Reflective Journal

I

“Nothing in the Universe has a name.”

There is a howl outside. It hides in the many folds of the eternal wind and it tells the story of all that has come before. Nameless, speechless, it beseeches our ears for attention with lipless prayers. Like a solemn monarch, we nod in thoughtful agreement and quickly turn away. Ahead, the empty clouds rain upon us in ceaseless discharge. Fascinated by our own ignorance, we embrace the seasons and mistake them for progress.

We are memories in the making. Stories to be told and read and written. When the sun is down and the day is over, nothing but a few lines of dialogue remain, deceptive artifacts of personality stored in faulty recorders we like to call memory. For what are we if not what others make of us? What are others to us if not what we see of them? The pitch of their voices, the hue of irises, the scent of intentions and twisted meanings.

Within every man and woman lies infinity.

Some days ago, I took the train home from work. It was already dark, and from the comfort of my seat I could see the configurations of rushing lights that made up the outside.

-The burden of no culture. (white, male, European, heterosexual)

– “I have studied you.” The Bengali man in the train. What right do I have to write about anything or anyone? About things I haven’t seen or known? What right do I have to define you?

– The asphalt darker where the wheels don’t tread. Opening paths. A sliver of usefulness in what we do. Ideas breed ideas.

We taught ourselves secrets of our own making.

What you see above was written when things still made a modicum of sense. Word tells me this document was created the 13th of February, on a Thursday to be more precise. At first it was meant to have some sort of narrative coherence with carefully crafted metaphors and powerful images in what I know now was an attempt to avoid facing the complex relationship I keep with my own subjectivity.

Never mind that. We are here now.

I must admit I expected more of the course. Or perhaps myself. This doesn’t mean that I find the classes boring or the novels lacking or the poems superfluous. Nothing further from the truth. I believe, however, that there is a depth to them that our conversations in class do not even scratch the surface off. Sometimes I have the feeling that we are simply talking about books without really going anywhere.

Can this have something to do with the perpetual epistemological crisis I seem to live in? Most certainly. I’ve always had a hard time expressing an opinion without backing it with facts or at least arguments (I struggle as I write this).

Then there is the problem of representation, of course. The way we construct others. Because in the end that’s what we do, whether it is those who love us or a string of words printed on paper. We build them from the scratches of our own perception, and reduce them to tiny little boxes we call words and like to believe everything stacks so neatly. And then we say: “hey, that’s you!”

But how can we? How can I? As the only individual in the class to fulfill these three criteria at the same time (male, heterosexual, European) I am very much aware of the baggage my opinions, even the informed ones, may carry. Due to pre-arranged circumstances I didn’t have anything to do with, I enjoy certain privileges that will invariably inform my thoughts, actions and opinions. There are certain things I can only apprehend factually, as I will never face or feel the fears and prejudices other people do. Which is not to say that I can’t face other obstacles, obviously. Patriarchy and expectations are there for everyone to suffer.

How, then, can my opinions matter?

Now, don’t mistake this for self-pity. If anything, it is a chance for self-examination. A window of opportunity to find reasons for it to matter. For the things we say about the books and fictions to matter. To make them matter. While I’m very aware that the power of representation is a very dangerous tool, it is also a powerful one. And that is, perhaps, the redeeming quality of literature and all we do. It is through poems like Migritude that one can glimpse or even feel the rage and frustration of the migrants whose lives are weighed against a piece of paper. Through novels like Love Marriage or The Lowland  that one can glimpse the vast gulfs of perception that separate the different ways of existing in this world.

To remain silent is to be complacent. To let things be as they are.

And that’s not at all what I want. Because in the end, that’s why we do things. To dissect the vessels of meaning we call words and definitions and build new, more plural paths for everyone to tread. Or not. The choice is what matters. It always is. Perhaps that’s it, isn’t it? We do what we do so that choices can become real.

Architects of meaning.

(tear the words down)

The above is an exercise I wrote earlier this year as part of a postcolonial literature course for an MA in English Literature. As the tittle suggests, the exercise was presented to us as an opportunity to approach the course and its contents in a subjective way. The struggles presented in the journal accompany me to this day (and will continue to do so for as long as I breathe).

A Theory of Fire

The following is the transcription of what remains of an account about the origin of fire, set for obliviating during the Age of Erasure. It was recovered from an oneiric vault concealed at the edge of the Dreamlands, where the apotheons hid it in an attempt to remove its contents from the collective unconscious. Its authorship is unknown, but it is suspected that the Undying Fire itself produced the manuscript through the ages by possessing a number of individuals, as the charred markings that pose as letters suggest. As of today, these sigils remain our most promising lead to contact the Undying Fire. Whether it still lives, is another matter completely.

Once, everything was on fire. Then, after the Division, there was a war amongst the Primal Souls. Against all odds, the Fire lost, and for a time the Great Souls were at a loss as to what to do with it. The first to speak was the Wind Heart, source of all aerial beings and progenitor of storms. Carried away by its uncontainable impatience, the Wind proposed to extinguish the Fire, so that its power could be claimed by the rest of them. The Tides of Time, having been at the end of all things, restrained its hectic sibling and, with the patience of a thousand collected lifetimes, suggested it should be left to consume itself, as all things eventually do. The Soul of Stone, aware of the impending catastrophe, broke its vow of silence and hastily sent a message to its siblings in the only way it could. When the mountains were finally in place, however, no one remained to read them. So is the fate of stone, and it is there that its wisdom lies.

It was so that, not knowing what to do with it, the Fire was expelled from the perceptible spectrum and forced to retreat to the backroom of existence, only to show itself when called or needed. Aware of its own immovable ontological status, the Fire has the confidence of all the lifetimes that it will survive everything and everyone and for now is content biding its time somewhere beyond the Dreamlands.

Technically, everything is still on fire, and lighting a torch or setting a bunch of sticks on fire with flint and tinder does not produce any kind of physical reaction in the material realm, but rather allows the Fire controlled and supervised passage into the perceptible spectrum. These ‘invitations’ or codified permissions were in fact set in stone long ago, and are actually nothing more than glorified, esoteric rituals that the more scientific minds pride themselves in calling ‘laws of physical causality’.

There are other ways, however, by which the Fire can sneak its way into this world. Bursts of smoldering passion, explosions of all-consuming rage, a surge of unrestrained wrath or any emotion that moves the soul towards a state of uncontrolled action and frantic motion can also open the metaphysical gates to the Fire. Barbarians of the Red Tribes, for example, abandon themselves into a torrent of violent fury, their bodies often igniting as they charge toward their enemies like human-shaped pyres come to life. (this is actually why their skin seems to glow with the hue of slumbering ember and why they lack any bodily hair; ritual shaving and body painting are usually undertaken by the youth in imitation of their elders as an attempt the bring themselves closer to the Fire).

Inspiration, ever so hard to find and always so sudden and unexpected in its appearance, is also speculated to be a byproduct of the Fire’s dreams, as they bleed into the feeble minds of mortal souls, granting visions of unlikely yet probable futures as well as glimpses of the quiet machinations of the Soul of Fire, which often translate into manic bouts of unbound creativity. As a result, enlightenment, brilliance, a restless intellect or an ardorous élan are often attributed to manifestations of the Fire.

The rest of the manuscript has succumbed to the influence of the Dreamlands, and as a result most of the sigils have been stripped of all coherent meaning, leaving behind only burnt paper and a riddle of ash. Four lines alone survive at the end of the manuscript, clinging to the page like a fallen footnote, unwilling to be lost or forgotten.  The lines read as follows:

 

The Fire sees.

The Fire knows.

The Fire waits.

The Flames burn.

Scythia

An emaciated woman is hunched over the bleached bones of an unknown creature. Her wire thin hair hangs from her dried scalp, back and forth, back and forth, as she rocks herself in an oddly familiar fashion. From time to time, she raises her head towards a motionless sky, as if heeding the unheard call of a distant master. Finding no answer in the featureless plain of grey dust around her, she resumes the cradling motion, her ribs threatening to finally pierce her parchment-like skin. Without warning, as if prompted by a wave of unexpected lust, the woman starts to gnaw at the stump that had once been her left hand, peeling off what little flesh remains on her wrist with small, frantic bites. For a brief moment of joy, the pain almost eclipses the hunger, and a nebulous thought starts to form in the woman’s brain like a gathering storm. Somewhere far away, the wind makes a desperate cry and the memory crumbles to dust in the hollow chamber of the woman’s mind. Startled by the alien sound of the disintegrating memory, the woman makes a run for the distant horizon, where black mountains rise above the land like the jaws of a hungry god in rows without number.

No elemental spirits animate this land. The few winds that survive here were driven mad long ago by the worn, eerily smooth landscape. When the outside became unbearable to dwell on, the winds turned to themselves in regressive patterns of endless recursion. Even the Fire does not dare enter this place, burning only at an infinitesimal fraction of its undying power. The very few bonfires that have made it into the Waste protest in silent retorts at the monolithic skies, wary of the bottomless hunger pervading every atom of air. The Tides of Time, everywhere else an unstoppable force of change, come to die here in a mute discharge, spreading almost to a standstill against the featureless landscape. Only the Soul of Stone survives here, its final form and function revealed to all in a last cosmic joke whispered into the ears of a deaf audience. Having no opposition or arbiter, the earth becomes its own curator in this cursed place, where those crushed by the inevitability of death are forever thrown into a subjective eternity without beginning. Always living. Always dying. And always, always hungering.

If the Mouth of Hell is an open wound on the flesh of the world, the Scythian Wastes are a sick rim of spiritual scar-tissue, unable to heal but unable to die. Whatever is left of the times before the Fall is either dust in the raving winds or trapped in the amber of spiritual absence. Nothing lives here. Nothing dies here. And yet, the grey flatlands of the Scythian range are far from empty.

Ten Sights Of Glanfath

I

The beast jumps at your throat with gnarled teeth and ferocious expression. Years later, a memory strikes you as moonlight licks your blood-soaked hands and you realize the unbearable depth of its love. Knowing that you would kill it again, you curl up and cry.

II

Faces on trees look at you from distant times. The forest goes silent and you find your face among them. Somewhere very close, mites keep gnawing at your brain, a chip at a time. Sap runs down your cheeks as someone else walks away.

III

The husk of a woman stares at the moon, gaping at a memory she used to remember. But the weight in her chest is too much and the thing sucking from her dry breasts makes too much noise. She holds the baby with a hand made of bone and skin and plunges a rusty dager into its heart.

Silence eases a minuscule mind.

IV

A fire has found a way into the forest. It has heard of the souls trapped there and wants to save them. Trees grow legs and jump into it by the hundreds. As it dies, the fire ponders.

A smile in the ashes.

V

Something stirs at the core. It dreams, but it knows no sleep.

VI

In the morning, the crows welcome the taste of untainted flesh. Eyes blink for the last time before opening again.

VII

A swarm of three-eyed mice scurry through the undergrowth. They have been everywhere, even in your thoughts. They were born with the forest and have been fleeing ever since. Today, one thousand and twenty-four years later, they finally reach its core.

VIII

Injured beyond understanding, the river tries to remember a time before the thing that fell from the sky. It tries to rise one last time, but its bed is long gone, as well as the rest.

Mostly.

The pitiful thing gurgles as it dies forever.

IX

All the fear, all the fury, lives still within jet-black eyes. Arms like twisted branches caress your heart and leave a trail of splinters. Now, only one remains.

But one is more than enough.

X

Welcome home.

 

 

Stilhed

Vandet er tom

som hendes øjne

i sommer

som vores ure

ved fødslen.

 

Et møl uden et vinge

flyver til køkkenet

hvor to måltilder hviler

i den stillheden af det kolde,

som igår

som altid.

 

Jeg er tomheden

mellem dine fødder

og jorden,

mellem dine hænder

og verden.

 

//

 

The water is empty

like her eyes

in summer

like our clocks

at birth.

 

A moth without a wing

flies into the kitchen

where two meals rest

in the quietness of the cold,

like yesterday

as always.

 

I am the emptiness

between your feet

and the earth,

between your hands

and the world.