The Morning After I Died
“It’s the morning after I died / it’s the morning after I died” is the refrain from the opening track of a Bones cassette tape my friend Matthew P sent me. It fits the realization I had today—that I must write a simple book that strives for nothing. Tonight the 2am radio plays low as I sit in the backseat of a van I have no right to be riding in. I don’t want to convey anything except a sense of peace with what has happened. I don’t want to amplify it. I would like to state it without judgment, without qualifying it to death despite the fact that it knocked the wind out of me. I would like to let it be small, to protect the quietude from the crowding out effect of inflated emotion. Writer-consciousness is hell but I don’t have to tell you that. It’s like the internet, the way it mediates everything.
“It’s the morning after I died” makes me want to be humble. 3 letters arrived at once and I actually caught myself saying aloud, today is a blessed day. Today I am a charged particle. 6 pages of sweetness from Matthew, a letter from prison from my older brother, heartbreaking musings from an old friend. Before that, a package from Bett Williams full of nori seaweed, a bottle of white sand, a note and an abandoned set of watercolors. I ate some of the sand in my bed while thinking of the ‘Bett’s Gourmet Dirts,’ an entrepreneurial idea Bett told me about while we were in a cave in Sante Fe, New Mexico. C ate some sand too and said, I think she put spices in it! I said, I don’t think so. I mean, I don’t know. It’s possible but I think that’s the natural flavor… Then there was the letter from Edgar that spoke of the need to not hold the other to say only what’s right, a sentiment that I hope will stick with me forever. It reminded of the time Cindy told me that her life had improved immensely ever since she decided to lose petty arguments, or when, a little over a month ago, I asked my grandma on her 90th birthday if she had any wisdom she wanted to impart to the family. She said, when you get in an argument, it’s sometimes best to just walk away. You want to win, they want to win. It could go on forever. Sometimes it’s wisest to lose and be wrong, to acknowledge that the situation may call for us to give up the fight, if only to conserve our energy for a more important fight. And also to know that in order to go on you will have to learn to forgive yourself, to practice self-mercy without seeking purification or redemption. Tomorrow this will sound stupid. Tomorrow this will sound like a bunch of bullshit nonsense uplift. Some days it seems possible that I could write any book, and my brain bubbles over with so many ideas that it’s crushing that I will not live forever to see them through. Tomorrow I will make a giant poem of Marx’s Capital. Tomorrow I will re-write the Tibetan Book of the Dead into an erotic religious death text about resisting the advances of angry demons who come to fuck you with spears of light and golden rods while you are in the liminal space between death and rebirth. If one day I find myself before the blank page, parched, empty, straining to squeeze stilted sentences out of my tight ass–I have not forgiven myself. And my brain will take the form a shriveled raisin.
But today I also wondered why the literary mind tries to sanitize the past, or why it has to play alchemist and turn everything into nuggets of art, why it must transubstantiate raw sensation and suffering and chaotic experiences into an objectified form. Last week or maybe the week before I spent time with many writers including Chris Kraus, Ariana Reines, and Al Burian. I don’t know how many other writers out there feel like the enemy of literature. I feel a little like Artaud felt about theater, or at least how Derrida said Artaud felt about theater. I am an enemy of the craft I will or already have devoted my life to. My position is paradoxical and I must live with this irreconcilable tension. I never thought Artaud was very good at inducing what he theorized but I guess I only know him as he exists on the page.
I asked Al if he felt an internal conflict about the impulse turn his life into stories. Is this a womanly thing, to feel bad about being a writer? I kind of already knew what he was going to say but I asked anyway. He was okay with it. Without narratives the uncertainty would be crushing. Writing—the ability to make sense of what appears to you unformed—is a gift. It is the ability to create meaning from within the void. Al’s capacity for this was the very reason, as a teen, I gravitated toward his work to cope with the existential crisis of adolescence. It wasn’t that I disagreed with him. I was just wondering if perhaps there is a way to feel okay in the void.
When Al read he talked about being a kid and going to the mall to look at the cover of an Iron Maiden record, standing before the image, terrified, wondering what sounds were etched into the lump of plastic, and asking himself, would I even be able to handle it? I laughed aloud while imagining the scene. Tender feelings rushed through me.
We make forms. It’s what we do. I get it and I am thankful that these links exist. The ability to translate what is singular and private into terms that can be shared with others alleviates some of the loneliness that comes with having to live a life that cannot be transposed. But still it is difficult for me to shake the feeling that it is monstrous to transcribe the affections of the body or to monumentalize anything beautiful or painful or humiliating—anything that burns. Some sensations create openings inside me that I cannot narrate. I felt I had to resist the urge to narrativize the gaps that were bored into my flesh every time I made contact with something that was larger than language.
It’s the morning after I died.
It’s the morning after I died.
The morning after I died is a glorious one but it’s better I not say it because you have to learn it yourself. Because a heuristic sentence is always better. You will hear it in the song, the way the melody rises to a crescendo without being bombastic or imposing. It’s just everything coming together and you let yourself get folded into it.