from Language’s Body

 

Id Est

 

I am 84 or 86 years old. I studied Michaux, ink and mescaline. Dubuffet and his glorious chalk. I speak language. I am nothing, a man, and a man seeks the ship a pen sails. A letter on a sheet, a screen. Unlike many of my generation, I fell onto and grip computers as salvation. I couldn’t always follow technology. Everything about a typewriter is chance, not even, not level. Signatures, a joke, never the same. When called to the dotted line, I etch each letter with a stencil I manufactured. Manus, manus: In Latin, hand and hands is each the same. I hate the way they, two small men, shake. I am two men.

 

Eye-mind, ear-mind, throat-mind, hand-mind, mind-mind. I don’t want to feel this way about my own handwriting. Compartmentalization is necessary for building up or letting be. Dwell in my chosen lack of by its abundance. I am two men, more. I waylaid my growing ears and throat, happily. I am my hands and my eyes. Thankfully, my fingertips work keys, my eyes continue and shrink lines. Have you seen a Japanese family shrine? The symbols stamped in Sumerian envelopes? Handwriting, typewriting is a form of carving. Language, once seduced, a visual and experiential art, an agitation. The snaking S, the sharp arrow A, the licking tongue in Q, B’s honeycomb. I could go on, but you know. The neon sentence read jets, stretching behind eyes blinked; an image in motion repeats and crosses, time goes and orange clouds float, lid veins lit, and nothing. Abstraction grows.

 

 

Id Est

 

With rulers, the nuns thwacked my knuckles ambidextrous. In grammar school, copying down notes, I sank into words already written. Gradually my eyes pursued the pages from a yesterday, a week before, and longer. Every torqueing mood, hurry, different ink or lead, altered my script, but the letters were decipherable, variations of their original selves. I forced further change. I rid 1’s of dots, altered weekly the tails of my y’s and j’s, wrote large, wrote slow, wrote fast, wrote small. What could I get used to, and ruin? I gave up cursive, instinctively. I doodled, stretching out the long even back of K, the inevitable attempt at a parallel cross in t. Continuing the bottom legs of R, the letter straddles, below it, everything in its right triangle.

 

I never cared farther than a few math facts. A straight curve with no width or height at all. A line. Infinite. A line segment, part of a line bound by two distinct end points, containing every point (on the line) between. A letter, stamped, a combination of line segments, forming the arc in a G or a simple, intersecting L. Yet the lines within a letter go on forever. We decide where to stop; we shrink, and can’t stop looking. The line, infinitely invisible, impossible to fathom, but therein lies the potential, my focus, which almost lets me let go.

 

 

Id Est

 

I am neither a husband nor a father. Which doesn’t mean I was never wed nor have no children. A pregnant saint divorced me—two miracles, at the same time. We had two children in two years. I signed the divorce papers, paying especial attention to I and t, making sure I did not touch s, and r did not crowd t. The tail of a did link r’s foot, and the twin s’s did kiss, and v stretched its arms too high; a lost itself to a ringing, imperfect o. But c kept its distance behind my second chance, E, and l did not request a premature end, but reached its ceiling. I have thought of my absence on the second child’s birth. The typewriter’s imprecise strike struck regardless: N/A, N-o-n-e, P-a-s-t. Which doesn’t mean I don’t love or regret. We exists, don’t I? Haven’t you ever been hell-bent?

 

Another says I look too closely. Exactly, I say. I say, what else but with something like a microscope do we see the gas eke off the stars? A typewriter is fine, another says, it is nothing like a constellation. No, but it is like the lines we’ve drawn between the stars to easier map the sky. To shrink distance, we need to learn, intimately, that distance we live each day. A typewritten page looks okay to you. But even from where the page rests for easy reading, you see errors. See what depends on an ornery ribbon of ink, the space signaling between key and page; a slight wind stirs the sheet, shifting a letter’s designated clot. Variables dog. And the distance between mess and confidence is this sloppy legibility, the typewriter. But the past doesn’t bother to fix what’s never been accepted.