TEMPORARY TEXT / TIME AND THE DEAD
And he knew that it was ok to be dead in his mother’s house; it was ok for your body to be furniture or part of some piece of furniture or becoming furniture.
A Boy Had a Bird for a Mother
A boy had a bird for a mother, an ice age, a smoldering fire; a boy was raised by a bird, a glacier, a fire; he learned nervousness and patience and hunger, and he learned to keep her safe and to withstand the cold and to offer whatever he could find to keep her going.
Time and the Dead
If you could ask the dead about time what would they say? In other words: is time different for the dead than for the living and, if so, in what way…You know that time is different for one who is asleep…What is the past to one who sleeps…You know that the dead cannot sleep…What does the future mean to one who sleeps… What does the future mean to one who is dead…what would the dead say about the future if they could speak…Where is time located for those who are dead…Time does not seem always the same even when you are alive…Does time seem always the same when you are dead—is that the difference?
She didn’t end up in a bus station talking to the luggage racks. She did not wander the streets talking out loud to herself. She did not believe that broadcasts from the Chrysler Building controlled her thoughts. She did not believe that the luminous lines she saw around people’s heads from time to time had any meaning, or the ruins she saw in their hearts or the stress cracks in their eyes or the inside hammerings that seemed to deafen them. She did not steal, or drink too much, lie without reason, strike children or cut herself, wash her hands too often or blurt vulgar words. It was none of these. It was a very private, inconspicuous teardown—precise, inside the lines, with words that held their edges against the ice. But the edges could not hold.
Time and the Dead
Are we one or many? Is one who is dead any longer one? Where does time reside if there is no one…If you ask the dead: what is one; what would they say? If you are only one for a while in what way are you one? When you are alive there are many…are the dead a single thing…is that the difference?
The past is all replicas, but a replica is never in the past. Nothing has ever been in the past.
Time and the Dead
Do remnants have history or is history made and bestowed; does something hold history; does something hide history like in the folds of a dress? Is history made up or uncovered; which is to say, you have a story about yourself that never happened, and the age of the rock that you hold in your hand could not have been determined five hundred years ago. What kind of history do the dead have; do they find it in the folds of being dead or uncover it with that special kind of seeing that says how old things really are?
Every single thing depends on shattering.
And all that pushing away of the unbeautiful will make you brittle.
When there is shattering, what is shattering is semblance.
Pressing from inside against the skin at the elbow—you don’t own your bones the way you own cars or chairs or carpets—they aren’t yours like that—it’s more like you harbor them the way you harbor speech, the way you inherit speech from a procession of speakers, as an inherited scaffolding, but not like speech but solid like property, but not property because how could you actually take ownership of them? So they said that they had found her bones, but in what way were they hers and in what way was any part of the body ever owned?
His bones were already those bones lying on the sands, already neither him nor his. His blood was on his side—his skin and his organs were on his side—but his bones were not. His blood was on his side—it had a stake in his being alive—but not his bones. His tissues and organs had a stake—they would dissolve when he dissolved—his eyes were his because they would dissolve like him when he dissolved but not his bones—his bones had no stake in his being alive—no more than any other outside thing—no more than girders, rocks or railroad tracks—no more than the moon—and his bones were like those outside things but embedded in him—his bones belonged to those lasting things and they had no stake in him. So right in the center of him were things that had no stake in his being alive—and this was the way he was built. There was no proper way to punish the bones, to punish the most disloyal things ever made, or come to grips or expel them. So the bones had him in just the very way that being alive had him—that trying to be a person had him—that having to be a person when there was no person to be had him—that everything aligned around him, solid, fixed and defined had him—and none of the outside things had a stake in his being alive—and his bones were with those things and not with him.
He lived in the space between the outside things and his bones that belonged to them. He lived in that narrow space, and his bones did not live with him but against him. His bones were like inside walls that he moved among, and his bones made a border inside that he could not cross, and the bones had a place for the dead reserved in him, and the bones took all the hours and returned them as the past. The bones kept the hours like the walls of canyons keep hours, like granite outcroppings keep hours, like reefs keep hours, like all the things that throw time back like an echo when it touches them keep hours, like all the things that time can only brush on its way to consuming all the things that take the hours in. His bones made a border in him that he could not cross, between all the inside things that time pulls into the past and all the outside things that time must live beside. And only his bones were with the outside things, leading their double lives, leading their lives of lies, hiding inside as if they were part of him, hiding from harm in him like secrets held from speech, pretending not to return all his hours as ash, pretending not to know how they pushed time back into every other part of him, pretending to stand for him and pretending to sleep when he slept.
The Lense-Thirring Effect
The fabric of time and space are tugged by the rotation of the earth, like a woman’s flowing dress, as she spins while dancing, swirls and gathers around her.
Because he was furniture and did not own himself he could be made private by anyone. And, when he was dead, and all of the body but the bones went away, it would be the same; the bones could be picked up, moved around, held and used in whatever way the possessor chose. So, really, he was already dead, already a thing in a room with a wide-open door.
You are sticks and cloth. You rest on the floor. You are mute and accommodating, crowded and unable to breathe, rubbed on at will, worn through where you are used—eyeless, handless, volitionless—already dead.
If you are already dead you can exclude yourself from the future and its demands—you are exonerated from the pull of normalcy, performance, achievement, staying on task and making this or that work. You are freed from fixing yourself, from needing to stand or speak in a certain way to secure a mannequin-future or a marionette or a finger puppet future or a future on a finger puppet team with quotas and deadlines and carrots and sticks and Monday coming back again and again.
It was a room-temperature heaviness, so you couldn’t sense it and you couldn’t see it because it had become your way of seeing and you couldn’t tell how it was warping things, you couldn’t see how seamlessly, like memory, it applied itself, you couldn’t see how it was lying under everything.
You are not with anyone. You are walking outside. You are scrolling through face after face. You are not with anyone. If there is someone next to you it is chance like shuffling cards. Here is someone speaking. You are with no one. If the sea is mountains moving, if fire is the footing onto nothing, if pine needles strew themselves in a crisscross thatch pointing everywhere—pointing eastward pointing northward pointing southward pointing westward—where is someone? There are lines of people everywhere. Have you ever stood opposite yourself, as if you could peel yourself from yourself and walk partly away? Have you ever done this and looked back and tried to be with someone?
Time and the Dead
If the past is all replicas, is this why the dead have no past?
So he saw that if he was already dead, he could breathe, that death opened a kind of spaciousness in him where he could rest, where there wasn’t any struggle to become anything, where there wasn’t any need to be prepared for what would come—
for some funnel of the future narrowing him—that he could sink and sink away from identity, fabrication and carpentry—no future, no striving, no bargaining the days away and no hook embedded in him anywhere, pulling him up from the dark and stable depths toward the choppy, tide-tangled surface.
And he walked and walked and “it’s all pretzel pieces,” he said to himself.
Lindsay Hill was born in San Francisco and is a graduate of Bard College. His most recent books include NdjenFerno (Vatic Hum, San Francisco), Contango (Singing Horse Press, San Diego), and Sea of Hooks (Arundel, Seattle). His work has been extensively published in literary journals including: New American Writing, Sulfur, Caliban, River City, and New Orleans Review. A new long poem, "The Empty Quarter," will be published by Singing Horse later this year. Lindsay lives in Portland, OR with his wife, the painter Nita Hill.