Work On What Has Been Spoiled

by Ann Bogle


The collision of solitude. The derision of indecision.

The germans are coming down the hall—the sound of their feet padding, their stolid joints and heel balls. They are coming to rob you of intuition. They are coming to finger your foothold, and in the name of analysis, in the name of frigidity, you are not with child.

For your lovely body, the body of wither.

You are stronger than your parts handled separately by germans.

Knowledge is not a bad word. Even the Queens girl said it, said he was wanting to learn and grow much more beyond the degree. See not knowing dangerously. See seeming to know serene.

Home is where you hmm-hmm. Home is where you whom.

. . .

These are the days of arrival and these are the dire predictions of last year.

Don't take my man. Don't take my man in your arms and say so and so to my man. Leave my man for the morning paper. Leave my man in insufficient bathrobe. Leave my man uncovered on the five-year floor reading a book or two.

You can call my man and ask for me. You can give me a book. You can ask my man to help you move again, but you can't take my man.

Your man is not alive anymore.

Your man is a little crazy about your peace.

God is not in your hand. A jewish fever is in your watchband, a father fever. You are born to wake up in the bedroom of the dead man.

Hate my laundry. Hate my job. Hate my haircut. Don't hate my man. Find my man. Find my man a book for musical scoring. Find my man a matchbook to pick his teeth. Buy the thing you wanted for him.

Let my man in on it.

. . .

Many of E.'s premises are good, even though he hates that word.

My trap is his trap.

She did not create the evil. She was evilled. She did not sin. She is sin. She crouches over the shit on the dock in Brooklyn, in the position of one making shit, but did not shit. The shit appeared anonymously but with a groan from someone near not visible.

He asks: Is she a writer? This is more binary opposition.

What she thinks: He writes. He is he.

He is divorced-class with a face deserving of an office, a man.

He volunteers to her. She needs to him. He is of the emotional upper middle-class; she is of the emotional middle-class.

Even she uses semi-colons, the female this-as-well-as-that pause. He is intelligent, rational life; she is intuitive, childish life. Is she a writer? Is he a her-er?

I agree that writing is agreeing. I adhere to the conclusiveness of what is written in that state of mind.

His best sex was a craft. This could be true for anyone.

. . .

One flew under the cuckoo's nest and hit the trunk.

There he lay for a long time, under the tree, under the nest, his clock smashed, the little dial and the arms broken off.

Before he knew that his shoulder was broken, before he knew that he had lost his glasses, before he knew that his mission was over, he wanted to know, first, what time is it?

What had he gone flying to do?

Was he bored with his Earthwatch job? Had he been wrong all these years, and was it possible that one drink would turn me from a one to a two?

All of this I disavow. These were not my religions, which I also gave up, as I gave up food and Protestantism, but they were providing comfort. I gave up credit cards, except paying for them, and I gave up recreational driving.

This celibacy is of all comforts, except sex.

The gas is low in the tank. The new print is old. The ambitions are wavering. Virginia Woolf is a fragment of fading yellow silk. God is a horizon.

What is boring produces guilt for some reason.

New fathers won't self-generate.

I wish to live the life of Anne Frank. We all do who read her diary. We all wish to have a country and a people.

. . .

At her age she can command any age she wants.

Then walk the dog before bed. The dog will be the kind with skinny hind legs, all bunched up, his hair wiry. And small. A small silly dog, not the wolf of the past.


I'll force you to tell a story in reverse so that what happens is not the goal but why something happened is the unapproachable source. I'm writing. Carl Van Vechten enters my room and lifts my skirt by lowering his eyes. I'm reduced.

. . .

As usual, I wanted instantaneous orgasm, without rehearsal, without tickets because I had come this far, three hours by plane, and I was bewitched. My man of nine years and ten minutes spread me out lengthwise, crossed himself, and basted me before roasting me. We smoked pot and drank to leisure and vice, vice and leisure, but what passed between us was old, very old, the oldest in my time, and I was greedy for it, lapped up his ticking, and took it, full measure, in my pink under things, natty from wear. I laughed. There was one reason to do it. The kissing was good. The fingers were good. No one got pregnant. There was blood on the sheets. Help or hello—the choices for discourse. I left the bed refreshed and a member of the race. The interview sheet will state the following requirement—to orgasm. There will be no excuses. Her O is not optional. My O is a reason to go on, whereas before, power was my inducement. Joy is better than power.

. . .

The astrological calendar predicts a spiritual year for him, one full of change, and one in which relations with men will change.

. . .

Woke today having dreamed of raw eggs, of kitties. (I'd staged a party in my absence—sent out invitations—then returned during it.)

Thought of Mother on waking. Thought I'd been making sleep-love all night with B. Maybe we were. He couldn't remember.

Social service. Add that to an unsortable social life and perhaps have a structure for continuing.

. . .

This morning I was sleeping instead of reading the bibliography text for the eleven o'clock class. I was there but not there, achieved perfect objectivity and entered the subject. Professor J. amused us with wry appeals to humor: He told us why bibliography is important. It is no different from knowing one's investments. Books become a banking instrument.

R. was there, laughing. A. was there, smiling. M. was there, growing her hair out. After school everyone left. I walked up and down the hall, wishing the rain away, but when I got outside, I thought it was more refreshing in the storm than in the lounge. I soaked my suede shoes. My socks turned orange and dark from the brown leather trim.

The bookstores withheld their secrets. I wanted one book: Marguerite Duras' Practicalities.

I am as alone as a widowed grandmother whose grandchildren would rather watch TV than come to her house for gingersnaps.

Time to watch war news. Just causes delight the masses.

. . .

I'm a lizard without you. I've lost all my phone numbers, all my addresses.

But I see a man in my driveway. He is coming to tell me that he is ready and that we are going to drive in his hummingbird car all the way to the border.

It has nothing to do with an individual person in the sense that it could be no other person, because I know perfectly well it could be one of 1,000 or 2,000 people, one or two of whom I will meet during my lifetime.

What are the chances that I will meet the person who can take me to the border? What is life without that person?

I was born exactly yesterday. I got a subscription to Esquire.

Tell me everything, and it will fall behind us like clouds. It will pass over our houses like the same plane, ten blocks away.

The other day the driving intoxicated me. I drove excellently. I surpassed other drivers. I seduced everyone, convinced as I was of my permanence. I drove like a lark. I loved every minute, every finger of my hands.

. . .

There is not a lot of pressure to write.

In previous stories I was pleased and proud of my verbs. They were usually not the most common verbs; I picked them (with luck) for each occasion. I brag about verbs.

I thought of others' verbs.

The British use adverbs, so in one story I used adverbs, and the result was high diction.

I look at my verbs. All to be. I have lost my pride in action.

One of my missions has been to elevate passivity to its proper value. What if I applied the signals of action (precise verbs) to the condition of being?

War results from boredom, from inconclusion, from inaction. By increasing our tolerance toward inaction we can outlive the impulse to delete.

The dream of women is to live dreams physically, to narrow the distance between imagination and reality.

A person with money already in the bank, multiplying, is in a position to wage dreams on the street.

Rule-bound. What does the matrix of rules protect us from? From pain, I suppose. I want joy, and pain is the risk.

. . .

It was rolling around to me again. Nothing I could do could stop the wind from blaming me. What had I done? In my diligence, I had learned not to orgasm. He asked me to, even said "should," but I thought, "shouldn't." It seemed private to me and sordid, though I felt like it. It seemed like a bathroom thing, an inconvenience not to do it the Freudian way. My friends claimed vaginal orgasms, multiple orgasms; I myself had had two blue ones.

Is it a bad thing for a white woman to have black lovers? I've had four, a woman and three men. Not a moment of love in it. The woman held up a butcher knife. One man locked my head in place and pumped it back and forth. Another shoved me to the bed after I had told him I wouldn't have sex with him. It lasted until morning, four times. I was stiff and desensitized. I slipped away when he was tired. I took four showers. The last man, a singer, wrote a letter to his image of me, but he didn't answer my letter. He wrote to say that he'd gotten it. He was on tour.

. . .

I was trying to write about something that happened between a man and a woman in a bar. The man and woman were drunk. They had started drinking at a different bar, where they had listened to music and danced.

They had not come through childhood whole, but neither one of them wanted to carry it like a cross, so they drank themselves silly. They were perfectly intelligent, but no one had a use for their kind of intelligence. Theirs was the kind of intelligence that could realize that nothing had changed.

On a larger scale, they lived in a country that was in the business of ruining the lives of other, smaller countries, so that it became a kind of crime to protest against it, and it became the biggest industry the country had.

The man and woman would not make matters worse for anyone by having children.

There was pressure to have children and to have careers and to believe everything they read in the newspapers, but they managed to resist this pressure. They got on the wrong side of the law occasionally, to be sure that they could remain outside society, where they could do as little damage as possible.

Art had a lot to do with it. Without art, they would have been lost, even to themselves. Art was a better, but slim way to live. Their art looked like colors or weird language. All their anger, and their equal push for joy, tended to make them very abstract.

There was much mourning in their community for a time when art had not been so abstract.

. . .

The morning was sweet for a minute then he was gone, off to do laundry with some unnamed single mother, I think, a mystery.

He said no relationships. He has sex not relationships.

What's that, I ask.

. . .

That anyone in America who wants can call himself some kind of artist probably explains why there is rarely out-and-out rebellion on the streets.

My most recent boyfriend, when we're not breaking up, tells me he thinks he has a personality disorder, the one called borderline personality disorder. The symptoms include fear of separation, self-destructive behavior, confusion over identity, including sexual identity, a pattern of extreme relationships and others. There are eight, and you must have five of those. I told him that I have all eight, except that my anger doesn't manifest as violence.

"Exactly," he said, meaning that we both have it; we're both borderline. "Furthermore," he added, there is no cure. Therapy doesn't work. Medication doesn't work. Basically, you're fucked. What causes it, I asked, feeling skeptical, but sympathetic about his need to explain frequent or chronic or perpetual misery. "No one knows," he said. I held back a little before I said that life causes it.

The day after this conversation he called me from the library, where he works, with more information. Incidence, he said, "apparently common."

. . .

I am borderline myself, a woman doing it to a man. I say I am a woman "doing it" to a man, but this is not the case. The Cadillac man, for example, hounded me to take him home with me, and I was, for innumerable reasons, unable to drive off and leave him at the curb. Certainly, this is not aggression on my part.

I did not have sex with him. He told me not to be afraid, that he would not hurt me. He masturbated while looking at my body, but not at my face. I only watched his face. His eyes were very dull, and his tongue was protruding, dead almost, from his mouth, so again, I am not presenting things accurately. I did not victimize this man.

I was grateful that he did not force me to have sex, but why should that be cause for gratitude? At the curb I had said I would not have sex with him. I was very explicit. He said that he didn't want to have sex; he wanted to rub my feet.

. . .

Children should have no special privileges. Children should work as hard as adults. Some adults don't work very hard. Some adults are stupid and childish themselves. Some adults are mean. I am not a child. I am a caregiver. I see to it that every child is taken care of. My mother will not help me. The people will not help me. Someone saw. Someone helped me. I promised I would not tell. I was lying about my age. I have early development. No one saw. No one came. I was not screaming. No one helped me.

You were not my friend. You held me down. I am trying to remember your face because of what you did before. You were a challenger. You tried to help me, but I was weak and falling down. This was a stranger. He attacked me. I was not going to tell. I was a big girl. I was helping him. He was telling me what to do. He was not like other people. Just when I thought it was over, it started again. I was trying to stop him. I was telling him to take care of me. He would not stop.

He came on time. This was not the first time. I bled on my shoe. Someone was hurting me. Tell the big man what my name is. Tell him my address then when he wants he can come over. We will go to see about advanced training. This was the tenth time. I was a helper to this man. He was calling me. This was my name. He told me to come over. I said no I was not allowed. Then my arm broke. My mother did not help me. She said, "Are you twisting my arm?" I was sold on that and other expressions because the big man was after me and I told no one.

He was a teller. He never brought me the flower. I was alone with him. There was a table. He was nailing me to the table. We were having a festival. I was attacking him under the table. This was the first time. Spell his name. He has no name. He is a bad man. He wants to punish me because I told somebody. I did tell somebody. They told me to shut up. I hurt my feelings. We went to storage, because feelings do not matter. Just what you think matters. How you tell me what is so.

Several times you defeated me. You swore me to secrecy. I was all I could be, because I could not swallow. This was my first time. I was a bad lover. I was trying to sell my body. Then you came down on me spelling terrible words. My stock and trade. I was a whore. You were a planet. You held me in your arms in a position. This was because you hated me, not surprising.

. . .

More important for most women in developing identity is to know women who are strong conversationalists.

. . .

The last boyfriend I had is a liberal thinker who puts a premium on structure. He says two things save him: Poetry and his job as a library technician. He leaves for work at seven in the morning and gets home at 5:30. If he stops for a drink at his neighborhood bar, he's later.

At the very beginning of our relationship he told me about his last lover and how it concerned him that after sex she got out of bed and pet the dog. He said her dog was an invalid, and she displayed tenderness toward the dog instead of toward him. He also said that this meant that she regarded herself as an invalid, and her petting her dog was an expression of narcissism. I didn't exactly understand his interpretation of her gesture toward her dog or believe its significance was related to him, but I said nothing. I assumed it was unimportant. I believed it had no significance in our relationship that he should object to his former girlfriend petting her dog after sex.

After several weeks I began to feel restless. I enjoyed our evenings together, but I missed nights out with my friends. When I began to express my restlessness to him, when I suggested that we should include other people more often and do more things apart, he got very angry. He told me that if he wasn't good enough for me, not entertaining enough, then I could do as I please. I felt guilty for angering him. I began to go over in my mind what I had asked for, and I began to realize that I had asked for something he could not give, namely, a measure of autonomy I had given up since I had started seeing him.

I can come close to suggesting what happened next by saying that he beat me, but that's not what happened so much as how it felt. Mostly his attack was verbal. Again, after some reflection, I felt guilty for kicking him out of my house and threatening to call the police. As time went on, I also felt lonely. I began to think that what he had told me about myself was true, that I was all the bad things he said I was and that I was worthy of no one's company.

I went out recklessly in search of a man to undo the damage done by my boyfriend. It was very easy to find men to go home with; I just went up and asked them or I was friendly, and they asked me. On one weekend, there were two men. Then I felt remorse and asked my boyfriend to come back to me, which he did. For one day we were very happy making up our differences and finding hope in small things. For example, we both like the color orange. I told him what I had done in his absence, hoping to dissolve my guilt and my worry that one of the men, an art dealer, would come after me. He seemed fairly dangerous.

My boyfriend told me that he had known all along that I would do this to him, and that was why our relationship had been so awful, six months of sheer hell. Within a week he was battering me verbally again, and we broke. I went out looking for men and found two. Then I called my boyfriend, and we got back together for another week.

This is what finally happened. We stopped calling each other, and now life is much more peaceful.

He goes to therapy, and I go to therapy in the same clinic. So far, we have not had the misfortune of seeing each other there. His therapist asked him if I am an incest survivor. My therapist asked me why I see men who don't have cars or phones.

. . .

I dreamed that I was about to get caught up in the mob again. A mob moll. Glad I woke up and said no. All these self-help books, Dorothea Brande's one of them, tell me to speak to no one, call no one, drink no coffee, drink no booze. No wonder I dream of mobs. It's Prohibition. If Prohibition could do that to a nation, what could it do to a person?

B. said yesterday to write fiction, and I said, what about conflict, crisis, and revolution, but what I meant was resolution.

If I go out and see no one, it could ruin my desire to entertain people.

. . .

Bought Peelu toothpowder. If you must know, that's what I was thinking about when I woke up this morning. I did have to speak to the Houston Post man. I started to re-read the Peelu toothpowder box before I remembered not to take words in to avoid influence.

Big stars are forming in the avenues. Big caring typos are farting on your discovery. My reading. That book, Becoming Someone.

The real kings are the hearts of the little people who get crushed by the toiletries of the rich.

Tell a story, because a story is a war and is necessary.

I wonder if studying different kinds of calligraphy could make me happy. Chinese characters. I had quite a smile on my face when the Chinese gentleman put his words on the board. Woman, man. Woman and child is happiness. Man is plowing the field. Not that I am Chinese.

. . .

B. and I talked late. We talked art. He talked image, emotion, thought. I talked practicalities. I can't do this, I told him, and I must do this. Do what? he kept saying, as if he didn't know. He said, stop being obsessed and write something. I explained the difficulty of knowing what.

I blurted fuck you when he had gone too far in his impatience at my trying his patience with quandaries he was not following over the phone. Big fuck you, I said. Forcefully. It felt good later, too, as if I had done something.

. . .

I had a migraine yesterday which cancelled Griff. I had to beg her to see me on Friday. She offered, but I begged, anyway, that's how unseeing I was—I couldn't get the phone to work—was walking around in a world of push button. I was connected into a paging system and pushed G-R-I-F-F. It started running through all the Griffins in the hospital world.

"Help me with my money problem," I wanted to tell her. "If I take out an SLS loan, I will still need to work more, but less. Debt makes me shrink out, but a year of losing writing time only amounts to $3,520. Worth it? Ask me. Call Citibank because it may be better to have one bank."

I wrote something yesterday called, "You go. I go." I think it's a monologue as it stands, but I could make it more a story.

It seems I've been here before, for several days. I want to think about something else now, get out of the house maybe. Oh, no, stay in the house, sagte die Frau. Let me. No, not until you finish your 100 books. Please. No. Not until you are a perfect person.

. . .

It's midnight. In the morning, the earlier the better, I am going to dust the lamps. They are so dirty that the room is dimmer than it should be. I am going to wash the windows for the same reason. I smoke an inordinate number of cigarettes, and most of them I smoke in these few rooms. I also smoke when I take the car out to do the laundry, to buy food, to get the cats to the doctor, to get myself to the doctor, to buy more cigarettes.

I drink coffee, too, and my teeth are all colors—green, blue, white, yellow, brown, translucent. I am prepared for death. Without teeth you die.

A lease on life are dentures. I only do not want dentures before the age of forty.

Living is the umbrella over cigarettes, dentures, and knowledge. Everything goes under it and everything is in it.

You might say people. You might say people have a place under the umbrella, and you would be right, they do.

Traditionally, there was God, a good tradition I now think. Most of us can make no sense of it, so we discard it. We do not discard TV, race cars, beautiful bodies, cosmetic surgery, money, or drugs. We can make no sense of commercial life, either, but do we discard it? Even if one could, how would one survive? There would be no one to talk to. I am learning that when you try to alter habits and requirements, you find that you're still fishing for something. Something is missing, and the need for it is constant.

Tell a little story for diversion. I would, but I can't. We know all the stories already. We've told all the stories already. I will one day tell a story again, and it will have its moments, but it won't fill the gap.

Still, tell a story. I am telling a kind of story. It is a kind of nourishment.

. . .

I have tooth stains. My teeth are completely ruined as an inheritance. I stopped using the denture stripper; now here I am, morose teeth. I need a dentist. Not a small thing, but only not a small thing for me, a few who object to seeing them.

Dorothea Brande in bidding me to write more did not mean write only. That's almost all I do. I talk on the phone. I cancelled a date out with R., H., and B.D. (Good thing, too, now that I see these teeth.)

I wrote a story, "Original Sin," which is too pointed a title for what it is, and "The Gift," which is none.

"Original Sin"—that is my story. It is nasty and sad and how do I know if it is funny. There are no scenes. Why are there no scenes? Because I do not live.

. . .

People really do love the goodness in M.K., if they can see it. If they can't see it, it's his baldness they love. …

The only rapist a woman likes is a sexy rapist. Unsexy rapists can go to hell.

Love and desire. A woman will do just about anything if she desires a man, all a man, his body, his face, his mind, his behavior, his attitudes, his frowns, his whiskers, his way in the world. A woman will walk to Texas for that.

If you don't have desire, you can't fake it. You go nowhere.

B.'s flaws do not appeal to me. Other people's flaws appeal to me more.

Nothing is perfect, not even God. Something in us wants messes. Science is the real core. The void, the formlessness, the clues, the clues that lead in circles—not that God is perfect, but that his understanding is.

Re-read "The Gift," and the problem is the end. The problem is always the end. As soon as you tack on this idea of something bigger than you and absolute, you shake it off; all artists do. Law-abiding citizens don't. They accept authority.

I want to see the world rid of destructive impulse, but I am rife with it myself.

Tell the story about the ship sinking and the men escaping to eat each other's flesh. No. I don't like that story. Cannibal. Tell the story about the people perishing. Tell that story.

I heard the music all afternoon and later when I turned out the light. I heard the beautiful wind pipe, the wood flute. I heard the African woodwind.

. . .

What I want now is to be utterly alone. I want to live in the planet, not on it. I want to be deep in the earth where the mother is, hiding. Someone's mother. Your mother. My mother.

If I think that someone is listening, I hide. Is that how God is? If I think that someone is listening, I hide. I want to be utterly alone. I want to be in my webbing. If anyone so much as breathes, I'll die. I must take a long time alone.

I have a tremendous need to tell the truth, so strong that my body wastes until I do it. The minute I approach it—as I am going to do this—I switch voice; the disguise slips in. Alone, I am alone. The center of the mystery is the person alone, not observed.

A long time ripening, growing, building, then blasto, I'm dead. Like the bugs. The bugs that fuck and die afterward. Maybe I need another tactic. Maybe I need another oil to do it. I am self-conscious because I thought of someone watching.

I always knew I would go this way. That's what I say now. I will not write to anyone except to myself and God as my witness, but if I write directly to God, he'll shout at me. That's what I was thinking. God will shout. He's hurting my word. God loves me alone. He doesn't love me in the world. He wants me all to himself. He's been enjoying me to his lonesome.

I might as well sit down and be quit. Quiet? Is that so? Am I supposed to be quiet? Someone might hear us talking? I want to be alone, without God. I want to have myself to myself. I have wanted my virginity. There is no virginity. If you are apart from men and women, God has you. This is supposed to be a comfort. It is not a comfort.

I am supposed to go on knowing that God guards the knowledge; God is not dead? I saw his heart bleating. He lost his woman, that's why. He killed her, maybe.

How come you're not married up there? Bachelor God, is that it?

Only four days ago I didn't even believe in God; now I'm mad at him.

I am so lucky not to be married yet because I will make a real marriage, one based on lust.

What does Y. say? Why are all the beautiful women with ugly men? He wants to know. I don't know if that's true. He says so. He says the beautiful women are with ugly men.

The best work is this work. I would do nothing else if I could. I would just sit here and write this, and people could come in with trays of food, and I'd lose my concentration while I was eating it.

. . .

As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. What! Did the word of God originate with you, or are you the only ones it has reached?

                      I Corinthians, 14, 33-36

. . .

Where do we go from here? Up. Let me out of this hell.

Beginnings are good when trying to comprehend what is incomprehensible, human suffering, universal human suffering, even among the fed and wealthy, the employed, the landed, the respected citizenry. Among those highly functioning people, though, there is intolerance for reminders of origins. No one likes to be reminded that this country was founded by the massacre of native peoples. That sounds high and mighty. No one likes to be reminded that high and mighty people founded this country, rebellious and self-righteous people, and that a good many greedy prospectors founded this country. How can we forget the enslavement and mass import of the African people? Or the criminals shipped from England?

Those are the sources, and in our families, where all of us grew, are the same sources, in miniature, and the ever-flickering television to delimit our desires and our dreams and commitment to change.

I cannot look at George Bush's face without feeling that evil is killing him, his will to destroy, his will to power, his will to play golf, go boating, while young men and women are in Kuwait, killing and dying for gasoline.

How many deaths has he ordered? Why don't we describe him as a murderer in the same way we describe Saddam Hussein as a murderer? Saddam, at least, was in Kuwait to collect war debt, to dig waterways, to bring water to his country.

I don't suggest that change would be simple, that we wouldn't miss our murderously convenient life style. We would miss it, but we would become a better people as a result.

We are afraid to go out on the streets, though, and for this we need our gasoline. We are afraid because there are muggers and murderers out there. They are inside, too, on the television, both for news and entertainment. I think there are so many murderers in the United States because there is no human contact in the United States. There is conformity and lying to such a mass extent that fascist governments would have a hard time topping our self-annihilation, our self-censorship.

Why must such a man as George Bush stand at the head of the class?

Writing about conditions that plague our conscience, interminably and cruelly, because we all agree that "nothing can be done," is similar to keeping a cancer notebook. It's not particularly edifying reading unless you have cancer, know you do, and want to survive it.

I know that there are enough reasonably well-equipped, intelligent, and compassionate people in this country to revolve it. The country may be in the red to the top of Jack's beanstalk, but we work.

The usual response to laments such as this one is to ask the lamentable lamenter to leave. Love it or leave it. Is that what you do when you love something, leave?

. . .

This could be a novel. There will not be one action, though; it will be all fluid, a thought to a thought to a thought to a rest to a thought to a memory to a thought to a memory to a memory to a memory to a rest to a cheat to a punkt. A period. A detail.

. . .

What is neurosis? What if I have made a home in it, given the choices I had and have? What if this is my home?

C. was talking about the animals and birds of Australia. In one of the bird species, the father takes charge of the children. The mother lays eggs then goes off to the next lover. To protect the eggs, the father gouges the chest and face of humans who come too close. It sticks its long fingernail inside the body and rips. Is that father neurotic?

. . .

Do you like the lake or the one fish you pull out of it? Do you like the whole lake or do you like killing that one fish?

Is it an either/or proposition? Killing that one fish—hope it's a big one—and calling it a day is to be goal-oriented. Taking the whole lake at a glance is not to have a goal. Action. Passion. Position. Passivity.

Today I was explaining goals behind grammar to my remedial composition students. I demonstrated with an action.

1. I put the pen down on the book. Subject, verb, object, prepositional phrase.
2. The pen was put down by me on the book. Passive voice.
3. Let's say the pen can talk. What would it say? It would say:
      a. I was put down by the teacher.
      b. The teacher put me down.
      c. Here I lie.

So I started thinking about the conscience between action and passion, between location and status. If what you mostly have to say is what has happened to you, you will reach for passive voice. Even if you write in active voice, you will not be the actor. You will be the object of the action, object of the gaze. If you are writing about how one goes about avoiding being acted on, you will use "to be." You will describe conditions of existence, states of being. If you really make the conversion, if you not only avoid being acted on but act on others, learn violence, let's say, then you will be called a castrating bitch.


B., C., C.S., and I are at a restaurant. We are drinking, considering eating. There is a large-screen TV. People in the restaurant are watching a television show that I have heard of but never seen. The women are getting very emotional, watching it, as if they know the characters and as if their own lives are at stake.

We drink a little. We are sitting in a curved booth. The men, B. and C.S., are at the ends. C. and I are in the middle. C. puts her arm around me and plays with my hair. We are talking. The TV show is going on behind me. A woman on the TV show cries out, "Auntie, it's happening again. I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm dead." Then she crumbles to the floor, and the aunt has to revive her. At first I don't understand the importance of this, but then I begin to see that the woman's fainting spells are more than fainting spells; they are part of the plot, something you need to believe in order to stay with it.

There is a psychopath—a man—and another psychopath—another man—who is like the woman. He has his own kind of fainting spell in which he believes that someone is killing him. The first psychopath I have not figured out yet.

C. and I are making our circle, ignoring the men a little. We feel them getting antsy, and we watch out for both of them. If one of them asks us anything, we'll break our talk. They say a few words to each other. I pretend that they know each other well by virtue of having to deal with us. I pretend that we are difficult to deal with.

C. begins to pull me under the table, but before this happens, a man arrives on his bicycle. He comes into the restaurant, glances slightly my way and goes into the kitchen. I think I know him. Then I remember that I know him because he works here. I must come here often. I think, maybe he's my next boyfriend. I won't do anything about it, though.

Then C. starts biting my lips. It is for a birthday that she can do this. I say, through my bit lips, "Stop," mock disapprovingly. I feel a little awkward. She is in good spirits. Then she tightens her arm around my neck and pulls me on top of her. "Kiss me," she says. She tries to push her tongue into my mouth, but I fight her, not fight really, but resist. "I don't want to do this."

Then B. says, "Time to eat," and I come up for air. He has ordered rice shots. There is an empty cracker wrapper. "Let's eat," he says. I say, "Okay, Dad," and that's it. For the rest of the dream, he is my father. I am extremely hungry.

The TV show is coming to a climax. I turn around to watch it. A woman is standing near us, in the middle of the room, yelling, crying almost about what she is watching. The woman on the show is having her third fainting spell. The aunt is trying to revive her, even though she is not out cold. She is clutching her throat. She says, "They're killing me."

Meanwhile, the man who has fainting spells is literally being choked by the psychopathic man who does not faint. The man who does not faint is also pulling the hair of the fainting man. The woman tells her aunt that someone is pulling her hair.

They have a psychic connection. That's what this TV show is about. Everyone in the bar, the people actively watching and yelling, want the man and woman who have a psychic bond to realize that they have a psychic bond and to get married and live happily ever after. It won't happen, though; that's the feeling I get. The show is about how other psychopaths will interfere in their destinies, and that this interference will become their thwarted destiny.

I remember that I have read an unfavorable review of this place. The review complained about the hysterical TV watching. It said it was out and no longer hip. I think that the restaurant should post the bad review in the restroom. The restaurant should celebrate its lack of popularity.

. . .

In countries where censorship is from without, where one can go to jail for speaking one's thoughts, can die, can disappear, the enemy is apparent. One speaks, anyway, in secret, and what you get is important literature. In this country where, supposedly, anyone may say whatever they wish to say, where there is no censorship, silence is rampant.


Money from Eliot, letters, too, my picture on his wall, next to Groucho Marx's, money from Beckett, money from Peggy Guggenheim, money from the sale of my papers to Maryland after Harvard, Yale, and Princeton had all agreed to take them as a half-fisted favor. Neglect. I live a full forty years in a dugout in the West Village. My neighbor is e.e. cummings. He calls out to me, "Still alive, Djuna?" I don't answer, but I wave my hand against the lace curtain. Inside, I ride a pile of my extraneous papers. My play, after a considerable silence—twenty years—is too difficult to appreciate, but they don't forget me or how I once wrote to their satisfaction. Now it is for me that I write.

Children, eighteen or twenty years of age, camp on my stoop, hoping to glimpse me. They think my eccentricity and work are goals within reach, to be profoundly hoped for.

There were men. In all the leagues of silence between women, men arrived to impregnate me. It was inconvenient. I had to leave Tangier, which I loathed, anyway, to secure an abortion in Paris. Something had changed me. I discovered that I no longer existed, that my active span on earth was the one I could barely now remember, my twenties, my thirties, the twenties, the thirties. As old as the century I was—less eight years, wasted ones, those first—my family a tragedy I could thank for my book.

Is this legend? To live alone in a flat for forty years in less than perfect health. I had a tendency to fall while walking, and I broke many bones. I was not allowed to write a check because I had no driver's license. I said, to the cashier (a young man had accompanied me to Macy's to buy underwear), "I was the friend of T.S. Eliot and James Joyce. Do I look like the sort of person who would have a driver's license?"

. . .

A bird skull. You were going to give me a bird skull, but instead you gave me an eight-year-old wishbone that I found on your floor. For your birthday I was going to give you a perfectly dead goldfinch, but I didn't go to your birthday party, because knowing your mind made me feel sick. Knowing your mind and that I like you made me ill.

. . .

I am home alone. I left before the appointed time. The appointment was pot. The appointment was unfaithful. I was supposed to watch my friend's boyfriend discern the stripper while she went for the pot. I couldn't do it. I wanted to be in my own two rooms to type condolences to myself. My father has died. I don't care whom they bed.

Learned tonight how to play dominoes, to play bones, and was thinking it was an old man's game.

. . .

Once I got to California, I remembered C's instructions. I saw that we would have time to pass through her hometown. I asked at the motel desk for directions. I got a little map.

My sister said, "You're in love with her."

I said, "I want to see where she lived."

My sister said, "I would only be that curious about a man, a lover."

"That's your prerogative," I said.

She said I had misunderstood, that she was praising me for passion in friendship. I said I couldn't understand how looking on a map for a friend's hometown constituted passion. Was it the zeal with which I studied the map, my posture, my shiny eyes? These I wouldn't have seen.

"No, but I wouldn't look up other than a lover's hometown on a map."

"Was Dad in love with his buddies because he visited their hometowns?"

That was different, she said. How, I said. It was not a discussion. We used the word "fucking" in nearly every sentence. "Marguerite Fucking Duras fantasies" and "That's not fucking what I said." My mother was riding in the back seat, looking at the hills. We were in town to visit my 93-year-old great aunt. It was two months since my father's death and a few days before my brother's wedding in northern California.


One year ago Thursday I saw my father's hair change in color and length and texture from white to bone gray. It grew and straightened as he waited, overnight, before his last wrung breath. He looked beautiful. I couldn't cry, looking at his stone cast body. Not at first. I thought of a short story by Garcia Marquez. At the time it was ridiculous. I don't believe in literature. I believe in life. There he was, dead, and I thought, "Esteban." I said, "Esteban" to my sister and mother and brother and his wife, a woman we had just met. I said, "He's in Spain. He's in Spain or Rio, some place like that."

. . .

Pauline encounters her manhood, and it's not a paltry conversion. The bones in her face line up for war.

Utterance must redeem itself.

Utterance must step out once and disappear.