Furor Aporeticus : First Excursion
“A shared air of impermanence, of being able to move on, shape shift, relocate to other universities, mountain tops, ghettos, factories, safe houses, abandoned farms. . .”
“no ordinary sedentariness preexists” (Derrida)
If it isn’t paradise but the wandering lust for it,
If it is the ethos of limits—boundaries, circumscriptions—that must be trespassed,
If “there is no there there” and, within every woman, there breathes a restlessness that exceeds all bounds
Unanchorable MGB, refusing confinement in her writing and in her Beetle, once endeavoring to travel from city to city to derange the how-what-where of writing, reading, dreaming, wandering—unsettling even desire-delirium under different skies.
What has happened to the pure pleasures of drifting?
Oh days of castles, not in the air but in the sand
“To follow the flow of matter is to itinerate.” (Deleuze and Guittari)
She said, “What would be the point of searching for places already known—dystopias found and abandoned?” She said, “What would be the point of searching for unknown utopias—as if our senses, imperfect, could know the if-and-when of arriving upon ‘the perfect place’?”
Between origin and death, between coasts east and west, between colonizer and refugee, between intruder and exile (always already she-who-is-not- in-her-place), between the contradictory imperatives of displacement and quest
She said, “Santayana, into his seventies, lived the lifestyle of a wandering scholar.” She said, “ Rilke, ‘dulled by the local scene’, needed to ‘get out and refresh his gaze’ now and then.”
So many lines running through her—how could she expect to feel ‘at home’ in any one pied a terre?
Oh when your mouth, your skin were paradise enough and the only place to take up residence or flights of fancy was in your arms
“We are looking for spaces (geographic, social, Cultural, imaginal) with potential to flower as autonomous zones.” (Bey)
If every culture has its own version of the Romantic quest, if the California dreaming, the European exploration of ‘the orient’, the chase, the witch hunt, the crossing, the search (for gold, for freedom, for adventure, for home), the transatlantic pilgrimage, if the grass is always greener/the air cleaner/the sand so velveteener elsewhere:
MGB attempting to traverse Laguna Mountains in her ’74 Beetle, her breaks recently inspected, her belly replete with cinnamon bread, her veins and her fancy overflowing with caffeine.
In those pre-Arizona days in which she conceived every town this side of the San Andreas as ‘the east’, imagining an enchanting land of terra cotta hills and turquoise skies, imagining inhabitants who looked like Joan Baez, whose skin glowed all the more ferruginous from embellishment with earrings, bracelets, anklets of silver and semi-precious stones. Desperately expectant MGB: driving toward New Mexico with her text
Come, let us write a memoire, a lesbian travelogue —a herstory-in-progress of the topographies which two women, mad with love, traverse, colluding in words and in kisses.
“How hopeful the individual is again and again, how really well-intentioned.” (Rilke)
if partaking in the intoxicant of migration / the summons of the bon voyage / if a change of direction / if a change of desire / if it is because there is no utopia that a woman, anxious of feet if inert of mind, must persevere, delighting-despairing in the tautology of the pursuit:
one who recognizes that the utopian quest is a creative construct is one who is entangled in its fictions—psychologically, physiologically—nevertheless
Oh, MGB, whose left cerebral cortex lusts to wander and whose right brain wastes away of mal du pays, mal du vin, nostalgic for mal du mer: implicit in the idiom of ‘not fitting in’ is the supposition of places that might suit one better
Oh insuperable desire to submerge these hands in your bodiless billowing, to drench this face in your mist of morning
If every winding road leads not to Rome but to Mytilene
“We make declamatory breaks with it. . .We make declamatory returns.” (Didion)
If she used to define herself self-righteously as a fugitive—one running from the simulacrum of family, for instance / one fleeing the California dictate of celerity, productivity, palm trees—if the discourse of displacement was becoming more becoming / if the refugee is she who has opted to leave because the options have become so limited/limiting, leaving no other option / if the ensuing anxieties (no fog to shelter? no drizzle to reanimate? no sea to pacify the fears?) are no more assuageable by a language of volition:
There doodles MGB, imitating a Didion who doodled in that same land half her life yet remained incapable of apprehending, wanting/not wanting her rightful place in the grand narrative of The West, expiating or expatiating on the loss of paradise as one who has (almost) had it—not at the nib of a Waterman but within cupped hands, under excursion-weary feet, toes whitewashed, cozy and tepid in a sandbank Elysium
Oh souls and soils irregular, ever-unstable!
Oh eucalyptus-lined highways!
Oh state of departures / oh straying pleasures of drifting!
“Thus, in justice, may we bar the poet from the city—she, who by arousing, feeding, strengthening the emotions, destroys the soul’s most rational components.” (Plato)
One whose occupation (as early as the fourth century BC) had been ruled useless at best (The Republic, Book X), deceptive/maleficent at worst (Book II) ought not to be astonished that expulsion from the metropolis was now the only suitable recompense for her poetic meanderings/ furor scribendi itself—that tendency for geographical, lexical, psychic derangements— deemed a sign of a deeper delirium.
One who at times had been set in motion by a reposeless mind / stirred by a tedium tremens interior/exterior was one always already fated to become one economically exiled by her creative faculty—one banished to the land of barren bards.
Between the nomad who pauses by necessity and the migrant who travels by it, MGB: hesitating at Arizona’s riparian border. Will she be stranded in a place in which she can(not) write?
Elsewhere: the sea / elsewhere: the forest of redwoods / elsewhere: desire
“The epidemiological literature linking somatization, depression and migration is enormous” (Stein)
If the state she had needed to leave behind was as much topographical as it was mental: MGB: agonizing to articulate despair—the loss of utopia, the loss of folie (a une, a deux), the loss of the imperative for the impossible (a trios) —because loss is a despair assented to—or, at least, no longer disputed with conviction—because the utter absence of desire (a plus?)—including the desire to articulate—because the resignation of the all-too-possible— because one has a relationship to a place—a piece of mind/of land only for the duration
If it seemed she was becoming increasingly melancholic—so prosaic was the discourse of nostalgia commoving/suppressing dysrhythmic pen—quixotic MGB: already lovesick for a fantastic, an impalpable coastline
Oh nostalgia, if not for happy bygone days, then for those places we enjoyed being unhappy
“Tell the people that when they arrive in the land, Cities of Asylum shall be designated for anyone to flee into.” (Numbers 35:9)
MGB: With a penchant for places where the placeless congregate, managing (almost) to regard Arizona (for five years?) as a state of transit, a temporary refuge for those exiled from real cities
Because an artists’ colony could be a city of asylum;
Because a town secluded by desert, mountains, so-called rivers;
Because a mountain in particular is an island of land upon land—“an isolation infinitely romantic”—a barrier metaphoric and corporeal;
Because poets are always scrimmaging for islands: England for Sylvia, Lesbos for Sappho, Ibiza for Benjamin
MGB (until ‘the big one’ turns California itself into an archipelago?): immured within her latest dwelling place and her mental dungeon, immured with girlfriend, cats and fountain pen: pro tempore, between the urgency of withdrawal and weary soles and will-less mind
They say it was a broken heart, but it was expatriation, my love, that drowned the 10th muse’s rhyme
“When the innocent criminal reaches any of these cities. . .the council must let her in and give her a place among them. . .in the hill country . . .in the wilderness.” (Joshua 20: 4)
If the biblical-Kantian-Derridian reasons for the establishment of six cities of asylum was to guarantee sanctuary for those who inadvertently had committed a mortal crime;
If the only crime she had committed—the only thing she had done away, accidentally wrist-slitting or asphyxiating before a mountain-sick ‘retreat’—was her passion for poetry, her (mis)belief in the mellifluousness of muses
MGB, who had been unfaithful to her imagination, misreckoning road-trips for writerly ramblings: now struggling to return to poetry through philosophy or through fiction, years of insentient laboriousness weighing on her hand
MGB: who cannot think about dashing off without thinking of Rachel, Sylvia, Nicole—all the witty wayfarers in her travel bag and in her poems, all the titillating tour guides
MGB: whose poetry unsettles her prose all the silly seafarers: contemplativa in desierto
She, whom Rachel had forewarned, “Some palm trees are not meant to be transplanted.”
How do we become excursionists of genre / in a village temporarily hospitable?
Where is our sign—the sign of the lyre—our writeful place before the pyre?
“How long do you plan to stay in Arizona?” “Just as long as it takes to get across” (Grapes of Wrath)
Oh, rainless mountain hell to which we have withdrawn this time / oh, landscape disfigured beyond the 100th meridian / above the 100-degree Fahrenheit / oh cuprite,
oh ochre, oh stupor, oh torpor, oh desert of the interior against whom the oceanic imagination becomes a pittance of rain
is this what the desert geography does to one—here, where days follow days artlessly, apluvially, uneventfully upon scorching boulevards of dirt?
Oh crypt-house, oh ludicrous tombstone rose, oh fatherlands ineludible!
Against the rattling intermittence of arid winds and hailing monsoons: our feeble desire lacustrine, fluvial, pelagic