It began, this game of ours, innocently –
Did it not?
A private humiliation,
This, our affair, it lacked reciprocity.
Only the give, never the take, shall we say –
Of erotic provocation.
This was not ours.
We inhabited our little injustices, our fears and fucks,
Like they were bodies –
Never so much piled high, these, as they were flung low –
To the dingy proud and impoverished gluttons waiting to set upon
And devour them.
You say –
I left you alone.
I say –
I let you be.
The distinction, you claim, is more sadistic than a slap,
And this, I agree, may be so –
But no less true.
* * *
If I love writing, and I suspect I do, it is an affair matched only by my disinclination ever to write clearly. The editor’s chore, I’m told in so many words, is to cut through and away, in order to make a piece so clear as to be nearly invisible . . . in some cases, hardly there at all.
The fact that I’m paid at all to do this illustrates that my natural tastes are in the minority. Lists are monotonous, alliteration for children, hyperbole distracting, and the word “purple” sounds vaguely intestinal. Substance, on the other hand, has more atomic weight than does style. It may not pack as powerful a punch, but it attracts a paying audience, so entertained they lose track of the cost. But who am I to judge? If nothing else, it gives we stylists something other to blame than our bad stylings when we remain unread.
* * *
I’ve been following your protests closely, and have been tempted occasionally to write about them. I spent much of this afternoon reflecting on my resistance to actually doing so. I’m certainly not opposed to such writing. On the contrary, I know quite intimately its value. And yet, for all this, I feel as though my doing so, no matter how few might actually read it, would feel like a kind of confession — or barring that, a rationale — or, maybe, even an explanatory alibi — for why I’m not doing something more than writing. Writing, after all, seems so small, and comes at no cost to me but my time. There’s no reason always to valorize sacrifice, of self or of other, . . .
* * *
I continue, mazing my way through labyrinths of clauses & subclauses, stacking metaphor onto metaphor until they fall into a mess or meaning, interested more in the undulation of language than its utility. How to do things with words? — Speak them and see. I’m in it all for the dingy luster, language like a sky newly wan, just before or after a hard rain — that color of sickness where the bedside visitor is unsure the patient is bound for better or descending into much worse, a morbid description for something so striking and that I retain only because I’ve been told by enough people that they know well & dislike so this color, but in so disliking fail to see the other colors spilling over from its underside, as was the case yesterday, into an autumnal green pocked by red. Where colors like these shimmer without the shine, they also seem to wheeze, and become not simply the sight but somehow, too, the sound of the language I seek.
* * *
. . . but neither are all expenditures of self & attention the same or equal. Nor should they be, I know, but knowledge can be sometimes so easily trumped by instinct, and not always for the better. It’s an interesting thing, this movement you’ve found yourself in. And make no mistake, Ramsey, it is a movement. People seem to be hedging a lot when it comes to saying as much. “If that’s what it is” — I see that appended to its more or less definitive descriptions. So many seem so skittish, burnt perhaps by past enthusiasms that, so we’ve been led to believe, went nowhere. But movements don’t necessarily have to go somewhere in particular, and not even somewhere particularly good. Lurches forward, up or down, or whatever direction may apply, can be followed, almost immediately, by a backward collapse — even here, would not movement have occurred? Even a drunken collapse from a curb is a kind of movement, if not particularly productive.
But who measures all these gains & losses, and on what scale was it tipped? How do we determine the value of all that we’ve paid in self & attention or measure the valence of our movements? There is always a “who” and a “what” attending these determination – decisions & calculations like these are always made, such is math, science, & life – but they are tentative measurements each and every one.
* * *
You ask for my thoughts, and this is what you get. I can’t even bear to re-read what I wrote. But you asked, and because all that I write seems to need an addressee, I oblige, with needlessly reserved happiness.
* * *
She: Intentional acts of harm, aggression that knows & achieves its end, are as rare as those born of love.
He: The stuff of our days & years that accumulate, expand, and collapse into life & death, the seconds that conceive minutes that conserve moments that consume memory, are that of accidents, nearly all, of harm & of love.
* * *
It’s just that some, as in life, if less so in math & science, are so breathlessly reporting we start confusing their conversations with what is being talked about. And there is a difference. There has to be, I think, or at least hope, otherwise words don’t mean a thing. I’m no innocent in any of this, but at least have the proper sense & decorum to write so dizzyingly about it all as not to be read at all.
* * *