The future stands still, dear Mr. Kappus, but we move in infinite space. - Ranier Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Letter 23

Dear Josephine,

This is the longest correspondence I've ever maintained. In honor of this, I have decided to write you a letter markedly less vague.

I've decided that I need to buckle down and plan my future rather than coasting through these twenties focused solely on work/apartment/family life. There is more to living than categories. I've started studying for the GREs; this is the most self-motivated/determined I've been since writing my thesis. I'm terrified of not meeting my goals. Does everything comes down to numbers?

And too, I'm terrified of the act of erasure. Tell me Josephine, did you ever learn to make construction paper (wo)men who clasp hands, who create a half-wreath of communal love/friendship? Sometimes I imagine that the violence of scissors disconnecting body from body parallels the act of removing a person from one's life. Yes, the paper congregation murmurs, thank you for our moments of joy and giving, we will retain this scar, this reminder of your absence.

The other day I thought about my father. You are right; this is a topic I conceal through silence. Two weeks ago I made a half-hearted attempt at reconciliation, because I'm not wading in lukewarm water anymore, because I'm tired of battered conversations and unnecessary resentment. I believe in forgiveness -- grudges are stunted trees that darken landscapes. Still: I haven't returned his phone call, don't know what we'll say to one another through the lines.

I've been craving reading and writing literary theory again. You only have to look at my shopping cart to see:

1. Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain - Maryanne Wolf
2. Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence - Esther Perel
3. Disturbing the Universe: Power and Repression in Adolescent Literature - Roberta S. Trites
4. On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life - Adam Phillips
5. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (Routledge Classics) - Judith Butler
6. Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality - Anne Fausto-Sterling
7. Constructing the Black Masculine: Identity and Ideality in African American Men's Literature and Culture, 1775-1995 (A John Hope Franklin Center Book) - Maurice O. Wallace
8. Orientalism - Edward W. Said
9. All About Love: New Visions - bell hooks
10. Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory - Houston A. Baker Jr.


This past weekend I re-read papers I wrote in college. One paper was 27 pages discussing the cloaking power of the linguistic modifier "I" in relation to the creationary "self". I miss academia.

What else to tell you? This past year I meandered through cities (some real, some imaginary), practiced introspection, and felt trampled/muffled/rumpled. But now, the word is only: refreshing, refreshed, refreshment.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Letter 22

Dear Josephine,

It appears Neko Case has peered into my soul. Walking to work, her lyrics flash through my mind: "Thought I was young, now I've freezing hands and bloodless viens, as numb as I've become, I'm so tired."

The above quotation, coupled with the first stanza of Stephen Dunn's poem "A Chance for the Soul" accurately reflects how I've been feeling:

"Am I leading the life that my soul,
Mortal or not, wants me to lead is a question
That seems at least as meaningful as the question
Am I leading the life I want to live
Given the vagueness of the pronoun "I,"
The number of things it wants at any moment."

I've been trying to define my lack of motivation, coming up only with the words "disheartened" and "disillusioned", which serve a dramatic purpose but do not apply to the cloud that seems to have positioned itself in front of my body. Look, mother, an automaton. Look mother, albaster and mutilated statues.

Now, thanks to Neko Case and S. Dunn, I've managed to explain this fever as a blinding numbness I'm both striving to analyze and reveal. There is no concealing this unhappiness, the door began to crack upon entering, splinters wait for bare heels. No, do not fetch more wood, I have no need for pilings. No, do not mend this door with spackle and sweat, the scars are there for the seeing.

Only: decide what one is doing. Life is always a staying and a going.


p.s. Sometimes I pray for tears.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Letter 21

Dear Josephine,

In that age-old phrase about bridges, I find that I've always focused on the latter clause about burning, and disregarded the former clause about crossing. Additionally, when I have approached the saying from both angles, I've applied the "crossing" to my "public" life (which I'm defining as job, school, apartment; basically the components that present myself to others) and the "burning" to my "private" life (which I'm defining as my personal thoughts, my relationships with others, etc. - the components that take longer to reveal). I realize my qualification of this statement renders supposedly different spheres of my life as contingent on two opposing actions: moving forward, and moving away. How, then, is it that my personal life tends to take leaps, and my private life tends to retreat?

Even while I pose this question, I do not find it surprising. I find safety in independence, on living for myself rather than living for myself and another. I wonder, though, if I'm losing something in maintaining that type of freedom. Funny, I've always embraced tennis as my favorite sport to watch. I wonder if it's because on that court love means zero, means having nothing, means making one's way from the bottom to a concrete "match point" -- as if "love" never meant anything other than trying to obtain a point for one's self, or for the sake of the game.