Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Monday, April 15, 2013

All That Remains

Due to an unexpected bout of the flu I have been knocked off my feet for three full days: I slept restlessly with nausea as a bed companion for roughly thirty-six hours. Various periods of waking consciousness limited themselves to weakness, incoherent communication. Time played out by motions of light across the ceiling— one waking moment I was aware of the sun at severe angles to the shutters, then followed an immediate moment, pale street lamps broke patterns overhead in the dark. The consciousness skipping across a river bed of awareness.

Repeated cycles of broth, bread, juice, sleep. Mashed potatoes. Sleep. Broth. Sleep. Rice warmed with a little butter. Sleep.

I have used the analogy in the past: the whole experience is remembered as being underwater. Of wanting to move through the vast wetness of ocean, watching flickering surface details, out of reach.

And even now I am still weak after crossing the room. Or placing a phrase on the page. What is different today, however, this afternoon specifically, I feel the fading influence of the sickness. Concentration happens without as much effort.
At one point, somewhere in the rambling blur of recent events, within the rare cohesion of waking moments, I composed a short verse—it opened on the page as a Swedish music box, something formal and intricate, heavy with baroque designs slipping along the edges. Yet, to contrast the restraints of tradition, in my mind’s eye I held it on a scrap of paper— it existed as maybe five lines, maybe seven… an odd number of irregular rhythms and musical patterns of syllables. I repeated it three or four times, over and over— an effort of recollection, attempting to burn to memory the mechanics of the phrases.

As you can guess, the retention of the poem vanished as soon as it was realized. That is the way of these matters. The memory itself is limited to a vague haze of abstraction. The shape of the lines is all that remains. Outlines of ghosts. White on white.
Ironically, coincidentally, today’s tanka fits somewhat the theme of retention and loss. All memories are caught between possibilities of actions— in the end, as much as memories shape who we are, we shape memories to be who we want to be. Sometimes we get caught in the middle of the tug of war. Placed in a limbo of hesitation.

203/ the hesitancy of a stone skimming close the water’s surface— caught between rising and falling, acceptance and denial —


  1. Yip. Your expression of these truths strike me with force. I've been wrestling with memory and memories recently. The dissonance between my own and others' memories and between what I think I remember and what might actually have happened - and this is all relative to the 'same' events... The way in which we write our own self's narrative - the way in which we put together the 3D jigsaw of Self and of what happens when the pieces just don't 'match'... I've also been reading James Robertson's 'Republics of the Mind' - some superb short stories (he's a great Scottish writer) - and they, too, deal with some of the same theme.

  2. And I did mean to say: I'm sorry to read of you feeling so poorly! But glad you are on the mend. Yx

  3. I'll need to seek out the Robertson material— love the title.

    --and yes. I am slowly recovering. Oh how I hate being sick.