Touch: A Posture

On poetry and changing worlds.

Photo by Yanyi: A fragment within a fragment within a fragment (2019).**

Poets are way-finders. A poet hears not voices but music. Their fingers glide over crevices, piece together that a face is connected to itself. A poet feels, and life is there in the dark. A poet feels, and another world plays itself, accompanied by skin.

It was oft said by astrologers that this winter’s solstice sky, with a conjunction mirroring itself about 800 years ago, was not only the end of a year, but also the moment we left our own “Dark Ages” toward a new Renaissance of our time. The future did not arrive with this announcement. The future was darkness moving past you, pulled by the moon. Its motion was smooth and sudden.

It is the end of a world you thought you were meant for, rooted to a place. Whereas in darkness, now, you are rooted to space and wind. What your life requires collects in you.

Silence precedes a reason to speak. Silence receives, just as darkness might receive light and divulge its secrets to sight. But illumination doesn’t spur the same knowledge or wisdom. To touch a face in the dark is different from seeing it.

In this cave, no light is dancing into shadow. For any true knowledge, one must touch the form.

If I was to imagine a sensibility in this darkness, it would be touch. Touch: mute, within the mirage of nothing. Touch comes to you, flickers place with a brush on a map. With no direction in this cave, one swallows night, almost drowns in it. These worlds do not stay. Our bodies fill out their nothingness, palms turned out into space.

The fallacy of sight may be this—that we are tricked by completion when it was never there. Rather, a poet sings enmeshed between there and here. A poet forages for the next piece of a broken-off echo, a fragmented artifact. A poet will dig until the loam breaks into hardness. Without terror, a tremor is the motion of staying in place. A poet’s elbows rest amongst the unseen. A poet reaches up the wall; stands higher; goes lower; lets go of the ground. A poet bottoms out in eternity.

A poet feels with incompletion, never sees the full picture—in the darkness, rather, seeing is memory’s eye, the body surrounded by its passing, the body feeling its own projection on the wall. A poet’s body cleaves the way between before and after. The body is in common with its selves touched. For what is one touch but the memory of them all? What is one touch but all that intend to follow?

Author’s note: Happy Gregorian New Year—Sunday letters return in one week. You might find me reading some poems at the Poetry Project New Year’s Marathon today or on a panel at Substack On! in one week.

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** At the beginning and end of a roll of film, there are always photos interrupted by a line of light. This fragment of a Rodin sculpture is partially obscured by light and shadow from the left. A nude figure, turned away, seems to be reaching its arms into the dark while looking up. Decorative flourishes or whipping textures surround the figure who seems to be up against a wall. Or perhaps the frame is sideways, and they are resting on a pedestal.