July Letter

Inger Christensen, "Winter," Light, Grass, and Letter in April, University of Arizona Poetry Center, 39,800

Odd and sad that on page twenty-three of Inger Christensen it is necessary to occupy the whitespace with a stamp: "Property of University of Arizona Poetry Center." This and the morning light suggests that this book is in danger of being stolen. This morning is a danger too—of being filed away, unmarked, unlisted, uncelebrated, unfilled with words. How many mornings do I have left? On my left, outside, the "Steve Orlen Fountain," flat and wide memorial to the dead poet, spits its liquid epitaph onto rocks, unceasingly.

I left my laptop power brick plugged into this same outlet in the UA Poetry Center two days ago and found it here this morning, undisturbed, still humming slightly, warm, in a sun surround. Yesterday was cool for Tucson, July 4th, monsoon rain and firework spark and boom above us, raining down trails of light all night. Christensen reminds me that "This winter is in for a lot"—from her poem "Winter," in her first book, translated into English, published here a year after her death. You can see her starting the ascent to her masterpiece, Alphabet, in which she approaches eternity by iteration of all that which exists, in Fibonacci sequence.

The fountain says little in response: a water wash. If it could somehow smoke, it would be fitting. Orlen has been gone twenty months. I work in his former office, which stunk of thirty years of smoke, even after cleaning and coats of paint. We were instructed not to smoke inside the building, but no one believed he cared. After he died, I salvaged a stack of his discarded manuscripts from seven boxes left out for the trash. It seemed wrong to let those words go without mention. In my small way I loved that man. Others did as well. His heart, it got around.

The water spills itself outside in shade. Eight bamboo, eight feet away, gain from its precipitation. My project here is iteration, too, to collect—also in my small way—a series of moments, objects, abject items defaced by human hands or processed by unspeakable machines a generation away from ours, and by so interceding in the march of hours, the process by which the world becomes obsolete and begins to fade, to make an echo, record, an impermanent reminder of what is and was and will be still here for another generation, yours perhaps, if we could be so lucky.

These things exist. Orlen existed and still does in trace, in memory of water. Christensen exists on these shelves, marked with these stamps. As a rule I don't recommend stealing from libraries, but you could do worse than to lift a book of Christensen's or Orlen's from these shelves and furnish your life with it. So I do.




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