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
Sunday, December 30, 2007
i woke up today early, unheavy.
i had a dream last night. in the dream, i was in jfk airport, trying to decide whether to travel to pennsylvania or ithaca. i wanted really badly to go to ithaca. at the last minute, amidst grief, panic and indecision, i flew to ithaca, just as i had secretly wanted.
i had a beautiful day yesterday with my aunt, sister, two crazy hyper girls down at the beach. me and my sister talked till we missed our mrt stop. the day before was mark and sue's wedding, which was beautiful, but whose memory is mingled with that of the family politics at our table. but i graciously accept the bad things in life because there are painful things i have discovered about our family since i have got home, which explains why my growing up felt incomplete and tense. and i finally feel that my childhood is finally finished, and i can move on. forgiveness is a tricky thing, comes only with understanding. last night, i found things in the kitchen. thoughts, unfinished prayers, an unprecedented sense of direction.
last night, my grandfather came into the kitchen. my grandfather is incontinent, deaf and has dementia.
"where's your twin sister?" he demanded.
"i don't have a twin sister," i said, then gestured different heights.
"oh, older and younger," he said.
we then had a stilted dialogue, full of gesturing, about whether i was the older or younger.
"are you cold?" i said. i was cold. i get cold after bad encounters.
in an odd encounter, he took out his sweater and put it on me.
i took the sweater, with all its foodstains, and put it on.
we sat in the kitchen for some time, me wearing an 89-year-old man's sweater. both nursing our cups of silence.
Friday, December 28, 2007
for my brother's wedding, me and my sister practised singing in the kitchen. the dog got perplexed and upset, growled and barked at us to shut up. he fell asleep promptly after we left the kitchen. it was all very encouraging. now he is wide awake, giving me a naughty look and wagging his tail. everyone's asleep, so he's free to shuffle around the kitchen like a king of the castle. we keep each other awake. if ralph were in ithaca, i'd never be lonely. i'd also be forced to be very quiet, so that would mean no long phonecalls, no banging of pots and pans.
coming back to singapore, i've been booted out of my room, and now im camping out at night in the living room with my sister and grandfather. i shift between the living room and kitchen, which has become my workspace, constantly surrounded by people. it's nice. there's something slightly disturbing and menacing about this city, so i like how our house is filled with australian accents and guitars being strummed.
today i took my guitar for stringing at swee lee, and then played at telok ayer park. some people stopped to smile. some even turned around. some reached to take out money, but when they found out i had no money in front of me, they looked sheepish, and walked away. if there were an illegal musician at every street corner, what would this city be like? ive been spending most of the days in the heart of the city. some of my friends have changed, and some i respect immensely; others i see old flaws magnified, a certain venom and bitterness that has never surfaced before, and scares me and chases me away. and the pettiness of a small place, where everyone knows everyone, and the arrogance that comes from knowing everyone, when really, you never knew shit.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
my dog, ralph, is arthritic and old. he is asleep and dreaming now. beside me, in the kitchen, his paws click against the floor, jerking and moving as though he is running. i wonder what he is running away from. perhaps he is not running away, but running towards.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
i spent the evening at his house, spilling over various things (soup, chicken, wine glasses) in the kitchen, apologizing, cozying up on the sofa with nice people.
tonight i realise that i have no desire for touch, no desire to be touched. touch always carries with it old memories, certain shadows. something was telling me to touch him, and i lost all desire to touch. i do not know what it is, if it is that which i thought i left behind. we prayed in his car because we were afraid of the trees.
there is something about this city that haunts. i came home, spent the night sketching and writing something up. the silent, strong arms of an empty book. i need some time on my own again.
Friday, December 21, 2007
in america, one gets the illusion survival is easy. coming home to talk with my parents about money, is the realisation survival is not easy. sometimes i wonder, is it because it is truly easier to survive there, or is there something wrong here? today i got a rejection letter, which is a rebuke to ambition, as well as a realisation, survival is not easy anywhere.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
candle on the water
Tancred unwittingly kills his beloved Clorinda in a duel while she is disguised in the armour of an enemy knight. After her burial he makes his way into a strange magic forest which strikes the Crusaders' army with terror. He slashes with his sword at a tall tree; but blood streams from the cut and the voice of Clorinda, whose soul is imprisoned in the tree, is heard complaining that he has wounded his beloved once again. (Freud, Beyond, p.24)
freud read the allegory of tancred and the bleeding tree as an example of trauma, and the repetitiveness of trauma, how the memory keeps recurring. clorinda is constantly wounded, tancred will continue to wound, unwittingly. no one is at fault, no one ought to be sorry. i woke up crying today. we all have old wounds, and we all are unwitting oppressors as well as victims, re-opening our own, and others' cuts. (the lovely, how i miss) cathy caruth read the constant return to trauma as an example of the enigma of survival--an attempt to return to the site of the traumatic event in order to attempt to find a language to understand it, and thus leave it behind.
i read the allegory as a narrative of mourning and grief, a story of how one can never let go of dead ghosts, and how our life is defined by perpetual return, and the wound of one is constantly opened, but this return is constantly bound with the persisting presence of the departed. it is the promise of the presence of the beloved, the making of memory. "promise?" prof. caruth asked, "intriguing, considering that trauma inevitably comes as a shock." i omitted the word "promise" in that (trauma-inducing monster of a) paper i wrote, but now retrospectively, "promise" is what i wanted to say. the return to the site of the trauma is who we are, and what we seek to master. i realise, until i can master the past, i can never really love and really want. is that true for you too?
"what do you want?" he asked last night. by then, i was totally gone, had lost all composure, and blurted, "i don't know, i just don't know, okay?"
"okay," he said.
there is only one thing i wish for, and have wanted. mastery over the past. when i mean mastery, i don't mean a deliberate obliteration of the past, i mean, mastery. mastery is to reopen the wound, and gaze upon it, and to see it again, until it is no longer the black hole that is the past, but present to you. that is all i actually know i want. i will forgive then, i've not forgiven yet. we were not linear, perhaps i will return and return to the past, fall into a present, then and fall back into a future with you. secretly, i want to. (is this still a secret then?) i do think you are inextricably a part of me, and your presence will always be in me. in the meantime, i will miss you. you are a wonderful person, you know? because you're wonderful, you should never be afraid of being lonely. thank you for what you have given me. i hope that what you have given me will become a gift to you too. i think the lines--what we want of us, what i want of me, and you want of yourself--will draw themselves out with time. it is not in my hands, and i realise, it never was in our hands. it is in another's hands.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
first day home. i'm tired, emotionally exhausted, filled with hatred. all i want to do is crawl back into a house in ithaca, and fall asleep.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Monday, December 10, 2007
new york city came to me like a hunger pang this morning. the feeling when one has been working for too long, and when you look up from your books, and realise, you are hungry.
i feel like winter, aching. my body feels extremely sensitive.
last time i was nervous about returning to singapore, i'm not nervous anymore. singapore is like a home that smells of sweat and shoes. i gravitate to it, because home demands me, people are calling to me. i have come to hate its smell of sweat and shoes and what it has come to represent.
i wonder how new york city will receive me, like an old lover, or with indifference? with forgetful snow and christmas lights?
oh, new york new york.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
papers and winter
my paper on freud, is not a difficult paper to write. i am reading freud's beyond the pleasure principle as a text of personal mourning and showing the larger implications on how meaning is always in excess of language, and how this relates to trauma as a repetitive structure. but it is demanding a lot of emotional involvement on my part, just copying out the names of dead people, and talking about trauma. papers in the heart of winter.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
i usually open the windows of my room. outside the fallen snow is crisp. and the sounds outside seem strangely familiar. where am i? new york? singapore? there is traffic from rt 79, certain people singing.
i wrote something for my sister today, conversations about love, sex, parents and death. i will bind it and illustrate it. in one a girl talks to her dog, and asks why, it choses only to speak to her when it is dying. it replies, am i really talking to you, or is it your voice you are hearing for the first time? it could be quite a pretty book. i wish someone wrote those sentences to me when i was her age--especially those about sex and love.
Friday, December 07, 2007
something i thought about while walking to the inkshop.
it's not yet a poem. it could be one. the writing is getting much less poetic, and much more down-to-earth.
and i like down-to-earth. reminds me of groundhogs snuffling in the snow.
In Beijing, you said you swallowed a fishbone.
We flew to the hospital. The doctor peered
into the tunnel. Nothing, he said,
tapping at the walls.
That day, the whole class
gathered at your house.
It was a weekend.
Everyone swam in the pool till
the water turned from
blue to brown, and began
to smell like feet.
You opened the filter of the pool.
and poured in the chlorine
till it rose into your head like smoke.
You thought you were dying.
You called your parents.
Bye mom, bye dad.
A ship honking into the sunset.
And then in a choked up
Voice, in between coughs I
You didn’t die in the end.
Life was just about to
pounce upon you,
grab you at the neck, and
shake you around, like a newfound bone.
It would not let you go so easily.
week in review
"have we ever talked about your future?"
"i checked up singapore on the map, so i would know where you were from. when i did, i realised, it was so far away from where i thought it was, and then i felt like a stupid american."
"i'm sure there has to be a way out. have you talked to people? there has to be a way out."
"you're coming back to the city, for me right? joking, joking."
"i thought, i would rather waste two years of my life, than waste my whole life."
"if you allow yourself think about it, the mark will only be deeper, like a wheelbarrow."
"i had my left hip replaced, and then, now i will have my right rip replaced, well, just about time, right?"
"we could make snow circles outside, you know, like crop circles?"
"with all the snow, this would be my first christmasy christmas in new york, ever"
"if he's well and recovered, that would be all that matters."
"my sister had her hip replaced, and they put her hip replacement in the wrong way round."
"if you need anything, anything at all, i would do it."
"so the doctor put his hand into my cat's stomach, and pulled out the tumor by hand. all the organs had been dislodged, but the tumor came out. now my cat is part of a study, and whenever we walk into the hospital yard, he gets so much attention. he knows he's very special."
Monday, December 03, 2007
cyril wong made it on time magazine!
his poetry has been framed as political rebellion, which is interesting in itself. anyway, http://cyrilwong.livejournal.com/
Sunday, December 02, 2007
im sick and nasal. ive been cooking good nutritious food for myself, and stuffing myself with vitamins, so perhaps i will be well soon.
i called mary today, i will go and stay with her in the bronx when i get back to nyc. just because. i could go on and on about mary, her odd romances, her devoutness, her apartment in the bronx that overlooks a garden of junk, her kindness, her flowery night-gowns, how my last night living in new york city was spent in the bronx, i'd been packing all night the day before, and the moment i stepped into her house, i fell asleep, a deep sleep, as though i hadn't slept in years.
today there were all these kids at the language outreach event, i was helping out at. they were all beautiful mixed blood asian kids, learning chinese. "don't worry, she'll warm up," one of the mothers said. "like engines," said tywanquilla. i laughed. my mother used to say that about me. "she'll warm up." my parents used to entertain a lot. there'd be uncle bob and auntie shirley, we'd go to uncle paul's for christmas, and i'd always cry because judith--who was a year younger than me--would be bossy, and i just couldn't take how she was so darn confident, how she always seemed better than me. sometimes jonathan would eat play-doh to make us girls scream, and we'd go screaming to auntie olivia, "jonathan's eating play-doh!" if other children were around, i'd be more likely to come out from behind the skirt. if there were only boys and no girls, i stayed close to my mother. i would hide behind her back and bury my face in her skirt. "what on earth are you doing?" she'd say, exasperated. sometimes, she'd try to pull me out, but if i really didn't want to see other people, i'd try to wrap her skirt around my face. the grown-ups who liked kids would do say "peekaboo!" or take out candy. sometimes i'd get tired of hiding, because it takes effort to hide. so eventually, i'd release my fingers petal by petal, very gradually, and open up my face to light.
[me] dawn, singapore, new york city, ithaca.
holding on tight -- vol ii
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