More brief excerpts of books to be categorized as “required reading.”
The Sorrow Proper by Lindsey Drager (Dzanc Books, 2015)
It is probably not a coincidence that I read this book on the plane ride to Denver, and in the way that the book rewrites loss and grief and intimacy between people and their bodies, I looked ever more forward to meeting Lindsey for the first time and to our conversation at the University of Denver where we would discuss mourning and failure and memory and I would leave Denver having had a strange and wonderful and necessary weekend of healing, the light of a different and distant city that reaches more closely towards the clouds and occupied by different bodies: friends, that allow for permutated emotions, realizations, ideas. Something about the word “proper” in the title stands out so much to me, the contradictory layers that the word contains and the ways in which it permutes “sorrow,” stretches it and refines it, the image of collecting spoons as the structure of grief.
The photographer is ill. The deaf mathematician takes off work and sits next to him in bed for hours as he sleeps. She grades papers in red ink, puts tiny stars next to each question answered correctly.
At one point, she glances over at him to study his hands. When he was young, before he knew what pain was, his father broke a mirror and the child held the pieces of glass in his hands. When he made fists, the mirror entered his palms and fingertip pads. The deaf mathematician thinks of the photographer in this way often, his tiny hands gripping the glass so that he might see his reflection, perhaps for the first time. And then the rush of red and how, with a wound like that, pain isn’t felt at first. How for a moment he might have recognized that there was a world inside of him that he hadn’t known about. Then, she thinks each time she thinks of this, how the knowledge of pain hit and this was the first union of body and mind. How he signaled his hurt with a howl and then his parents came in to hold him and begin to close the wounds.
She studies the scars now, which are thin and raised. She notices the way the skin curves and twists in an attempt to suture itself, to close the gals it knows should not exist. She sees how the long lines on the inside of his palms break often for scar.
Hands will become tools to him, she thinks, if this thing between us lasts. He is already starting to sign; HELLO, GOODBYE, PLEASE, DRINKS? and LET’S GO TO BED.
How sad, she thinks, touching his hands now, fingering the marks where glass once stood in a time that is as foreign to him as to her, when the hands become the mode for thought instead of simple limbs. She has never known them as anything other, and she lets her eyes shift from his to her own, the nails clipped close, the pads stained with ink, the pattern of tiny hairs that peeks from the pores between the knuckle bends.
He stirs then, because she has stopped stroking his hands, and when his eyes open he sneezes, then smiles.
I will need you exactly always
she writes on the pad that they keep on the table by the bed.
He loops up at her wide eyes and instead of objecting, stretches his neck to kiss her forehead, then rolls over to fall back asleep.
It would be impossible to tell her, he thinks, that in no world is always ever exact.
MAISON FEMME: a fiction by Teresa Carmody (Images by Vanessa Place) (Bon Aire Projects, 2015)
Part of what made my trip to Denver such a HEART-FULL one (I’m not sure how else to describe the feeling of my heart having gone through so much and having felt so stretched and full), were my fantastic conversations with Teresa Carmody. I read this book a couple of weeks ago, and felt such sharp and intelligent wit behind each of the sentences, an intense stacking of prose and fiction that built a strange skeleton and mirrored much of what was happening outside the pages, and, at several times, reading about writers in the book that so were so familiar and resembled real and ridiculous writers in the actual world, I laughed out loud.