by Giorgia Peckman (’14)
From the Sarah Fontaine Unit
“And that’s what I saw when I looked out the window that day. All these words were living.” — Eileen Myles
Frances said, “I want to be God/Bring me good news.” That is the role I possess, desire and aspire to as a writer— possibly not even that, merely just one who makes writing. Call me a heretic, praise me so: I want to be a god. I want to take myself and by extension you, the reader, the apostle, disciple, preacher, pray-er, somewhere else. I want to write about all the good in us, and how painful and grotesque it is in the fact that it is so singular and so beautiful and at the same time it is universal and renders all who breathe these “living words” un-unique.
That is the problem I face in making writing: it is impossible to be the kind of god I want to be— possibly because we are all gods in our own right and possibly because none of us are. God has left the building and we are left here to pick up the pieces and dissect them with the blunt knives we call words. They are not enough. I want to live outside.
I want to fill pages that are the equivalent of screaming very loud in the middle of a lot of wind with your hair flying into your mouth and trying to choke you. But oh, my voice is so hoarse. I was born hoarse, never quite loud enough. We all are— disgusting, coughing mess of a species, of a mind, of a thought.
The problem with ruling an empire, as gods tend to do, is that everything is alive, in its own context, not just the one we perceive it in, that we use to write about it— and the harder you try to present living things as they are, the father away you keep yourself from doing so. Only when you stop trying to be literal, factual, honest, do you produce something that is any of these things. When you’re telling the truth you always end up lying a little, but when you know you’re lying…well, things end up being a lot more honest than you expect. You end up clutching little morsels of truths in your palms and think, maybe even exclaim to whoever is keeping you company today, “What is this! This is true! But I swear I was lying through my teeth!” That is how all good writing is written— by lying and finding something true at the end of that fishing line of fallacy.
I want to write about the things that are stuck inside of everything and everyone and I want to make the things, the living words maybe, that live in veins beside the platelets, into things everyone can hold and see and love. Everyone wants to be loved, even gods, even me (especially gods, especially me). It seems that I hope in some way that in presenting what they hate to them, like a cat returning prey to its people, they will love it, and by extension me, for bringing it, mangled and dripping blood, to their doorstep.
But I can only do this a little bit, just like you can only see in the dark a little bit, or when you smash a bug it only dies a little bit, and keeps moving across your coffee table. You can only make things that don’t exist, or no longer exist, into things that do exist, in the here and now and present tense, a little bit. You can only do this a little bit, because no one is all god, everyone is just a little bit of god.
The thing about writing is that you always have to be slightly uncomfortable, a bit ill at ease with the world. This trait is found in many forms in nearly all writers I have met. For me, it’s like wearing a dress. I hate wearing dresses and on the days I decide to for some reason unbeknownst to my better judgment wear a dress, I feel like I am constantly writing a poem, convinced the world is out to get me and that more importantly, that I deserve it. None of this is true, of course, or it is mostly untrue. What is true about it is that I am constantly writing a poem. Being a writer is not so much about the fact of writing as it is about a state of being, a state of constantly swimming through the living words that clog up the air. The fact of the matter is that everything that is ever going to be written is already written, it just hasn’t been put on paper yet. When I truly make a piece of writing, I do not feel as if I have just created something, I feel as if something that has existed in the ether of the places in people that no one can reach has moved through me and now resides on the paper. Writing is tampering with forces of the mind, a weird amalgamation of godliness and collective consciousness that uses people as a vessel of meaning, not the other way around.
A lot of the writing I do is merely an exercise in articulation and discipline: preparation for the living words to travel through me. Training me as a preacher and maker of words, which brings me back to the ultimate trial and tribulation: I am no god nor will I ever be, and all I do is a Sisyphian attempt. Yet, it’s the attempt I truly love, not the ultimate goal. I only covet the good and try to render it so because it must be solidified into lights we can hold in the dark, amongst the bloody, messy mass of weakness and tissue we surround ourselves in. If I were the type to pray to something other than my own volition, I would pray to words, all of them, all of the living words, alive and well.