Some notes/poems on longing
quarantine is entirely made of bodied time
“meet me here / I am so lonely /I learned a second language”
— Jeremy Radin, from ‘The Banana Room’, in Cosmonauts Avenue
In her interview with Krista Tippet, Ester Perel notes: “[..] because desire is to own the wanting — that’s one way of looking at it. And in order to own something, there needs to be a sovereign self that is free to choose and, of course, feels worthy of wanting and feels worthy of receiving. That’s why desire is so intimately connected with a sense of self-worth.”
The narratives of longing and waiting are uniquely painful pleasures (Jane Eyre, Pride & Prejudice), and when tensions are defused, dramas resolved, and denouements discharged, there is nothing left to say: no reason to read on. Yet the alleviation of a plot’s pangs—the end of a beloved book or story—is far from straightforwardly happy. A story can only be held by the heart and mind, never the body.
Fiction itself is the greatest magical thinking of all: it’s a source of satiation that’s impossibly based on thousand-minute denials. William H. Gass advocated for “the use of language like a lover,” which is “not the language of love, but the love of language, not matter, but meaning, not what the tongue touches, but what it forms, not lips and wrists, but nouns and verbs.” We succumb to it without even choosing it: we choose it so absolutely that it seems to be choosing us.
“longing is a room built entirely of knives”
— Leslie Harrison, from “[Sirens],” The Book of Endings
And I believe that link goes both ways. It’s not just that language is good when it’s sensual, or that language about sex is good when it’s lyrical, but that sex is good when it’s linguistic (open and communicative). If sustained longing ever manages to please us—and it does manage to please some of us, however inconceivably—it’s because we rewrite our suffering even as it happens.
That’s the hope anyway.
(Re: The Erotic is the Antidote to Death)
A tribute to Elegy Owed by Bob Hicock
In my first language
We are Mór-Ríoghain
Shape-changers in winter
I wish I could weave your lines
Into my shirt fabrics,
the night right into my collarbone.
I wish the middle of a storm
was sitting on the corner of my bed
And experiencing how celestial you are
I am trying to say something about absence
about folding the sky into a note in my pocket
that tells us where the middle is
and everything that’s between you and me
There are already plenty of stories that start
like this. All moonbeams and mouths, and nothing about
And right now I need an instruction manual three universes thick
so I know where to put my knees
when I unlock my phone.
But when I look at you
Wrapped up like that
And the fire you set just by walking in
God Damn - I am ready to burn
The coyote staring at me from my garden dilates the monotony of the night.
With enough sweat, I will come to [you], beneath your clang, your thundering whisper
soft enough that the fires we brought might nuzzle
closer in to hear.
My heartbeat the size of
shipping containers. An uncertain mythology
whose living contents are each a sacrifice
imagining how to reach another.
How can I pivot between the blessings of deviance—faded as the velocities
from quenching stars. Your nightly arrival
with brilliance. The way you lean into me like a wall you have to climb. The wind carries whatever sentence is next on the horizon.
This holy space between us,
a skipping stone’s distance to a touch that reaches
the other side.
And here, what our legs together might admonish: pour from your meridian and turn this corner, you will find 6ft of want
an infinity of precipices.
I used to scrub
my body with so much salt that you would’ve thought I walked right out of the sea
filling my pages with anything
but admitting a burning of desire
In every fingerprint I leave behind
on every glass I touch, the grip
I fail to reach you with,
the clamor in my hands
Glimmers that ridge on a corrugated mirror.
Light dancing on the water.
I pour loneliness into my bathtub. Like the night that’s in you.
You, who the sun longs to touch—like any meadow, any window that faces east.