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Henri Michoux

When we lived in Paris in the early fifties of the last century when I was a little boy of six, seven, maybe eight, my father was a mystery.   For me as a child (and perhaps for all the rest of me as well) everything was mystery. It surged before me in sensory immediacy, just as it was, yet always changing, full at once of caprice and the immutability of actually being.   Looking back I see that we lived well as citizens of a conquering/liberating power, even though we had no refrigerator and the furnace worked intermittently.   We were privileged, an anomalous status for people who belonged to a faith whose remnants were just clinging to life and trembling with knowledge of the once and future terror. The Second World War was not truly over.   It raged on in the heads and hearts of so many who were silent, including my father. The dead had met their deaths by combat, by extermination, by accident, by hidden acts of cruelty intimate beyond naming and yet they were not dead because the living clung to them, scrapped desperately to reach them and failed. The living were thrown back on their own minuscule and diminished resources. This was all they had as their dreams in nights of fitful sleep kept reminding them of the radical amputations they had suffered. Three or four times of a Sunday afternoon my father and I walked along the banks of the Seine.   I had no idea what he was thinking nor even did I have an idea of trying to form an idea of what he... read more

Guabacaste, 2017

I’ve just turned 71. The reversal of the digits from 17 to 71 took 54 long years, 54 short years, 54 inscrutable years.   There is no way to make a map of the way. So many people I’ve loved are dead and gone and yet alive and not gone in my mind. When I was 17 the outer population was greater than the inner population. At 71 it is exactly the reverse – the inner population is greater than the outer population. I don’t have to spill blood libations to court them.   They come in my dreams, looking exactly like themselves from long ago and faraway.   My Great Uncle Manny wears the forty year old blue shoes back again in fashion. He loved them and loved the revolution that brought them back. I loved them because he loved them. That was enough. We get swept up in the currents and eddies of other people’s lives.   That is what love does, also what hate does. But how does the dream machine hold so much – shoes, faces, voices, the banks of the Seine, my father’s pipes and his Latakia tobacco? I appear sometimes as myself with and without a befuddled expression. And women, too, starting with my mother and proceeding from there, I have been listening and listening down the years and down the decades. I have heard voices from outside and voices from inside.   I have heard the voices of some who lived and died before I was born, some long before. Ancients have been my contemporaries. I have tried to make a music of what I have heard... read more

One Note

In the night he played the organ of sorrows whose vast pipes spanned continents and whose music was time, the sea in which he swam and dissolved to become a wail sounding the deep where beginning and end are one note... read more

When Morning Comes

When morning comes, I will not see it. With not even a pang of loneliness the sun will rise without me.   This is the night of my death, for which I have waited all my life, never knowing when it would come, only sure that it would arrive.   This is a night full of pain and terror and wrath and fatigue and just a hint of the tip of the wing of the wild white bird of tenderness, surcease and peace.   I can feel that, too, in the midst of my amazement that I still have a voice with which to try to say goodbye to myself and to my world.   No one is listening and that provides my own version of haphazard and flimsy truth with the thin shelled egg of privacy within which it can struggle to be born as I am dying.   Now I need to pause to catch my inner breath which is running away from me. I can’t stop struggling, but the struggle has changed as the ingredient of hopelessness has been added, not just spoonful by spoonful, but heaping spoonful by heaping spoonful.   I am neither young nor terribly old as I face forever.   If I am more old than young, the core “feel” I have of myself, strangely, has not changed since I first knew myself as a little girl.   I have not been someone who loved or lived an inward life. The interior frightened me in ways I never had much interest in defining. To have undertaken that task would already have been to embark on a voyage of exploration leading... read more