This morning, I mulled over this piece during a nap; ideas woke me just as insistently as my dog barking at squirrels. Yesterday, I pricked and pulled at this thinking on a long car ride through the Piney Woods. I have a scribbled postcard from you on my desk. I haven’t written you back—until now. You asked me a question about the sidewalks in my neighborhood: they are made of oystershells. Trucked in from the Gulf.
I wanted to tell you that I was also obsessed with Broadway as a pre-teen, a shimmering twelve-year-old fantasy of musicals & Randy Travis & Bette Midler & the Little Mermaid: wow, so sappy and dripping and sticky these memories of the state before.
You said in your initial email to me, “One of my hopes ... is an investigation of process and how this may (or may not) relate to identity as a process.”
I met with a younger poet friend a few weeks back; he’d wanted to ask me questions about my life, as if I were an elder and wiser. Biking home, I thought about advice (and how impossible it seems to give any), and I began repeating these words like a mantra as I pushed the pedals:
look for the edge
sit on it
let it cut you
watch it bleed
Clarice Lispector wrote a sentence in Portuguese. Idra Novey translated it as, “The unsayable can be given me only with the failure of my language.” I’ve been thinking about how best to fail in this piece. And in failing come to say this thing that I haven’t been able to say. Or maybe not even to say it, but to talk around it for a while, ambling. I wonder if doubt can drive a narrative. I wonder: how queer is doubt?
This “we” that appears in my thinking all the time. “We” shouldn’t do this or “we” have been told that or “we” fight back against this. “We” have been taught to hide doubt away; “they” say doubt impedes writing or narrative. I have to wonder how this “us” came to be, why I feel this “us” now as so doubtful. “We” seems even more doubtful than “I.”
You posted a picture on Facebook after your visit to my city: a photo of me in the plaza in front of the Rothko Chapel, surrounded by tall bamboo, a taller broken obelisk and an even taller oak behemoth. I’m talking on the phone with a friend in North Carolina about walking on the beach in Alabama and helping a tanned, tall Russian man find keys he’d lost the night before in the sand.
Now, thinking about this picture you took of me, I pull your camera out of your hands and fly high up into the air above the two of us to look down on the pebble-stone plaza surrounded by a sea of green, green grass. This landscape in which I can imagine the two of us are drowning.