How should one respond to the charge of nihilism? By throwing one’s hands in the air and declaring the accusation true? And if the accusation is that one merely poses a nihilism? That it is adopted as an image and a defence. Laughter is the only answer; the same laugh as one might laugh at a child who points to the silliness of adult mating rituals and accuses those adults of adopting poses and of evading the brute fact of sex in their games of seduction. That child, if he never learns to unsee this truth, will never get laid. And as the child knows well, it is all about getting laid.
in the oases
we are like post-coital stoics;
able to indulge everything.
she thinks of an old love
and i tell her i wish i could write more simply,
more direct. but i think
what i really want
is something to say that needs such urgency
that even language isn’t direct enough.
i dream about days of anarchism
and how i lost my faith in
the possibilities of a new power,
was i ever so angry
that i could have torn the world in half?
it seems so distant, pointless
i watch him all day,
by turns silently brooding in corridors
or gazing absent in the small room
into which the sun invades with dazzling brightness.
later he will compress two places,
or rather he will force the memory of a place
into the drab interior he now inhabits.
how does this mind operate? is this the crowning moment
of the Kantian regime or the crumbling away,
its final counter-evidence and disintegration.
he commands that we pay attention,
the useless and the useless gathered in the afternoon
recession. he was once well known.
– a shame, says J., once he even judged on foreign competitions.
let the deniers come, those who say the past is done with us
let them come and watch him too, as he struggles
with descriptions of acts and positions
his body refuses to release.
we know not what a body can do, said the pantheistic Jew,
who never once wondered at what the body
might divorce, widow and betray.
in that room where we sit another turns and tells me
– he doesn’t know what he wants to do,
and i agree, wondering if any of us in the larger world
of calenders and train timetables know desire any better;
i am awed by the horrifying dimensions
of his perverse phenomenology. is it something at the work
of survival, or just the silhouette of the inevitability of decay?
i put my key in the door and turn it,
letting the heavy metal frame slam shut behind me, and walk into
that hot sunlight. all around me in the city street are
young and beautiful things radiating sex, ambition, hope
and delicious self-deception. have i left a hospital
or a monument to consciousness’s final truths?
i think of L. and want nothing but her body
and the brilliance of the unconsciousness found in
our mutual exhaustions, as if our lives, our minds and bodies,
would never extinguish.
are we just these simple mechanisms, sometimes decoupling
from the larger machinery?
what can we tell ourselves but stories about Redemption?
my throat is dry in the heat and the grassy park
that my window overlooks is full;
the material for one day’s vanishing memories.
this is the last line for today.
As the bodies of lovers desperately grasp one another, the desperation of their embrace is borne of this beyond, trying to reach this beyond of the real behind the sensuous, yet without ever being able to do so. This is why the love making of lovers oscillates between aggressivity where it is almost as if there is a desire to rip the other apart to find within them this withdrawn real object and the tender as if the real, due to its fragility, its perpetual precariousness of disappearing behind sensuous qualities and objects, must be delicately cared for to be sustained if only in its glance.
– Levi Bryant
We meet in town. She is reading the book I left in her house and looks engrossed, her glasses reflecting the gentle dull grey of the clouded sky outside. She looks beautiful there. I approach. Video art: the architecture of faces as enmeshed in the architecture of the megopolis, the non-place that spans the permeability of the blurring zones- airports, hotels, identical corridors connecting identical rooms. We’re sitting on the floor. She is as engrossed as I was a moment before I broke away to steal a look at her body arching back, her hands pressing into a black carpet behind her in keeping her upright. She is beautiful. And wandering around photographs of Pripyat, a place I have longed to see in reality, a non-place I have written about as desolate but flooded with faith (is it so easy to confuse faith and radiation?). She is beautiful. I hold her in the dark of the viewing room. Then coffee and talking about art. Then back to mine and all bodies contorting and eyes pulling one into the other and the moans and wet sounds of pleasure- the noises that form the truest communication. And sitting on the bed she tells me ‘I really like you’; and sitting on the bed I tell her ‘I really like you’. She has been gone for 20 minutes give or take but tonight I will see her again. The smell of her lingers in the room. I inhale deeply.
How to live? This is the ethicists question and the aesthetes. Religion asks after how we wish to go on living after we die. Me? In attempting to live, I am learning how best to die. And the impossible answer is always the same, obvious, retarded and so well worn as to have disappeared from popular places of view: alone. One must die, and so live, alone. To do otherwise is to inflict on others. The idea that hell consists of other people, of crowds or individuals, of lovers or enemies, that is a supreme cowardice.
Knowing how these embroiling webs of relation destroy again and again their relata, isn’t it best that each of us holds ourselves away from the others? Yes, we must walk in the world and interact in our economy, our labouring, our pleasures but for god sake it’s hysteria! Some would say there are novels about the impossibility of love (Houellebecq), about the death of love. What if, far from this, there is being expressed in a distant and convoluted, which is to say literary, form a demand; no, a commandment, the only commandment left to a world so ridden with suffering and consciousness of Death as ours. It speaks itself: do not love.
And yet which of us could follow this commandment? Atheists to the last, we prefer to cling to our sufferings and assert with pale vigour our right to hurt others. Who defends love more than the liberal who wishes only to hug the world? The ecologist who makes his obsession the earth’s dying? The parent who would send another life out into the world to be cut down and die. Love makes the human world go round. The human world is the earth made dark, corrupt, evil.
The thirst you feel at the back of your throat is the unquenchable thirst for an absolute Separation. We do not drink or cannot drink, and embed ourselves more closely into each other’s flesh, minds, and lives. We proliferate new ways to be too-close at a distance. Tele-present to one another so intimately, we are ghosts inhabiting each other’s empty centres.
It becomes axiomatic in that most vital human occupation that the only honest sex is violent and without language. We tear into one another and, adopting a system of bestial gestures, we spurn each other away. Let the old dialectic crumble and be forgotten and renewed. A kiss is a confession, a dagger and an opiate. We wish to be remembered while trying to forget. We hold one another tighter, hoping to disappear finally.
All the while we are still no closer to knowing how to live and even the question becomes murky to the one who asks it.
We are addicts of life. Sick from life. Caught in the disordered cycle: binge-purge.
Note: This is a poem I wrote a few months ago. I posted it before on one of my other blogs. I’m reposting it because it still feels like the best thing I’ve written in a long time.
barely able to breathe and holding tight in darkness. clawing almost at the skin. what secrets under and inside. hidden from casual glance. mining one another. this is new. and all stilted, all broken stagger; words.
I’m an evil person, she says to him and to the dark.
a night of flashbulbs. a might of exploding automation. sculpted by designer, correographer and that history of emptying beauty.
I’m always performing, she said.
And so am I and so is everybody else, his tattered reply. his tattered modesty. skin on skin. tighter.
A night of exploded spending, hyperbolic drinking, laughing grotesque at all the rest. forgetful of their coming duties. a night of slow unravelling and urgent frenzy. bruises. writhing. the volcanic necessity of sweat. ripping under and inside. clawing at what is hidden. transcedence in and through the flesh. blurring bodies and separation turns to falsehood. his teeth become her flesh. little scars to come. each marking the other. a new relief of desire corrupting smooth surface of that boundary. arranging one another in a bestial space. primal contortion. an atavistic geometry. a violence desired and given. throughing off their humanity; overturning the orders of brutality and tenderness.
a night of whispered truths and Anaphylaxis. they confess themselves. this scene. a perfect act; separated from those other plays and vignettes only by the exclusion of the audience.
I don’t have to pretend with you, she says. And this too is a pretense. A genuine pretense, he tells her. Her perfect body wrapped in his; a cocoon and a plea for protection, savage and all sweet softness of that embrace. and soft kisses in their confessional. he circles her darkness.
two voids, he thinks,
two voids in resonation.
they have clawed to break the surface things and the horrific things come rushing out. not disturbed but seduced by this; a terrifying beauty. and her perfect body in revolt against itself; kept in its perfection by compulsive logics and deranged desire in troubled equilibrium. is it resistance or collapse? He holds her tight and listens.
Earth and insect. Galaxy
and slime mold. Life itself and torn
the solar winds.
on the cusp of her. the edges of her reason. held inside her. headlights. paroxysm. tongues and tits give way to more. both of them travellers jettisoned from some distant event; heat-death, earthquake, the end of things, some perverse apocalypse. scarring each other to leave their marks. and she would cry. or nearly cry. and he would hold her. without classification or signatories; for a moment sharing in that silence a cease-fire with the world and
for a moment more than
their mere symptoms.
fear and flesh and guilt and recrimination. as if an eden upturned. the moment of the fall usurped by its own reversal. tiny scintilla spark between them. tomorrow it might be all erased. irrevocable disavowal or forgetting.
Everything is Temporary, one of them says.
but that night all crystalline. that night all exposing. a night to live inside of. to repeat a hundred or a million times until the count crumbles under its own weight. and she burns a cold fury. and she burns a gentle, warming flame. what is the one without the other? locked then in that direction, the orbit of his desire synchronised to her core. to the thing that seems to make her more. the thing that she mistook for absent in its withdrawal. just as he has so many times. and all the others do. have mercy on their beating hearts
their tiny magnificent gestures
and have mercy on us all
though there is none who might grant it. and they drift in to sleep, aethetic bodies kissing maybe even as they dream? no destiny and no fate. and all the more because of this. accident. urgency. and writting now, leaving one place for another, he hopes to sleep soon; to become a spectre until they again incarnate and throw away their distances. remembering a night of flashbulbs and wild passions and her vicious beauty and the swallowing of him into her and the arching of her back and of something opening. something delicate and small, all joy and misery, all pleasure and denial: a night to repeat. he sinks into the coach’s chair somewhere between the two cities.
orange blur and
glare outracing shadows
face. looping engine noises.
the gale wind of each
bodies in heavy sleep. he sinks into his seat,
the little wound
she left on his lip.
become his flesh.