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A Novel

I am writing a novel. The words create their own space. They pour from me, pour and scatter. Overflow.

“I can lose myself without anxiety because you keep me. This book is not narrative. It is not a discourse. It is a poetic animal machine…” Helene Cixous, Stigmata

I write this in my journal. I read it out loud, like a mantra.

My mind is numb and frantic similtaneously. There are questions of space and presence. Questions concerning space, location and language. Because where I am matters to the question of why, what, and how I am. My words are.

Trespass and linger, seeping, creeping. My words are scattered across my body, being places that they shouldn’t. I turn my tongues within and search between my shoulder blades for the adjectives I’ve lost.

They fill and overflow pouring over from every angle. It’s an alien substance. But it is me. It is mine. I claim it, driving my hands down my throat to feel the pulsing heart of it in my lungs.

There is flesh in my language. There is dirt in my words. My wandering vocabulary scatters and multiplies. It shifts in the air and returns to me, changed, moved. I cannot control it. I cannot recognize it.

I write and cannot write. The walls expand and contract. Fluctuating presence.

I am writing a novel. There are notes and tones, fractured verses. I dance between them, twitching unexpectedly between keys and tabs.

I write. Inside, the words echo. I must:

Get published

Get published

Get published

or it means nothing. Doesn’t it?

Ceaseless refrains. Every night.

I scribble on napkins and scraps of paper between tables and appetizers. It pulses. Demands.

I ride my bike home at midnight. The pavement is damp. There are no cars, only lights, growing and fading into the dust and dirt edges of the road.

One of my students asked how I could possibly be a qualified teacher without substantial publications.

Scribble. Submit. Wait.

Blue orchids and green foliage are set in wooden vases and left to whither under the reddened light.

Scribble.

Empty wine bottles frame the window sill and the coffee table behind me. A single peacock feather in a delicate glass vase. Papers scattered, printed, repeated, and torn. The blinds are slit. Coffee cups exhaust their water. Tiny drops seep and stain the window behind.

The television is on. I crave noise. I can’t write alone. Blue tipped light flickers, revealing flaws in the glass – tightening circles that intersect and expand.

Keys and ticks. In the loft, a soft, constant drumming.

I do not write novels. I write poems. I convince myself of this.

My writing instructor told me this. That I was a poet and not a writer.

I cannot tell a story. I can, however, trace myself in circles around it.

I do not understand plot, setting, characters. I understand narrative, but these are not the same.

Bobbie Hawkins, my writing instructor, told me I was a poet.

Before I could thank her she told me that she wrote poetry only once – after a man had hit her with his car while she was crossing the street in front of our school. She was in a coma for 3 days, and, as she couldn’t hold a complete thought long enough to remember and write stories, she wrote poems instead.

I understand.

I am walking somewhere in between. I cannot write sober. There is wine and insomnia to inspire the words that pour out of me.

I cannot remember them.

I fall asleep, curled in front of my computer, wrapped in sheets. I leave impressions on the couch. The mornings are damp and cold.

I do not know how to write a story. My husband also tells me this. He does not read my words, but he hears them, ticking away the hours he spends, waiting for me to slip into bed.

In bed, he tosses, driving his nails into the sheets. He dreams about screens. He dreams in black and white. He slips through the pages, constructing databases and worksheets, diagrams and charts. Trading numbers, like words.

Suffocate. I can only do this well – streaming. I focus on the empty nalgene bottle, the dust cleaner, and a bottle of gold calligraphy ink tipped onto its side and dripping onto the printer.

There are boxes and empty cans to house the wine bottles and wine glasses extended towards the end table.

Beneath the table are boxes and boxes of papers I’d left and forgotten. A peacock feather juts out of the holes in the sides. There are pictures of us everywhere. A vase on the mantel. Peacock feathers, dried roses, the remains of my wedding bouquet. The menu from our wedding day. A wooden guest book with our initials carved. Red bull cans and half empty tea cups.

I write myself as I imagined myself. There were stories there – they are not important, but they are me and they must be mine.

The mind slips into the process. Experience becomes language becomes knowledge, a way of seeing. I settle within it, aimlessly drifting in the spaces between.

How do I write what I barely remember?

There were conversations before with friends and roommates before. Whiskey Wednesdays. We stayed up in the whispers, talking or singing or watching one another.

There are no more conversations. I am writing a novel. The rest lapses into memories I will steal for material and manipulate into metaphors. Nothing is sacred. I will write them all, write every moment, every word.

I try to understand time and presence. I try to hold it in my hands.  I wrap myself in blankets and sit against the night, diving deeper and deeper into the screen, the cursor that blinks and demands ink. In the haze, the words cluster and divide, a maze of black lines stitched into the glare.

The sound of feet outside remind me that we live in a townhome. Our neighbors keep their lights on all night. I watch them through the blinds. Their shadows cross and dip beneath the banister. The window catches their reflections.

I write and am never satisfied.

Because I am a poet and not a writer. There is no order to it. I cannot claim it. I cannot hold it. It will not print. It will not manifest.

No one will publish me.

I imagine my reader, then, who is distracted, crowded between shelves in small bookstores buried in dust,  aging hipsters who lurk in late night coffee houses, shifting their eyes between baristas and the patched leather couches framing abstract paintings and dramatic black and white prints of coffee mugs, collapsed vases, and vague doorways, the kind of reader who sinks and finally, blurs before settling into memory, appearing in random list poems and haikus years after she was first noticed and committed to a memory.

She is not in real book stores, but in virtual ones, with virtual feeds and carts and screens. She browses, composing new verbs and adjectives to highlight. This is Tuesday rising and fading into Wednesday. The bar and the dimmed lights and the shades, blackened and stained red, too heavy to capture movement.  I imagine her in pixels. I imagine her barefoot and wandering, curled between piles of books and paper, books that creep, being places that they shouldn’t.

I creep and creep, dreaming of sleep knowing that I cannot sleep. I am writing a novel.

There is no reader beyond the woman I imagined in the corners, between the walls. She whispers to me, at times, telling me through the drywall, to curb my sentences this way or that. She directs me. I name her and she is happy.

In the end, there are only the words, this frantic pulsing that assumes the language I speak. In the night, I hear her laughing between the keys.

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