A fellow called Chris Knapp in The Paris Review, not me. Maybe I should tweet about it, so we both get some attention. And there again’s that jealousy. But it’s really not, not for talent, at least. No, only for its rewarded absence. In that offense does the injustice lie. This Knapp fellow’s talent isn’t absent, it’s abundant, at least in this instance, making me almost afraid to read anything of his else, else that sense be tarnished the way the wrong reader—reading aloud—can undermine a story or the way a new person can start off fine and then spoil themselves. Till we get used to it.
Being “someone” felt like taking
care of a baby that wasn’t mine,
sad little helpless stinking bundle
of other people’s exhaustion,
expectations, and distress, alone
Not long ago I read that prize-pony book by Junot Díaz and found myself feeling a whole heritage I don’t remember and couldn’t possibly, a language of life not my own and yet so infinitely recognizable that I’m using it now as a long way of saying you showed us what kindness and hope and affection and family could be. And determination. Stubborn, bull-headed, not-to-be-swayed determination. Not gloriously, not by any means, and not so much as conscious lessons as by being, reminding, almost—perhaps completely—unaware of the teaching to the point that I wonder if you even knew.
Well that, grandma, is our heritage, our language, and I read it in you as if from a book. I will do my part in keeping it alive, while you rest in our hearts, in peace. Never one for punctuality, I’m just glad my last letter made it in time. You always did enjoy my silly ramblings, simply because the handwriting was mine. I always loved how easy it was for any of us to make your day. We’ll miss you.
Betty. Ninety-four years ago in August to today in October.
Commiserations in the negative, the mutuality of dissatisfaction and disgust, even anger, if delicate senses of wished-for dignity found offense to take. Storybook characters thinking themselves descended of Caulfield, but to what end? Conclusions are such a funny preoccupation of youth, dawn obsessed with dusk.
Maxine Groffsky talks too much and I hear too little from any of you, but the kettle’s on. In my head one time we made a career of it like Jean-Paul & Simone and everyone had weathervane opinions on the winds of influence but I still only knew either of us like I know her: through words, choice. She edited her own interview, for chrissake. The limits of imagination are four words that could title a book it’d take an eye blink to read, but most poetry would say a lifetime, and take it. Lifetime, you decide.
Take words out of your stories, you’d say, and stop trying to write yourself away. Stop trying to hide something and pretend it’s essence, stop trying to say what it’s all about. I’d know what you meant, having recently finished a little something by di Benedetto I felt I was supposed to appreciate but didn’t, partly because it was just too austere. Laferrière said “there’s nothing more false than real life” and it’s convenient for me to agree right now. Imagine how much freer we’d be in speech if we weren’t so compelled to riddle. I wonder if the pictures taken by strangers contain some message to me. What might they be trying to say?
Let’s perform this procedure and run these tests and hopefully then be done with this. Oh yes, and your heart can go on beating. That’s what the cardiologist said in a dream I had in August, not in real life, but it was nevertheless a relief, albeit late.
Camus, in real life, said “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” I should’ve asked the doctor about the possible side effects of semantics on one’s physiognomy. But one rarely reasons in dreams.
Made choices not from equilibrium, as sometimes thought, but from crests or troughs. Just a ship at sea. I can’t get over how primitive I feel in even acknowledging that, how human, how dare I.
Is it always this way, though, so reactive? I sometimes get sea sick and think it should be spelled -ee rather than -ea, thinking if enough people hear me as me (t=0, where t stands for thought) then maybe they’d show me how to cut the kinds of breaks I’ve been so loath to cut myself and be usual.