same source as the “older than me” feeling that she smells in her landlord’s workshop. the urge to make, transmuted into holding your own creation to your chest and inhaling. giving the green a form.
what i’m holding onto is how momentary a world characterized by leaving can be. how it truly can just be you, attempting to whistle, culling a green smile from someone; you, closing your eyes to look into a darkness 25-minutes-from-here and 45-minutes-from-anywhere, here. as the world hums through you, as you hum through the world.
P.S. bonus feature! i don’t know why my brain did this, but imagining little green worlds reminded me of some of the only video games i have ever played. the gameboy sims’ magic lamp for taking naps in, and the tenuous green orb princess peach uses to heal herself (her three other powers are screenshotted on the game’s wiki, but green, like its worlds, is elusive to sight). something about video games + restoring vitality in a private way. bye!
every few weeks or so, i get the song of something stuck in my head. suddenly, it’s a secret i repeat to myself, over and over until it warps until it’s mine. sometimes it’s an actual song, or a poem; in May of last year it was dried dates in bulk. it’s a crush kind of fixation — a repetition that peels away big-picture excess so i can poke around in the good stuff, the details. like rewatching a movie just for the extras, or the part where selena gomez wilts a pickle slice into her mouth. maybe it’s about intimacy, ownership, distilling aesthetic satisfaction. but the initial snag has also always been in how these earworms, lungworms, heartworms boom something, somehow so directly, to me.
last month, it was an Adidas minidoc of professional skateboarder Nora Vasconcellos.
it begins: nora walking into a balloon-floored surprise, her legs wide, untippable, a keychain clutching her belt loop. black elastic around her wrist. “hahaha, she dropped her phone,” spys the videographer, ready to tease her for her arrival.
then from nowhere: she surges up a half bowl, drifts along its edge.
fellow skaters describe her, mouths slack with easy lingo. i can’t skateboard, not even a little bit, so i don’t know their terms, what they look like written down, but i don’t look them up. i leave them in phonetic abstraction; it keeps the words tenuous, precious — for me, it prolongs the nostalgic jolt of being less fluent in a language than i thought.
she glides through their voices, growling wheels.
i love documentary interviews, the unscripted fidgets. here, there's a kind of kind omniscience to watching how these people love in nora’s direction. their gazes tangential lines that accumulate into some outline, grounding the mystery of external existence (exacerbated by internet performance) in its rebound: the perception, collected. ribboned by her body, flipping through air.
cars huffing past, nora pulls at both straps of her backpack. bobs on her feet on the sidewalk. she calls L.A. Los Angeles, free of pretention. her sunglasses reflect the bloated heads of the people around her.
cut to her mom, clearly elsewhere, green, hair half up. a weekend shirt. her voice narrating home videos’ grainy familiarity: nora dancing in her own twirling world, bobbing on smaller feet. hurtling up to catch monkey bars, crawling and deliberately falling into sand. AUG 23. helmeted kids that nora cuts through. a rollerblader crumples behind her; another rolls to help them up.
nora’s family adorns her with always-es — a cohesion which, despite my resistance, my human brain adores. to think anyone has always been anything. there’s her father’s absurd anecdote that one year, on her christmas list, “there were ten items listed, and each one of them was a skateboard.” and the video of christmas morning, when nora, bibbed nightgown, her drowsy hair mussing over her face, steps onto her first board and is already immovable, even as she oscillates. her father’s morning voice: “wow nora, look at you, honey, can i see?”
now, in her childhood bedroom, adidas sweatshirt tucked neatly in her closet (i need to know: was it planted?), knees up to her ears, nora pulls out a drawing her father drew when she was “eight or so.” cartoon nora, stuck in the air, doing what has become one of her best tricks. her eyes bob. “—which is so crazy,” she stumble-hedges, “to me.”
an interlude: she’s driving, checks over her left shoulder, “um,” as she recounts the splitting moment when, right before she moved out west, her family lost their house and her parents divorced. this month, my family life caved in quite abruptly, right when my own life was moving. which is so crazy, to me. that i found her, saying “it’s like jumping off a ship that you can't swim back to. like, ship’s gone.” with a laugh that still shifts under its own feet.
around the six minute mark, nora falls in montage — slam slam slam. showing the actual stakes of her wild contortions, previously unfathomable to me because of her heavy grace. but “that’s where all the power lies — you learn to just not give a shit.” “with skateboarding it was like, i’ll bleed for this.”
“it’s very surreal feeling, the whole ‘where i am now’ versus even just two or three years ago,” she says from her perch at twenty-four. which crawls back to me, twenty-two. which is something i knew already, of course, that everything would change and that some things, like that laugh, wouldn’t, but now i’ve seen it — twenty-four, spreading wakes of concrete in wide, empty pools, feet flipping a board like a trilling tongue. i just have to keep falling (crash), falling for (crush), and falling for it (fooled) until i get really good.