María José Giménez writes of stories contained in histories, of how words fold into other words, of how meaning emerges along the creases. She writes about crossings of language, asks What happens when we engage more closely with other/others' words?, and the question carries me to a history where the words of others required particularly close attention.
A friend who knows about these things once told me about the existence of a German word, Fernweh, which she translates to mean: feeling homesick for places you've never been. Reverso renders it as wanderlust, but my friend explains the word conveys not so much a lustful craving for travel as a sense of sadness and loss in staying put. A closer approximation might be distance-sickness, filled with all the ache, yearning, and nostalgia that homesickness might evoke, only for far-off places rather than the familiar.
Some waves originate deep in space; others arrive with the wind, cresting the ocean's surface. At low tide, a traveler might walk a long stretch of shore, shifting boundary between land and sea. She might lift spiraled shell to ear, listen for a sound that began in a neighboring galaxy, named after an explorer intent on sailing the globe. She might hear history. “It might sound like this: in the salt chuckle of rocks / with their sea pools, there was the sound /like a rumour without any echo / of History, really beginning.” Such does Derek Walcott locate history's source in a tidepool made of words. Writing in Poetic Intention, Édouard Glissant uses the same materials of construction: “I build my language out of rocks, I write, indeed, with the feeling of some scribe. . . .” In the tides between history and language: poetry, an island that breaks away from the main.
Some waves originate deep in space; others arrive with the wind, cresting the ocean's surface. At low tide, a traveler might walk a long stretch of shore, shifting boundary between land and sea. She might lift spiraled shell to ear, listen for a sound that began in a neighboring galaxy, named after an explorer intent on sailing the globe.
Catherine Theis's The Fraud of Good Sleep begins the delicious logbook of its dreaming with the ancients who "loved in a way that allowed / them to relay their delicate campaigns / across opposite seas," a surety of guidance, if not arrival. No matter. As Hélène Cixous counsels in The School of Dreams, "This is what writing is, starting off. . . . This does not mean one will get there. Writing is not arriving; most of the time it's not arriving."
Most mornings I set out from my house to run — albeit not with any speed — urban sidewalks that lead to trafficked boulevards that merge with a California State Park trail, switch-backing up a hill of some height.
Todd Fredson's award-winning poetry collection, The Crucifix-Blocks, offers an epigraph by Cecília Meireles: "And Babel's workmen, dead by suicide." It's a line from Meireles' poem: "Speech," and it's been much in mind not only because of Todd's gorgeous and generous dispatch, but because I was recently in an airplane, peering out a small oval window into high-altitude blue over clouds, imagining what that fabled city might have looked like completed.
Would a person be able to spot its heavenward tower from a window seat at 500 miles per hour? Would its collaborative architecture be recognizable — spiral, terraced, trapezoidal? Would the clang of weights and pulleys ring from its walls?
Maybe such a structure can be perceived only by listening for a shared language buried inside a collective rubble of memory.