Hybrid Essay by Alexis Vergalla

The Ever Amazing Anne Carson and my Love Affair (or, How I Travel by Bus)

One afternoon my phone vibrates in my pocket; it is Jacob, recent transplant to New York City. “I know where anne carson works out. (and sweats.)”  He calls me later as I stand on the corner of Pike and 3rd Avenue.  The rain pours around me, buses steam and splash, and Jacob tells me Carson came to a reading tonight to preview her new play.  I miss most of the details to the storm.  As my heels finally click and slide down the bus aisle I say “I will call you back, I want to know more,” when what I mean is, I wish I had seen it. Her. The play. The dark bar, the bulbous wine glasses and slanted golden beer.

I will be honest; I don’t understand Anne Carson.  Her work is full of vacant spaces, of references that pass over my head.  And still, to remain honest, I love Anne Carson.  She keeps me at arms length. She does not let me in.  I fight and I crawl between words and I look up and she is one step further away. (Is this is what I love: the one who lures and walks away?) It hurts me to know this, she writes. What a word of possibility, this.

So, of course, I want to write about her. But I think I am writing a map of my own intimacies.  I think I will lose Anne. [How text can condense time- I have written, but you have yet to read. So it has unfolded for me but you have yet to begin uncreasing.] I love her, but I cannot fathom her.  Of course this isn’t about her at all.

How is it that one can love without comprehension? [On the bus, the women screech like birds. There are other women wrapped in babushkas like cabbages. It is not cold, but to look at them you could not know this. They are potatoes. They are earth things. In the sky, gulls screech.] I am in love with this city.  I fall in love with it every morning, and then I begin the slow process of falling-out-of-love. Only to begin again. Someone asks, so, how are you liking Seattle?  If only I could explain.

[Years ago, I was on a train home and light struck the sludge beside the tracks.  Slumped piers. The windows were scratched Plexiglas-our fingers tapping look look look. I tap the bus window and there is no one to remember this. But me. I am here too. Was I in love then?  There was less a sense of shifting, I had yet to spend days beneath an oppressively blue sky.  How un-unsafe I felt.  I cannot remember if I was in love, or falling out, but I don’t remember feeling rootless.]

I am told my writing is sad, but heartfelt. I think of the beating pulpy thing, reaching arteries into a text, and I think this is okay.  She writes Our empty clothesline cuts the sloping night and of course there is sadness, but isn’t there beauty as well?  Isn’t that more important?  The clothesline divides; it draws up between the house (living) and the gate (latched).  Boundaries are important.  If a boundary is defined by where edges touch, by the join/divide, then love is approaching and holding the difference between You and Me. And moving one step closer.  And another.  I am told You don’t put your foot down very often. If at all.  To put my foot down would be to pin down the shifting edge, a bare foot on the blade-like division. [How it feels, like cutting lemons. Or skin.]  I balance on the kitchen stool and say, “No, that isn’t true.” See, I am putting my foot down, painfully. You exist (at the stove) and I exist (on the stool) and we float words into the air.

[The bus passes a statuary, and someone has balanced a small ferret of stone on the head of a medium sized lion. The kind that guards doors and gateways. A shape with a lion body, but the head of a lion.  The lion does not look up (it can’t) and the bus passes by it again and again. The auction house beside the statuary is empty and for rent. Sometimes the sky is snow-silver, and three nights ago the moon was a bare hook ringed in clouds. A teeth mark on the flesh of night.]

I always thought I was leaving, always moving forward and away from love, but I am beginning to suspect I had the perspective wrong: I am attempting to arrive. (Anne, help me arrive. But you slip away, you evade my gaze.)  A box arrives at my doorstep, an arrival of things I have been without.  Anne has arrived.  My approximation of Anne- her text.

I open her book. I have been like one asleep. Sleep caught.

[A girl with a fur-lined hood throws her head back. I can see her laughter.

[The women cry like birds. The women trundle like earth.

[What woman am I?

I dream I am lines of snow, driving into glass. I dream I am zipping a shirt over my bared breasts as the door opens and I turn to the rectangular patch of light.  I dream I am laughing and there is a brass window, just out of reach, and open slightly.  Like your mouth, bare hint of smile. Of teeth.

The lake water wakes me. Gasping.  Jacob was there, and he is in New York now, watching Anne’s newest play.  I am growing accustomed to rain.

[I mistake the word Breakfast for Keats, as if the all-night diner holds a memorable past. The formica tables and their spilled sugar.

There are bulbs emerging, a false spring.  A skiff cuts across water and the buoy bobs, nonchalant.  If I were to bring in love, it would be a gaping hole. The vacant space I circle, the interior of a prism, the mechanism to striate light.  The mountains radiate all day and I have a wheel to show me night’s constellations, but for a more southern latitude.  Some nights I laugh until it my ribs hurt, some nights I dance until my body is drenched.  Some nights I simply sleep and wake and begin again.

Arrival:

Field of swans. Same color as snow geese. The migratory patterns diverging but here (there) is a field—green white and smelling of bird shit.  So what of the changing context?

It’s all a matter of perspective.

I am condensing histories. His stories. You and you and you and you.  Really, it is an attempt to return to myself and I open Anne’s page to And suddenly a vacancy, a silence,//is somewhere inside the machine./Veins pounding. We watched snow geese | we rode trains | we drove down the mountain as night shuttered herself against the car. You ground your teeth | you snored lightly | I slept on the couch until you carried me back. You bent my arm around my back | you bit my shoulder | you kissed my eyelids | you drew first blood. I—what did I do?

[I have lost the thread of Anne. My affair. I have wandered off as I always do.]

Anne arrives in boxes, but she only approximates arrival.  I love and fallout.  I love and fallout. Me, as ever, gone.

*Italic text from Anne Carson’s Decreation.

___________________________________________________________________________________________

Alexis Vergalla is often distracted by shiny objects and stories about ether.  She  is the   author of two chapbooks, Letters Through Glass (2009, Finishing Line Press) and Experiments in Light and Ether (forthcoming, Dancing Girl Press).  Her work has appeared in Diode, Anemone Sidecar and elimae, among others.  She formly edited CRATE and The Manuscript and her blog, www.alexisv.wordpress.com, is updated somewhat frequently.  If you ask her about John Tyndall or Sir Oliver Lodge she will talk to you for hours.

To order a copy of “Letters Through Glass” please visit:

http://www.openpoetrybooks.com/order.html
http://www.pilotbooksseattle.com/wordpress/
http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Through-Glass-Alexis-Vergalla/dp/1599243873/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1264739980&sr=8-1

3 thoughts on “Hybrid Essay by Alexis Vergalla

  1. One of the greatest gifts of challenging poetry is that it teaches us to love without comprehension, not just before we but comprehend but when it is entirely possible that we will never understand, at least not fully or completely.

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