Tag Archives: Krakow

DÉPAYSEMENT (KINDS OF TESTAMENT)

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MAHOROBA (11 YEARS)

  • Oslo, 1971
  • Kraków, 2005
  • Rotterdam, 2016
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REMAINING UNFORGETTABLE

Despite the efforts of historians, scribes, and all sorts of archivists, the quantity of what is irretrievably lost in the history of society and in the history of individuals is infinitely greater than what can be stored in the archives of memory. In every instant, the measure of forgetting and ruin, the ontological squandering that we bear within ourselves far exceeds the piety of the memories and consciences. But the shapeless chaos of the forgotten is neither inert nor ineffective. To the contrary, it is at work within us with a force equal to that of the mass of conscious memories, but in a different way. Forgetting has a force and a way of operating that cannot be measured in the same terms as those of conscious memory, nor can it be accumulated like knowledge. Its persistence determines the status of all knowledge and understanding. The exigency of the lost does not entail being remembered and commemorated; rather, it entails remaining in us and with us as forgotten, and in this way and only in this way, remaining unforgettable.

 – Giorgio Agamben, “The Unforgettable” in The Time That Remains

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Passage found on The Great Leap Sideways

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LIKE PEOPLE WHO ARE AFRAID TO GO TO SLEEP

Throughout My Dinner with Andre you doze on and off, providing rest to an upper-back muscle strained and inflamed from cycling and stupidity.

You awaken to various memories.

Andre relays many of his recollections of doing experimental theater with Jerzy Grotowski in Poland. Immediately you recall how you do not like theater, do not believe an interest in theater is at all something you need. That understanding is always accompanied by the memory of falling asleep during the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Romeo and Juliet in 2001. Then, for whatever reason, you recall your cycling route past the Teatr Groteska in Kraków – which has nothing to do with Grotowski, in fact, as it is a puppet theater for children – on your way to class to study Czechoslovakian architecture (e.g., Zlín) and Tadeusz Kantor’s stage sets.

And you fall asleep for a little while.

When you wake up, Andre relates a memory of being in the Polish forest and sobbing in a woman’s arms during an acting exercise with Grotowski’s group. You remember all the walks and bike rides with M in the woods around Borek Wielki: cutting through the small village cemetery and into the birches; the new highway to Rzeszów that runs right through the further woods and fields; the church nearby tolling its bleak bells and that time you stumbled into a funeral procession upon exiting the woods; the small, random, disturbing piles of garbage next to some of the paths; passing village residents leading horses to the fields or pushing 40 year-old bicycles down the dirt road, how you would say good day and they would just stare blankly, unreplying. You think: this is what the Polish forests do to people.

Return to the doze.

You wake up and as Andre says “we’re all bored now,” you hear Frank O’Hara’s words: “Don’t be bored, don’t be lazy, don’t be trivial and don’t be proud. The slightest loss of attention leads to death.” You remember reading Brad Gooch’s biography of O’Hara when you were around 13 years-old, which you had chosen randomly as you developed an interest in poetry. You remember reading that sitting next to Preston in his mother’s car as she drove you all to the Ubatuba beach.

Andre discusses how people talk about leaving New York and never do. A recent memory is accessed of hearing Andre’s spiel, in which living in New York is compared to feeling like you have built your own prison, on a Beats in Space radio set (you forget which one) and emailing A about it. Virtually every friend you have ever had in New York has talked to you about leaving, but they never do. You recall that friends who live in Ohio never talk about leaving.

Andre goes on to cite various theories based around “islands of safety where history can be remembered and the human being can continue to function in order to maintain the species through a dark age.”At this no memories at all come to the fore, and at best your reaction is ambivalent.

Andre speaks again of his memories of the Polish forests and of trying to communicate without words. And this is what Poland does to you: makes you want to communicate without and outside language, inhabit sullen Slavic silences in order to hear the forgottenness wafting through the eastern woods, to pay attention to the memories that cannot be voiced, cannot even be said good day to.

You drift off again.

When you wake up, Andre’s talk has turned to oblivion: “We’re afraid to stay in that place of forgetting, because that again is close to death – like people who are afraid to go to sleep.” You think of your sleep problems, of your parents’ sleep problems, everyone’s sleep problems. Can you remember when your sleep problems developed?

Andre talks of parents, children, aging: “Where is that son?” A wave of what feels like memory comes on, but it is nothing determinate: instead, it is some emotion, it is forgetting as an emotion.

The outro music starts: Satie’s “Gymnopédie No. 1.” Of course you recall first hearing this in The Royal Tenenbaums and how taken aback you were by that scene in Eli Cash’s apartment. Eli Cash was played by Owen Wilson, brother of Luke Wilson, who is also in the scene soundtracked by Satie and who several people have said you resemble. You bought a CD of Satie’s music soon after this first encounter: at Paul’s CDs in Pittsburgh, that’s what you want to say, but no, it may have been at Quonset Hut in Canton or even Borders. A shared recollection is that Satie’s work has become rather trite and overused by now, but his music still moves you, breaks down your defenses. You actually prefer the “Gnossiennes,” especially the first one as it always reminds you of Henry and June, though it was actually the thirdGnossienne” that was used in that film. You remember listening to the “Gymnopédies”and “Gnossiennes” on a bus from the Kraków airport, staring out the window, how you realized the interminable compositional power at work, that those pieces sound best while moving through a familiar landscape made strange by acts of memory.

Wallace finds space and time to enter his own memories as he takes a taxi home: “There wasn’t a street, there wasn’t a building, that wasn’t connected to some memory in my mind.” Can you say that about everywhere you have lived? Or perhaps the better question is: have you lived somewhere about which you cannot say that?

As Wallace looks out the cab windows, eager then stunned, he closes by mentioning his conversation with his girlfriend: “And I told her everything about my dinner with Andre.” You wonder what he told her, how carried off into his own realms of memory he would have been as the dinner conversation flickered through his mind. What more can we say about such experiences and recollections, especially when the ultimate conversation is with one’s forgetting?

The city passes, Satie plays in the background, and you suddenly realize that, in your experience – besides Béla Tarr’s Sátántangó – this is one of the best films to doze off and on to ever. After Andre ventures “where is that son?” and Wallace calls upon his memory, the dark city, the graceful shots, and the “Gymnopédie” all push you gently through a hypnapompic state out of forgetting and into memory, towards the desire to remember these ending scenes and think about them tomorrow, and finally towards the desire for more forgetting and more sleep.

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ON MONDAY MORNINGS, THE RIVER LETHE RUNS DRY

The importance of insomnia is so colossal that I am tempted to define man as the animal who cannot sleep. Why call him a rational animal when other animals are equally reasonable? But there is not another animal in the entire creation that wants to sleep yet cannot.

– Cioran, On the Heights of Despair

Insomnia is in itself no mnemonic impairment: it is your capability to forget that is damaged and damaging. As your eyes though closed grow more beady and dry at 4:30 AM: so the river Lethe stops thin and almost disappears. Sunday was working on music for six hours straight, skipping a nap and reading session: would it have been The Uses of AdversityThe Fun Parts, or perhaps some of Cioran’s A Short History of Decay in anticipation of the night’s battles? Sunday was strong coffee carrying you into that familiar lack of breath around 11 AM over the day already slipping away: eventually there was the onset of an inevitable Niedzela panic. Must consume: the newest Momus Tumblr posts, articles on Russia and Ukraine, another Podsiadło poem, another piece of carrot cake, the newest Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, a YouTube video on the Hutterites, and some chicken soup (it is Sunday, after all)! Must produce: more synth lines, emails, Tai Chi practice, and text! Must take: a walk to Massolit, a bike ride to the woods below Kopiec Kościuszki, this Skype date, and a nap (after all, it is Sunday)! Look ahead to five more days of listening to cough-into-hand and clear-throat-in-C# at work: heartbeat quickened, breath shortened, eyes beginning to burn.

After the typical blank nervousness of a Sunday evening, you go to bed later than usual: after 11:30 (or was it 10:30: when did the time change come into effect again?). Check the clock at 4:32 after having been awake for at least 20 minutes: ultimately rise from bed at 5:44. Cycle to work as the dawn approaches with its always troubled-looking sky: clouds like smoke from peat fires. Plenty of Krakowians already moving: but slowly, even barely so in furs and with bulk. A burly Jacek on the corner in a dirty coat with a wild Carpathian mustache: you see the green beer bottle of a Lech or Perła in his hands and a cigarette as you fly past. That is no apparition, just a requisite Kraków scene: get to work at 6:58, sweating, turn on the computer at 7:03.

Insomnia humbles you with a sweet spot of energy maintenance devoid of aggression and even assertiveness: there is at least that level of forgetting engaged to keep you relatively tranquil through the day, during which any ambition that arrives is registered as a virtual shock. Jestem w szoku: you converse with your insomnia minute by minute while struggling to keep your eyes open in front of the screens. Meanwhile you drag along the same mnemonic weights that pulled you awake so early: this and that task-question-deadline-rating-document-meeting. No doubt you lost some of the weekend’s memories that were not consolidated in your fitful Sunday night sleep: isn’t that what the neurologists say happens? But it is the forgetting with which you are most concerned: you drag yourself back towards oblivion, towards the lethatechniques that induce a healthy dose of sleep.

All of the waiting is remembered: for the Sunday to be over, for reluctance to spill over into regret. Waiting for supper, for the salsa and guac: for the cooking smells to vacate the kitchen. Waiting for the hour to determine if it is alright to have a highball: remembering that you are trying to not drink on Sundays and then having one anyway. Waiting to watch a movie: then deciding whether to squeeze in a season 3 Seinfeld episode before bed. Waiting to fall asleep: waiting to decide whether to check the blasted blue time once awake. Earlier to work, earlier home: a seemingly clever equation you can never quite beat. Waiting for the Monday to initiate the stiff ride, heavy trod, and pathetic parade into the office: after which is initiated another period of waiting for compensated time to be over and free time to bring its sweet illusion of relief. Waiting for the memories to dissipate: waiting for restoration of a mode of oblivion on Monday night.

Let another week of forgetting commence.

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RETRACED ROUTES II – VETERANS BRIDGE, PITTSBURGH

Each man’s destiny is personal only in so far as it may resemble what is already in his memory.

– Eduardo Mallea

In Akron the Hound counter rep says the bus is on time as far as he knows, yes. Neck tattoo with Cleveland snapback stares at you while talking on the pay phone, busted nose with slicked hair tells dusty XXL coat he just got out of prison, Kangol hat hands over $5 for a stack of DVD-Rs, gold tooth asks you for a dime, and tweeker sweatpants wanders with a Taco Bell bag. Sleep-eyed student is dropped off by his buddy and eats a burger while waiting for his bus to DC.

The Hound is 15 minutes late and the driver with fluorescent green vest’s name is Janek, says he’ll only warn anyone once whose music is bleeding out of their headphones or who starts cussing or getting loud on the phone, he wishes everyone a good ride and jokes he likes Pittsburgh but he loves Cleveland so he’s glad to be moving so he can get back there tonight, tells earing’ed driver-in-training in the front seat he’s from Slovakia originally and his son is a cop, Greyhound called him at midnight to take this route, he’s been working seven or eight days straight.

Across the aisle two ladies share a can of Vienna sausages and say they’re heading home to North Carolina and are they on the right bus? 76 to Youngstown, cornfields, snow melting, oddly warm and bright. Ham with Muenster cheese and mustard, necessary Hound fare, like when Mark when was leaving out of Cleveland and you dropped him off with a cheese sandwich your mother had made him, he described for years after how he slowly savored the texture on his way to Binghamton. But at this point, anytime you take a sandwich out of your bag, especially when it is thin and wrapped in foil, you feel like a Pole on a slow train from Kraków to Rzeszów.

Pull down into Youngstown to the station right across the street from Mahoning County Jail, no break cause you are running late but a few get off to smoke and Blackhawks cap comes back in talking about how the Hound from Detroit to Akron had no heat so this is great. Finish William Vollmann’s essay on his FBI file and being mistaken for the Unabomber, get on the turnpike you used to drive while listening to that Aphex Twin cover of Seefeel on repeat, follow the hills peripherally.

Soon enough you’re barreling into the Burgh cross the Veterans Bridge over that high brown Allegheny, all those hills and rivers and yellow bridges (your favorite the 10th Street), always construction and detours, all that brown and grey and evergreen, less coal and steel or slag than those Rust Belt connotations glimpsed through the truss of the Hot Metal Bridge, too much sun on brick and so much rain on Midwestern grime, a city with weight yet never without its smog comfort and iron-bound charm. The station is a few blocks away from where you used to work, pushing papers while listening to Howard Stern and Rye Coalition, where you never got up the nerve to ask out the girl with the huge burn scar on her face, where you first bought an issue of Artforum on your lunch break.

2Transcription of desire, a static forgottenness, or the movement of misremembering? The retraced route is forgotten and only then remembered so it can be forgotten again. Current memories of a trip to Pittsburgh as the current transcription, then. Decaying lattice of memories encountered, filtered, and reformulated during the route, next. Recollection once removed of primary memories recorded during the route, remembered now through revision after a longer period of forgetting, then transcribed. Secondarily removed memories on top of those remembered now of those sparked while there, of neighborhoods and persons only touched upon during the quick cruise and few jokes of the initial movement, finally. All that is and was forgotten between then and now, what was not recorded but somehow registered and then forgotten and not remembered until a point in the future (perhaps a further revision than this), as in, only what has been forgotten can be remembered, as in, only that beyond finality is unforgotten.

You are retracing the route of a visit to a city where you had once lived to spend time with the friend with whom you had once lived, after all. The city has become the friend, but whatever clarity of memory it admitted was a momentary thaw before further calcification. The city-as-friend and friend-as-city hides now more than during the visit but less than when you had resided there with so much unforgotten. The city is not of your youth but of a more trying age and so there it remains, all the more likely to provoke and prod. As the mnemonics self-defeated, the movement of the route was pulled towards a more collaborative forgetting. The trip, route, movement, cruise: the first level of memory and further establishments of forgetting – all of this occurred well over a month ago.

BA is nowhere to be seen when you get off the bus so you wait on the corner for him to pull up in a dirty black Nissan and shyly wave, you hop in and immediately have to make three u-turns to get towards the correct on-ramp, across the river’s the Warhol Museum where you saw Nobukazu Takemura with John Herndon on drums and you’d imitate Jean-Paul Belmondo in the basement photo-booth when you could help not looking too depressed, and soon you’re in Oakland, there’s Joe Mama’s, ever-corny, why did you go there so often, so many Friday evenings, BA with his Rock Hudson sweater, spinach-artichoke routine, you tried to become regulars as if that was possible at a place like that, one Monday even both calling off work to head down and buy used Shostakovich vinyl nearby and then consider Joe Mama’s for a martini lunch, but that seemed ridiculous so you got falafel instead.

Park on Filmore and change into your houndstooth jacket cause it’s so warm out, walk down to Caliban Book Shop to be confronted with those same shelves of Evergreen Review and old black-and-white New Directions, Beckett, Ginsberg, Corso, Genet, BA puts one knee on the floor classically to examine HD’s Tribute to Freud, you find The Polish Peasant in Europe and America and tell BA you’re going to read passages of it aloud to your father when you get home, you purchase the study after asking about the price as it’s scribbled inside illegibly and with tax it comes to $8.02, you hand over a tenner and say you have no pennies, the owner still gives you a pile of change because it’s not like he has a take-a-penny-leave-a-penny going and you remember him always seeming rather unfriendly, which you mention later to BA and he says well he just seems depressed, and anyway BA had just been in there the day before cause he goes in there every week. You walk past where a video store used to be, you had rented Agnes Varda’s The Gleaners and I upon first moving to the city, continue to a coffee shop where they have a Jolly Rancher pop selection, seems a rather shocking product but here you are, back in America, order a chai tea and immediately regret it cause there is so much milk but end up putting all the change from Caliban’s in the tip jar anyway right when goatee eyebrow-ring turns around, a real George Costanza situation, one bad decision right after the other. BA drinks his coffee black and you talk about his father who is nearing retirement but what will he do with his time, he used to drive for work so much, all over TX and OK and AR, so maybe he’ll just have to keep cruising round Dallas/Ft. Worth while listening to the smooth jazz stations with names like The Wave and Breeze he likes, you know all about that driving from Pittsburgh to Dallas with BA and listening to those stations heading towards Memphis in tribute to his father, who also loves the “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” drum solo, just like your father does.

Back in the car through Shadyside, you both used to work at the crepe shop on Filbert, crepes with soytang or whipped cream and overpriced Belgian mineral water and Smog droning on the stereo while in between customers you worked on scenes for the “lucky Situationist” who gets choked with a handful of clementines in a street fight, there is a dance scene modeled on Band of Outsiders and a nod to the Nim game in Last Year at Marienbad, you filmed it all between Filbert and the apartment on South Atlantic and your mother still watches it to see your starring role. Continue on South Aiken Avenue, down which you walked one gloomy Sunday afternoon in the snow for lack of anything better to do and ran into absolutely nothing of interest, a failed walk if there is such a thing, no less a nearly failed memory. Then up South Atlantic past the house where you lived on the top floor, Julio that slob of a landlord tried to cheat you of your deposit after you’d moved out, looks pretty decrepit now but while living there you called it The Palace, your downstairs neighbor clambered up that fire escape to bang on your window and tell you to keep it down during a New Year’s Eve party with D and J and Masako as well as BA’s girlfriend of the time known as “PhD” and her brother, woke up next morn to a punched-in clock, blood on the walls, a few holes in the drywall and doors ripped off their hinges, wine-soaked books (your Sensation YBA’s book with great purple stains), D had to come back twice to do repairs. Then two lefts past the corner store that used to be a 7-11 and somehow had a legal bar in the back with plastic and plywood tables, local yinzers chugging Yuengling, and then the beat back of the house down Asterisk Way where the two old ladies from the ground floor would put out a kiddie pool in the summer for splashing around and Shakes would come around, old and wiry with stubble, thick glasses, athletic shorts, a booming voice, he’d whoop it up with the ladies but couldn’t swim, and who else lived there, a long-hair with a huge metal and hardcore record collection, and a hillbilly who always wanted to sell you Vicodin and whose son stole his grandma’s car and was peeling around back early one morning kicking up mud, later that day he got arrested.

Leave Bloomfield and “Welcome to Friendship” up Stratford Ave. to the other place, The Library, ground floor, smoking drugstore corn cob pipes while watching Through a Glass Darkly, reading Studs Terkel’s Working in the bathtub, listening to “In the Air Tonight” on repeat, being asked endless questions on the porch by Alik from Georgia, you ask BA about him and he says Alik lives in North Carolina where he either owns or works in a textile factory, which are both astonishing propositions. As you enter into rush hour traffic along Penn Ave. the memories come more quickly, Jasmine, Jesse, Janelle, David, Terry, Rick, Hot Cup of Soup and her waitress friend with dyed-red hair from The Squirrel Hill Cafe, that cellist, Sun Ra’s Space Is the Place, “Paperback Writer.” BA says he doesn’t like to encounter people he knew from back then too much, like Josh, he came up in your phone conversation a few days prior after BA’d run into him in front of Spice Island and it was awkward, the guy hadn’t aged even though he might be almost 40 now, he used to deliver flowers, you ask if he still dresses like he’s in The Strokes. You head to Giant Eagle to buy beer, the Celebration Ale on BA’s tip and some classic Christmas Ale and you want chips and salsa too, spend a while goofing on these difficult choices, decide to go with the Tostito’s “cantina-style” all around and say whew a lot because it all sounds so festive and tasty, debate buying queso but decide against it as  you’re supposed to have a very rich pasta dish for dinner or something, then head to a state liquor store where you check the vodka selection even though you have a gift bottle of Śliwowica in the trunk and they have nothing interesting anyway, no good Polish vods and you know American Żubrówka is a poor heavy-chemical substitute. BA wants to buy some Scotch for E, he mentions Dewar’s which brings you back to the second-floor of the Zephyr in Kent, a double Dewar’s kept the couple repetitions of “Sister Ray” you’d put on the jukebox tolerable but it’s still a nauseous recall, so BA gets a bottle of Woodford Reserve on your encouragement which no one ends up touching that night, he later puts it on his liquor cabinet next to a bottle of Pimm’s and when you ask why he has Pimm’s he says he doesn’t know. While paying you wonder why BA doesn’t get carded, and come to think of it you didn’t got carded either, how exactly are you both showing your age?

3You agree with BA about picking up more beer and head back to D’s Sixpax and Dogz where he parks in an odd though legal spot, you jaywalk confusedly but this place is supposed to be good, they do vegan dogs too, which is always the first thing you remember about Toronto, the street vendors selling vegan hotdogs, and you confirm with others at Thai Gourmet a couple days later that that is what you mention when the city of Toronto comes up, so you duck back to the “beer cave” and pick out a few choice bottles, none of which you sample that night, and then out past the Regent Square Cinema where you saw Le Cercle Rouge and watched Lee Ranaldo and Text of Light play to the films of Stan Brakhage, which were amazing on the big screen but the drummer played his snare upside down and picked at the snares like he was deboning a fish, you’re still not sure of your feelings on his playing, and you associate that area of the Burgh more with the first song off The New Year’s first album, a vague sense of disappointment aligned so well through music with certain neighborhoods of the city.

Finally to BA’s place, which looks like a lodge of some sort from the outside and inside it is all wood and crown molding and beams and pictures of Proust, Stendhal, birds, Thoreau maybe, Napoleon’s death mask, steamships, books on Baldessari and cave art and The Prado, copies of War and War and A Minor Apocalypse bought on your tip, plenty of old New Directions and Evergreen Review from Caliban’s in the shelves, some Ionesco, busts of Beethoven and Lincoln, photos of you and D from a previous visit when BA lived on Liberty Ave. back in Bloomfield, a tray of old bottles of Diptyque interior scents (figuier and musc particularly resonant). You meet BA’s girlfriend E formally before settling in to drinking at the dining room table, break open the cantina with whispered exclamations of whew while shaking your heads a lot and then you present the Śliwowica, which is taken slowly with expressions of burn while you pet the cats whose names escape you. BA has an old camel-hair jacket that doesn’t quite fit him and he wants to pass it on to you, it’s a little tight and short in the sleeves but it’ll work and be your first jacket of that kind, you keep it on, staying careful not to spill any of the cantina salsa on it. There is a tour of the tiny kitchen with its three varieties of coffee-making devices and the cheese paper BA bought for E as a “gift” because she claimed he wrapped cheese improperly, and you all look out the front windows at the Episcopalian church next door, which they describe as basically chill with a nice red door, and in another two hours BA gives you the tour upstairs, there is an old Penguin paperback of Against Nature on his night table, and you sit in his Eames chair in his office and gaze up at shelves of ontology and violence and rhetoric, you would joke the next morning about the difficulty of being an ontological subject which you both knew was misguided and lame, you talk about Elull and techné and how the cats are not allowed in his office soon realizing it’s getting late and no one has mentioned cooking or dinner yet, which is to be a delicious pasta with three kinds of cheese and a salad with radicchio, you say you can really taste how well the cheese had been wrapped recently, and you go for seconds realizing it all could wind up a brick in your stomach and wake you up at night like when you stupidly ate the massive grilled cheese-pierogi-kraut Parmageddon sandwich at Melt with J and D in Lakewood and woke up on J’s west-side couch with a horrible immoveable gut anchor sinking you into sweat and headache at 3am, that was the same day J took you to see a professional wrestling match down by the Cuyahoga, but after dinner E offers you a “sweet bite” in the form of a caramel, which she pronounces in a manner you suppose may be non-Ohioan with three syllables, and after a while you even dip back into the cantina, why not. Finally it is time for bed so you all go upstairs to spend ten minutes using force to pull out a mattress stuffed into the corner of BA’s closet, socked feet slipping on the carpet and everyone tipping over like a Kramer outtake, finally it is out and under the chalkboard so you move the piles of books on the table over and turn on the lamp, read a little Open City and remain unmoved by it, then you go to sleep.

There are three options for making coffee in the morning – a regular coffee machine (B.A.’s preference), the Keurig (E’s preference), a French press – and you choose the French press as you suppose it the easiest, quickest, and quietest and it remains your preferred method. Rifle about for some bread to make toast and eat a banana, your regular workaday breakfast in Kraków, and soon BA is up figuring out which device to use for his coffee, he makes more white toast and offers you some, you’re still hungry so you accept but then start talking about how good the pasta the previous night was, how cheesy and thick, so you pull it out of the fridge and sample it cold while both figuring although it’s excellent cold you might as well heat it up for breakfast, so BA gets it sizzlin’ and then laughs to use the toast, that earlier breakfast concept, to soak up the oil after the pasta is all hot and gooey and you do the same, whipping the oily bread into the overflowing rubbish can before settling at the dining room table to once again eat pasta but this time silently. When done you sit back with an actual gut-brick feeling and not just the memory thereof, quickly ill to talk about how ill you feel, and there is a lot of quiet besides a couple exasperated whews until you retire to the back porch so BA can have a square and you sit there watching the snow melt.

1After talking about how you may barf you manage to stretch and take a shower in the bathroom that reminds you of your grandparents’ and in turn the bathroom from the mother-son conversation scene in Franny and Zooey, and when you come out E is up but you still have time before you are to leave so you go on a walk with BA around one of those dour Pittsburgh residential neighborhoods with large chimneyed brick houses and there’s rain in the air as you amble up the hill talking about teaching business communication and what that means for rhetoric studies (nothing good), then cut to the left and venture under the busway while you describe how he should really read Lars Iyer’s trilogy soon. You take a couple photos before realizing you should return to the lodge so they can pack for their Christmas trip to visit E’s family and you are to wait, so you settle down with Open City and remain unmoved, then decide on a quick pre-lunch nap as a result of all the breakfast pasta and walking.

When they are ready to go it is raining, suitable Rust Belt conditions for an exit, and you get into the backseat next to the two cat-carriers, BA puts on the Schubert piano works that you will listen to for the entire two-and-a-half hour car trip to Ohio, Schubert played at low volume with a sheen of driving, rain, and chatter over top. An hour and a half later you stop at the Mahoning Valley service plaza for a bite and you say you could really go for a slice or two of Sbarro’s cause that’s ideal rest stop fare but unfortunately there is only Panera and Dairy Queen, BA jokes about getting the DQ fried shrimp basket, which seems an unfortunate idea anytime and especially after the three-cheese pasta breakfast, so you go to Panera and order some “artisanal” smoked turkey panini thing which is overpriced and unsatisfying and you sit in the food court zone watching a bleak, Midwestern Friday afternoon scene of rain and passing cars on the highway, catch sight of a chubby woman at the DQ counter with her sweatpants falling below her rear-end and that is such an awful sight you decide not to look over at DQ again, perhaps ever, and after returning to the car you doze to the Schubert and rain while you are driven home. In the driveway you say goodbye rather quickly though you probably should have encouraged them to come in and say hi but you didn’t and they wanted to get going anyway so they leave. Your mother lets you in so you chat with her for a few minutes, promising to tell her and your father all the details of the trip over dinner, eat a few Christmas cookies, and retire upstairs to watch the rain turn into snow.

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WHO IS GOING TO REPROACH CZESŁAW MIŁOSZ?

Who is going to reproach me for lack of precision, who would recognize the places or the people? My power is absolute, everything there belongs to one man now, who once, a student from Wilno, arrived there in a dogcart.

– Czesław Miłosz, “The Wormwood Star”

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KRAKOWSKA POPIJAWA PODWORKÓWA

Your memory is only as actual – aktualnie – as your forgetting can dot the courtyard with empties. And you remember him from last year, Rafał, quiet with his putrid Pall Malls, paying tribute to Chronos in the secret aluminum commerce of Kraków’s alleyways, cloisters, and parking lots.

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2:25pm

Rafał abandons cans of Tatra Mocne six to seven times every warm day, sometimes while sitting in the sun, sometimes after talking to Krzysiek on an ancient Nokia. Friday evenings Marian and Boguśka abandon bottles of Strzelec after spitting kurwa every third word for a couple hours. And Saturday afternoons Janek and Staśek abandon cans of Dębowe Mocne, casting their eyes downward after debating deals on bicycles brought from Germany. Romek collects the cans and bottles every other day, quick with his cart full of old water heater parts after making his rounds by the Lewiatan down the street.

2

2:47pm

Having remembered the collector’s use of what is daily at hand and throat, the abandoners draw as much from their recollections as can be poured out of a bottle of jabol, are as oblivious to the surveilling apartments as can be pissed out under someone’s window, and declaim as much of a 1,300 year-old understanding of Kraków as can be recalled between each slug and empty gifted to the dust.

3

8:24am

Rafał soon passes out, mouth agape, and Eugeniusz grumbles at him to move on, he does not want to walk with his granddaughter and have her see such a sight. Another five minutes and the Straż Miejska tower over him in their blue rubber gloves, they call his mother with whom he lives and who does not want to let him in the apartment for fear. He is back the next day, cans of Żubr this time standing by his side as totems – rodnidze – setting straight what is to be disremembered.

4

9:15am

When you go to the courtyard and tell Rafałek he cannot piss in the corner, you see he has a black eye, and he obliges with an aggressive charm from then on. When you go to the courtyard and tell him you have no problem with him sitting there but he needs to take his cans away with him, he obliges for one and a half days exact. And the next morning he is back, ready to abandon more of his Tatra Mocne, ready to return the next day with all he has forgotten.

For more on Kraków’s courtyards, see here.

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LETHES I

Your memory moves from I to we and back again less than, in the end, making the I a we. These are the pronouns at work, non-oppositional, non-collective, as forgetting remains an individual pursuit to the end, but only individual as such pursuit, dissolving as it does into a collective forgetting far, far beyond the frameworks and bounds of collective memory. You see the cat creeping in the sun, you remember it a minute later wondering if it is still there or who else saw it or if anyone saw you watching it, and you forget it all, returning the remembrance to its right space between no one and everyone.

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Using your memory for exformation admits your memory is exformation, superfluous, especially as discarded points and floating context, all taken for granted, exformation rests before forgetting, less powerful than forgetting while possibly superior to it as memory forgotten and remembered again though not recognized, never spoken or fully exhumed, never less than idealized and thus, in communication, often nothing more than mistaken.

Your memory writes when it is able to tear away from reading other people, a break that can be a few seconds or minutes even, until it complains against the deep breath of your forgetting, and moves back to the shallows of others’ language.

Then your memory is the tragedy, and your forgetting lines the inverse of that tragedy which is not quite a joke but a device of relief touched off by mouthing tragedia, a word so common in a language so Slavic spurred from a historicism so solemn, monumentalistic, and internalized that when let loose in antiquarian catalogs of pedestrian exclamations here and there, a few mornings a week, it comes to describe the interminable traffic jam, cold chicken soup on Sundays, daily queue cuts and shoulder knocking, and that courtyard entrance with florescent lit concrete so migraine-heavy that the Żołądkowa bottles punctuating its Saturday morning rank seem entirely natural as empty ciphers, tragedia – or even better, masakra – in a language flinging far its own forgetting.

Your forgetting is a valence that exists in double, one side limping with split shins down to the reservoir, cold and clear on a day you think must be for mourning but should in fact just be for a long span of silence, and the other side lurking in the hills where it reserves its own absence in advance around a fire encircled by a small, stout wall built of all your letters, emails, diaries, journals, phones, laptops, essays, book reports, birthday cards, tablets, notebooks, inscriptions, every document you have ever signed, all the margins you have ever annotated, one by one encased in thick layers of pink wax, balanced behind a gigantic pile of apples you have just picked that are, indeed, ready to be burned.

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