Unburdened, I am free now
to enter it: the terrible and feral music.
When I rode into the Egyptian desert
on my way to Saint Catherine’s
I was thinking of Anne Marie
Schwarzenbach, her repeated travels
by car to Persia, Afghanistan,
Russia, and the Balkans.
Compulsive, and often
accompanied by morphine.
In Berlin, with the Manns, then later,
with others. Consumed by desire.
In Marriane Breslauer’s black and white
photograph in which Schwarzenbach
stares directly into the camera.
Her immense sorrow is evident
in the eyes, dark with sorrow.
And though thoroughly composed,
in men’s shirt and wool sweater,
she looks lost. Father says
I have been asleep since he first knew me.
You are half awake, not alive, he said.
But what does it take, and how
does one get there?
Black and white photographs
torn from the pages of magazines
from the 1970s. And stacks of books
and artifacts on movement theory
and the work of the post-conceptual
artists of the former Eastern bloc.
Small, seemingly mundane actions
such as the washing of one’s own face,
in the isolation of one’s own home
do, in fact, count as acts of art.
Or, rather, as valid means of protest.
In a society in which the state is everywhere
and sees all. In a culture in which
everything is swallowed and then
refashioned, what constitutes as
nourishment. For three years
I traveled from city to city,
at work on a performance
piece titled, “Hotel Rooms” in which
I lived for one month increments
in Warsaw, Berlin and Belgrade.
Containment is often detrimental.
And I have spent my life trying
in as many ways as I can
to escape it. But some type of containment
is needed. Genet was happiest in prison
and it was there with the other men
that he could love entirely, be
who he was without terror
of exposure. In the hotel rooms,
I photographed myself
performing small gestures such as
the act of drinking tea or the ritual
of smearing rose water on the face
when waking, after a bath.
In the embrace of isolation
and the reduction of artistic means,
in that small and nearly silent
opening, that minute movement—
it is there, in that increment,
where, finally, the promise
of a new language will appear.
What happens in that moment,
that flash of phosphorescence.
Like sleep, when light’s
The way a dream
enters the sleeve of the body.
I am trying
to archive this moment.
Gather, collect and keep
every disparate thing
that lives within it.
But each time
I move near—
and then the trace,
Who are you.
And what language.
What body, and what
strange series of syllables
speaking through you.