Here's a secret: Everyone, if they live long enough, will lose their way at some point. You will lose your way, you will wake up one morning and find yourself lost. This is a hard, simple truth. If it hasn't happened to you yet, consider yourself lucky. When it does, when one day you look around and nothing is recognizable, when you find yourself alone in a dark wood having lost the way, you may find it easier to blame it on someone else -- an errant lover, a missing father, a bad childhood -- or it may be easier to blame the map you were given -- folded too many times, out-of-date, tiny print -- but mostly, if you are honest, you will only be able to blame yourself.One day I'll tell my daughter a story about a dark time, the dark days before she was born, and how her coming was a ray of light. We got lost for a while, the story will begin, but then we found our way.
If it had been a heart attack, the newspaper,as if a mountain range had openedinside her, but instead, a light coming onin an empty room. The telephonefell from my shoulder, a black parrot repeatinga sunday, dusky. If it had been, we could have cradled heras she grew smaller, wiped her mouthhow overnight we could be orphaned& the world became a bell we'd crawl inside& the ringing all we'd eat.
The South African artist William Kentridge speaks to this type of certainty: 'To say that one needs art, or politics, that incorporate ambiguity and contradiction is not to say that one then stops recognizing and condemning things as evil. However, it might stop one being so utterly convinced of the certainty of one's own solutions. There needs to be a strong understanding of fallibility and how the very act of certainty or authoritativeness can bring disasters.'The outcome of the current crisis is already determined.
(2002) In Rome, month upon month, I struggled with how to structure the book about my father (He already had the water, he just had to discover jars). At one point I laid each chapter out on the terrazzo floor, eighty-three in all, arranged them like the map of an imaginary city. Some of the piles of paper, I imagined, were freestanding buildings, some were clustered into neighborhoods, and some were open space. On the outskirts, of course, were the tenements--abandoned, ramshackled. The spaces between the piles were the roads, the alleyways, the footpaths, the rivers. The bridges to other neighborhoods, the bridges out...In this way I could get a sense if one could find their way through the book, if the map I was creating made sense, if it was a place one would want to spend some time in. If one could wander there, if one could get lost.
OUT of that moment Jesus was nailed to his cross flowed our attempts to represent it, to create a narrative that could contain it. Yet the body, hanging there, is still, simply, terrible. Caravaggio’s genius was to paint Jesus with dirty feet, to bring him back down to earth.
My friend asked me if it had been cathartic, to write my memoir. I looked down at the sculptures—it was cathartic for me to look at them, but I could imagine it might have been hell to make them (I was cheered / when I came first to know / that there were flowers also / in hell). No, I answered—how was it for you to read it? Aristotle, in his Poetics, never promised catharsis for the makers of art, only for the audience.
Sometimes I'd see my father, walking past my building on his way to another nowhere. I could have given him a key, offered a piece of my floor. A futon. A bed. But I never did. If I let him inside I would become him, the line between us would blur, my own slow-motion car wreck would speed up. The slogan on the side of a moving company truck read TOGETHER WE ARE GOING PLACES--modified by a vandal or a disgruntled employee to read TOGETHER WE ARE GOING DOWN. If I went to the drowning man the drowning man would pull me under. I couldn't be his life raft.
I’ve come to believe that the function of torture in our society is not about getting information, in spite of what we might want to believe. It is merely about power. It tells the world that there is now no limit to what we will do when we feel threatened.
Even a life raft is only supposed to get you from the sinking ship back to land, you were never intended to live in the life raft, to drift years on end, in sight of land but never close enough.
I was unable to throw myself in the ocean,” she writes, the handwriting more erratic as the painkillers seep into every cell, shutting out lights in empty rooms.
You do know, right,that between the no-longer & the still-to-comeyou are being continuallytattooed, inkedwith the skulls ofeveryoneyou’ve ever loved—the you& the you& the you & the you—you don’tsit in a chair, thumbthrough a binder, pick adesign, it simplyhappens each time youbring your fingers to your faceto inhale him back into you . . .tiny skulls, some of us arecovered. You, love, couldsimply tattoo an opendoor, lightpouring in from somewhereoutside, youcould make your body a doorso it appears you(let her fill you) are madeof light.
But what of Ham? It didn’t matter if he told anyone about his drunken father or not, if he chided him or tried to dress him, if he lifted his struggling body back into bed, if he took his hand and told him where to place his feet, none of this changed the fact of what he’d seen. It’s possible he opened a door innocently, followed the sound of Noah’s voice cursing God and the sky, possible he didn’t even look, that he turned away before seeing. And it’s likely that Noah hadn’t noticed the door opening, couldn’t have told you who had come in, which son, wouldn’t remember anyway. Apparently it’s God’s call. Ham saw his father drunken and naked, and for this he was cursed, and all of his offspring, and the races that led from these offspring, accursed forever.
When my grandmother comes to dinner at our house she always carries her own jar of Turner’s Special Blend. She knows how much she needs and doesn’t want to be caught short. My brother remembers her at Christmas one year, an especially weepy time for her, when she put her hands around his neck and murmured, My little angel, you wouldn’t be so hard to kill. And though he knew it was only the whiskey talking, he also knew that the whiskey talked daily.
It’s the way I walk through the world, carrying that fear, that the beloved will go, will die, and that I will be the one to blame.