Essay

Montauk Beach, C’est Moi

Photo by JVR
Photo by JVR

What can I say about any time I spent in Montauk, Land’s End, on the beach, on the sands, in the surf, viewing the sky, entering the waves, watching the waves, closing my eyes and listening to the waves, hearing the muted rhythmic pounding of them against the shore as if envelopped in cotton when I awaken in the middle of the night, quiet, still, the door partly opened; feeling the salt spray, I am recalling, in the wind off the ocean, my own voice swallowed before it gets to my ears. More? There is of course more. I could say more, tell you so much more than I have. I have before said something about the horizon here at Land’s End, the one-hundred and eighty degrees of horizon–more I could say–yes, there are angles greater than 180 degrees; a line is in effect an angle. The horizon of the ocean meeting the sky, a tilting line, one that wobbles with the rotation of the earth, as perhaps we do. I have tried to imagine being on the world or in the world the way a pendulum exists in the world, its in perpetuity a condition of being without the effects of gravity. But what is grave is not only a matter of gravity, not only a matter of the grave itself when the latter term is used in reference to our final fall, the tomb, as I have said, is our last tumble–no, grave matters are matters with the weight of gravity, a particular seriousness that cannot help but have great weight, density for sure if not with a corresponding great size.  The grave is a fall; of course it is a fall; I recall the lowering coffin of my Great Aunt Anna into her grave in Pittsfield. Is this fall of ours, of hers, of mine to come–is any fall heroic and therefore tragic, or is it merely as it is–or as I have assumed it is–for all of us, absurd. A new meaning for reductio ad absurdum?

But the east end beaches, the beaches of the South Fork, the extreme eastern end of Long Island–beautiful beaches, gorgeous–there is, as I had begun to say at this entry’s inception, no word, no single word that could possibly capture what I feel, what I experience when out at Land’s End. Word, no; words, perhaps, yes, this explication of an explanation of why I like it in Montauk. I have mostly avoided such expression before. There is more in revealing than in telling; show them, I remember, was a mantra taken from–where was it taken from? Nothing but the word in itself–no thing, no place, no feeling, expression, idea is ever the word in itself. I have begun to question the Imagists, but then I recognize what it was they were trying to do, and therefore, what they meant by saying what they repeated one and all, Nothing but the word in itself.

What I need to say, want to say, will say often–the three of them never meet one with the other and the other, round robin speaking, as we say when we write, ah! to write or not to write, this would have to be every writers question. What does the writer say? What does the writer tell you? There–to say or to tell; transitive and intransitive expression, actions that need an object and actions that do not. Be is not an action; be never takes an object. Be, though, is not intransitive. I read; I read poetry–some verbs are either intransitive or transitive, depending on their context, that is, syntax.

I do not like Montauk or love it or adore it–I am Montauk when I am there; yes, I am Montauk; Montuak is me–I. There is a misconception about this idea that we should say, It is I instead of It is me. The French do say C’est moi, which is not, C’est je. No one ever says, c’est je; they say, c’est moiC’est moi is It is me, It’s me, what we say when someone asks, Who is it? Moi is the substantive pronoun,as is me, the latter also an object pronoun, both the indirect and the direct. Montauk is me; it is I, if you prefer, but I do not.  This is all that I can say–should say, if we do have should for things like this . . . I to be Montuak or Montauk to be me; each one is valid, mutual and reciprocal. There is more in the spheres of human being than can be contained by the narrowness of our received ideas. The fires and the motions of my being; I am as I have been for many years, subsumed by an overriding, overarching Romantism . . . the holiness of the heart, the eternal that is the imagination, the imaginative . . . I do recall Flaubert’s outburst at the trial of Madame Bovary–yes, the great French author, novelist, said, Madame Bovary . . . c’est moi.

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