482 Readings

To Carolyn Blessing

There is
in the song of
this room
a held note
that is a hole
torn in the air &
around it falls
all boundary we
derive of such as
a mouth & just
as inelegant as
gaped the skin
of song for one
second sliced
to expose
a clarity like
epiphany recoiling
at the heart of
the world revealing
a jolt or some
fog or an
oscillation which
nails us to its
there is
in the story of
the spike of
your vein an
apology I’ve owed
a window
askew in the
music of dying
that locates but
does not fasten
or fix a threshold
diminishing into
addiction’s simple
disruption of
flux its ceasing
gesture that
starts with an
open gate & ends
with an open
gate & no one
there is
in this city some-
where a tower
of song down
a street we’ve 
forgotten about
until now a
tower of song
in this city but I
I’ve never cared
for abundance
never kept
a breath past
necessary coursing
through me as
long as light
lasts or until
such light 
shall arise
there is
at the heart of
the world this brim
terrain serene
beneath the blue
of overdose but
teeming &
from it must
emerge what David
Antin calls
narrative “the
of the confrontation 
of the desiring 
subject with the
threat or promise of
transformation” but
I remember that
last word always
as “annihilation”
& in it hear
“addiction” though
what do I know
about annihilation
about addiction’s
specific stasis
or silence or
absence of plot
according to Antin “any
transformation no
matter how promising
contains the threat of
destroying its desiring
subject in the
magnitude of
fulfillment” according
to Antin “all self
is built over the
threat of change
every change
creates a fracture
between successive
subject states that
narrative attempts
& fails to heal
the self is formed
over these cracks”
when Hunter died
I read every word
Antin wrote about
narrative believing
I’d discovered a key
to addiction an addict
I figured
following the relatively 
simple withdrawal
from physical addiction
need only restructure
narrative so that it
bridged the addicted
subject state to the
recovering subject 
state & so long as
narrative held
annihilation averted
addiction solved
as though narrative
were any more
stable than clarity
say or what we
think of as under-
standing but I was 
thinking of Hunter
thinking of my 
father thinking
of students & friends
who never reveal
their addiction
but whom I would
somehow identify
anyhow & salvage
with narrative
I was thinking of
the self as continuous
but the self is
not continuous
it is emergent
insofar as it exists
the self exists in
discrete eruptions
of story “ we tell
ourselves stories in
order to live”
Joan Didion
famously wrote
less famously
missing the point
since the stories that
help us to see
ourselves as living
make death the
defining feature 
of the living 
self even as 
our telling them 
insists on life
as necessary
narrative doesn’t
solve addiction
it makes it possible
in this context
it’s not more
meaningful to
say (Cendrars) “the
life I’ve led 
keeps me from
suicide” than
to say “the life
I’ve led won’t
keep you from
suicide” or “the
life I’ve led is
suicide” what
aren’t we
dying of
or as Zach
said after
his diagnosis
this only confirms
what we’ve always
known about living
this changes
very well
here is the story
I’ve always known
about addiction
a man with five
children a heroin
addict abandons
his job as a 
passenger train
line cook as soon
as the children
leave with their
mother to visit
her family &
spends the week
of their absence
loaded he tells
his family when they
return that he’s
quit his job so as
not to be away
from home so
often the man
gets clean the next
winter goes 
to college lands
a job puts the kids
through college too
32 years later
he walks out
one night
& gets loaded
then he does it again
the third time the
children’s mother
calls each of them
to tell them they’ve
separated & that
she doesn’t know
where their father
is or whether
he’s alive or
dead if there’s
a difference
also there is
the story I’d 
like to tell
about addiction
in this one
following a friend’s
overdose I walk
along all the holiday
streets of the city
I walk beside 
the Mississippi &
watch the refinery
lights on the opposite
shore I reach for
snowflakes warm
my hands & catching
the air’s current
in a moment of
transit still
electric I
know it’s late but
lit kitchen windows
suit me more than
any story I’ve
heard & silence
around me only
makes me want to
shout hello
I love you
every bit & every
one of you
to touch your 
shoulders & tuck
your hair & tell you
why this life is 
joyful still it
will fill you up
it will be alright
when we die 
this is the story
I’d like to tell
in which addiction
is not better
or worse than
driving a car
or making a 
drawing for
instance but
there is
another story
a boy & a girl
there are hundreds
of versions the 
story is told
all over the world
a boy & a girl
are alone in a house
the house is built
on the edge of
a woods
the woods are 
vast & magic 
it is nearly dark
the house or the
woods or the boy
& girl are under
a spell or the
house is surrounded
by wolves always
the boy & the
girl are alone
just before night
falls the girl
becomes ill
her illness is sudden &
total she will not
make it till dawn
without medicine 
town of course
is through the woods
though she forbids
his leaving the boy
loves his sister
fears her dying
& leaves
what happens to
him makes
little difference
he is baked
in a pie he is
eaten by wolves 
he makes it to town
& buys medicine
he never returns
sometime during
the night the girl
awakens to find
they are separated
either separation is
death for them
or she has magically
healed or gathering
her strength she
opens the door
& enters the clearing
& here all versions
she runs to the woods
she runs to the woods
she runs to the woods
she runs to the woods
there is no one there
to help her

Posted 12/15/15
Published in jubilat 26, Fall 2014; and in "To the Heart of the World," Rescue Press, 2014. Making it available online.
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