I am not this, nor am I that, nor am I then, nor am I now; neither here nor there, but everywhere and nowhere and anywhere outside of these lines on this page—what could be said anywhere that lets you know enough about someone, anyone, everyone is and is not the same, is and is not unique, is and is not special—I hate that fucking word, ‘special.’ I hate even more the simpletons in schools who have to—no—who believe they must tell every child he is special (she is special)—fuck you, not every child is special, not in the way they infer? Imply? I am not going to get into the differences between one and the other; they are not the same. There are always implications, always sometimes inferences. Even if I am many things, many women in one woman somewhere outside of these pages that will ensue . . . and it is always pages and pages that ensue from where I write about anything at any time I am, she is, they grow and grow, how, though? Questions breed questions . . . they grow like vines, like weeds, other times like gardens manicured? I remember a girl in college who had a copy of Neruda’s The Book of Questions.
A woman is. What she is is not as important as the fact that she is. She is; that’s all; that’s everything. No? You don’t agree. What she is is very important, you say. Whether she is a good mother or a bad mother, whether she nurtures her children or beats them brutally—what if she beats them but not brutally? I do understand how what a woman is is as important as the fact that she is to some people, to some women, maybe to many women. We are fixed on what we become—we have succumbed to the dogma of change or the dogmas that have been derived from one overriding dogma, that of Empiricism, the first and the last that can be said should be said will be said as would be said if—the scientific method might be a substitute for what we mean when we say empiricism, but not exactly—and there is nothing very scientific about the way the scientific method has been turned into either a religious tenet of faith or a superstition by those too stupid simply to mishandle science as do many in power or influence or authority in State bureaucracies or administrations—what comes out of the government is more like Voodoo than science. I over her; I can’t stand her sometimes. Her brat son I’d like to kick in the ass. I won’t.
She is as I am as you are, whether a man or a woman . . . I am what I am, a man, not a woman, but then why can’t I say that I am a woman herein—what if I wrote this under a pseudonym and let you believe that I was a woman. Why do some of you think a man cannot write a woman? Is it because you have given a Nobel Prize to a woman who could not write a 3-D man in any story she ever wrote? I am not saying she was supposed to; just the facts, the facts, and fiction seems filled with facts, most of you wanting something we have called formal realism . . . are women more confused about being than men? I had believed so, then did not think so, but came to the conclusion again and yet have revised this conclusion once more. What is it that I think will not likely be settled until after I finish writing this, or writing many more pieces like this one . . . can I judge myself happy until I am dead—and then what good is the assessment I cannot make?
To give attribute to any woman is to subtract from that woman, so herein she is, and yet she has eyes that are the world enough full of sorrow, as I have read before, said before now; and I am as much as any woman full of sorrow, a sorrow I cannot always locate, a sorrow I cannot always define, articulate, tell anyone about, dark, obscure, amorphous—men are like women, women like men, men like each other, men, and women like each other, women, and sometimes neither like men nor women any one of either. How is building a character anything like addition? or sometimes subtraction?
I have used this in poems before now—what have I used in poems before now? Somehow varied—how long ago now is uncertain, the words I conjured then, I am recollecting now, to collect again, I see me walking the beach at Land’s End, along the hoodoos, at edge of high tide, shells, I was collecting sea shells, a favorite pass-time of mine. Poems and poems and poems; the cliffs of Shadmoor above me looming. I have written so much for so long I have become what I have written; what I have written has become me,.what of me—what essence, what fragment, which piece of what something in me on me about me from me as rivers are from sources and flow to outlets over great distance and . . . can anyone take a piece of a river with them anywhere. I recall quite distinctly that you could not enter the same river twice; is it the same for the ocean?
I can approximate what it is that is going on inside of me when I imagine I am recollecting things as they were, as they were said, were told, were seen . . . but I won’t. I read so much all the time, not just my own writing, itself by the hundreds of pages in one composition notebook after another and another. I carry a book and a journal with me everywhere I go. Many times I take more than one book to read. I went to college, not only just to college but to graduate school and not just to grad school, but grad school for literature. Does this mean I know what I am talking about when I do talk about literature? Not in itself because I went to grad school, but because I am who I am that I am what I am how I am with words lines literature read and re-read; all good reading, as we used to say, was re-reading. I have read Hamlet six times. I do not know anyone who has read anything six times unless it is passages from the Bible, but then I do not know know these people.
I write any essay I publish in my blog firstly in my journal which I keep by hand, notebooks with pens, hand moving across the blank page; it’s awfully God like, who must be awful. God is awful, full of awe I am when I behold him, and God is Him even though I am she, he and/or it here as I choose. To be who I am when I am where I am how I am, what is it that I am? What is for things, we know, I know it, this fact, all things made are fictions; facts are fictions in as much as they are made, constructed in sentences, phrases, clauses; if this then that? I have over fifteen thousand pages of journals and notebooks and drafts and manuscripts of poems stories essays vignettes plays monologues . . . I write essays on anything which is another way of saying everything which is another way of saying nothing; nothing in as much as what I put on trial is myself when I write. I am person, not thing, but then there are three persons I can be without stepping outside myself. And these three persons are also either singular persons or plural persons, I-you-he-she-it-we-you-they am I; I am . . . .
And I have dexterity with all of them; they are me; I am we; we are I, me, mine. I am essaying me as was Montaigne before me, and that’s whatever I am writing about in the confines of my essay. To essay, to try, a trying out, take for a try out, going to try-outs, to put on trial, a trial term, a trial . . . what? What do we try and what do we put on trial—who do we? Autobiography is another form of fiction, a special kind of fiction; autobiography, memoir . . . I am not going to get into how they differ. All the essays I have written in my life are a kind of autobiography just as Montaigne’s Les Essais are his autobiography, no?
All writing is a confinement as much as liberation, each one mutual of the other. Journals are strange things to keep. Everyone essays himself inside my journal, his journal, whose journal; this man’s journal is a journey to the undiscovered country. How to talk in them, write, really, but in all writing there is a kind of talking that takes place, what I say when I write has many inflections, there is always diction in writing, and that’s diction both in word choice and how one speaks (how I speak being not only the choice of words, but the inflections, the intonations, et cetera, you know I love to talk, as I have been told by others,many,many others).
What is strange is a stranger; the stranger estranges and is estranged. No? What is it I do when I write? I have said that I only know what I think when I write. I am uncovering what I think, and I use uncovering because discovering is to cover wrongly or badly, as all colonialism in the Age of Discovery. Ironic or not so ironic; what is irony? Do I even teach it anymore, how to have a sense of it, discern it, use it? Speech for the longest time has been the study of language. Many have called the study of language, the study of speech. Language itself comes from the word for tongue. I used to say, native tongue. The French word for language is exactly the word for tongue, langue. I am using my tongue even when I write, from mind to brain through arm into hand through pen onto page? Who am I when and where in the pages—on the page is also in the pages when pages is used to stand in for the word ‘text?’ Ah! Once again, questions beget questions.
Texts have boundaries to be inside of, in not on—the mirror is really on not in—we are always so confused about what we see and what we read, especially when reading is our stand in for seeing, when we have to read to see. Do you understand? You would like to know if I do? Men are always daydreaming about women using their tongues, which is why they have for millennia put proscriptions on women’s speech. Don’t talk, they say, it distracts me from my fantasies, how can women talk with cocks in their mouths? Men must secretly ask and ask and ask . . . I stand in the room and look out the window onto the greenery next to the building where I am staying. I look through the window and through myself in the window the way I do myself in a mirror. All mirrors are deceptions; what is in is on. I’ve read this before, some poetry I think I recall having read—herein another affectation of mine because it was my lover’s poetry where I had read it . . . his father had named him for Julius Caesar he had told me . . . and why would anyone tell anyone that?
The images I try and draw in these lines, words are worth thousands of pictures? Orthodox Jews do not have paintings or pictures in frames on the walls in their homes because they too are deceptions, they too detract from reality, and they too take the observer away from what is real and what is true. I recollect everything in and out of tranquility. I sometimes imagine being other, other than who I am, other than being from the people I am from. The times I am tranquil; the times I am a tempest. I started reading Shakespeare again. And you should read everything again. Moreover, my words do draw some pictures, no?
A picture could only be worth a thousand words to a writer or a right reader, and yes, there is right and wrong reading . . . a story I had read, the narrator . . . I recall the times at Land’s End, when I would go buy coffee for them for me (who are they—they, them, these people here, those people there, always dependent on where and when, here or there, now or then . . . what? What is it about what I do now and then, here and there, anywhere . . . ) at the bakery in town off the circle in Montauk, I see the gazebo, I see the lawn in the circle, the bakery is south from the circle on your way to the ocean . . . the waves in one continuous continuing after another and another after yet another and so on perpetually non-stop minute by minute for millennia and millennia into eons and ages . . . I too have written about other things seemingly innocuous, uneventful as the subject of fiction; the waves are forever. No day, however, is entirely uneventful, and there are many things I have written about . . . poses taken, all poses are put, put on, put out, put upon, this posture is another pose, a pocket full of posies, talismans against the plague. I had a cousin who used to say that men or was it maleness has been a plague on women–you could say on men too, not quite in the same way. The argument that slavery corrupts the enslaver is never well received. How is autobiography not fiction; how are the things others say about you not fictions? Everything said about anything anywhere at any time is a thing made, fiction.
Something happens that is interesting because something has happened to someone who is like everyone else and unlike everyone too. I am you and I am not you; I am exactly like you and nothing at all like you, all simultaneously, every time I am we examine, I look around me. Who and what cross my mind with respect to myself, what am I? Who am I? How am I who and how am I what I am? I recall Virginia having said that nothing is too small to write about, nothing too minute. I suppose having lived through the first full flowering of articulating the subatomic realms of nature; minutiae might cause a revision of macrocosmic and microcosmic relationships—Joyce was influenced by film, by Eisenstein, not a misprint of Einstein, although you might see zeitgeist at work in each of their works, Einstein ad Joyce?
The same things that happen to me happen to others, although in completely different ways; different things happen to them in the same way other things happen to me. Interesting is in the telling anyway. I have told so much for so often I can no longer recall what is fact or fiction. Everyone’s memory is in part fiction, some of it sometimes entirely so. I’ve said this before; I’ll say it again. I do not have to blur the lines; the lines are blurred themselves. There is and there is not a human nature; there are and there are no universals, plurality of the Self is not fragmentation.
Categories do not exist physically, but they do exist metaphysically. It is a mistake to disband with metaphysical studies and metaphysical inquiry just because you do not like how it has been handled in the past. Metaphysics is not spinning wheels. It is not discussing how many sprites might fit on the head of pin. Metaphysics is not just a discussion of the real; it is the real; it is reality itself. I don’t know what is next, how it should be so—life is happenstance. Life is random–or is it subject to randomness? They are not the same. You know these as well as I do. I said above that I never know what I think until I write, and what I write is mostly fiction–there it is again. my memories are mostly fiction; my fiction is mainly true as when bearing truth is a value to hold. Something of the Truth, that is, the capital ’T’ kind, is present in all good fiction. It is not only that the memories themselves are fictions, but it is the form of fiction I choose to retell me, retell my life, tell what I see what I know what I think dream imagine wish . . . Bad fiction is another story. Fictional truth, factual fiction, what are the facts of my mind. I have no problem here handling categories because the fact that they are not facts of nature like trees are facts of nature does not put me in a tailspin; that would be too fucking adolescent; but then our intellectuals have grown immature, haven’t they?
All facts are things made, I’ve said before; all facts factored in the factory of the mind. What if I were to reach a limit in the telling, the exposing, the writing here in the form of an essay? Every essay is purportedly true? Perhaps they are, as the assumption maintains, only non-fiction, somewhat like how not-guilty does not have to be innocent. I could present, as I have here, a story written in the convention of being a story written, complete with a fictional author who then must be separated from my narrator, as the fictional author I create is separate from me, this author could be named Thomas Sarebbononnatosi, which, in Italian, means something like, would not have been born if . . . if what, I shall see, to see or not to see has been this writer’s to be or not, everyone has his or her to be or not moments, many times over the course of a life lived, living life . . . the story could be named “Conch” for a shell I had found many years ago, not at Land’s End in Montauk, but on the beach, in the surf, by one of the rock jetties I used to say jutted into the ocean like a cock into a cunt, a conch. Of course, I too had become preoccupied by cunt because men seemed so preoccupied with cunt, with pussy—it was interesting to listen to the men who said cunt and those who said pussy and then those who used both cunt and pussy and when they would use one and when they would use the other . . . cunt pussy vagina, who says vagina? How we speak, how we say what we do when we do to whom we do for the reasons why we do, women listening to men talk about cunt or pussy or vagina . . . who says vagina? Before the mirror, what woman stands or sits or poses before the mirror naked; no woman sits and spreads her legs and looks at her cunt and says beautiful. That’s a problem, a big one.
I would understand that authors and narrators are not the same, and the author is only one of the masks a writer wears, in turn only one of the many masks the person who is the writer wears. I’m not of the mind that an author is only one who is published, but this argument is not the crux. I am talking about my time at Land’s End and there is always a third-person me lurking about inside and sometimes in the mirror, certainly everywhere in my imagination. What follows herein in the third person ‘I’ could easily be understood as I, but then Ishmael’s I in Moby Dick could easily have been turned to I? Female is not a mask a woman should wear; it is a mask she wears sometimes with some men, calling a woman female—who calls a woman a female—and do not give me this Urban culture bullshit.
I buy coffee for them . . . he buys coffee for himself first, and then one for her and another for him. I will finish mine before I buy theirs. I stand . . . he stands and sips my coffee as I look here and then there all around up to the corner and then to the other end, the other corner, the other direction. I look to the sky, to the clouds if any, to the coming sun up over the line of one-story roofs and the silhouettes of the buildings with the rising sun behind them. I listen for the gulls at the beach and if I can hear the ocean waves crashing to the shore as they always do out here the real ocean not the bays they have back home in New York City.
I understand something about this man, but what do you understand. Everything is relevant to your understanding, to mine, to yours, what you say think do that I see understand could be might be if . . . if what? Writing about him should allow you to stand under him, feel something of him, yes, tell you something too, but what exactly? This is not a product of MFA cookie cutter schooling, so I wouldn’t expect what you most likely have grown to expect from the extended replications of conventional formulas you are used to, used is exactly right. He takes their coffees back to their room. I buy them at the bakery in town, south of the circle. He buys milk for their boy at the same time he buys their coffees. He buys almond croissants for him and for her; I buy a big cookie for the boy. The boy likes the big chocolate chip cookies at the bakery. He carries everything back in bags on a take-out tray along the Old Montauk Highway, but not before I he stops at the deli that makes the donuts we they like, in the morning, almost every morning donuts being made on the table top donut maker the deli has on display in the window that faces the portion of the Old Montauk Highway that becomes Main Street, not so called, but in effect, the same. It is no longer there. It was there; this is then was.
The weather today is beautiful. Summers here are gorgeous. The deli has this small donut making machine in the window for all to see and be curious about and come inside to buy some because they do look really good and it is cool and fascinating to watch the donuts being made, and who does not want fresh donuts, even people who have had Angioplasty, especially people who have had balloons put in their arteries because that’s how they got in that predicament in the first place, by eating too many donuts, fried burgers, bacon, shrimp breaded or battered in a deep fryer . . . the deli’s donuts are good. They have three kinds, the plain old fashioned, the powder-sugared and the cinnamon coated donuts–the latter two made from the first. The last time I was there the deli was gone, out of business, Montauk hopefully not succumbing to the worst of what makes the Hamptons as tackily rich or richly tacky as it is. And really, fuck Alec Baldwin if I doesn’t like it, he.
I remembered that one time I had asked my Dad if the forming of donuts in their shape had anything to do with centrifugal force, if it were centrifugal force that caused a donut’s shape; all of its mass seemingly pulled away from its center. My Dad laughed and said no, but I told me that that was a good idea. I smiled at me. I loved my dad’s smile. I miss my smile. I think I remember my smile. I do remember my smile. I see his; I hear his voice; it does not matter what anyone else hears when they think of my Dad . . . my dad or my Dad? I have video in mind of him, not video I have taken, but video I can play in mind . . . you can’t go to the video tape like I imagine I can in my heads, thinking I can recollect what was as it was when it was without altering a shred, an iota, a fragment, which is funny because the only thing that is there are fragments. I was proud that my Dad thought that I was smart. I knew that forming donuts had nothing to do with how stars form in space. I knew that the making of donuts and the process involved had nothing to do with the process in the formation of continents. I knew that making of donuts had nothing to do with making of mountains. How many videos do I have of him, I do have his voice on tape, I think, almost afraid to listen to it, I was, just the other day, at my desk with a tape I made thirty years ago.
The process involved in forming a donut had nothing to do with the processes of sedimentation and erosion, as in the making of the Grand Canyon. What does baking have to do with geology or plate tectonics–everything and nothing–they cannot coexist simultaneously, but can be so close together in occurrence to appear simultaneous to an observer. Donuts are donuts; stars are stars; mountains are mountains; and the earth is the earth. Reading Charles Lyell or Darwin was not going to help me understand donuts, yet it might. Plate Tectonics was a process different from those involved in making donuts, for sure. I could consult Charles Lyell in my copy of The Principles of Geology that I had at home on a shelf in one of the several bookcases I had in the living room full of maybe six or seven hundred books, but what good would it do? I did know, though, that geology and astrophysics presented some of the best metaphors for the existence and experiences of the human soul and mind and memory and emotions and passions. . . . a dozen donuts in a box, four, four and four. I he brings them back to their room along with what I bought at the bakery, a carrying tray and bag from the latter, as I have already said, their coffees and croissants and the big cookie their boy likes in the morning with milk. The walking they do takes care of any excesses in the morning from almond croissants and donuts . . . they also use half-and-half in the coffee. I does and does not worry about cholesterol, does and does not worry that I will die younger than I would like. I does fear death, but not enough to obsess about it to the point where I he forgets to live, and for him living and surviving must be mutually exclusive. I he sets himself up to carry my parcels in a way that will allow him to pick a wildflower on the way to their room. I he remembers the wildflowers she admired whenever they would walk the road that passes behind the grounds of the place they stay when they come out here for the summer . . . the wildflower I will put in a washed out beer bottle on the table in their room. I knows she will like any of the wildflowers I sees along the side of the road I walks on that culminates at the edge of Hither Hills State Park. I turns off the Old Montauk Highway to have a look at the wildflowers I saw on my way into town. The wildflowers she always expected, I think he arrives at their room and enters quietly as I think to himself I can do and neither can do. I he spreads out on the table in their room what I bought for everyone to have. he arranges the coffee and the donuts and the croissants and the flower for the best effect.
Company wake slowly. I is I, a pronoun is, a person is, who am I thought I ask he asks already sipping and chewing, biting anew the almond croissant I he has gotten half through, he. I has he one for her in the bag. I say good morning, they say good morning, which I said to the sun earlier as it peaked its head above the ocean, standing as I am he was at the in-between high tide and low tide with the waves and the thunder of them in the surf putting him inside a conch on the beach, what you hear when you put a conch to your ear. I talk to the sky, to the ocean, the waves, the sand, the shells, the stones, the gulls, the clouds, the sun . . . I recollect he recollects collecting shells, as I he likes doing every time he is here in the summer. I see he sees himself picking up a conch one time with a hole in its side, the broad side of the whorls. The conch shell was blue gray as I think he thinks I can see. I see he sees himself examining the shell and inspecting the crack in its side, a hole I imagined having been made by the seagulls that mingle at the shore. It is not summer if I do not make it out to Montauk. Every summer at least once, or a couple of times for an extended time . . . here on the south side of the South Fork is beautiful, tranquil I have said, says often, will say again, I love it out in Montauk, almost as much as I did the Berkshires when I was a boy . . . I see that I turn the conch around in my hand, and I remember that I thought that maybe it was from a seagull’s beak trying to get at the meat of the conch, the hole in its side, “Yes, a seagull definitely pecked a hole in this shell,” I am he recollects saying to my wife and son as they walked the shore in the direction of X one summer how long ago I know he does not recall. I put the conch to my ear the way you would if you wanted to hear the echo of the sea in the shell, but when I did I did not hear it the way I expected, there was no resounding echo of the sea in the shell as I he recalls having recalled other shells in my life resounding with the echoes of the ocean as I put one to my ear. Sight and sound; touch, what I touch out there, the stones, the shells, the sand, the salt water, the breeze—I do touch the breeze, feel the sand grains in the breeze blowing off the ocean in minor staccato gusts.
I see I saw I have seen I will see all of this everywhere. I remember that The Sea of Tranquility is on the moon. I remember my Dad showing me Mare Tranquilitatis about two years before Apollo 11. I continue to look out the window through my reflection in the window. I see a woman sitting on the beach. I do not ask her why she is not feeding the seagulls. She would be crazy if she did. No one should feed them. I are at another place in another year in Montauk at the beach; my room looks out onto the beach and the ocean, the sky gray and grayer still in all directions to the horizon. The shell did not echo as expected as I have said and I dropped the broken conch on the beach, in the surf as it reached my feet. The tide had begun to turn and now it was on its way to high. The wake of the most recent wave lifted the shell a little carrying it a short distance in the direction of the ocean, settling on the wet sands after the wake returned to the sea. The shells I collected with the rocks I picked up from the surf this morning, I have arranged on the dresser with the mirror. I collect wave-worn stones here. I have many on one of the window sills in the bedroom at home.
I finally made it out to Ditch Plains to watch the surfers. I had made it out here just last year for the first time, pushing ourselves to go past Shadmoor State Park.
I do not know who the losers are in this keeping of the stone I do. I am the keeper of the surfboard shell found on the beach. I am the finder I am in order to become the keeper I have said I became. The losers must be anyone who will not ever find this shell on the beach because I have picked it up and taken it away for keeps. I have a way of repeating myself and restating the obvious. Everyone loses out on finding what has been found, no longer lost. A new potential arises.