Culture | Lit supp part 4

todd frei

Translating transparency

I’m drifting through languages. My obsessions have turned to the names of things. I’ve stopped seeing actualities; rather, just forms of expression. It’s the order of words, how they fit into a system. And I step between. Arranging and rearranging orders. My adjectives are all over the place, jumping back and forth over nouns. Sometimes they’re given genders. A house is a she, same with a car. A glass is a he, as well as the wine that fills it. Other days my words lack the sexuality of gender. I’m stuck seeing the world in two separate ways at the same time. Where do I fit into this subjectivity; I’m becoming adjacent to myself. The people around me have lost their individuality to lists of descriptions. I talk with people but never actually know anything about them. Just a collection of words shifting through languages. You become an inventory of places, possibly an adjective is involved. It’s the process of watching a person become transparent. I’ll tell the history of my life as though reading a carefully considered essay. I’m losing stories. Once they were called memories; now they have taken on different forms, obscured by syntax. There was a girl I once knew, and even loved. She has become a neat set of sentences, translated into simplicity. I no longer remember the emotions. And all of our reasons. I’m sure we had so many. Instead there are bare facts, the cruelties of a foreign tongue. And the friend who saved my life. Or did I save his? All I know is that there were moments and fears and anxieties. And now there is only the failed attempt at conversion. I lack the ability to laugh or tell a lie. It doesn’t translate. There is something missing. Or perhaps the correct phrase is: so much.

The blindness of butterflies

It started with a blind woman listening to the butterflies. These were not real butterflies, but an art installment. Thousands of plastic butterflies suspended from the ceiling in the shape of a jet plane. All different colours, they hung close to each other and would softly rub wings, creating the sound of flutters. This is where I found her, holding her cane and smiling as she stood beneath them in the centre of the gallery. She said she could feel herself surrounded. That the noise was so intense it felt as though it was lifting her into the air. I thought I saw tears in her eyes but it may have just been a reflection. Either way, I was inventing God out of her presence; and she was inventing angels out of darkness.

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claire caldwell

The summer I learned to love humidity

Same summer I figured “god is a violinist

in the neighbourhood park”

but spent more time on the fire escape

feeding cats, watering the breathless weeds.

*

That summer I could have been sixty, fat

slow peeling an apple on the stoop

browning steadily, nodding off

mostly to tires, car stereos, midnight sighs.

*

One July afternoon almost converted me

to a doe-eyed missionary, two mormon

saints swooning in my doorway.

I folded them into paper fans:

a final act of defiance.

*

By dusk it was cool.

The sky shook out, wrung.

Standing on the porch with damp hair.

The bow poised and sinister.

My taut strings buzzing.

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