Friday, March 27, 2009
There is still more, afterwards
This is what it looks like, the death of a tree (or two?) the 456 pages that make up the completed PhD, the pile of drafts that clutter the apartment. The room, pre-turning in the final version where books are piled like upward-growing stalactites as the bibliography is checked. The days and still more staring into the pages to see whether a space is off, a period missing, a comma. The page numbers and illustration lists matched. Everything gets checked and double-checked (except the remerciements page--OOPS!!!) I try now to laugh about it as I reshelve, decide to tuck away the large annotated copy with manuscript pages of Mallarmé's Un coup de Dés. Vacuum off layers of accumulated dust, uncover aborted chapters that have been hiding in binders and now get refiled into the folder labelled: "if I ever write another critical article in French, here is its beginning". The house feels empty, but not lighter. I feel I should stay in, be completing something, scanning an image into the computer, backing up files. Instead, I go out to a museum with friends. Mid-afternoon staring into de Chirico's flabby pout painted over and over in his own hand, I feel panicky, like I am forgetting something, a wedding, a funeral, a fundamental event. A task. The wall (or rather fluorescent bulbs in the Musée d'art Modern) reads "reel" "ce monde reel" "avec ce monde reel" "en finir avec ce monde reel" as I cross from one end to the other of the museum, look out at the Eiffel Tower, back at the words. "Reel". It, too, is missing an accent. Sometimes little things just drop away, without our noticing, no matter how hard we try. I go up into the salle Dufy and am surrounded by pastels. I am thinking, what is more unnatural than being away from the desk? I look down onto the museum, the sopping courtyard beyond, the day darkening into night. My friends gather me up and we go for dinner. I have been away from the house for an entire 15 hours. It feels like twenty times that. At home the next day, I sit and stare at the walls, they are barren, the post-its peeled off, the lists of little consistent errors to check for, like the spelling of Rosmarie or Grandmont. I listen to the apartment building, the comforting silence of the pianist who has ceased to play nonstop; she has put a dampener on her instrument so it is now only a whisper. The radio or TV program of another neighbor rumbles and chases characters in dialogue. Someone's on the stairs. I am conscious that the world is. How long have I not felt it going on there, just beyond the door? Grey sky day with no rain. My own breathing feels concentrated. Unfamiliar self as body. What remains intact through all neglect. The cupboards barren, kitchen needs a scrub-down, though the dishes are washed. A load of laundry hangs like limp cats over the drying rack. I am their screech. The howl. I try to sleep, but dreaming too is unfamiliar. I wake every two hours, or three. I feel there is something I should do. I must be doing something. Now, no? I see the light through the curtains and with a heart-flutter think "Oh, my, what day is it? Should I be ....?" It is the weekend. The first weekend of the rest of my life. That cheesiness amuses me. I have already begun writing poems. After bleaching down the shower and tub, of course. De Chirico figures in them, his Lassitude of Orpheus. I collect them in a little file and read them over and over. My stomach is in knots. The day feels long and short. There is a list, there is always a list, of things still to do, things set aside, things upcoming.