Dear L.

April 2024

Dear Lyn:

I can’t locate the words that aren’t there for the languagelessness of your having left this plane.

I think about you.
I think about you in the grain of the wood of the table where I’m sitting. 
I think of you in the way the air moves the leaves multi-directionally. 
I think of you in the way salt seeps through substances that look solid to the eye but are actually tremendously porous. Like language. 
I think of you in the semaphore. 
As semaphore. 

Dear Lyn:

I think of you as someone unlike most others, in that to others it makes sense to say, once it’s much too late, I owe you for this for that, I owe you, making a list of those things that oblige one. But we never had such a relationship. You were the first to take me and my work seriously, the first to support my enterprises, loyally, the first to sanction my work, to vouch for what I’d made. I think we lacked this fixed state of obligation because of a certain spirit of generosity that is missing all the more now that you’re missing from the scene, altogether.

It’s not just generosity. It’s also equanimity, a kind of levelness of the brightly-colored field, however hilly. Equity, where generation and geography and status or stature – structures of nomenclature and also of power and privilege – matter, because they are matter, and also are not determinative, because they are political matter, and linguistic matter, and as such can be transformed or re-pronounced. Made into other gestures. Other generosities. 

Dear Lyn:

Because of a certain spirit of generosity when we first met, both of us entirely out of context and thus in context, it felt as if we’d always known each other. As if we’d grown up on the same street (and we did), different temporalities, same grooves, different vantage points, same groves. And we have always known each other and will always know each other. Are you still knowable? Are we ever not so? It’s like a piece of me is gone, but perhaps that piece was always already gone, needed to be missing as incompleteness is necessary, as being whole is not about being completed, but rather is about being willing to be alive in the plenitude of being unwhole. As being alive can also contain not being alive.

Once we sent letters, and in one or two of these letters I described to you some concepts I was developing, or really just renaming, to describe how I experienced structure in your books. Not all of them. But three of them, including my favorite one, The Cell, in which you write that it is “not imperfect to have died.” This line always felt evasive, even opportunistic, but maybe now I have a different perspective on it. 

And it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect to have died either, because it’s really not.

Anyway, as you well know, lines from our letters turned up in your next book, and sometimes phrases appeared there verbatim. So I had to write about this when I tried out my phrases and names in an essay — and an essay, we know, from the French verb essayer, is also a try-out. You said nice things about the essay in yet another letter to me. But from what I can tell, that was the last time you wrote to me in hard copy. The rest is in email. I just said, “as you well know.” And knowledge is imperfect. But do you still know? Where are you? At the top of an old-fashioned letter we would type out our spatial coordinates and the date. But emails are placeless and time-stamped. You told me to print out every email because archives pay by the inch, not by the byte.

Dear Lyn:

You told me yes at every turn. I was going to say you opened doors for me, but that’s not it at all. You built frames where no doors would fit and gently invited me to walk through them with you. You created portals and laughed at the unexpected adventures that unfurled on the other side. You refused exclusivity, hierarchy, gatekeeping, and obligation in favor of experimenting together: this was your teaching. This was your living. And now this is your dying. 

You also told me, “I want power.” I was shocked when you said so. I still wonder why this was shocking to me, because power to me is neutral, although I distrust it reflexively. We read on the same bill at a “celebration” of Gertrude Stein. You were smiling as I read. I think enjoying Stein’s prosody was something you permitted me, without teaching me, to do. I drew power from you (it would have been less powerful or consequential to try to teach that enjoyment). I must have wanted it. But enjoying power seems like an unhappy, even greedy urge to indulge. Wouldn’t it? I miss the opportunity to ask you myself, though I suppose this is what I mean to do here. When I was a kid, I used to try to imbue the family pets with longevity by touching them and imagining that while I touched them, they drew power from me that I was all the more happy to sacrifice. There was sometimes this weird dynamic I felt in your presence, which was about absolute authority, and that reminded me of this being someone’s pet. Teacher’s pet. I knew you would have hated that power, or strongly suspected, if I ever mentioned this feeling to you, you would have to wonder what you had done wrong. Of course, confessing now is easy because it’s absurd.

I feel like I’ve been signing off and often lately. That’s a banal observation, I know, but it’s funny how the inevitable becomes noticeable in a brand-new way. You might have told me so.

And so we tell you, there is power in knowing someone and being known, there is generosity in sharing power or unbuilding its imbalanced structures along the faultlines of language, there are fissures in the membrane between us, and there is love, which is neither imperfect nor perfect and never dies.

We miss you. And think of you in the infinitesimal persuasions of wind against rock. 

Jen/Eleana & Patrick