Love and Loss

The Olympic Sculpture Park has a sculpture of Love and Loss, the words intersecting at the letter “o”.  Part of the sculpture is a utilitarian bench, part is a painted tree, and part is missing.  The “e” is currently being restored, and the table where it  sits  has been vacant for at least a few months at this point.  The piece doesn’t look like it’s missing anything- it’s only when you start to try to piece out the words that the logic falls short.  The word cannot finish, it is caught mid-love, and we are left with loss.  But one day, maybe soon, the e will be put back onto the table and those who never knew it’s absence will notice nothing.

Is it too overbearing of a metaphor to have love caught mid-word, entangled with the complete loss? Writing about love feels sentimental to me, and yet it is something that is pervasive and ever-present and begs to be written about.  So I couch love in other terms, I examine small aspects and insert my own symbol-language to hide behind.

I was asked by a good friend what I write about, and at first I glanced off the question, If I could summerize what I write about, why would I have to write it? That’s the easy answer, and he deserved more, so I tried again. I think, for the most part, I write about the inability to connect. Would this answer surprise the people who know me outside of my text?  For all of my chatter and friendly gestures, I am not sure I exist outside myself.

Even when in love, I am unable to become You. I remain Me, separate from You.  Helene Cixous struggles with this in The Book of Promethea.  She writes: “I cannot let you fill me.  It is a matter of impossibles between us.”  Anne Carson struggles with this in Decreation as well, examining love between mother and daughter and examining love of god.  In her essay Decreation: How Women like Sappho, Marguerite Porete and Simone Weil Tell God she follows how love is the strength that destroys (yet creates) these women.  To be subsumed by love is to be destroyed.  “Marguerite Porete was burned at the stake in 1310 for writing a book about the absolute daring of love.”  I admire what she risked, how impossible it was for her to do anything else.

I’d like to still have the idealism to think that love is enough, and that if we have to burn at the end, we burn– but I am not Marguerite.

return to Love

from Gasworks Park

The Seattle sun strikes hot today and it cannot feel like the first day of autumn.    My skin just beneath sweating, the water between myself and downtown a rocking body.  The boats cut slowly, minimal wakes.  I only smell dirt, warmed concrete, my own scent rising. I return to H.C. and love, because I have to return.

Z. is leaving again.  A month.  He was supposed to have months. Plural. And today, I was on a bus swaying with heat. Sweat and perfume and the hum of electric motors.  And my phone, buzzing.  I looked, debated for a moment.  Buses are loud, conversations bleed over into adjacent seats.  Hesitated.  Then answered, and felt the days rush into my body, colliding into each other.  A month.  After the disconnect, held my hand to my lips as if to stave off something.

And so I have to return to H.C., look into her pages to explain my own.  If I can understand her abstract Love then I can define my own.  I can explain why I must hold my hands to my lips for a body both (not lost) and (not mine).

I have known love, and I have been at the other side, looking towards the buildings blurred with the humidity of after-love.  H.C. writes about the destructive force of love, the destructivecreative force of it.  –Defeat me. Pillage me. If there is a house, a room, a safe in my city that I have not turned over to you, whose keys I haven’t provided, if you find one single door I might have forgotten inadvertently deep inside my soul, smash it open. The need to give and be given, to take and be taken.

Grey shades of it, the limits of what I am willing to give.  No. I am still too faint, too dim. I do not have enough strength yet to start dying again. Because that’s it, isn’t it?  Love a death, a destruction of boundaries—I give you my body for your body and I take your body for my body. But how can anyone survive this?  I can’t, not yet.

I say body, and I mean more.  I seem to return to certain words.  Body and edge, for example.  My iceberg words, I mean whole oceans and only say: body. I mean—pneumea. Lifebreath.  My edges.

I think I give easily, to a point.  Here here here.  It seems: entire.

But it isn’t.  I keep a seed, the turtle shell to stand on.  Because who can do it and return?

All this to circle back, and say: Z., even before leaving, please please return.  Not to me, as I lay no claim, but all the same.

(All italic text from Hélène Cixous, The Book of Promethea)

Making Tea

japanese float

While my telling blows aimed off at illusory skies you made tea, today’s not at all imaginary Earl Grey.  Which is the most magical thing of all, my today friend. Not making a big to-do, making tea.  

Hélène Cixous The Book of Promethea

I’ve forgotten most of the French I knew, but I remember French class in high school with Miss Wub.  I made a lot of chamomile tea and drank it from a plastic yellow mug with Emma.  We had to choose “French names” and I remember happily slashing the accents over my chosen Thérèse on grammar quizzes.  The next year I wanted to switch to Mona but it wasn’t a French-enough name, so I became Monique Thérèse.  

Now I find myself reading translated French and wishing I could remember enough to read the original text.  I also wonder what happened to Monique Thérèse.  She was so young then, sipping her tea and juggling her bags and books, pink Doc Martens and an old army coat thrown over the chair, hair chopped and dyed, makeup too bright. 

I’m reading the submissions for Moravian’s Lebensfeld Upper Writing competition, and so far they are all beautiful.  The work might need editing, but they are so full of vulnerability and insecurity I can’t help but find them beautiful.  I tried to explain it to a coworker, the pages strewn about me in the break room, but I ended up rambling about burnt sugar coatings.   What I meant to describe with my metaphor: the golden sugar cage I made once for a cake.   I dripped the candy over a bowl and let it harden, and the cage sat above a white lilly cake I made.  At least, it was supposed to.  I don’t think it worked as intended.  But that’s what these stories are: latticed words that hover close above, touching down in places.  Easily shattered.

I know that I’m not that far away from these students.  Their work is beautiful to me because I can see all of the steps I took along the same paths, the ways I was terrified and self-delusional and egotistical and shy; the ways I still am all of those things.  

Oh Monique Thérèse.  If I could go back and tell you anything, I don’t know that I would.  You have to make your mistakes, you have to write your terrible but heartfelt poems, you have to hurt and love and dance and laugh.  And you have to forget French.  I’m sorry, but I’m not at all.  Enjoy your tea.

The Book of…

Reading Hélène Cixous’ The Book of Promethea has found me at a strange place.  “Our history has a bumpy geography:” she writes.  What history doesn’t?  It is a book about love, but un-love.  The not-love that is love.  The pain of it all.  “Because in love not all is love.”  And the absolute fiery consuming beauty.

And then I read this and I am foolish and little and young; I know nothing of tragedy or pain.  

This is a terrifying place, the world.  There are so many breakable moments, so many crushing defeats.  So much love beneath it all but how to find that vein… sometimes it seems I know, other-times it is impossibly distant and I am parched.  (Cixous’ voice infects me. I mimic poorly, but I can’t approach her book without beginning to slip into it.  My thoughts want to follow hers, trace the spaces between lines for some thread back to myself.)  I am wandering.