HE SAID, MARIE, MARIE, HOLD ON TIGHT
~ The Waste Land, "The Burial of The Dead", Eliot
~ The Waste Land, "The Burial of The Dead", Eliot
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
i miss yantai very much, i realise. i was so happy in yantai, surrounded by children. i think they liked me. a chinese song came on, and it reminds me of those nights i would stay up at in the quiet school, sitting outside my room, feeling the cold coastal breeze against my skin and wet-washed hair my hands against the iron grilles, swatting at the mosquitoes. the cooks next door would be getting ready to sleep, maybe playing poker barefoot, sometimes they'd come to talk to me, because to them, who conceptualised the world outside on a binary of the homeland and the other, i was interesting, neither a chinese, neither anything, really. on weekends, i would be scared, i would feel something around the school when the children had left for home. it was the heart of summer, but nights would be cold. i'd climb over the gate every night from the ride back from the coast where i gave tuition. it's a funny experience hugging chinese people, because they always find it inappropriate. i hugged my friends in yantai when i left--and they were so awkward. i wonder if the children remember me. i didn't say goodbye to andrew, i remember, he was rushed up the train by the conducted, the only brit guy amidst the dirty peasants and yantai people, and i was worried, because he would be on his own for the next 20 hours, without chinese to help him. he looked out of the window. i guess this is it, he shouted from the train, this is a fucking strange way to leave, he shouted from the train. i know, i said, look after your money. no one understood our accents. the last i heard of him is that he's found a guy to be his partner, and the last thing he said to me was that i had sized him up in a statement in a way no one else did. i hope he is happy.
i feel beijing had abandoned me, in someway. it was a betrayal of sorts, when i returned to beijing. the city was different. sometimes i wonder who was guilty of the betrayal. i'm applying for an internship in beijing for the summer, im not sure if i will get it. if i do get it, i want to return to shandong again. somehow i know that i will find myself plunged into another betrayal, that i am simply putting myself into another place where i will feel heartbreak.
living abroad makes you realise that leaving is not difficult, the self is not constant. yantai, beijing, shanghai, new york, singapore. leaving every city is always akin to a kind of betrayal, how can you expect it not to betray you?
Sunday, October 28, 2007
in the supermarket
i don't have time and energy for poetry this week. i'm too busy shoring up strength for the winter, and getting together my stock of food. i sewed a book this week, it's a hard cover notebook. it's beautiful. it's also empty, blank pages. i want to be able to use my hands to make things, to say, i have a skill even when if my mind becomes dim, and needs to sleep. to shore up strength outside the confines of the paper, to cook that which will keep you warm, to hold a book that you have made, is the writing of poetry that boils and breathes.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
(half of this one was written in Chicago, and the other half in Ithaca, now i realise it is a bit clumsy, and things need to be changed, i will redraft it soon)
Valentine Place, Ithaca
At first, the trees would eye me
with their silence.
When I was far enough,
they started whispering.
When I passed through them,
they froze like statues.
Fine, I said,
Keep your secrets to yourself.
If you are not careful
you will forget them.
Then, there would be no more secrets,
Nothing asleep and about to stir
under the layers of petal and bark.
That night, I returned home,
to find the woods
populated by women
bathing in the moonlight.
By the end of summer,
We had grown tanned and brown together.
One evening, when the air
was electric and heavy with autumn,
I saw a fox in the trees.
I heard the breaking
of twigs, branches
parting like thighs, and then
the sigh of leaves.
It was the first time I had seen a fox.
I approached it.
In me, it smelt fear.
I looked at it, in the eye.
Then I turned away. Ran
from the dark of trees
into the streetlights and refused
to turn back.
It was morning. I opened the door
to confront a line of trees, shorn
of all pretenses. Starved; heroic.
I’m sorry, I said.
Above me, winter was circling over me, calling and calling.
Alighting in my arms, shivering and wet,
It asked to be nursed, then fell asleep.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
blue today. i kept bumping into people at dance, and i realise why, because i am a very selfish person, i am very selfish about preserving my spot in the mirror, preserving my space. i came home, cut myself on a knife while doing the cherry tomatoes, burnt myself for the third time in three days. i came home, and took out my blue sketchbook, and i drew a raspberry from the bowl i was eating, and sketched it. then, i ate it.
Friday, October 12, 2007
the art of books
today was my first day at the ink shop and olive branch press. i walked in, and was licked by a dog. for my first job, i was tasked to walk judy's dog. his name is pogo. that dog, when i was being shown the printing presses, put his snout into my bag, and took out the bread i packed for my lunch. we all had a good laugh over that.
i have a new set of vocabulary to learn again, words like acid bath, acid tape, etching, contact printing, reverse contact printing, monoprinting. it seems in every city there is a new set of vocabulary i learn, each city contains its own language. this is a good language to learn. the stitch binding of japanese books, blanket stitches of premodern islamic books, the allegorical nature of renaissance prints, and colors too, i'm relearning colors, burnt sienna, blue, auburn, poppy judy reminds me there are different shades of black, black black, blue black, i'm a bit out of my league in the shop, but i'll pick it up soon. in two weeks' time, i'll be learning how to do islamic bookbinding. perhaps i might join the artists at printmaking if they let me.
the women leave. after i'm done vacuuming like puck, pamela, who's in charge of the interns, pulls me to a secret corner, and shows me the most beautiful, limited edition poetry and print books ever. we're squatting by the cupboard, and i'm holding up the poetry of a dead woman, "when i did not die". there are only 30 editions of this poetry book, which is accompanied by prints. there is something erotic but unlovely about this print, a woman being courted by the figure of death in a garden. the phone rings, it's her husband, "sorry i was showing the poetry books, and i got lost." i leave, it's cold out, but not unlovely.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
it is turning colder. my body remembers.
merve called yesterday, rather distraught. at dinner, my housemates ask me, what's it like, what's it like in new york? i remember the things that are constant, the people that stayed on with me.
sam called today. it was raining. i emailed him a a picture of the fruits i ate for dessert.
i went home. leon called too, with brendan, as usual in the background. "yeah, brendan says hi, by the way." those loser guys, smoking in the dorm toilets, discovering the secret of the universe in the toilet.
and then i started rewriting my resume, and then the same norah jone song to be listened in third avenue north's blue room came on.
and then im in manhattan again, maddie is telling me, that in the blue room, people get killed, it's a place in some european castle, and we're laughing, and our room looks like a disaster, and there's salt all over the table. i must have written the most brilliant papers in the blue room. next door, the korean girls sound like they're fighting like they do in korean. it's like that, they sound like they're arguing all the time, but really they're just happy.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
i'm supposed to be writing a paper for modern dance, instead, i was opening up old files, looking for one poem written when i was 16. who on earth goes digging for poetry written at 16? and my folders are so messed up it's all out of control. anyway i found the line i was looking for:
it was quite a cruel line. i don't agree with it now, the one you love isn't a pre-conceived notion that you've known every page of.
today i am exhausted, thus i feel more, i am a hundred times more sensitive, edgy, probably funnier on the phone, but ive switched it off, that irritating phone, i'm probably a better writer, but i'm not writing. today i came home and was seized, seriously, seized by the desire to make egg custard. i don't even like egg custard, i just felt, i have to make egg custard, i really have to. so after throwing away 6 eggs from the first failed venture (according to some awful american recipe), i created my own recipe, with soymilk, and skimmed milk, and practically no dairy crap except for 2 tb. of sweetened butter, and i made an egg tart today, it was beautiful, it had grapes in it, it looked like a creme brulee, it was also huge (fine, it was an eggtart pie, with a diameter the length of 3 fists, but in america anything goes). and then i marched around the house demanding all my housemates eat it, how can you not like a housemate who bakes eggtart pies. merve called me from new york today, "hey, i'm walking down the streets, i just wanted to say hi," it was so sweet, so lovely, it was also a lonely thing to do, to call someone you have only met 3 times in your life, to walk you down the street, but i left my phone at home, and i couldn't walk her down the street in the end. in a funny way, i miss her.
[me] dawn, singapore, new york city, ithaca.
holding on tight -- vol ii
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