Ames, Iowa, just west of the city. Y Avenue south of Lincoln Way, where it crosses over US-30, nighttime, summer, faint smell of at least two kinds of manure, overpass. There is very little traffic. You are alone. A woman whom you do not know yet that you love has just left and, not satisfied with alone, you are lonely. Soon enough you will be leaving too. This is a rare spot of interface with nature, before you will have enough of it and give it up. This is not nature, proper—it is a cultivated nature, squares of farmland, corn and soy and more, repeating into the distance. There is a radio tower in the distance blinking out its Morse into the night. You can drive in any direction, and oftentimes you will think about it, just getting on any road and driving with the pizzas you are meant to deliver off into the night and not stopping until eventually you have to stop. It is two and a half miles to the base of the tower. Your car is off and you are above the highway. Each car is an event happening for miles, meaning minutes, and you are above them, witness to their approach and their disappearing into the horizon. Everything is flatness, and in the winter it will be whiteness. All around you are a half a million fireflies. There is some magic in the world beyond our easy grasp of it.
You were my birthday present; you came to the door—no one else was home, you said “let’s celebrate.” We dropped acid and went to the friend with the nocturnal monkey-like animal and made love for hours….
—inscribed in Gary Snyder, Turtle Island (Casa de los Niños discard library)
Handwritten, it goes without saying, this inscription to an unnamed lover goes on for three pages before arriving at a final sorrow at the lover’s loss—”today we are with different lovers”—but no regrets. Was it ever sent? Ever read? One thing is sure: it was inscribed and meant. Such passion cannot be shrugged off until it can. I found the book in Casa de los Niños on Prince and Mountain, thrift shop stuffed with this stuff, the stuffing escaping the chewed-on animals packed in the discount bin. Pick six for a buck. Doll heads are free. They stare at your future, our future, maybe, lover, if we ever come together.
Dear future lover, every time it feels like forever when it’s new: bright colors, fabric softener, calliopes that were once terrifying softening into daylight as it fades. You know, your lovers surely number more than mine; that’s fine, but when I fall, it’s Ditch Witch hitting electric line, the whole world alive and lit in amperes for a moment. It might be gone again a nanosecond later, the body aching with or for or from the jolt; & perhaps it’s fever dream; & who cares where it comes from as long as it’s fast and seems like it might last until we’re rusting into dust? We are always dying for the future. Otherwise it couldn’t ever come. That it might split ever’s seams apart, that it might bring down the lights until forever’s in the mirror, and the book is given up for thrift: it doesn’t matter. Maybe this book was never sent. I can imagine that, an inscription toward the future. Maybe the lover’s dead. Maybe the lover’s lover’s dead. Maybe we all are like those who had their laughs recorded into tracks for television shows years before, who continue to laugh now a lifetime a lifeline a phone-a-friend later, disembodied, at jokes that are no longer funny. Perhaps they never were.
We are all in wires eventually, reduced to what we said, or didn’t say, and what we wrote or didn’t write, who we loved or didn’t love, or loved and lost and never told it except writing in or to a book. We are all discarded, discordant, confusingly, and so I salute your bravery, book inscriber. Your heart is big enough for both of us, so that there is no room for mockery in me. Anyone willing to strip themselves this bare this fast this way deserves our breathlessness and our hearts’ attention. Let us spend an hour, then longer, in contemplation. If you open, open all the way, or as much as you can bear, or else there’s nothing here at all.
The inscription goes on to quote from Duras’s The Lover, then “I cried when I was with you this time more than twenty years later…it was the reason for life and yet I knew it would end.”
A codex is a door, future lover. You can put whatever through it for a reader you imagine coming to your words in a day, a decade, a daze of centuries, entries in a future book. Codices have histories. They are leafed, spined, embodied, read by future lovers I imagine in bodices in just this kind of light at night. The future is a mystery, lover, a memory. The scent of wisteria coming up from somewhere.
Or: a codex is a hole through which we might not communicate, but instead be transformed entirely, through which we might descend without notice or equipment and not want or be able to return.
Sometimes it is empty and it reminds us all of loneliness. Though we are in love or in affairs that approximate love or long-term relationships we can still be lonely and we are still lonely when it is between 3am and 4am and the world is full of nothingness. We are inside the city. We are inside ourselves. You know what I am talking about. Your husband or lover or maybe just a no one, an approximation of zero, a blank space where there should be feature, a nothing where you thought there was a something, and you don’t know it yet, but you will soon enough, trust me: he’s in the other room. He is tolerant of all your strayings, your nightly rambles around the neighborhood. Maybe you’re looking into windows. Maybe you’re looking out for a particular window. Maybe you saw something there a year ago, but you remember it. It is these things that come back to you in moments when your attention strays and your body directs you here, at 3am. Who is the couple you saw through the window that one time? Were they renters? Was that why you have never seen them both naked again? What was so powerful about that sight? You’d seen nudes before. You’d seen others nude before. Was it the surreptitiousness of it? The stolen glimpse of it?
It might have been their offering to you, to world, to the city. If the city only would take the time to look at its half-darkened windows it might see something spectacular.
Or trace that line backwards. You were in college. You were living in a borrowed city, another’s city, working at whatever job you could do. You were over visiting a friend. You were watching The Black Hole, it turns out that film is pretty good in spite of it being from Disney, and old. From the second-floor window you could see the neighbor girl as she dropped her towel and faced the window, faced towards you. It was lovely, like those childhood woods, dark and deep, and you were fixed there watching her. Was it power? Was it pleasure? Was it all of these? Do you secretly like framing your body in windows for the city too, hoping someone will notice? Are you just radiating back a sense of lust or openness? Are you talking back to the city? And what of your lover, your loved one in the other room whose sleep is undisturbed while you are awake and thinking of this, of that couple, that girl, those lighted frames?
“Carrie says I should make my connections into a poem.” —Dennis Etzel Jr.
Sawed you there, through you there, girl whom I name
Carrie, shine of sun on bonnet-handle at that Walgreens
on 28th. A Friday night. It looked like you came straight
from fighting something that looked like lightning.
You were all scorched up. Tired look but with a residue
of glow, not in the family way, as they used to say,
and as I still do, since I venerate the old, but filled
to the heart with stars. Looking light years away, the way
you operated that Redbox: how can a girl seem so far
from Earth while at a Redbox? I was the girl in the super-
looking supermarket hat, with ashen face and hair of flax,
heart of gold and such. You didn’t see me staring, not seeing
much of anything. Magician seeking magician’s assistant,
my craigslist ad would say: I will saw through you any day.