Each one of us, then, should speak of his roads, his crossroads, his roadside benches; each one of us should make a surveyor's map of his lost fields and meadows. Gaston Bachelard.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

"I can remember the feeling of swinging—how hard we would work for those split seconds, flung at furthest extension, just before the inevitable downward and backward pull, when we felt momentarily free of gravity, a little hiccup of suspension when our hands loosened on the chair and our torsos raised off the seat."


Yesterday, my son and I went to Anne Hamilton's installation, the event of a thread at the Park Avenue Armory. We shed our coats and were immediately greeted by a large white curtain moving in the span of the space.


We walked around the large room's circumference, and if you've never been to the Armory, it's impressive in itself: 150 paces from west to east and 70 paces north to south, with a ceiling over 70 feet high. Anne Hamilton says that "walking gathers space into the body. It is a form of listening." I watched my four-month-old son's eyes get wide and his head whip from side to side as we moved, trying to locate the sources of sound.

Kids ran by, catapulting their bodies toward the gravity of the white curtain, adding their shouts to the soundscape. Teenage boys pushed grandmothers on swings attached by chains to iron pulleys affixed near the roof, with ropes connecting to and determining the movement of the curtain. Couples sat beside each other and swung, putting their arms around each other, leaning back, way back, to look at the roof. A mother sat beside her toddler, holding her hand, swinging slowly and tenderly, testing the toddler's limits of fear. A woman sat alone, going higher, higher, higher.

While waiting for an empty swing, I sat on a bench. My son reached for a paper bag beside us, pulling back his hand as the bag emitted sound. A voice.



The voice of a woman reading to a flock of pigeons from a concordance on the far side of the room.


But now it was our turn to swing. I sat down, tightened the straps on the baby carrier, lifted my feet and drew them back. My son laughed and I pumped higher. Light shone down from the roof and the pigeons made a racket in the corner. I closed my eyes and thought about how I never wanted to stop swinging.

And then we came to an abrupt halt. A little blonde girl had jumped up and grabbed the piece of white cloth attached to our swing. I looked over at the girl. She smiled but didn't let go.

"Words allow us to travel while the tactile keeps us present; a rhythmic exchange of reeling out and pulling in that is also the swing's pendulum." (Hamilton)

I left the swing and walked back to the bench. I picked up the voice in the paper bag and carried it over to the little blonde girl.

"If on a swing, we are alone, we are together in a field. This condition of the social is the event of a thread. Our crossings with its motions, sounds, and textures is its weaving; is a social act." (Hamilton)


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jack Gilbert (1925-November 13, 2012)



Jack Gilbert was a poet unconcerned with academic achievement or structural perfection. He was a poet who wanted poems to matter. Poems that could change a reader's life. And they often did.
Jack Gilbert died today.


TEAR IT DOWN

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love,
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of raccoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within that body.

-Jack Gilbert

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Talking with Ghosts


My husband and I joke that our newborn baby sees ghosts. We watch as he stares into dusty corners, opens his eyes wide, shakes his head and forms an OH of surprise with his lips. He loves watching the white curtains blow in the bedroom, the contrast of the shadows through the window beside his change table. 

When I look at him, when I hold him, I feel like I'm on a threshold. Like he has joined us from somewhere else, come to us from the other side. In him it seems possible to see worlds gone by, places I miss, people I've lost. I imagine a small group of these people gathered around his bassinet, talking to him, preparing him, protecting him. 

This is a recording my husband made of our son sleeping and talking with his ghosts. Photo also by Yana Kehrlein.

Welcome to this world, Ulysse Walter Pierre Kehrlein. We are very happy you're here. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Frasier's Violin


I am five years old when I announce that I will play the violin. Not the piano? My mother asks. She plays the piano, we have a piano. We don’t have much money, violins cost a lot. I wake up one morning and my mom, bleary eyed in the kitchen, presents me with a gift. She’s made a violin entirely out of cardboard. An exact replica. So I can hold it, she says, practice the movements, play silent music. But it was never silent, I could always hear it.
I am twelve and my grandpa gives me my first full sized violin. It comes in a ratty old case, belonged to a member of his church. I’ve thought about upgrading but by now we know each other so well. Where the dead notes are, the windfalls, the small corners, the spot where we sing.
I am thirty years old and I’m stuck in Montreal for immigration reasons. I don’t have my violin so my friend lends me his. It belonged to his friend before him. Frasier. Perhaps his grandpa gave it to him, I’ll never know. Frasier passed away far too young, left his violin. His parents gave it to my friend and my friend lent it to me. This piece is for Frasier. It was recorded on his violin.