Slowly We Have the Feeling #9 and #10

Renee Gladman

Slowly We Have the Feeling #9

I’d added a kind of writing to drawing that now needed to be thought about, that called for an additional layer of writing because at present you had this new kind of writing sitting adjacent to drawing and threads were extended out of each—the drawing and the writing—sort of blowing in a slight breeze, showing all their potential for connection yet not being connected: I was to connect them through thinking and making gestures, where on an occasion I could talk about the new letters I added to the English language, though they were letters added not for the purpose of being pronounced or of supplying new objects to our libraries but were imagined to supply holes, ladders, antechambers to the words that were already there. But when you shaped these new letters and made a block of text out of them—these letters in combination with some semblance of customary lettering (making a legible e, a g; many words containing ds and ps were prominent)— when you mixed these new letters with the old familiar ones somehow you made a drawing. I have said this already, many times, over and over again, I have said, “I am doing a kind of writing that keeps ending in drawings,” and lowered my voice and scratched my head in a pantomime of perplexedness: the page was changing before my eyes; I was not arriving where I was going. It was like waking up in another country that does everything opposite from your home country, everything upside down, inverted: the things you saw were the same size, took up the same space, but they looked and operated precisely opposite of how you’d expect. I woke up in a paragraph that was a drawing, and sometimes the drawing was made with pen and sometimes pencil. But, I had already written about this, and still wasn’t done trying to say what I saw, because it was more than the fact that I was doing a kind of writing that was also drawing, which was something I still found remarkable, worth twenty books, books that needed only to say there was drawing within writing; it was more than this that I needed to say. After writing about the perplexedness of these acts of making narrative with my hand, with energy from my pencil, I then wanted to talk about the shapes themselves. They made everything in me go silent, in that way you feel walking into a cool cavernous space, a cathedral, a palace, some structure whose walls are marble, whose windows are at the height of giants; and the ones that made me most quiet were the slight ones I’d drawn in my notebooks. The shapes made everything go silent, but also remained on the page, and shone there. They were small and often looked like notes, and were things I did in the middle of something else, like sitting in a lecture or riding a train. I’d open my notebook and not want to describe what I was seeing, what the landscape looked like, what the speaker was saying, yet would want to make a gesture among the notes I’d written prior to that moment; those notes were essential to the marks I subsequently made, they led to the marks, even though in themselves they said things like, “I want to wander through your letters” and “I see the grid approaching,” and this was not particularly what I wanted to engage at that moment, but was the breath before engagement, a place to sit. You wrote into the space of the notebook because you were in time, but the time dictated your silence, your attention, that you remain seated. You opened the book to be in space, to deposit your thinking somewhere, so you opened the book, and it was a book where every day you went to say something about living: what it feels like to live, to write, to see. I’d wake and write in this book and often would leave a space on the page, not because I had the foresight that later I would come back and put something else there, but left the space because I had finished writing for that day. I had said what I wanted to say about what I was seeing or eating or how I wanted to love or be a better love and how I wanted to understand what it meant to go on writing when I had written so much. I wrote as much as I could and then was done and often the second half of the page would be blank or a third of it, and I’d close the book, get up, do something. But then there would be a reading or a lecture and I’d take the book with me, I knew I might want to say something about where I was or who I saw, and I did do this type of recording, but then there were other moments where I didn’t feel the need to document my life but felt the need to write but not to write reflectively or confessionally, rather to write in some kind of present unfolding outside of language. I didn’t want to write fiction in that moment but I wanted to flow like fiction often does. And I wanted to shape letters, but not words that you could read, words that would make you forget the page, that would remove me from time. So, these letters became my drawing, which I’d already been doing outside the book on single sheets of paper, “paper for pens” the sheets were called, and were smooth and mostly 9x12 in size. I had been making larger, looser versions of these letters and putting them together in a kind of denseness, an aliveness, that looked like prose but wasn’t prose. I called them prose architectures because they were themselves but also something else that didn’t have a name but suggested a city or many cities sitting on top of one another. I drew and drew these city-letters and put numbers to them, but I have said this already, too many times now—I numbered the drawings sequentially I kept saying—I drew and something was happening to my mind and to my ideas about how narrative formed. Narrative came out of the hand and was a loop and then a short flat line then a longer line moving vertically away then over and down but not returning to that first plane, now below itself, spiraling, releasing air, building up darkness (ink gathers, smears) and goes up and moves out on a plane in a line, a short burst, then a mark that diagonally connects to the line above, something I’d made a second ago or days ago, waiting to become something, a written body, a wall, and narrative plunged and unraveled and grew tight all over this sheet of paper, white, made of cotton, but thicker than the paper I used for writing, special in a way prose hadn’t been special when I was typing. The line moved through something I’d made a second ago and the one got absorbed into the other; you were looking at them, they were as if one body, all the up and through suspended, and now a shape, a picture of energy. But, in the notebook the picture was small and often sat next to other pictures composed of actual words you could read that talked about “presencing” or Mauricio’s concert: the one sat next to the other, and this was when I saw the threads emerge. The pictures sat on top of one another, like layers of epidermis, but where each layer was transparent so shone together, and this wasn’t really like an echo in the body—they weren’t the same kind of skin—rather if you started at the top and looked down through that first layer, where you read “presencing” and read “what I project into” you’d see a devolving logic, an undressing, a going further in, so that the deeper you peered through the surface the less you were reading. Or perhaps reading had become something else, a lying-down among threads that were slowly reaching up toward the surface, moving through ancient structures—our letters, the space between them, bringing to your reading new lines, now entwined with the old. But, in the case of this one drawing, in which I was soon to attend Mauricio’s concert, there were two pictures and one lay on top of the other:


In one was language: it could be read. Yet, in the other was also language, but a kind of language crumpled and stretched, becoming something else: it seemed to be written backwards, it seemed like rocks had been dropped on a series of letters; it seemed as if portals in the page now had an outline around them—you entered this space, stepped through it, into a brightly lit room with high ceilings, where the air appeared trapped in the light, a vaulted space, very open, very bright, full of rocking chairs, in which a person—S.—comes in, revolves slowly around the room, counts shadows: you looking at her but are as yet recognized (she thinks she’s alone), and the day proceeding, the room filling with other bodies, some leaning over railings, gazing out windows. And, this was a way of drawing in the space of living, where you sat listening to someone speak, as your hand moved in some unfamiliar dictation, some rupture of linearity, writing into the legible. This was when I noticed the threads waving in ultra-thin lines above the picture, many threads from each picture extended upward, undulant, living, and it was not long after that that I wanted to write about the threads. They did not connect; they didn’t bend toward one another but were this ongoing picture of aliveness: two incredible conversations happening simultaneously, but with this space in between them, another blank space, one I hadn’t noticed before, in which I found myself standing. You were standing between two drawings between two texts and two buildings between a wall and a line of rock between something saying something and something doing something, where the doing reaches into the saying, but doesn’t connect so doesn’t become exactly visible but crackles I’ve said too many times, burns the page without markings, leaves something in me about writing, but a writing you only want to draw. You draw but drawing is so astonishing that you interrupt the drawing to write but soon begin to interrupt the writing to return to drawing and doing it all in the same space, because the gesture changes the location even though your hand doesn’t move, or moves slightly up in a loop grabbing the lines above it, opening an already inscribed space for your wondering, writing over what is already there, writing backward over it, drawing a line through, making a square then a square within the square, then pulling a line from that conflation and going up over up and out and up and turning inward, the point going out and back and under then up straight to suggest the vertical and over right to suggest the plane and then down diagonal then down straight and shade and shade the space in between then write something but talk to the buildings you have made, write what the buildings say to the plane. What the buildings would say to the plane had everything to do with what the legible said to the illegible as those two texts sat in this unspeakable juxtaposition. I reached my hand in and stood in the space between them allowing lines to encircle me and cross me out as I asked again into the writing: what does it mean to draw what I am saying into the space beneath these thoughts about presencing and Mauricio’s concert, which did occur and was amazing, was discordant and scored, and had percussion and strings, and a woman who played havoc inside the piano. So, a line extended from the concert to the page, was long, thin, penciled, and seemed to lift the notebook out of itself but invisibly and not in sync with the time in which bodies sat in an auditory of contemporary classical music. The notebook stood up and dissolved in the same moment of my listening and drawing and dissolved again later in my memory as I sat down to write about the funny feeling—the line extending out of the page— the beautiful girl next to me with her own notebook, not drawing, catching petals. And this was another moment where I remembered the threads, the moment of the dissolving memory, where the drawing and the text above the drawing sunk into the page, and a new kind of line emerged from each, many lines, thin, pointing straight up then moving about in some kind of wind, never losing their verticality, just wavering and pointing out of the book, but the book itself had long since left the event of drawing and writing, had retreated into time, pages had been flipped, months had passed, and turning back to the page was something else like detection, or math. You went back to put the pieces together, to find another way of saying: I am drawing, I have drawn, to connect that with presencing, with music (sound gathering in a vaulted space, the woman next to you bending forward, then turning to speak: when the concert finishes where are you? Will you get the train home? The next movement begins before you have a chance to answer.) But, all the while the legible was talking to the illegible or was coming out of it or making way for it in this adjacency of language and mark-making, where the one becomes the other between bodies humming and sound swirling and breaking across the room. I drew a line next to a word. First I wrote a series of words that pointed to some thought about living, some idea about wanting to be more or to see more while living, and I wrote until I was done with that pointing, not exhausted with it but satisfied with the gesture: I wrote, I wanted to be present, I wanted to project this presence into the space of work and said “Mauricio’s concert” to myself, perhaps wrote it somewhere off screen, outside the line of reading but not yet in the line of drawing, and closed the note with a period. I imagine I walked calmly from the book, or closed the book and crossed my legs or crossed my ankles depending on what the other legs around me were doing, and probably thought no further about being present or Mauricio, and later I returned to the notebook and felt the energy of that page and drew instead of wrote into the blankness. I wrote something but it was a drawing, and this was when the threads emerged and the percussionist, surrounded by unconventional instruments, tapped a little bit on his pot. 

Slowly We Have the Feeling #10

I could be upended utterly by a line drawn across a surface, and all of a sudden it had become essential to know why: why was something so slight also stirring, and how did it appear that a seam had been opened along a small surface of a mountain whereby the mountain was absent but its immense presence implied, and it was a mountain all your own, that no one saw but you and no one else needed, but again so enormous in the pressure and gravity it brought down upon the page that, though, this was a mountain that was invisible and non-existent to observers, outside of you seeing it yourself, it affected the geography not only of what you placed on the page but also of the terrain from which the emergent thoughts originated. It struck me suddenly that these lines were specious to a kind of math that used moving lines to measure some phenomenon of time or space, some simultaneity that was so inside our actions, our walking across a room, so deeply embedded in the time in which everything has happened (things having happened so long ago still occurring in some corner of the room) that we’ve forgotten to study it or give it a name or draw a connection between it and writing, the language of the world, the language of your doing what you do (wanting to walk in the forest with her, wanting to see the moss of Norway). But, it wasn’t just the suggestion of an ancient math that brought me out of reading the novel I’d chosen for that day; it was also that you could draw a line across a surface, a flat, unimportant surface (the front of a discarded folder) and perhaps carry that line up four inches along the plane then have it loop back over itself; you could let loose another line, pull it out of this reading space (the book lay in proximity) and draw it over the same space but just slightly off, like a murmur of the first shape: you loop and build and return, drawing with a pencil, in the silence of some morning (except for the call of a raven: it’s early, you’re nestled in the woods), and in this drawing, these faint lines retrieved from a putting aside of reading, something immense was felt. The surface on which I was drawing made everything marginal; the drawing was indistinguishable from other accidental markings of a pencil made on some other occasion; you could hide many drawings here, because the drawings were slight and didn’t call attention to themselves; they wanted silence, to slip in the space between objects, to move objects around in their definitions by bisecting space; they wanted to turn space into math, a way of seeing composition, but not so much with the intention of solving the problems of space, which were numerous, it was more to activate the problems, so that you couldn’t read a page of prose or look at a sign or even go to write your name, without feeling a certain electricity everywhere. That was why the drawings were sometimes hidden and sometimes you felt the immensity of the thing the drawings signaled (a mountain, in my case) without ever seeing that thing in the drawn space. When drawings were hidden, the surface on which the drawings were made were hidden as well, and this was something sneaky that happened when you were drinking coffee. I was drinking coffee and my brain was changing, though I couldn’t see what mechanics were operating; the top of my brain was lifting away from my mid-brain and a walk opened up between them; you could now be hiking in a forest, running from one path to another and seeing all the rocks there were, jumping over roots, bypassing horse dung, and this was because some light had gone on in the world of your thinking, lifting and making space for you, and the liquid in the cup was the catalyst, though the cup was never to appear in the forest. But, you walked in the forest all day and even ran between junctions that connected the lake to the valley of firs or connected the cemetery to the land trust, and these were just signs that you began to memorize as the hours passed because everything else you saw was moss, or trees, or rocks; I thought about rocks as I climbed a scree in my running and counted the number of breaths in my brain; they were sentences breathed instead of spoken because this was the forest you were in, and a woman ran slightly behind you so that she could stop and look at mushrooms at will, but I knew when the forest grew silent it was because she had stopped: the sun was brighter, everything rose toward the sky, everything had fingers that didn’t touch you but didn’t avoid you either; the breath was in the place, in placing your foot in the scree, and imagining something missing—the wall on which all of this was happening in the middle fork of the brain, the music that was your memory, and you walked up and around and up and down and around and out into a clearing then down and down and around and up and slipping in the scree then up and over, across, across with her singing, then down and down and down mud and dung and around, stepping over, through, and stopping (pulling the socks up) then up, fast as you could, out over the brightest sun in the forest (again the valley of firs, second day coming) then around and down and flat for a long time then up and out, this breath, the sentence finally falling apart. And there it was: the mountain.


But, not a mountain for climbing—I was on the paper now—rather something to not see and sit up all night waiting for: someone said the clouds would clear and you’d see the mountain in the distance, so you waited and sat through the dark, welcoming, at last, the gray coming, and when there was enough light to see beyond the trees and shrubs and moss of the forest, out past the water, along the ridge of the forgotten page—well, there should have been a mountain. Yet, had there been one you wouldn’t have been sitting there waiting for it; you wouldn’t have drawn that faint, anonymous line that looped and doubled beside itself. The mountain rose over the page, in an alternative mode of being, invisibly a memory of some engagement of breath: you drawing a line to move deeper in time, years ago or yesterday drawing this line, but that moment looking back over what you had done, running a loop that seemed to expand the longer you were on it, and the mountain occurred as an idea of space, out of ear shot, out of any line of sight, even with rain falling in the clearing, the place of a new forest, a not-yet forest but a space held for some adjacent growing (the forest wouldn’t be planted here, but would hold bodies that had been removed and would serve as a break for runners: you stop; you want to know what has happened to the forest). And, there were signs throughout the forest that reminded me of a hand moving against the sky, where, if you are quiet, you feel a mountain there, but the hand that moves only wants to make a thin line that bisects the surface of the world, so that a kind of aliveness escapes, an aliveness that defines and gives heat to the day: the line was a bringing-down of silence and an opening. You climbed in with your looking, and ran and walked all day, as the light closed in. The line vibrated against the page, but nothing stirred and I did not stir, yet this forest grew in my mind. I drew the line and all went quiet and became vast, enveloping the body sitting at the table, the body in a t-shirt, boxer shorts, leg warmers, the church bells going off at noon, clanging nine times, again at 6; the hand searching for a way to see or to build in silence, without matter; so a line was drawn and space exploded, but not in any way you could see, and settled all over you, and it was then, it was in this moss-covered place, that something seemed to brush against you, an idea connected to an infinity of ideas, which, perhaps in that moment, felt merely like a bit of heat against if not your actual face than the face of your thinking. Somewhere in that moment of your face cracking and the page cracked, a drawing emerged that was a map of the running you’d done: it was the scree and the valley, the cemetery, the dump; it was Craig’s Head; it was that gathering of firs. Your face cracked and you drew a line on a folder, then put it away for a day or days, coming back to it only when it was a memory, some time having passed, some bridge between acts, and it was in this return that the line glowed and an idea settled in you about the mountain. I looked at the line and felt the past stir in my body; it was an indication of another day spent on an island off another state and the running I’d done on that island, yet the line had been drawn weeks before I’d traveled there so was made before anything in the forest had ever happened, yet you looked at it and it reminded you of the mountain calling out from behind the page, and though the mountain did not border the forest was not a part of the forest was not an idea of the forest the mountain emerged because of what you learned in the forest: you could be running up a scree and the person running slightly behind you could stop to look at mushrooms and this would make the world go silent, for a long moment, even your slipping could not be heard, and you’d look back just to make sure you were still where you were (you hadn’t been transported through your thinking), just to make sure the other’s body was there (crouching, with her mouth too near the fungus) and all of this fell into place, and above this scene a slight parting of the air, something to do with the trees, the cover of trees, the dim light of the forest, the angles of aliveness. I had already made this drawing but it seemed to be underneath the page rather than on top of it.