Lyn Hejinian


from The Fatalist

Dog isn’t right, poetry isn’t wrong — words in themselves
can’t be right or wrong. If writing is to serve as their chief
interrogator it must ask the very questions
regarding puppets or cookies that we would ask
with a three year old dashing toward us
with confidence. We would have to be armed
with questions and the artistic courage
that is required to sustain them. Then things will surface
like the scraps of paper on which they are written and ambition
afloat on mineral water left over from the party – we all remember
the preparations before and the cleanup after the fire. Brown by day
and red at night, the sky came within 500 yards of the conscripted
convicts. We gave them everything they asked for when they approached
the fire through miles of brush in prison garb
and guarded by deputies thinking us naive to be grateful for something
they’d been condemned to do. Things weren’t yet working
but I knew how to fix the problem. It was structural
as when I was in high school sitting in the town cemetery
which lay pretty much midway between the sentimental verses
on the gravestones and my fear of death. Figures distinct
from reality (which wouldn’t have suited adolescent girls)
hover over courage like the ibis. They sneer
and we thank them — as we must
since one of them lay the cosmic egg that contained the bird of light
that we now use to search for better spacing, wanting the sense
of suspense, of preparation and promise, the sense of things
underway, which means we have to get our indentations
right. But as you see, they might as well be in Florida — the same time zone
as yours — like manuscripts suddenly appearing on the horizon
in a box of loose pages they are still a long ways off.



All that happened is what is happening. A tumble of rocks
by a railroad track into the precarious present, a point
in the future that will become a second present
rising into the past for awhile. That’s how we get lost
in the pathos of circumstance and swing. Then out
we come with a meditation with adverbs
to continue maddeningly and rings, strokes. Daringly
I write as a duck and change the rules
of the vicarious system, releasing some duck
to become a train. That releases the train, or perhaps it’s something
else. Pain and pleasure have enormous decontextualizing power.
One doesn’t just “peel a potato” one “tenderly peels it
wackily.” It is impossible to predict just what are
or can be clapboards in the system. One arrives, producing
motion, contiguity, action — worthy suffixes
of the times and of remembered life. Whatever can be said
of any night of it may not be applicable to any other cowboy
nor to herons. I say this not as self but as living fanned by daydreams
to oblivion — everything included. Already it seems as if we’ve drifted
away or perhaps been abducted. The present
and our presence are not givens. We had to get ourselves here
or there somehow. And we did it! Or we think we did. Memory
is uncertain, inconsistent, illogical, and given
to picturing events we actually know
nothing about; it’s all over the place, encountering
phantoms we create and then permit
to obscure our understanding and generally oppress us.
Poor Miss Havisham! Reality was already here
separating us from ourselves and preparing us for it,
giving us lots of gates to leap over — enormous gaps
that open to show how one thing might be
related to another with astounding results.



An alphabet of advancing ice would be better than a single letter
to 1000 people in the sun. I’d drop a blue postcard into the cold can
at the facing side of the driveway and find R
and P as I did today. They were sitting on the step or stoop
watching the warm afternoon sun, the Sunday pedestrians, the cars circling
the shade trees among which some loquat trees have volunteered
and continue to elude the roundup. A ewe showed up and stayed
on for 12 years. The cows were nasty to it, the calves paid it
no attention. The bulls, however, were kind to it. It disguised itself as a rock
resting between the legs of the bulls and wallowing in a pleasant creek
and there it drowned. As you can see, this is a story about suffering
misery while expecting good. But the worldlessness of sleep will allow us
to see the world anew in the morning. We’ll have a stage
on which to appear composed to let the world work
laboriously through unanswered letters that are said
to represent the passage of time with the last showing more
or less what time it is now which is close to 9 pm. B has returned
the sewing machine and M has borrowed the typewriter. H said nothing
about money. The horse had no personality —
he couldn’t make a decision but he was golden
and handsome in the manner of an extraordinary emergency
and he had a fine eye and was capable of being happy. He pulled
back now and then, losing interest in characters
and situations but never in the sentences. Horse
is a crypt word, the rider another. Do go
somewhere. We can always bend the rules —
nothing is fated until it’s done. F has kissed
D and exclaimed, “What a good big brother I am!”