Sunday, October 24, 2010

153. A Small Bottle of Bourbon to Be Taken in the Night

What interests me about the existence of archives is that, if one goes into them, you enter the past, but you enter the past which is, as it were, in the present tense. And so it’s another way of people who lived in the past, who perhaps are still living or perhaps are dead, a way of them being present. This seems to me absolutely one of the quintessential things about the human condition. It’s what actually distinguishes man from any other animal: living with those who have lived, and the companionship of those who are no longer alive.
—John Berger, BBC 3, Sunday Feature: Harvesting the Archive, Sunday, 17 Oct 2010

the existence of archives
paper in the form of writing
pixels in the form of images

the form of voices
various and moving

time taken for the removal
of the human form, and time
taken for the creation of the record

left in the place of the blood and the breath:

the words and the sounds of
the shapes and the pictures of
the movements and the drawings of

remembering what you forget
and the forgotten thought captured
on a scrap of sentence seeming real

voice of the dead in your left ear
voice of the living dead in your right ear

and there is no fear but swimming
in the sense of the outline of the person
in the curvature of the body over the writing
in the posture of the letter p

the past continues
in the sense that the present holds
what the future will eventually seize

and taking in, and taking
in, and taking in your hands,
with the senses of your skin
the stacked blankets impressed
with words, and taking in through
your eyes the words how they almost
were, but without the reverberation
of that last voice
no longer sounding

and taking in the warmth
of these words left in pixels
and evening light and lifting
off the screen to reach your eyes

puddles of data on the screen
and a screen of words between you and
the one who seems to see
the sound of the word
that used to be right there

living with the dead
or a small bottle of bourbon
living in the place of the dead
which is the only home of the living
and living with their words,
their faces, their voices
talking, sometimes
their bodies in motion
as if they were once alive and
walking as if they were people
and talking as if they were

and each of them
sharing a small bottle of bourbon
to be taken at night

tonic for the cold
or to loosen the tongue
or coat it so they could

somehow be who they always were
and write it down and
capture it so
they would be who they always
will be

if you remember them
by watching what
they’ve left behind

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