CONJUNCTIONS:60, In Absentia (Spring 2013)

Orange Roses
Lucy Ives

In a kind of fantasy in which I frequently indulge, I discover a way to become so interested in work that I no longer speculate in the negative about the emotional lives of others. In other words, I give up paranoia in favor of business. To actually accomplish this, by which I mean, in life, would mean becoming the most American poet of all time.

In order not to despair, I have to first imagine the day then execute.

Jacques says, “Philosophy is comparing different kinds of philosophy.”

I dream about an elevated walkway. A converted ruin. I keep wondering, is it relatively harder to live in the United States now than it has been at other times, and on what grounds could I even make this assessment.

I was trying to remember the numerals “5 3” because I needed to keep a code in mind while I went between screens on the “Droid Eris.” I realized I could not think of a single discrete event that occurred in 1953.

Transparent philosophers; it’s a sentence about their activity.

I lend Zachary my copy of The Basketball Article, by Anne Waldman and Bernadette Mayer. I don’t expect it back, but he returns it within a month.

It is sometimes like there are two possible descriptions of the social event, generally speaking: one in which the individual despairs; one in which the individual, as such, is obviated.

I write a poem:

I just let the flowers die
I was a terrible person but I didn’t care
Being a person is a specific kind of art
If you knew me you would know why I am
Telling you I am in the greatest actual comfort
When I shift my pleasant game
To the interior
Where it is right now
THWACK is the sound a racket
Makes in a shittier poem
But we’re not indoors
This is just a voice
Which makes it sound like we are indoors
And there are far fewer
Natural noises now
It’s truer than if
We were anywhere else

This feels like what Dara means about the fascination of “real life,” or what is “based on a true story.” In this sense, all my desperation (flailing) and plans, the attempt not to do nothing, are also an invention—and therefore not the necessary precursor to some real act.

If I want to do something new or progress, I have to travel farther into a style I have already established. I may at this point add detail. In this sense, the work becomes a fiction of perspective.

I would like to write a story about a person who is continually transformed, who is a woman and becomes a donkey, a cat, a plant, a pencil, a mote, an old woman, etc.

An interest in what seems to be the case precludes my accession to a purely fictional form.

Current technology: IF a representation of reading, THEN legible. IF a legible representation of reading, THEN a caricature?

He spoke to his wife. He told her not to hit herself in the face. He said that she should not be hopeless, that she could not be hopeless. She had too much to live for. If she were a great writer she would never have had these thoughts. She said that she did not know what she should do. He said that it was easy, that there was a choice, that she was no longer five years old. She silently wished to herself that she were five years old. She silently felt as if she were five years old, and all the world were still ahead of her, every literate thought and act.

For me conceptualism could be something like, “Write a twelve hundred–page novel set in 1872, detailing the travels and observations of a French novelist in the North American countryside.”

List of various details:
a. A click
b. A wooden peg
c. Black saliva
d. Dizzying shine

I notice the poverty of my own writing during a reading and feel intense regret. Do I become like those I parody in my prose to Sam? I am “just” like them?

A memory from a wedding: I congratulate the bridegroom on a “beautiful ceremony,” and he grimaces, plastic face thinly muscled over.

Rousseau: “J’ai vu de ces gens qu’on appelle vrais dans le monde.”

The scene in Buñuel’s The Phantom of Liberty in which a sniper is sentenced to death and then released by officials from his handcuffs: He shakes hands with his lawyer and lights a cigarette, descends an elaborate staircase to sign autographs in the courthouse lobby.

One student has written that he does not understand why he was not permitted to bring his “philosophical ideas” to bear in his paper.

Something we talk about yesterday evening: If one is a witch, it is because (i.e., it would be because) one can (could) turn people to stone.

Quality of time. One wishes to assign qualities to it, but then these are the qualities assigned; planned and not discovered. Why should the unexpected be of such value, when we are trying to sense not it but rather that in or against which it occurs?

The human could in fact only be transfigured through imitation?

I meet with Julia, who remembers me as “Canadian,” or “Kim Deal.”

In a dream Peter is in front of an ocean. I am transformed into a bunch of daisies bound with orange string.

I make a list of numbers and cross them off as I finish pages. The numbers do not correspond to an actual projected page limit, but act rather as a prop to make venturing into prose bearable. I tell myself, “You will not have to keep doing this forever,” which, of course, I won’t.

1928 letter from Williams to Zukofsky: “… virtue exists like a small flower on a loose piece of earth above a precipice.”

I find a stanza from a poem I wrote when I was twenty-three:


Roses at a blue gate

Boys brush aside sand

Orange roses

Why on television is it always clear which is the “right” person with whom to share one’s affections?

I remember almost a decade ago Rob talking to me on the phone about stories he was writing about his father. Rob said writing made him want to shop. Could this show how some illogical behavior is more meaningful than others.

Those whom no one loves, live, and perhaps are happy.

I can see that someone cannot quite explain, but she covers her confusion with a weird smile, under which she hides her lack of authority. Now I am smiling.

List from observation:
a. Naturalism
b. chapping in eighteenth-century pastel
c. treatise on hems, bows
d. symbolical coat
e. mask, or loup
f. shade, tambourine
g. figured damask coat, or banyan
h. Praktische Anweisung zur Pastellmalerei
i. 1792

I go to the gym and spend fifty minutes on the treadmill and elliptical machine. I watch television. Wanda Sykes tells Ellen about her grapefruit-sized tumor (she is forty-seven). I do some sit-ups. At the supermarket the checkout girl tells me about the time she wore “really heavy pants” and a white T-shirt in the rain.

Reason is a language. In this sense it is no more or less perfect than other languages.

I walk uptown to Thirty-sixth for an opening. Ben’s painting (of the Italian flag with a bucket over it) has already sold. Later on the train he tells me he spoke to someone our age who has no hand but only a thumb at the end of one of his arms: “I shook his thumb.” If I also had such a thumb this is what others would say of me.

Maybe I have a boring way of treating life. I watch a man across the street throw cardboard boxes at a second-story window.

Language, since inorganic, is not suffused by time and does not “die,” despite the expression. And yet without the depth of time, the possibility of sequence, there could be no meaning.

Have lunch alone with Sam because Christian doesn’t show (cannot get out of bed). For some reason Sam humors me. I say something about how useless is the term “fiction.”

List of events:
a. They discover a beetle in milk.
b. Flaubert critiques the pious death of a child.
c. A drunk slips her phone into a toilet.
d. Someone paints a roof to look like snow.
e. A fuchsia bud.

The present is whatever must be alleviated by a message.

At a lecture I make no effort to take notes but rather withstand my boredom by consuming it, avidly even, as if it were a broth. I find that later when I am outside on the street I have begun to dread the possibility that I allow a sort of lust for passivity to overtake my life.

In a dream I ride to a village built in what I privately term “the Austrian style.” I die and walk along a sunny highway.

It’s not simply that you become “depressed”; that is far too inexact. You can forget how to do a thing, how to make the gesture that accomplishes your desire. You forget to try to reach whatever this or that may be, because you generalize. You only reason with yourself, you make no attempt. There is in fact no way to justify this sort of behavior.

In a dream I am with someone I love. I enter a café made of unvarnished wood; diners sit single file on enclosed balconies with rugged plastic windows.

1. A white scratch.
2. Emma pauses near a smudge.
3. Orange roses wrapped in hair.

I find a fragment, partially highlighted:

This is the sense in which people speak of art as “doing,” which is to say, confusedly. Anyhow, sometimes one has hunted successfully in the wreckage that constitutes her fear.

I imagine it as a point in time that is also a view, smeared laterally and with no regard for the artificiality of the gesture, and here one might “feel” (apprehend) the affections of the artist.

I think about how in the end it is true, something that we see in other people, or what frightens us, is death, possibly our own, or just a sign of it, like, in another personality. This is at any rate what threatens me and makes me fear, rather than love, others, if I do. What is curious is that these sensations or affections never happen in a single moment, which is to say, never take the form of an event. That they forever manifest themselves in this strange otherwise, a present that isn’t “happening,” is what seems to make it impossible not to agree to go along with (i.e., feel) them.

1994. Six dresses by Rei Kawakubo. Bias-cut silk skirt, paisley, tie-dye, attaches to T-shirt. Cold skin of the model. In verdant shade effected by topiary. Laceless work boots in glossy black calf, fawn interior, tongues in grass.

I seek the approval of others often, and less often others, or some others, recognize I do so.

In a dream I enter a store selling lamps from the 1950s. Porcelain. Californian cream/white.

I have humiliated myself so much and am not even famous. Or: the humiliation of the nonfamous is basically unreal.

In a children’s-book illustration a female figure rides on the back of a bearded monkey and cats scatter in her path.

Why is it writers are so much less good than they once were? Is it possible that it is more difficult than it once was to speak of life, which is to say, a life, as a whole? Obviously we understand that there is living and death, but there is a very little idea of a formal (which is to say, cultural) relation to either one of these states. This is very American. People are like their parents only on account of obsessions, since there is no way of living, only “lifestyle.” A given period has no symbolic value.

I read somewhere that Keats’s statement about beauty is about ambition.

I sometimes look younger than I am and sometimes older. There is no sure way to look one’s age. To look one’s age, one would have to know what one’s age looks like, and this no one really knows. I suddenly remember a day in Berkeley when I was on a residential street and a man walking the other way turned and slapped my ass as I passed him. And I went to work in lush abundance.

During a time of waiting, a lot of things won’t be apparent.

I spend several weeks trying to write a summary of a famous novel and end up with a single sentence that has nothing to do with it:

Somewhere it’s possible a statue sails through a thin floor or the limb of a tree is mistaken for a fist of marble; intervening leaves shake as if with delight, a rancid jelly.

Ben is sick and has been reading Louis L’Amour. What is the first example of the “American aesthetic” as purveyed by Europeans; could one locate this in certain objects, texts. What would such an argument look like. The political cartoon of the segmented snake, for example.

I have never known how to write poetry. It is not a question of relating language to a person one is but rather of relating it to the exact person one is not.

A stanza:
It’s not that this is a feeling opposed to
Or distinct from others
This, Lucy, is feeling
This is the knowledge of feeling
You are smart
You are slightly intelligent
It is like a mastery of self
An art
That you will die in

Lucy Ives is the author of Anamnesis (Slope Editions) and the forthcoming Orange Roses (Ahsahta Press). She is coeditor of Corrected Slogans: Reading and Writing Conceptualism (Triple Canopy and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver) and is a deputy editor at Triple Canopy.