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

mystery of names

October 9, 2018

inferno

I tried to understand the mystery of names by staring into the mirror and repeating mine over and over. Or the word ‘me.’ As if one could come into language as into a room. Lost in the blank, my obsessive detachment spiralled out into the unusable space of infinity, indifferent nakedness. I sat down in it. No balcony for clearer view, but I could focus on the silvered lack of substance or the syllables that correspond to it because all resonance grows from consent to emptiness. But maybe, in my craving for hinges, I confused identity with someone else.

Rosmarie Waldrop
Inserting the Mirror

out of the labyrinth

January 18, 2018

mask2

The writing of Suarez (I was Dora Suarez), through plunging me into evil, became the cause of my seeking to purge what was evil in myself..If I had no guilt to purge I would not have known where the road to hell was, nor how to look for Dora. It was an 18 month journey during which the world of light was no stronger than my belief in it, but it was enough for myself and Dora to find our way back and out of the labyrinth. On my journey I left the world for the page, and the page of hell, and the hope for the return journey. I have returned. I crept terrified into a dark place and struck a light in another’s darkness and I have returned here with the knowledge that Dora’s agony among the lost is over. The squalid atrocity of her death has dropped away from her and she is freed, unlocked, no longer lost and dead to herself, which is what damnation is. That I have never known Dora in life, that she was just the face in a police photograph of a dead, anonymous girl whom I named Dora doesn’t matter; that she should have found her identity is what matters. What matters is that we met in the middle world where the living and the dead meet, and brought each other away from that lightless place.

Suarez was my atonement for 50 years’ indifference to the miserable state of this world; it was a terrible journey through my own guilt, and through the guilt of others.

Derek Raymond
The Hidden Files

an exquisite moment

January 12, 2018

Intimacy is the fusion of identities, yours with another’s in an exquisite moment of time.