Mallarmé as Philologist, Dying by Rosmarie Waldrop
I have been thinking of my manuscripts lately, and the little dance I do between uncertainty and indecision. I believe in you, S. told me the other night. And that lights up my whole world, let me say. That small kernel of belief keeps me seated a little bit longer at my desk. I try to keep none for myself, I want to whisper. No—I want to be able to tell the whole empty room, this is just something I do to pass the time.
But it isn’t, is it. It is both a dream and a life’s work, and look how short my life has been, look, how we are all dying.
Mallarmé wanted to escape reality. To disappear the poet, and not the poem. To disappear the flower from the bouquet. Can I disappear my self from myself?
I dream of big things for you, A. might have mentioned once. And then, years ago, while driving home, another friend said, The thing is, this is what you have chosen.
It is, isn’t it. What is a poet to do?
Mallarmé is an open spasm in my head: If only I’d chosen an easy work!
Mallarmé as Philologist, Dying
For Marjorie Welish
Even the purest writer is not entirely in his work, we must admit. A saturated white tilts off the page, a ricochet of sense like children heard, not understood. You see the gap between chance and breath and the continuous line of the horizon, method to infinite power or out one candle. Anatole aboli. Bibelot Anatole. Walks down the stairs, one by one, to the bottom of the mirror. It is the lack of self splits his ear. A labyrinth like a sentence. Always, word follows word, to stave off those little deaths. Is he alive?
When he leaves the room, he recaptures a memory called meaning. A matrix where a word is carried by a foreign language. Say “th.” Say the whole word: “death.” The Box for Learning English by Yourself and Playing is broken, the string to push the puppet’s tongue between his teeth. “Debt” is not comparable, not part of the body. Throw the dice, throw. Again. If often enough, only everything. Between the teeth.
To track your dream, enter by way of the corridor and comparative grammar. The dream is called work. The corridor leads to Hebrew, which shows how to replace lacking inflection by ideal nakedness. The corridor passes time, so that the girl is cold. When you caress her name, somber and red like an open pomegranate, you slowly descend toward. Stop. The dream insists that meaning, memory, and music are the same. Out of its own lack, it fashions a flesh of vowels, and of consonants a skeleton delicate to dissect. What is a faun to do?
A simple laryngitis. Does not abolish breath. A lacking word, a thought that terrible would vibrate suffocating like an open spasm splits his ear terrible his throat. Geneviève, virgin spasm, vivacious, and beautiful today suffocating. A fan of lacking experiences. For Mademoiselle Mallarmé. It is hot. Wants a book on anatomy, it cannot be too simple: he might place the larynx in the brain. Again. His breath stops, and we are all speechless.
This is from Blindsight by Rosmarie Waldrop, published by New Directions, 2003.