Because I find it far too excruciating/weird to watch myself doing anything, I haven’t actually seen this. But I was there and I assure you, I entertained. Anyway, this is the reading of an older performance poem, “Elegy for David Wojnarowicz.”
So, I thought I should put up a little of D.W.’s own words for those who have been deprived. He’s a love-em-or-hate-em kind of writer. His major book is Close to the Knives, but since someone (whoever you are, I’ll break your knees) appears to have swiped my copy, I will put up some historical favorites from his journals, In the Shadow of the American Dream. (Great title. God, he’s amazing.)
from p. 106, “April 17, 1979”. I opened randomly to some old underlining from ’04 which is uncannily proper for the present moment of my life, all about holding delicately the transitory nature of love in both its arrivals and departures. (This proving less the existence of magic and more that no matter how much we think we change, we only change so much; discovering again and again what we already know.) Here goes:
“(…in realizing how much I love him, the horrible sense in leaving…)
All things passing, all things coming to ends, more things beginning, soon themselves to seek or grow towards some kind of end, as if all things are made up of some inner core, some seed as that which lies within the heart and ticks away more and more faintly towards its own discreet and particular end, as if the seed is made of stones like those shaped and worn smooth by the sea, by the shift and roll of sands, by the coarse air and the smooth heels of vagabonds, by the passing of so many feet, so many miles, so many days…Ah these sunsets and sunrises, dawns and dusks that pull from our eyes, from our foreheads and arms growing soft and furrowed beneath age. And tell me for what reason the animal body passes through these tall grasses, along the ledges and windows of day and night, why these leaning red flowers still opening and closing with the wind and the night, why these silver images flickering from far windows down through the alleyways, why this sense of solitude in rooms filled with people, why the sense of loneliness as arms stretch away from the body of a lover, why these quiet moments of desperation along the coast, the standing platform along the wall of the sea, the shifting of sands and winds, the continual rippling of waters, the indigo that claims it all–water wind sea skies and the deepest corridors of the heart–just one reason I can claim for my own, one sound of syllables that will press like dampened cloth against sweating brows, why these battlefields of dreams, these wounding nights and sleeplessness, these steel carriages that carry us to and away from the sun, the howling dogs down by the dumps, the fagged ones limping through busy thoroughfares, why these senses of greyness that pierce arrow swift along so many visual regions, why these clocks on everyone’s arms, why these calendars along endless cheap room walls, why these philosophies emptying characters of armor and dreams, why these foolish characters along every age, why the thrust of senses, acceleration of the heart in so many cities, why the beginning and end of savage desires, why the light in the eyes that passes in time, why the sense of touch on one’s shoulder that eases into familiarity, why never the constant and furious sense of loving for all time in all places and endless, totally endless, why these nations and borders and coincidences, why these moments passing into hours and unfurling like flowers into hideous days of ending, why these ends, these passings, why.”
Reading these words again, I remember how lost I was at 21 to the poetry of death and temporality. Seeking spark-brief beginnings that curled almost immediately into endings and fell out into pools of the sleepless nights of despair. If I were to rewrite David’s words now, I would not end as he does on the cry of the defeated: “why” without even a question mark.
Something about loving with diligence, picking up and holding with greater consciousness has taught me I think about letting go too. As Elizabeth Bolles wanted me to understand, I suppose. This letting go, then, is a sweet kind of surrender into the cycle of beginnings that lead to endings but then back again into beginning, each time widening the circle of the sky, the view out onto the stars and including more and more of the earth, too. Although it has a sharp edge to walk on, this movement is above all forgiving, I think. If you let it be.