On Monday Dr. Huntington read the Chapel service, and we sang [my sister Beth's] favorite hymn. Mr Emerson, Henry Thoreau, Sanborn, and John Pratt, carried her out of the old home to the new one at Sleepy Hollow chosen by herself. So the first break comes, and I know what death means, - a liberator for her, a teacher for us.
Louisa May Alcott
March 14, 1858
Always a day among all the hours, Ma'am, and even now among the meats of kaymito and tahong, when I am no different from a phantastic, grinchy, or scissorhanded fellow. Every week too, a weekend among television shows and old movies, the marked soft spot of our generation who cannot but remember the transition of black and white to colored, high definition screens. Please appreciate how our fingers still remember the old negotiation of antennae, static, v-holding, and two-digit channels.
Now I write in a medium of screen plus page or page plus screen. I don't comprehend this limen or gestalt, though I'm in it. Like one dwells in a dream, these letters evade me though I try to make my home upon their shifting sands. Goethe would chastise me for always calling my letters my own though I don't understand them and thus can't possibly possess them.
This medium maybe much more foreign to you. Even now - wherever you are between everywhere or nowhere - as I address you without the courage to believe you're nowhere. Even now when you're nowhere in sight, your voice not even a wind between ear and nape.
Still, I write you here, write to you, write you down, write you off. You didn't know my twin, Rico Angelo (though maybe you do now? Did you two shake hands or kiss? Who asked whose blessing?). He once told me, write or be written down. And so I must surpass these problems before I go on, Ma'am. Shall I write to you? I say yes. I cannot write about you too far and omniscient as a third person. I'd be lying. I'd be making you, much woman, and all, too much of an exposition. I don't want to read myself as if I were explaining you. Hell no! You're not an instruction manual, not excuse slip, not merely a poem, dear teacher. Not an epilogue, not a eulogy, not an epitaph.
Should I write you down then? I believe I should. I believe you'd want me to, even though I feel I cheapen you with words and metaphors like worlds, worms, and the growth of grass tend to disgrace the passing of a genuine life. I write you, and down, deep into places where you probably don't care to be, cataracts and chasms I myself don't know but nevertheless exist in me. I believe you'd care that I did write you down with the peculiar ink and angle of my pen and keys. You taught me composition and literature. I assume that you'd prefer me practicing and failing above merely keeping you in the yellowing leaves of my grey matter.
Should I write you off? I must, whether you want me to or not (though I also believe you taught us to outgrow our teachers along with "Oedipus Rex," the "Naming of Parts," and "Spring is like a perhaps hand"). Otherwise, I'd serve the purpose of stone set upon graves, without enough steel to mark letters for a name, a flower for a coming, or a cross for going. No style or steel to number being or becoming.
Therefore I write. I write to, upon, and about you with the same reason one takes down the course of stars, harmony of spheres, flight of birds, fowl entrails, candle droppings, and dregs of tea. I write to divine a self.
Dear Ma'am. Dear Ma'am, thus. Dear Ma'am, then.
First and always, sorry. You wanted something for me. I didn't appreciate that. I'm sorry I shifted out of English against your wish. Sorry that I don't regret this. Also, sorry that I didn't explain myself. I'm sorry I didn't follow through. I'm sorry I didn't say sorry. I may even be sorry that I, now, here, just sent my apologies.
And in English! Out of all possible tongues.
Thank you for everything, all the things I'll not write here. Above all, thank you for making me grateful. This spirit guides me now and forward. I'll disgrace you, this much is certain. I'll wrestle with the angelic image you left. I'll hate you with the zeal and inevitability of true terrans hating gods they cut from their own flesh.
True too, and truer still, I - illiterate and incognito - I shall be no ingrate.
Walk with me, Ma'am. Walk as you always did, as we never did, back when you had the curve of feet. Walk with me even while I piss and spit on the land that claimed you. Walk with me down to the paths of my students, my loves, my readers. Walk before me, beside me, behind me, below me, upon me.
I reincarnated materialism precisely because of a dark thought. The idea terrified me that you and each of them who came before still see me, while I go through drafts, while I scratch balls, while I dazzle, while I come. Always an amaranth astir, forever, the paradisiac fear of panopticons. Yet, I kill matter now, as we all do - as warriors do in their terrible moments, as phonies do in their dreams, as poets do all their lives - out of horror of any space without you eyeing me.
Thus fearing and killing, I take pains so that students and sisters don't bear my ghosts for me. It's not necessary for the stooped back to be so contagious. For me though, I can only carry ghosts if I were to take anything else in. I who, as a child shifted the legs of a dying man (left to right, then again right to left, and later but never finally, left to right) to spare him a summer of bedsores. Who could predict the permutations of a future for one such as I? One nurtured by warring sisters, silent brothers, lying lovers, unloving lovers, vain teachers, singing teachers, primadonnas, yayas, bullies, the endless warmth of a cold twin, the infinitely various smile of a deep twin, a changing sky, a riverless lake?
Thank you for arriving on time. Because of you (though not you alone!), I know the sacral truth of secrets and mysteries. Ache by ache, like Baudelaire from his enemy, I flourish by learning. I learn to keep them who are sacred from those who are vulgar. I value the word worth valuing, the word of the true. You taught me to keep them who keep my secrets.
I may have found them, Ma'am. If they are keepers or aches, I may never know for sure. Such a solid faith, this. This feels truer than I ever imagined it would. I believe I've found them. Dear them, who would keep my secrets as if they held my soul, choke back their tears, swallow their uncooked blood, as if they could hold me - dancing amid their throbbing, thronging, tongues, tonsils, and cadmium teeth - and never spit me out.
Or I may be just projecting fears and loves unto them, as my specie throws shit, saliva, and guts down splat upon screens. As my generation sobs out stories to the concerted art of music videos or the grate of digits and cable static. As we abandon ink to leaves. As my kind cast our brothers down from the poverty of shared pedestals to the blank, bulleted mercy of our words.
Or I may not have found them at all, a people I can be worthy of and for. I may have just spotted my softness, my ache, that no one will be the twin who knew everything and loved me. That no one will be you, dear teacher, who knew nothing but loved me - just the same - leaving me loving, hoping, and believing in your wake.