A Bed above the Abyss: Amnesiac Notebook
Each entry consisting of the statements
I am awake or I am conscious
entered every few minutes:
2:10 P.M.: this time properly awake
2:14 P.M.: this time finally awake
2:35 P.M.: this time completely awake
At 9:40 P.M. I awoke for the first time, despite my previous claims.
This in turn was crossed out, followed by:
I was fully conscious at 10:35 P.M., and awake for the first time in many, many weeks.
This in turn was cancelled out by the next entry.
How large it grew, that first kiss, until I could board it each night,
a raft drifting out into the quiet lake. After twenty years
the great amnesiac HM never recognized
his doctor, and after lunch
gladly ate another: Time for lunch, they would tell him again.
You must be starving.
God, I am starving.
Without a body, collection cannot precede
recollection: recollect a tongue, that skilled swirl
of its quick tip, a mouthfull of familiars: smoke,
strawberry candy. Memory in the web
between dumbstruck and dura: dump and dune,
duplicates. What kind of game is this?
I’m no longer a boy,
HM would say to his reflection, the surprise on his face
genuine. What kind of game is this?
The mirror a passport like any other, its picture
out of time, a foreign shock of untamed hair
even the photographer declared beautiful then.
Then: the word smiles
like a stranger on your first day at school,
sitting on stone steps, worn with use.
“Red but not bird comes to mind.”
Only the kingdom of living names
was missing there—bank, flagstone, sofa
remained, but not the blur at the feeder,
the undersea creature on the card—
it’s a danger, a killer swimmer,
they coaxed him—it’s called a
(waiting for the word to stir from its depth;
how could he forget the ones who dressed,
fed, taught him word by word
the order of the world? What noise does
that loss make?) (They looked suspiciously
like his parents, he thought: strangers posing
“It has no name, it has no need.”
Statement of Aesthetics
As a young student, I spent a long time reading the collected works of poet X.
I started with the poetry, of course. And the variorum versions of the long poems, and the failed and abandoned ones. That took a year, at least.
Then the plays—mostly unfinished. I finished them the next year—2001, I think.
Then the notebooks and journals, the odd midden heap of thoughts where an occasional glint of some shining phrase made me pause, copy it down for future use.
Then it must have been the letters, though I may have snuck in his collected dinner conversation as a palate cleanser of sorts. I was going through some rough times, some upheavals in circumstance. When I moved, the collected works took up most of the car.
At some point, I must have finished the journalistic pieces, since I’ve written a number of essays on them. I assume I tackled them chronologically, from the early radicalism of the underground pamphlets to the conservative editorials in state-sponsored newspapers.
As when a compulsive traveler wanders into the outer reaches of a foreign country in a state of continual bemusement, seized with the urge to leave as soon as the customs and sights become legible: X’s juvenilia, marginalia, epigrams, anagrams, epitaphs, imitations, plagiarisms, inventories of household, legal pleadings, complete lists and cocktail recipes; each with moments of indescribable brilliance and large swathes of incomprehensibility: a volume of words salvaged from the ashes of the manuscripts he tried to destroy, visible only by ultraviolet light.
Next, I plan to begin reading what was never written: an epic poem on the Fall of Jerusalem, the Magnum Opus of philosophical materialism, a translation of Faust, a spiritual autobiography, letters to S–.