Letters Inscribed in Snow, and
The Unfounded: A Nectar Guide in Names
Letters Inscribed in Snow
‘Love is the same and does not keep that name
I keep that name and I am not the same’
— Bernadette Mayer
‘The book, traveling backward, holds a smaller book, which it is reading.
a book is however, an acceleration, or causes one.’
— Rachel Blau DuPlessis from Surge: Drafts 96-114
‘And all of the many sheets of paper that I inscribed at the top with my name and that address were never used for writing letters but to write this novel, which, at least to begin with definitely had the form of a series of letters, though I never intended that they be put in envelopes and mailed like letters: you might look at the whole thing as a result of the habit I had when I wrote letters as often and painstakingly as you wash your hands. Several times a day.’
— Inger Christensen from Azorno
‘Some looked like huge loathsome porcupines, others like whole knots of snakes that stuck forth their heads, and others like fat little bears with bristly hair — all shining white, all living snowflakes.’
— Hans Christian Anderson from The Snow Queen
Theoretically, standing in a gallery looking at the floor is embedded, sunken. Observe a four-foot by four-foot square slab of ice, opaque white. Around the slab is a question, cordoning off the area. How difficult could it be to solve for authorship? A plaque on the wall upon entering the small room reads ‘A Book Inscribed in Snow.’ Our eyes are blank, bare. The artist, who used a pseudonym, is a nondeterministic solution. The number of agents who installed the question is bounded by departure. Failure to identify the artist cracks the ice of an unwritten, and therefore open book. Surely the real author or the real artist would burn blue lights in the evening.
In the other dream which remains unwritten, never dreamed but only imagined, we occupied actual bodies in space. And in the dream overlaying that dream, in which the everyday becomes a prayer and a series of actions prone to the limits of gravity and rotations of planets, in that dream we became real. But that dream could not be transcribed either. If we were to live that dream then we would become breathing persons, beyond page and sleep. To write our meeting once, or a handful of times could fill many pages. But there is always a point at which to live with real persons on a daily basis involves a transfer of attentions, from the real to the unreal, and back again.
I want to be writing my new novel. But I have not begun. I’ve hidden my gardens under ground. My thoughts are sewing threads. When the right theoretical question (which I plan to steal) falls in front of me I will begin. And one of the central dialects will be:
Are the icicles asleep or are they dead?
And another will be, what is a letter? What does the snowdrop say?
Or maybe the book is made up entirely of archaic crystals found on the pavement.
Or about to be performed by one vanished ice sheet
Or fictional accounts of kissing roses
Or a dying planet drawn as a forest thicket— across a city diadem.
Sitting in a café, I put down the few words on a rose I had been reading. They were published under your name but I was doubtful. You have many names and this was one encoded by a regiment of snowflakes. The snowflakes ran along the ground and the nearer they came the larger they grew.
Divinity wrote me a letter. At first I feared you might lapse, as I do in private, into fears which cannot be addressed, or that you would disappear entirely. But you always return to the page, adhere. You wrote to me once something begun in winter, which startled me awake with pleasure and confusion. I began to cry. I could not catch my breath. I wanted to disbelieve your words. I could not comprehend them. What had happened? Did you mean what you said? I’m unsteady as I write, drafting a new loneliness which did not exist before. Assuaged by your words. Your sky is gold, flaxen, spreading.
I was supposed to meet you at the café. I put the few words on a rose back into my bag and tried to concentrate, my head bent over fields and piles of blue evenings. I kept looking up to the plate glass window, laced with white crystals, each time the door opened. In came many persons. Breath poured out of their mouths like smoke. But each time I looked up it was not you who entered and after a while I lost track of how long I had been waiting. What an endless chain of persons who are not you. Suddenly when you did appear I closed my eyes for a moment because I disbelieved what I saw. Where have you been all this time? And where have I been? As we went through the door together arm in arm I noticed we had both become children.
The Unfounded: A Nectar Guide in Names
I taste a liquor never brewed—
From Tankards scooped in Pearl—
— Emily Dickinson (214)
‘I hoped the Unfounded would pierce the ribs of a tiger and in that gesture transfigure my own landscape into the infinite’
— Hilda Hilst, With My Dog Eyes (46)
‘Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.’
— Oscar Wilde
When I think about the unutterable what am I actually thinking about? When I fill it with you, who do not exist what exactly am I doing? I don’t need anyone in an office or on a grassy hillside, or in the dark lying beside me to tell me. My thoughts are immediately, and only, accessible to me. Whatever I told another living being would be only a subset of particles. The rest of them refuse to undress, lie down, or stop talking. So how is it that unburdening myself reveals anything essential?
Where I have buried my thoughts I also bury my lodgings. The rule is, nobody knows. Don’t tell me it is as easy as deciding. I practiced for two-hundred years. With each passing decibel I knew less. You can promise a former self one thing only with any assurance and that is that the words themselves, their contexts in your mouth, what they are composed of tastes different in each particular setting. Set time lose without restrictions, which happens sooner or later, and you have magnified the dissolution of your plans. Time requires no permission. Your actions are another matter entirely. You have complete custody.
I loved the witch and the wood and the fountain worshiper and the hidden because they were banished, refused to point, refused to taint the unbridled nature of the unfathomable. I lived only for the impossible, for endless permutations never complete. I did not know I had fasted from context. I did not know persons could move through me. I had never been water. I couldn’t fly. I knew only one spell I repeated endlessly. A love spell. It had no parameters, no language or acts, and required nothing. Except to fall.
Why do I wish to medicate myself with your words? Why would even one kind word from your lips heal. I use no question mark because my question must be repeated even though the answers are known. My sentences exist in the same realm in which I wish to live, cognizant of the need to repeat the most simple questions in order to remember the most facile though difficult to conceive truths. Even now when I embrace the limitations of our being the very fact of your existence makes mine possible. This is why I want to be constantly reminded. This is why I write to you unfounded, because you are made by the invisible and in seeing you I perceive also those hands of the invisible.
If I want to get outside of myself there is always language as the most potent detractor. Even though words happen inside my form, even though there would be no understanding them without a body, still it is lack of understanding I often seek inside a text. I want to read a text that is not myself, that has not inscribed itself so many times behind my eyes as the script enters the retina, that the text resounds. I seek a resonance which happens the first time, in bafflement. And then I want to study that text until it becomes an alchemy of reading, an entirely different elixir.
Everyone is sometimes wed to unhappiness. So what to do when your betrothed sentence has bedded such madness which speaks fluent aphorisms for failure? The second mistress who affords you no linens, sends you out alone into the thick night. What to say when you see the face overwhelmed by reflection?
Is silence felted into your skin? Please speak to me of such illuminating such quiet. If I mistake anything it will not be cloaked potential to be woven deftly into your skin.