30 August 2014

The whole body

Her eyes are trained on a moth. Intent, she cannot decide. There is this embrace with me - her tiny body curled easily around itself and against me, against the curve of my chest. She doesn't want to escape to chase the moth fully and yet she is keen on it in some way or other. She is purring because I am stroking her between her eyes as I have stroked and still stroke the people I love who might sleep beside me. She closes her eyes every so often in pleasure and then flicks them open say when she hears that little silver moth beating its body against the blinds. She sits up alert and tense, beautiful like we rarely or never are - or only are just before coming - where the gaps are sealed between body and mind, where desire is no longer private and no different to need. But she does not want to leave my arms. I consider how love's pleasures trap us - now we cannot get out of bed to make coffee, to stretch, to write books, to fight, to chase a moth because the other is still in it. Then love becomes a cancer and its transformations kill you. I think on the difference between pleasure and joy and come up with not much except that joy's a kind of tearing away where distance makes you closer than closeness does. But perhaps she does not want to chase the moth because she knows she will never catch it. It is really very tiny and fast, and perhaps it is better to be here in the hollow of my chest, and she is well fed and sleepy anyway. What cat reasoning is she working through? But is she making excuses for herself just to stay in my arms because she feels as I feel? Can she hardly believe it? Or is she just lazy? I want her to know that some part of my consciousness is always trained upon her like her eyes are trained upon the moth right now. This is why when you love you will never sleep soundly again and it will begin to deform you until you must escape it or adapt to your new deformations - grow gnarled and different with grace. But also that because both sleep and love are necessary you might learn to let your warm body be curled around with the same intensity of gentleness as the violence with which you fuck. You might learn the difference between resting and death. And partly I want her to leap out of my arms, for her 'instincts' to override her comfort - though perhaps that too is an instinct. I want her to remind me that she does not love me, that she will never love me like I love her and that despite knowing this I continue to love her all the same. I too can sleep alone. I like it! But she does not jump and leap out of my arms. When I wake up she is still there beside me sleeping so, curled against herself and against me. Even when I turned my back in the night she stayed there sleeping. Now, I take this as as much a mark of love as a mark of total indifference. That she has stayed all night sleeping beside me may suggest she wanted to be close to me specifically, but equally this is a comfortable, quiet, warm spot perfect for naps. I can never ask her, do you love me? Or, do you love me like I love you? Love's anxieties find no footholds here. That she is here with her whole body is all I know. I do not love her because she is small. I do not want to have to protect her. I do not love her because she needs me. If she did not need me and still hung around I would know then perhaps for sure that she really does love me. When she scratches and bites me I want her to stop but I am proud and I want her to continue. I want her to leap out of my arms so I can forgive myself for having done this to her by reading into her action of jumping out of my arms the idea that she is still cat animal above all and must hunt and roam and I must not know about it. Love could be wide enough to incorporate indifference also.

5 August 2014

Joe Brainard / I Remember / 1975 | Georges Perec / Je Me Souviens / 1978

Here is the full text of New York School poet Joe Brainard's I Remember - a memoir comprised of a list of memories or fragments of memories, some very personal, others no doubt shared, perhaps randomly arranged or arranged as they were remembered in the writing of them, bounding between and troubling the distinction between the profound and the mundane, building up a portrait of a life and a time composed of tiny details, all beginning 'I remember'.

In 1978 OuLiPian writer Georges Perec's Je Me Souviens was published, dedicated to Brainard and formed from memories of his life between the ages of 10 and 25. Of it he says (in a not so good translation), these are:

"Small pieces of everyday things, such and such year, all people of the same age have seen, have lived, have shared, and then disappeared, have been forgotten; they do not worthwhile to be part of history, nor included in the memoirs of statesmen, mountaineers and superstars.

But sometimes they come back, a few years later, intact and in lowercase letters, by chance or because they were sought one evening with friends; it was something they had learned in school, a champion, a singer or a starlet who pierced, a tune that was on everyone's lips, a robbery or a disaster that was the one of the daily newspapers, bestseller, a scandal, a slogan, a habit, an expression, a product or a way to wear it, a gesture, or something even thinner of inessential, quite banal, miraculously snatched its insignificance, recovered for a moment, prompting for a few seconds impalpable little nostalgia."

Here is a film 'completely theatrical in its approach, which is perhaps the only reliable way to deal with a Perec text on film' (UbuWeb) of Sami Frey reciting Perec's text in its entirety whilst cycling on a stationary bicycle through a seemingly changing landscape.

To my happy surprise, having only just heard about Brainard's poem from a dear friend, Perec's text will be published in English for the first time this month. Find an extract and more info here.

(But between the two, it's Brainard who has my heart.)