My grandmother adopted a baby.
She had a sunroom filled with plants.
The baby was sometimes a white cat. There were other cats, too. And also birds, un-caged. These were not ordinary birds, but instead had fantastical plumage indicating either a unique native wildness or a specialized exotic cultivation. Red parrot-like animals and hawks with beaks bright like tropical fish or Floridian lipstick. Owls with exaggerated black tufts rising from their herringbone plumage.
I thought my grandmother, being ninety-five years old, might expire sooner than this new baby’s needs.
The white cat was among the other cats and as a group it was difficult to suppress their predatory urges towards these birds. But these were no ordinary birds. They were large hunters and they sat in the plants in the sunroom. If something were out of place, a bit of wind, an errant hair, it could give rise to panic and compulsion. Terror and ecstasy.
One brown striped cat submitted to chase and leapt after the long-legged red animal in the corner, erupting into a dervish whirling: feathers and fur. I tried to usher the birds through the door into the windowless hallway, but being too large for the space, too magnificent, their wings could only be compromised by the walls and the ceiling. Eventually they made it through with the owl struggling the longest, perhaps sustaining the most injury.
I walked back through the calm sunroom and wondered if this collection, these plants and in some part the animals too were the segue to death and in that sense if they were nature.
There is a movement, as in circles of a purgatory, from the detective to the monk. It is both a natural progression, but also a spiritual progression involving certain practices using a series of ropes and strings. The movement, which might be understood as a progression, or even an ascension, requires the proper movement of these ropes and strings involving the dexterity and coordination of an athlete combined with the precision and vision of a craftsman. The detective learns to identify clues and to collect them. He begins organizing them, using the ropes, tying one to another in an appropriate sequence to create a tool, like a net that may slowly hold all of the clues. It will account for them, that is why the order and sense must be present, leaving no space too large for things to fall through or too small for things to become pinched.
When I fell in love it was by the ocean, but not in a warm place. There were trees and moss and grey weathered decking. I was doing simple tasks with my hands like crocheting and making nets. In order to make nets one must tie a serious of knots and connect them. Like a wall with images and names, bits of button or cloth pinned up in clear plastic sleeves or bags, old hairnets and cigar boxes, an ashtray from a rest stop in Alabama – all clues that a detective collects and then connects with marker or pieces of red string, connecting until something comes together that can be used to catch other things. To hold other things. Maybe fish. A shape of time.
The future, it is like pure spirit, no encumbrances like body, pressing down and deforming the truth. The good detective, the one on the ascending path, has learned that eye witness testimony is either unreliable or exactly as true as anything else in the past, meaning not nearly as true as the future. It is this realization, among others, that incites the detective to ascend towards the monk. Moving from a series of clues that reveal a story to no clues, pure story. There is no language in the future, language has always been the currency of falsehood.
The detective moves towards the monk. The ropes once used for tying nets are now just turned and turned, no knots. He begins to learn his witnesses cannot be trusted, perhaps through malice, but more often by nature. As with making nets by the ocean, double dutch moves ropes in a rhythm, but unlike the detective, who ties the series of knots, who closes the loop to contain things, the double dutch ropes keep moving. They are never tied off; they never stop. This is why the detective introduces (again) double dutch to New York City. I will go there.
When you sense what is invisible, or what is different than you sensed before, a different kind of substance, it may be considered an illness. Like deafness or blindness, a diminution of certain senses that allows others, now enhanced, to come to the forefront. This substance that I sense is between the other stuff. Between the people and the words and the chairs. It is what lets the double dutch jumpers know the moment to jump into the swinging ropes, it is not only where the ropes are but where they aren’t and this is never static, so what is it they are waiting for? What are they accustoming themselves to as they rock back and forth judging the moment. Sensing the moment. Falling in love. Sensing the movement of space and substance and accommodating oneself to that rhythm, first inside feeling that particular fullness and lacking that is that other person. It is a rhythm that you must match before you can jump in. It feels good to be home in that way, to find a movement that is yours, even if it looks different than you thought it might.
I started seeing things differently. Only the word seeing no longer seemed like the correct word. I have heard people talk about the spaces in between things. The illusory spaces and the idea that even in what we think of as discrete bodies there is more space than substance. In this way people can imagine the physicality of interconnectedness, as well of course as disconnectedness. I’m afraid once I invoke the language of the space-in-between, it concedes too much to the concept that there is in-between, somehow as primary, or in-fact. As if the point were made by banging a hand on a wooden table, only further confusing the issue by emphasizing the wrong senses, materiality, violence, the concrete.
I watch the girls playing double dutch. Two swing the ropes, connected not through ropes but through rhythm. And the one girl readying to jump in. She rocks back and forth, one might say waiting for her moment. She is not waiting. She is preparing. She is becoming part of the rhythm, taking on some part of the motion and adding her own.
I am seeing the rhythms that are entered into. The ones that match our own, so we can most easily move with and through them. It is seeing what isn’t there. It is learning to see what is not visible, like background. Like female.
Walled in under the snow, things will take a turn.
Dreaming and doing manually, self-raised of weeds.
The Old Garden, fruiting time, birdcraft.
To fruit time: games of patience.
DREAMLIFE: A collection of women’s dreams, recorded and then translated here as part of the Female Background metabolism. A way in, a way out.
I had some things to do before I could let it overcome me, stop me with its indifferent, tidal forces, rhythms of carnival activity, parades and acrobatics. I had so much to carry and I noticed others were in groups and sometimes had carts or sleds to help with their loads, but I struggled, making multiple trips, and also hiding. They would kill me, the war was advanced enough for that.
An older woman dressed in many layers, her lips bright red and eyes lined darkly, offered to paint my face, with “just the right highlight on the cheekbones”. This was her job and she was quite skilled, the best in fact. I thought it was about time to stop imagining that beauty might be different from craft, or to consider that honesty does not bear relation to fact or truth as we commonly suppose. The body has no natural state. The face has no natural state. And so I accepted her offer.
I found an old cart, I thought I might use this cart, like the others did, to escape the city more expeditiously. It was neglected, rusty, and one wheel looked askew. I had seen a woman using a sled, under her own power, and wanted this cart to be similar, but it was intended for oxen. I imagined that I could pull or push it just the same, even if it was not ideal. The large warehouse required some disguise if I were to enter. It was heavily attended by soldiers, a maze of rooms and floors, leaking. I abandoned that approach. I found a road out, out through a manicured lawn where people lounged as if collegiate. A woman I knew from years ago came smiling towards the lawn, her once-distinctively long hair, now short. She wore a colored leotard. She was an acrobat in the circus. This was a powerful position. Perhaps that’s why she headed in so freely. More people were coming in as I was leaving, so many people. A brigade of women holding signs, signs having to do with women – white with black hand-written letters. They were wearing orange leotards, orange hair, and with silver batons. They were in formation, quite choreographed. Leading the array were old acquaintances; they had maintained their friendships through these years, the same two that shared the ocean front condominium and swam in the rip tide, and now they were en pointe with colorful ribbons and high-kicks, moving quickly, smiling, towards war. I hurried past, disguised, recognizing old friends among the faces in the eager crowd.
I continued down the long dirt road. It was lined with grand marble government buildings each with tall columns and surrounded by green lawn. Gradually, this population of advancing people and the white buildings gave way to open fields and finally, to a still lake surrounded by trees. I began to feel relief. I saw the flocks of birds at the far end of the lake and they flew, in formation, in escalating manifestations. They began softly black, fluttering flocks in the distance, but then began to take on silvery and mechanized attributes, like sharply folded paper airplanes. Until they turned and with increasing aggression flew like arrows towards my place on the shore; I dropped to the ground and lay flat. I tried to run between the onslaughts, but that time shortened to nothing and I would have to crawl away.
You were with me in the passenger seat and I knew, as you did, that you were impervious to automobile accidents, perhaps because you were already dead, but so was I, I just didn’t know it yet. We were breaking up, which felt more difficult than dying. I felt as though I were trying to convince you to stay close by until I actually died, it would be soon.
The streets were so beautiful that day, sunny and treelined with red bricks and houses nestled together. They had been there for a long time and one could tell because the landscaping was lush and mature. Perhaps there was something about the proportions and the scale of houses to houses and houses to streets and pathways that suggested it had not been built for automobiles, although there was no particular problem accommodating them now. There is something about the sun in my eyes that changes the state of things, from waking to sleep or from life to death.
The officers came to pull me out of the car. I felt as though I would be fine to walk, although my legs felt weak and I knew that even if I could walk it did not signify living or dying. You were already out of the car, organizing things. The white Honda that had driven towards and into the front of my white van was apparently driven by someone who was already dead. The officer said there was a dead man in the car, but that he had already died before the accident, implying perhaps that his being dead was the cause of the accident.
I heard many birds, the way I like to, and I waited for what came next.
A calculus cobbled of wooden (vestigial) folding rulers lost in the basement, used-only-once fishing bobbins, maybe some tangled crab trap, a bit of public radio, and a red compact umbrella turned out to be the best-fit apparatus for the task. (Do these things all fold?) To some dismay, precision and clarity might, in every case, be at odds.
This calculus, being prone to impaction, requires expulsion for health (i.e., the persistence of the body via processes). It begins to feel like a lump in the throat, massed up and solid and legitimate. But in an expelled, and therefore attenuated situation, it can be most rightly understood as a best-fit apparatus of appropriated approximations. The truly interesting part is that there is no empty space left, but rather, a new calculus is already in place and this new calculus is similar enough to the old one that in most cases it is considered to be the same. And from this it is clear that what is said once is never true but only the repetition of the untruth begins to approximate truth. The lump is comprised of layers of the same thing (almost) instead of an undifferentiated semi-hard mass. Like a small onion-vegetable whose integrity is subject to immediate chemical-physical alteration upon interaction with words, most especially written words, but also spoken.
Realizing I cannot tell the truth, but not wanting to lie, I began to repeat. Which is not a new strategy at all, from a historical vantage.
If one says something it becomes untrue.
If one says something it then has the capacity for becoming true.
If one repeats something it achieves relevance.
Something cannot be repeated, but we understand repetition none-the-less.
DREAMLIFE: A collection of women’s dreams, recorded and then translated here as part of the Female Background metabolism. A way in, a way out.
I gave birth to a son, small like a baby. He began to gesture to me in signs and a verbal language of his own and I slowly came to suspect that he was keeping something from me, this newborn with language. And filled with love I looked at him and asked, albeit cautiously: “You can speak?” He nodded and told me, using English words, as if his previous communications were only to dissemble the miraculous truth: he had been born fully conscious. As this became more clear, he grew into a brown-haired, blue-eyed boy and just as quickly into a man all before he could nurse or be held like the newborn he was. In virtue of this other-worldly transformation, this miraculous incarnation, I asked him about his care. Did a grown man who was newly born nurse from his mother? Indeed. He saddened as he explained that this miracle could turn dark, there could be a reversion to some undone state and breast milk was a feature of resistance to the curse.