for Joe Wood 1965-1999

Out of nothing comes language and out of language comes nothing and everything. Everything challenges the tenuous world order. Every emotion derails every other one. One rut is disrupted by the emergence of another. I like red wine, but began drinking white, with a sudden thirst, and now demand it at 6 p.m., exactly, as if my life depended upon it. That was a while ago.

What does a life depend upon? And from whom do I beg forgiveness so quietly I’m never heard? With its remarkable colors and aftertastes, the wine, dry as wit, urges me to forgive myself. I try.

Life’s aim, Freud thought, was death. I can’t know this, but maybe it’s death I want, since living comes with its own exigencies, like terror. In dreams, nothing dies, but birth can’t be trusted, either. I remember terrible dreams and not just my own. Memory is what everyone talks about these days. Will we remember, and what will we remember, who will be written out, ignored, or obliterated. Someone could say: They never existed. It’s a singular terror.

The names of the dead have to be repeated daily. To forget them has a meaning no one understands, but there comes a time when the fierce pain of their absence dulls and their voices become so faint they can’t be heard.

And then what do the living mean by being alive, how dare we? The year changes, the millennium, and from one day to the next, something must have been discarded, or neglected, something was abandoned, left to wither or ruin. You didn’t decide to forget. People make lists, take vitamins, and they exercise. I bend over, over and over.

I’m not good at being a pawn of history.

The news reports that brain cells don’t die. I never believed they did. The tenaciousness of memory, its viciousness really—witness the desire over history for revenge—has forever been a sign that the brain recovers. But it’s unclear what it recovers.

Try to hang on to what you can. It’s all really going. So am I. Someone else’s biography seems like my life. I read it and confuse it with my own. I watch a movie, convinced it happened to me. I suppose it did happen to me. I don’t know what I think anymore. I don’t know what I don’t think. I’m someone who tells things.

Once, I wanted to locate movie footage of tidal waves. They occurred in typical dreams. But an oceanographer told me that a tidal wave was a tsunami, it moved under the ocean and couldn’t be seen. This bothered me for a long time. I wondered what it was that destroyed whole villages, just washed them away. In dreams, I’m forced to rescue myself. This morning’s decision: let life rush over me. The recurring tidal wave is not about sexual thralldom, not the spectacular orgasm, not the threat of dissolution and loss of control through sex—that, too—but a wish to be overcome by life rather than to run it. To be overrun.

I don’t believe any response, like invention, is sad. The world is made up of imagining. I imagine this, too. Things circle, all is flutter. Things fall down and rise up. Hope and remorse, beauty and viciousness, and imagination, wherever it doggedly hides, unveil petulant realities. I live in my mind, and I don’t. There’s scant privacy for bitterness or farting or the inexpressible; historically, there was an illusion of privacy. Illusions are necessary. The wretched inherit what no one wants.

What separates me from the world? Secret thoughts?

What Americans fear is the inability to have a world different from their fathers’ and mothers’. That’s why we move so much, to escape history.

Margaret Fuller said: I accept the universe. I try to embrace it. But I leave it to others to imagine the world in ways I can’t.

I leave it to others.

Out of nothing comes language and out of language comes nothing and everything. I know there will be stories. Certainly, there will always be stories.