Sunday, July 30, 2023


What is one to do when a text compels you to stop reading? What to do when the text asks the reader, who is not you but is somehow already you, to open a file and write in order to revise, redo and undo in order to remain in this shifting state of revision? This could be called a practice, or simply a call, but I want to say that it is an opening, a kind of widening that leads to a smile or the ruse of recognition. It is a certain kind of writing that happens, or really a certain kind of reading, that starts to rip the seams off an otherwise organized day. The afternoon starts pulling away while the wind as the succulent’s thin body moves, made so visible because someone decided it had gotten too big, half of it chopped to bits now, and even though that’s another story it feels like it belongs here, in this long distraction.

How is anyone to make sense of the impossible fact that a text might recognize something in us that we don’t yet recognize in ourselves, given the all too possible fact that the one who wrote the text doesn’t yet and probably will never know us? This is to ask—in a circular fashion so as to trace that widening form that pulls a thread toward formlessness—what does it mean to recognize friendship in someone you don’t even know? And how might friendship be the thing that pulls us away from what we name process, but which is really a narrowing down, a honing, a set of tasks and items, catalogued and named?

For years, I worried that my writing had devolved into uselessness because I’d lost the ability to write essays, until I realized that what I was working on was a kind of poetry. I was trying to find the means to ask a certain kind of question about the relationship between writing and reading and the people who do these things. I was trying to find the moment in which one slips into the other, when a kind of pathological need supersedes the possibility of getting through the next item on the to-do list or the first twenty-five-minute interval of “Time to focus!” from some expertly crafted study method.

The practice is a way of tracing of a series of distractions. The practice is about waiting, then asking, then waiting again. It is still that, even as distance accumulates and other projects take hold. It is still there, memory of another body and the sense that somebody else could be thinking the same. A book and misrecognition. A question. How much of what we know began as misunderstanding, or a subtle pull—the low hum of a desire to not need to explain or to get back to what we were already doing—there, or where we thought we were.

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