In the spring of 2013, Katerina Llanes curated a reading series in honour of Sam Gordon and Eve Fowler's collaboration with Printed Matter. She invited both Corrine Fitzpatrick and I to participate. We were both swamped with other things, heartbreak and impoverishment of many kinds, chief among them. We decided to write something together, a shared text that would grow out of emails we would write that spring between Mexico City and Brooklyn. The text we performed on that evening at Printed Matter has never been published, may never even have been saved. We work like that. But out of that experience, Eve Fowler asked us to collaborate on a catalogue essay for her upcoming book project. We continued our method and built the following text out of a series of correspondences that exemplify one sliver of what it is to be a writer, a sister, a feeler, a sensate, a body, a heartskin, a __________, in this world and at this time. The project grew into a three thousand mile journey, an opening, a closing, a sound piece installed in a small gallery in an opera house in the very north of Sweden, and a text that remains still mysterious, still unfolding. For the opportunity to work with such a brilliant mindheart and for the extraordinary book that came of it, I was and remain ever grateful.
ANYONE TELLING ANYTHING IS TELLING THAT THING: A Public Messaging
[in collaboration with Corrine Fitzpatrick]
Eve Fowler: Anyone Telling Anything Is Telling That Thing Printed Matter 2013
i've written this three times today in different ways—avoiding the writing (i want to spell it riding)—wondering if it's possible for a person to actually run out of thoughts, out of thinking.
the universe keeps giving me these moments—as places—to do again, to do differently. when you decided, and so suddenly, I realized the universe wanted me there. that's how it feels-- like I'm being put back in places where I was before and I keep moving through the possibles.
that night, we had a horrible public fight: both of us in tears, ratcheting up to the point that she grabbed my head violently and I worried we'd be asked to leave. this had become not uncommon although that day was the worst. and only weeks ago.
then you and i sat in our same seats. the lights were different, the food was more delicious, i felt myself excited, i felt myself myself. in my bag were my atlas, the wimmin’s lands directory, a blank book in which we calculated gas and money and time and hours to travel. i have been wondering what it means to be put back in those places, to be given them, as if to do again. to get to go back to a place that was awful or hard or not romantic and sit with the fact that it was so and also see that new instances are coming. or possible. or something.
at first i took these re-placings as a kind of damnation: that i was damned to walk alone through the same spaces, remembering. like a goddess of memory who bears the burden of the archive while all the rest are able to run free and wild laughing and dancing and sexing because someone else is holding the past so they don't have to. that's what it has felt like.
if memory were made up cells, it feels like my body, only lately, is being placed back into the hard spots where my small cells remember a trauma, a sorrow, a pain. and i am being given an opening so that, if i think of it, if i remember to bring the light i know is in there like a muscle atrophied after so long not used, then the little cells that have been starving trembling at the rift can begin to knit themselves back towards one another, towards some kind of new story, new time.
moving through the world as a new place, with ghosts that may haunt but not so stingingly. i am curious about this re-placing. curious about the re-inhabiting being a way to begin to have a small faery, like a little daemon, fly around and cut the strings, let me be, set me loose from the tether that has so long been my bind.
that is the hope.
that is hope.
An uncomplicated listening.
Looking without remembering.
i am with thousands of other heavy hearts, lonely people, spiritual seekers, pregnant women hoping for blessings, students, devotees, general hopefuls, children and their mothers, ascetics, yogis, the very aged, the very young, people like me and people not like me. we are all here hoping for some light, some blessing. i have been placed in a chair right by the aisle
the picture is black and white, a passport style photo and she looks dark against the very white background.
lately I have been craving someone to lie with me, stroke my head, smooth the skin that seems to knot itself around my heart, calm the whir that pulses like a fan at the solar plexus making me short of breath, unable to sleep. no giving back, no serving. i walk by a sign here in this hall that tells me that every thirty seconds an Indian child dies of malnutrition. and at the same moment i am receiving an email from Artspace advising me of "six stellar artworks i should collect." i am thrown today i am thrown. these two facts somehow do not link, do not make sense together. how can it be that I am here, tight-hearted, wanting so much for myself, to learn, to let go, to learn to love, to bla bla bla all for me, when the answers are all around us: give, give, GIVE.
a few lines from Hafiz reminding that almost every being in the world moves around motivated by two words: Love Me. the lines ask, why not be the one who moves through the world with a full moon in each eye radiating out what every other pair of eyes is dying to see?
my path weighs heavy on me these days. a teacher said to me yesterday that she was grateful to me for my moving through this—she said "we all are"—you are doing the suffering learning that will help us know better how to live, how to suffer, how to learn.
today I want to be the kind of person whose heart is not heavy. today I long to be a person who is free. today I love to be a person who is love, lightly.
i am thinking of the beauty of offering surprise gifts to everyone and anyone who should be so lucky as to see, notice, absorb them as they pass by. i am thinking that art as collection, accumulation, commerce, status, jockeying for position or titillating for titillation's sake under the guise of thin politics bores me, angers even. but if art can be giving neon light behind words of a poet who wanted over and over to reveal to remind that language is malleable and so too then is the Real— ever changing, shifting. that kind of offering, gift-giving, that interests me. no return, no exchange...at least not in its origin point.
Did you hug Amma today? My friend has spent years of his life traveling with her, she told him recently that he needed to go. To change and grow.
Today I sat with my grandma who was tired and disoriented from being moved from her home to the cabin we are staying in. Are you tired Grandma? Yes, a little. She was quiet, stroking her nose with her index finger, thinking. Are you heavy hearted? Who me? Heavy hearted? She said, No. I am never heavy hearted. How? Well, I recognize the thoughts that are making my heart heavy and I think about them and then I stop. I think about other things.
She is hunching more now than a year ago and is less mobile and this all led to a very difficult family conversation later in the night, when she was back at her home, about the future of her care. My dad trying so hard to be present and intermittently shutting down. Everyone's emotions piqued and strung.
Around dusk my sister and I went down to the lake and jumped in.
Glassy post rain soft fresh water, pastel sky and a nearby camp had a bonfire burning. Docks and little colors popping on the water: a kayak, a deck chair, a roof. Green trees all around.
Earlier today we took a hike through fog and marsh over streams and across small boulders to a remote lake. Low clouds, fluorescent mushrooms, moose tracks, mountains, deer flies. K. is almost twenty-one and at that special girl-woman age. Stopping to take pictures of ant hills and caterpillars and playing up her role as baby of the family but increasingly aware of herself and her presence. There was a moment when she was trying to prove a point to S. and I saw a flash in her eyes, an assuredness and a firm jaw. I am right, she said. So much weight behind those words.
I have been trying to write but feel so in the present. The Ability to be Alone. On tulip sheets under a ceiling fan.
I don't think you should hold on too tight to your suffering. It is going to win in the end if you let it. You have the capacity to understand it already, and I think your biggest and most vital challenge is to learn how to dose out your own experiences of pain at a rate/depth that will not destroy you. There is no shame in wanting to feel light, and loved and loving and free. It does not diminish your mind or your empathy or your gift. You are not a martyr. No one is. I am annoyed at the woman who thanked you for suffering. I think that is weak of her and it demands much too much of you.
I am not saying you should aim to be numb.
I cherish you. And not because you suffer. The darkness you go through is but one aspect.
I hope tomorrow is easier my friend.
tender skin of your granma. is she clear-eyed and blue irises? long hair or short and is it grey or white? i see her in my mind and love you still have a grandmother. i want to say living is so strange but my brother's favorite Langston Hughes’ is crowding out my words, wanting to be typed, aired, spoken: “...birthing is hard and dying is mean––so get yourself a little loving in between...”
we were tangled up together for seven years. he used to say that songs come into our heads because our subconscious minds are trying to say something and so the words have meaning. i resisted because he always said it to me when we were arguing and i'd hum something and he'd glom onto that song saying i wanted to break up or didn't love him. so i fought it.
i'm thinking of him this morning, peripherally, because of the fan that whirs inside my solar plexus on high speed and i give myself a respite by taking my bike out and riding it like the pavement's on fire. or i am. or both. and as i'm doing it, strong and clear, comes a song:
...harboring a fugitive a defector of a kind and she lives in my soul and drinks of my wine and i'd give my last breath to keep us alive...
and it goes on and i'm biking around, wondering—who is the fugitive?
i slip into it like a martyr or some kind of chosen one. i like your "NO." breathed better for it when i read your words.
I finally have my solitude. Portraiture and loss and intimacy is my prompt to myself. My youngest sister is always aware of the presence of a camera, but also of simply being looked at. My grandma is confounded by the phone-as-camera, but also is in overdrive processing whose face belongs to which name and what that all means in relation to her.
We are just writing. I've been thinking about the art as training wheels, a touchstone, or platform.
Today G. and my sisters and I watched tadpoles turn into frogs. Literally pop out front legs and learn to use them and approach the surface of the water and take a first breath of air and work on jumping skills for over an hour. We were all transfixed. Then G. and I hiked up a small mountain and sat in the shade of a tree on the top and stared out at the curve of the earth and large lakes with islands in them and large shadows cast by clouds on top of giant swaths of forest. And then we went back to camp and jumped twice more in the lake.
And later today I helped my grandma use the bathroom, something I have done many times in the past few years, something that used to make me sad about her perceived loss of dignity but that now seemed as natural as an adult changing a baby's diaper. We were talking about my white shoes while she peed and she let me help her with such ease. I learned right then how much guts and indeed dignity it takes to allow yourself to be dependent. People need one another.
You are in Virginia and I am in Maine.
We are developing a language between us, for one another. It stretches past our voices and toward one another.
the moon is high and nearly full and the air is clear and cool and earlier they all started laughing and singing loudly downstairs and there was commotion but i was typing away up here and didn't look up from my perch—even though it is literally inches away from a bank of windows—to see the bear loping across the ridge just meters from the house and one of the people here is beautiful and i have wondered about kissing her for years now and i think today she might have wondered just for a second about kissing me too.
i took a nap and left the light on but someone had turned it out, left me to sink into the depths in the dark. but the summer in a glass drink felt mostly slept off and so i sat and clack clacked away for some hours while i heard the television on downstairs and tried hard to shape this thing into a thing from the formless feelings it has been living inside me as for these many weeks.
i am writing a linking crown, a mala garland of sorts and i am thinking about links and crowns and garlands and sonnets and snakes that eat their tails.
i have this piece of paper that i've been carrying around for weeks like a talisman as if somehow the ideas on it could seep into me everywhere i go so i could be composing writing crafting even while i am sunning myself on the beach crying in the bathroom laughing and drinking too much wine and listening to pop songs from the nineties with the only person who makes me feel really whole these days. (i say to myself) and know it immediately: this is a lie, my exaggeration-mind, because i feel pretty whole pretty often—truth be told.
and then i remember our writing
write it out here
and how we've been laughing at bars with friendly faces around us who don't understand but who laugh too and i say it again like i'm a child and i learned a dirty word and i say it again
and it feels good like a belly laugh
because we are discovering something here together
my brother told me about an obituary he’d read for Johnny Cash and how the obituary had quoted some liner notes Cash had written: ''I love songs about horses, railroads, land, Judgment Day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother. And God.''
recently i was at my brother's house, at his kitchen table—this boy-man, my brother—and he quotes Hughes and i ask him where he got it and he said he's had it in his brain since forever ago and the quote is the one that says: birthing is hard and dying is mean so get yourself a little loving in between. i laugh. and marvel at this man who was once a baby who became a boy who i grew with and next to and bent always towards and who has this mind that thinks these things up and writes them to the parents of a woman he used to love.
I want to write right now and also I want to return to my bed which is a boat I've been climbing on and off all day. Something is very tired and stuck in me. Today was a reminder of the dense fog that rolls through. It didn't register, really, as sadness, but I know myself enough to know what it was. I left the house at 5:30 and drank my first coffee and shopped for books with S. for our almost twenty-one year old sister's birthday on Thursday. She just dropped out of college and we got the book fever, stacking our arms with all the things we want her to read. Things we think she'll love, things that we loved when we were her age or since then. I thought about how the things I read in college have remained with me, and I worried about her not being exposed to enough without school. It's gonna be an expensive day at the post office tomorrow.
The thoughts in my head and the feeling in my heart are soft thuds against a wall.
Viscous material churning.
Coming to my senses.
"Psyche indwelling in the soma" is a line from Winnicott that I wrote down last week.
"Personal-going-on-being" is another line I scribbled down.
It's not so much why these days as how.
––Corrine Fitzpatrick & Litia Perta 2013