18 September 2011

Letters are everywhere here, stuffed into old books.


Nina Simone playing on the stereo, a late Saturday night with a rum cocktail and a live recording of Nina at the Village Gate, 1962.

This evening was the first evening that the heat came on in the apartment -- fall is officially here. A Polish man was selling apples from a wooden crate this morning, in front of the subway stairs. Some other Polish men were sleeping off last night's excesses in the park across the street. French people are everywhere here, rendering me too shy to speak.

I translated a Quasimodo poem yesterday and would like to try that Greek poem, the Cavafy poem, although it's long and I'm afraid I'll go off-course with my constant inner-questioning. Mainly: What is my Ithaca? At first I thought my Ithaca was writing itself, but to pursue that Ithaca feels thwarted now, or well, less important -- or Important (with a capital "I"). Perhaps it is the "I" itself that interests me less, which I suppose is not a bad thing. Too much "I" becomes Irresponsible and Irrelevant.

The leaves have not yet fallen. They are not even brown, still clinging to summer. Everywhere there are children in school uniforms and children in strollers and children in mothers' slings. There are goth chicks trying awfully hard to resist. There are other girls trying awfully hard to reinvent themselves into something other than the girls they once were in uniform. Nina is singing, "Just in Time," Nina is singing, "I said it would be all right if you changed my name," and the crowd claps, wanting the more and more of her sad desire. I didn't know the heat had come on until I smelled it. On my table is The New Yorker and an Anthologie de la poesie marocaine and Le même livre (correspondence entre Abdelkebir Khatibi et Jacques Hassoun), and Correspondence Ouverte (un autre livre de la corrrespondence entre Khatibi et une autre écrivaine marocaine, Ghita El Khayat), and The Paris Review Interviews (vol.1), in which Hemingway and Rebecca West are marked up. Underlined (Hemingway): "If a writer omits something because he does not know it then there is a hole in the story."

I have a history of writing letters to far-away people. When I get this far I think I shall never actually send the letter so as to save us all. Letters are everywhere here, stuffed into old books. This is the part of the story that I am inclined to omit. But it seems to me that that which is omitted not only leaves a hole in the story, but it is the story, the heart of the story, the thing the writer is most afraid of writing for if she is brave she will have no choice but to enter into uncontrolled territory.

I don't know why I am writing to you on this night of Nina Simone and the heat and the leaves -- perhaps because of the leaves, because they are still clinging.


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