Monthly Archives: December 2009

Some people are like that

She says, ‘Nothing can come from outside you and me to teach us.’
‘No knowledge, no ignorance?’
‘None. Some people are like that – closed – they can’t learn from anyone. Us, for example – we can’t learn anything, neither I from you nor you from me, nor from anyone, nor from anything, nor from what happens. Like mules.’
No matter how many centuries of oblivion pile up over their existences, their ignorance will have existed just as it is at that moment, on that date, in that cold light. They realize this and are delighted.
Also, that in a thousand years’ time this day will have existed for a thousand years to the day. And the ignorance of the whole world about what they’ve said today will have a date too. Without words, without ink to write it down or a book to read it in, it will have a date, a place in time. And they’re delighted about that too.
She says, ‘And so everything there is is here, in the room.’ And with the palm of her hand she indicates the tile floor, the sheets, the light, the bodies.

— Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair (tr. B. Bray)

Praised then be He, for when minds contemplate His Godhead, their awareness turns to incomprehension; when they consider the nexus of His acts to His will, their knowledge turns to ignorance; when tongues aspire to praise Him by ascribing attributes to Him, all their eloquence turns to tedium and vapidity.

— Moses Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (tr. L. E. Goodman)

During the night, still a long time before dawn, while the walkers are going along the beach, she asks him a question she’s been wanting to ask him for several nights.
‘What you meant was that paying for time spent in this room was paying for time lost, wasted. Wasted by the woman?’
At first he can’t remember, then he does.
‘Wasted by the man, too. Time that he had no further use for.’
She asks him what he’s talking about.
He says, ‘Like you, about our affair, about the room.’
‘The room is no use now either,’ he says. ‘Everything in it has stopped.’
He must be on the wrong track. He can’t ever have thought it would be of any use. What use could it have been?
She says, ‘You said the room was to keep people here, with you.’
He says that applied to young male prostitutes, but not to this case.
He has stopped trying to understand. So has she.
She says, ‘It was also so that they had to go, had to leave you, when the time was up.’
‘Perhaps. But I was wrong, I didn’t want anything.’
She looks at him a long while, her gaze taking him and keeping him shut up inside her till it hurts. He knows it’s happening. And also that it’s nothing to do with him.
She says, ‘Perhaps you’ve never wanted anything.’
Suddenly he’s interested. He asks, ‘Do you think so?’
‘Yes. Not ever.’
He’s the sort of man who doesn’t notice whether something is said by himself or by the other person, doesn’t notice who answers questions, even if they are put by himself.
‘It’s possible. Never wanted anything.’
He waits, thinks, says, ‘Perhaps that’s what the matter is. I never wanted anything, ever.’
Suddenly she laughs. ‘We could leave together if you like. I don’t want anything anymore either.’
He laughs too, but with a sort of uncertainty, of apprehension, as if he had just escaped from some danger, or from some piece of good fortune he hadn’t asked for.

— Marguerite Duras, Blue Eyes, Black Hair (tr. B. Bray)

Suicide in the desert

All this time I had thought that the land was something other than me, something I sensed as if I had feelers dancing across it. Now I could see. We had the same command, driven by the same fundamental longing. I had never been a separate creature from it, not once. All this time I believed that, I had my own desires, my own hands. Laughable, now. I have always been the land.

My pen hovered above the paper and I could not remember my thoughts. It was hunger and thirst, I figured, stealing what was left of my mind. The words I’d written seemed vain and fleeting now that they were in black ink. Perhaps this was what people who once lived here understood: there can be nothing but desire, otherwise a person might sit in this black infinity and never move again.

Enough clever thinking. I felt angry for trying to capture the sensation of this illimitable desert. It was as if I were suspicious, trying to detect words where there were none. This sense of longing that I tried to write about, even using the word desire, tore it from me, rendering its power, turning it into a thought, a weapon, something other than what it is. There is a greater sense in this desert that I could never write. It is the very root of existence, the thing that is beyond beauty and safety, beyond need.

I closed the notebook and set it on the ground, pen marking the spot where I had left off. Then I pulled the pen out, losing my place, withdrawing the temptation to write. I tossed it and it landed ten feet away, clattering mechanically among the rocks. That is how a pen should write, I thought, with no fingers touching it.
I stared at where it had landed, rubbing the smooth, hard callus from the pen on my middle-right finger.

Closer to me I saw a lighter. It was within reach. I should use it, I thought, and set fire to this useless notebook. It would ignite easily, starting at its flimsy cardboard cover, burning through 150 pages, leaving only the tight metal spiral discolored from the heat. Then my words would no longer be bound and inadequate. Thousands of verbs and adjectives would finally be free, flying away with the smoke.

When I looked at the ground even nearer, I saw the knife I had used on the coconut. I picked it up, studying its blade. I brought it flat to my lips. The steel was not cold.

Fire could free the words in my notebook just like this knife could free me. If I were to cut my tongue, I thought, sever it completely, then I would silence the weaknesses of my voice. Without my tongue I would never speak, never try to reduce this landscape to something conceivable. I would close off this avenue of escape from the desert, becoming even more a creature of the land.

A warning signal fired from within my head. I would claw the ground in pain if I did this. I would bleed to death. But even that seemed acceptable in these dazzling stages of thirst and hunger. I would no longer be mortal, I thought. I would lie dead, a feast for the wind. This must be the madness that overtakes people who die in the desert, the strange final acts of suicides, the last precious water poured deliriously onto the ground. I touched the edge of the blade with my tongue. My fatigue will act as anesthesia, I thought.

The sharpness of the knife slid to the base of my tongue, still curious, not yet cutting flesh. I should take one more step, I thought. The land pulled on me, a magnet to steel, the poison of a snake entering the blood of a small animal. Come, it said. Yes, come.

— from Craig Childs, ‘Suicide in the Desert‘,

Another you

‘The only solution I found was to talk to you. Another you, not the you I lost, but the you I’m always losing. My only way out of the hole was to talk myself into a new wider loss.’

Every step I take

‘Every step I take is in you, in my death. My mouth is full of you, I breathe you in and out.’


‘I cut you down to size, make sense of you. I shape you, think I master you. These very words are guilty.’