24 January 2010

Stepping Out From the Page

...I was a Flower of the mountain yes when I put the rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used or shall I wear a red yes and how he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes

(Don't worry. This isn't really going to be a post about Ulysses. It was just the first thing I thought of when I saw the prompt; furthermore, for my trouble I now have a Kate Bush song stuck in my head as well. Instead, this is going to be a post about some other, mostly unrelated, things.)

All writing comes from the place of Yes. All life comes from the place of Yes. My study this semester has been within the context of Yes or No--I'm doing readings on representations of the Holocaust, and on violence, visuality, and race. Questions have come up about whether or not to look, whether or not to speak, to acknowledge. And I am torn. Because to me, all life comes from the place of Yes. And yet, so many of my mistakes have also come from what seems like a Yes, that should have been a No. (I sort of have boundary issues.)

How can we measure? How can we speak? How can we look?

How can we bear to turn away?

This week I read Susan Sontag's essay "On Photography" and it made me viscerally angry in a way her other writing doesn't. Especially the part where she talks about photojournalists choosing a photo op over a life. It made me want to fling this in her face, the life of the greatest man I have known, a man who has chosen life, a man whose life is one big Yes, a man who has given his own life over and over again for the lives of those he photographs. It made me want to tell her to get up from behind the barricade of her own desk, her own death, and say Yes.

Right now I am waiting--here, I'm about to say this out loud for the first time in public--application decisions to three PhD programs (the fourth has a deadline in February). Right now my own future hangs in the balance of Yes or No. This has not made me a happy puppy. In fact, it's made me a very spastic puppy. For some reason, this past week has been particularly difficult, with the starting up of two new spring semesters and the waiting and a personal issue all bundling into one big fuzzy Maybe. I'm not liking it. It's resulted in tears almost daily, long sleepless nights, and--just yesterday--one half-full box of paperbacks launched in outraged frustration against the back wall of the storage facility where most of my belongings are (still) housed. Not my finest moment, though I was impressed with my upper body strength for a minute there.

It's made me realise how much of my life has been lived in the Maybe, in the interstices between Yes and No, how much I try to get away with foisting the decision on someone else. How not saying Yes is not the same as saying No. How much responsibility I try to avoid. We all try to avoid. How little I like feeling powerless. I wish this post had an uplifting ending, a kick at the end like Molly Bloom's Yes, but right now that apparently isn't my lesson. Because right now I am being asked to say Yes to the Maybe, and I am not liking it one bit.

How am I supposed to say Yes to something that is bigger than me? How can I measure? How can I speak? How can I look?

How can I bear to turn away?


Americanising Desi said...


that was actually a treat to read


bibc said...

so happy to find your blog...my sister is a second year english teacher grappling with the issues of going back to school- when and for what- and i think you may enjoy her blog.


what a beautiful post. i hope you find the 'yes' that you are longing for and have the life that you set out to choose :)
being in limbo is the worst. i am right there with you...just on a different subject!