May 27, 2018

sitting in the flood

Those who know me in my life beyond the page are likely amused to read me expounding with such reverence on the subject of silence, since I avoid it strenuously. Or is it as Kafka wrote to his lover Felice in 1916: does “silence avoid me, as water on the beach avoids stranded fish”? There is something involuntary in my speaking, the flapping and flailing of my desperate tongue. Silence is generally associated with passivity and expression with action, but for me silence requires the greater effort. My mind turns again to drowning: the poet Seamus Heaney spent his childhood on a small farm in Ireland where each spring his family forced the overflow of newborn puppies below the surface of a barrel of water. Their sputter, their squirm, then their stillness: this is how it feels to hold words back. “The strain,” Kafka writes elsewhere, “of keeping down living forces.” Silence is the water that fish breathe, but for puppies it’s what kills them. What kind of creature am I?

Carina del Valle Schorske
On the Perilous Potential of Feminist Silence

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