Wednesday, June 5, 2019


[Merleau-Ponty's Prose of the World from Hamilton Library, with post-it note from this very spot--albeit turned the other way when found]

Have I written this post before? I likely have. Mind's repetitions get forgotten. They even lose their insistences.

Maybe 15 years ago, I was teaching American Literature Since 1950. We were reading Heller's Catch-22, the early section in the hospital. A Texan, so-called, was screaming at "the man in white," whose body was covered in bandages, one leg lifted in the air; he wanted to know if the guy was still alive. There was no response. I drove home on H1. Just past the Pali exit I had to merge left to get in position for the Likelike turn-off ahead. A vehicle that resembled both an ambulance and a hearse--there was a large window in the back--was just to my right. Inside the window I saw a man on a stretcher, wrapped in a white sheet, his one leg up in the air.

That semester there were similar coincidences during our readings of Hong Kingston (Chinese immigration case I got involved in), Toni Morrison (got a cold email from someone who'd worked for Stokely Carmichael and was moving to Maui, wanting to write a memoir). My students began to report real-life occurrences that echoed our reading. "What happened this week?" they started asking me.

Involuntary memories? Or moments when the past-real emerges into the present-real and makes them both seem invented? When moments fold into years, or years into instances. I can trust that such things happen, but I cannot trust them to happen at a particular time, or to involve specific events. I read to find out something about someone else, and then the book becomes part of my experience, through no intention of the author or of me. Attend to inadvertent intention, for there you will find the "moment of happiness" that is either addiction or spirit or both.

There are rats in the attic here in Volcano on the Big Island. If "silence" is defined as "absence" of human-made noise, then this place is silent. There are apapane and rain drops, and then there were the footsteps above my bed last night. This morning I heard squeaks. They seemed a language, perhaps of baby to mother, or mother to child-rat. As a language, the sound touched me where the thought of traps suddenly became problematic.

I've written nearly nothing since completing my last book in late 2018. That book aimed to find honest sentences. I like the book. But ever since feels like iteration without opening. The ____ are out here, if not in large numbers, blue and velvet beside the hapu`u ferns on the gravel road. The puddles are big enough to contain the tree shapes above them, and to swallow the gravel at their floor.

My iPhone dings. I look to see that someone has liked a comment I cannot remember texting to him. It's like this, the artificial forgetting of the digital device in relation to our thought. It's like Proust on steroids, except the novel will be one of forgetting everything. Down-size! Marthe Reed mocked me for not having a smart phone; I would send her messages on facebook from my laptop to her in a car somewhere between Hilo and here. I do remember Marthe, and I do remember her loud and yet loving judgments. Yes, Marthe, I got the smart phone after my flip phone drowned at the Kapoho tide pools, where you fell on the lava and sustained a loud red gash on your leg. Then you died and the tide pools were overcome by lava from Fissure 8. On social media you "cancel" people you don't like. This was more a case of time flowing over and then congealing onto what seemed to be fresh recollection. No collection where none intended.

Enactment in language (MP), then re-enactment (Civil War battlefields abutted by shopping malls) as our reading of it. To re-enact is already to know what is there, but we always already know what is there, needing it excavated, if not exhumed. I wanted to bring my mother's ashes here, but my father's are in Arlington. Can we separate the dead like that? In space to follow time.

The clock ticks, nearly 9. Sounds like a rain drop, except more certain. "Write down everything you know." But you don't know it until you see its reenactment.

Everything goes in cycles, my daughter assures me. But this cycle seems to require a fissure to re-calibrate language. Our president in England doesn't know what NHS means. Our president in the USA feels nothing for children separated from their families at the border. Ill health: friends with diseases, with enemies, with hurt, with anguish, with and with. Except that "with" suggests a side-by-side relation and theirs is one of synchronicity. A kind of karmic return to an original site of transgression. It's too easy to say we're punished for what someone else did, but that's the nature of governance. Govern the tongue, govern the body that thrashes in its bed.

Boundaries are indices of love, but border walls are not. The difference between a wall and a net, between a net (which is used to catch) and a rusted and unbraided gate. Dismantle the intellect--but don't dismiss it--and locate the place where intellect refuses to cast judgment. Cast a net, but let everything through. Etel Adnan's writing loses its specificity over time, but gains a kind of confidence in abstraction that is not fixed but wavering. If meaning is the accident of two words meeting each other on the page, then call off the EMTs. What survives accident is addition, not injury.

In editing this piece, I see Marthe looking at me from the roll of "followers." She read the blog; she got the books. No accident or synchronicity there. But the same kind of electronic pulse. In Australia there are birds that sound like electric alarms. We name them both to keep them apart. I now follow her.

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