Thursday, April 22, 2010
There Was a Deer
In preparation for my panel at the Welcome Table Press essay symposium this Saturday (see details above and below), I've been rereading Anne Carson, specifically "The Anthropology of Water" in Plainwater. I don't want to exclaim--Anne, with whom I once shared a long, sweet, funny cab ride from Aldebrough to Heathrow, probably would be happier if I didn't --but I do have to say that the passage below leaves me pretty dumb with wonder.
from "Very Narrow: Introduction to Just for the Thrill" in The Anthropology of Water
Even now it is hard to admit how love knocked me over. I had lived a life protected from all surprise, now suddenly I was a wheel running downhill, a light thrown against a wall, paper blown flat in a ditch. I was outside my own language and customs. Why, the first time he came to my house he walked straight into the back room and came out and said, "You have a very narrow bed." Just like that! I had to laugh. I hardly knew him. I wanted to say, Where I come from, people don't talk about beds, except children's or sickbeds. But I didn't. Humans in love are terrible. You see them come hungering at one another like prehistoric wolves, you see something struggling for life in between them like a root or a soul and it flares for a moment, then they smash it. The difference between them smashes the bones out. So delicate the bones. "Yes, it is very narrow," I said. And just at the moment, I felt something running down the inside of my leg. I had not bled for thirteen years.
Love is a story that tells itself--fortunately. I don't like romance and have no talent for lyrical outpourings--yet I found myself during the days of my love affair filling many notebooks with data. There was something I had to explain to myself. I traveled into it like a foreign country, noted its behaviors, transcribed its idioms, prowled like an anthropologist for the rare and unwary use of a kinship term. But kinship itself jumped like a frog leg, then lay silent. I found the kinship between a man and a woman can be a steep, whole, excellent thing and full of languages. Yet it may have no speech. Does that make sense?
One night--it was the first winter my father began to have trouble with his mind--I was sitting at the kitchen table wrapping Christmas presents. I saw him coming down the stairs very slowly, holding his hands in front of him. In his hands were language and speech, decoupled, and when he started to talk, they dropped and ran all over the floor like a bag of bell clappers. "What happened to you to I who to? There was a deer. That's not what I. How many were? No. How? What did you do with the things you dripped no not dripped how? You had an account and one flew off. That's not. No? I. No. How? How?" He sat down all of a sudden on the bottom step and turned his eyes on me, clearly having no idea in the world who I was, or how he came to be there with me, or what should happen next. I never saw a human being so naked. His face the face of a fledgling bird, in what fringe of infant evening leaves, in what untouched terror lapped.
Sometimes you come to an edge that just breaks off.
More details about the Welcome Table Press essay symposium.
Across the street from the house in Springs: