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from between the lines of Another Love Discourse

I thought I was good because I had borne the brunt of society’s manhandling, because through halls
of terror I fled and gangs of girls followed me, seeking to press thumbs deep into
my arms, cheeks, back of my neck, thighs, because goodness lay heavy in the air around me, because
most around me were powerful underprivileged role models, I thought it good enough
to know and read vexatious histories and in my own private sanctum feel the pain, to dwell
in sorrow through theater and dance, that just by being around, goodness could rub off on a person, it could sprinkle
you with enough particles, and your ancestors themselves were traumatized, your father’s family,
the ones who stayed murdered and he, like your mother's parents, your grandfather born
on Ellis Island – he was the one who got away. Good after growing up in a good town run by good panthers
with a variety of restaurants that thought themselves a microcosm of all that was good, a town
which sought to have a good foreign policy as if anyone cared what these nogoodniks
had to say, I thought myself good because I was forever guilty, because I toted guilt around like a tiny ragdoll
hanging around my waist that assured me of goodness, I thought all this and then on the day
my daughter turned thirteen, yet another birthday in which Vegas mate needed
to have kids all to himself and I did not wish to engage with the wrathful fire-breathing dragon
that was his speech, I found myself alone and depressed on a Sunday afternoon
and though I had fought
for this child, it would be the first year I didn’t see her
on her actual birthday, when I had wanted her so bad I lay
quivering on the table as they strapped me down so the contractions would stop and the
anesthesiologist never came, as my worst fear came true and they cut her out of me while Rome
dawdled and Carthage burnt and people drank cappuccinos in Rhinebeck – and then here
in a New England town I finally came of age and waded out of the muck
of goodness and, to return to the topic, made myself watch the video, you know the one, but really
there are thousands of such pictures made and unmade every day, you don’t have to watch them
to know, no need to freeze-frame anything, but in my case the sensation had to enter my ocular orbit
and excite neurons that had been taught the magic trick of being able to see our common humanity,
a magic I thought I had, that I could do this, because I had grown up in a liberal town
with liberal forebears and a traumatized history – and stop for a second to consider this:

did you know there are cells in a bird’s eye specialized by the power of pluripotency to detect
movement from a mile and a half up in the sky? –
but to freeze on that frame because it has frozen on so many: I saw the man enter
his trance, and whether he had done it before or not, who knows, whether or not something inside him
was rocking and singing or in a trance of paralysis, I saw how fixed he was, knee on neck, eyes unmoving, body
in state of lockjaw tetany until a uniform called him off. Only to the uniform would he answer, only
to someone who to him must have resembled the patronym, the father or law of the father
or the father who must have shamed him badly enough for him to have thought his was the law-
ful act, and yet if in Hollywood they say the hero is made friendly, knowable, and likable if he
is a victim or has a talent or saves someone, he had nothing nothing nothing, saw nothing, made no choice, deep in
the trance that you need be no spiritual teacher to call the trance of unmoving history. No river
couldhave broken it. Only fire.



At a late age, to still care about the projections of others upon your being? Take a Saturday drive
down old roads that had once been misery. In cold, you drove hours with a child,
then with two and three. Let us say you landed in the fall and were looking for fun, and that the first person
you met happens to be the most famous person you have ever met. Because you are face-blind, you
did not recognize her; she had been watching you play with your daughters at a restaurant and
suggested a future playdate. By going out for dinner – sushi – you were trying to stave off the
sadness which had draped itself on your shoulders like a cloak.
I am Z, she said.

You look like Z Famous Person.

I am Z Famous Person, she said, and you had to look away: to be hit with the force
of someone’s fame:
to be hit with dry ice, silent applause.

You became friends; many playdates at each other’s homes. She sat at her grand piano
and performed a poem you had suggested she put to music, alone. Was this one of your most sublime
experiences of art? In her rested layers of silence you could recognize. It is you I want to be friends with,
she said, meaning she did not want playdates with Vegas mate, but you were working too hard
to always be the one to bring the children, and sometimes you asked if he might bring
them, and sometimes he stayed overlong, talking to her of fame and her past. He had been a fan. You
shared a little too much with him, and after one of her tribulations, he feelingly put a hand
on her shoulder and looked into her eyes, after which the gates came down. The friendship never
recovered; you had let someone make incursions on her privacy; your mate forever too much in the mix.
Now, after the sundering, old friendships reopen: one woman’s husband opens
up with a joy you had not seen. Another friend confides on a curb, her way also unseen. Your new love has a poise
in that he sits back, ready to engage with joy; he takes his stately presence for granted,
the maturity – the world is not always about him – stays the best rose in the bouquet.
One friend’s mate enters a trance. A show about Cuba and solidarity plays,
and though this husband is from another isle, he tells its entire history
as if history for third-graders. Yet his beam is holy and my friend is a model
of Midwestern tact as he speaks of what has been lost and gained,
needing to watch the famous people
pay homage to this importantly overlooked island. In this bent, he replicates
what I have seen: anyone
raised away
always feels the mainland’s slight.
I have removed myself
from the inheritance conversation which has turned jolly
without me, and I fear I will float away like a land-mass, no longer
a part. You will remove yourself
from power
, says the executor, we are summiting,
we need these weekly meetings, soon we finish
Obscenity: the graphing of your own desire over someone’s face. Not seeing the scene of another’s
life. And so it is with this passage of my mother, back into the past. My current self argues
with those from which I felt her nearby:
a plaster through which one cannot breathe unless one breaks free.
The beloved aunt writes me: my dearest niece. She too had been raised
on hierarchy’s poisoned milk, her mother favoring this aunt over my mother. Another lovely sister served others
so much, she ended up eating herself to death. Last, the bright-boy uncle
for whom the state of Mississippi changed its poker laws.
That I didn’t wear my social mask seated between one friend
whose belief in me had kept me going and my beloved mate
who had revived my belief in belief: proximity helped me breathe.
Obscenity: when you fail to see the world as it asks to be seen. The famous singer, my mother,
such tiny details which have started to invade my brain. I pray for release or that at least
this unfurling may serve some worth for others.


Someone mentioned the phrase hysterical blindness to me and I thought of the face
of the woman in the refugee camp where we worked – her smile a tired wide rictus, her head
in loose hijab, the tiredness in her eyes a caul pulled over all she had seen, too tired to engage
in the idle chitchat of the camp, gaze milky-white
as if from cataracts, looking out, sitting on a wall, nothing to say
to the world, just waiting to see what the world would say back. A person can hear bad news, my friend
said, and then get hysterical blindness. This same friend also mentioned that certain people
can get on our last nerve. The last nerve: I’d never heard this. We were walking to some dried waterfall and talking
about what it means to play witness by carrying the weight of your parents’ soul,
whether or not one sibling gets delegated to do this or not. Trampled or not,
nerves intact or gone, I kept stumbling, I could not see a way

Edie Meidav wrote the lyric novel Another Love Discourse (Terra Nova/MIT Press, July 2022), the collection Kingdom of the Young (Sarabande), and three novels, Lola, CaliforniaCrawl Space (both FSG), and The Far Field: A Novel of Ceylon (Houghton). She is a professor in the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA program. Read related new work here and here.