Un Être en Vertige

L’être voué à l’eau est un être en vertige. Il meurt à chaque minute, sans cesse quelque chose de sa substance s’écoule. La mort quotidienne n’est pas la mort exubérante du feu qui perce le ciel de ses flèches ; la mort quotidienne est la mort de l’eau. L’eau coule toujours, l’eau tombe toujours, elle finit toujours en sa mort horizontale. […] la mort de l’eau est plus songeuse que la mort de la terre : la peine de l’eau est infinie. […] 

Gaston Bachelard, L’Eau et les rêves, Essai sur l’Imagination de la Matière.
John William Waterhouse, Circe Invidiosa, 1892

Michaux parle à Orphée

Si tu arrives à dormir, c’est que le spectacle, la présence du réel tu en as assez, tu n’en peux plus.

Fini tout ce mesuré, mesuré mais voyant. Tout sombre, tu sais t’y dérober, tu t’arrêtes et tout s’arrête et coule dans une indifférence qui n’inquiète pas. En effet le lendemain tu te réveilles avec à peu près les mêmes sottises que la veille, quand pourtant tu n’en pouvais plus de tenir ensemble les pièces, structures ou débris, toutes ces illusions en forme de réalité, que tu reprends maintenant grosso modo et pas fâché de les retrouver pour faire face à ce qui va se présenter. 

Mais ne serait-ce pas que chaque soir tu voudrais plutôt seulement t’éloigner, t’éloigner en voguant de l’insatisfaisant monotone qui persiste à se présenter? ce serait là ton désir.

Henri Michaux, Poteaux d’Angle, 72
Odilon Redon, Orpheus

“The molecules of growth and decay”

Love in August

by Miroslav Holub

By an Aztec path

your hand roamed

over my chest.

The sun burst out like the egg

of a pterodactyl

and the aspens rustled

in a wooden proto-language.

All this has happened before.

The jellied landscape

was lined with happiness

You worshipped me

as the goddess of warm rain.

But in every corner of our eyes

stood one of Maxwell’s demons,

allowing the molecules of

growth and decay

to pass there and back.

And all around us, all around,

all around,

behind excoriated corneas


like a level behind glass,

entropy rose

in a meaningless random universe.

All this has happened before.

All this is yet to happen.

The mercurial and the caring

In reality the bat is shy and gentle, fastidiously groomed and a tidy housekeeper (Ackerman, 4ff). Particularly in Asia, the bat represents the maternal aspect of the great goddess. The attunement of a mother bat and her baby is such that they can instantly recognize each other’s high-pitched squeak in a nursery cave of millions and be reunited. […]

Alchemy sometimes depicted the mercurial spirit of the unconscious with bat wings. It is a way of conveying not only psyche’s darkness, mystery and ambivalence, but also its provision and unforeseen agency, the way it can lead consciousness into spheres requiring a different kind of orientation and in which can be found the fructifying unconventionality of nature.

“The Bat”, in: The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, ed. A. Ronnberg, K. Martin


Water in a closed hand

Cascando (by Samuel Beckett)

why not merely the despaired of
occasion of

is it not better abort than be barren

the hours after you are gone are so leaden
they will always start dragging too soon
the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want
bringing up the bones the old loves
sockets filled once with eyes like yours
all always is it better too soon than never
the black want splashing their faces
saying again nine days never floated the loved
nor nine months
nor nine lives

saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn
saying again there is a last
even of last times
last times of begging
last times of loving
of knowing not knowing pretending
a last even of last times of saying
if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words
terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending
I and all the others that will love you
if they love you

unless they love you

Since the age of 22 I have found myself haunted by this poem, and now that so much of my writing deals with recurrence and the circularity of things, it seems hard to deny that this poem’s lines circumnavigate me like moons, firing their disruptive light into my writing. In fact, no matter how much I try to get rid of him, every time disruption occurs in my writing – either the disruption of body and mind, or that of human and time – Beckett pokes his nose out of a molehill, saying “Remember me?” Yes, you bastard, I do. 

Merleau-Ponty & le Corps

L’énigme tient en ceci que mon corps est à la fois voyant et visible. Lui qui regarde toutes choses, il peut aussi se regarder, et reconnaître dans ce qu’il voit alors l’« autre côté » de sa puissance voyante. Il se voit voyant, il se touche touchant, il est visible et sensible pour soi-même. C’est un soi, non par transparence, comme la pensée, qui ne pense quoi que ce soit qu’en l’assimilant, en le constituant, en le transformant en pensée – mais un soi par confusion, narcissisme, inhérence de celui qui voit à ce qu’il voit, de celui qui touche à ce qu’il touche, du sentant au senti – un soi donc qui est pris entre des choses, qui a une face et un dos, un passé et un avenir…


Visible et mobile, mon corps est au nombre des choses, il est l’une d’elles, il est pris dans le tissu du monde et sa cohésion est celle d’une chose. Mais, puisqu’il voit et se meut, il tient les choses en cercle autour de soi, elles sont une annexe ou un prolongement de lui-même, elles sont incrustées dans sa chair, elles font partie de sa définition pleine et le monde est fait de l’étoffe même du corps. Ces renversements, ces antinomies sont diverses manières de dire que la vision est prise ou se fait du milieu des choses, là où un visible se met à voir, devient visible pour soi et par la vision de toutes choses, là où persiste, comme l’eau mère dans le cristal, l’indivision du sentant et du senti.

Maurice Merleau-PontyL’œil et l’Esprit
Salvador Dalí, Sleeping Young Narcissus, 1980

Never not the case

There is a marvelous story about Duchamp and an art school student in San Francisco many years ago. Duchamp goes to this art school and he sees this kind of tough, macho San Francisco painter and Duchamp looks at this picture he doesn’t know. He says to the fellow, “What are you doing?” And the painter says, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing.” Duchamp pats him on the back and says, “Keep up the good work!”

Morton Feldman, “The Future of Local Music” in: Give my Regards to Eighth Street. Collected Writings of Morton Feldman

Orpheus, annoyed with Rilke, is reading Tao Lin

When Eurydice, who is dead, points to her empty chest and says, “Let me go, Orpheus, there is nothing here that loves you” – believe her. There is nothing there, not even a chest, not even those words.

“Born a bard, this one,” says Rilke, and slaps your shoulders raw. Rilke is more intimate with death than you, and he wishes you could see it as a state free from yearning. Any rescuing of the dead from death is pointless. Death is their fulfilment, and having died they have no regrets.

Eurydice dead is full and dense like a pearl. The realm that holds her, if she is held anywhere, is one without memory. She does not remember you, Orpheus, she can’t. Eurydice is memory, not the one who remembers.

Like an ambitious parent, Rilke wishes you could see that this whole matter of inevitability is really in service to poetry, this great utilitarian art that makes every instance of human pain worthwhile. “But poetry,” says Rilke, “has to be conceived of as limited, needs to be written for its own sake, not for the sake of alchemically bringing about the thing the poet yearns for.” Orpheus is too proud, too torn, to imagine that his poetry comes with any limitations; he needs to believe that his words can make Eurydice become flesh in his arms again.

But when the ascent comes and Orpheus is asked to believe that through his song alone he has earned his beloved’s return from the underworld, that his song could have affected the laws of life and death to this extent, he thinks, “This is impossible. How could I ever have done such a thing? I am so deeply flawed, so undeserving of Eurydice. How could she possibly be there behind me?”

And he is right. Eurydice, in the fullness of her death, no longer yearns for Orpheus, feels nothing for him even resembling love. Eurydice has no desire or reason to follow him; Hermes is the one pushing her up that slope like a heavy crate. Even if Orpheus hadn’t turned around, would Eurydice’s love have returned? Once the indifference of death has touched the parts of the body that love, don’t they whither away? Can they ever grow back? The marriage between Orpheus and Eurydice lasted only three weeks, the poets say. All this work, just to recover three weeks of marital bliss?

Rilke rolls his eyes at Orpheus.

Orpheus knows, just as the poet knows, that the person he loves isn’t his wife of three weeks; the person Orpheus goes to retrieve over and over from Hades isn’t her; it is the spirit of Eurydice, the sensation of Eurydice, the opening Orpheus experienced when he first fell in love with her. The euphoria of Eurydice, this widening of himself, opened and flattened out into the world like the Angelus Novus, every aperture spread.

This sensation burrowed into him, grew a shimmering head and limbs, became a part of Orpheus that opened its mouth into a gaping need and said,


Nothing the muses or Apollo taught him, none of the poetry, the music, the sciences of the world, not the stars or the veining in the leaves, not the way the light falls through cracks in the rock, not competing with the song of sirens on the Argo, not the softness of a warm animal’s back – none of it came close to what it felt like to fall in love with Eurydice and feel her fall toward him in return.

The Eurydice inside Orpheus is not the one who has forgotten him. The Eurydice inside Orpheus is the one who is alive, and in love. The Eurydice he carries would never be told that her beloved turned and failed in Hades and ask simply, “Who?”

Orpheus hasn’t seen his therapist in weeks, because Orpheus is protesting the fact that his therapist works out of a tiny office in a cave made from the heaving flesh of a hundred rhinos. One of the horns sticks from the walls at such an angle that coats can be hung from it.

Instead of going to therapy, Orpheus reads, which is bad for his back, his eyes, but Orpheus wants to speed up the ageing process, get it over with. He is too young to feel this old, so he works on making both sensations meet in somewhere in the middle.

For the fourth time since he got it, Orpheus is reading Tao Lin’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. He reads it and thinks, yes, I too feel crushed by the shit of the world, yes, I too want to hold your face with mine. Yes, he thinks, things are straightforward and can be expressed as such, yes repetition with a slight variation can sometimes cradle the wound just so, the way adjusting your fingers while holding hands makes the sensation of connectedness more acute. Yes, he thinks, I don’t know how to love in this expanding universe, and yes I want to learn, even if it never happens fast enough. Even if my understanding doesn’t come to me at the speed necessary to turn time around and bring you back to me, back into a time before the viper left its poison in your flesh. Yes, Orpheus thinks, I have made myself so lonely, if affects my ability to distance myself from the binary.

“The secret of life is that I miss you” and that I wish I heard from you this exact sequence of words repeated and echoing out from every moment of openness:

“I’ll be right back.”

Instead, because you won’t speak, because you can’t, because you have no mouth, no lungs, because you aren’t alive enough to speak, in love enough to speak, I say it to you, over and over, each time I descend, when the time comes for me to turn around and let you go I say,

“I’ll be right back.”

Because in the process of returning to you I move with the momentum of the spinning world, with the shivering of stars.

Because returning to you makes me want to throw up less.

Because, like Tao Lin, “I want to remember you as a river.”

Because by facing backwards to where you are, I face the surge of interstellar dust, I catch it with my pores, my lungs, it whitens my hair, mixes into cement with the tears the wind whips up and it builds small castles in the corners of my eyes.

Because, like Paul Klee’s Angel, my arms are open in space, frozen wings, and my back is to the world.

Because only you are here, alive in this.

The earth rotates and I get dizzy because time passes and where you are time does not exist, and I don’t like feeling something you don’t feel, I don’t like all this unshared experience. I live my days according to the earth’s rotation with respect to the stars, because it shortens my days by four minutes, four minutes I don’t have to spend concerned that your heart and mind are lonely, somewhere in the glass jars where you left them; I don’t have to be concerned that a hard world now contains your innards and erases me from you; I don’t have to be concerned that these diagrams of self I build have already forgotten what the point of their existence was.

Orpheus worries that he doesn’t live up to his therapist’s expectations, because therapists, he was told, believe in linear progression, the ability to improve and leave behind the shell of a self that was worse, then analyse in great detail the past’s imprint on the shell, so as to make sure you never go back to being this inferior.

This is, of course, a paranoid imposition. Orpheus’s therapist is patient beyond belief. But Orpheus returns, it’s what he does, he runs backwards until he bumps his head and feels a change occur, but this change is in itself an illusion.

Orpheus is hungry and puts almond butter on a piece of bread. The longing for Eurydice is always buried deep in hunger. Eurydice herself is hunger, reminding him of his embodied self, which is now alone. Strange, a body so unused to living for itself; Orpheus knows his body best when it is tensed in expectation of Eurydice. The anticipatory throbbing, the tingling in the tongue. The eyes that seek her shape in every object, the smell of Eurydice. But Eurydice is elsewhere, has retreated into abstraction, a fluid need somewhere in Orpheus’s flesh.



Remedial Measures

But if sleep it was, of what nature, we can scarcely refrain from asking, are such sleeps as these? Are they remedial measures – trances in which the most galling memories, events that seem likely to cripple life for ever, are brushed with a dark wing which rubs their harshness off and gilds them, even the ugliest and basest, with a lustre, an incandescence? Has the finger of death to be laid on the tumult of life from time to time lest it rend us asunder? Are we so made that we have to take death in small doses daily or we could not go on with the business of living? And then what strange powers are these that penetrate our most secret ways and change our most treasured possessions without our willing it?

Virginia Woolf, Orlando


Remedios Varo, “Papilla Estelar/ Stellar Mush”, 1958, oil over Masonite.

On a Saturday full of engines, reading Michel Serres.

Je ne puis, d’une part, sentir le lisier des porcs, pourtant biodégradable, frémir de nausée à l’orée des papeteries, souffrir d’asthme au voisinage des autoroutes, ouïr aussi, et d’autre part, les bruits d’un avion ou d’une moto sans que mon corps, animalement, comprenne que les émetteurs correspondants prennent, par ces odeurs, ces souillures et ces sons, possession de l’espace qu’ils habitent ou traversent. Des volumes qu’ils envahissent ainsi de leurs issues expansées, dures, matérielles, ou douces comme des abois ou des signes, ils excluent ma présence, mon existence, ma santé, ma respiration, ma tranquillité, bref, mon habitat. Comme tigres et lions, ils menacent ma vie, mes poumons et ma santé… quand ils entrent dans ma niche ou l’espace public; comme coqs ou moustiques, ils sonnent leur victoire sur l’étendue qu’ils occupent. Lesdits émetteurs envahissent; bref, ils s’approprient le monde.

Michel Serres, Le Mal Propre. Polluer pour s’approprier? pp. 42-43