snakes

Thoughts were snakes shooting through high grasses. Now you see them, now you don’t. As you walk in the high grasses, you must take a stick and beat the ground. Scare up the snakes, pursue them to the edge of the field into the open and see them, exorcise them. You must perform this ritual now. In the middle of the night, alone with pen and paper, you sound out the snakey thoughts. You write one of those letters that’s never meant to be sent, isn’t addressed to anyone. No one’s eyes are meant to see this. This is a private ritual. The writer, the reader are trying to get as close together as possible. They are coming together, sealed in a word on a page where you’re trying to make the shooting thoughts come out in the pen. Shoot them down your arm, through your fingers, and out the end of your pen. Make them visible. You know it’s primitive: filling up a page so you can empty your mind. But you’re doing what you must: trying to let go. You’re starting by addressing yourself:”

-Constance DeJong
Modern Love

Maybe 5 minutes?

Re-taping the nearly flying away A4 page on the green street light base. A voice from behind. What are you advertising? I thought I was in trouble. Uhhhh, it’s a call for poetry submissions… Are you a poet? You’re too young. You don’t have the fire in your eyes! I stared. He stared. Studying me, he seemed to question himself as the words left his mouth. HA! I almost thought. No, no—I publish. Ahhh. Here it comes. At first hesitant, too inquisitive. Who’s your favorite poet? Alejandra Pizarnik. Alejandro? Alejandra. Pizarnik. From Argentina. Hmmm. But what about: names names names names. I barely kept up. But could complete a couple titles on the tip of his tongue. We began to like each other. Animation increased. Comfort rose. He caught his dad reading in secret the Henry Miller he scolded him for reading. I just read Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch. Ah, yeah, but the one—Tropic of Cancer—he hated. Jane Janette! Jane Janette? From France. Existentialist. Janette? Janette. Genet. Jean Genet. Never heard of him. He was born a criminal, but man! He didn’t study, you don’t want to study, under these people in English departments who got turned down by publishers. That one guy at USF. I went to USF. You know that one guy? No, I wasn’t in Creative Writing. Took poetry with Zapruder though, and music history with Thiam. You see, I went to the MoMa recently, a friend gave me a ticket, very expensive, and this woman was trying to guide me and interpret the art for me, are you kidding me?! What could she tell me?! Yeah… you gotta get it straight. Genet read two pages of Proust and scoffed: I can do better than that! Ha! He was an antisemite, but the writing, it’s different. I brought up Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil, his eyes lit up: NATURE! Yes! Yes! You know di Parma? Diane? Yeah. Yes! Incredible! She just died. Yeah, recently, huh? Yes. Thomas Gunn? Uh, no. You don’t know Thom Gunn!? No, no… sounds somewhat familiar, but… not ringing a bell. Ahhhhh—you must read him. I saw him on Haight and Cole, at that cafe, back when it used to be something. Now, it’s nothing, just runaways, after that one girl—the mayor of Chicago’s daughter—came here and made street life cool. Once, back in the day, I saw the Hells Angels and Hare Krishnas on Haight get in a fight. Guess who won? The whites of his eyes, laughing in interrogation. My face grimaced back, I knew it wasn’t: Er, the Hells Angels…? Nope! The Hare Krishnas scared ’em outta there. Those massive bald guys! You know that woman who writes the stuff they sell even in the supermarkets? At Safeway and what not? She lives right here. She asked the city for 12 parking permits! 12 cars! Her books are trash. Ah, pop stuff? Yeah, pop. She lives in Paris half the year—you don’t want to hear about her. Charlie pawing at my calf to go. Names names name name. It became harder and harder to keep up. The accent stirring away. Trying, nodding, ah yeah… I’m from Ethiopia. Ahh, super cool. He looked at me like I hadn’t a clue about Ethiopia—I don’t. Where do you live? Right around the corner… Okay! Come find me at Cafe Oasis, I’m there most nights, I live here above the laundromat. Okay, I’ll find you. I need a notepad next time I see you… Yes yes yes. I’ll give you some books. I began to walk up the block as he turned to my puny sign and held out his pointer finger: SUBMIT YOUR POEMS: spectrapoets.org ❤ I shouted from behind, I’ll give you a copy! He smiled.

Come in and read

He’s practically ancient. The only one I’ve known to recite lines and lines and lines, all memorized. Putting my lame typed letters to shame. The isolation they feel, alone on a page. Most likely to be thrown away. Sometimes transcribed, like these——made 3D——more space junk transmit from a screen. Regardless, I write. Trace something dark across the light. He wants me to read him something I wrote, but I write for no one. I write so as not to speak. Not to breathe into language, but to let my thoughts leak symbols and die in ink. It’s calming, I write myself into a trance. I don’t need, I don’t seek, I don’t reach for anything beyond these keys, what’s right in front of me. But my continuum, these lines, still somehow stretch beyond me. Right now, nothing more, see, not even the errors matter, but before him, even on the phone, if I tried to speak into these words, I’d tremble, over-correct a self-imposed mess with excess. Apologies. With this, none of that. See, what I write is just for that, to make space. Besides, why would anyone want to hear all these voices? I write to prevent. He won’t hear a flow of consonance, just persistent clicking. I like the way it sounds, the typing alone. And as long as he’s reading me, we’ll never be together. 

little phantom trip

Someone has invented this sinister plan: a return to the archaic gaze, a going toward the expectation figured by two blue eyes in the black dust. Silence is temptation and promise. Finale of my initiation. Beginning of every end. It’s of myself I speak. It happens to be necessary to go only once to see if just once again you’ll be granted the vision. We die of fatigue here. We’d rather not move. We’re exhausted. Each bone and each limb recalls its archaic sufferings. We suffer and crawl, dance, we drag ourselves. Someone has promised. It’s of myself I speak. Someone can’t take it anymore.”

-Alejandra Pizarnik
The Galloping Hour

solip #2

today’s journal entry~~~

 

*

 

Cardboard boxes. Mattress pads of the street, but upright at my door. Before slicing the tape. Everyday. Sometimes even Saturday. And Sunday. I forgot that nothing stops here on Sundays. Okay, some businesses, but most, operating. Always. I’ve been shopping too much on Amazon in quarantine. I know it’s not good. The workers are treated like shit, barely offered benefits, barely paid, let alone time off. Endless delivery. I know those boxes are a total waste. Sure, recyclable, but all that energy. All that mass. Must be accumulating in landfills too. Soaked or spoilt. Bent too many ways. They’re everywhere. Especially here. We take too much. This is where our imbalance stems. Too much in, not enough out, the curl is collapsing in on itself. It’s too heavy. Too much to hold. Too poisonous. It gets inside, and infects like a virus, and at some point you’re believing the truths of the told and the told might not always tell the truth. They only serve a narrow specificity, always incomplete. We’re all blind in infinite ways and so much more than we portray. So much more than we can speak, than we can write, than we can read. Miranda July said on April 20th, 2020, online from her home in Los Angeles, for her City Arts and Lectures interview, that she would fail in attempt to use words to describe this moment, while we’re in the depth of it. COVID-19. Quarantine. Everything has changed, some things likely permanently (maybe later: thankfully). She said to try to describe this current reality would be like trying to describe falling mid-air. Afterward, grounded with more perspective and information to gather. Our little mind machines. But she said, words are her job, and alas, she would try. She’s shocked by our ability to adapt. Experiencing a bit of Stockholm Syndrome herself (a reaction unlikely in Stockholm right now). How could the end of this be near and how will she go back into the world and how will she start seeing other people? There’s really never and always a good time to use words to explore lines and connections across hypercubes. Which point is the best? Hard to say, from any given event, it will always change. We can never see with the clearest accuracy ahead or behind in a hallway that perpetually turns. I don’t know how many used books or records I’ve bought since lockdown. Other things too. Some clothes. Things I hope to wear once I can get out of here. I mean, I do get out, for walks and sometimes for coffee, but I haven’t been to a grocery store in weeks. Just small shops. The Fort Mason farmers’ market on Sundays. For the first time I ordered toothpaste online, something I said I’d never do. Bath salts, bedding, a laminator, a label maker. What else? Too much. Too much in, not enough out. Yet another addiction born of privileged position to get a handle on. It’s stress buying, I guess. But it gives me hope sticking little notes around the city. It gives me hope to see mounds of stories to read, the possibilities. One book leads me to another, and so on, Fibonacci. Still self-serving. Is it a hopeless condition? Manic over-consumption? Even the herbs and weed. To-go cups of coffee. Suppose this state of increased uncertainty, and widespread panic, is making things worse than actuality. So it’s easy to spin into neurosis from time to time during this time, if not its entirety. So people are stockpiling. A transactional means of avoiding feeling something. The anxiety. Well, that’s what seems is happening. (The American dream?) I don’t know. I have to say, my perspective is purely observational and experiential. With a skewed social lens. Been inside most days for over a year, most of my time living in Melbourne. Reading. Puzzling. Avoiding. Hiding. It’s just that now people also avoid me as much as I avoid them walking down the street to get a bite to eat. Really, quite pathetic—the stewing, the sadness, the long showers, the uneasiness, the madness, the heartbreak, and the neediness to mask it—but also, strangely beautiful and metamorphic to spend so much time circling a cube. Unwrapping a box. I haven’t emerged out the other side of this nearly year-long inward trip. (Do we ever?) Hard to say from inside it, but aren’t we always filtering through limits of body? Its relation, its settings. I could say nothing. Yes, silence is an option. But it seems, without thinking about it too much, soothing settles into its favorite pattern. Tea water boils, letters join, and ends stack.

solip

today’s journal entry~~~

 

*

 

It was half-past noon. I got in the car with Charlie with nowhere to go. No destination in mind. Just drove. Down Fillmore, wove towards Haight. Once I got to Buena Vista Park, I stopped, parked. I walked up those steps I haven’t since college and something came back to me walking from the sun into those trees. The ‘Dog Run’ with its dug holes and paw prints. The sandy dirt covering my naked feet in my strappy sandals. Charlie exploring freely. A warm breeze. That dark cypress green, unlike any green I’ve ever seen under any other sky of any other city. People sitting. Small groups. Twos and threes. Some walk alone. I eye the colors of the Victorian houses beyond the trees. Spot my dream apartment building. Black trim. Lofty ceilings. Monumentous of sorts. 555 Buena Vista West. My whole body, happy. I’m here, I’m here, I’m here. Like I never left. But I did. And I’m back, not the same, what’s different? Nothing in the name. It’s the essence, no, that’s also the same. The things around it and in it. The side of the spiral it’s on. Something like that. Something like a woman now, as I loop this same shady labyrinth. But turning up and down paths I never had back in college. Too stoned, scared, I’d stick to the same lower route. I’d sprint straight through, but now I meander more slowly. This time I discovered the lawn at the top. Sunbathers. Another chihuahua. A man eating a burrito. // Back to my car, I drove to Twin Peaks. It had also been a while. Since college, for sure. Oncoming traffic: Fifteen skaters or so bombed past. I breaked and gave them space.  At the top, three friends—two girls and a dude—pass around a Swisher, enjoying the view. This Sunday afternoon everything felt as it should, as if everything in the universe still maintains it perfect/chaotic order, as if this isn’t the middle of a pandemic. As if San Francisco never changed at all. And neither had I. But we have, we have. It is. But the bones, the essence, the roots, it’s still the same. // On that drive to nowhere which became the drive to Buena Vista, Twin Peaks, and back, Miranda July was being interviewed on City Arts and Lectures—88.5, KQED— about her new book, a reflection on her past work. The archive of her life. It was only the beginning I caught. Recorded on 4/20/20. Recorded remotely, not ‘IRL’ as it was meant to be. They mentioned the irony, how it was rather appropriate to conduct the interview over video chat, drawing on the recurring theme of July’s work: the way we use technology to connect. ‘The struggle,’ she replied. It is a struggle. We crave each other, but we also crave the space and the noise and the information and the screens, but what do we crave most? It must be the We. But anyway, she was saying, about the pandemic, this reality we’re in, how will it end? In death, in transformation? Words will fail us, but she’ll try to use them because that’s her job. But to try to describe this reality while we’re in it, she said, is like trying to describe falling mid-air. A foolish endeavor. She’d try anyway. Amazed by ability to adapt. At first, she was overwhelmed by the fact that her daughter would be out of school for two weeks, and now, she’s experiencing some sort of Stockholm Syndrome. The interviewer, too. She, in Oakland, but I’m forgetting her name, also feels a strange resistance reaching the other end. “A friend asked me to go for a socially distant walk, and I just froze, like, I’m not ready for that. To spend time with anyone but my boyfriend…?” Me neither. I’m not ready to see anyone. I’m not ready to write about what any of this is like. A week without that small screen. I’m not ready to say much of anything. This morning in qigong practice over Zoom Sally Chang said this year is all about ‘small strength.’ A little bit of the lot of energy. Like a bud about to break. It’s the Year of the Rat. The smallest animal, the first of a new cycle. So now’s a good time to shed, to plant seeds for the coming twelve. // Back to Miranda. Her voice. So distinctly hers. And calming over the radio. What’s a voice but a memory?

‘how she tormented neurons’

absurd parentheses, with footnotes, so convoluted, so contrived, and others quiet, almost severe, that barely provoke a raised eyebrow, or a tremor of the lips, footnotes you’ll never forget, every time you remember them you aspire to repose, claim the extreme unction, the ultimate step forward, toward the abyss.”

-Hilda Hilst
The Obscene Madame D