Sunday, July 24, 2011

You Are

What's  going to be the death of me?
static electricity.
what's making me take it all too far?
you are.
you are.

what's keeping me up at night?
the streetlight.
what's finally gonna let me sleep alright?
you might.
you might.

      - "I Love You. Let's Light Ourselves on Fire"

 I've been having trouble sleeping; this is rare for me. Usually I get into bed and am asleep within what seems like seconds. I don't wake up in the middle of the night. I rarely have dreams I can remember. I feel steady and solid and sinking, and then it is morning. The small service my body usually seems willing to do me is to shut off obediently when I tell it to: alright, alright, we've clambered through enough today. But I've tossed and turned every night since arriving back to California from New York  in late June. And this summer, when I can't sleep, I can't stop thinking about the fact that we are  made of atoms  and so every second we're moving an infinitesimal amount, and of course, of course, of course  we're not as solid as we seem.

I  hesitate to write this, because it sounds exactly like a joke my father would make about poets and their insistent  overly-intellectualizaed navel-gazing. Q: Why couldn't the poet sleep at night? A: She was too busy worrying about her rhythms. 

And it is a little ridiculous: I'm lying there pushing my shoulder-blades into the mattress and thinking: I can feel them vibrating inside my skin; they are my skin; and there are so damn many of them; and I don't know anything about them. Is this what Whitman meant when he said: "I sing the Body electric."  It couldn't have been this: this sense that everywhere in you there are particles  calling out: go. go. and hurling themselves at the limits of you, hard. 

Emily Dickinson has a poem that reads:  

I am afraid to own a Body—
I am afraid to own a Soul—
Profound—precarious Property—
Possession, not optional—

Double Estate—entailed at pleasure
Upon an unsuspecting Heir—
Duke in a moment of Deathlessness
And God, for a Frontier.

And  maybe this is what is. I am afraid to own a body. I am afraid to own a soul. Because they are profound and precarious: as fragile and as much as a galaxy of atoms, as what I can almost hear vibrating, but then can't. And always there is  that phrase "in a moment of Deathlessness". Just a moment.  Amy Winehouse is dead at twenty-seven; my father's eyes are cloudy; there is still a small knot on the back of my head where I slammed it on the asphalt and the blood pooled; In a few weeks I will be twenty, and there's another woman with my face who won't be. 

And if even the body is a frontier: a thumb, a tongue, a vein near the skin of a wrist, then what of the whole world? go. go. so much. so much, my body says. or is it the streetlight outside? or the radio of the girl in the room next door? you are. you are. you are. you are. you are.

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