Room

July 5, 2019

There’s a room inside myself
I’ve never seen.
There’s

a bed there, and
on a nightstand, photographs
in frames. But

whose faces?

A violet
vase on a vanity: I’ve

held it in my hands. Tearful
apology. And
under my bed
in narrow boxes?
And if I open the desk
drawer, or
the dresser?

Well, just
the usual soft
folded things.
Silky
rectangles.
Knitted
squares.
A glove.
A stocking.

A loss, eternally.
And a window
(I’m sure of this)
that looks
out onto the green.
An apple tree.

And, beneath the tree, my
grandmother
in a housedress
in a lounge chair, sipping
a cool drink, not

even wondering
where she went or
where,
all these years,
she’s been.

Laura Kasischke

For [Virginia] Woolf, getting lost was not a matter of geography so much as identity, a passionate desire, even an urgent need, to become no one and anyone, to shake off the shackles that remind you who you are, who others think you are. This dissolution of identity is familiar to travellers in foreign places and remote fastnesses, but Woolf, with her acute perception of the nuances of consciousness, could find it in a stroll down the street, a moment’s solitude in an armchair. Woolf was not a romantic, not a celebrant of that getting lost that is erotic love, in which the beloved becomes an invitation to become who you secretly, dormantly, like a locust underground waiting for the seventeen-year call, already are in hiding, that love for the other that is also a desire to reside in your own mystery in the mystery of others. Her getting lost was solitary, like Thoreau’s.

Rebecca Solnit
Open Door, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

an echo

July 4, 2019

Days I feel like a human being, while other days I feel more like a sound. I touch the world not as myself but as an echo of who I was.

Ocean Vuong
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

required to do wrong

May 25, 2019

You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go. It is the basic condition of life, to be required to violate your own identity. At some time, every creature which lives must do so. It is the ultimate shadow, the defeat of creation; this is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life. Everywhere in the universe.

Philip K. Dick
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

My Proteins

April 2, 2019

They have discovered, they say,
the protein of itch —
natriuretic polypeptide b —
and that it travels its own distinct pathway
inside my spine.
As do pain, pleasure, and heat.

A body it seems is a highway,
a cloverleaf crossing
well built, well traversed.
Some of me going north, some going south.

Ninety percent of my cells, they have discovered,
are not my own person,
they are other beings inside me.

As ninety-six percent of my life is not my life.

Yet I, they say, am they —
my bacteria and yeasts,
my father and mother,
grandparents, lovers,
my drivers talking on cell phones,
my subways and bridges,
my thieves, my police
who chase my self night and day.

My proteins, apparently also me,
fold the shirts.

I find in this crowded metropolis
a quiet corner,
where I build of not-me Lego blocks
a bench,
pigeons, a sandwich
of rye bread, mustard, and cheese.

It is me and is not,
the hunger
that makes the sandwich good.

It is not me then is,
the sandwich —
a mystery neither of us
can fold, unfold, or consume.

Jane Hirshfield

desire keeps you alive

March 7, 2019

Let suffering be removed, but not desire, because desire keeps you alive. That’s why they are afraid. They are consumed by the fear of desire. They want to suffer so they won’t think about desire. You’re maimed when you’re little, and fear is hammered into the back of your head. Because desire keeps you alive, they kill it off while you’re growing up, the desire for all things, in that way when you’re grown…

Mercè Rodoreda
Death in Spring
Trans. by Martha Tennent

Rodoreda’s posthumous novel, Death in Spring, utilizes a Catalan village setting to explore the nature of human relations and a search for identity. Published in 1989, Death in Spring further explores the dual senses of alienation and self-discovery through the eyes of a young village girl. In Death in Spring water, particularly a local stream, serves as a metaphor for change:

“I lowered myself gently into the water, hardly daring to breathe, always with the fear that, as I entered the water world, the air – finally rid of my nuisance – would begin to rage and be transformed into furious wind, like the winter wind that nearly carried away houses, trees, and people.”

Throughout the novel, water is never a metaphor for peace. Instead, it is a destructive force, one that batters bridges, bludgeons unfortunate souls who venture into its treacherous depths, all while reinforcing the cruel capriciousness of people, even as they grow estranged from each other. Rodoreda’s characters are often cruel and distant from one another, as in the case of their treatment of prisoners as caged animals to be tortured before they are killed. One character, referred to by the narrator simply as “Senyor,” is sentenced to die by having cement poured down his gullet until he suffocates. This concrete metaphor for the silencing of dissenters echoes “The Salamander”’s treatment of foreigners/outsiders as nefarious agents who must die by fire. Zealotry and irrational fear, Rodoreda reminds us, often leads to human loss and suffering, while also dehumanizing those who perpetuate such inhumane treatment upon other human beings.

In Rodoreda’s fictions, the weird is not just something inexplicable that occurs within a narrative, but also a commentary on human relations. We see in Death in Spring a girl who munches on bees, followed shortly by a young boy who, after venturing into the treacherous waters underneath the village bridge, is mutilated by the waters as the villagers watch on, some with apparent glee.

Zoran Rosko
Mercè Rodoreda

longing for something

February 21, 2019

So I perversely circle the late stars, drowsier and drowsier, sleepily longing for something..nothing – talking, working, eating, wondering always who am I?

Sylvia Plath
The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Writing in the Dark

February 12, 2019

Fear’s chandelier shakes the secluded house, tv sputters with its laugh track.
Our heroine must run from the house, its smoke-filled mirrors.
It is the formula as are her lovely yellow curls.
Why must she run out on the cliffs in pounding rain into the arms of the hero?
Hey, Goldie, don’t flee to the sea, go into the woods.
Watch how the hills glisten before they darken to silhouette.
Now wait for the appearance of the wolf.
You should be prepared for his bony face.
There’s a mask in your pocket, there always is.
Now you be the wolf.

Judith Taylor

Dreams & Moonlight

February 1, 2019

Wednesday 30th January

Last night, misty moonlight in the window. Our duvet and bedroom furniture turned milk white in this strange, uncanny light – which makes me drowsy and dull, the same feeling you have after lovemaking.

In reality: I’m the ghost of a third rate Edwardian poet trapped between dimensions, here, in the snow, on this moor. It’s sad you should have to find out this way – but that’s life, as they say.

Now, for my next trick –

P

A house is never still in darkness to those who listen intently; there is a whispering in distant chambers, an unearthly hand presses the snib of the window, the latch rises. Ghosts were created when the first man woke in the night.

J.M. Barrie
The Little Minister

waiting to be discovered

January 5, 2019

The great artist Michelangelo claimed that his sculptures were already present in the stone, and all he had to do was carve away everything else.

Our understanding of identity is often similar: Beneath the many layers of shoulds and shouldn’ts that cover us, there lies a constant, single, true self that is just waiting to be discovered.

Sheena Iyengar
The Art of Choosing