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Responsibilities of the Champagne Flutes

“Here is a glass on this table. I say that it is a glass; I name it for you; it seems, a priori, that this glass is not moved, that it is not transformed by the name I have just spoken, that it has stayed exactly as it is, in its place, and that this breath of voice has modified absolutely nothing of the situation. In this way, if truly to speak is not to change things, if truly to speak is to assemble words that don’t change situations, the writer can speak in utter irresponsibility.” 
—Jean-Paul Sartre
The Responsibility of the Writer

Opening Ceremony of UNESCO
Paris, 1946

A day of awnings and fruitless steps. Pause. Something glinting and apparent and political in what she slices. A frowning song. An element of ebony. Catchfruit. Actual lemons. Various forms of imprisonment. A kerosene lip, and three whales in a plastic bag. What good are the rescuers, being so very good. And the prison bars made of wood, when we have a saw. I saw you back behind the screen, mimicking movement. And smiles. Connection. Nearly neon outline of a chin.

A word, or milk, junction with in.

The words stack and stretch in their unmetered parking spots but only so far. There will be sand in place of our thoughts and cotton manufactured out of our control. Canals of unmeasured feeling and a continent as yet unimagined with its own rhythms and cuisine and taxation system composed with uncounted ballots and voters kept back by a je ne sais quoi


A curled map in the French seaweed, it’s for you, Angelica, these swallowed insects and dessicated things. The planet steps off itself and we step off the curb into gravities in various plastic cases, a virtual outdoor mall, judgeless acceptance, the whole of existence, out of step, out of nature, the fraise on the cake, could it be other. Oysters delivered in Peruvian. What we will wish for had been DVD time. Necessities in a blur of volleyball nets. Guiltless physical labor is elsewhere.

These truths we take to be self-evident.

Clichés and escalating caves, morning. Shutter. That research is sculptural. A pomegranate seed emerges from the collar bone, rests on the skin not breaking. Rodin was wrong. A ceaselessness of judgements. E-flat movement to the bibliothèque. Jacques and Jean-Jacques, Pierre and Robespierre, Marion, Meryem, Marie-Laure. And the forward word of the skeleton.


And since you speak to change—since one cannot speak otherwise

—why do you want to change this rather than that? Sartre’s breath. Enthusiasm yesterday. Toxic spiral, the stairs. And we talked, again. Weather resists boredom, and inhabits it, is it. Leather spray. The cherry blossoms inside. Generally the cells won’t quit if given a chance, or cluster of doubts. And there was a wish, a talent for trees and Tressida. Reasons external or internal amount to the same in terms of whether the glass moves, whether Iran is bombed. Also.

The intended regard. Paper booths. A proximity of sororal. And a variety of wounds, when named. Stacy stopped writing for twenty-four hours. A pause. In cooking. Coding, correspondence, the iffy. Better to go with the sure explosions. Please to acknowledge the bitters, orange rinds, the most extremely artificial cherry. The artifice inside.


The glass is pregnant.

What comes after the pictures of Saturn, dear Geneva? And why did I dream (was it of Philadelphia?) of Charles B. as young and dapper. There was something in the process, right where I was, scraps of thought and pictures of Saturn. Longitudinally we were mirrors of each other. The toxins of fish came through breast milk and yeast spread to the cotton. The beautiful name of the weave was ajouré, you can see day through it (more pictures of Saturn—it’s a whole other world). Oceans, and miles turning to kilometers between us, and the sentences piling up in sevens, bruised, one leashed, fascism and evangelicalism, the other side of the power of words, language folded, a bill upon itself, or any male name, Arad. Or Abed. Though not Abed.


Whiskers of entryways and breaking, a Mayan metaphor. Or excuse for ears and openness. Definition flirts—you said lost without x—not lost really at all. North Berkeley one past. Needed, it happens for a reason ayet a promise. Bedsheets, London. Disengagements glacial in an age of warming. Rhodessa Jones, Twenty-sixth Street. ”He’s a strange one.“ Key to key exchange and the canines missing you into another phase. Residencies. These are real, Zusanne, do you know city car share. Adoll asmile. Pods of cars. Varieties of transumation. Stein sanskrit. Please write. 

You the wet coast of France.

Milliseconds after your arrival, black on the staircase, again. Thought makes thought, bodies bodies. Seldom were we right, ever. In that hazy territory what we felt was, at least, we are not wrong. In the licking and the rolling. But mostly a neutral sort of dreaming very much like a Berlin fairy tale, followed by a fade-out to hot pink. Cream. Bing cherries. And hail, always perfectly unexpected. Inverse. Families have a way of tugging at their members, and members of paying dues. Sponsors, benefactors, there’s nothing upon entering but for a name, I am sorry but, je suis desolée mais, Jabès is right, imperfectly expected, as you are.

The white gloves seem ridiculous from this vantage, but the general lack of sleeplessness contributed to productivity and REM sales, twenty years after the fact. The trick was we couldn’t buy it. None of us could. And who was it thought the Internet would improve humanity. Stephen, or Drake, somebody. Piglet was waving from the tree, and lofting bottles into the flood. C. Robin or Rice, would eventually come around. But then it’s too late, and latterly, Rabbit’s hole is already full, the honey gone. And the black wool sweater is shrunk beyond recognition. Cereal left in the bowl several minutes too long. And your cat meows. Hammering. The inner dedication. We could use another definition of inside now.

Tugboat magnetics, drifts into recognition.

Half-half. Empty. What was wanted from Mali. Seven thousand cats. The women. Some islands. Diseases. Drinks with pineapple. It’s all in the head. That is a big lesson. And one not to be learned in solitude. Along with a fear of breast pockets. And the tangled hair and sticky seats. Our own breath. She could tell you otherwise. The sacrifice was great, she learned so much from windowsill. The subway rails out of grasp because they are in New York, where it all is. Frank waves the choices that we know. The disjunction of white beans, fresh squids. As yet. A smile. Abundance of the bay. Fluidity of the green. Sent. To want it back. The dog’s tail, a pendulum. A capacity. Hot drinks numbered. And the days.

They stretch. Would wish to say. To go. Long into the woodwinds. Those from Senegal, and further, the Congo. In search of what has been rescinded. To have left out too much. To go back. Or, to go. Which is to stay. The hot chocolate. A half-lemon squeezed in a photographed hand. Forty days and a lot less nights. Considerably netted. Bound even. A solution in the disassembling. And we of the making. Cross street, St. Sabin. They were mixed, our emotions, and the news, generally less. 

Cough. Melody. End of the bar.

The flutes turned upside down, spilling champagne. Wish for wholeness. Relationships come in and out of view. The red bowl. Henna calligraphy draping the women. Reconciliation of wool and horns. Patterned paragraphs. Response. All the associates present. A soup stone. Café de l’Industrie. The body at it, encore. This return of the leak, and certain presumptions, including that the supermarket remains, and friendship. Crossed out. A general fatigue. Waiting for Abigail. What was that wish for together, those thoughts, your skin other than yours. The minutes tick by, falling in and out of consciousness. Sheep’s wool and hats slightly off. The thin coating of snow. It has been a few years.

Oakland, Dec 4 – Paris, Feb 5 

Sarah Riggs is a poet, translator, visual artist, and mother. Her books include Waterwork (Chax Press), Chain of Minuscule Decisions in the Form of a Feeling (Reality Street), and 60 Textos (Ugly Duckling Presse, forthcoming in 2010). She is the director of the international nonprofit Tamaas, and a member of Double Change in Paris.