Bluets

1. Suppose I were to begin by saying that I had fallen in love with a color. Suppose I were to speak this as though it were a confession; suppose I shredded my napkin as we spoke. It began slowly. An appreciation, an affinity. Then, one day, it became more serious. Then (looking into an empty teacup, its bottom stained with thin brown excrement coiled into the shape of a sea horse) it became somehow personal.

2. And so I fell in love with a color—in this case, the color blue—as if falling under a spell, a spell I fought to stay under and get out from under, in turns.

(…)

18. A warm afternoon in early spring, New York City. We went to the Chelsea Hotel to fuck. Afterward, from the window of our room, I watched a blue tarp on a roof across the way flap in the wind. You slept, so it was my secret. It was a smear of the quotidian, a bright blue flake amidst all the dank providence. It was the only time I came. It was essentially our lives. It was shaking.

19. Months before this afternoon I had a dream, and in this dream an angel came and said: You must spend more time thinking about the divine, and less time imagining unbuttoning the prince of blue’s pants at the Chelsea Hotel. But what if the prince of blue’s unbuttoned pants are the divine, I pleaded. So be it, she said, and left me to sob with my face against the blue slate floor.

(…)

42. Sitting in my office before teaching a class on prosody, trying not to think about you, about my having lost you. But how can it be? How can it be? Was I too blue for you. Was I too blue. I look down at my lecture notes: Heártbréak is a spondee. Then I lay my head down on the desk and start to weep.—Why doesn’t this help?

(…)

48. Imagine, for example, someone who fucks like a whore. Someone who seems good at it, professional. Someone you can still see fucking you, in the mirror, always in the mirror, crazy fucking about three feet away, in an apartment lit by blue light, never lit by daylight, this person is always fucking you from behind in blue light and you both always seem good at it, dedicated and lost unto it, as if there is no other activity on God’s given earth your bodies know how to do except fuck and be fucked like this, in this dim blue light, in this mirror. What do you call someone who fucks this way?

49. There is a color inside of the fucking, but it is not blue.

(…)

59. There are those, however, who like to look. And we have not yet heard enough, if anything, about the female gaze. About the scorch of it, with the eyes staying in the head. “I love to gaze at a promising-looking cock,” writes Catherine Millet in her beautiful sex memoir, before going on to describe how she also loves to look at the “brownish crater” of her asshole and the “crimson valley” of her pussy, each opened wide—its color laid bare—for the fucking.

(…)

61. In his book On Being Blue, William Gass argues that what we readers really want is “the penetration of privacy”: “We want to see under the skirt.” But his penetration is eventually tiresome, even to himself: “What good is my peek at her pubic hair if I must also see the red lines made by her panties, the pimples on her rump, broken veins like the print of a lavender thumb, the stepped-on look of a day’s-end muff? I’ve that at home.” After asserting that the blue we want from life is in fact found only in fiction, he counsels the writer to “give up the blue things of this world in favor of the words which say them.”

62. This is puritanism, not eros. For my part I have no interest in catching a glimpse of or offering you an unblemished ass or an airbrushed cunt. I am interested in having three orifices stuffed full of thick, veiny cock in the most unforgiving of poses and light. I will not choose between the blue things of the world and the words that say them: you might as well be heating up the poker and readying your eyes for the altar. Your loss.

(…)

90. Last night I wept in a way I haven’t wept for some time. I wept until I aged myself. I watched it happen in the mirror. I watched the lines arrive around my eyes like engraved sunbursts; it was like watching flowers open in time-lapse on a windowsill. The tears not only aged my face, they also changed its texture, turned the skin of my cheeks into putty. I recognized this as a rite of decadence, but I did not know how to stop it.

91. Blue-eye, archaic: “a blueness or dark circle around the eye, from weeping or other cause.”

92. Eventually I confess to a friend some details about my weeping—its intensity, its frequency. She says (kindly) that she thinks we sometimes weep in front of a mirror not to inflame self-pity, but because we want to feel witnessed in our despair. (Can a reflection be a witness? Can one pass oneself the sponge wet with vinegar from a reed?)

(…)

134. It calms me to think of blue as the color of death. I have long imagined death’s approach as the swell of a wave—a towering wall of blue. You will drown, the world tells me, has always told me. You will descend into a blue underworld, blue with hungry ghosts, Krishna blue, the blue faces of the ones you loved. They all drowned, too. To take a breath of water: does the thought panic or excite you? If you are in love with red then you slit or shoot. If you are in love with blue you fill your pouch with stones good for sucking and head down to the river. Any river will do.

Maggie Nelson, Bluets, 2009.

Własss-nośśś-śśść

A więc w końcu jesteś Na Sprzedaż, Fender. To okropnie śmieszne. Mam nadzieję, że wiesz, w czym tu tkwi dowcip. To niesamowicie ułatwia robotę – no, to, że we wszystkim może być jakiś dowcip i że się go dostrzega, od razu wszystko łatwiej idzie. Zadowolony, co? Zgadza się? Jak długo planujesz pozostać na liście? Ale cwany byłeś, żeby tak na pusto przetrwać całą zimę, cwany-zasrany, co ci będę mówić. Chodzi mi o to, że postąpiłeś jak głupek, głupek-dupek. Jak się tak zastanowić, to wolny byłeś jeszcze dłużej. Pewnie jesteś nieźle zapuszczony. Wiesz, gdybym ja był na twoim miejscu, biorąc pod uwagę specyfikę twojego przypadku, spróbowałbym tego, co jest absolutnie i w ogóle najlepsze – figurować na kilku listach jednocześnie. W ten sposób, jakby się nawinęło coś dobrego, mógłbyś może sam sfinalizować transakcję – w końcu należysz do agencji – Pearsona – o Jezu, to ci dopiero miody-smrody z tym Pearsonem. Tak czy inaczej, nie możesz oczekiwać, żeby ktokolwiek zrobił z ciebie sprawę numer jeden – to znaczy, wiesz, tak to już jest, tu rządzą twarde prawa, a pięć procent od ciebie – no, nie będzie tego dużo. W porządku? To dobrze, że wszystko jasne – to duża radość. No, a jak tam twoje wymiary? Ile masz tu, w klatce? Liczne schorzenia nerek? W twoim wieku często się zdarzają. Plecy ci się garbią, a tę kurzajkę na podbródku trzeba będzie wypalić. Do diaska – jakbym ja miał taką kurzajkę na brodzie… – Słuchaj, muszę sprawdzić wszystko według regulaminu… Hm, skóra, niestety, na oko jakby sparciała, i pełno plamek – kiepski towar – łuskowata, cienka – kwaśna dieta. Od jak dawna są tu te zacięcia? a ten krwawy wylew wzdłuż łydki? pęknięte naczynka, tak? No, no, Fender, nie kantuj, jesteśmy z jednej branży, po męsku, no? po co się wysilać? Cholera, wiesz, że jest jedna lista dla wszystkich: zatoki, śledziona, jelita, wszystkie gruczoły… Może zaczniemy od podniebienia i od razu przeskoczymy w dół: zęby, migdałki, język, płuca, wątroba, oskrzela? czy warto sobie robić ten cały kłopot? A potem, zaraz, zaraz, idąc w górę, to będzie odbytnica, okrężnica, żołądek, serce, i tak dalej, wszystkie te miękkie towary, a potem czaszka, kręgosłup, miednica, żebra, et cetera, et cetera – ale nie ma sensu – to znaczy, przez moment spokojnie rozważ swoje szanse. Słuchaj no, stary, twoje fasady są bez wdzięku. Jak mówię – trzeba stawić czoło faktom, stary lokal to jest stary lokal. Znasz ten biznes. Żadnych niespodzianek. Zgadza się? A więc skoncentrujemy się, jeśli potrafimy, na elementach pozytywnych – może zgrabna dupka – mamy na to klientów. Ale nie podobają mi się te rzednące włoski. O Jezu, patrz, coś ty zrobił z kostkami palców. A jak tam w środku ze światłem? Do jasnej cholery, wiesz przecież, że to pierwsza rzecz, o którą pytają. Wchodzą – i zaraz chcą zobaczyć, jak pada światło. Wiesz co, sprzedam ci taki trick. Zawsze noszę przy sobie drewniany przymiar i w taką pogodę jak teraz, kiedy słońce przyjemnie wlewa się do środka, zwyczajnie to dla nich mierzę – tyle i tyle metrów. Wyobrażasz sobie, jakie to robi wrażenie. Sprzedawanie to nie jest tylko szczęścia kupa, zimna dupa, o nie, mój panie. Nie tylko szczęścia kupa – zimna dupa, o nie. Co? Chłodno ci? nie chrzań, jak ci może być chłodno? przecież nie jesteś w cieniu. No co – nie mam racji? Nic do powiedzenia, tak? Nie umiesz odpowiedzieć, co, Fender? Jak by one wyglądały z kolorową żarówką na twojej werandzie, te ściany Niagary? Miałeś ostatnio jakieś sercowe sensacje, brałeś na przeczyszczenie? Prosiłbym o dokładne daty. No, nie obrażaj się, nie obrażaj, jesteśmy kumplami z jednej branży – ale, ale, obejrzyjmy sobie parę stolców, zanim wyjdę, wprawdzie nie mam wielkich złudzeń, ale zawsze…

Buty, dywan – widział dywan – i korzenie stołu wynurzające się z tkaniny, pogrubiałe tam, gdzie rozkrzewiały się w blat – opalisandrowany? – nieskazitelnie wywoskowany i lśniący. Własss-nośśś-śśść; piękny dźwięk. Może był jakimś organem wewnętrznym, który wyjrzał na świat? czy tak to właśnie wygląda z punktu widzenia wątroby położonej… no gdzie? Znał prawdopodobne umiejscowienie groszków w zapiekance, ale nie potrafił sobie wyobrazić własnej wątroby – nie chciał – tak samo jak w marzeniach widywał kobiety – zawsze z zamazanym kroczem. Własss-nośśś-śśść.

William H. Gass, Sople, tłum. Jolanta Kozak [W:] Gabinet luster. Krótka proza amerykańska 1961-1977, red. Zbigniew Lewicki, Warszawa 1980, ss. 229-231.

These stories emerged from my blank insides to die in another darkness

Obscurely born (rumors circulated secretly like poorly printed money: was I caesarian? a breech? were those forceps marks on the back of my little red neck? was my papa playing baseball when my mother pushed me screaming into being? was I supposed to care that I was born obscurely?) of parents who hardly honored their heritage even by the bother of forcibly forgetting it; and who had many prejudices but few beliefs (the town I grew quickly older in appeared to be full of nigs, micks, wops, spicks, bohunks, polacks, kikes; on the public walks, in the halls of the high school, one could not be too careful of the profaned lips of water fountains); thus while there was much to complain of, just as there is in any family—much to resist—it was all quite particular, palpable, concrete. Good little clerk, my father hated workers, blacks, and Jews, the way he expected women to hate worms. There wasn’t a faith to embrace or an ideology to spurn, unless perhaps it was the general suggestion of something poisonously Republican, or a periodical’s respect for certain Trade Marks. And I remember resolving, while on long walks or during summer reveries or while deep in the night’s bed, not to be like that, when that was whatever was around me: Warren, Ohio—factory smoke, depression, household gloom, resentments, illness, ugliness, despair, etcetera, and littleness, above all, smallness, the encroachment of the lean and meager. I won’t be like that, I said, and naturally I grew in special hidden ways to be more like that than anyone could possibly imagine, or myself admit. Even as a grown man I was still desperately boasting that I’d choose another cunt to come from. Well, Balzac wanted his de, and I wanted my anonymity.

School was a dull time in the beginning; I was a slow student, my achievement intermittent and unpredictable as a loose wire. I decorated my days with extravagant, outrageous lies. Yet I was reading Malory, too, and listening to Guinevere bid Launcelot adieu:

For as well as I have loved thee, mine heart will not serve me to see thee; for through thee and me is the flower of kings and knights destroyed. Therefore, Sir Launcelot, go to thy realm, and there take thee a wife, and live with her with joy and bliss, and I pray thee heartily pray for me to our Lord, that I may amend my misliving.

Amend my misliving. And everything in me then said: I want to be like that—like that aching phrase. So oddly, at a time when no one any longer allowed reading or writing to give them face, place, or history, I was forced to form myself from sounds and syllables: not merely my soul, as we used to say, but guts too, a body I knew was mine because, in response to the work which became whatever of me there was, it angrily ulcerated.

I read with the hungry rage of a forest blaze.

I wanted to be a fireman, I recall, but by eight I’d given up that very real cliché for an equally unreal one: I wanted to become a writer

… . a what? Well, a writer wasn’t whatever Warren was. A writer was whatever Malory was when he wrote down his ee’s: mine heart will not serve me to see thee. And that’s what I wanted to be—a string of stresses.

a what?

The contemporary American writer is in no way a part of the social and political scene. He is therefore not muzzled, for no one fears his bite; nor is he called upon to compose. Whatever work he does must proceed from a reckless inner need. The world does not beckon, nor does it greatly reward. This is not a boast or a complaint. It is a fact. Serious writing must nowadays be written for the sake of the art. The condition I describe is not extraordinary. Certain scientists, philosophers, historians, and many mathematicians do the same, advancing their causes as they can. One must be satisfied with that.

Unlike this preface, then, which pretends to the presence of your eye, these stories emerged from my blank insides to die in another darkness. I willed their existence, but I don’t know why. Except that in some dim way I wanted, myself, to have a soul, a special speech, a style. I wanted to feel responsible where I could bear to be responsible, and to make a sheet of steel from a flimsy page—something that would not soon weary itself out of shape as everything else I had known (I thought) always had. They appeared in the world obscurely, too—slow brief bit by bit, through gritted teeth and much despairing; and if any person were to suffer such a birth, we’d see the skull come out on Thursday, skin appear by week’s end, liver later, jaws arrive just after eating. And no one of us, least of all the owner of the opening it inched from, would know what species the creature would eventually contrive to copy and to claim. Because I wrote these stories without imagining there would be readers to sustain them, they exist now as if readerless (strange species indeed, like the flat, pigmentless fish of deep seas, or the blind, transparent shrimp of coastal caves), although a reader now and then lets light fall on them from that other, less real world of common life and pleasant ordinary things.

Occasionally one’s companion, in a rare mood of love, will say: ‘Bill, tell about the time you told off that trucker at the truck stop’; but Bill’s audience knows he’s no emperor of anecdote, like Stanley Elkin, and they will expect at best not to be bored, pallidly amused, not edified or elevated, not cemented or composed; and occasionally one’s children will still want a story told them, improvised on the spot, not merely read or from a flabby memory recited. Then they will beg far better than a dog.

Tell us a story, fawfaw. Tell us a lonely story. Tell us a long and lonely story about the sticky-handed giants who had no homes, because we want to cry. Tell us the story of the overfriendly lions. Tell us the story of the sad and barkless dog. Tell us, fawfaw, tell us, because we want to cry. Tell us of the long bridge and the short wagon and the tall tollkeeper and the tall tollkeeper’s high horse and the tiny brown tail of the tall tollkeeper’s high horse that couldn’t swish away blue flies … because we want to cry. We want to cry.

Well which? … which shall I tell you the story of to make you sad so you will cry?

Oh don’t do that, fawfaw. We want to cry. Don’t make us sad. We merely want to cry. Tell us a lonely story. Tell us about the giants. Tell us about the lions. Tell us about the dog. But do not make us sad, fawfaw, just make us cry.

Well which? … which then shall I tell you if you want to cry? … which, the story of?

Woods.

Woods. I knew it would be woods.

William H. Gass, Preface to In the Heart of the Heart of the Country.