NEW CANAAN, CT
Pull out the bottom drawer. The space inside this wall is cavernous. Pulling invites a push. I lay my body across the wood, within the rectangle, just as my mother has done, just like my aunt and uncle did. The breath returns to me in hot, short pants. The body always risks getting stuck, stretching as the intermediary: between worlds, between rooms.
A pocket of sound contains itself inside this geometry. My grandfather built this house, after it was a dance studio, after it was a dog kennel. Often I imagine that within every object there is an access point, a pathway to intimacy that will lead us through layers beneath interiors. Is there truth in bones? We peel away skin, looking. When I grow bigger, I may be unable to revisit such purgatory. Time obstructs thinking. Bodies work and move within their limits.
I have no siblings, but my cousins may as well be. When they come over we take turns sliding our bodies through the rooms like wombs open-ended, like returning and leaving. Shadows still our squirming frames.
We are less afraid within the grid, houses close to one another.
Often I ask myself what comfort is. I twist my neck and lurch my shoulders forward, fingers extending, unaware of their gesticulations. I find a great amount of discomfort in the things we find comfortable, through this hierarchy of spaces we create for ourselves. And so I contort myself inside this box.
Mother paints landscapes without seeing them. A lone tree grows on an oasis, a swing lingers in the wind by a cottage, resting on a hill bathed in golden light. Tides crash against rocks, the sun suspends itself behind clouds, hovering above the sea. Emanating orange and purple caresses: across panoramas.
Mother paints the New York City she knew in the 80s, riddled with trash and junky needles slightly submerged in Coney Island rubble, jutting jagged like trampled flowers. She paints me in a trench coat emerging from a cab on a smoke-filled street, looking over my shoulder in that kind of fleeting poised candidness I can’t articulate.
Mother paints wolves, ripping out calendar photographs from the Humane Society, taping World Wildlife postcards to walls. Mother paints the jungle when she’s zonked on LSD. Silky panthers saunter through wetlands while zebras sip from streams. She paints heavy with black before she’s taught how to use it.
Mother paints on rocks and bathroom doors and it’s often the ocean, the ebb and flow of waves tracing the skin of sand with every open, and close, and open.
Mother paints a sky in my ceiling, paints the walls yellow.
“When are we gonna die?”
Corners represent solitude for the imagination. They are the germ of the room or the house. Corners ensure immobility and illustrate the dialectics of inside and outside. The corner is the chamber of being.
I am on the phone with my father, and my mother is beside me telling me he doesn’t visit because he’s too drunk to know the difference. I tell him to leave us alone and hang up the receiver.
We associate place with the familiar, space with the vast unknown.
My father has been in a car accident. A woman didn’t adequately use her turn signal. Details drift like clouds over a waning moon.
Spectrality represents an unsettling of the self. The spectre is able to displace the present from itself.
IOWA CITY, IA
We fuck on the floor because you were tweaked out one night and hid your bed in the attic and your brother’s friends watch us through the peephole window.
Mother says she’s had seven miscarriages in her life and one abortion. I always wanted brothers and sisters, but I begin to think that I’m not meant to have them. And then I think this is probably better, better that they are not brought into a world like this. We are all brought into this world without warning.
…we are not ‘cast into the world,’ since we open the world, as it were, by transcending the world seen as it is, or as it was, before we started dreaming. ¹
Mother threatens to run away, and tries to, until my grandfather reasons with her. She threatens to kill herself, but I know she doesn’t have the guts to do it.
I’ve become used to her language, a voice muffled by walls.
We arrive in a field with a bench seemingly superimposed and drape our bodies across it before Swedish tourists ride bikes towards us—I lay upside down in the sun-drenching and listen to them speak to each other with deliberate delicate consonants, pretend I’m in an Ingmar Bergman film.
¹ Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 184.
The first road trip was nearly coast-to-coast. Eyes within the eyes opening make things greener. Wanderlust found its place in German Romanticism in the early 1900s. Got mixed up with some stoners in North Hollywood for a month before the sewage wanted to come up from the shower drain. Must soothe the stomach through reveries. To wander is to desire something greater. Didn’t want to be an actor after all. Walk like the mouths that move on wallpaper. Booked a flight to LAX with an old friend, back when she was a friend, back before her father stole nearly three grand from my pocket. Find stillness and forget it.
Even if altitude sickness, a thunderstorm, or some major obstacle such as a swollen
river at some point slows down or halts the wanderer, she may still see these
experiences as valuable because they are a confirmation of her change of location in,
and of the resistance offered by, space. 2
We sing on a stage we made at your restaurant in front of all of our friends and many people we know. Me: bright red lipstick. You: dripping sweat.
To settle one might as well be catatonic. That road trip was a comedy of errors, the outcome of failure to be self-sufficient in Los Angeles. Strange proportions these fingers take—or hairs rising along the skin—or mucus like rain that isn’t felt but heard. Heine trekked through the Harz Mountains to meet Göethe and was greatly disappointed. Her father bought a Jaguar and we drove it to New York. Murmuring fleeting horrors can meander in the pause. Don’t stop for a moment. He thought of all of the profound things he would say to Göethe in Weimar, ended up talking about Saxon plums.
2 Heyd, “Basho and the Aesthetics of Wandering: Recuperating Space, Recognizing Place, and Following the Ways of the Universe,” 10.
That was when the endless road first discovered my restless bones. The territory is familiar, somehow. Did you find peace in the lime tree, Schubert?
Sometimes I think that story wrote me too, and I’m almost sick of hearing about it.
We want to kill each other in the Brussels’ train station.
Images on the screen pushed their monstrous thresholds and made me laugh. Was your Lorelei lost on the Rhine? Strangers become friends, become strangers—it’s this, always like this, and as I try to explain it all I can say is—it’s like this.
Those Germans wandered just as their love did, just as their life does on its very own towards death. Father was a stranger. Who’s thinking my thoughts now? Hölderlin suffered from hypochondria, spent his last years locked up in a tower where nobody visited. Mother is strange. Blood surging through the organs needs revolution. His childhood friends Hegel and Shelling wanted nothing to do with him. Raised by grandparents in the woods on the border of New York State. Perhaps his blood is polluted. Eichendorff was on a journey to find happiness within that ever-changing beauty of nature. Grew up in suburbia and resisted it forever.
This touch warrants nothing.
Friedrich painted ruins painted forgotten landscapes painted the backs of isolated voyeurs who were looking like we are. Used to dream things before they occurred. My hands, my mouth, these gestures aren’t transcendent like the woman’s face who appears on the stone wall in winter and only then. Always looking for something more than what is there, always reaching for historical remnants. Used to have déja-vu all the time like having déja-vu all the time. Walked along the philosopher’s path in Heidelberg, found the sign the devil on the bicycle held that said have you philosophized today? Mother juggled jobs back when she used to leave the house. Does magic course through veins?
Wondered about wandering, wandering wide-eyed. Remember that? I was stifled by a punctuation he placed in the sentence. Wandered through wonderland.
Lyme disease made my little limbs ache and Mother called them growing pains. Sounds like the bells I heard one afternoon in Belgium blissed out along benches. There is the expulsion of the canon. Remember that?
Smelling gasoline is like ingesting a hearty warm meal. There is the lowering of the coffin. Named my first pet fish after Ozzy Osbourne. He’d been replaced at least three times. When I touch him it’s blue and not the royal boundless blue but indigo which is somewhere in between and not quite the blue you anticipated. There is the sound of violins falling down a well. Remember that? Muscle memory is a funny thing. There is the lieder, and the seven-league boots for walking. Where one becomes estranged another traces the constellation on your chest. Frontal lobe diencephalon telencephalon cerebrum: tell me something. Poets climbed mountains and found other poets with no answers.
Our coexistence lasted about three years, despite ourselves. Which came first, the mind or the brain? The last note reverberates.
We ran down Roman cobble stone streets, bicycled over Dutch bridges almost always fighting on Parisian rues. Can you hear it? We imprisoned each other in the basement. Synthetic hormones hinder the capacity for compassion. No one can recognize its drone. We needed all the things we couldn’t give each other. Every layer removed was indifferent. Novalis and Schlegel pronounced the literary fragment a work of art.
Our past, so near, already now.
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (Boston: Beacon Press, 1994)
John Wylie, The Spectral Geographies of W.G. Sebald (SAGE Publications, 2007)
Thomas Heyd, “Basho and the Aesthetics of Wandering: Recuperating Space, Recognizing Place, and Following the Ways of the Universe” (Hawaii: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003)
Hannah Kezema is an artist from the east coast. She is currently an MFA candidate in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. She graduated from The New School in 2012 with a BA in Literature. This year she was the recipient of the Leslie Scalapino Scholarship as well as the Robert Creeley Scholarship. Her work has been featured in Bombay Gin’s 40th Issue, Semicolon, and the CORE International Journal of the Humanities, distributed in Paris.