"Bilingual Feelings"



Maybe today you’ll do something “slightly unusual”? Take a walk by a lake, unearth a
mastodon tusk, get trapped in an elevator, have your card swallowed by an ATM, open
the door and discover your lost son (who happens to be your age), stare in the eye of a
whale, befriend a Poe impersonator on the airport shuttle, see a clown riding a unicycle
through the campus?



Favorite color? Blue (green). Favorite season? Autumn (spring). Wrote poems since the
age of nine. Avoided crowds. Hated trees, their pathetic cries. Hated language. Sought
obscurity in the same way other people seek fame. (Her name misspelled on her
tombstone . . . )

Ideas came to him easily, like pieces of luggage on the conveyor belt. You could
recognize him from a distance by the stoop of his shoulders. “It’s to the other man, to
Borges, that things happen.” Lost a 5,000-page manuscript while changing trains
(planes) . . . Poured his entire life into that little book!

“The element of surprise is what I look for when I’m writing” (Naipaul). But how to
satisfy the clicking public?


Bilingual feelings . . . It’s never about the right word; it’s about the next word. (His
accent suddenly thickened.)

It’s about being at home in neither language. (It’s never about language; read Nicanor
Parra’s “Último Poema.”)

Slips of the tongue. Speech overheard. The ineffability topos.
A shower or two a day.



My body demands that I do something with it (start tweeting condolences). I open the
curtains to a heavy-lidded morning (“Nice knowing you!”). I sit down to my last meal (a
chicken that, like me, has had a good life).

Please do not come to my funeral. Please donate my organs to the person who has been
patiently waiting for them.



In his diary, every line neatly blacked out.


In those years, I’d always carry with me a copy of Badiou’s The Century. Also Jameson’s
The Political Unconscious, Hardt and Negri’s Empire and Multitude, Agamben’s State of
Exception, Mouffe’s The Democratic Paradox. Also books by Harvey (“unreconstructed
Marxist”) and Arrighi (“never looked too healthy”). Also The Essential Žižek.
With stacks of political theory under each arm, I felt like a superhero in a body armor.



Blood and soil. Language and soil. The most expressive part of you is your face, followed
by your thumbs with opposable joints. The driest part of you are the tips of your elbows.
A common side effect of crying is feeling a lump in the throat, otherwise known as
“globus sensation.”

Tears and laughter. Weird English. Air Malaysia. Oh yes, and “my constant compulsion
to read and write” (Austerlitz). I’m sorry I’m such a poor correspondent . . . From the
window, I see a plane flying perpendicular to mine. I’m a citizen of the country in which
I’ll die.



Something lives in my house. As soon as I open my eyes, the beast leaps at me. As soon
as I close them, I confront a potential trauma. “If I don’t recognize the number, I don’t
answer my phone.” In my neighborhood, even a baseball bat can serve as a weapon.
If you see something, say something. During a trip to the dunes, a young couple asked
me to take a picture of them. At the movie theater, I spotted a man with a fake beard
and video-recording sunglasses. At the airport, a stranger handed me a small package.



My left hand grasps my right hand in a sudden fit of sympathy. Lyricism in spite of itself!



Words to no one in particular: a hand wave, a gesture. “Unseen reality apprehended by
consciousness.” The return of the forgotten.

Daydreaming. The mysterious blue (glaucous?) light you never see at four o’clock in the

But inspiration is just a matter of chemical imbalances in your brain! After all, the “I” is
just a grammatical convention.



The first sentence of Mairéad Byrne’s bio in The Best of (What’s Left of) Heaven
(Publishing Genius, 2010): “Mairéad Byrne emigrated from Ireland to the United States
in 1994, for poetry.”



Anne lives in Warsaw. Mark lives in New York. Another Mark lives just outside of New
York. Dawn lives in Chicago. Richard lives in Baltimore. Sean lives in Venezuela,
modestly. My parents live in Connecticut suburbs. (Genes and culture.)

Wallace Stevens found Hartford ordinary, left it poetic. Peter lives in Florida. John
Travolta also lives in Florida. For the last two years, I’ve been spending a lot of time in
hotel rooms. Justin wants to retire in Marfa (and he’s only thirty-five!)

The old man sleeps in his car. The cab driver is from Ukraine, not Russia. Joe, with an
eye tattoo on his neck, lives in the park. Chelsea suffers from a degenerative disease
that completely disables the body while leaving the mind intact.

Shame lives on the eyelids. The future lives in the present. Dorothy A. Murphy currently
resides at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Virginia is for Lovers.) The
blind Chinese activist lives in Washington, D.C.

Bob lives inside another person’s body. Animals live in the moment. (Harry hides in the
closet.) Americans live in the future. Philosophers live in the clouds. Cosmopolitans, as
the name indicates, live in the cosmos.

As soon as she entered the plane, she switched to a different language.




poetryBarzakh Mag