Patiency challenges the body’s borders, the fantasy of which converges with a policing function. This means reimagining the body as process without a centre, not a discrete biological or social fact, but an untotalisable set of relations, the body not as a static object, but as the ek-static convergence of processes always in excess of themselves.(Rob Halpern, Weak Link).
Patiency: ‘to do with the body as a situation of suspended agency and disabused mastery. If this illusion of mastery is a privileged delusion, then patiency is its refusal’. Halpern gives the example of Ban, in Bhanu Kapil’s Ban en Banlieu (2015), who ‘lies down on the street in the opening scene of a riot’. So begins the novel and another historical opening. Patiency might be, I am heckled on the subway and so I lay down in the aisle. Or is that too much of a spectacle? It might be that I is not-I, just as ‘love is not love / When it’s a coathanger / A borrowed line or passenger’. We do patiency differently. So love that is love provides more than suspension or structure; it isn’t the person sitting beside you or even the vehicle. Limerence on a borrowed line. So things are thrown. I am lying down in the middle of lockdown, which feels like ‘response’ as such. In these casual Zoom calls, these meetings, it is like “Oh, well I spent that day lying on my floor, sorry.” I stop saying “just lying on my floor” since, over time, lying on the floor seems adequate. Almost, to a certain thought. We used to call these sad naps and could take them at work, for instance, with head resting on folded hands, or perhaps in the little vinyl benches round the corner of the bar, under the picture of Dylan and the roses, and the painting with the cut-away eyes, whose market value would astound us. When I say I lay down in the middle of a global pandemic, who am I kidding? Sometimes I turn off my webcam and lie down with my eyes closed, still keep talking.
I google ek-static and find a meaning for ecstasy, ekstasis: ek (out) and stasis (a stand, or a standoff of forces). So an experience of ekstasis comprises, as Alexander Riley puts it, ‘extraordinary situations in which one stands, temporarily, outside the normal interactional world in an existential frame of peculiar intensity and effervescence’. There was a night in lockdown I bumped into a friend and we walked along the river, bordered the parking lots of the broadcast buildings, looked at the false lights reflected in stout-dark water until I finally looked up and saw the huge harvest moon. This hour or so outside of the otherwise confinements of lockdown had felt ekstatic — for I was outside, on the edge of the river. I was talking again, for real and wheels were turning. Words, however everyday, had their electric shocks. But was this an extraordinary situation, this encounter? Context matters.
Types of lockdown ~ekstasis:
- Zoom calls till dawn
- Recorded poems
- Voices, hear say yes
- The word haecceity
- Streets without vehicles
- The first day I discovered the meadow
- Golden hour
- Bluebells, daffodils, cornflowers
- The innocent coughs of strangers in readings from a pre-covid world, if such a thing once existed
- One infinite tin in the park with you
- Oil pastel under my nails
- St John’s Wort capsules
- Parcel arrivals
- Applause on the recording from 2004
- Misplaced pastoral (nostalgia) inside a sleep
- When we didn’t know which window the birdsong belonged to
- Coffee, five times a week
- ‘Like a cat can / See things out of order’ (Lucy Ives, ‘Picture’)
- Soft sound twilight of notification
- Gentle ASMR of the rain
- Tree climb
- Carousels of apophenia
- The canal, the river
There’s a song that goes, ‘all that I have is a river’ and I remember it from more than a movie. An undergraduate, alone in my small room I was watching this video of a young Johnny Flynn and Laura Marling just sing this together and I thought it was an old song, oldest, the kind of thing you can only think when adolescence still is you. Almost ten years have passed since then. Ten long summers, more like winters…What a gift to forgo all but the river, to be young enough to possess nothing, cover it, or to let go for the water and what
it carries. For you know everything is a new current is not even new, it was streaming before and now it is catching. And you let yourself into it or you don’t. You walk into, you walk by the river. You are carried, supine. Patiency.
I skirt the river in lockdown because it is a motion of passing when nothing else does except spirits and bodies, and the days are leaf, they are like easy to peel from the calendar, people are always saying O how the time passes, but into what? Time passes with you, otherwise I am waiting. The song that appeared in a search result. With you am I writing. ‘Dreaming is the best kind of waiting: it overcomes nothing, it does not try to separate itself from what it wants, from everything it wants. Dreaming just begins’ writes Sarah Wood, in 2007, which was a year I learned to starve myself among eons of bad indie. So I would dream hard instead; it was like whittling reality down to return to those childhood imaginaries whose nourishment was almost endless. To be almost endless, and good. It was the year before recession and so I had not learned the societal imperative towards ‘hope’. ‘If Hope can find oxygen, it will’, writes Lena Andersson at the end of her novel, Wilful Disregard (2013), ‘Starvation rations do not help […]. The supply of nourishment must be completely cut off’. You learn to breathe different air; you have to. Oh the rain really came today, I feel like saying / or send you a video. Told to have hope or having hope is different from living towards it. Soft falling hope was not that. In a 2019 discussion with Greta Thunberg, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says,
I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.
I’ve had it with viral metaphors, in the sense that I live in the era of post-viral fatigue and my body is sick with the carriage, ‘but I can’t stop expanding with currents convulsive’ (Halpern, Weak Link). Lana sang ‘Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have’ and the question became less about hope and more about that ‘like me’, a little hinge. I identified with a neighbourly extravagance, hydrangeas, pale blue-lilac from a middling soil; I left the gate slightly open, I smoked in the rain. The danger was in hope without architecture, so a ghost came in. Hope requires a manifest scaffold, perhaps. Weather that rails against it. The trace effects of a fire, of dream languor, particle physics. It was in the sentences we erected, passed on, hammered in, lifted and lay still, remembered…‘my present tense contracting the way love contracts me to the future from whose point of view this will have not been terminal’ (Halpern). The person on the Zoom call, PST, said to say goodbye, If you’re in California, don’t leave your house, there’s smoke out there. Stay healthy. Hope needs to be more than just ‘in the pipeline’. Maybe we need to blow up the pipeline.
2007. I lived in the years of ambient war. Later, too young, I would attempt to read Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials (2008) and dream about pools of oil filling the end of my bed, like a menstrual stain. At school, we wrote essays in which we had to pick a side: for or against? The Iraq War, vegetarianism, a bypass for our town, surveillance capitalism? I could only think of deserts, not arguments; I wondered what secret plant could stem blood flow from a wound. I rarely watched television. In super rural mornings, December, the air smelled of engine oil, woodsmoke, fertiliser. Shit and snow. Something to-come that never was passing. I felt sanguine, calm without compare, sipping vodka + cokes against gym blocks. Back then, clouds were irrelevant. Instead, I scrolled the internet for answers and images. ‘That hope is just another bloated moat / is worth the ringworm, is it really so cute’ writes Nikki Wallschlaeger in Crawlspace (2017). Thinking in Sianne Ngai’s terms, is this ‘so cute’ ‘a sensuous quality or appearance’, or ‘a feeling-based evaluation or speech act’ (Our Aesthetic Categories). It’s cute that you dreamt it. The ringworm I mean, another parasite. So you circle in medias res, nibble a little of that time, but I thought I could jump the moat into future. Future was just a quality, like cute. Is it really so cute? The tiny things and changes. billie eilish in her video for ‘my future’ looks pretty cute, but it’s more than that. The soft falling rain would fill up the moat, the river, the lake. The dream was a body of water again. Speech fell upon us, fluid, then telling the nude and lime-before-lilac sensation. Something that gets inside us; a tooth around your neck, and pain.
Dreaming just begins. Derrida is beginning his lecture on Joyce, ‘Ulysses Gramophone’, with the signature of a date. This feels arbitrary enough – a date in lieu of a site specific. I would send letters in lockdown for the sake of sending a date. It was an act of patiency, a claim against time that could turn it inside out, let somebody else pop the bubblewrap for you.
I was looking for postcards that would show Japanese lakes, or let’s call them inland seas. It had crossed my mind to follow the edges of lakes in Ulysses, to venture out on a grand lakeside tour between the lake of life which is the Mediterranean Sea and the Lacus Mortis referred to in the hospital scene, as it happens, and dominated by the symbol of the mother […]. You will no doubt know better than I that the whole pack of postcards perhaps hints at the hypothesis that the geography of Ulysses’ trips around the Mediterranean lake could have the structure of a postcard or a cartography of postal dispatches.(Derrida, ‘Ulysses Gramophone’)
The difference between the lake and the sea, is it tidal? Say I wrote to you by a general lunar insurrection: I refuse to be governed by hormones alone. I am lapped, turned over, the hours are upon me in wavelets. For a long time, months, the word ‘hospital’ also conjured ‘field’, and ‘crisis’, and ‘overstretched’, ‘overburdened’. Many fled cities to avoid this. What would a postcard from the pandemic look like? This sounds like the afterthought of a conference happening years from now. Send a postcard to your future self! I would rather dwell awhile in the mystical, sub bass pastoral of a common place that is billie’s future. The transparent dew in the process of dropping, clearest blue. But it was also the artist’s imperative, mid-March, to say something. To who? A postcard can be read by anyone, if they get their fingers on the mail, if they would risk that trace or touch.
You could circle the drain, if not the lake, like in the video where Soccer Mommy is at Palm Springs Surf Club and conjures an existential state by the weather: ‘I wanna be calm like the soft / Summer rain on your back / Like the fall of your shoulders’. A desert gets cold at night; its ochres turned deep into cobalt. What happens in the turn of those lines is the fall of rain is a bodily gesture, the fall of your shoulders. Like sigh before sleep or hold me. Both kinds of soft between element and form are just memory’s fall, and a longing that is ambient and prolonged like those four hour looped videos where the song is slowed down and rain sounds are added. Its weird twist is dark ecological: I love and you as the other with your shoulders, their fall, I love I am rain old rain we are just that falling or were. There is a sense, if vague, of when it happened, of summer. Somewhere. I would send a postcard with those lines and make a cliché of the feeling. Clichés are like rain; they fall all around us and that too is cliché. In London I learned to long for the rain.
My trips around the Surf Club, is that a name for this desert, some place out and aching, are not knowing what I’m looking for, the lake of life or death. There was a body of unknowable time at the beginning of pandemic that felt like a lake, a dark one with monsters inside it. You were scared to touch. The virus was a hyperobject and it lived in the lake and became us. So I thought what it meant to carry the lake. Like if you could tie it to your Kanken and drag the lake on a walk every day, make it lose weight. Could you test the lake, dump chemicals in it, starve it, piss in it? Was this abuse? My poor lake, resting at the edge of the desert. The lake was too much: overstretched, overburdened. Eventually I would bathe in it, but that was July, just before a morning of rain and the fall of your shoulders / brush back hair. Aeolian breath above the lake.
A thought crossed Derrida’s mind ‘to follow the edges of lakes’ in a novel. A very long novel but only a day. Sometimes we say ‘it feels Mediterranean’ and is it a warm breeze off the sea, a quality of something vermillion splashed against turquoise? Like Dorothea Lasky (if I remember her essay on colour correctly, perhaps there is a colourblindness to memory) I always loved that combination. But it grew too much and mostly I stopped painting in those colours. Can there be too much blue in your life? We compare eye colour on Zoom and there is what, somethingsomething pixelation of the soul, which is almost good, is it. The inland sea of WhatsApp green, or the rising tides of Facebook blue. An irritant gets into the ocean. This is how a pearl is formed, and we worry it into August.
August: the commonplace between seasons. What was formerly meant by holiday. Halpern’s weak link is something about tendency, which is a quality of patiency, surely:
[——] = a common place we can’t sense, but upon which all we perceive depends
In the book, the double em-dash is more than that, because there is no gap in the line. I don’t know how to recreate that here. Rachel Blau DuPlessis often uses the commonplace of a line, this continuity, asking questions like
Did these years have to happen
the way they did?______________
______________. The poem, unwritten
is concealed by the poem,
written.(Surge: Drafts 96-114)
This is from a poem called ‘Draft 100: Gap’. I feel urged to fill in the blanks, but then suddenly don’t. Mind the gap? I am mindful of my tendency to make lines into rivers. This is a temporal effect: ‘The body of water a particular time of day resembles’, writes Lucy Ives in ‘Catalogue’, not answering the proposition except to parenthesise ‘candida’ in brackets (). Parasites again. You can’t starve them so much as you must cut off the oxygen altogether. They want sugar! Like rubbing words out of your poem is a kind of excision necessary to let the reader in: an exchange of space. But is a blank also a body of water? Let us lie down in the blanks, one or more acts of patiency. The edge of my body at the edge of the lake, which was almost erased, became two-dimensional. Was it the politicians who did this, or the semioticians? Surge, surge, surge…
Without touch, I could not plunge into the body of water for several months. Returning was two-sided, flickering. It was turning the river to a mobius strip. The river that led to the lake? No pictures were taken, but words were written…
The other’s body was divided: on one side, the body proper—skin, eyes—tender, warm; and on the other side, the voice—abrupt, reserved, subject to fits of remoteness, a voice which did not give what the body gave. Or further: on one side, the soft, warm, downy, adorable body, and on the other, the ringing, well-formed, worldly voice—always the voice.(Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse)
In his telegraphic dashes, Barthes evokes the voice on the line, between lines, electric crackle. I am on the end of a telephone listening to what I thought was rain but was only white noise or the manifest difference of space between us. For once, not time; though still there was time between us, before which we could meet. The body could always give more, which is why Derrida would venture the IRL lakes to follow a postal cartography. Here where I received this text, sparkle emoji, a picture of sunset forgetting I’d sent… But what if the voice became a body in tender distance? A kind of tendering in itself? If it was all we had of those months, and could cradle ourselves to sleep in it…
We look back on the years that are happening and wonder if they ‘have’ to happen this way. There are divisions, revisions; something that gives and receives. A year is impossible. The depth of a lake without measure. I could not tie it to my horse and ride away. Salt and sweet. The difference between lake and inland sea depended on your idea of ‘freshness’, but in Cancer season I delved in the water. We called it a loch, though named it was ‘Lake’. Always the voice / settles cool on the water.
Down becomes a colour. Peach stuck, clouded. A snapshot from my enviro-diary in spring:
I realised there had to be exits from ‘lavender country’, even if I felt implicated in the earth forever. What had I otherwise written of the wild mountain thyme, the purple heather. I had.
What Andersson wrote of hope, ‘If Hope can find oxygen, it will’ recalls Angel Olsen’s song, ‘If It’s Alive, It Will’ and you can’t help thinking about the ‘it’. This thin word of the thing itself. Love? The song, the poem? ‘My friend you are unique but not always / Some stranger in the well has surely felt your pain […] And all the things you’ve once said / Your thoughts exist in someone else’s head’. So we are parasites of a mutual speech, second body, patiency. It’s going on elsewhere,, echo,, echo. I saw the police queuing for pizza. I saw mothers outside supermarkets, I saw masks trampled into the towpath. I saw your breath left a mark on the bathroom mirror. If anything is taught now it is that pain is not unique in its total uniqueness. It is also a misting — these noticing moments like the colour of your eyes on webcam, or when I saw a friend by the river or the cygnets when they were still small, and charcoal. Touch, know that we live. ‘A moment of affirmation; for a certain time, though a finite one, a deranged interval, something has been successful’ (Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse). The weak link ( — ) of ‘a common place we can’t sense, but upon which all we perceive depends’ (Halpern). The more we send, the more links accumulate. This is not some metaphor leading into Connell’s chain, or the blockchain, the chain of being or food chain, but something like when I recently went to visit my Nan for the first time in nearly two years I saw she was wearing the gold chain I remembered. It remains a ghost fact against my clavicle. Gilded, some arterial link between times, the artefact worn of all years, not mine.
And did that path or the other(Blau DuPlessis, Surge: Drafts 96-114)
________________? The other
side of words_______________.
A path can be dangerous, like hope. So I see it not as a route so much as this mark of the common place, where you enter the poem. Echo. It is not so much I who is writing. Someone is pouring clementine fizz into the glassware someone else will inherit. An embrace is made possible because of this. If it’s alive, it will. The other side of words or the strangers in the well you threw a coin into. I was always wishing on fountains. Could I eavesdrop on what went on inside your sleep? It was trouble enough to listen to mine. Quiet plash. Your breath like the ocean beside me, etc.
Hope and not-hope. I am obsessed with this passage from Verity Spott’s forthcoming Hopelessness (2020). ‘I hope. You hope’, she writes:
‘I wondered if it was enough to extract a sentence and hope something would ramify from there, like crystal’, writes Brian Dillon in Suppose a Sentence (2020). That word ‘hope’ again! To put faith in the art of essaying, you manifest from the sentence, say. But isn’t extraction bad? Verity writes an incredible sentence. Love contracts, there is a terminus, there is no harbour, is it that thoughts overfall or flow before water. There are strange moments where you fall into iambic rhythm, ‘would shrink like necks passed out’ and find yourself taking perverse pleasure in the pulse of that action, complicit. I fell asleep at the desk, put a crick in my neck. If Verity’s sentence is a crystal it is so splintering hot that to hold it I had already thrown it towards you like catch and here we are passing those lines between each other like ouch! or whoosh! as it goes through the air then starts to stream — is it light or water that sprays off the sentence, falling or lifting we get it back up we get going again, so being itself is contingent, there is a feeling of tilting, just touching between something like what Adrienne Lenker sings in ‘Mary’ — a most verbose song with the lines the lines the lines like fractals, repeats, alliterative, the rhymes inside it — ‘The violent tenderness / The sweetest silence / The clay you find is fortified / We felt unfocused fade the line’, it’s a blur then, even if the object is hard, ‘my vested shot’ like bullets are thoughts, ‘get fucked’ (a reminder that we die or desire, no, we could be ejected by the speaker, why not), leave holds inside us and the ullulation maybe of lift/leak/blink/light/love/cryssalis/live/like/laugh/will, hear the undersong packed inside the block, LA LA LA LA CAN I HEAR YOU? to put this in the kiln of language and wait, tender, splintered political speech is the romantic filibuster of ‘on and on and on and on’ worn in a ring without rose, lust, health, being messed up by time and order, ‘and change not come it not does come to who those wait’ as if to be the subject doing object to the thing itself, no is that not right, I’m in the stream of it, ‘where else’, ‘that change’, well I feel gentle to read this to you aloud and think poetry is it never could smile like lift this up what’s underneath, ‘screaching night’ of fizzy things in vessels, ‘pouring thoughts I made them up, so what’, a fall of your shoulders, softly, who cares, ‘wry out’ did I twist that humour is lyric always sincere, I care (?) is it the very empowerment or dressage of the poem that makes it ‘shot’, tongue tangled, get shot, ‘hurt the air’, ‘get fucked’, I love you, whole world is metamorphosis. It’s for love or dream or death, ‘if you fall great down’ a white-hot crystal. Stammering light of I love you. So keep repeating the sentence forever it’s the estuary (ex)change in my head where the diamond melted; I go out like a river, a light, it’s so many; I lift crisp, iridescent leaf to find you in process…‘scarless along the rib, as if to say’ (Halpern). Small wet thing w/ almost wings. ‘Soon come’ is a charm I have held all summer, ‘Where goes? I guess’ / the flight, the train, the swim, the breath…
According to my diary, in 2020 I had nineteen dreams about breath. These are some:
but maybe this is a lesson in being able to let go and breathe deep and keep going, rather than hinge on another lag. Oh hinge is another app right, maybe I should get that.
I started to do long deep breaths.
I would come out in the breaks to breathe fresh air among the tumbling ivy. My aching head, my burned-out lungs. I eat too much!
A lavender girl with this expensive complexion and a close-shaved head was underwater for a very long time and when she bobbed to the surface, numb and curled in the foetal position, she moaned something about “I wanted to give up my breath”. And we realised this was the currency of all these submersions: losing your breath. There were many people doing it, just bobbing to die in the water.
I don’t have a shortness of breath or any particular fever beyond what you usually wake up to after too much sugar
Last night at four in the morning I finished A Breath of Life in a sort of tired rapture, still very awake, leaning back into my eyes and my soul a while, the sense that it might go on forever, whatever ‘it’ is, cross-referenced of course with Àgua Viva
Started to have trouble breathing, a sort of slanted weight on my chest. I guess sometimes I suffer from very minor sleep apnoea, like the Beach Fossils song
Disorientating to wake up from a dream with so many people, almost like I couldn’t breathe, my heart was racing, I had to pull off my jumper
I feel this pressure, like I won’t be able to breathe and I won’t. In the dream I was between two tribes and there were guns I suppose, other weapons. Loosely I was in love with someone on the wrong side and so my loyalties were confused and I knew my life was at stake, the others having pressed knives to my throat to warn me, given me a bracelet I knew contained a location tag. I want to be dazzled by leaves and tiny pieces of unmentionable silver.
She went away and I was sort of left in this state of zero energy, desperately trying to gather up selected marbles to give out to whoever was still left in the boarding house. And then I sort of dried up, paralysed, barely able to breathe.
A few people joked about moshing. I miss the rupture of something going shoulder to shoulder. I miss the general blaze of sweat. How is it to breathe in a basement.
I want to feel like the blanks between dreams, ekstatic spaces between sleep (fall asleep to yr voice again), are bodies of water. Àgua Viva: running water, fresh water; variously translated as stream of life. Another writer who wields the dash, flies on the line, which is also the spray, the beam of light, is of course Clarice Lispector:
Today I finished the canvas I told you about: curves that intersect in fine black lines, and you, with your habit of wanting to know why—I’m not interested in that, the cause is past matter—will ask me why the fine black lines? because of the same secret that now makes me write as if to you, writing something round and rolled up and warm, but sometimes cold as the fresh instants, the water of an ever-trembling stream. Can what I painted on this canvas be put into words? Just as the silent word can be suggested by a musical sound.(Àgua Viva, trans. by Benjamin Moser)
Who is she talking to, writing to? The fine black lines of moth wings draw up a thought. It is a cashmere reality and I am tugged at the holes. In the subjunctive, only ‘as if’ writing to you; she can preserve the stream, the weave, the cold splash of secrets. This is only towards the act of communication itself. All works of ekphrasis, all spirals of daylight, all times I turned on the tap and for what? Could I wash myself back into a blank, or what luxury to preserve in the mud on my shins, the marks of ink up my arms, mascara’d tears around my eyes, the blood running down the inside of my thighs? In the water, it would all run into trembling lines, purple blur, it would circle the drain, would never stop————————————
MUNA – It’s Gonna Be Okay, Baby
Tim Heidecker feat. Weyes Blood – Fear of Death
Lens Mozer – All My Friends
Disq – I Know What It’s Like
Martha Ffion – Nights to Forget
FKA twigs – Water Me
The 1975 – Frail State of Mind
The Kundalini Genie – Can’t Get You Out My Mind
Bright Eyes – Just Once in the World
Lucinda Williams – Overtime
Joan Baez – North Country Blues
Elliott Smith – Pitseleh
Sia – Breathe Me
Bloc Party – Biko
John Prine – Bruised Orange (Chain of Sorrow)
Joanna Sternberg – Nothing Makes My Heart Sing
Big Thief – Mary
Angel Olsen – Waving, Smiling
Sarah Davachi – Play the Ghost
Tomberlin – Wasted
billie eilish – my future
Yo La Tengo – Nowhere Near
La Force – You Amaze Me
A.G. Cook – Crimson and Clover (cover)
DJ Shadow – Midnight in a Perfect World