Sunday, November 03, 2013

ModPo 2013 #55 Examining the Interrupted Life: On Perelman's "Chronic Meanings"

Lee Hickman

Bob Perelman, "Chronic Meanings" 
from the book Virtual Reality

for Lee Hickman

The single fact is matter.
Five words can say only.
Black sky at night, reasonably.
I am, the irrational residue.

Blown up chain link fence.
Next morning stronger than ever.
Midnight the pain is almost.
The train seems practically expressive.

A story familiar as a.
Society has broken into bands.
The nineteenth century was sure.
Characters in the withering capital.

The heroic figure straddled the.
The clouds enveloped the tallest.
Tens of thousands of drops.
The monster struggled with Milton.

On our wedding night I.
The sorrow burned deeper than.
Grimly I pursued what violence.
A trap, a catch, a.

Fans stand up, yelling their.
Lights go off in houses.
A fictional look, not quite.
To be able to talk.

The coffee sounds intriguing but.
She put her cards on.
What had been comfortable subjectivity.
The lesson we can each.

Not enough time to thoroughly.
Structure announces structure and takes.
He caught his breath in.
The vista disclosed no immediate.

Alone with a pun in.
The clock face and the.
Rock of ages, a modern.
I think I had better.

Now this particular mall seemed.
The bag of groceries had.
Whether a biographical junkheap or.
In no sense do I.

These fields make me feel.
Mount Rushmore in a sonnet.
Some in the party tried.
So it's not as if.

That always happened until one.
She spread her arms and.
The sky if anything grew.
Which left a lot of.

No one could help it.
I ran farther than I.
That wasn't a good one.
Now put down your pencils.

They won't pull that over.
Standing up to the Empire.
Stop it, screaming in a.
The smell of pine needles.

Economics is not my strong.
Until one of us reads.
I took a breath, then.
The singular heroic vision, unilaterally.

Voices imitate the very words.
Bed was one place where.
A personal life, a toaster.
Memorized experience can't be completely.

The impossibility of the simplest.
So shut the fucking thing.
Now I've gone and put.
But that makes the world.

The point I am trying.
Like a cartoon worm on.
A physical mouth without speech.
If taken to an extreme.

The phone is for someone.
The next second it seemed.
But did that really mean.
Yet Los Angeles is full.

Naturally enough I turn to.
Some things are reversible, some.
You don't have that choice.
I'm going to Jo's for.

Now I've heard everything, he.
One time when I used.
The amount of dissatisfaction involved.
The weather isn't all it's.

You'd think people would have.
Or that they would invent.
At least if the emotional.
The presence of an illusion.

Symbiosis of home and prison.
Then, having become superfluous, time.
One has to give to.
Taste: the first and last.

I remember the look in.
It was the first time.
Some gorgeous swelling feeling that.
Success which owes its fortune.

Come what may it can't.
There are a number of.
But there is only one.
That's why I want to.

Now, this one moved me to tears. My notes on the text before watching the video discussion: "I don't know why I'm crying. Maybe it's because I have my daughter with me and all these interrupted lines remind me of time's evanescence. I have nowhere to put these. Nowhere at all. She didn't eat her pancakes and now she's going to sleep." 

In a commentary, Perelman, says: "I'm sorry you're dying" didn't seem appropriate to say to someone I didn't know well. I found it a very moving pre-elegy. The facts of a life don't matter anymore. It's the loss that will be endured that matters. 

I, too, did auto-fill some of the phrases. And it's a good thing that the video discussion exposed this: the language that we are socialized into, the language that makes us finish other people's sentences. I'm guilty of this. How presumptuous! The point of the poem is to let someone finish his sentence (now, I didn't notice this pun until now) himself. But death sometimes interrupts that. And there's no taking it back. That is life. It is not an arc. It doesn't have well-ordered themes....unless it were artificially assigned by those who want to "make sense" of it. 

Like me, I guess. My life since my mother died when I was three has been about making sense of her death. But there's no making sense of it, after all. Death interrupts. That's that. No matter how young you are. Death interrupts. Death interrupts all the time

I guess that's why the poem was so moving for me. The forced artifice of five words and never knowing what the speaker/s was/were eventually going to say (even if we try to fill it in for them). A constantly recurring interrupted meaning. This is the human experience of loss, the pain of having not finished. And one can only respect that life, that sentence, as it is, resisting the temptation to finish it for them... leaving it just as it is, beautiful in its brevity and existence. The urge to finish a sentence is our own way of trying to make meaning of something that defies meaning. What Perelman's poem shows me is that just because a life is interrupted and it doesn't seem to make sense...we can still appreciate that life just as it is without fabricating the meaning for the person. It isn't that the life that I am celebrating was ultimately meaningless in its interrupted state...but that it is appreciated in whatever form it came and left, no need to neatly tie loose ends.  

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