How shall I begin? I have marveled at this missive many times and still it eludes me. Surely there was something I wanted to say. So many times in your presence I had missed the occasion to speak. And still with the distance I am no better. Perhaps in the end, I do not have much to convey.
This ineffable thing . . . I have traced it, city to city and through continents. It ends with me not knowing where I am.
You must excuse me for my wanderings. I should not worry you with such preoccupations. I should simply say it was lovely to hear your voice when we last spoke, even if our meeting was only brief.
Forever I shall feel undeserving of your attention, much less your presence, entire. You must realize by now that I regard you with some affection. Our exchange last year at the café remains with me. I recall you had sipped my pastis saying it reminded you of the Mediterranean.
I think of cities . . . cities I had entered, entered and left by the double swing of the gate’s pendulum. And the routes I had charted between them. And people, people who were once a part of my life but are no longer. Where are they now?
Yes, I have been writing, since you ask. I am looking toward completing another edition of the manuscript. It will be five years this winter – about the time we have known each other. Much is still a mystery.
So it is our lives have taken different turns. Perhaps we are destined to write each other like this, and only propose to one another such visitations. Still, I hope to remain in contact, even if only sparingly.
Please send your new address when you make your move. I will look forward to speaking with you more.
I received the package, thank you. I apologize for the frequent and importune requests coming from my end. You did not realize you would be the guardian of my worthless estate during my travels. I hope you are well nonetheless.
I am writing you from London where there has been rain, or the presentiment of rain, for the past two weeks. I am reminded once again that this kingdom, however united, is having a serious problem with taking care of its youth. Just in the course of the opening of this letter which I am writing from a restaurant terrace, I have witnessed several transient adolescents, sleeping bags slung over shoulders, asking for spare change.
Meanwhile, London continues to rank as the greatest of European destinations, and claims itself as one of the most desired places to live. My mind, however, lacking the essential imagination, is incapable of making this leap. Notwithstanding the stench of royalty, this city remains insistently mediocre much like many other cities with its littered walks described in some Eliot poem.
Sorry if this news is disenchanting to you – you who must be looking on to this island for a kind of salvation. It is not with pleasure I recount that one of the few remaining charms of this place is in the form of a red, public phone booth, and this, too, is not without its inevitable degeneration in its solicitations of dubious calling services. I am writing you this note instead.
And then there is the new Tate Modern, the newest prostitute getting hip to the streets. . . .
Professionally speaking however, I am impressed by the ubiquity of the brand in the Londoner’s consciousness, its trace found on every street corner market/newsstand, its stamp of endorsement on the gateway of every outing. And so it is I shall leave this place. But I wonder, beyond all the transparencies, has life changed much in being here, or elsewhere?
Then of course there are the comings and goings of my meaningless scribblings. I flip through its pages like a man defeated.
You should not worry. All this is really the epistolary side of me. What more? I shall start work again and I will no longer have these thoughts.
Take care of yourself.
The promptness of your reply is admirable. I have been unable to do likewise, no doubt as a result of my constant circumnavigation. And like many ancient Greek philosophers, I apologize.
I am not sure that I have fully shed the vestiges of the former life. The new life, if I may call it that, is still something of a wonderment, for better, for worse.
The literary reference was nice, thank you. Yes, it seems this city may have its way with me after all, and again. Useless to fight it, though I am not making myself particularly vulnerable. As far as my innocence is concerned, if indeed there still remained any in me, has all but left. There may be something to tell in all of this, as the expression goes (only as far as the expression goes), having already kissed.
On your end, I hope you will find the time and space to unwind and refuel before the beginning of another academic year.
By the way, though I don’t know your father, perhaps he did right in purchasing his little piece of land, despite your criticism of to what it amounts. We are all trying to find our little places, even if it is a little dilapidated.
Take good care.
I received your letter. It seems you have been pondering many questions. I appreciate your frankness. I wonder, however, if I am capable of responding. My thoughts on the subject are varied, especially as it concerns such delicate matters. First, I think it is good that you have recorded these things. Despite myself, I still feel it is the best way of confronting one’s thoughts. And language comes only with use, as sure as I can attest from my present foreign dwelling.
It is as if at the crossroads we had made a turn, but as the roads converge in the end, we find ourselves at a place we thought we had passed. This leaves us with the feeling that decisions are not final, even useless to take on. Absurd when we think of the pains we had gone through in order to arrive there.
Sometimes we weigh the good and bad. Other times, we just go with our intuition. Who knows when we are right, when we are wrong? But after many of the same lessons, we start to lose a certain sense. Towards the end of your reflection in your letter, you are employing a strange sort of equation. Sometimes we simply need to say, this is my house; it is cheap and unsound, but I will not let animals destroy it.
I have learned, nothing is unforgivable except insincerity. With honesty, even the wasted years can be atoned. Otherwise, one might be in trouble.
In your case, if I may permit myself, the promise of success or happiness seems poisoned by the general climate in which you surround yourself. I think of the others who have entered that network. They share a common denominator in their work, their aspirations, their thirst for the industry, if not dependency, as it sounds like in your case.
As for the girl, there is no need for you to see her, or anyone. And it is only when you have realized that there is no such need, will you start receiving these people for who they are, and not who you project them to be. In my view, one cannot be defined by such a relationship. That is to say, a relationship will not deign to assume that responsibility. We must make ourselves worthy. This recalls the despairing man praying to the godhead to be saved. In the end, only when he is prepared to be saved will he deserve it. And on that day, he might discover that his salvation had already come.
Having said all that, I am sure you will figure it out. And so it goes, my thoughts respond to those of yours without much direction. In any case, I hope you had a nice journey into the country and that you have returned refreshed and strong.
Once again I have taken up the pen.
Poetry, and madness. But which came first?
Forgive me my vanity in quoting myself. These words came to mind. Or, perhaps I would do better in saying, As a dog returneth to his vomit, I, too, return. . . .
Thank you for your letter. It was waiting for me when I arrived from my two weeks in North Africa. Casa, by the way, was a bit rough, if not interesting. I realized I could lose myself in such a place, like many places of like magnificence.
I recall having something of a moment when I became aware of the peculiarity: I was an American, born in Korea, living in France, traveling through Morocco, attending an exhibit on German Bauhaus at a Kasbah in Fez.
Then there was the smiling boy selling cigarettes along the café terraces. . . .
All this, but still, contrary to what you believe, I do not know how much it has to do with my being brave. It is nice of you to think so, regardless. I write this as I make passage through a coastal resort in southern France, off-season and empty. A tiny and hidden restaurant, La Bohème, provides a table.
I shall call on you again as I round up my voyage. I should hope I would have more news.
Enclosed herewith are the slides you have requested. They are of the paintings I had done during that period of reclusion when I lived in the warehouse district. I realize this is a part of my life of which I had spoken very little. It seemed a much more private affair, this thing.
The first set of panels are entitled, Cinq Cognacs. The second set of five, Night and the Circumstance. The last set, l’Homme Est Né Libre, was originally in five panels like the others, of which only two now remain in existence. You may recall, the left panel was published under a pseudonym as a cover image for Arcade.
I apologize for initially questioning your intention when you had asked for these slides. I simply did not understand your interest in them. I send them to you now. And with this gesture, perhaps we can put aside that conversation once and for all.
The painting, as well as that general period of my life, I have considered to be a closed chapter. At least for the time. I had told myself I needed to resolve certain things prior to taking all that on again.
In the meantime, I trust I won’t encounter these pieces in some renegade expo in Soho, as they seem of little interest to the public.
There it is. I hope you find them to your liking.
I am profoundly sorry to hear you are going through some uncertain times. I wonder if these things could not be the precursors for change. One might hope. In the end, your honesty is commendable, courageous. And my response, undoubtedly inadequate.
I want to say I understand. There are things in this world that bring tears to our eyes. And I realize again in saying this that my life, in essence, is one that is melancholic and solitary. I wonder if there is some universality to this.
I seem to recall floating through human spheres without always being fully present. Here, being in France, it relates more to a cultural interest rather than an interest strictly social. A part of me feels that I have already experienced a little of everything in some sort of strange microcosm of an accelerated time frame. Somewhere, I have left my mark. And I, in turn, have been equally marked. Perhaps these are the things which make up our lives, these little exchanges.
In the end, I believe it is about making peace with ourselves and with those around us, before passing on.
Without sounding too simplistic, I want to convey that I have no doubt your medical complications will resolve themselves. I believe this.
You will also overcome the other struggles in your own fashion. I have faith in you.
One of these days, we will get it right. Until next time, please, please take very good care.
I was happy to finally make your acquaintance after several occasions where we had crossed paths in different settings.
Attentive with your words and gestures of nothing at all, you made me feel completely present. I should tell you how rare this is for me. Our exchange was endearing.
I recall I almost stumbled when you took me under the large brim of your hat to kiss me good night. It was as if I had entered your private dwelling. It was more intimate than I expected and I was veritably transported, a long awaited reprieve from my world.
And your exquisite smile at the thing to which you had rendered me, cast me even further into that oblivion.
What can I say? If it comes to pass that we meet again, I shall be quite happy.
I know my recent emails have been terribly inadequate. I have been typing them on the fly, often on foreign keyboards. This one may be no different. I apologize in advance.
I did meet up with our friend last weekend. It was very good to see her. We went out for some drinks, then more drinks. Europe has turned me into something of a lush, it seems. It was good to see someone from the old world to reassured me somehow that I had indeed moved on. Someone has witnessed my new surroundings. New life of sorts.
By the way, stop your crying. I do hope things are better. And soon. For you, I mean. For me too.
We will speak again.
Thank you for your recent letter. I want to say I understand if that does not reduce the situation. Even here, the late night speak-easy couch sits conspicuous in the corner with its third upholstered leg. We have been given the finger repeatedly. It’s time to retreat to the cabin in the country.
Sorry to hear about the IRS catching up with you. We will need to get more creative tax accountants for the next fiscal year. Los Angeles can have its inevitable downward spiral, even in the most auspicious of conditions. This is why the only remaining condolence for the industry people is in the form of a big, black Mercedes. Also, I can imagine what you mean about the producer and his ideas. The briefing of the forthcoming production was enough to derange my sensibility.
You must remember: Absurdity was in the ‘90s. Today, it’s Irony.
As far as your idea for the book, I will be the last to endorse such an endeavor, speaking purely from my own misery. The subject you are pondering is particularly disconcerting. Films like that are a reconstitution of the meaningless, and I am not speaking in some existential modality. To write a book about its sin would be to reconstitute the reconstitution of that very absence of meaning – resulting in a kind of processed meaty canned product with undisclosed ingredients found at a late night grocer. That would be the ultimate, not only of the absurd, but also the ironical. I do understand your disdain, and I agree – I myself having picked up the poem again.
My advice is to watch Fellini’s 8 1/2 again. This will flush all the vomit down the toilet. Then a little Amarcord as disinfectant. Finally, the point is not to despair too much. Your stipend is still more than what most of us are making. And, before you can surmount the afflictions of your being bound to the Fat Man, first get a handle on your free time. Only then with your gathered force can you combat these people. Just humor them a bit for the time. Eventually, the break will be inevitable, if not on your doing, on theirs.
Please take care of yourself. Talk to you soon.
Hello. I don’t know if I had fully congratulated you on the new direction which you have secured for yourself. I admire what you are doing, if you will allow me to be vicariously gratified (seeing as I have not been very productive with my own work).
I enclose the latest edition of the manuscript. As it stands, still a ways to go. Given its state of incompleteness, you will think it vain on my part to have bound it. I suppose something in me needed to see it in this form. And, though I would be the last to solicit any feedback, whatever response from your end would be greatly appreciated. I feel I have been alone with this thing for so long I no longer know what it is, what it has become.
As for the rural east, there is not much to recount. Though in the recesses of my consciousness, something tells me that there was a poet here. I sense his presence near me.
I hope your work is treating you well. Perhaps we can uphold some sort of correspondence, even if only sporadically.
Best wishes for the holidays. I am sure the coast is charming this time of year.
It is always nice to receive your letters. I am pleased to hear your studies are going well. I hope your job situation can also evolve into something better, though I wonder about such agents.
And me? Many things, many things, it seems.
First, I would have you know, that sort of intrigue is not spoken here – not in a language I can decipher anyway. The cabbages are not yet ripe. I am encountering some interesting times, nonetheless.
I am coming up on a year here, but still, there is a certain surreal element in all of this. Sometimes I wonder if there is not a part of me wanting to see a familiar face. Despite all this, I am beginning to meet people at a comfortable rate – a rate which seems to appeal both to my sense of reticence and my sense of not wanting to lose complete contact with the world.
All this, and still, behind the face of a city that boasts 350 days of sunshine out of 365 days a year, there drifts a manic-depressive cloud threatening passive-aggressive. These are all very clinical terms, I know.
So I grace through this life tentatively, though not entirely insecure. It is along these poles I have tied my hammock, pastis in hand.
I know that our interactions have been minimal in the past. Still, you have done more than most even with your few salutations. This is my way of saying I have appreciated your persistence. I have recently come to realize friendships cannot withstand testing. I have not known many, just a few, but such ones extraordinary. I am presently resuming one here.
I leave you with such perplexing words. You were expecting nothing less. I do hope you are well and sound. I trust you have not forgotten how to enjoy yourself as you approach your quarter century. Happy Birthday.
I look forward to hearing from you again.
I wish I could relate what is happening. Nothing new on the one hand, and yet, I am seeing everything again as if for the first time. I feel confounded. I am fated to finish the rest of my days in this place; Or, I am leaving on the next plane. I have written my last word; I have yet another life of writing ahead of me. There is nothing to be gained here, like elsewhere. I am punishing myself. Between desire and the object, there is a vast divide. But enough, I am indulging.
I have applied for a position in Paris with some misgivings. Chance will lead me to my next place, for I no longer seem to know for myself, or care. In spite of everything, I still have the minimum to survive, albeit with difficulty.
And, as it turns out, my writing – or not writing – has become an insignificant detail of this overwhelming senselessness.
On another order of business, the perennial rapport with my spiritual brother still seems to hold. I have recently been declared the godfather of his expected child. We are, however, repeating some of the old conversations from our early years: What are we doing here? He says he wants to be a shepherd in Scotland. This seems more admirable than my petty vision of being a poet in Paris. Between him and myself, there is a great divide, as seems between all brothers. He still prefers I stay here without much prospect. He painted such a terrible picture of an asshole working for a living that I no longer know any more.
And how are you in the midst of all this? Marriage? Can you read my handwriting? Life of Art/non Art. The only sublime thing untainted by my terrible disposition – the weather, the glorious weather. Unbelievable, this, my life.
I hope you are better than I am.
Your letter, having first made the journey via one of my past dwellings and twice the greater half of three oceans, arrived belated, but not unwelcomed.
True, I did not expect to hear from you, our conversations in the past having always been perfunctory. I am aware that my relationship (and perhaps too, your own) with your sister rendered things uneasy, regrettably impeding our proper association independent of hers. I do appreciate you extending yourself. I always understood you to be more thoughtful than myself.
I shall not attempt to make excuses for the unfolding of that exchange in which she and I took part. It had become tiresome. Many unpardonable incidences in my life have resurfaced as of late. This is one which remains among the more sour in flavor.
I should have known. I still see your eyes, widening in disbelief as your sister conducted the evening when the three of us first made our acquaintance. She exhibited a great force. I was too stupidly impatient to recognize in you the force much more subtle and dignified – true.
And now, rendered sufficiently ill at ease knowing that you are privy to these accounts, I shall not try to hide what has long since been exposed. The greater part of this regret is that ultimately the affinities were perhaps more closely aligned between you and me – the truth of which we are not to discover. I shall not presume that this correspondence will contradict my notion, but I do hope in any case that we may continue.
Nice to hear back from you. I am glad the letter was forwarded. I trust your tour of America was in good turn. Now you are settling in Europe, for the time. A job, etc. You are putting your degree to good use.
As for myself, after some traveling of my own, I have immersed myself in Paris. It is here I shall find the center of my solitude (as if the solitude I had known in the past was not of the central kind). What else shall I find? This I leave to the locals to decide.
And yes, I would love to see you out here, even if you intend on bringing your lover. I want to meet this person. He must be extraordinary to deserve your affection.
Be well. I hope to speak to you again soon.
I had a vague notion your birthday was near. If this is true, then Happy Birthday. If I am mistaken, it still seemed a good pretext for this letter.
It has been a little over three months that I have been here. Apart from some traveling, I have situated myself for the time. But still, I am unsettled, as I continue to question what it is I am doing. But where else could I be? Indeed, we are like the mustard seeds. . . .
It is true, I am not really writing. Did I ever think I could have finished the poem? Maybe I am simply pulling myself together after my social suicide. Maybe I am playing the role of the fugitive after having murdered Art. Even my childhood dream of painting is eluding me once again. I have held it for nearly two decades and all that there remains is its vestige, worn. But then again, I suppose none of this really matters.
How are you? And your studies?
I do hope you are staying warm and safe. I should say that despite everything, this side of Europe has been as welcoming as I could have hoped. Perhaps it is just me, stubborn and desperate. If you make it down here, I have no doubt they would find you infinitely more charming.
Take good care of yourself. I will speak to you again soon.
I received your message, thank you. You are finding yourself in the rural mid-west. I hope you are able to get some rest which you deserve.
Of late, and possibly for the first time in many years, I have been feeling intimidated by others and my surroundings. I ruminate conversations in my head, running through imaginary dialogues. I am like a boy again, trembling at the presence of the unfamiliar.
Then there is all the brouhaha of holidays approaching.
All in all, it is much like I imagined here. Still I am finding little recognition in hindsight, as if some respite were required to look back properly.
The english colloquy is slipping from my constitution, surely at the same rate I am acclimating to the new tongue. And Faust, dear Faust, like a stale odor from the past. . . . Art happens. My life is playing itself out like that old paradox, at once familiar and strange. One begins to wonder about reconciliation.
Happy New Year. I will be in touch.
Belated my reply, yes. One of these days you will understand all this. I certainly haven’t figured it out for myself. Many reasons for which I am unable to respond in general – none of which are very substantial.
After a few weeks of being busy with work, I am picking up all the scrap verses I had left dormant. As far as your letter – “happy as a bird” (sic.) – and a bit sad, too? I find recognition in your words. It reminded me of this postcard of Chagall. I enclosed it herewith.
My time here has been alternating from difficult to very difficult. Work-wise, I am beginning to make my contacts. I have been doing some consulting. I put together some environmental campaigns for an organization and a photo book project concerning polio. But somehow, all of these things do not seem to add up. I am still thinking of Italy. France. Morocco. . . .
I finally received news of the family: I am now thrice an uncle and a godfather. Can’t say I am deserving, or even feeling up to it. We will see as these little ones start growing.
I hope things are good with your newly found freedom. How else have you been passing your time? Work is still treating you well?
I wish for you to find your place. Cities can be cruel – people too. Somehow the world crowds around us and this, I am convinced, more than anything, is what makes us lonely. As for me, I feel another period of reclusion coming on. This, too often, is my response to the affliction. With your permission, I take solace in knowing you exist.
Nomads, indeed, all of us. And your closing salutation was quite nice, thank you. I appreciate your thoughts.
You will help keep me inspired, and in touch.
Thank you for your e-mail, and the dirt on your housemate. I was precisely feeling a little out of the loop. I had been wondering about the variety of suitors who were bound to loiter about the parlor.
As for me, however, I am sorry to say I cannot reciprocate by way of relating any romance that may have unfolded from this side of the Mediterranean. None have unfolded. – Nay, if you insist, there was a brief (and innocent) encounter with a friend of a friend of a friend. She and I were caught in a tight passage in an underground club, a veritable bottleneck towards the bar. We were pressed up against each other but she didn’t seem to mind so terribly. She asked me with her enormous eyes, “Why did you come to France?” – No reason, no reason at all. She had lips like mine and I wondered what it would be like to kiss her. But, alas, she asked me to dance, and I declined. . . . That’s it for now. Sorry, that wasn’t much of a story.
The weather has been quite nice here. It is difficult to gauge the passing of seasons. I find it hard to believe it is already mid-December. And, despite all the mantra and the ubiquitousness of holiday preludes, I sometimes forget that the grand changing of guards for the millennium is at hand. And with this disjointed cahot in space and time and climate comes a sense of displacement.
And so it is in those slight moments of transformation, quietly in a café as I observe the encroachment of evening outside when the din of this other language subdues the room. . . . No, I must stop pretending that I am a writer. I apologize for the awkwardness of this letter. Perhaps it is due to my state of pensiveness, and the gradual recession of the English tongue from my immediate sphere. Truly I am a foreigner, here and elsewhere.
I have become a stranger in this city. Incognito. Incommunicado. – Save but the proprietary relationship with my host, brother, minister of culture, and now, business partner.
Happy Holidays. Be good, and take care of yourself.
I am well, thank you. It was truly nice to hear from you, though I am sorry about the terrible side of your recent existence. That city does not cease to malign the innocent. It is cosmopolitan that way. You must speak out.
I’ve dropped a small fortune on my relocation in order to recreate the comforts once found in my most auspicious times. I will soon be taken to task, to smell the glove, as it were, of my folly. Already a drunken evening has passed against which I have sworn never to repeat. It is as such here, at once intoxicating and sobering, the old and the new, the tiny and the grand, the beautiful and the heinous, la belle noiseuse, the good-bad- and-ugly all come together in harmony like a fantastic western. Leone was right.
It snowed here this weekend – an aberration unseen in over a decade, sending the local authorities scrambling for subsidies. People are saying that I brought it with me. El niño, I pleaded. They didn’t understand.
And so it goes, the loneliness of travel. . . .
I shall regard you with some affection as we all strive to find our little places in the world. We shall slowly overcome. The pilgrimage begins and ends.
Well, darling, I shall write again. Until next time,
It is true we are not on the same page. But this much had been understood. I apologize for not responding adequately to your letter, or in the way you would have had me respond. It may be that I shall never know of your expectations.
A long time ago, I wanted you to understand that part of me which was, and still remains, the greater half of my constitution. When I had realized that I could not expect this, the other things didn’t really seem to matter: My writing you letters at first, and then stopping; my not giving you flowers; you asking for the prints; you writing me that long letter, then me not responding properly – what does all this mean? I don’t know. You might imagine the various letters and responses in which I would have marveled during the other part of our relationship. But that seems extraneous at this point.
I know this much: You had spoken your peace with your last words; you had spoken your peace for us both.
Perhaps this is farewell. I had not imagined it this way. But then again, so little seems to turn out as we imagine.
Sorry about your recent mishap. I can tell you I know of what you speak. I have my own deadline coming up at breakneck speed, after which I will freeze and die, then come back to some semblance of living to finish the project. The stress is getting to be a little too much, I have to say. Your production manager can tell you what happens when they have to reschedule a printing date. It costs less to cut off someone’s head than to stop a Heidelberg press.
Other than that, I am well. Despite all the booze.
And how are you?
Thank you for your lovely story. It was almost like I was there. As far as rides on the handlebars, I know some steep hills we could go on. I only wonder if we know each other well enough.
Ah, the days have been accelerated. Down to just weeks before I leave this big mess, passport in hand. What will become of us all? I apologize for this moment of glee. I have so much I would like to tell you. Place and time. . . .
Meanwhile, I look forward to speaking to you again soon. I still have a little time here before my departure. What else would I do?
Il n’y a plus de roues de bicyclette.
There are no more bicycle wheels.
In your bold inquiry into the makings of the poem (and also its author) you pose some arresting questions. Normally, I don’t make a practice of responding to letters from unknown sources, especially as it concerns matters rather personal. But so poignant is your gaze into everything inexplicable, I now challenge myself to reply.
If only I could speak more fluently about my writing, and the perceived shortcomings of my romantic (or unromantic) life. If only we lived in a perfect world. . . .
It is true, there exists an undeniable rapport between my work, my life, and the relationships that have resounded through the various turns of these parallel paths.
In your words you demonstrate an awareness that is rare. I sense also a kind of existential melancholy at play on your end. The vocabulary you employ in your exposition, your discourse on compassion in an apparently meaningless world . . . the ensemble comes together to arouse a sentiment in me long since latent. In any case, you compose a compelling piece. I appreciate the frankness with which you speak. I oblige myself to do the same, despite my reservation in communicating via this medium epistolary which can inspire the imagination to aspire beyond that which can claim footing in reality.
True beauty is never conventional. And love does not involve appearances. I am convinced you possess it, this beauty, even with the little that I know, the little that you disclose. You need not expend your introspection around this.
I have always had difficulty speaking of myself. This requires distance, and perspective. If I can relate to you some things, I suppose I, too, have spent the greater part of my life alone. (This was the first point of identification with your letter). Granted, my being alone was a choice, a measure of gravity with which I decided to lead my life. I had funded my days with books, art, travel, work . . . coffee and cigarettes – anything to lessen the feeling of solitude which was ubiquitous, even in the presence of others. Now, I question the cause and effect of my disposition and my life situation. I have had my share of relations which did not last, often of my own doing, or undoing. For whatever reason, I had never felt transformed in the way that I had imagined true intimacy would be. I am obviously remarking a certain lack, which was to be the essential premise of such separations. Without any pretense of being selfless, I often found myself in situations where I felt compelled to disengage myself from others, on their behalf – I, often having been the first to acknowledge my shortcomings.
The few intimate exchanges which I had encountered had taken place during the period of my life when I was anything but sedentary. Constantly moving, I was towing an epic poem I was to never really finish, only abandon – this thing having evolved into something more of an excuse than an endeavor. My last three years were spent in Europe tethered to much of the same routine, only in a different climate, (unfortunate we did not cross paths then) before returning here to New York this past summer. I am still trying to figure out if this is where I need to be. I suppose I am waiting for a sign of sorts. Even as I believe in self- affirmation, and the notion of making a significant act, I also believe there are things beyond our immediate control. What I mean is that I would like to create something of a home for myself, if indeed this place will have me.
I try to convince myself I need to be in this city to get this work published. My residence here, however, has been fruitless for the time. The poem, though I have been known to play it down, or even deny it all together, remains the single most important thing. Clearly this makes further reference to my unfurnished history in the realm of romance. One cannot live long with two lovers before having one become jealous of the other. So it seems.
I realize I am saying a lot, and at the same time, nothing at all. You speaking of love and being loved may have been the second and more important point of identification. How could I resist?
Love is undoubtedly the greatest achievement in life. What else can there be? To find contentment, even joy, companionship . . . all these things are worthwhile, but without some higher calling, seem meaningless. I am aware of the lack of authority with which I speak – this thing before which I am completely mystified and at the same time utterly disillusioned. And ultimately it goes against my nature to persist. But still, like a true skeptic, I linger, incredulous, testing its properties. I used to believe I would one day find that true love. And on that day, I would cease to communicate, having at last arrived at understanding. Today, I no longer know, or claim to know. It is that scholarship, and the profession of knowing nothing, and the slow (cold) hemlock charting its finite path. You, soon to be professor, might understand. This is perhaps the language of the “pale criminal”: The chalk streak stopped the hen. The streak that he himself struck, stopped his poor reason. “Madness after the deed” was how he referred to it.
I am subsequently reminded of Rilke who had ultimately experienced the affection of the woman whom Nietzsche tried to woo. She was perhaps wise in her choosing. May we all be so wise. And as concerns the scenario at hand, it suffices to say my fortune resembles more closely that of the philosopher than the poet. My misfortune. Insufferable thing.
As for you, I cannot help but sense the tragedy in your own past which you have survived. You are stronger now. Brave for making your way, as well. I trust you are finding things better, finding what you need – at least in part. We are travelers. And in our travels we seek our semblables, those with whom we can share a part of our lives. One could only wish.
I will leave you with this. I shall be terribly curious as to know your opinion on all this matter. I wonder whether you will in turn find enough affinity to reply.
In any case, please be well. I hope to speak to you more.
I have visited your writings again. I hope that’s all right. Tempestuous they are.
I was quite glad hearing of your happiness (though coming and going). And in your sadness, how I want to reach out.
I will look you up soon, possibly incite a remote kiss, if I may.
Until then, wishing you are well.
More to follow.
By now you must be getting settled. I do not know this city, but I have come to learn in my various moves, the space we create inside of ourselves can overcome our surroundings. This is why I told you that you are beautiful. I suspect my inspiration came from a variety of sources. Our last exchange was endearing, and I was left with a light sort of feeling.
My mother has arrived, and I have been good to accommodate her schedule in my small apartment. She will be with me for another month. They say that there is a special relationship between mother and son. This we shall see.
I hope your transition goes smoothly. Your uncle will recognize just how precious you are – something your parents were not capable of doing. Then you can call that place home. With your consent, we will continue this and it will be like I am there with you.
Until next time, you will take good care of yourself. I will speak to you soon.
It seems I owe you a letter. You will understand that I am not so fluent in these things. Something in me is uneasy, even without the aid of my circumstances.
I cannot give you a detailed account of my days if only out of shame that my days are composed of little, if nothing at all. I can say that I have had much time to reflect, but also that such reflection has led me back to myself. I turn and turn and everything remains quite the same. I feel like Rimbaud, but less impassioned. Like Hart Crane, but weaker. Like Stevens, but with less knowing. I have come short in many ways. I feel like Kafka, but more frightened – at last, I have outdone someone. Were I some sort of transcendentalist, things would be simpler. That is to say I have found a sort of loneliness, a sister to the solitude I had known before, and I can only hope that she would recognize this pathos and look upon me with some kindness.
I will try to convey more in my next correspondence.
I hope all is well.
I was worried to hear of your predicament. It is possible some of us have been born outside of what is commonly known as society. I feel this way too often to think otherwise. It is a mark. It is recognized among like people. And I recognize it in you. This is why I have always imagined knowing you even after becoming too old to remember anything.
I realize I was overly suggestive in the past without fully understanding the situation. What I really meant to say is that it is perfectly fine to feel the way you are feeling. And that whatever you decide will be all right, that your actions need not be justified in other people’s eyes. This one prerogative remains yours. You are not your fault. I will canonize this expression.
Write me as often as you like. I will do my best to respond.
Subject at rest . . . remains at rest.
It seems I have fallen into my old ways. Things are troubling. I still think of France, and my writing. I have not been disciplined enough to consider the books I have pulled from my shelves.
Have you received the manuscript?
There is less and less here for me, I realize this now. This time, unlike other times – so I believe – is beyond the mere physicality of my existence. Perhaps it has always been so, and I am simply getting older. I have been going out less than ever. Even when I was living in Boston, knowing no one, it seemed I felt more connected with things around me. An extreme lethargy and an overall malaise have descended upon me that I do not know my next move.
Life without charm.
I have been thinking of your invitation to see the millennium passage from the Sahara. We may not survive until the new year the way fate will have us. The desert sky may be the only thing left of this world when we are gone.
I am sorry. The last time we spoke, it made me a little sad to hear things were not as well as they could have been, as well as you deserve. I hope things are better.
I just started production again. It will be the last. This I have promised myself.
I have not had much time to write. Not much time to do anything. I am doing the work of two people on my own. I am doing the work of two months in one. All this will pass.
All this will pass. You should tell yourself this, too. I would let you, if you like.
Your letter (hand delivered by your messenger friend) came to me as bitter sweet. Forgive me for the belated reply. (You did not include your new address.) I hope this letter is forwarded to your place.
I myself am looking to move for December. I have located a small apartment by the Cathedral. A part of me wanted to get out of the downtown area. I am not sure what this change will do for me but, as it happens, I had already given my landlord notice to vacate this present dwelling. The thing about a mid-life crisis is that it comes early, takes on many forms, and does not deign to go away. Perhaps I will ground myself someday, somewhere.
I hope your studies are going well. You have made great progress. Still, I should admit that I worry about you from time to time. I know you will take good care of yourself.
I hope to see you soon.
Last night I walked in the rain – sweet, sweet rain. I thought of us, slightly afraid of this terrifying happiness.
I dreamt I reclined in your passenger seat and you seduced me with a flung scarf.
I whispered in your ear: Press Conference. You made me smile and I was with hope.
I want to ride your carousel. I want to win stuffed animals for you.
Nice to run into you during your passage through Paris (though I imagine there have been more auspicious encounters). Were it not for your natural graces, the atrocities committed in your liquored state would deserve a thrashing. You fell on me repeatedly, not to mention the lame attempts to separate me from my drink. All that, and still I was charmed.
Jesting aside. To answer your question, I reside now in the Latin Quarter near the Sorbonne. I remain faithfully in the Left Bank with only occasional afternoons in Beaubourg. I have stopped frequenting Le Fumoir, having been specifically requested by an ex-girlfriend. The women are very territorial that way. They call the shots here and I am left with no choice other than to respect her wishes, however capricious.
Thank you for the word of the exhibition. I will make the effort of being there.
Precocious, yes. And with such daring.
I hesitated prior to responding knowing this much: It is one thing when a younger woman seeks to make the acquaintance of an older man; it seems an entirely different matter when that same older man pursues the companionship of that younger woman. (Forgive me if I seem to be invoking a convention.) In the society in which we live, the male-female relational disparity is even more exaggerated when in the case of being amended by the latter clause.
I was your age fourteen years ago. Perhaps equally precocious – equally eager in my precociousness. As a result, I felt outside, not only of my age group, but of everyone around me. That period of my life has marked me more than any other. Perhaps I identify with you to this extent.
I was impressed with your perceptiveness, even prior to having acknowledged your age. Your words stood out as intelligent, real. Honest. This is rare in life, and certainly through this particular vehicle of interaction where everything remains hidden and anonymity is king. You neglected to describe yourself as brave. Still, precociousness is not the word I would use to roundabout your act of making contact.
If I know anything about the culture at large, I suspect you are in your current life being overwhelmed by solicitations by suitors who seek the affection of a younger, attractive and intelligent lady. Here, I must distinguish myself from these others. In my heart of hearts, it is probable that I desire to meet you – a desire undoubtedly more fervent than I am prepared to project. My present response to your letter, however, is in an effort to forestall any potential error on my part. Surely I will succeed in convincing you before convincing myself.
Enough then – I shall leave you with these words. Thank you. Please be well, and take care.
It has been a few months since our correspondence, outside of a few straggling e-mails. Yes, I have indeed restored that old motorcycle. Meanwhile, it is getting cooler in the evenings and the riding season will come to an end. Still, I felt I needed to widen my circles, at least in my geography.
I am in the grips of another production deadline. Late nights, long hours. Still writing. Still trying to write.
You are well? I understand that you have met someone. I am not sure I was supposed to know this, but I was happy to hear it. These words are not without some sense of unease. (I do not think I am being presumptuous.) Perhaps we shall learn through other people. In any case, I would value the persistence of our friendship.
I am proud of you for having fearlessly gone out there and having achieved the things you have, the job, the art, the community of friends.
Keep me posted. Until next time,
I thought of you today. I thought of you yesterday, as well.
I think you have infected me. A benign sort of infection. It makes my heart feel light.
This is extraordinary. Already I am writing you letters. And just days before our lips meet again. Mine are wetted with anticipation. All of this comes to me very dearly. And I can only hope to know you more deeply, intensely – in all the ways you would have me know you. The fallen angel and I have this much in common: There is no separating the body and the soul. Ours will meet in the eventual fire. Chemistry, yes. And a little alchemy, too.
In reading the lines on my hand, you had prophesied a certain measure of love. Though I have never been known to heed such fortunes told, I believe you because you have said so. The power seems equally in your hands, so to speak.
Regardless of how my future will unfold, I liked it simply because you held my hand.
It was good to hear your voice, despite the delay and traffic of passing motor bikes, delivery trucks. It is odd writing you, not knowing when you will receive this letter. I admit, I have not been good about writing, letters or otherwise.
I have worried about you. I suspect the evenings have their weight in the stars, in the absence of stars. Perhaps you long for home, or think you are without. I believe you will endure these things and come out for the better. As for myself, I cannot yet say what will become of me.
Someone once said that when one travels, one does not leave a place and the people behind, but that they leave a part of themselves. Maybe that is why I fear traveling, as if I had nothing left to leave behind. I say this as I sit in a hotel lobby, uncertain of my next move / non-move.
Anyway, I simply wanted to acknowledge our last exchange. I seal this note and drop it in the mail, lest I sit on it for too long and decide everything has changed. I should hope that I would know more of my situation soon.
I realize I am much more delicate than I would have liked to consider. Your last visit continues to anguish me.
There was that moment in our interaction when I felt a distinct shift in you behavior, in your regard. A look of such intoxication, as if a lifetime of sadness had converged upon you all at once and you gazed at me with eyes imploring.
I had accompanied you to your hotel where you had insisted on not being alone that night. If we did not fall into a repetition of our old ways, it was not because chivalry was at my side. I know myself well enough to say I would have been defenseless to any advances on your part. You alone were the heroine of this episode.
I recall in the morning you conducted yourself with exceptional grace, and with the appropriate measure of acknowledgement of the uneasy moment which had passed between us, for which you seemed to feel responsible.
Please, it is here that I acknowledge the great uneasiness which was of my doing, alone.
I am sorry.
Thank you so much for the extraordinary book. An excellent find, one that only you could have made. I had read it immediately and was so delighted. It was exactly what I needed.
Otherwise, I am still out of work. I hope to be hearing back from one company where I recently interviewed – a position referred to me by a friend.
I should hope that I would be ready to apply myself in the field again.
I am glad I was able to host you during your visit. (Though what I did could hardly be considered hosting.)
Thank you again for the marvelous gift.
Indeed my letters are few, far between – fewer by the two not reaching you, including the one where I relate to you my new address. I pass it on again.
Your writing has come a long way. Its substance betrays many nights peering into the darkened sepulcher, and its words, a familiarity with the demons. I myself feel inadequate to comment on them. Your new friends are Kierkegaard, Rilke, and the many eastern European fatalists.
Concerning myself, I have been reading. I have started Citadelle, and am finding it good. And though I feel it building something in me, I fear in my present state of preoccupation, it may be difficult to make much progress.
It turns out I am bound to stay through April because my mother will be making her way here, not unlike her extended visit several years ago. It seems her intuition received signals of her son’s descent. Her false pretext of business in the city cannot hide her motive to save me from a desperate situation as her itinerary conveniently includes an extended layover.
Given this, I do not think I will ever get out of this city. Perhaps I shall petition for amnesty. It may take nothing less than a U.N. resolution for my departure.
On your end, it looks like you will also be greeted by a visitor shortly. I understand she has had her share of ups and downs recently. And as such, you two will get along dangerously well – though in part, I fear, at my expense.
I do appreciate your letters. I hope that my low frequency of response is not taken the wrong way. I find so little solace in anything, and my energy is quite depleted. I have played out the worst scenario in my mind and it will end with my mother not recognizing me upon her arrival.
There are certain truths I have discovered: The life of a star is ephemeral.
Anxiety is a post-modern synapse.
Exist, you and I both. Together.
We are not of this universe, but we are from the same universe.
I want to crawl into your wormhole. I want to taste your Poignant Melodic Surprise.
Your tireless search for edification is admirable.
But to be learned does not replenish the lack of wit. Education does not belie a lack of understanding. One cannot become enlightened, for there is only becoming. Or, in this case, not very becoming.
Do not be mistaken: there is nothing logical in the absurd, even in your designated metaphysical realm. Absurdity is only as such for its extension outside of logic. Irony is king. Satire is its illegitimate and insufferable offspring. This is all within the context of Wittenstein, and without. It is a proposition by title only. At most, a tautology; at its very least, a truism.
I will make no concession in philosophy, nor in religion. And I happily mix the two as a matter of course, but only during the hours confined to cocktails. I will, however, declare my defeat in an email exchange where the audience is an undisclosed group of hobbyists and the opponent is a rhetorician.
Incidentally, the word “penultimate” is charming when a woman refers to one of two remaining socks as she is disrobing; to use the word “antepenultimate” is a matter entirely different.
Please do not feel insulted. The intent of these words still reside in the sphere of human compassion – if only at its metaphysical realm.
Lovely to hear from you. I like the new series you are putting together. Nice to know you are producing. Perhaps there is redemption after all in the prairie lands. And the melancholy you feel is surely some urban anxiety slowed down to a mid-western gait.
By the way, the New York City take-out is overrated. With any practical frequency, it proves itself to be altogether unpalatable.
I have just accepted an art director position at an agency. I am not sure what this will mean in the scope of things, the studio, etc. But the money situation didn’t leave much choice in the matter. I suppose moonlighting is not new in my world. I just didn’t think my own work would still be secondary after all this time – the same repetitious lament, all but in minor variations.
The new apartment is quite nice. In a strange way, it reminds me of the other place above the deli. The bathroom is private and it is refinished inside, making it a league above the previous boarding house. Funny waking up now only footsteps away from cafés and boutiques. And the landlord is actually quite congenial. He graces me in the corridors with his stories of former tenants.
I think in the next couple weeks there may be some changes in the work arena. I will keep you posted.
I gaze into the blackened sky. It offers no reply. I count the leaves that drift past my feet. And yes, they are indifferent. And the birds that seem to be in the know, they yield not to my calling. Hopelessly I reflect on these things in the lapse between my being and my oblivion.
As I stay up alone in the apartment, I can’t help but look around and think how there still remains suspension by way of accommodations un-furnished with mismatched chairs in the backdrop of curtains slowly drooping, projects un-finished, dropped proposals still loitering, prospects un-pursued, a manuscript torn, scrolling past the numbers of contacts at the publishing house, many things which lie powerless to the un-ness of things, the un-willing photo album, the canvases hardly brushed upon, and the camera poised to capture me in all my nakedness, and will I ever make it back to Paris?
What have I become? Do I remain a man? A poet, perhaps?
I shall not be defined by this moment, insufferable.
I am listening to your song with melancholy as the world outside goes about its midnight business in police sirens and car alarms, and traffic and idiots on the roof tops setting off bottle rockets with dogs barking. . . .
Morning will come and sweep away all the garbage and I will have forgotten again.
So be it. I still want you. Let us write a book together. Let us create a world, you and me.
It was good to hear from you, though your last postcard from Singapore sounded sad. Sad, yes, but happy too. You are finding loneliness in displacement. Travel seems that way, a heightened sense of everything. I think that is what I fear about traveling. The stars, the space between the stars, the silence between words, the pauses between the ticking of the clock. . . .
I am going through a period, feeling very tenuous about everything around me. Even my writing is not giving me any grounding. Financially, slowly becoming insolvent. Emotionally, very absent other than the anxiety in watching a problem get out of control.
After suffering a sort of breakdown, I have applied to several positions including some arguably more ambitious than I can hope to obtain. Others, safer, though a recent interview with one prospective employer showed me that nothing should be taken for granted.
I have decided, or the situation has decided for me, that if I do not secure work by next month, then I will pack my car and drive to New York where I have arranged with a friend to stay until I figure out what it is I need to do.
The one thing about desperate situations is that clarity will emerge, for better or worse. This, sometimes, is the only thing that allows me to go on. The space between stars. . . .
At last, news from the old world! – Though I had to wade through the “philosophies” and fill in where your pen failed to leave ink. Your reckless knowledge has outdone itself again. It seems all too typical of you to write a letter and carry it for an entire season before mailing it.
You can expand on these thoughts. With your permission, I would publish it in the journal and send you copies.
You can let me know. I will be in touch.
This was the first time I had heard from you directly since your unfortunate arrest and detention. I understand your followers are petitioning for amnesty. I have been obliged to respond.
I am, however, glad to know that you are well, health-wise.
I was surprised to hear you had taken time to read my work. So it is, you have discovered what the prodigal son has been doing for the last decade. Perhaps now I have procured a place outside the area designated as your shadow.
I do not presume to know what you are going through. Once native, you expedited your exile in being faithful to your forebears, divided in the land you would reconcile. Once free, you secured your tether in being benevolent to others, captive to the people you would set free. Your Christ has led you to bondage. Forgive them for they know not what they do. I pray your God will not forsake you in the end.
I wonder whether now in your present state of suspension, we might not resume communication – something which was plainly impossible before.
Thank you dearly for your letter. I appreciate everything you have said. It is nice to hear you are well, overall.
On my end, having gone through the simple motions of packing and moving proved to be therapeutic, as if I needed this to fulfill some sort of impulse for change. And in exchange I am finding myself in an unfamiliar spiritual place, only made more poignant by the strange air around me.
I understand more and more how afraid I am of uncertainties, of things unknown. My life at times seems so foreign that to venture beyond my immediate frontier would take considerable courage.
Even the simple rites of waking and proceeding with my day, beyond the speechless routine found of coffee and cigarettes, seem impossible tasks. I see now that my previous travels were primarily out of innocent wanderings, and headless relocations. It is for this that I admire what you are doing.
For my part, I concede that the desire to move is as meaningless as the place in which I find myself. Strange, this endless pursuit of a place.
I have been working on the poem. I sat with it recently and read it through from beginning to end, and in doing so I felt myself shaking visibly. I was not certain if I had come far, or I had come nowhere. And the unsettling feeling, as if it were possible to hold one’s entire life between the pages of a book.
I hope all of this does not sound too tiresome. I have carried this letter a week now, writing, re-writing this exposition, hoping to distill some lyrical quality I had assumed in the past. There is something profoundly wrong – certainly at present – though I suspect it has always been there and I am beginning to see it once again. I cannot apologize enough for the melancholic state in which this letter joins you – the same mood pervasive in the last days of summer for which you had already reproached me.
The curtains have remained closed, though one might imagine the courtyard worth viewing. The Christmas lights on the bushes, I can see them glowing through the blinds. But, as it were, this place, like so many places, is only for the time, and by spring, I should be in a new location.
I will let you know.
I am writing you to formally congratulate you on your engagement, to thank you for the invitation, and to apologize for my failure to attend your gathering. And despite the understanding that my last letter to you was not received well – my best intentions remaining suspect – I am also writing to relate my present situation. My increasing discomfort with our phone conversations was becoming more and more evident to me, perhaps also to you.
I am reminded of your gift to me and my thinking that I wanted to give you something of myself in turn. However, I see I am not ready to deliver this, or to reciprocate your motions in any way.
I am having difficulty in reconciling the things you said before and whatever present initiative you mean to take to whatever end. Although I trust that the end you seek is good, I do not know that I am prepared, or even willing. I had thought that you decided for yourself that I was not the one with whom you would continue to interact.
And although I felt that some of the things you said were unfair, I did not protest, if only to acknowledge that this end was inevitable. Certainly there are enough things about me which would cause you to be upset. I simply didn’t understand your timing – or, if I may say so, your interpretation of my last letter, which, at the time, was the best I could do. In spite of the risk of upsetting you further with yet another treaty, I need to remind you of how you were feeling and to say there is no reason you should not continue to harbor those feelings. I am not better now than I was then.
It is not my goal to become another individual who was once a part of your life but is no longer. Still, I cannot disregard the things which have been recently brought into the open. This is my weakness. You will aid me in preventing a recurrence of this past.
I wish you the best.
I send you the latest edition of Faust. Much of it is similar to the edition you have held. Fifty or so pages cut, another fifty pages rewritten.
Passages in The Third Quarter, you may note, are brief meditations loosely based on my preoccupation in Lake Geneva to which you were privy. This part is a late entry for this edition. And though short of doing justice to that evening, certain objectives seemed worth pursuing. Even as I write this, I am more than aware of its shortcomings. I trust your critical eye will discern these things. It is an honor for me to address your interest in my work with the presentation of this manuscript.
I also wanted to thank you again for your generous offer of hospitality, though somehow undermined by my change of plans.
I wish you well for the holidays and the new year as you round out the remaining days of your sabbatical. We might assemble in the near future to continue the discourse.
I dreamt of you again.
In the labyrinth of your mysteries, I was lost, and found.
You devised a plan to win my affection.
I was spread against your body’s landscape, my cadaver made exquisite by your touch and I was racked between earth and sky, spellbound, compliant.
Your words traversed over centuries to arrive and render me speechless.
You are my beautiful semblable. My more miraculous half.
My desire for you is only second to my love.
It was delightful to hear your voice, almost perky with your new found bio-chemical-physiological balance. I hope this letter finds you on the up and up. Though for my part, I continue to suffer my clinical this and that without treatment, I know you won’t hold any of my imbalances against me. My daily medication of coffee, cigarettes, and a book of poems seems to mediate my moods.
Chicago suddenly sounds inviting as you describe it from your new place. I hope to make it over there some time in January, regardless of the developments of my complicated life, and the factor of this other friend I have there. You claim I had introduced some element of sabotage concerning this girl – the mere specter of that relationship having frightened me to such an extent. In the end, I know you side with her, but you forgive me nonetheless. That’s what I like about you, your uncompromising opinion on the affairs of the heart is only second to your gratuitous understanding of the shortcomings of, well, yours truly.
I hope you enjoy your travels during the holidays. If I don’t speak to you before your departure, I will surely call you upon your return.
We are born free, but everywhere we are in chains. Rousseau had observed this truth which was to be immediately succeeded by a truism. Forgive me for this repetition of the obvious. I am simply responding to your papers.
You begin by saying that we as individuals have obligated ourselves in a social contract of natural liberties. Our multitudes have gathered and in this united entity, no one can assail any of its members without offending the body, nor can the body be victim without the members feeling the effect. Such is the theory of a social contract among a united people.
Yet in America, we persist in becoming assailed at the expense of certain underprivileged groups.
It is often ignored that the political order of democracy is fueled by its economic structure. I am concerned about your enthusiasm toward what is effectively called democracy in America.
You acknowledge at least that to sanction the right of occupancy on any piece of land outside of titles, it must be through labor and cultivation, not by vain ceremony. Rousseau had asked, when Vasco Núñez de Balboa, standing on the shore, proclaimed possession of the South Seas and all of South America in the name of the crown of Castille, was that enough to dispossess all of the inhabitants? I will answer yes, it is enough – enough insofar as it has been, and still is, a social
and historical fact.
Not many years before Balboa, Columbus himself, with no less audacity, set off that same wheel of conquest and colonization. Imperialism.
American Democracy has evolved into a terrible beauty, a Kafkaesque sublime, a gateway intended for us but closed by our own volition. I do not contest the right of the majority rule. I simply appeal from the sovereignty of the people to the sovereignty of humanity.
The system has so efficiently mechanized all of its shortcomings that the cycles of inequity have become the terrible engines of this democracy upon which a force was found so powerful as to be not unlike a perfect monarchy. Mechanisms to foster apathy among the people, while preserving a vague notion that they had a choice in this matter, are constantly in motion. And the media, succumbing to the most base desires of the public, delivers what will sell, not what is sound. This miserable semblance of self and political affirmation distorts the true process of self-government.
With stratifications of wealth and poverty and a quota of welfare and unemployment, the upward/downward mobility becomes the apparatus of this economic structure. Balancing a careful form of wrongness by the right measure, this prowess acclaims its essence in its inequity. This we call opportunity.
Between the glass ceiling and the trap door, and the many closets for the socially deviant, this architecture of dissolution has its archways engraved with the old dictum, Give unto Caesar. But what is Caesar’s?
Perhaps you believe I have relinquished my right to speak on this matter, having pronounced myself an ex-patriot. Still, it is about human decency. Let us not forget our origins. Our history is too short for such omission.
So lovely to speak with you. You still hold that curious charm over me. Something in your voice, your choice of words . . . I don’t think you realize what it does to me. One hopes you would not be so cruel as to continue otherwise. But I suppose this is my problem. And since you ask, no, I am not currently sleeping with anyone. (I am not sure I was supposed to answer that question.)
It was a few years back when we were writing each other more regularly. I reminisce. Sometimes we get caught up in life’s many affairs and somehow get distracted. I would like for us to try again, our little exchange. I still think of you from time to time, despite the distance – or maybe because of the distance.
You will be hearing from me.
You can watch water
touch land by your feet,
Your hands. You can see
the blue of the sky-
You can paint driftwood
This color mixing
glitter and sand. You
Will make the island
more beautiful with
Your presence. I will
be thinking of you.
I am writing you in the heart of another winter. You on the other hand are presumably lodging your feet into pink sands, warm in the presence of a greater force – that island landscape with all its offerings of wind and wave. You are alive in the blue of the sea and sky, cobalt, electric.
Now, where was I? Yes, I was writing you this letter, a letter I would not send but give to you upon your return. – Here. I have missed you, I confess. But I recall you having permitted me to do so. Alas, I have
I have been longing to see you again, your eyes, your face, always beautiful, rich with stories.
So, you have gone away. I hope it wasn’t something I said. Far be it for me to convince you otherwise. You might, however, volunteer details as to what sort of wonderful has taken you away from here – a job? School? Family, or friends?
It occurs to me the inchoate nature of our acquaintance – perhaps more imaginary than real. But isn’t this a part of being human? You will allow me these words as a parting gesture.
There was so much I wanted to ask you. It seems silly, how one’s life is taken by the simplest things. A small exchange, a friendly smile, someone who calls you by your name. Sometimes it is enough to have these things to look forward to.
By now you must be settling in. We have diverted paths and already I see myself doing a backward gaze at a woman whom I wanted to know, but missed the chance. (Did I ever have a chance?) I hope you don’t mind. We come from different places. Probably, we shall continue on our different ways. You have left this place and I, somehow, will miss you – miss you in a way I am not prepared to fully disclose.
I hope you find what you are looking for. Perhaps we shall meet at a later time.
The newest edition of the manuscript is herewith.
I was given the impression that there may have been some confusion concerning my reclaiming the older one which I had previously offered to you. I did not think it out of the ordinary that I should repossess this former copy. I was undoubtedly acting under the spirit of offering you a more current one. Beyond that, my taking back the older version was of no importance – and certainly of no political intent. Furthermore, I make it a general practice to eliminate outdated editions which seem to travel about. The purpose of this letter is to state this plainly.
It is true that of late, we have had our disagreements. And, as always, I understand that we will resolve them in due time. I have accepted this as granted, yes. The fact of our not understanding each other and my repossessing the manuscript are independent realities and any correlation between the two would require a great leap. I certainly was not acting in these terms; I trust you would not think that I would.
If you have any doubt, now or in the future, I should hope that you would feel comfortable enough to make it known to me directly, as I have always been, and will continue to be, forthcoming. If I have failed to demonstrate this, then an apology is in order. I apologize. My interest in our relation has always been benign. I sometimes feel the need to remind you that you were the one who needed the time and space to think things over. I had thought I granted you all that you had asked.
I hope this letter clarifies any misunderstanding. In any case, I appreciate you listening. I hope that we can relate to one another in a more positive context.
Home for the summer and already planning tours through Europe – you, woman of the world. I would expect nothing less. The Hotel Metropole serves a lovely continental. Let’s meet on your next passage and we can rub elbows with all the U.N. people.
So this is what it has come to, our little correspondence. I can think nice thoughts with you over there. Something about writing each other, sending small things – private, like imaginary friends of childhood dreams. Once-removed, I find myself without defense. I like your letters. You should know that I do not take them for granted. I think they make me happy. It may be that I have learned more about you in these few instances than I had from being acquainted with you for those years prior. As for my letters, I hope you don’t find the typed form impersonal. You would scarcely find my handwriting legible.
I was glad to hear you had found a new love – of poetry, no less. I believe such things can enrich one’s life immeasurably. I have come across a rare manuscript which may interest you. I will send it out to you shortly.
This makes several times I have tried to formulate this letter. It is difficult, especially after the way we had left each other. I am not finding the words. I don’t even know if you are wanting to hear from me. I feel nonetheless obliged to express myself this time. Too often I declined to speak and was unable to defend myself.
It is true, I had wanted so much for this. But now, I wonder if it is even possible. I had believed we could have created something between us – we, who had spent our lives alone. The truly tragic part of this story is that we are incapable of giving to one another. So I come to realize, I have been completely mistaken.
And yes, somewhere, I was upset without wanting to show it, without wanting to recognize it. Now, I am taken by a kind of sadness and anger. I ask myself, what had I done? I feel so inadequate. So incapable. Yes, I am traversed. I am sorry. We made the decision to not see each other as before. Remain friends, we had said. I doubt that this could be with all the unspokenness which surrounds us. In the end, I am not capable of continuing in this fashion.
I have taken on the poem again – the one thing I know how to do. This means I will no longer be responsible for whatever may be. A sorry excuse, I know. But in the end, I no longer feel any connection with this world, whatever.
I never thought I would write you these words. And still I am with difficulty. I wanted to clarify this before my departure (even post it from the airport) thinking I would return here and not have the courage. We turn the page – an act for which you were waiting, an act you were wanting to make. There it is. I waited a little and now it is done. You were right. We were hurting each other. Now we stop.
I will not close by saying I will speak to you soon, for we both know that this may not be so. I do honestly hope that you are better. Take care.
Sometimes I forget the pathos in the poetry, which claims to reflect a certain pathos in my own life. And so I have developed a certain pang inside of myself designated for you. I somehow feel connected to you in this way.
And it is in the sweetness of your reception that I find myself sending you such words. I will surely run out of them before too long, but the kindness of your reply will linger on.
Place a stone on Kafka’s grave for me.
It was nice to see you during your passage. Moreover, your friends were all quite lovely. I was delighted to make their acquaintance.
If I was incapable of showing my appreciation, then surely it was criminal on my part. I believe I was undergoing something exceptional. I do hope I did not frighten you with that story of my violent emotional state. I should never wish to fall from your grace (if indeed I have procured such a place thereabouts).
Should you ever find yourself traveling through again, I would like the opportunity to host your visit, this time more properly.
Thank you dearly for your kind invitation to spend Christmas eve at your place. An exceptional offer – one that should not have fallen unaccepted.
I don’t know what came over me, but I was suddenly seized with a desire to do nothing, alone. – Work on the poem (which I did, a little). – Re-write things I had been towing for months. . . .
I continue my life of saying no to all that is good, concerning myself with all that is meaningless.
It seems only natural that I would feel a sharpened sense of solitude during this period where others assume the rites of being together, among others. What is it about these occasions which preclude such motions? The depression I feel during this season seems far too banal to recount. I shall not tire you with the details.
There you have it. I spent Christmas eve writing you these words. And so, in the end, achieved at least in part, I was with you in spirit.
With much love, Merry Christmas.
Straight to the heart like a knife, with a twist, your salutations are. Enclosed herewith is a foreign cigarette package for your mixed media collage.
My last letter to you was during what was quite possibly the most chaotic time in my recent history. I have now settled into my new place. It is nice. It is nice to be home again.
Your invitation to visit stands, you insist. I think the chances of seeing you in Hartford may be higher. Neutral ground. Not that I would not want to see you in Boston, or elsewhere (you cannot be so innocent as you would like for me to believe). My desire to see you is greater than I can rationalize. That is why I cannot extend the same invitation to you. I trust you know I would always receive you regardless, and furthermore, on your terms.
You say you are finding yourself alone these days. Do you think alone you will stay?
There is no urgency in cherishing your solitude. Solitude will stay as long as it is welcome, sometimes longer. I have learned this all too well for myself. It is like that last guest at the party, intoxicated. You want to send them away, but instead, you take their car keys so they won’t drive, and you are not the type to call for a cab.
I like this idea of this correspondence with you. It keeps me sufficiently preoccupied without the related dangers, and anticipation seems always once removed. I would like to hear from you again.
Forgive me for this brief façade of a letter.
My life here in all its outer appearance is stable, perhaps now more than ever. For better or worse, I am still trying to make sense of it.
There has been a kind of unease with which I have been leading my days, days which seem composed of a particular lack more than anything else.
Even as I become more responsible in an effort to save myself from an inevitable breakdown, I am strangely nostalgic of that period of unaccountability.
If only I could eradicate the desperate element from that other life, I would surely choose it again – though I should learn to be wiser in what I wish.
I know it is only a matter of time before I will find myself in that state. I can never be sure. Everything is precarious.
And though the job continues to be good to me, the knowledge of this good has not been a positive force in my present condition. I must convince myself every day that this is what I need.
This sounds very much like the language of recovery. What is good, or healthy, has not the same seductive element as what is despairing. This, above all constitutes the tragic part of my life.
I send you this letter despite its incoherent nature so as to not further delay my response. I fear this is all I can do at this time.
I have received the parcel with your book, thank you. And yes, I have read it.
I should rightfully congratulate you on this recent publication. Also, I am flattered that you would request my thoughts on the matter. However, I wonder whether I am truly the one whose response you seek. My feelings have not really changed since you presented your manuscript in its earlier form. The important thing seems to be how you feel about it. Beyond that, my comments will surely be inadequate.
Your hard work has come to fruition with this event. I recognize this in its pure context. That is to say, I shall not conjecture beyond it. Nonetheless, I cannot help but think your work was a product of the MFA program and the numerous workshops which were to become the essential cultivating force for your book – you having rendered yourself to its many practices and having become a vital satellite in the vast network which is
itself an institution.
This publication was the inevitable benefit of that career track you had secured for yourself. I, on the other hand, have long since contented myself with the notion that my work shall never see its day of print. I have positioned myself elsewhere. It is all too obvious the differences in our respective works, and the paths we have chosen for ourselves as concerns this business of writing. It is for this I would rather refrain from any critique. I had thought that you would acknowledge this.
I do regret having previously made the arrogant remark that even a dead animal could produce a book of poems out of those writing programs. I certainly did not mean it in that way. You are a writer by profession. There is no doubt that you are good at what you do. And you have the assurance of a brilliant career ahead of you. You have become an important player in an industry that propagates everything we know to be literary. I do not make light of it. Rather I am in constant awe of its power. I simply acknowledge that I have no part in that machine. Poetry cannot be conceived within this insular environment of fielding one’s work in exchange for the works of others. In this closed circle, one will only succeed in achieving the attributes, never the essence.
My question to you is thus: Of what importance is my opinion? And yet, you insist. And to what end? Alas, if I were obliged to speak, I might say this: Treating your sexuality in your poems can be considered courageous by some – indeed, even your “mentor” suggests it in the preface. But what does he know of it? (Forgive me for this moment of indiscretion.) And, when did the incapacity of dealing with life’s particular issues become the chosen thematic center of a literary endeavor? This reads therapy, not art. Finally, how did the written word degenerate into this? No. This is not the place. And this is not the exchange I would have sought. I would defer it once again. But, by the force of your insistence, you would have my opinion. Still, this would be of little consequence, for my words presume no gravity in your world.
I was happy to hear from you. I see the perennial melancholy has us all close to its bosom.
As for your feeling uncertain of your present mode of existence, I hope that it is all right. This is what I have known for myself. Otherwise, I would have been in big trouble a long time ago, and in so many ways.
If you decide to come back to this city (and if I am still here), I would like to see you. You will let me know if I am undeserving of this.
My body has become estranged from itself since your departure. The bed, unforgiving as I turn and turn pawing at the mere vestige of your presence.
Yes it is true, I am the funniest man, here and elsewhere. I was glad I was able to make you laugh, if indeed I had succeeded in making you laugh. More laughter to follow.
I know I owe you some photos. But, alas, I did not bring my camera, and, more importantly, something in me is not allowing for the capturing of such images, though beautiful as the scenery may be. I suppose it could be nice to share them. There might even be some confirmation of my existence, however ephemeral.
Still, I fear nostalgia, like regret. I have tried to kill this part of myself in coming here. It could be that I have simply founded my citadel upon it, unwittingly. The irony still holds. After all, it has many layers, no? It was not long ago when I felt like a child. Now, I feel older than ever.
And though this city has been more precious than I could ever have imagined, still, it has had little affect on my feeling of slightness. And it is despite this perennial rapport that I have found the seeds of my loneliness and solitude, both. This thing proposes to make me stronger, if it does not succeed in erasing what little life force remains.
Did I ever think that I could really achieve this? – The poem, I mean. Yes, and as provisional, my breakdowns are in full bloom. It may not be long before I lose my composure in public. There would be no greater rebellion than this; there would not be a more perfect place than here.
What else can I say? Enough about me, how are you? I do hope that you are well. Your perseverance deserves admiration. Meanwhile, the rest of us are leading our little lives within the small prisons we have constructed in search of all that is ultimately fleeting.
In the end, there is probably good cause for my having stopped the madness. – The poem, I mean. I continue to remind myself, laughter is a good thing.
Take good care of yourself. I will talk to you soon.
I am nearby in some broken down café with tea, cigarettes, thoughts of you. . . .
Rather than calling and requesting your presence, or even making my general proximity known to you, I have opted to scribble this note to leave at your door. Possibly it is in fear of your answering machine, possibly in fear of your actual voice – I do not know of which. Doubtlessly a fear of some sort.
Snow outside, neon signs, conversations. . . .
You are making plans for travel. Perhaps your mind is already in reconnaissance. Strange, this life. Sometimes we think of things without knowing exactly why. I guess I mean to say I am presently thinking of you. – You will forgive me. Yes, I have asked for this in the past. You have known this much about my nature.
I hope to hear from you, before you leave, or after you return – whatever is fitting. Perhaps you will think of me, perhaps not. It is outside my influence.
I am writing you from a city half immersed in a dream, feigning forgotten.
Marco. . . .
Carnivalesque and seductive. Intrigue hidden behind masks. Dances of death.
Marco. . . .
The cleaning women wearing mystery in layers, dark as mascara. The gondoliers and their stories passed down with each pull and twist, thrust and turn.
Row after row. Polo. . . .
All this turning water, and still the unquenchable thirst.
The invitation stands for you to visit, now and whenever. I think that it would be to your benefit to spend some time away from the place which has now become associated with your affliction. Though I fully recognize what I have to offer will be short of any remedy for the particular malady you currently suffer, a simple change of climate could help initiate the arduous journey to recovery.
For my part, it may be that I continue to have feelings towards what we had shared. I shall not allow them to get in the way of your convalescence.
I shall feel comforted in your company. A friendship without complications, and without any misguidance. You be yourself, and I shall do the same. Seems a rare invitation in this world.
Let this be.
Thank you so much for the precious photos.
There is a certain quality in your images. I will not attempt to articulate my feelings towards them. Only, as I regard these pictures, I am taken to another place. Perhaps I mean that I feel present when I engage them, or when they engage me. Something which is not entirely evident in real life.
These comments are gratuitous, you realize. You know how I hate to speak of these things. But what am I really saying? You know this already. That’s what’s great about you. You understand me, despite my inability to express the most basic things.
In the end, I simply wanted to convey this: The world is a strange and wonderful place; whatever beauty exists, you will capture it.
Thank you, again.
There may be no explanation. The dream state and all that is real are both at once elusive and inescapable. I lift the better part of my days into lightness. I want to share with you this life, this happiness. I brush off moonlight and mist from my eyes and find I am awake. Alive. And with you.
Thank you again for staying with me during your visit. Your ethereal presence was like a beautiful dream in my semi- somnolent state. Still, my affection for you grows stronger in my waking. I suppose I knew from the start that you were lovely. I just didn’t know to what extent.
I shall then await our next encounter.
Please excuse me. You will think this letter superfluous. Yes, I am writing from St. Paul, but this letter will contain no suggestion of any wish for you to be here. Granted, the words I write are infinitely more truthful than any speech that has proceeded from my lips. End of preamble.
You left abruptly that night we talked, left me in a state of sadness. Some relief too, of course, that we had finally spoken our minds, but sadness that it had to be. I only wish our talking put you at rest. You had anticipated such an exchange, only a matter of time. It had to be. And why not sooner? I, who have constantly returned your understanding, kindness, and purity with distance, indifference, impatience, irritability . . . I could go on.
Pain. I accept it. I accepted it from the outset when I took on the writing (or when the writing took me). But there was nothing in the contract, however, about others suffering in my cause. This I cannot bear. Doubtlessly you have been hardened. This is where our age difference is most visible. You are infinitely more experienced than I am in such affairs.
You must forgive me. You must, in effect, forget me. You came too close. You saw things you need not have seen, felt things you need not have felt. Many are my inadequacies. All of them, fear, inhibition, indecisiveness, breed upon themselves and I am left powerless. Until, at last, some instinct to survive compels me to act unjustly that I may feel detached. This had already happened once. And in fear of it happening again, I acted accordingly.
Often have I lied to myself. But never has any lie lasted long before I became thoroughly repulsed by it.
Maybe I am a fool to not be near you. You made me feel good. That is the truth. I am so sorry that I was unable to tell you that before. Please forgive me.
Your letter fell into my hands in the midst of chaos. I am in the process of moving to another place, putting together another edition of the manuscript, and falling out of another relationship. I am breaking from all of this to reply.
It seemed your last letter was quite formal. Out of character, even. There is a certain spiritedness in you I admire. I couldn’t help but notice the lack of it in your words. Also, there was no mention of him. I wonder if your life has taken a turn. Moving back home can sometimes be critical, in and of itself, I imagine.
I’m afraid you continue to occupy a certain part of me which I can only suggest. I suppose, in the end, I was surprised to receive your letter.
I have been thinking about the concept of the eternal return. I will be moving back into that apartment by the Picasso Museum where you had visited me two years ago. I still have that post-card you sent me, The Young Harlequin.
And with the anticipation of this move comes a feeling of solitude. This city has a way of inducing such anonymity. And the cooler weather has had its power to evoke memories of winter days.
Yes, I have thought of you.
You wondered whether I might be back in Milan. Forgive me for questioning your intentions. I have received such invitations before. You were not meaning to do that – inviting me. The wind no longer blows that way for me.
Hartford is a dreadful city, redeemable only by the proximity of Boston, or New York – neither of the places which I have been decisive enough to go and see.
I had stepped out last night. And everything reaffirmed that I can no longer enjoy myself. I checked myself into a bar. It was hot and crowded and I could not stand the nausea. I thought of her, who had filled me with a vague notion that she might fly out to visit. I procured my own disappointment. I saw her eyes in one woman, her hair in another, until at last I could no longer picture her. I dashed out to the street and wandered around. How could I wish to return home when I knew what void awaited me there? Thoughts of Asia came to mind, or anywhere but here. Indeed, it is in the nature of such exile.
I have been having extreme difficulty with the most routine of motions: Sleeping (tossing, turning, nightmarish), eating (slowly losing appetite), smoking (less for pleasure, more for habit), drinking (I understand now the Welsh poet), writing (for it seems to go well with my smoking and drinking), reading (and with great resistance). I concede some recent notables: Italo Calvino’s coy, Invisible Cities, vaporous like a dream; Milton, Paradise Lost, tight and useless – pure; Edmund Wilson, To the Finland Station, an unsuspecting novel, unsuspectingly melancholic; Hart Crane, The Bridge, this beautiful, beautiful failure – the most beautiful; Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, unfinished but not undone, sweet nostalgia; Eliot’s The Wasteland, unrefreshing but still somehow innocent; and the cognate musings of Camus, Exile and the Kingdom.
Cities & Dust. Yes, I have been working on the poem. And the terrible result: Boredom & Effeteness. Derangement.
I am writing you from the all-night coffee shop, 4:30 in the morning. Surrounded by so many derelicts, and I feel myself deeply among them. I drew the line between the winners and the losers, not really aware of where I, myself, was standing. So it goes, and so it goes.
I think I need to hear from you.
I enclose herewith the abstract of the poem of which I spoke. I will be presenting this work at the gallery.
Admittedly, at no point during the twenty odd years of working on this text (even at my most undignified moment) had I ever envisioned this to be the finality of form. Still, I suppose, it needed to be, at least for the time. My one assurance, ironically, is the ephemeral nature of this beast.
It is true that my treatment of Faust is one devoid of any mysticism, and perhaps too, morality. It is one which renders Faust and Mephistopheles into a single being, divided. A conversation between the first brothers, the last. It is the testament of a stranger, made less strange in the telling. Existential in mood, granted. Nihilistic in tendency, perhaps. Post-structuralist in mentality . . . whatever that means.
I know that in the final count, whatever achievement I am able to claim will not pardon me from the atrocities committed against everything that is familiar. Still, I feel I had no choice. I regret. I only pray that one day I might be forgiven. Not because what I did was forgivable, but because I could not do otherwise.
Thank you for the birthday note, and your musing on the new surroundings. I admit Boston seems a lifetime away, especially told to me, already twice removed. I sometimes forget that I grew up there.
Yes, I have moved to Paris. I am working again.
All in all, I must say that this city is everything it promises. Lights, the glitter in the Seine, and the sparkles on the Tour Eiffel (the sparkles are new), pedestrians everywhere, picnics along the Pont des Arts, brouhaha in cafés, brawling bistros, and the tiny cars which race the rond-points.
Then of course, couples kissing in the streets. . . .
And I, well, I’ll figure it all out one of these days.
I am thirty-three. I knew I would be one day. And, somewhere along the line, I told myself I would be elsewhere. So here I am.
This city is as lonely as I imagined.
Please excuse me. The fact of this letter is inordinate. And because I have no role in your affairs, this may come to you as an intrusion. What is to be done? It is in an effort to make right a wrong I may have caused. I shall make my words brief and to the point.
When I first arrived in late December, I recall you spending a great deal of time with our mutual friend. It was only with my continuing participation in your outings together that I had come to notice your vanishing interest in being present.
I am writing you now because, if it be the case what I have observed has some truth contained, I feel somewhat responsible. I must now properly recognize the cause of this negative outcome as linked to a situation which I had created – a situation real or perceived. I only wish whatever damage might be reversed.
And so it is, at the risk of being vain and presumptuous, I write to ask if it is in your faculty – indeed, if it be in your interest – to take steps toward restoring whatever rapport you and he shared.
I say this with sufficient urgency. As far as I know, you are the only person with whom he communicated. He had even confided as such.
Though it is not in my nature to assume the figure of a diplomat in the interest of others – I, myself, being depraved in so many of my own affairs – this loss for him, however, is one which does not rest well with me, thinking that I may have somehow caused it, and knowing for certain that I should never have even entered this city. In a world full of hate, what is there to do but desire from the outside a love we cannot gain?
I did not imagine I would write you like this. It would be quite difficult for me to say for whom I am doing this. So easily does one deceive oneself. Still, it is possible I am completely mistaken. If this be so, then please ignore this and discard it in its entirety. But if, by chance, there is even a remote possibility of my having noted something true, then please, please receive this accordingly.
I am terminating my regrettable sojourn here. I leave this place and everything behind. I am not enclosing a return address so you should not feel a need to reply.
For the past few days I have been wandering around the city, taking trains and buses that lead nowhere, walking the crowded streets, a bag slung heavy with intent which I never open, smoking cigarettes in front of cafés, too afraid to enter, going to job interviews for positions I shall never assume.
Writing and rewriting this letter.
I have become lost.
And it is with infinite disdain that I realize how destitute I have become. Never would have I thought it possible, the breadth of vanity which could preside in a life, and still be mistaken as honor.
I have gravely failed you. I have been neither the inspired and productive artist nor the successful and supportive friend; rather a lame man trapped somewhere in between, ceaselessly working but still falling short of arriving at any moral or financial stability, and someone who still pretends at being an artist grasping at what remains, now, only false dignity, reduced to a pettiness I am not proud to know. I have ensured the disappointment you now feel towards me.
What I would give right now to have the time and the wherewithal to sit and read a book of poems – the inability for which you tease me almost affectionately. I am so tired. I want to sleep. I wish I could close my eyes and lie down for a week and wake up a renewed man. Instead, I feel a stone wall building itself inside me. I truly do not know what will follow.
If ever I survive this night it will be of the grace of my innermost being, which is the very essence of fear.
Once again my response comes late. Useless to reproach myself, it cannot be helped. The inadequate man has his patent inadequacies. If I have learned anything, I have learned this much.
So it is with profound sadness that I return here, a place I once thought I knew, kept dear for the retrieving, only to realize in coming back, I had known nothing, that I was not to learn anything beyond it.
No use in lamenting over these things which have no significance. The greater tragedy in all this is that we live in a world dislocated. We are all but unhappy. Alone or together, endless without redemption.
There are things I shall never understand. Sometimes I feel myself so sensitive, so delicate as to be completely deranged by the slightest things. It is at these times I realize once again that I am not suited for this life.
I have been deliberating on these words, questioning the appropriateness of sending them to you. As if I have been haunted by some specter of silence, even as I formulate this letter, I know I would do better in saying nothing at all. If I am compelled to speak, then I am not certain from where this compulsion comes.
I am writing this letter in a period of change, with a confused sense of hope and sadness. I have become more aware of my solitude. And whereas in the past I was unable to relate anything by way of substance, I address you at this time for fear that it may no longer be possible after.
Sometimes I wonder if it was good of me to offer you the poem. Often in our encounters I had felt naked, without defense, as if I had divulged some great secret for which I felt ashamed.
There was only one reason that I stayed around. Paris . . . Paris was a pretext. If I am thinking of a move, it is because of you. The intimation of this end was present, even from the uncertain outset.
I have destroyed so many things around me. I seem not to know anything else. I only hope I have not interrupted your life in any great way.
Please forgive me.
There are letters I have written in the past which I am still not prepared to send. Things are complicated. There are many things which I find difficult to communicate, made still more difficult by the current standing of things.
My presenting the manuscript would be a great step in my coming forward, but this, too, must wait its proper time. I am still unsure of many things.
Please excuse me. This is long overdue and it is with the most recent exchange that this occurs to me. I have been known to overlook the obvious. I have no justification for them. I simply offer an explanation.
Though I continue in this confused strain, still, if only to clarify that one may better understand. It may be because of the recent fall, but I am suddenly overcome with a wish for you to see.
You are aware, the greatest fear an artist can have is the fear of being misunderstood. True, it is vain, but you will allow it, at least for the course of this letter. It may be that the one saving grace of this regrettable moment is that it furnishes me the pretext to do this much – which, in any other setting, would seem inappropriate.
In the face of impossibility, we move beside ourselves. Eloquence becomes crude, gestures of friendship become misguided. Too often we act out of fear, and the layers of pretense take over, where deep inside, we are simply in pain.
I do not hope to find absolution through these words. On the contrary, it is quite possible that you will think less of me after. But it has come to this and I must have you know. You deserve much more than anything of this sort. And in this feeling of inadequacy, I simply hope that you allow this letter to deliver its words.
As I close out these thoughts, I see that it is getting light outside. And soon I shall step out to greet the day. Coffee, the morning paper. . . . So this is what this poet does at night – the aftermath to which you had already been exposed on numerous occasions.
I had sworn to myself I would not be here. The time has come. Elsewhere you will find me.