Love on the Installment Plan

Jay Thompson
December 24, 2010
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The question is which words change the environment and which describe it. My friends’ toddler says “mama to pick you up” when she’s tired (she’s answering the question “do you want mama to pick you up?”) and kisses parked motorcycles hello.

This is New Orleans“ I’ve spent an afternoon chasing her trike down the oak-wrecked sidewalks and reading, in lulls, Lisa Robertson’s vertiginous Weather, a collection introduced by a communiqu?? from the Office for Soft Architecture (what the poet sometimes calls herself) (“Enough of the least. We want to be believed.”) and divided up by days of the week. This is from “Wednesday”:

A little checkered at 4 PM; we dribble estrangement’s sex. A long, soaking rain; we lift the description. A ripple ruffles the disk of a star; contact thinks. A sharp frost and a nightfall of snow; our mind is a skin. A slight cloud drifts contrary to the planet; the day might be used formally to contain a record of idleness.

Art is important to life not because it perfects or compresses life, but because it’s not life: in it we have perfect story logic, the legendary version of the self our lives lack, so we look. My friend Cassie told me this over Pisco Sours this summer; here in a hanging December-summer I take walks to feel better and clearer but can’t write something about taking a walk that makes me feel the same way and it’s sort of a relief: it lets me know that there’s a transmittable thickness to the present I haven’t reached yet.

And did you know it’s not, and hasn’t been, illegal to donate to WikiLeaks?

The kiddo howls that she can’t eat the dough or can’t hear “The Wheels on the Bus” again until she sees something new; we watch her realize she has control over her own mood. Frustrating, the certainty that life takes thought; what happened to sophomore year’s ease of simple being, paperback pleasure-seeker’s Zen? The body is a great machine for problem-solving, for fighting off infirmity and injury and seeking pleasure. But in itself it has no answers for spiritual needs or felt spiritual lacks. I ask, What’s the spirit a machine for, and the answer isn’t found in the body: not in littlehood, and not in age.

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