Friday, June 4, 2010

11. The Original Order of Seeing

I think I’m forgetting
the Alamo. There is nothing historical
about the past, and remembering entails
the conscious act of removing details,
anyway. The facts of forgetting require
a memory, to start with, but nothing is
complete. The mind is twistings
upon twistings, fact intertwined with
friction. So maybe the need to remember
photographs is too much for me
because it is the memory of a memory, a photograph
just a replacement for the human doing the work.

Eye knows nothing, reads but doesn’t
interpret, sees but doesn’t say.

What we do is keep, we hold onto
a memory in a gentle grasp, some to slip
away somewhere, some to manage forth into
that unknown future. A photograph,
light within darkness, the façade highlighted
by spotlights seems to rest before the night
that envelops it, that dark involucre that
always enwraps everything because
it is always night everywhere, except
for that tiny fraction of reality that faces a sun
at any certain moment. The shape of
the Alamo is iconic for us, but I cannot describe it.
Modified crenellations? If you look closely
at the photographs, you might see stars
spelling out CROCKETT HOTEL in light blue or
Marriott, a more distant constellation of letters.

A memory is a presence
in the form of an absence, a rough
representation of reality after a reality
has died. What runs and runs and runs
before our eyes, the infinite reel, replacing
one experience with another, each worn out
in the space of an instant. We can never
be where we were. There is no November
in 2008 anymore. A different Alamo
has replaced the one we have seen,
and maybe the Americans
have won this time.

You must know that it is impossible
to remember a single day. We remember, instead,
the outlines of a hundred days and fashion them
into a memory of a moment. A certain flash of light
reflects for an instant off the dark water of
a night’s canal in San Antonio, but it is a flash off
that small lake of mine in the Adirondacks,
and the loons are calling across a white suture
called reflected moonlight. I remember there were
tickets to buy, and seats on a boat, and looking
forward into darkness, and the clinking of tableware
at the restaurants along the waterway, and music.
I remember I took pictures and we ate
a meal near the dark pulse of the water
where no anaconda ever swam, though thinking
about it makes it seem so.

There was a poem I had written, but I spoke
only those words I had learned as a child. Everything
was simple and hot. We moved slowly
to avoid the ravages of heat, but I think of it as moving
quietly through the pressure of the hot night, which
bore down on us like a weight. And then
a bagpipe played out of a lower darkness, a deeper
heat, and I searched for it. The bagpipe languishes.
Its song is sadness.

Upon my body is no evidence of
that night, or the air conditioner running
in the car. I can find no scar to prove
the existence of the meal we ate. Too large,
I think, and not cold enough to slake. It was the night
before an election, and maybe the world is different now
or not. What I know is that my memory
will die with my body. Only the photographs remain,
individual gasps of eyesight, and they show
some little bit of what I saw.

But the rest is lost. I wonder
if that is why we are archivists. I wonder
if I will remember to send you
the photographs.

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