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Somewhere in the future I am remembering today. I’ll bet you
I’m remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty,
my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers
of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.

I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up
with a catcher’s mask hanging from his belt and how I said

great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you,
and how he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts
and said, wonderful, how are you.

– David Berman, from “The Charm of 5:30” (Actual Air)

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“Can the poem,” Robertson asks rhetorically, “become the space of that solitude? In this instance I took 9 years to build a pronoun. During that time I didn’t talk about it, and that was a freedom and a pleasure.” The solitary struggle “towards a pronoun caked in doubt” has culminated in the “complex structure” of Cinema of the Present, her most extended essay at the autobiographical poem of distributed subjectivity—and its pronoun is “you”:

What is the condition of a problem if you are the problem?

You move into the distributive texture of an experimental protocol.

A bunch of uncanniness emerges.

At 20 hertz it becomes touch.

A concomitant gate.

At the middle of your life on a Sunday.

A dove, a crowned warbler in redwood, an alarm, it stops.

You set out from consciousness carrying only a small valise.

The “I” is not entirely absent from Cinema, but Robertson drops it rarely and when she does, it is subordinate. Most appearances of a first person pronoun are accompanied by a “you” or “your,” as in “I’m in debt to your radiant obscenity,” or, more conspicuously, “If I want to cry it’s because I’m not a pessimist, you said.” The second person is a notoriously tricky voice to pull off in a literary work of any length; “you,” to modify Robertson’s opening line, is a problem. It can lead to unproductive alienation of the reader, who might, upon reading a sequence of sentences seemingly addressed to her directly, respond defensively: “No, I damn well am not.” There are good reasons that participants in mediated counselling are urged to frame their remarks in terms of how they feel, rather than in terms of what their antagonist does. Another problem with “you” is its potential haziness. An “I” or a “she” is almost always specific in its reference, but the indefinite “you,” even more than “we” or “they,” can refer to no one in particular.

The polyvalent character of the second person pronoun, however, is precisely what makes it the mot juste for a hundred-page extension of Robertson’s earlier ventures. The “you” is the very embodiment of “distributed subjectivity”: it can be singular, it can be plural, it can be the reader, it can be the poet, it can be anyone and everyone.



Forgetting: non-presence, non-absence.

To open to forgetting as accord with what hides. Forgetting, with each event forgotten, is the event of forgetting. To forget a word is to encounter the possibility that all speech could be forgotten, to remain close to all speech as though it  were forgotten, and close also to forgetting as speech. Forgetting causes language to rise up in its entirety by gathering it around the forgotten word.

In forgetting there is what turns away from us and there is the detour that comes from forgetting itself. There is a relation between the detour of speech and the detour of forgetting. From this it follows that, even saying the thing forgotten, speech does not fail forgetting but speaks on its behalf. The movement of forgetting.

When we are missing a forgotten word it still indicates itself through this lack; we have the word as something forgotten, and thus reaffirm it in the absence it seemed made to fill and whose place it seemed made to dissimulate. We seize in the word forgotten the space out of which it speaks, and that now refers us back to its silent, unavailable, interdicted and still latent meaning.

In forgetting a word, we sense that the capacity to forget is essential to speech. We speak because we have the power to forget, and all speech that works in a utilitarian manner against forgetting (all speech of recall, encyclopedic knowledge) runs the risk – risk nonetheless necessary – of rendering speech less telling.

Speech ought therefore never forget its secret relation to forgetting; which means that it ought to forget more profoundly, hold itself, in forgetting, in relation to the sliding that belongs to forgetfulness.

Maurice Blanchot, from The Infinite Conversation

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Any TV anchor who interviews Trump needs to print this out and commit it to memory.

TV in loving memory: Rasheed Hassan Khan devoted life to rights of peasants.

Water has memory. Ganga is carrying impressions, feelings, memories . . . She is a living entity. Rivers have rights.

One of the most brutal knockouts in recent memory. Let’s have no more of these daft catchweight fights!

Make me an option, and I’ll make you a memory.

New 5.5 Comfort 3” Twin Memory Foam Mattress Topper.

Time to sleep . . . (cue marching band, mother’s disapproving voice, and the memory of women who never wanted you).

Looks like the house of memory here.

Funny how the hours stretch, melt away my empathy. Persistence of a memory.

That’s just how I was brought up. Your girl should never touch a door or walk in a room behind you. It’s muscle memory now.

In loving memory of Johnny Depp. He ain’t dead, I just love remembering him.

Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.

Good luck getting the memory of people laughing at you dislodged from your brain.

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There is never a single approach to something remembered. The remembered is not like a terminus at the end of a line. Numerous approaches or stimuli converge upon it and lead to it. Words, comparisons, signs need to create a context for a printed photograph in a comparable way: that is to say, they must mark and leave open diverse approaches. A radial system has to be constructed around the photograph so that it may be seen in terms which are simultaneously personal, political, economic, dramatic, everyday, and historic.

– John Berger, from “Uses of Photographs”

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  • Oslo, 1971
  • Kraków, 2005
  • Rotterdam, 2016
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Memory’s a funny thing, isn’t it. You don’t agree? I don’t agree either. Memory has never amused me much, and I find its tricks more and more wearisome as I grow older. Perhaps memory simply stays the same but has less work to do as the days fill out. My memory’s in good shape, I think. It’s just that my life is getting less memorable all the time. Can you remember where you left those keys? Why should you? Lying in the tub some slow afternoon, can you remember if you’ve washed your toes? (Taking a leak is boring, isn’t it, after the first few thousand times? Whew, isn’t that a drag?) I can’t remember half the stuff I do any more. But then I don’t much want to.

– Martin Amis, Money

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Across the street rests the ugly national machine: a filthy station wagon, its family’s movements through pink plastic and spittle too slow to replace Sunday cutlets for missing hubcaps. Spill out the smeared window draped in a beige patriotism, wooden cross dangling from your forehead: walk with arms crossed, a reactionary cutout unable to exchange sermons for picking up the litter of the littering nation. Do not nod but stare, take odoriferous bows to the envy of all those living west and south: to their techné comforts and atrocity shows, their constipated sugar energy. The country’s savior eases into emulation: Family and Mister God are all that need comprehending.

As if still surrounded by fields of cabbage, scream all night: before falling from balconies, snapping necks like stale cigarettes, toast, blow , spit, and scream some more. Clear your throat in unventilated rooms five times a minute: but never suffocate from those who do not yet know how to wash beyond Saturday evening. With a face full of pork and dough, leave the standard trail of a proud national occupancy: fruit vodka bottles mark time made advantageous beneath brutalist slabs and anti-Semitic and/or football hooligan graffiti. Float kebab wrappers down broken sidewalks, yet another foreign delicacy to be admired at a distance: the littering never cancels out love for soil, for blood. Leave empty beer bottles for comrades in need: a strategy of protectionist taste, support of local economy, reflection on bald heads.

Swerve your way towards shop, church, government office, bus stop: then stand fiercely, frown, move for no one. Even when curbing yourself blind-drunk in the main square Saturday night: do not ever mistake passing thug skulls for martyr halos. Await exorcisms on every street corner: bow for forgiveness to the fat skirted priest who has never looked a layman in the eye. Breathe against the stranger’s back and white-knuckle your coins: return home to blast the overhead fluorescent lights. Stay ready to worry something will end: no more bread, ham, cheese, pickles. No more of the only spice that makes sense: salt. No more sustenance to complain a route through this geographic contempt: protect it to the death. Come to us, come to your family: we invite you, very please.

This ugliness surrounding you is a lie: the lie to end all lies but not all failures. The failure of your ancestry resounds deep in your name: the joke of all our genes. You too walk like a peasant dressed like a cow for a cancelled costume party: you too are tied to the fields. You too stare blankly through intersections with five toes in the road: you too trigger vitriol with your blank wide face and suspicious eyes. You too swerve to avoid interminable potholes and puddles: you too forget to shoulder-check. You too fail to acknowledge strangers passing: which would entail vulnerability, invasion, domination, partition. Which would mean exile from the holy family: from the holy mother, holy nation, holy pork cutlet.

Study the consonant-clustered passwords to their ultraviolence: their tribalism, suffering, and fear carved into an exhausting language. Buses bear down on you as construction spills out onto the sidewalks: you too are forced into zones of centuries of unplanning. Commit a little suicide, diminutive and sweet, after betraying these patriotic values: car, coal, conservatism. Listen, you bicycling vegan Marxist: you do not belong here unless you can stomach the smog. Postwar pollution shall become normal to you: normal is the nation’s synonym for aspiration. Hostile drivers unable to make clean turns, streets of great problems and shoulder jousting: you shall miss the aggression you succumb to.

In one week, the first event: you cycle into the bike lane to cross the intersection and in his beige SUV, clad-in-all-gray fails to judge the geometry of his turn, yells at you from his seat, crosses against your bike’s front 29er. The second event: on the station platform there are expert performances of the ancient Slavic swerve, and amidst the overtaking and jostling, bearded-Napoleon-Complex-hipster slams into your shoulder, you are rigid but give way to the fuzzy responsibility, he grabs your arm and says “are you really running into me right now,” you reply in the master language “are you really running into me right now,” he says “learn how to walk” or something, you reply “learn how to walk ” or something and then “take it easy and have a nice holiday,” he replies “you too.”

There are choices to be made for this bulwark: this Christ of Nations. A nation on the edge of rebirth: one that encourages mutual respect. A nation on the edge of regression: one in which everyone knows that to thrive, you must leave. A nation described as a beast with a sweet side: good luck. A nation looking to hire a foreign PR team to rescue its reputation: accused of breaking its constitution, undermining democracy, and scaring away foreign investment. Read it and weep: take your choice.

Look in their eyes: they look away and stare in equal measure. All the middle fingers, curses under the breath, shoulders knocked, patronizing patriotisms: karma wrapped like the tendons of a dead animal around the chakra buried beneath the castle. There rests the difference between love and hate: there is no blasphemy in the national mirror. Your bow of tension is infinitely elastic: look away.



Water has its own archaeology, not a layering but a leveling, and thus is truer to our sense of the past, because what is memory but near and far events spread and smoothed beneath the present’s surface.

– Ron Rash, “The Woman at the Pond”

I spent fifteen minutes strolling under the arcades with their metal beams, slightly surprised by my own nostalgia and aware, at the same time, that the place really was extremely ugly. Those hideous buildings had been constructed during the worst period of modernism, but nostalgia has nothing to do with aesthetics, it’s not even connected to happy memories. We feel nostalgia for a place simply because we’ve lived there; whether we lived well or badly scarcely matters. The past is always beautiful. So, for that matter, is the future. Only the present hurts, and we carry it around like an abscess of suffering, our companion between two infinities of happiness and peace.

– Michel Houellebecq, Submission

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