From Phoebe 25.1, Winter 1996
Phoebe 25-1--Winter-1996--Cropped

Lyn Hejinian

Stories often go into the dark and stay there
To change
Springing from nocturnal sounds
Into experience which daylight might otherwise obliterate
Drawn from dark moods which cannot be called linear
We change the stories in our biography
Make use of life
And it is very strange, the flowing in memory on perception
Origins explain nothing, as William James declared
Themselves in need of explanation
The difference between words and things
Is functional
We use it to experience
We use it to express
There, in as many lines as it often takes, a story
Has emerged
The expression There is fundamental to directories, anatomies
          and maps
Locating characters
Though never explaining their finality
The ineffable poise of the cadaver
Its organs in its naked hand
In a universe of physical universes
With physical boundaries to cross
With a stick
With my own eyes behind the eyes
I (whose existence is included) was there
I can write about it
Nothing can be said about reality that does not presuppose it
On parnassus Street at the top of the hill to the right of the main
On Tuesday, at 3
A, other medical students, and Z
This (deixis) verifies the current universe
The current capacity for writing so
I desire
The cadaver (original) cannot speak
The cadaver cannot link impressions
It is immediate
It lacks habits, is proximate to nothing, will not argue
Nor will it rinse its finger over a word
And mean metamorphosis
Spotting the ironies between aphorisms
The sensitivities
There are no empty sleeps
They are like apples falling heavily to the ground
Abandoning the body
Not as a philosophy which cannot be perfected
But as an aid to passion
Which with reason will return
Like stars on the retina or compass points on skin
Passion, as Neitzsche says, applies playful impressions even to
          series matters
It speaks disturbed
And sometimes it regrets while sometimes it rejoices at an absurdity
Example: He mistakes her for a secretary; she thinks he’ an
          escaped convict
Thus the apples are effortlessly disguised
As objects of appetite
That could never be traced back
Their denarrativization having been achieved
Through an excess of referential and symbolic detail
An “overloading” of the sign
As in baroque sleep around a medieval dream
At the end of the day that went by of its own accord
Moving about in the neighborhood where it most often appears
And where by not letting our attention leave the neighborhood
We increase the probability that it will be there again
As hobbes say, “This we call Remembrance
Or calling to mind
As one would sweep a room to find a jewel
Or as one must run through the alphabet to start a rhyme”
From a great single duty
That recurrently lock of letters
A duplicates itself, interminably fissures itself
And contradicts itself without remaining the same
Then with a stage wink the magician’s assistant hands her the
The magician looks into it, removes her glove, reaches in, and
gently removes a spider
With the allegorical practice that magic demands
And sets it on a surface that’s either mirror or lens
As the imagination’s assistant waves the wrinkled scarf and
          ANIMAL XING
The metaphor producing the metaphorical reflection
The contradiction of itself
Not in the infinite regress of receding images of diminishing size,
          one within the next
But in progress
The images advancing, increasing, growing larger
From one to the next
And ultimately—
But as Lyotard says: For a phrase to be the last one
Another is needed to declare it
And thus the penultimate phrase must be overridden by an
Which says that the ultimate can’t exist
Any more than one can stare unguarded at the sun
Into the border that is ever the same changing day
On a double face
And think of nothing else
I think of sentences and Cezanne, I think I wish I had the time,
          I think of Kit, and wonder why I haven’t worn my
          shades here in the snow, and of some woman named
          Kate last night embarrassed into tell us a story of her
          father being chased on Puget Sound by UFOs
An administrator, I think, administering an office of astrologers
But I think I’ve seen a ghost
I think of some philosopher’s saying that the gods’
          metamorphoses are divine duplicities
And I disagree
It can’t be deceptive to play in time and do as other things do
Time’s an excitement
Of exemplary dots, delivery chords, and corridors
Now otherwise stacks and stone corners in rhythm
And bounds out of rhythm
Repenting of the freedom for which one was imprisoned
One occulting
In chalk lights
On partition
On just such flimsy evidences as logic augments and the story
As I write this
Directing the flesh to work
And time
While I anticipate laughter
Or a night visitor who will come from the distance with hanging
It is an omnipresent body, ecstatic, filthy, and shared
Enjoying little sleep, desire producing a sense of near
          coincidence, a joke
As if something cruel I’d said had gotten back to its victim
          leaving me to being my masochistic narrative all over
Or as if I wanted to dig his body up out of the grave
Because he is young
The only requirement being that he be pleased
By my experience and his perception of it
He dreams
It draws on secrets
It is a boy who is a snowball
It is a girl in a sunbath with a stick
Girl: A, I camp; C, I curl; T, I stand
Boy: Whatever I see is seemingly revealed
Narrative: Letter
Letter: Dear Z, I’ve burned up my hand while cooking and the
          blisters are rising
So let’s talk of the body, its pain and gossip’s object
One’s body is something one can never take back
You were saying that reliance on chance makes much of
          coincidence and altogether misses continuities
Coincidences can never be more than mere objects of aesthetic
Whereas continuities are objects of decisiveness and hence of
And of exchange too
Continuities are a long border
I don’t think my memory is seizing on the present
It seems to be jumping out
Meanwhile my wounded hand reminds me that one can’t jump
          one’s body
Sexual chaining isn’t needed
Will you (dear man) feel like a woman when you wear women’s
Will I feel like you when I wear your underpants?
I like to shake that line that divides me from Descartes
Which is what?
My mistress, after all, is a boy
From subtlety and authority of manipulating devices
Moving them around and presenting them in startling ways
And juxtaposing us with them in such a way as to achieve the
          hermaphroditic effect
Playing idea against idea, genre against genre
As was common in the fourteenth century
When eloquent romance and dirty fable could freely
And tingle
To produce, by the way, many of the irregular verbs
Like get, got, and gotten
Which capitalism wants to clarify
And dream reclassifies (which is what we mean by
Otherwise the work fights the very moment in which the work is
being done
And nullifies it
So it has to be done again


Lyn Hejinian is a poet, essayist, teacher, and translator. Her academic work is addressed principally to modernist, postmodern, and contemporary poetry and poetics, with a particular interest in avant-garde movements and the social practices they entail. Published volumes of her writing include Writing is An Aid to Memory, Oxota: A Short Russian Novel, Leningrad (written in collaboration with Michael Davidson, Ron Silliman, and Barrett Watten), A Border Comedy (Granary Books, 2001), Slowly and The Beginner (both published by Tuumba Press, 2002), The Fatalist (Omnidawn, 2003), and Sight, written in collaboration with Leslie Scalapino. Her most recent books are The Book of a Thousand Eyes (Omnidawn Books, 2012) and The Wide Road, written in collaboration with Carla Harryman (Belladonna, 2010). A Guide to Poetics Journal: Writing in the Expanded Field 1982-1998, and the related Poetics Journal Digital Archive, both co-edited by Hejinian and Barrett Watten, have just been published by Wesleyan University Press. These interconnected publications make available a number of works on key issues in poetics first published in Poetics Journal, the journal that Watten and Hejinian founded and edited for sixteen years. Wesleyan University Press is also the current publisher of her best-known book, My Life, in an edition that includes her related work, My Life in the Nineties. The University of California Press published a collection of her essays entitled The Language of Inquiry in 2000. Translations of her work have been published in Denmark, France, Spain, Japan, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Brazil, China, Serbia, Mexico, Turkey and Finland. She is the recipient of various awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship for 2010-11. She is currently the co-director (with Travis Ortiz) of Atelos, a literary project commissioning and publishing cross-genre work by poets. Other collaborative projects include a composition entitled Qúê Trân with music by John Zorn and text by Hejinian, two mixed media books (The Traveler and the Hill and the Hill and The Lake) created with the painter Emilie Clark, and the award-winning experimental documentary film Letters Not About Love, directed by Jacki Ochs. In addition to literary writing, editing, and translating, she has in recent years been involved in anti-privatization activism at the University of California, Berkeley, where she is the John F. Hotchkis Professor of English.