Alana Siegel responds:
“I don’t believe anyone. I don’t believe anything.” Even the most compelling, noble people, even the most carefully wrought ethic is destined to become rhetoric, morphing from sentience into reference, slicing a thin lookout upon its arc, a lighthouse consolation to a melancholic impasse. I am standing with a woman and her young boy. We look down to the water, quickly darkening.
I tell her the darkening means the sun is setting. “I don’t trust anything. I don’t trust anyone.” This makes me a horrible friend, a confusing lover, and a strange thinker, but it makes me an artist (I think by its sacrifice, poetry becomes the only dream, and being the only dream, releases all insides, is the single challenge, a chalice, a place for the deep pour. It removes all objects, and replaces each reading. Kierkegaard wrote, “Purity of heart is to will one thing.”
“You don’t know how alone I feel,” I am often wanting to say to the people I know. I don’t mean lonesomeness. I don’t mean “alone” in an unwanted sense. By “alone” I mean I am never alone enough. I want to feel my heart like the four corners, a geographical nonchalance of four states converging. The pain of hatred or sorrow or slicing my finger—what is more painful, pleasure, or pain—what is more pleasurable, pain or pleasure? I float upon a paradox nearly embalmed. Then here, once alone, I am a loyal, loving friend, a passionately devoted lover, and a capaciously lucid thinker.
I like big words because I don’t know what they know. Then I like to say simple words because I think there are no simple words. I think knowledge withholds a secret of evenness writing knows to betray. I think how you hear is sudden, and all of a sudden, you can hear a sentence, and it issues a meaning so new, almost blushing. One day I heard my mom say, “I didn’t know what to do so I went for a run,” or yesterday I heard a friend, when offering her a slice of coconut crème cake, reply, “I’m trying not to eat cake,” and this seems normal, not different, “un-strange”, then suddenly it’s strange that cake exists, it’s strange I brought it to our afternoon meeting, and it’s strange she’s refusing it, and strange means I can hear her.
I feel the love of kinship—I feel it in peers. I feel it in falling in love like a test undergoing the right of kinship, and it only lasts so long as the image—a fortunate fall; a charnel ground shadow, as beings are images, careful separators eyeing every motion; e-motion, our motion, as our minds meet in the zones of the visually peripheral, and we stop and locate our feeling by surrounding objects. I am not this chair; I must be myself. Neither am I television—I am a single person. But the images invade, of war and local bloodshed.
I am jeopardized by the communal, by my complicity. If I said I was not political, this would be untrue. If I said I was political, I would be untrue. If I said I was only language and served its task I still could not bury myself behind a desk.
I am a young boy in a movie sitting next to a tree, crying how he wishes he could move to another town, because his older brother is Eyeball, and his wealthy patrons surround him, miming social niceties, convincing the rawness of the organs there is conviction; artifice—there are reasons for writing trumping the organismal—there is culture; there is art.
I saw a suitcase yesterday when walking down Shattuck and the initials on the top were “A.R.J.” Why was it not “A.R.T” ? I thought to myself. There is a reason the third initial veered.
Alana Siegel was born in Los Angeles in 1985. She is a graduate of Bard College, holding a B.A. in Language and Literature and the recipient of the William J. Lockwood prize for excellence in creative writing, specifically for her work Password. Archipelago is her first major publication, forthcoming from Station Hill Press. Other chapbooks include The Occupations, Semata, and words from Ra Ra Junction. She presently lives in Berkeley, California, collaborating on “World-Mind: Heavenly City, Earthly City,” a course on the poetics of Robert Duncan and the San Francisco Renaissance, at the burgeoning Bay Area Public School.