Lyn Hejinian
from A Border Comedy












All the clouds can feel our bodies change
If we just use some imagination
Some instigation
Is that ambition?
Then let the rains descend
The imagination is useless unless the mind is free of prejudice
So that all the faculties can enjoy their objects
Objects turning day to night
Appearance to lightsource, fountains to rice
And what is knowledge in this condition?
As if one's image of oneself were now racing ahead in an effort to stay in sight
So as to be prepared
When you ask
Do you want to be lifted?
What's given is what's between
A guardian of logic
Through the gap increasing
The accuracy of every infinite act
Yesterday is gone and never was
And here it is
So we can go to bed with unity of purpose
And crave more of the temperament of life in life’s philosophy
There we take on not just visibility but inspection and its proper preposition is between
Where our proprieties have gone
We place or take them there nocturnally
Reflecting on the contrast
Between scandal and metaphysics
One wolf tearing the lamb apart while the other gnaws the stone
Leaving a gap
Is that love?
It is always risky to rub sand
In real time
Over a diminishing plot
Each of whose elements is lost in personality
When the personality consists of nothing but doubts
It desires to put between
I'm thinking, someone mumbled
Thinking that the attention his hands are paying is wandering
Effacing one distinction only to discover another
A vast difference between two loves
And perhaps this can account for the enormous fear some people have of women
That's easily aroused
By the invisible realities
Between beginning and end
The real plot lying between
But when we're alone we revert
To love, and why not? who will know?
We share in the capacity of narrative to submit to the desires of this or that mind
Without giving up its secrets
And speak when no one answers
I think, the Nightingale Girl said to the Singing Man
That time requires anecdotes to contradict it
No answer
Time longs undividedly for something
We'll wait
For an uninterrupted look at the border ghost
The interpretation
The pass
Keeping the secret through the sequence
Not only through adventures but fairly out of this world
Given and between
There the dragonfly clings
And to this day more people live in countries than in cities
Where they know the names and habits of both visible and hidden birds
Being familiar with their practices
Their sounds
Crowded together like gossip
With its transitional and terminal motifs
And then dispersed
Though writing like this is something else
We may look at it
And what we see is neither before our eyes nor after what we've seen
The experience of presence here is no clear point in time at all
Our lives begin in temporal madness
Which may include taking in the madness of others
A man with his face muffled to a breast
A woman looking up from wings
This concept
That another's thought or sentiment may be intrinsic to one's own
Gives birth to eccentricity
Anger, terror, change to tell
In the time it takes to say it
There was a magician who lived in confusion
There was no accounting for her mutability since she lived entirely alone
But the number of events it takes to create the probable sequence
Necessary to cause a change in any person’s state
Is far larger than one might think
Therefore any account of it must be very long
And during all that time
Reality moves around
Changing orientation
Making objects appear
And this too
On the social journey between stations in a story
From 'the headland' to 'the sands'
Surf to saturated color
That color to this name
Bold serpents to the waist
The vertebrae to crackling rains
The rain to an imprinted tissue
The eyeball to a prediction
The explorer to it
The egg to travel
Such to rhyme
All sentences to sight and sounds of the particular
Something 'I'm dying to tell you'
Its free speech shadowed by stories
One called "The Sad Island" (also named "Carrying Water in a Sieve" though it’s come to be known as "Making a Picture")
Its moral: If you echo onward you may fit the distance
Its second moral: The feathers in your cap are inextricable
Not so, the man said, removing one and running its tip across her lips
As she shouted
In link
In counterpart
In horror and border
As if this period of her life would last only a moment
As something momentarily to oppose
To cross
And I can see that in these narrative distortions false inevitabilities appear
Ordinary motifs, like patterns in linoleum which we discern and know to have no meaning, but which seem nonetheless to assert themselves as if they were determinate, necessitated, and harbingers of moral significance
And meaning
Design (perhaps by definition) seems to guarantee outcome
Better yet
Each outcome is intermediary -- the very purpose of pattern is to be reassuring
And yet, since they are saturated with psychical 'pastness'
Patterns cannot claim limitless purity
Patterns amplify reality because they both modulate and prophesy our perception of them
Where at first they seem monotonous they soon become monstrous
Then is all organization portentous and narrative
Even when its details are so small, so trivial, that we notice them in idleness (and as idleness)?
Yet such particulars and specificities
By increasing the number of the many parts of life
Seem to dominate the very world to which morality should pertain
But one cannot sleep if one considers coincidence with cynicism
Sleep sustains all coexistence
Much contradiction (spectacle) and discord
It's like playing music on a glass floor
The floor cracks
And the musicians wearing pants to protect their soft tissue keep squealing that they are innocent
And there is ambiguity
By playing perhaps placing was meant -- the concept of placement may be important
Opening the lower lip
To express homesickness
That analysis we shouldn't shun
The kind of book you are reading is a morality tale with overtones of fantasy
To let the murdering begin
Freud says 'neurotic men' can't find the female genitals
Remembered later
As repetition
There’s rattling of the blind in the draft as the heat rises
In slats
And nervousness results
As if for no reason at all, like one of those depressing oblique sensations
An emotion that’s between
Any of the things one could say about it
As if it pertained to a secret but the secret were lost
The regime toppled
Having been betrayed
Which, however, far from casting us into the tormented silence of a guilt-ridden venture
Produces clamor -- music -- mooing, hooting
Hisses cracking from the interior of objects, putting all that’s private at risk
For more, sure -- don’t we want to be relevant? kept in stories?
Stories with their increasingly intimate operatic realism linked
A story of seeing a naked man on a public street
A story with love interest linked to that one of the way the story of the Emperor provoked in me the will to believe
But if his clothes keep showing up on other people there is going to be a crisis of belief
Then there's a story of a blind man in the Safeway fumbling over peaches as he tries to find ripe ones
A woman offers to help
Not the housewife type, more like a professional who knows her way around but thinks her life’s apart, so she hasn't the normal interest in normal things
She gets a cart and wheels it around the store with the man
Putting into it what the man says he wants
Until he's finished
And he says to the woman
I don’t have any money
You'll have to pay
The moral, said the woman in the kitchen, is this

Moral: Once there was an overthrown Bear King who had been reduced to the rank of colonel by a Would Be Usurper who thought thereby to turn him into a bureaucrat like everyone else. The Bear King countered by taking a scallion as his sceptre. If everyone would do likewise, everyone would be King.

With dream as ‘between time’ or what Kit Robinson calls ‘interstitial time'
For changing sexes
In changing dreams
A breast appeared, off me, but incompletely
On the man I am
A woman I or she
All of this being ‘gender by degrees’
Whose objects give us sensations, especially interesting ones
Machismo from wolves, nostalgia from the smudge on the book, worry from the cross breeze flapping the shade
And strange speech from the hole in my tongue
Frost pressing the orifice
Crowds of ice under investigation
We couldn’t do anything today
I fell asleep in a rubber suit
You bathed in sugar and were hospitalized for shock
Allegories are told with a purpose whose possibility is lost
Until a potato-eater appears and eats potatoes
In the hotel just across the border from the concert hall
In a feather bed which holds the sweat
The complement to up is down, to between is between
Connections can help us to slip in
Oh, as Nietzsche said, those humans of old knew how to dream
And did not need to fall asleep first
Knowing that you needn’t leave the world
And that you can’t miss it
Near and far
Held in Ovid’s curl
With dash and wrinkle to call it to your attention
And whistle to bring it to your dream
Provoking, perhaps, a psychological turnaround and emotional reversal much like the one that so often occurs in response to a sound one has too long been anticipating and begun to forget -- the sound, for example, of invited guests arriving way after the time appointed and talking noisily as they approach the door, which one perceives not as a pleasant fulfillment of expectation but rather, now, as a sudden, startling interruption
The void in which one changes at a moment of encounter
A space, as Heidegger says, for which room must be made room, not at but in a boundary
A boundary is not that at which something stops but, as the Greeks recognized, the boundary is that from which something begins
Its essential unfolding
Room has been made, let into its bounds
And viewed off a bird
It is obvious that this is how it works
In curve
With the sun between
Stucco and sensation, narrative and window skills, depth perception and the stretch
Of the continuous destination
Whose parturition through wordy lips and hidden flaps
Is read in a narrative possession of pulled repeats
Which never expends itself
But preserves and concentrates its power and is capable of exerting it even after a long time
In distant places
The repetition stirred to marvelous travel
From interior to exterior or from monstrous to minute
Without the illusion of sequence
Or victory
And actually, it’s a lot of fun
Related to experience
And its correlate, the ability to follow a story
Of travellers whose only homeland was an ethics
They arrived and departed from history untotalled
The landscape was postcard perfect
There were many strangers and one woman found a gold tooth in the sand
"One woman, one woman," said the tooth, “you have found me and now let's talk”
If the tooth had said "now let's eat" the story that moves on from this point would have developed quite differently
Just last night I was challenged to an eating context
And placed before a mountain of polenta
But how did they organize such a competition? with what criteria and according to what standard did they determine who was to compete?
Were the competitors grouped according to age? weight? ethnicity? gender?
Women set to grain, men to milk and eggs
The tall to fruit, the short to fish
Whatever conversation there was was off-key
This must be because the bold creatures were mismatched
Now they must rest and bare
Equate or raise
A household word on promenade
A fable, fate, an infant prophet, or infant bandit, banal, infamous, professing cacophony and blame
Resulting in a ‘great chain’ of participation
Across board
Over marsh grass
Near nesting sites
In space -- in metaphors of space
Why use them?
Prospects, zones, or situations
When notions of the self tend to privilege time
In which the stature of the naughty nurse can increase
To utter a drastic challenge: I am not like you!
Not today, one day, nor once
But here I am
It’s dinner time
But I've got to make just one call -- is that okay? -- it won't take long -- I’ll probably get a machine -- oh -- hi -- I thought I’d get your machine
And order the environment to picture
While pressing the unknown
I cannot see
I cannot touch the roof
I close my eyes and cannot hear the things behind me
With a dull knife I cannot cut
Likewise, without dirty (words) feet I cannot dance (speak)
Amazing heat
And soft limbs connecting consciousness with reality
An outlying zone
Our limbs are not limit but fringe
They swell our skirts
Our skirts are hung
They hang for "all and none"
But it is characteristic of philosophical writing that its relations with the exterior draw the exterior under the skirt
Mouth open, head back, and the mirror askew
The question is not why we look but what we feel
In severed gold soft running clots of (recognition) horror
Which is serenity
The curtains at the window are stalled by it -- they have been sucked into the room
As into the confinement crossing a sentence
From male to female, female to male
Writing is cross-dressing
When I speak of gossip I mean talk of the body
In gossip we pass on its secrets
Its hidden sex
The tricks of contraception
For example
Switching names
So that the apple here on the table will name the orange index card beside it
On which I've written
There is little proof that the connection is one of cause and effect
Of compass or character checking
Defeating time with the countertime of the name (‘your name’)
In circle
Which is a singularity, yes, but in return
So we must practice identification
A joiner
And that's both a worry and a story
All this hearing and being heard takes time
And time’s wagon is filled with old shoes
Or (in one version of the story) with old wings
Depending on how the plot begins -- and how it teaches us to remember the vastness of the action (change)
How to know what and whom to hold accountable
The history of mutability is very long
And hence it has long sentences, with increase of semantic duration
They must include praise and blame
What we fear, after all, in the mad is their indifference
As Mandelstam says, nothing strikes terror in a person more than another person
Who shows no concern at all for him or her
The wind is blowing
The teeth in bite dry
As birds the clock
To sky
On which the face is laid
A joke, Freud says, is a contribution made to the comic by the unconscious
That sounded promising
And I suddenly sat up in bed laughing, remembering the acts of violence I'd committed while it was still dark
In fact, my legs were still tied apart, so that I was off balance
And that made me laugh all the more
And toppled me into blood so thick I could shape it
The result I named and later it thanked me for giving it such a normal name
In pronouncing it we undertake an enormous journey
To which we are so accustomed that we travel in our sleep
Such sleep is devoted to the production of memory
And memory has a great desire to be understood
As the very barbarism that this (‘after Auschwitz’) must be
That the walls may be seen
Unlike, between
The way men stand between women
In cross-dress and incorrigible
Or, says the interlocutor, women between men
To repeat, in present tense, what they saw in a dream
With instrument in hand
Or mnemonic knot in hem
As foreigners
Who might name colors forbidden by the game
And deliver laughter
Hooting from their genitals
In memory
To receive some better memory device
I turned on the lamp and let its light shine on the bed
But it is futile to attempt to reconstitute the present from the pasts between which it is trapped
Amid physical hazards
Objects turning in place
The place requiring a map of where we want to go
Knocking at a bird hunt
In passage
With throats full and only the heads of the dead birds protruding
Their beaks still working between our lips
Their busy double
Pit and opposite
They smack and speak
They say some very flattering things
But somehow the result is that people will suspect
Excessive change in time will destroy the sensing body parts
Or excessive change in place
Many changes occur in truly sadistic installments
And people get sick in the midst of them
Seeing their own prone selves on shelves
Shaking pinky or dick
Until the senses, overburdened, require that we sleep


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