The Work of Nothing

 

You fall away from the lines you write. They come from nothing and slip through your hands back into nothing. And yet in the instant of writing, of writing again, something happens: something is forced back into being by your hands, thickens into words. You start another line and again it’s as if between the two lines an abyss has opened. As if each bridge you start to build evaporates.

*

Begin again. A figure in a grid, a walker in a forest crisscrossed by paths. Like the paths and the figure you abandon each other, you and your lines, in a mutual work of neglect. In this there’s something like the laughter that laughs at itself. And what better thing for you to do, you and your lines, as you lead each other on, lead each other nowhere? Yet don’t you keep looking for the centre of the grid, the fortress in the middle of the forest? Isn’t that why you found each other, you and your lines? But you’re tired today, and your indifferent lines must go on without you until you return to them, or they to you.

*

To find the centre, to storm the fortress would be a kind of betrayal. Then say it must never be found, never stormed. Say the only hope is that it might find you, overthrow you in the dead of night. But it’s a frightening hope, bound up with powers and certainties you’re forced to distrust.

*

You want to say that no one can live in such distrust, that it’s precisely the abyss which opens between your lines that’s your freedom from the fortress. But something tells you you must be on your guard, despite your tiredness.

*

There’s a work of destruction, then. What do you destroy as you write these lines? Or do they destroy you? You fall away from the lines you write. Yet there they stand, evidence of the crime of writing.

*

Begin again. Let the work of nothing wipe the board clean. You write therefore you’re not, hold on to that. With each line you call yourself into being as you wipe yourself out, call the fortress into being as you wipe it out.

*

You say ‘nothing’ and think you’ve said everything. This is how the traces your lines leave become evidence, turning against you, who thought this was the work of freedom. This is how freedom loses its charm, how the work of nothing returns to something, sinking in its claws where you thought you had wings.

*

You came too late, say that. Your first word was too late. Late for what? You don’t know. Your first word delayed you, plunged you into lateness, that’s all you know. Are you responsible? Something fell away when you began to find the words for it, that’s all you know.

*

Then give up. But how to give up words when words are all you have? When the gesture of words is all you have? Then gesture at an intention like this. Let what disappears between your words have its way, let nothing do its work.