He sings grudgingly in Flemish, a half-century removed. That recently children were sent to boarding school in another language and the dialects on this side of the country were for literal peasants. My ear can't tell, in sung language, whether sounds are inflected or standard. Third year of immersion (mist, smoke, animal smells, manure, river and sewer) and I begin substituting of for or in English sentences. What does my flat land mean? Where flat here also means wide although not in the American, which is to say entire continent sense: the horizon is much more neatly bounded, and I know the sea is there, even inland. The language my language desires is a 40-minute train ride in any direction.
A labor-intensive process if done from start to finish. At one point I made garments better than I wrote. Now the reverse is true. I want to return to the cloth because there so clearly is no shortcut there. Indigo the sign of thoroughness and attention. Go even further back: to if you can make it you can have it. Green dye oxidizing to blue the moment the cloth leaves the pot. I saved seeds but never planted them, so this is to some extent moot, or idealized. But the cloth my sister sent me is there on the windowsill. In the ideal garden there is everything to make food and make clothing, but I didn't plan for the garden's shape to include an airmail packet and two yards of cloth woven far away. That's the shape of it. Indigo also the sign of another possible Real. Down six fields or so a farmer plants flax, rotating the field, as it's been for centuries. A scrap of cloth, handwoven sometime in the late 19th century and dyed that blue flutters in the corner of my eye.
The monk slapped my desk: I was 17 and drawing in ethics class. Now I see the rule that made him do it, but the rule's a failure of imagination. I know for millennia we have made pictures when the words we had were not enough to represent the things we wanted to remember, or what we wanted to be remembered by.
I detest it in systems but love it in myself, which explains how my writing appears to move openly on the page. Like most mobile things, though, its movement depends on an inflexible, invisible skeleton.
False enthusiasm as impossible as eating a food that disgusts me. The writing gags when I try to make it what I do not believe in my body. The quality of the transparent is similar to the quality of a straight line: sometimes illusory, but an intention is there. Look me in the eyes.
God is only one letter removed from gold. Here is part of my education on the proximity between pain and ecstasy. A towel floats in a nearly empty room (the magic trick of foreshortening has disappeared the rack). Symbol for where I am, this painting existed before my knowledge of it did, and will exist after I die or forget it. It knows things: here is the limit of your human will. A fragment of the thing called History or the thing called Destruction, take your pick. Secretly I believe I can manage them. _This too, says the triptych, shall pass. In any case almost everything goes on where I cannot see it.
A felt quality I can believe but not see, which I write around as a dog runs the perimeter of a flock of sheep until they form a relative mass. There it is. Now you see it. Not that I'm talking about magic; I'm talking about unreliability and how I've come to depend on that for sense. In the company of women writers the reminder of another language. My mother's gut carried signals to her stroked brain way before science proved that this was so.
Monstrous visitation transformed by adoration. Where have I heard that before. How can something so cute be so serious? I live the question and get pats on the head from well-meaning peers. In the poem the world I want is as real as Totoro or an angel with a gilded lily: the word magic no longer applies. Real, if strange.
Like its twin word garment, garden is a measure of time I can't control. It equally means process. The pollinators circulate among flowers I trusted to arrive. Out there the body can take on a tiring labor: jet-lagged in this landscape whose reality I'd forgotten, I pulled weeds for three hours. I felt sure I could not write or speak or belong where I was, so I put my back into it. Oldest trick in the book, when the garden becomes paradise.
A possibility for work that seems small because it hides it process, as a garment hides the conditions of its production and the garden in autumn ignores the bare fields of March. The small contains the whole time of its making. Kentridge reveals that. Two minutes of film take years to make. The work shows its own effacement, as a hand draws, erases, redraws. I am learning not to be precious but also about taking time. Kentridge moves from video to printmaking and the objects and bodies follow. Ah, okay, that is how it happens. Migrate conditions and beings across substrates. An indigo cloth forms a ground for the hand. I cut a garment to show myself how to make a word. The wind comes through all times across the low land from the sea.
Éireann Lorsung is the author of Music For Landing Planes By (Milkweed 2007), Her Book (Milkweed 2013), and Sweetbriar (dancing girl press, 2013). Now she is at work on a novel about archives and earthquakes, pieces of which can be found in Two Serious Ladies, DIAGRAM, Mandala, and Bluestem. She lives in Belgium, where she is residency director at Dickinson House (dickinsonhouse.be), edits 111O, and runs MIEL, a micropress (miel-books.com).