Fragments

You are more than this temporary life. Words will keep you alive.

Writing means my life is more than mine. It can affect someone else.

Diaries are a kind of self-portrait in progress, forever unfinished.

When you lose a parent, you're never whole again.

On The Match Factory Girl --> A bleak, sparse film set in a poor, working class section of Finland. Iris works in a match factory and supports her parents. They live in a rundown apartment with the bare essentials. Iris seeks out companionship and meets a wealthy man in a bar. They have sex, but he doesn't want to have a relationship. Iris becomes pregnant, writes him a letter, hoping for his support. He writes back "get rid of the brat" and encloses a check. Iris walks in front of a car to terminate the pregnancy and ends up in the hospital. Her parents tell her she can't come home because of what she's done. She moves in with her brother. She buys rat poison and mixes it with liquid in a glass bottle that she conceals in her purse. She systematically poisons all who have wronged her: the ex-lover, her parents, even a random guy at a bar. Iris rebels against the cold, inhumane world that consistently rejects her. The final scene shows Iris at the match factory, two cops take her away for her crimes but all I kept thinking was: "Wasn't her life already a kind of prison?"

The pain of being alive.

This sick, strange longing for death.

I see endless loss ahead of me. That's all life is.

No one will remember us.

I can't live in this world.

All the pain, the grief, the emptiness--let it be fuel. Light yourself on fire and create.

I know me. I save me. No one else can do that.

If I died tomorrow, no one could give a eulogy. No one knows who I really am. They forget me. I live only in words.

The breaking heart makes no sound. The inner machinery of the body does not change. There is no literal cracking. No broken shard. The body either lives or it dies.

Middle of the night. The body between waking and dream. And I know suddenly, violently, that I will end. No more night. No more body. Nothingness. Unspeakable.

Daddy, I'm trying to survive. I'm trying so hard.

I am crawling.

I once had two people who loved me. Now I only have one. I miss my father's love. I can't live without it.

A body of grief

Blot me out

Breathing tears

Writing is just another way of crying

Shards of speech

grief-speak

My worst fear happened. I live in the aftermath of trauma. But I am not free.

There is no place for me. I create a place in my diaries. Writing is the only world I can bear because it is my own.

I write a traumatized language

The work of the writer is to not forget. All I do is forget.

Go into the words

I don't write from the heart or even the head, but from the gut, the marrow, the blood.

Other people have friends and marriages and children. I have writing.

Eva Hesse left Nazi Germany on the kindertransport. Her parents survived, but, after the war, her mother committed suicide. These traumas inform Hesse's work. One of the filmmakers of a new documentary about Hesse said in an interview that Hesse "engaged with her loss," she didn't forget it or let it go. I like this idea of engaging with loss, of using art to do that emotional labor. Her work is connected to the process movement but she resisted categorization. She also experienced the sexism of the 1960s art world. She knew she was equal to any man. She died at 34 from a brain tumor before the feminist movement came to prominence but many feminists embrace her art. It's fragile and ephemeral. She uses unstable materials, like rubber and string and cheesecloth, that degrade over time. Museums can't even light her work, that's how delicate it is. I'm compelled by transient art. We think of the motivation behind art as the desire for immortality, the need to create a lasting object, but transient art defies this idea altogether, showing that art can be like human flesh--mortal, temporary, vulnerable.

I know I shouldn't resent or envy people who are resilient, who are able to go on after tragedy but I do because I sit on my front porch with my grief and my devastation in the pajamas I've worn for days, in a body I haven't washed in days. I sit with my memories and my anguish and I've progressed nowhere. I am traumatized and tender. I have fallen apart. I have not been "strong." But I have survived.

Remembering is not enough, I want him, not the blurry, insubstantial memory of him.

I'm not a broken record. I am a record of what's broken.

Themes of my life, my writing: loneliness, aching, grief.

On Tarkovsky's The Mirror--> It was a true cinematic experience. It's an enigmatic, dreamlike film. The memory of it will be like a memory of my own life. A dying man remembers moments in his life: his mother, his childhood in the Russian countryside. His mother is still alive and now she is going to lose her son. We see a scene of her in the past, before the son is born, lying in the grass with her husband. She is pregnant with the son, she is already dreaming about him. I don't know how to write about the film. It's fragmented and dizzying as time periods shift. You never feel settled, but you're always aware this is an act of memory and it's supposed to lack total coherence. Memory fluctuates, blurs, rearranges, it is not made on solid ground.

On Tarkovsky's Solaris--> Some online reviewers consider the film his weakest but I disagree. Kris Kelvin is sent to a space station where the crew is experiencing unusual phenomena. Apparently, the ocean on a planet is mining their memories and resurrecting dead people from their past. They are not hallucinations. Everyone can see "the guests" as they are called. You can try to kill them but another reproduction replaces them, Kelvin's dead wife, Hari, appears to him on the space station. She died tens years earlier from suicide. She is now flesh and blood, they can kiss and touch. She is a reproduction but Kelvin falls in love with her and wants to stay on the space station so they can be together. Hari leaves. Hari is interesting. She's not the actual woman she's impersonating (that woman is dead) and she's not really human but she has feelings and emotions. We're not sure what happens to her, only that she chooses to let Kelvin go. For me, the film is about grief and loss. Kelvin is haunted by his dead wife and willing to give up everything to be with a reproduction of her. Was the film saying something about the power of the dead? The pull of the past? I think so. But I can't articulate all of it. The film has these creepy moments when the dead people appear on the space station. You know they are not real, that they are the dead. It made me wonder what I'd do if my father suddenly appeared, if I lost my mind and saw him again. Imagine him being here as a real, physical, embodied person! I'd do exactly as Kelvin did. I'd try to make it last forever, to be with the dead again.

When I was younger, I used to stare at the sun until it was so searing that I had to look away. That's what I do now with grief and the past. I keep looking until my whole body burns.

Where to drop all this? We can't donate trauma and memory. We can't purge grief. I fear I will die with so much unwritten.

I struggle to leave my bed, my only safe space.

Nothing loves me back. A film, a book, a song, a work of art--none of them can love me back.

Father, how do I honor you? What if I can't honor you? What if my survival must be enough?

There is no meaning without him.

He died with all his memories.

I never quite make it

I love being alone. I love it deeply.

I find peace in emptiness--in an empty house, silence, solitude.

The grief makes my chest hurt

The grief is heavy. The grief is lonely.

Being alive means being close to death.

The substance of absence

The grief of cellos

It's like he was a protection, a shield, between me and the world and, when he died, I lost that buffer.

His death was the death of my childhood, the death of innocence, like the Fall and everything before was Eden, a paradise lost.

We don't all overcome. Some of us are on the ground, moaning in the gravel.

But to forget him is to forget his love. I must remember even though it causes pain.

The shame of being unemployed, mentally ill, scared, ugly, and alone. The shame of not being successful, of not being able to leave the house. The shame of not mattering. The shame of poverty. The shame of failure.

The pages are keeping me alive.

I call the ache in my chest "father" because that's where he lives now, beating the blood through my body, keeping me alive.

I'm not empty. I'm emptied. Something was once there and now it's gone.

Adulthood is learning how to live with this ache in your chest. Maybe some of us never do get used to it.

I am an archivist of loss

I don't believe in god. I believe in language.

Bloodstained words, I suppose that's what I want to write.

Seeing my handwritten words in my journal, I know I exist.

My first words were "da da." I wonder, what will be my last words?

After my mother hugs me, my shirt smells like her perfume.

A writing of absence

Nobuyoshi Araki signs all his photos with the date he married his late wife, Yoko. She died in 1990.

I write because I mourn.

The words remember. I can't bear memory alone.

Maybe our worst days live inside us and keep occurring over and over.

I've always liked myths about the Underworld, from Eurydice and Orpheus to Persephone and Hades. These myths have created a physical space where the dead are housed, where we could possibly access them. But Orpheus and Eurydice seem to show us that the dead cannot be reclaimed. We cannot save them from death.

One way or another, I will die of grief.


Mariela Sancari - Moisés










When a parent dies, a child loses not just the parent as they were, as they remember them to be, but who that parent would have been. As the child ages, she wonders what her dead parent would look like. Mariela Sancari took this curiosity about a dead parent's aging and turned it into a moving photographic series of portraits of men who resembled her late father. Sancari found the men through a newspaper ad. She posed with the men and even had the men wear her father's clothes. The resulting portraits are eerie and unsettling. The men are not exactly replacements and not exactly representations, they are only ever approximations, they embody the idea of her father, they show a daughter's desperate longing to be near the father she lost forever, a daughter acknowledging that no man can be her father, no matter the resemblance or the wearing of his clothes. Their presence seems to only intensify the absence of Sancari's father. He is gone and she can only futilely search for his doppelgangers, these men scattered throughout the world who look a bit like a dead man they will never meet. 

"Photography is our exorcism"
Jean Baudrillard, La transparence du mal
Thanatology asserts that not seeing the dead body of our beloved ones, prevents us from accepting their death. Contemplating the body of the deceased helps us overcome one of the most complex stages of grief: denial.
My twin sister and I were not allowed to see the dead body of our father. I never knew if that was because he committed suicide or because of Jewish religious beliefs or both.
Not seeing him has made us doubt his death in many ways. The feeling that everything was a nightmare and the fantasy we both have that we are going to find him walking in the street or sitting in a cafe has accompanied us all these years.
I once read that fiction´s primary task is to favor evolution, forcing us to acknowledge and become the otherness around us. I think fiction can help us depict the endless reservoir of the unconscious, allowing us to represent our desires and fantasies.
Moisés is a typology of portraits of men in their 70´s, the age that my father would be today if he were alive.
with thanks to Mariela Sancari 



Further Reading:
The Guardian - Mariela Sancari: why I tracked down and photographed my dead dad's lookalikes

Lydia Davis - Head, Heart

Heart weeps.
Head tries to help heart.
Head tells heart how it is, again:
You will lose the ones you love. They will all go. But even the earth will go, someday.
Heart feels better, then.
But the words of head do not remain long in the ears of heart.
Heart is so new to this.
I want them back, says heart.
Head is all heart has.
Help, head. Help heart.


Lydia Davis on this poem, in an interview with The Paris Review:
It’s a story about grief. When I came to try to express this particular grief, a poem was what I wanted. No “story,” no talk, but that distillation. That difficulty speaking, almost. But I don’t consider myself a poet, so it was hard for me to sit down and write a poem. It was very close and very private. It’s ­funny how now I can talk about it—at the time, even though I wanted to write it and I wanted it to be good, and finished, I did not have any intention of publishing it or letting it go out into the world. I wrote it and finished it and got it right, then I put it aside. It was only years later that I felt enough distance so that I could let something so private become public. It has its roots in Anglo-Saxon literature and in Gerard Manley Hopkins, who was himself very influenced by Anglo-Saxon literature. All the alliteration—“help,” “head,” “heart.” That is from Anglo-Saxon poetry. And then the ­vocabulary. “Remain” is Latinate, but all the other words are Anglo-Saxon. They’re very simple. Almost all of them are monosyllables. To me the simplicity of the vocabulary, the repetition, the alliteration all get closer to the most basic and most difficult emotions. There’s no fancy language coming on top of them. If you can do that without sounding simpleminded, it’s very powerful.