Loss loopholes & ligaments

Again I fail.  To write on one topic: impossible?  Like Herodotus writing a haiku.  In Swahili.  Anyway, the rain just started again.  My hopscotch game is erased.  And so here I must play a serious, indoor game.


heart chakra appetizers on the homefront

Metaphysics Strike Again!  Loss Preamble

What is loss?

When our objects betray us.

What is deliverance from loss?

When our objects betray us.

Really, even Loss can’t seem to make up its own mind about this.  It is so active a noun that it is practically a verb.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, after her home in the fertile valley of Virginia was burned to the ground, took stock with a cigarette in a coffee shop.  A dose of dramatic irony, that a tiny kindling of nicotine and paper kept her company.  She had meant to hospice AIDS babies there.  To allow good deaths for those who would hardly live.

The master organist in Notre Dame improvises the Apocalypse.  He’s invisible behind his instruments.  My nose is cold, as a dog’s who has been sniffing snow—not, I think, how it would feel ipso facto.  Is it true that when we have nothing left, we face the atonal dissonance of fire– its enormous, organic appetite?  The Merkabah mystics rode a chariot direct into that orange melee.   They didn’t wait for loss to happen.  They beat it to the punch.

Now, now loss is in motion.

You want to argue that EKR and the Merkabah mystics are not with me in Paris: how do you know?  They are both sitting on my shelf.


A jumps up and down when she understands the grammatical distinction between subjects and objects.  I think I have just taught her something dangerous.  Let me take that back!– but there it is: the knower broken from the known like scotch tape from a dispenser.  She is thrilled to understand something about language.  I feel like the dichotomy monster.  I have just chucked the first law of yoga in the garbage disposal.  I might as well teach her adverbs so that she can qualify my mistake.

And then F gets jazzed up on the topic of emotional changeability: Romeo’s Rosaline is demoted to the Dumpster with the other innocuous idols.  She insists: there are two kinds of love: the kind that helps you, the kind that hurts you.  She speaks as a subject and as a potential object, a noun afraid of its own declension.

Romeo bemoans the stars: a whiner even by Shakespearean standards.  The stars deliver: invariable brightness, so tough on the eyes that space intervenes as an optic preservative.  A Juliet or two cropped up in the midst, as distraction from alluring finality. But he senses it, because he’s not really the dope he acts to be.  All the metaphors in the world won’t keep him from getting seared by the sun– so benignly handled in words, so impossible to sequester in the real.

Loss: the irreversibility of a/this play.  An EXIT sign that blinks blood- red: like god with conjunctivitis, a seeing-itch.  Then there is Interminable Loss–which is really the problem with loss in the first place.


Van Gogh, who came into art after his sentimentality towards the people (that collective lump of regular folk) disqualified him from his office as preacher, felt fiercely the loss endemic to being in the world.  So what he once addressed in language, the wealth and poverty of being, now wore the expressive costume of paint: a thick blue wherein gold filaments.  As if sky were the divine come-back to the world’s misery.

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross: we never lose something without gaining something.  And since, ultimately, she was speaking of death, this is hardly reverse psychology or wishful thinking.  It is more like reverse live-ology.

And Good Ol’ Friar Lawrence, alchemist, in his via media sagacity: “The earth that’s nature’s mother is her tomb;/ What is her burying grave, that is her womb.”(2.3.10).

The end-rhyme, the mnemonic trigger.

Really, birth?

At Real Birth, E holds up the stuffed “animal” of the female pelvis.   She aims the crown of her head through its outlet, nudging against the fuzzy cervix– you can throw it in the wash-machine!– the oxytocin-monster.  Here we go. Her affirmation: you (mom) can’t fail at labor.  O the unfathomable contractile uterus!  Yay, vaginas!

No, I’m not pregnant—hi mom!– but I did once take these classes.  It was not my uterus that was at stake, but means of preparation for the delivery of my awesome goddaughter.  This is what happens while writing– memory’s forceps are always pulling something out of the cranial closet. Oh-Mah-Ni-Weirdos-Oh-M.

And yes: eventually the baby gets out of the constricting canal.  Mothers cannot fail—F-word of F words!– to deliver the creature by some means, even if under the knife and with radical assistance.  But if it’s true that labor can’t fail, it is equally true that sometimes life itself can.  That is: fail us.  That is: screw its maha-cervix shut, obviate oxytocin, and turn its face to the corner.  And we blub: But but but I thought pain was for other people…


With loads of (such) others, J and I are waiting on line on the day of the dead to visit the empty rooms of the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam.  The line forms next to a helpful sign which alerts visitors to pickpockets in the area.  Hereupon, a cartoon illustration reminiscent of the infamous Miss Piggy: O Kermie, I looooooooooove you! When, in her tried and true, Muay thai-very-sly pick-pocketing move, she would flatten him (green as can be) puppet-lusty.  Pick the deflated currency of passive resistance from his non-pocket.  The profession of Love is, and always has been, a great decoy.

A’s House: paean to emptiness, maintained by her dad, Otto (now dead), who returned from the camps to find that his family had been decimated.  Anne’s legendary diary had been rescued by the “helpers”—in it, a daughter he had not known.  He comes to the conclusion: No parent really knows his child.  He remarries and moves away from the particular open sky and canals that reach into the continent like aberrant hands.  He leaves a museum where once was a pubescent hiding even within language in the larger, communal hiding spot.  How to define the inner?


between a rock and a hard place

Ready or not.

And who is ready for something like that?

The empty room, purporting to be a place to live– like earth is—testifies.  To what?  To what!  To this:

. . .

The wallpaper is yellowed as if tissue stalled in the final phase of reparation, a bruise in the last, incomplete stage of healing.  In CP Gilman’s story of similar ilk, the hysterical (yay, uterus!) protagonist, interred in her room by a concerned husband, eventually fuses with the wallpaper.  She writes herself into a second trap: metonymic madness.  This makes foreground and background indistinguishable (for her), makes self and container contiguous, and thus proves mentally intolerable, like most phenomenology of imprisonment.  The short story ends.  So does Anne’s diary.

But on the back jacket, Anne’s smiling.  She wanted to be that thing most writers now won’t confess to: a famous author.  One of the helpers, Miep, relays in her old age how one day she accidentally walked in on Anne at work in her diary, and became, for this innocent transgression of creative space, the object of a wrath so fierce Kali (or the Rev. Al Sharpton of yesterday?) could take a day off.  And I’m writing about you, she hissed.  You’re going down in the great book.

I feel my Jewishness like an eyelash against the cornea, which even tears can’t set free.

Bob Thurman, Buddhist scholar, explains a bit about compassion.  With his one fake eye fixated on the dharma and his other trolling the audience, he admits that most people gripe; why would I want to feel the pain of the other?  My life is intolerable as it is.  My bones hurt.  The IRS has me on speed-dial.  His answer?  Because it is the only thing to do.  It’s more fun.  And if the Dalai Lama can be jolly when his people are being genocided—well, why add more misery to a miserable world?

The answer, then, is perhaps not to grin like a fool in the Anne Frank memorial or have a touchy-feely moment with the person behind you in line, but to continue to believe in happiness.

It is like a math problem wherein the variables are unfixed and don’t give a shit.  Every time you solve for X, X gets a sex change.  Every time you solve for Y, Y goes to lunch with the nihilists.  Every time you knock at the window of the restaurant, the nihilists are on strike against all Variables, ever.  So you retreat with your No. 2 pencils, seek out Juliet’s Nurse and her wormwood cure to help you root out and solve the parasite Loss.  Your pencils are sharp, as pencils should be.  As exacting as compassion itself.

I come to the conclusion that kindness becomes a reflex, like throwing up (thanks, OWL, for the question).

Or sometimes we smash our way out

On the Thalys train en route back from Amsterdam.  Across the aisle, our congenial conductor is making four French- Africans, busy playing a heated game of Spades, “swear” and “promise” that they will buy the full-fare tickets they ought to have when they arrive at Gare du Nord in Paris.

We promise.  (said the Knave to the Ace).   Their fingers are so crossed they’ve herniated several cervical discs.

Are you kidding me?

The “exit” row (yes) comes with a window-smashing hammer, secured behind glass, to be used in case of emergency.  I’m just a lowly commuter, but my desire to actually have the opportunity to smash the window to bits with this specially-designated hammer—instructions are posted– becomes so great that I worry that I am wishing an accident upon us.  To be the hero who wields the instrument of salvation; I look at the hammer intently.  The power of thought– or so I hear– is tremendous.  I can’t say I’m directing it towards purely boddhisattvic ends.  If you’ve vowed, as a bodhisattva does, to return until all sentient beings are free of suffering, then you’ve got yourself a long “to do” list; so why not expedite things by letting a few instances of this sentience crawl out the window?

There are instructions here for systematic destruction.  I cannot decide whether it is solace or the opposite of solace.

Van Ghost

Van Gogh, in the mid-point of his decade-long occupation as an artist, decided that it was time to move from the potato-browns of the poor to the natural abundance of color, which he saw in the work of his French counterparts.  And where better to find that than in the study of flowers?  So he turned his face to flowers and the instructions of the countryside sunlight and his palette changed.  You could say blossomed, but that would be clichéd.

When he shot himself in the chest, it was not, apparently, because of a failure of art but a failure of feeling.  Too intense, for him, to live in this colorful world.

At first it was just a bit of the ear.  Like gossip of the troubles to come.


funerary florasana

Van Gogh, at the gates of heaven

VG: Concierge, My ear hurts.

Gate-keeper: That’s not possible.  You’re dead!

VG:  What do you know?  When you have a light-body you never have to take an Asprin!

G-K:  OK, don’t take my word for it.  There is bound to be a pharmacist in there you can talk to.

VG:  I’m an artist.  We seal our pain into canvas and call it landscape.

G-K: That’s nice.  Buddy, in or out, there’s a line!

VG:  I shot myself in the chest.

G-K: What, are you a proactive hypochondriac?

VG:  Sometimes feeling is terrible.

G-K: You’re in heaven, but whiners have to sit in the back.

VG:  Do you have oil paints here?

G-K:  You can check the SuperiorMart.

VG:  Books?

G-K:  A Book.

VG:  Hell’s got better selection?

G-K: I wouldn’t know.

VG:  I loved the world so much through books.

G-K:  Buddy…

VG:  Did you ever see a field that was more convincingly sorrow than sorrow?

G-K:  Are you speaking English?

VG:  I thought it was Latin or nothing up here.

G-K:  Check.

blue drsti or VG in michigan

Take off your coat and stay a while

The embryologist and gross anatomist Jaap van der Wal, MD, PhD, abides by the poetic law that life is a coat.  He practices what I’ll call po-science, a laudable hanumanasana that leaves one foot in the bard-realm and the other in Bunsen burner.  All stages of life, in fact, are “coats” to be shed, one by one.  Until, following his conceit to its outermost neighborhoods, life is a bit like being excessively overdressed on the first day of spring weather.  Your fourteen mistaken layers of gear must be removed; you thrill and shed your way towards basic nakedness.  And then you find you’ve been born, and someone’s doing a hack-job on your umbilical cord, and your nose and navel switch occupations.   And then you find, dying, that all your sense organs are out of work, the blood economy has suffered deflation, and the layers of skin, which indicated you from not-you, become just so many coats.

And this is conjecture, not having died.

And to talk about it, I have only the language of others, which becomes the language of myself.

And from her attic, she could see the coarse blue-whites of sky.

It didn’t matter about the sunshine: Van Gogh still shot himself in the chest.  So desperate to taste the subtle colors! I imagine the red he released was not one he could have mixed.

Tea Pins Your Lids

A phD candidate at Colombia begins his lecture on tea with an old poem.

The fifth cup cleanses the bones…The seventh I do not dare attempt.

Tea flosses the cavity– the loss cavity.  No dentist can set you right on that one.

Boddhidarma, tea aficionado, pinned his eyelids open to continue meditating, so determined to find out the truth for himself.  I want to know what kind of pins he used and where he got them.  Perhaps this is the literalist’s lasagna: to be offered lore but notice only the font.

Boddhidarma had already taught the martial forms to the monks at Shao Lin, who were so preoccupied with meditating that their health and strength had evaporated.

I wonder how many layers of tissue the pin penetrated before there was no danger of sleep. I wonder how wrong I have this story, and if it matters.

I wonder if the tea was sharp and bitter, like the first stages of profound loss.

A moment with M

It is not color that is the most emotional for me, Matisse confessed grumpily, but the line.  The (most) basic thing.  The suggestion. Not what is full.  Not the simple, primary overwhelm of yellow or red or blue.  That for which he is known (think of his dancer) is that which his limbic system abjures.  Come hither, lil pencil.  No time to lose in this world of forms.

But a Line Can’t Hold Us

As I walk in the park, aseasonal rosebuds leaning into the path, I have the stupid if insistent sense that desire is a connective tissue binding us to the world.  That we are superficial, in the anatomical sense, to the core of all this, and the matrix in which we subsist can be likened to a fruit smoothie—sweet and busy.  Gravity is our implausible tendon.  I say all these things knowing they don’t really add up (why I chose poetry over mathematics?) and then I turn to the morbidity of the Renaissance anatomists.

The Renaissance anatomists were up against religious taboos; they went after their bodies, necessary to art, in the graveyards.  The worms were miffed but what can we do.  Someone has to starve so someone can be fed.  Art is no different.

I’ve impoverished you to the degree of true-blue, sayeth the digger to the worms he evicts.  I want to render arteries accurately.  The worms pout over their deprivation of raw material.  The body, being just a body, expresses nothing.  Art, being art, could then express “something.”

And the museums here still hold many twisted bodies.  The Orangerie, in its pre-modernist basement gathering, contains a serious quantity of adipose in repose.  In the Tuileries, just prior to the imposing Louvre, a marbled muse, Comedie, stands with her mask half-lifted.  No doubt she’s waiting for someone to get the joke.  In response, a contemporary installation of what looks to be tin-foil alien heads, emoticons writ large, encircle the fountain, as if they are about to engage in an ice-breaking exercise.

My biology wrinkles: where would I fit in, in this spectrum of statues? More Muse or More Alien?  Likely in the camp of Theseus, to my left, wrestling the Minotaur, his club raised.  Like him, I’m still busy making my way through the world by tackling what terrifies me.  The moment before the fatality is still not the fatality—but we know which way the blow will land.

It is not true that mythology is absent from the present.  It is just ironed into what is felt to be old, and so rendered ignorable.  I pass a woman who is using a tree for support while she does hazardous battement.  When I veer back towards the Seine, and the buildings are dipped in gold from the afterglow of the tour boats, I see an old lady kick a pigeon, who is eating its way through the bottom of the public garbage bag.  The pigeon, true to its calling, doesn’t budge.  The bag hangs down like a used condom from a metal ring.   The light in the water is absolutely in motion, like loss, like fire.

Coda: On Parents & Sisters

The quality of missing these three is so palpable it’s like a dog I have to walk multiple times a day.  This Not-dog and I go outside, pick a tree du jour, release what needs releasing, return home, only to have it build up again.  The Atlantic Ocean is the object of all of my bitterness.  To be far from those you love provokes a violence of longing which has the potential to power an airplane– except it doesn’t, and metaphors ultimately make poor trans-Atlantic vehicles.  Hi Mom, Dad and Hanny.  Camp is great.  Can you pl send me some warm socks?  Mine are filled with tears.


love ligament


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2 Responses to “Loss loopholes & ligaments”

  1. rick benjamin Says:

    “All the new thinking is about loss.
    In this it resembles
    all the old thinking…”

    This is so smart & funny, Sara. I could hardly recover from the math word problem. One reason I’m probably so bad at math is that I’d get constantly distracted by the narrative… not just how fast the train was going but Where was it going & who was in the compartment with the sausage-seller? Did he sleep well? Van Gogh, Anne Frank, Matisse, R & J, Kubler-Ross, not to mention, say, Buddha– I love all the presences in this piece. Hurry & write the book. I’m hungry for more.



  2. (0v0) Says:

    Sara, you have great reflexes. (Looks down at hammer).

    Your posts require visits, in the way that I visit Matisse (less so Van Gogh, I’ll admit). I kind of take in a portion, then a bigger portion, then the whole, then wait a while. I don’t know why. Something about the way you write.

    Or maybe I just want you to tell me one more time, again Sara, again, about the plushie pelvis. As uncanny as the rest of it, but fuzzier. 🙂

    Desire connects us to the world…. I know you didn’t really mean it like this, but you made me recall something you might like, about the lust for knowing.

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