(A scene from Les Maîtres Fous (The Mad Masters), a film by Jean Rouch)
My left eye is fucked. It isn’t the first time. I’ve mentioned its swollen episodes everywhere: in poems, on the phone.
Because I think it’s hysterical. Because I really can’t get over it.
LOLOLOLOL. A POET. WITH A SENSITIVE. EYEBALL. FUCK ALL THAT.
Lately, there are tiny, irritated dots that have been piling up in the corner. My roommate gives me clay and DMSO, which is HORSE LINIMENT. She dabs it on for me. The eye’s anger ebbs and flows.
I like that my own body keeps haunting me from this particular room, always from this left eye, trying to get me to deal with or acknowledge some part / stress deposit of myself that I’ve neglected / buried. Your own body interrupts you. It unexpectedly cuts you off. I feel more than slightly disembodied when I look at it in the mirror, when I touch it. Ghosts are red.
“I think you would like this!!!”
I wrote this on a xeroxed copy of Amy Hempel’s, “The Cemetery Where Al Jolson is Buried,” which I placed on the desk of my cubicle neighbor in the TA office. The story was (famously) written in response to a prompt from Gordon Lish. The prompt was: Write your worst secret, the thing you would never live down, the thing that dismantles your sense of self. The thing that haunts you, in other words. Is that right?
When it’s apparent my cube neighbor has finished reading the story, I ask him how it was, and he says, “That was intense. I need to go for a walk.” He gets up quickly. His jacket is grey and slaps his back. A Paris Review Interviewer says to Hempel, about being in Lish’s workshop for years, “You must have been repeatedly humbled.”
I feel strongly reminded, watching him leave, that people do not always need what you want to give them, that we can get violent in our pursuit of knowledge of another, in the pursuit of sharing. Psyche can’t stand the fact that she’s denied Eros face.
“This is a hard, crucial dilemma for all of us,” Fulvia Serra writes in her essay, “And Love Flew Out The Window,” “One that we solve by ignoring it, by pretending that others are and should be us, or very much like us–their thoughts and feelings. Given they are sane, of course, given they are not monsters.”
Someone once told me, inside a red Ford Taurus, that the hardest part of being partnered seriously with anyone is the potential for transformation, when one person or the other changes, becomes unpredictable and differently generative. (Flushed).
I want to be intimate with you and still allow your mystery to live with us. I do not want to hurt it.
“when I write I think might be / at the base of the neck / a kind of hollow / Sleepy Hollow / fucking haunted & I drop / into its midnight where words of love / are ferrying ghosts into a paradise / I’ve mixed into my brain.” -”Quiet Thoughts”, Dana Ward, Crisis of the Infinite Worlds
I love that these lines: “WORDS OF LOVE / ARE FERRYING GHOSTS INTO A PARADISE,” pose love, the “ultimate pursuit” of LIFE / NEW LIFE, the blood rusher, as a buyer of cotton candy for the last radiations of loss / lack, the remnants that remember but can’t participate. Both get to go to the party / the mixer wearing their unintelligible faces, their lion masks dripping with pipe cleaners. They speak to each other. They cause movement between each other.
These lines also reminded me of K.R. Huppert’s essay, [Haunting & Utopian State(s) of Being], in the new issue of DELUGE. Huppert promotes haunting as a necessary and productive means of both understanding and of living with what is not understandable. Haunting is animated and it possesses the potential to animate us further, differently.
“We cannot leave one another behind,” says Huppert.
Someday the thing inside this package will get back to me. I can feel it searching for me, even though we keep missing each other.
In Les Maitres Fous, haunting, more specifically, spiritual possession, violent disembodiment, is an act of connection not to a restless past, but to a potential future of resistance. Jean Rouch’s short film documents Hauka practices in colonized Nigeria. British military parades and ceremonies, severely curated happenings meant to demonstrate and exude power over public space as means to suggest ownership of ALL SPACE, get re-played out through dance (a vocabulary of energy) and mocking / bric-a-brac costume. The statue of the governor, the palace of the governor are recreated, saturated in gin. Those who participate in the ceremonies become bodily /physically consumed by the spirits of their occupiers, collapsing and humiliating the sanitized separations between occupier and occupied. Blood gets on the palace and the altar.
The narrator calls those who practice Hauka, “gods of technique.” A mouth engulfed by a puddle of foam lights up the background.
Haunting seems like a way to engage with open formations / rhythms of pattern and emerging pattern. It’s a kind of loose and unpredictable source of repetition. A simple way to acknowledge the shuffle button on my Spotify playlist is powerful. A simple way to laugh at obsession and focus, a desire to keep looking until something new appears that I suspect is there just below the surface. Don’t you think we love to help each other be haunted? I knew my parents read my poetry when they sent me a giant plastic cow figurine. “THINKING OF YOU.” I spun the I-Ching wheel that was at a party I was at and got Li / The Clinging, Fire.
“Care of the cow brings good fortune.”
I decide that the color chartreuse is haunting me and then there’s a dead bird with a belly that color. There’s an undergrad drinking a Diet Mountain Dew.