I've decided what this online space can be - for today I've decided. It can begin again as it began before; it can be a notebook for my writings, for me to plan out and untangle and wrestle with my projects. And then I will always intrude, for I will always intrude, as I am intrusive. The library/notebook of the mind. The dreary delightful of the day. So let this be.
In truth - that was what this space was always for. It began as a notebook for my attempt at the lyric that now lives bloated in boxes - my overwritten and yet completely unwritten text Mad Wife. Then I began to gesture aggressively and wildly to this or that, and they became these essays filled with theory and writing about books and things. The outside. And then I was told or given permission to write a book of these essays. I am still wrestling with this book - it has completely colonized my existence. Even when I am not writing it, and I am always not writing it, it has set up utter and devastating occupation. It is like when you have that dream that dream that you have forgotten something but you have forgotten what that something is, and that dream obsesses you, that dream is about that wrinkle, that obsession. This is that book for me. The manuscript-pea under the mattresses for the princess. It is utter agony to sleep at night. However, I know of two friends, two friends that I met here, and by I mean here I mean - in this space, maybe not this space, but this other space that is not real space, who are too wrestling past deadline with books, so this makes me feel perhaps this is the project of the writer, our cross to bear.
My father tells me this weekend as we're driving to brunch in my old neighborhood of Wicker Park that the Renaissance painters had it wrong, that actually during the walk for a Roman crucifixion, which were the most common forms of punishment in those days, the prisoner walked merely with the crossbow across their shoulders, not the whole cross. So I suppose the manuscript is across my shoulders and I am reaching my arms up and bearing it, like a stretching exercise, or baring it, like revealing - dig more I tell my students - or like the deportment exercises where young ladies walked with a book on their heads - my book is always on my head, it is on my back, I have now inhabited it, or it has inhabited me. I was in Chicago this weekend, reading with Danielle Dutton, and then for the rest of the time with my father, trying to help him bear his grief of losing his twin, his other other, his first other being his wife, my mother. I put my hands on him and still I cannot help him bare it, I see that he needs to be carried, and I cannot do it, I feel the heaviness too.
So we spoke about history the entire time. The elders in my family are passionate historians, not of their own selves, but of ancestries and preferably for centuries before. My aunt is a medievalist from the University of Chicago, my father and my uncle were ardent amateur scholar-historians, especially of wars and disease. And it's funny to that I have married a historian of the book, of print, he is other things too, he is obsessed with Paul Celan and painting and digital literature, but also a historian. We went to the house in Oak Park - the old house, more than a century in my family, what history - and sat around the kitchen table, me, my father, John, my aunt, and as opposed to speaking of the recent past, which was too painful, we discoursed purely on history.
We sat around the kitchen table and discussed the bubonic plague, which my father eagerly tells me is the origin of so much in our now-world, that so much of what we know of modernness stems from 1/3 of civilization being killed off. Or I didn't discuss, I listened, but was enraptured as well, the eager student, eager as well to see my father come back to life as he spoke. This is when my family is most cheerful. Lovingly entangling mass atrocities, always at a remove, one cannot discuss the real black death at that table, the lump where my father is now sitting that was my dying bent-over uncle, in such abject pain at the end. His bones molded now into a hunched over curve, he cannot carry the wait of his bloated tumorous belly, the death that resided in him for months. Which reminds me of the day before being at the Botanic Gardens with John and my father, my father hunched over as well, shuffling in shoes that never seem to fit, my father has aged a decade since I last saw him, he is 69 and convinced he is going to die soon as well, it is a cold day and I am wearing only a light hoodie and we are walking around the bonsai trees, we are all pedants, the three of us, so we study the Latin names, John is taking an online Latin tutorial, when he flipped through my version of Anne Carson's Nox I just showed to my class he could make out some names, I prefer the name vulgaris, the vulgar name, I guess I've always been at home with the vulgar more than the elegant and foreign. Studying each dwarfed tree, entire forests on that small platform, that are ingenuously bent and twisted and shaped, that are urged against growing. My uncle too bent and twisted over, a living statue of suffering.
My father and I drive to brunch together, John is in the other car, I am fatigued so often from the constant travel that in Chicago I decide I must have breakfast out, hot breakfast, so we go places where my father can have omelets and John and I can have our vegan breakfast burritos or vegan pancakes or tofu scrambles. Before we go into the Handlebar I brace my father for the ornately tattooed server, he listens, he knows when he's close-minded, I'm beginning to realize the ways my father is open-minded as well, but to him one gets tattooed because one has to, one is in a camp, one is away at war. On the drive up from Mount Prospect he lectures me more on Roman history, the crucifixions and also the origins of the gladiator, those citizens and then slaves who performed for public audiences, in the Coliseum. The day before John had gone with Dad to a college football game, they braced themselves and cheered while I sat in a cafe and read student stories and essays. There must be some public element to it, I say to my father, of all of these forms of punishment. Thinking of Foucault. His account of the drawn and quartered. My father is telling me that the crucifixion was the easiest way they could think of to stage mass deaths, when they crucified common criminals they kept the cross low to the ground so the animals could devour them, Jesus as historical accounts would have it was actually kept on high, for a proper burial. But there must be some public exhibition, I insisted. I suppose. My father said. He is interested in the names - the language - he is interested in the armor. All the armor of my family.
The night before I had gone to see Daniel Borzutzky read from his Raul Zurita translation, at Myopic Books, I bought the book afterwards, loved the design of the text, the blocks of text crowded and imprisoned together, as I am attempting something similar for Shadow. And then we went to have drinks, Suzanne and I sat together and spoke about our projects, those that we were gestating, all of the ambivalence and bliss to that. Which reminds me of how my aunt was telling me that day about women dying in childbirth by the legions because no one would tell the doctors to wash their hands, I thought that that was maybe metaphorical of something, I don't know what. And how the Catholic Church had for centuries outlawed forceps, because a woman was supposed to experience as much pain as possible, because of Original Sin. I went into the car and took notes. This is my family. I had seen Suzanne the night before, I went out to dinner with her and Danielle and John and Jenny Boully, a lively animated time, gossiping, talking about books, about writing, and teaching. The reading at the bookstore was somewhat of a disappointment. There were no roars of the crowd, they were a very polite, very still crowd, I imagined perhaps a bit disapproving of my reading. Was a bit thrown I guess, especially since Danielle is so hilariously funny, in person, so moving and alive, and the book is so gloriously witty. I think of all the ways I have been setting myself up lately for pain.
And then I almost forgot driving home we are stranded on the highway for three hours in a cornfield in Indiana, miles and miles of cars stuck on the road. Two semis collided, an almost certain fatal collision. I have to pee so terrible, I am writhing in the car for an hour, finally, I change into a dress - I don't know why to me this makes sense - instead of my old black jeans, and drag myself through the scratchy cornfield, John goes with me, I squat behind a bush but everyone sees me, everyone sees the figure walking through the cornfield at least, like Barbara Loden in Wanda. Afterwards I have red scratches on my leg. John sat in the car and read Anne Carson's Decreation and I read student essays. That's all I read lately is student stories and essays and papers.
And then in three days, now, I go, to where it's hot as summer-Rome, to Los Angeles, to meet with my editor for the book, to do another reading. There must, yes, there must be something public, I suppose, to all of this.