from pastelegram.org, June 2011 – April 2014
Bodies of water: a lyric circle
≈ / a bath
I am taking a bath with the man I love. We are talking about love. We are talking about the word. I say, The word itself is a metaphor, and Nothing is absolute. He does not think all words are metaphors, but of course they are, I think, every sound approximating its subject. Everything is approximate, I think. He says, You are approximating what was hip at that school Up North.
The conversation does not happen like this, not exactly or even nearly. Everything is approximate. But what is the shape of a fight?
What does it sound like. What happens after. What sheath is skin in, is it words. Some words for my feelings are comfort, guilt, anxiety, comfort, comfort. Some words sound more like what they mean than others. Some words like Crisp and Drug and Apple. Are the eggs inside me sweet like fruit, are they sour. Are they soft like another one of the sound-alike words, Plum. Each hour drags them down.
≈ / a woman
If I am shaped like a woman what is logical. What is logical is sickness logical. What is logical is being gagging. The word for shape is also one. It circles me slimmingly, perfecting my movement into a box, the most beautiful. When the woman asks me why I like sonnets I say S/M or want to. The box of it could not possibly fit it. And then it does.
No or Please and Thirst then Swallow my Knees but Rhyme till Bulb so Hollow.
What if a family is the most-closed-metaphor. The clearest. The barb-best-approximated. The imperfect-but-perfectly-situated box.
But my mouth has begun to make different shapes. I say, for instance, the word Water differently, ask for it differently (ask for it differently, anyway, because New York’s tap water is nowhere-else’s tap water and I could drink this dissimilar-water all day till prettily bursting, a bad sentence drip-drained.) My sister sounds like where we are from, but I, nine-years-from-it-removed, have begun to talk like him. We hold hands et cetera.
All metaphor is a mapping. Like the East River, a fake-place-become-real. Maybe between words we can thread new connections, bodies of water. But we are bound by and in these things, too. Desire is not a word. It is not even a performance, not really, though it can be, real-truly.
Another example: sickness. We must define a body of symptoms as a syndrome. To help people we must do this. But this is mortally inadequate. This body is a book and like a book it closes. It closes experience out.
This: I feel arbitrary. Arbitrary like families, like art. I believe we make the work we need to make, and yet. Sometimes I am tempted by the purely conceptual. I am tempted to set rules for myself, and then to follow those rules. I, indexer’s daughter, am tempted to open the dictionary and write on This word. To write on it until I have no water in me. What would this mean? I am not comforted by the possibility. I am not comforted by possibilities. Every fever dream is a bookshelf falling, or a tower or two.
I want my choice taken away. The choice of language. This: I want to arbitrate.
On the ferry without me my mother asks him to say O. He says she says this and she says he is making the sounds in the front of his mouth, that they do not fall, tonsil-ticking like Ours. Everyone told me this afterwards, in, remarkably, the same words. While they were on the water I was watering the trees and lightening my hair and looking at how words like Gagging and Force look and move. How light they are and watered. And yet how predictable, our one good ride on this little scripted boat.
Since then he asks me how to say O. How not to sound like a valley girl, an O. When I say O I hear the circle rising hillily. Like the city he is from, and my mother.
There are bridges between people, yes, but what slacks and slicks them closer. I do not want my O to be his O I want to sound again like my sister. Is love then a choice, family a different choice? I want my metaphor to ring perfectly, to seal its perfect arch like unbreakagainable bone. What does the art of this have to do.
Also I wonder about irrational bodies.
For a family is at once illogical and somehow, in this, a perfect crystal of logic. You get what you get, and it is—is it?—random. But randomness, regimented, is beautiful. Night ships pass, double back, night-bump. A decision is made or stumbled upon and that is that, all branches tesselating out, tumbles of bumbles for years.
A thought develops.
How even though I am cycling and circling, my own obsessions return, infiltrate: love, sonnets, love sonnets. My little chain of words, is it fated? Is it fated like math (which we create) or stars (which we name). (Or is it the other way around.) (Closed circuitry, am I as veiny as a rope and where is the knot.) (I am not.)
≈ / a note
So maybe music is the only pure sound. But white noise, which should be same-shaped, is different, an empty metaphor or red herring. Every phrase I utter, of course, is another (empty metaphor or red herring.) But my nose is different than my sister’s nose, her teeth crooked in places and mine missing in places, and (placeholder impossible) perhaps this means nothing. Twins are uncanny. We are not twins.
We are not machines though we look like them, somehow-search. Associations stir us. But how predictable are we? Maybe we really are as calculated, rote-tracked. Word triggers memory. Image guns wetness. Who is my nauseous double?
Family as metaphor for ideas like Home and Warm and Unconditional. Also Anger and Resentment and History. Sometimes Sickness, sometimes Art.
Ideas congeal into patterns. Then the patterns begin to predict what shape any new ideas. New ideas fit their crusty angles into these predisposed slots, lopping off variation if it doesn’t slant to preconception.
The capital-F of anything becomes allegory, both averaged and sharp. But what of the real family?
Say you like a thing. You are a composite of things yourself. Thing and thing and thing, or Thing. We of course plug our things into things, and we of course in this undersell. We are more stringy than things: string with its frays buzzing out. Isn’t this remarkable. Aren’t you excited. Why do you shortcircuit your excitement in endedness. How can you be at once less and more than syllabic.
He opens his O lower and more in back. I open my O to meet his O. O god. But this circle too is just pixels.
A sonnet then is artificial: correct me. It is a false system, and closed. Maybe every closed system is false. I don’t know yet, I refuse to be unknowingly false. But a sonnet revels in its artifice. By rehearsing its script of stops it renders each roll/role ridiculous, stunning, moot.
A sonnet is the ultimate whip-wielder.
And all real metaphors mix.
This text is part of “Width and Against” by Kristina Felix. Other parts of this project include: