A photo of you on Venice Beach with the wind pressing the scarf to your mouth. You are here as I respond to a series of questions you assemble for a writing workshop, Describe a Morning You Woke Without Fear in the Colorado Rockies, a six-hundred-acre mountain valley property. These questions as a somatic experiment are intended to provide a generative, nurturing and wild space to generate new work. My responses follow here.
1. Who are you and whom do you love?
I have a body made by movement and sensation. Can you make an image not through language but touch? Chosen family begun with my pink bathers, your green. One could see this relation on a colour wheel. You dip your blonde tips in the shallow water and swoosh it all over my front. I wasn’t wet yet.
2. Where did you come from / how did you arrive?
I was driving through the burnt orange as if it were afternoon, the hue of dam water with sunlight gushing in wondering if pain influences the way we occupy space and time. “A political model of pain”, says Sara Ahmed, “cannot gather together all the different pain experiences” (2014, 31). Regarding this pain, the father takes you to a cafe where you cannot eat anything, but he orders a big bowl of meatballs and a slice of toast and literally inhales it as you spot the trains roll in behind his grey head. Orange flashing text as the train closes its doors to leave. He says–– swallow––chew. I go to say something, but like a snack, am totally withheld.
3. How will you begin?
I begin by chewing, knowing digestion and hydration are processes which both begin in the mouth. The words dry before they pass from tongue to teeth. Saying differently: I had never prepared for the death of sunflowers, but, when the day rose, I knew it was right to bury my brother and bring him to rest by their side. Be held in this sentence. Cut his white t-shirts into long strips and braid each length of material. How? With scissors. I begin this exercise such as I begun each reading session of Ban: with a deep breath.
4. How will you live now?
I learn to do so by paying neurological attention to fragments of sound. This is receiving touch. Such as, waiting for family to turn around and see you, suddenly, as if with a new haircut. This is reverberation. Light, on the one hand changes the way we might experience colours. On the other, the sweetness of the lolly was so severe, I swallowed it just to forget. Where I live differently begin on a spot of earth. Here we brought together death. Water also gathers here, and turns again and again over smooth rocks until, tugged by gravity, smashes down towards three fern fronds holding a triangle of golden light. We are chilly packets of sherbet shucked open on the pier.
5. What is the shape of your body?
Soft white cloth unrolling as if weighted by marbles in the stitched edges, upon the tall earth smouldering.
6. Who was responsible for the suffering of your mother?
Shame is personified as a woman walking into a hospital ward after the white shock of a car crash. White walls, loose, rolled skin on upper arms. I am not interested in disclosure. She transferred that living body from one border to the next, leaving a war behind and joining another in its aftermath. I respond to this question as a poetry journal announces a theme in Blair Peach’s name: PEACH. What is the difference in replicating violence and representing violence differently? The taste is that of chalk, not the juice of a fruit.
7. What do you remember about the earth?
I live by remembering I owe something to this place even though I am not from it. I cross water that is heating up, coursing waves with bottle caps in the white wash, to reach a piece of land I was told I belong to. Our family fold up the years like a sheet and before long, barely any of us remember why they decided to leave. Kapil reminds me the earth is an active repository of memory, it stores the energy of events as carbon charcoal.
8. What are the consequences of silence?
Today we speak as if there were none at all. If we live, in retrospect, noticing the particular points of pressure a nervous system lived under, would that drastically effect our use of silence? I lay my cheek on the cold marble of the kitchen island. Its temperature orients mine. Noticing the change in surface between my flesh and other material, a line from Ban: “every cell gives off a tiny bit of light” (79). What molecules of air and speech are caught in our cells?
9. Describe a morning you woke without fear.
Was there a sound, a gesture, a smell that led you out of the human, into the garden? She used her hands with abandon as if wearing gloves and they were strong like her father’s. I do not mean this to say, we should aspire to be our fathers, however I did notice her bravery. Without fear? It is realistic to say any time I opened her book it was to see a line that shook with content, that petrified the material it held.
10. Tell me what you know about dismemberment.
Stories from loved ones about when their body was not a safe place to be. Did that man, who meant you harm, yes, but did not take the end of your finger, did he take something much more and much less? Yes and no. He took–––he stole–––is there is another way to figure the body than through violence it wears? It is easier to say loved ones, than to open mouth on flesh.
11. How will you / have you prepare(d) for your death?
Preparation? Sip watered-down coffee. Write a long, emotionally divulging letter to those whom you loved between the years of 1994 and 2021. That is a short time in the blip of the universe, said O, crushing garlic between the sentence and her knife. Finish your coffee.
12. And what would you say if you could?
When breath comes to live once more around the surface of my wet flesh instead of passing, like speech, between the diaphragm and lips, I will know again any measure of preparation is only material, and lightning will pull the debris I leave behind into a huge storm of lightning and smoke. Have I finally noticed what is human and totally mineral? Speculation or paranoia. I remember waking to dry words in my mouth––a towel––during what I thought was a dream. Writing the abrasive words turned the notebook a filthy texture. What would I say, if I could? There was a can, empty of its Coca-Cola, rattling away with the answer: on the street, in the night. What lodges in the body but is picked up by a gust? I will start again: I would ask a question, begin another, swiftly stop, and gradually release my breath.