Dear friends and readers,
Just think about how many of us live by reacting to one another by typing and reading words:
Paradoxes and Oxymorons
This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.
Look at it talking to you. You look out a window
Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.
You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.
The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.
What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,
Bringing a system of them into play. Play?
Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be
A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,
As in the division of grace these long August days
Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know
It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.
It has been played once more. I think you exist only
To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there
Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem
Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.
— John Ashberry
Arguably or at least to me it may be read (I don’t know when it was written) as about life on the Internet: so much of our social experience today is had by typing; we read one another and are read. The problem is not that so much information is lost — it often is, who does not guard themselves face-to-face in other ways — but that what we offer is not taken in because we are ontologically, radically, each of us individually utterly different. It is sad, we reach out and cannot be taken in; we don’t take others in. Our words wants to be others but they cannot be others. Something I read the other day said that written words were so much more painful than spoken, what we read hurts far more than what we hear.
Still typed words what I have. Today’s Jenny Diski entry about her relationship with Doris Lessing and others on the LRB website, open to the public, “My eyes were diamonds,” is beyond painful. If I could send her a few words I would say that when you die, and your mind ceases, you will be relieved of the burden of these burning thoughts. This is what I tell myself, when all my distressing memories of those last six months will no longer have to be endured.
I didn’t notice at first that the first time she wrote about how Doris Lessing in effect saved her from never living a decent life by semi-adopting Jenny, it was after Lessing’s death. I noticed once Diski said she had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer (it’s spread all about her lymph nodes), it was then she said the character of Emily in Lessing’s Memoirs of a Survivor was supposedly her. How cruel Lessing could be, as when in one of these entries Jenny asks for a word of reassurance, love, open emotion, and is confronted with angry suspicion of her motives, is told by others she had no right to ask for promises of stability. Lessing could open up to cats more than people. Diski is revisiting (brave of her), getting back too, correcting the record but at a cost of reliving such painful memories.