My heart is racing. First morning in Tucson. No sleep last night. No food since yesterday morning. Looking for garbage in the streets to make a new garbage book. Have I told you about my garbage books? Spiral-bound garbage, which I send to Phil. I wander the streets looking for garbage. It’s how I re/acquaint myself. This morning, first thing I saw: a hawk standing on a pigeon corpse in the post office parking lot …
I woke up this morning in the desert. After eight months away. We were in Nova Scotia, and I had the feeling, the sensation, of writing to you about where we were, maybe I even did … because I was, anyway, talking volubly to myself, but the form had disappeared, or was disappearing, into the landscape, a very established rock through and around which water was the changing population …
I wanted to say Hello, because this morning I re-read Water Damage: A Map of Three Black Days …
What would transpire if you were to ask someone the same question on a specific day every year for many years? And if you didn’t prepare that person for the return of the question each year? And as their mind begins to go, to give … Describe a hillside, whether real or imagined, from your childhood.
I am sitting in our friend’s backyard. There are two birds. The orange tree is bare. Yesterday, DD and I went for a walk in the desert. I wondered aloud, Do animals exercise? Just then, we saw two deer on the hillside in front of us. They emerged from the cactus and rocks; only two of them, parent and child. Something was gleaming: the parent had a silver arrow stuck in its neck. The parent did not look fazed, and there was no way to tell how long the silver arrow had been stuck in its neck, but instantly, the rest of the “world,” the landscape, the people passing by on the path—we were sitting on a rock ledge—became the bearer of silver arrows …
It’s hot again in the desert. People have taken the bed sheets off their bushes.
I’m a desert that talks to itself.—Violette Leduc, in a letter to Simone de Beauvoir
It has been a long time since I’ve lived anywhere with an accessible roof. Not since Mexico. There was a small garden on the roof, and a chair. I could inhale the rivers, and the bottoms, where the street dogs would go to die. I could see the lights from the flame trees. I had a terrible nightmare in that house, was crying and screaming so loud I woke the district. A woman ran a taco stand down the street that opened at 11 pm. There was a small black-and-white TV above the comal you could watch through the steam …
John and I were biking through the neighborhoods northeast of downtown and came upon a neighborhood that smelled like dinner. The streets were lined with enormous pine trees. Earlier we had been walking around a dry riverbed. The sand was deep, like a flattened dune.
I was thinking, meanwhile, that defects, deformations, disease, where they do not merely manifest the folds, make additional folds, make visible the folds, so there are folds, and we can see, at last—and direction, presence, omni-presence, omni-direction, become visible, that we can see, like the folds in painted scrolls, which are necessary and terrifying, the hinges …
The desert has dropped a few degrees today
It’s an exceptionally quiet day. You would like it here—the desert, this part of it, green, in parts, pale-green. The sense of space, or space’s sense, how things alternate dimensions upon the eye, flattening out, no distance to perceive, then everything being distance, the crackling of red ants out of a hole, aloe plants browning and falling over, then some other column arising in the place of the vanquished heart. It’s a forgotten world, despite there being people …
This morning, I shook a kale leaf—and hundreds of aphids fell off. White dust and gray aphids. Then I walked to the edge of the yard—we have a small yard behind the house we’re living in—and stood at the cement-block wall. The wall is much higher than me. I hung from the wall. The alcohol drained to the bottoms of my feet.Then I came here: the public library. Someone urinated on a chair. So the librarian, a middle-aged man, turned the chair over. A couple days ago a bird flew into the glass door. The librarian was showing his vacation photos to someone. He went to Cambodia. Looking at one photo he said, Look! I was skinny back then! His vacation was two weeks ago …
I have been staring at these two palms. I’m restless. They are mocking me.
Everything outside is some incarnation of yellow or cream, which is desert and dust: the cream-colored folding chair, metal … my back against the yolk-yellow wall, the aloe plants yellowing—I broke one limb of an aloe with my foot, absent-mindedly, thin flowers with miniscule yellow petals, the sun on the white petals of the cane that is crossing the window is aging …
I’m curious to hear some of the mixed messages you’ve received about the desert. I’m constantly sending and receiving my own, and esp. within my own mind. The desert is the wide, capacious seat of exiles and benighted angels … immigrants and refugees, cult leaders and religious dissidents, minimalists and ghosts …
There’s a small urn filled with a dead poet’s ashes on the bookshelf, and I’m afraid of knocking it over. The ashes would fall upon a pillow, then the cat would lick them up, and I’d have to assemble a substitute from the dust in the yard … I watched a man yesterday in the dry riverbed running his brown horse through exercises, up and down the sand drift, then spent the rest of the day fantasizing about the horse’s nostrils …
The desert is a phenomenal place. It’s the beginning and end of the earth. Radiant, enigmatic, hallucinatory, maddening, preposterous, intrepid, and free …
In addition to that horse, and the man riding it, I keep seeing this young woman in tight maroon pants descending into the dry riverbed. I’ve seen her three times. Each time she’s entering the riverbed in the same spot. There is trash and mesquite trees and broken glass and waterlogged sleeping bags and creosote bushes, and the woman, gaunt, is each time descending into the guts. The guts, by the way, are filled with the footprints of ghosts. Even after it rains, after the dry riverbeds flood, the footprints remain, fossilized. Ghosts are always on the move. Then what does the woman do? She lays face-down in the riverbed and presses her nose into a footprint …
The solar lights have just come on. Not even purple scores the sky. I haven’t left the house today …
I got stung by a bee. A single drop of blood rose to the surface of my finger. I call that single drop of blood THE QUEEN.
I’ve been riding my bike up and down the dry riverbed, slaloming around hobos and horses, mounds of garbage, waterlogged sleeping bags. A homeless man was murdered in the river. Johanna saw his body being pulled out by the police. He was murdered by two other homeless men. His name was Owen. The house where we’re house-sitting is near a prison. I ride my bike behind it, hoping to catch a glimpse of the prisoners. Another manifestation of MAGIC TIME.
I saw two rabbits yesterday. One living, one dead. One was hopping through a swale of garbage. The other was a cyclops, flat on the road. I threw a rock at the living one and killed it. I picked up the dead one and pressed it between waffles …
Fresh off a day with blind teenagers. I’m beginning to understand our biological connection to atomic bombs and coelenterates.
You asked me once, Can you live in the desert?
Do you remember asking that?
Peoples’ heads hand-molded into primordial shapes, people walking without bending their knees, wearing see-through sweaters, riding on lumpen dogs, moving one frame at a time, everything made out of cardboard …
There’s a humming in the neighborhood. The humming is white, translucent. Like a battery or a beehive. Maybe the correctional facility. The humming is the correcting. I noticed the yellow blossoms on the paloverde tree. Young and yellow and resourceful …
I was hanging out with an eight year-old named Katelyn. Katelyn’s blind. Her teacher was in Chicago, so I was called in to sub. Walking back from PE to the classroom—the school is a mostly outdoor campus—Katelyn and I started talking about butterflies.
They’re my favorite animals, she said.
I’ll catch you one! I said.
I started looking for flowers where butterflies might be hovering. The grounds were bone-dry. All the flowers were small, peaked, anemic. I found a stalk of small orange flowers, tiny bells tied at intervals up a rope.
Here’s a flower, Katelyn, but no butterflies.
She stopped to touch the flower. I guided her hand.
It is small, isn’t it, she said. But it’s beautiful …
Closer to the classroom, I found a bush that had small pink flowers on it, but no butterflies.
Here’s another flower, Katelyn, but still no butterflies.
I guided her hand. Katelyn is tiny, has dirty blond hair in a ponytail, wears glasses, a t-shirt that says ZOMBIE …
What color is this flower? she asked.
I think it’s a blossom, she said.
All flowers are blossoms, aren’t they, Katelyn?
No, this one is called a Blossom, a Spring Blossom, she answered.
What’s a Spring Blossom? I asked.
A Spring Blossom is the most beautiful flower in the universe …
Katelyn’s birthday is tomorrow. I asked her what she was going to do and she said, We’re going to have an APPLE BOB!
The last time we spoke was the Friday before a three-day weekend. I asked her what she was going to do and she said,
We’re going out to dinner!
Where? I asked.
She made up a commercial about McDonald’s that goes: McDonald’s New Spicy McChicken Sandwich—It may be spicy, but it’ll make you feel like you’re loved …
Yesterday I put my foot on something solid and black and it was only after I lifted my foot that I realized it was a dead pigeon, flat on its back, wings spread, its mid-section torn open. How to make up for that? I was reading Natsume Soseki’s Dreams, a small book, which distracted me. I thought I was going further into it, while knowing simultaneously I was not. Walking to the movie theater last night with DD, I read aloud from Unica Zürn’s Dark Spring …
The desert has been especially captivating recently. A glittering, enigmatic wasteland. I’ve been attracted (especially) to the dereliction. The desert does seem to presage both the beginning and the end of time …
We live down the street from a prison, a dry riverbed, and an observatory …
I spend a lot of time staring at cactus …
I’ve been admiring the cactus, wondering about their age. I’ve been seeing the contours of refugees. The dry riverbed smells like horseshit. Occasionally I see horses. Mostly homeless people. A homeless man was drawing in the sand with a stick. Another homeless man was drinking a 2-liter bottle of Dr. Pepper. I say hello to the prison every time we pass. And I’ve been spending time with blind children …
We went to the birthday party of a 1 year-old yesterday. I ate two hot dogs and three yellow jellybeans. Meanwhile I was thinking: we should age backwards. It’s an absolute farce and tragedy that we BEGIN as children, and are then meant to bear the scars of that season across the rest of our lives …
I’ve been encountering scores of dead pigeons. Last time they were so pervasive was when I lived in Brooklyn, 10 years ago. Yesterday I saw a pigeon that had been decapitated. It was under a bridge. When I went back underneath the bridge, there was another bird in its place … a baroque black bird, with a collar like an extravagant carnation, an old Eastern European woman, senile, widowed …
I’ve been floating in an airless state the past few days. How can I describe it? It found its nighttime twin in the bike ride DD and I took last night along the dry riverbed. We were being guided by my small, senile bike light, and the occasional aura of light from a neighborhood. The mountain to our right looked bathed in moonlight, but there was no moon. We could only see a few feet in front of us. For all the lights I’ve just described, there was no light. The bike path was black. The black was engulfing. The engulfing was FILLED with RABBITS. Rabbits darting back and forth across the path, in and out of the creosote and trees … The sound was our spokes, the breath inside our ears, and rabbits …
The music was a continuation of years before. This time the mattresses were on the backs of flatbed trucks. We camped in an open cow lot. So much dust our boogers were black. There were loose pigs. And large turkeys. The music drilled holes into subterranean space. While pissing on a barbed wire fence, I stared at the moon, a perfect crescent, and thought, You’re the sun, and ridiculous …
Ribs boiled in brine. That’s how my eyes feel now. Going on 3+ weeks without a night’s sleep. Is it possible to fall in love with a dripping faucet? Also, a woodpecker was pecking on an electric transformer this morning, which was creating such an excellent sound, I dashed outside, and two mourning doves flushed from a bush knocked over a garbage can …
I’ve been mute. And low. In the hole. Wandering around town, unable to stand being indoors, unable to find shade. I watched a man training his horse in the dirt lot behind the fried chicken joint. I was admiring the horse’s veins. Then the man got off the horse and started kicking rocks. I was standing next to a toothless woman and an obese woman wearing a short shirt. I bought two black pens and then was wandering aimlessly beneath the Mexican palms, unsure of what to do …
Sitting in the yard. Awaiting the bobcats, the nocturnal gremlins. Been seeing a lot of feral cats. Springtime? Feral people too. Seem to be on the rise. Fat man belly-dancing at the bus depot. Wearing a belt of little bells. I’ve been in-and-out of consciousness. Was pretty low yesterday. Wandering aimless through the old neighborhood. Had to call DD to pick me up. Couldn’t walk any further and couldn’t find any shade to take a nap. Drank some limeade and went to sleep. The tether keeps fraying. I console myself by taking notes on the desert, and its rightness for this state of being. Music and the well-timed seam through literature. Plus, the right dosage of alcohol before I become inappropriate and frighten my friends. Personal life largely withered? Backyard reading? What else have you? How’s Ginger? Have you found other music down the mean streets? Notes on scraps? Making messes in the garage? Turning on your guitar? Opening the rubber cement?
You’re leaving soon for the funeral, right?
But what I wanted to tell you is that there’s a river in the (Santa Cruz) river, man, like fucking magic: roaring, rushing, brown, muddy, fecal, wilderness, beautiful. I wish you could see it. Surely you’ve seen it before. My first time. Like I was high. Bullfrogs emerged in the reeds. Fat, stentorian, belching, especially in the canal near the prison.
We are home. We were in Japan (after Taiwan), then in another desert (after Japan): northern Arizona, southern Utah, Navajo Nation, Mormon country, infernal, interminable landscapes, or what my grandfather’s FBI file says: “magnificent distances.” Now we’re back in the dry heat of mourning doves and mesquite trees, through which I can hear, right now, the voices of children, rising from a quarry … We’re house-sitting (AGAIN); our fear of committing to a single space, or keeping company with our own possessions, at least, continues …
Approx. 24 hours away from Tucson. Spent 3 days in a hotel in Brooklyn with DD making drawings for a book that the hotel is going to sell in their mini-bar. Black lightning-lit Nova Scotia interiors, my miniature renditions of construction workers in retributive poses: humans on an island, dwarfed by the vastness of the sea; children break-dancing in Ferguson MO; electric organisms in central squares … then saw 75 pp. of Etel’s Arab Apocalypse in manuscript, hanging on the walls of the New Museum, opposite three of her palette knife landscape paintings. She occupied, with Simone, one entire room. Windowless. Felt like a penitentiary. Etel’s type- and handwriting on the walls, as a kind of tally of days, a stay against madness, a record of the sun devouring night-color. I think I’m getting closer to understanding what she’s saying, seeing: light’s imperium, night’s revelation. I need light-boxes, record players, records, scalpels, pills, mushrooms, cola, tracing paper, liquid x-rays, uranium …
No winter plans. No plans (in general). We’re usually courting an abyss, but this one feels especially engulfing, since we’re caught between wanting to defect Tucson, and have zero desires for the next location. Mexico has been more on my mind, as Japan always is. But … I’m not done with the desert. I am starting to feel the ancient lakes as having abandoned the future sons and daughters, in the form of the Navajo nation, the Mormons, the migrants, the Mexicans, the militiamen, the homeless, the assassin bugs, the virgins, the Fathers, the prisoners, etc. etc.
What makes for happiness? An activated library card and a 25 cent soda machine.
We met the nudist. She was a white woman, adopted a spiritual name, you know. She said she’d been standing naked in the rain the night before, because it was rare, and she wanted to be penetrated. She showed us the apartment next door, big as a house, and completely empty. Her son is 48 and addicted to oxycontin. She said her mother was killed in an airplane crash, but it was okay, because her mother wanted to die. In fact, her mother KNEW the plane was going to crash, and got on it anyway. How did she know? She was a corpse. Our bodies are just vehicles, she said. Then she said, I hope this is my last vehicle. To which I said, Pretty strange vehicle. She said she had a good feeling about us. She had an Irish accent, but when I asked about her ethnic background, she said, Romanian, Russian, and gypsy. Maybe that combination makes Irish. It was pouring rain when we left.
Beer with JMW last night. I accidentally stuck my finger in his dog’s butthole. Josh’s mom mailed him a tart. I remember saying, America is a ship of fools.
I just rode my bike down the long alleyway. Like it had sentience. A woman in a bright purple tank-top was talking to herself. Mattresses everywhere. An ambulance screamed. Children were sitting on the ground beneath an aluminum awning. There was a wedding of blonde people. I spent the day at the Blind school with Zack. Zack is 12, and has developmental disabilities. His mother is an occupational therapist for war vets. She listens to death metal because Zack kept asking if we could listen to death metal. He was bouncing up and down on the yoga ball. He kept saying, Let’s put 7UP and Coke on the baby! He had Jello for lunch. Red, with fruit cocktail … Three teachers today, all women in their 50s and 60s, said I should apply for a full-time position, and I suppose it’s confusing to them when I say that I don’t want a full-time position, that I like my employment to be sporadic (erratic) …
My friends are starting to wonder why I never want to hang out. They’re on to you, DD said. I think I’m agoraphobic. Then, this morning, while riding my bicycle, I passed a storefront that said REPTILE RESCUE and there in the window was an enormous ORANGE IGUANA!!
I have only ever gotten lost. I am—even now, even still—completely inarticulate on the subject. Especially now considering ways of entering and/or re-entering. I take the desert to be my Lady of Solitude. I appeal to her. The desert is the landscape of coordinated disappearance. Nationalism always requires an enemy, whether inside or outside the nation, Angela Davis says. The vortexes of racism, oppression, profiling, incarceration, and silencing (silence) are widening so tremendously they no longer resemble such previously rarefied spaces, so that it has become redundant even to say that such histories are relevant, because of the fact that they HAVE NOT STOPPED / ARE NOT HISTORIES. The continuum is ongoing; the target is the soul.
This contrapuntal island, where we are marooned in search of marronage, where we linger in stateless emergency, is our mobile, constant study, our lysed cell and held dislocation, our blown standpoint and lyred chapel.—Fred Moten, Blackness & Nothingness
Today I felt especially THE DESERT (“Go alone.” / Translucent membrane of the blank dissolves / me to view), and maybe because I am in one. Suddenly the Kaaba in Mecca appeared, then the black column at the zero point of the atomic bomb’s detonation over Nagasaki, and then I thought of Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square, and what he had to say about it, years later:
When in 1913, in a desperate attempt to rid art of the ballast of objectivity, I took refuge in the form of the square, and exhibited a picture that represented nothing more than a black square on a white field, the critics—and with them society—sighed, “All that we loved has been lost. We are in a desert. Before us stands a black square on a white ground.”
But the desert is filled with the spirit of non-objective feeling, which penetrates everything.
I too was filled with a sort of shyness and fear, as I was called to leave “the world of will and idea” in which I had lived and created, and in whose reality I had believed. But the happy liberating touch of non-objectivity drew me out into the “desert” where only feeling is real, . . . and so feeling became the content of my life. It was no “empty square” I had exhibited but the feeling of non-objectivity. (1927)
I was thinking about the apocalypse, not as some cataclysmic event, but as a slow revelation of the inside of existence, and what the hollowness revealed, which would be counter to what everyone expects, an out-pouring of the human history, geological history, magma, horsemen, disease, all the oceans at once, as though pulled through the navel of the world: just space, and ash, that we’ve arrived late, and the apocalypse is the revelation of what already took place.
It was one of those days, with much of it spent feeling like a ghost inside the sun. The desert feels great—it’s giving me good vitamins and minerals, and I feel a genuine freedom, or a different kind. I think there is some necessary ritual in the folding of cranes, and its almost like being possessed by their folding—the folding itself, or the material being folded, becomes automatic, like compost for the spirit. Where does it all go?
There are clouds this morning, and it feels like a visitation. So far the days have seen feature-less skies, or a sky, feature-less—an enlivened yet spartan blue. A blue without space, irretrievable depth, except in the morning, when the sun pulls away. The mountains give depth, distance, but the sky is drugged, however beautiful, somewhat exotic … clouds! They are here, however slight. I hope they pull themselves further, the smell of rain in the desert is exciting, stirring up oils from the creosote, effluent …
Don’t know how the days are passing, and with suddenly 15 months since I saw you. How are they/you? I guess I’m an armless adherent of TIME after all** I hope all’s going well with purchasing and the flood: rot, and graven floors. Every morning a little dumber to the fact that the appreciable grave is the space between my body and the floor, and as my body devours the shadow, if there is one. Most often there is none. Occasionally there are two, as like the moon last night, a perfect boat, jaundiced on the ancient peaks. I killed a moth last night thinking it was a cockroach (because our casita is a hive of cockroaches), and found it clinging this morning to the white bricks, arrested in ignorance.
**It is not time that makes us forget; rather to forget we deteriorate to a time that is degenerate, that passes.—Jalal Toufic
It shall only be
a record from
The first thing I noticed when your CRANE LETTER arrived, was that the envelope was a map of Forestville, Maryland, including Andrews Air Force Base, now Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility—but that the paper itself was a map of Manteca, California, another world entirely from Forestville. Andrews AFB was vital during the Korean War, and now a NAVAL AIR facility. I start envisioning the sky as the sea, and the earth that we live on as the upper limit, with gravity reversed, and all of our mythological conceptions existing beneath us—that heaven and hell, the afterlife, consciousness, caves, coral reefs, dream-states, etc. are all available, completely accessible, but that we haven’t yet figured out how to engage gravity in the way that our bodies are surely designed, but our minds are not.
Then THE CRANE! Suddenly I was removed from Arizona, and brought to New Mexico. I was suddenly aware I was in Arizona, first, and that I wasn’t in Arizona, but in the “enchantment” of New Mexico—that I was getting landscapes confused, and the SKY-SEA above. It is the YOUTH of the BLACK SQUARE which is proving itself to be also, okina-like, the AGE of the black square, as the two come around to meet each other at the same point on the circle of life.
That seems also like what is beneath us in the SKY-SEA. I think of flames that are blue, if not white, not made of sand, not ancient as youth is, or youthful as ancient.
It rained this morning, which means floods. We climbed into the car for the first time in three weeks, and drove over the washes. We drove past a butte coarsely tufted with cactus and creosote, on top of which sat a cloud. We stopped into a bakery up north that was offering free breakfast; we cleared out their buffet and emptied both of their jugs of iced tea. Some of the most beautiful trees in Tucson are in the cemetery north of town. Most of the palm trees are in the trailer parks. The water disappears quickly.
Shortly after, or before, the Day of the Dead reading, I realized, again, that all of my writing is addressed to the dead, if not death itself. The apocalypse might necessarily be assumed, as with physical decay greeting a young body in the first quarter of its life, at least; to be born, etc. Narrative, song-making, meter, then into the lyric, ornament, guitar solos, orthotics: furnishing the eye of the storm, while drawing from its multi-pronged winds. We’re either building our tombs or consoling ourselves by poking tiny holes in an enormous lead vest, to let a sample of light in, while the apocalypse presses with the autistic fervor of 5000 fingers.
No, no, the work of art is not destined for unborn generations. It is offered to the innumerable populace of the dead. Who recognize it. Or refuse it. But these dead of whom I spoke have never been alive. Or I am forgetting. They were alive enough to be forgotten, enough so that their life’s function was to make them cross to that calm shore where they wait for a sign—one that comes from here—that they recognize.—Jean Genet
Descartes heart embedded in a wall, Celan’s shadow on the Seine.
One of my favorite Japanese folk songs is for the Bon Odori (O Bon) dance in Hokkaido. My sister gave me the record. Seeing the dance, it does seem as though the women, the old women, especially, are never going to stop dancing and turning in their circle … I start envisioning them wearing a helical ramp down into the earth, where heaven is, not hell, very slowly the bridge between worlds …
But there is a point, a measurable point, at which the EYE and the STORM meet, and I think there is some form of responsibility in touching it. I am very sad that the street car is making progress. I would prefer to see the roads FOREVER TORN TO SHIT, because that seems far more honest than the mere BOTULISM being injected into the surface of things …
If I can peel … If I can wrest …
My mind is clouded …
With a ferocity of …
Somehow your question, Can you live in the desert? feels relevant …
I just went for a walk in the riverbed …
I don’t know who the wolves are, or if there is only one, refracted. I spent today with three elementary school children—Phoebe (11), Victoria (8), Jesus (12). P, V, and J are all low-functioning. Their class is called “Life Skills.” Phoebe has the cognitive development of a 9 month-old; Victoria has cerebral palsy on one side of her body, her siblings don’t speak to her, she spends all day playing a battery-operated keyboard; she wet herself three times today, so wore four different pairs of pants throughout the day; Jesus was born without a nose, has under-developed eyeballs, and has the physical development of a 4 year-old. In another time and place, what would have happened to them? What is happening to them now? Sometimes I see them with perfect clarity, and I think they’re seeing me …
What does enervation become? Is it permissible to wish the wind be even more relentless? DD and I have been absolutely rapt yet incapacitated by the wind …
I came upon this woman the other day on 4th Street:
Now I visit her, and I don’t know why … I think she changes. I think she’s changing …
It’s raining tonight in the desert, which tightens space, or makes it even more inscrutable, dense, obscure. The rain is good, and we’re back in JMW’s house, house-sitting. It’s like he’s got a tin roof …
The moon is revealing the skin on its bottom. I always think of the moon, when we see it, as an homage to the sun. There is snow on the mountaintops, which gives a good feeling. Snow in the desert, though distant. There’s a defunct labor/prison camp in the mountains north of Tucson. Gordon Hirabayashi was imprisoned there during the Second World War. He hitchhiked from the Northwest to the desert. When he arrived, he was sent up the mountain. Japanese-Americans, Hopi Indians, Jehovah’s Witnesses, war protestors …
It is very hard to live with silence. The real silence is death and this is terrible. To approach this silence, it is necessary to journey to the desert. You do not go to the desert to find identity, but to lose it, to lose your personality, to be anonymous. You make yourself void. You become silence. You become more silent than the silence around you. And then something extraordinary happens: you hear silence speak.—Edmond Jabès
I have been staring at the trees. They are really something strange. I wish I could convert some molecules of what I mean into color. I often feel attitudes take on color—that tone is color, that pathological states have color. But today: the palm trees.
I read this in the introduction to Artaud’s Watchfiends & Rack Screams: Once a shaman, his (or her) work is to maintain the spiritual equilibrium of his community, keeping open communication between the three cosmic zones: earth, sky, and underworld. He facilitates this via the axis mundi, or World Tree, located at the center. The World Tree appears in many guises: ladder, bridge, vine, stairs, etc. The long and dangerous excursions to sky or underworld—to retrieve lost souls or to accompany the recently dead—involve rhythmic chanting and drumming …
I often envision very small wooden bridges to exist in the hair of old women—wooden bridges exquisitely carved, with peacock feathers. I haven’t been feeling very well, and wrote fitfully all day long: wrote and read, watched the trees in the wind. It has been cloudy too, which I hate to mention for how pathetic it sounds to care, because clouds are so vital, but still …
I’m sitting between two brass candlesticks (without candles) and a vintage accordion. We’re in our friends’ house for the rest of the year, house-sitting, plant-watering, keeping warm, desert-warm; I just spent an hour in a wooden rocking chair in the backyard, reading Alice Notley’s Mysteries of Small Houses. The backyard is dirt and rocks, but there’s a swimming pool, and young fruit trees. My back hurts. I think I’m being pressured by ghosts. Not haunted or inhabited, but pressured …
It keeps going BECAUSE it vanishes.
I offer you my heart over Tucson
I can’t use it
I OFFER YOU MY HEART OVER TUCSON is comprised of fragments from emails written to friends—including Amanda Nadelberg, Bhanu Kapil, Phil Cordelli, Kate Greenstreet, Rob Schlegel, Kelly Schirmann, Zachary Schomburg, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Robert Snyderman, Caitie Moore, Dot Devota, Deborah Woodard, Wong May, Lynn Xu, Phil Cordelli, Yanara Friedland, Karena Youtz, Molly McDonald, and John Melillo—from, or on the way to or from, Tucson, Arizona, between late-2011 and late-2014.