The imagination, as it turns out, cannot show us what we see.
Sliding down the pointy scrub, sun burning into our backs, we leaned into the shrubland here and there scraped by the sawtooth of an outcrop. Below us was the water. Translucent fronds extending midrib toward the surface turned from green to violet to deep blue. Shallow shimmers forked the water. Some tendered upward, swaying hither and thither, burdened by their own lightness. A patch of yellow drawing into the wave, shy at first, then gradually undressed the vein-work of some larval crust, exposing its own holdfast. Rock and purple weed, a substance resembling calcium, strokes of mustard and rust brown, the soft color of algae, blended coral . . . it all seemed to shade into our thinking as a way for the sea itself to experience this iridescence, its own reflective properties. The source of beauty in this moment was in fact a misunderstanding.
Frescoes dating from 1600-1500BC in Minoan Crete show the flowers being picked by young girls and monkeys. An inaccurate reconstruction of the fresco replaces the monkeys with a man.
Reading Woolf again after ten, eleven years—
I highlight manically
Is this a fact or sensation?
Am I reading for school again, for the fruit of some future
Argument, or is this an eradication
Of being? What dull
Sport, exams! Sensation mounted
In the mist, a crumb in marshland, some salted crab
Scuttling just beneath intelligence, creaking
As I put one foot forth the other
Fear of myself as much as of another
Orbit of sensation
I come to know
Only as judgments against myself, what greenhouse
Of education, what exactly
Ear twists down—drawn back—the eye—mouth—open to some receiving dark. No metabolism can meet the suddenness of its face, banal and absolute, no measure of black bear down such hardness as blue and deep brown. If death is the drama, it is one in which the landscape becomes drapery and draws the scene to a close. Yet the antlers are no more chandeliers than themselves just coming into velvet, although the dusty real estate of some medieval armoire or ottoman, decorated by leaves and patches of dull grass, still struggles to defend itself. Perhaps this is what inexperienced looking will furnish, as my eyes relax against its moving clouds (clods?) of bright and unreleasing dark.
What is it . . . that I want to capture, what exactly, to possess, in this moment that now can no longer end? Blur of your hand swatting the insect from heat just streaks of color . . . seconds later, recomposing yourself, now for the real photo, you said, not the one just taken . . . delete that one. But it’s too late I think to myself: the image has been planted in my mind! Perhaps it will erode over time and change. But the obsolescence to which ever-ephemeral technologies consign (or permit) us, their revisionary sentience, still cannot replace the stubbornness of sentiment, which holds on to the ribbed cotton of your shirt and the smell of the orange trees, just behind. Indeed, one can also say that the act of erasure itself provides even stronger imprinting.
Keeping up appearances and No news is good news
My tan from summer travel has faded and I do not update my profile. On Facebook, I am still tanned and floating in the sea near Cadequés, sun sparkling like a phantom from below. It is mere semblance, Schein, but as we all agree: it is not an illusion. #socialcontract
Is it true that we will never be free from increasingly invasive species of communication? #faceofdeath
I am incredibly sad to learn that Nicolas Ghesquière has stepped down as creative director (sadder perhaps: to read that the house will sue him for slander, over small words exchanged in an interview).
As far as I am concerned, Ghesquière’s Balenciaga designates the birthplace and reification of my consumer desire. Fall 2001, an ad ran in Vogue shot by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin which featured Christy Turlington angled lethargically against the sun, sky behind her, some pines, but these are not important. What I saw was the stubbornly corseted tubing run like a current through her body, embedded stitching, stiff and unassuming, architectural pleating. Later on, this hourglass will take on its own structural life, while varying odes keep the tailored genetics of Cristóbal . . . Empire lines, cocoon coats, molded peplums and dresses cut like Kimonos . . . in Ghesquière these appear: with a sense of archival volume. Voluminous blousons, one editor writes, billowing sleeves, severe waistlines, simple sheaths . . . in 2006 an intruding bloom was introduced, accompanied by hand-painted patterns of the rose. Her elegance was at once solemn and playful . . . the Ghesquière woman, it seemed, was in possession of an infallible trapeze—as if the orbit of her sensual being could thus be displayed, delivered within material strictures, and surround her always as she walks.
I drape myself over a sink or toilet and some time passes before I realize that it is mine. If anyone is there, he or she will tell me to tilt my head back. Just then it pours into my throat, warm and dense, its metallic taste thinning into spit—I spit, leaning into the tap, and watch it swirl down like a streak of paint. With vermillion you can get very close. Fifteen or forty-five (it varies greatly) minutes later it begins to coagulate. I stuff a wad of tissue into my nose and lie down.
The last time my nose bled repeatedly was in fifth grade. This was also the last time I kept a notebook to good form—that is, without torn or blank pages (the result of laziness or dissipation). Between then and now I have courted countless moleskins and college rules-bounds, all with varying degrees of unsuccess. But now, seeing as my nose is bleeding again, I must be turning over a new leaf.
For better or worse, I think about kale everyday.
It is unclear why we love, or why love will lend itself to work.
In creative work the conceit is: we are not working we are playing. Lately, I seem to have returned to a precinct of childhood defined by exhaustion. The illusion behind playing is that we are enjoying it, or that our enjoyment overrides the pain, so much so that the better choice is always to keep playing. And yet: what if I have come to the end of playing? I have outrun my resources and cannot move at all. I am dizzy and lie in the grass, head yawning into the dirt, unable to be persuaded to twirl again. Behind me the hills take on a violet hue.
Smell of sewage and wet rock. A strange root juts from the mud there, installed by degrees of luminescence and decay, unable to grow or leave. Day after day, month after month . . . its loneliness is palpable. Sometimes, in its mind, it takes on the form of a vole or snake gourd, rehearsing its mimetic trance, like us, taking pains to enhance our psychic power. A dress we step into, a sense of dread, the outer-dark of someone’s voice . . . we all make efforts at a gentler life. How to keep doing this?
Lynn Xu was born in Shanghai. She is the author of Debts & Lessons (Omnidawn, 2013) and June (a chapbook from Corollary Press, 2006). Currently a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature at UC Berkley, she co-edits Canarium Books and lives in Marfa, Texas with her husband Joshua Edwards.