Excavations

I was roaming around the house aimlessly, wondering what I should be doing, and suddenly I saw it as if I were a visitor. When you pass through the same rooms everyday, their contents are hardly visible, a white-noise hum. The indistinct background of a dream. Turn on a light switch, and things pop into view. That (object)! How long has it been lying there?

My paper stash! I must throw it all away. Seize the moment! I reach to clear the shelf, and almost before I know what my hands are doing, I am folding papers into signatures, punching holes, hunting for the waxed linen thread. I sew graph paper, wrapping paper, opened-out envelopes together, and make a book.



R's photographs are lying all over the house. Boxes of enlargements, envelopes of negatives. In a plastic shopping bag I find faded 2x3" prints, outtakes. Their blandness is mysterious: I feel obliged to look long enough to find meaning in them. I glue a few into my book.



I can’t sleep. At 3:00 a.m. I come downstairs to get some writing paper. As I pass through the atrium I hear a splash. In the fish pond, concentric rings of water are lit by the moon. A dull brown fish has made itself known. Usually they are silent, gliding along their underwater paths. They eat puffed rice and mosquito larvae, and survive. I feel a pain in my chest, as though they were very dear to me.



I draw Julius Caesar, his stone face split down the middle as if struck by lightning, and then other statues. Repetition is order is harmony. Their blank gaze is soothing: they are not interested in my nooks and crannies.



Should these water buffalo vertebrae, which I picked up off the ground from some land we had once, still be on that table, fifteen years after I casually dropped them there?

On the way to the car, bones:
White shards half-buried. Old news,
not enough to make a whole of anything.

And those chairs in the hallway! Only crazy people would not have discarded them long ago – their foam collapsed, home to generations of lizards, whose miniature broken ping pong ball eggs we sweep up from time to time. Can I point my finger and dissolve them into atoms?



The big copper water vessel, those pinecones from the hills. That brass thing from Thailand that someone gave me, I never even liked it much, but here it is. Too many books! Too many dishes! I'm sinking, I'm about to disappear.



The utility room! so full of old newspapers, bottles. I must call the scrap man with his cycle-cart. But first I pull out some torn paper, and glue it in.



Okay, I'm feeling calmer now. I’m listening to a cheerful Hindi song, with a chorus which means approximately, "You bastard, you're finished! You've had it!" It's so incongruous with the bouncy music that it makes me smile. I'm drawing and singing along under my breath -- 'tu saala kaam se gaya!' The house is still a mess. Never mind.

15 comments:

Beth said...

This is too wonderful for words. If only all bouts of insomnia were so productive -- and amusing! I love your book, and understand about paper stashes.

Roger Ebert said...

Now I feel I know you, the inside you, and how you engage with memory.

Don said...

You know what this confirms to me? We all got about a dozen different personalities in us. Because the one that noticed that stuff is not the same one that ignored it. Good stuff.

khalid mohamed said...

Striking...super imagery.

Scotty Hockey said...

Damn. Remarkable.

Soli said...

A picture is worth a thousand words.

DintVerge said...

These are beautiful.

Wild Rose said...

The imagery is beautiful and suddenly i feel like we have been playing around in the fields together. The different sides to you are compelling and so familiar. Keep expressing loved it~

Anonymous said...

These are fantastic! But the Sheen-Estevez brothers still think you're a loser.

bint battuta said...

So glad you're blogging again.

Malle Jensen said...

Thank you for sharing your world with us - magic - it stays with you.

Miriam Sagan said...

Hi Nancy--Miriam B pointed the way to your blog. I'm at Miriam's Well (http://miriamswell.wordpress) and always looking for contributors.
xxx,
Miriam S

Pica said...

Love this process. Paper -- it is so light yet so weighty with promise....

Eyoki said...

This is wonderful. But "too many books"!?

BGK said...

I love this and thank you and thank you for the inspiration.