Natalie Lyalin Week (2): Water Experiment in Two Parts
Below is perhaps my favorite poem, though there are likely many favorites, in Natalie Lyalin’s Pink & Hot Pink Habitat. It speaks for itself. After it though, following the break, I’ll say a little more about what it does on me, as a human.
A scientific study reveals: water is alive.
Equal amounts of water is poured into three identical containers.
Zelig Berken died fighting in world war II.
Equal amounts of rice is poured into each container.
Zelig Berken was twenty years old.
The first container is told “I hate you.” The second container
is told “I don’t care about you.” and the third container is told
“I love you very much.”
While Zelig Berken was away at war his entire town was evacuated.
The rice in the first container turned black. The rice in the second container
bloomed. And the rice in the third container rotted.
Water is poured into two identical containers.
The first container goes home with Scientist A.
The second goes to church with Scientist B.
The next day, a droplet is extracted from each container.
The droplet from the first container shows nothing of significance.
The droplet from the second container shows formations of stars
and giant flowers.
Faith is difficult to write. Science is difficult to write. Both are equally on the line of being either fascinating or boring. You have to have each inside you to speak of each in a way, which is easily mistaken.
Characters with unique names are inventions: some would say like faith and science. Much of certain schools of writing asks that characters be defined as parts: look, motive, idea, size. These creations of character invariably fail. Creating a character, then, with a unique name, who operates in a text on terms left uncertain, allow that character to become larger than a body or a human, and left to the untraceable, what we are given. This, again, is like faith, and like science, and perhaps less difficult to write, but more prone to being poked at.
When you google the name ‘Zelig Berken’ in quotes, the only thing that comes up is Natalie Lyalin’s graduate thesis. This is known as a googlewhack. This is also known as creating, but more so, the making of an instance. A singularity. Though he may likely exist for the author in another state, in the building of our texts, Natalie Lyalin creates from void.
And yet it is not clear even after reading the sole instance in which Zelig Berken exists, what or who he is. We know he was 20 years old, and died. We know he left his town and the town was evacuated in his absence. His position in the text is almost happenstance, a causal alignment in the midst of something put forth as a “Water Experiment.”
In the environment of the poem, we learn that environment around water, which is named alive, affects the nature of the water. The nature of the water, then, in turn, affects its environment, a dual feedback system wherein the inanimate, previously benign object, in its conditioned state, creates “formations of stars / and giant flowers.” The affected system affects the system that gave it its affect.
Natalie Lyalin, in the process of pressing buttons on a machines, or perhaps using her arm to drag a stick over paper, has developed, in an economy of words that describe, and therein define, a human body of a void, and a magical (though I prefer: true) property to one of the most abundant presences in our midst.
Zelig Berkin exists. The small stirrups in our language affect our air, our earth, and beyond our air and earth, systems.
This poem is an object that wakes beyond the object of itself. It, in having been written, and printed from the mind, propagated, is an act of not only great faith, but of knowing. The paradox of both.
For me, this faith is not about religion, despite the instance of the church. There are many churches. There are people whose presence or nonpresence creates voids of homes.
What, if anything, are texts for but to make paradox. To create instances of air that did not previously exist. Even outside the realm of the entertainment, in camps where fabrication is intended to comment on its system, there is often a hard lack of the instance, of the glyph, of texts that are not text so much as they are space, and in that space, creation, and in that creation, not an inherent God, but the not necessarily plain-faced mode of exhibiting understanding, concentration, and, the oft-smited and overworked faculty of love.
Love in literature is often cheapened. When we can touch something that shows the interaction of the human with the human, we call it heart, we call it what we write for.
Here, though, in a calm and unassuming column of short undemanding sentences, Lyalin invokes the heart as both spectator and parent, foreigner and neighbor, hoped and clinical, endless and brief. She has the faith, the heart, to give the reader the rope, to invoke in sentences a space that does not demand a pulling, a want, an oh, but somewhere else. The unassuming, the notion of touching rather than prescribing, or deciding, is to me a greater science, a gift that does not demand that it be opened, and goes on regardless, beyond its box. However its presence hits you, whatever of your own faith you might apply, that is up to you: you at or against its face.
I thank her, it.