An Excerpt from Memory: July 15, 1971Bernadette Mayer
This excerpt is from Memory by Bernadette Mayer. All rights reserved. © 2020, Bernadette Mayer and Siglio Press. A PDF version of this excerpt is available while the second printing is in progress. We expect the new printing will be available for course adoption for the fall 2023 semester.
In the country in a room. Do you assume in your creation that humans have an understood love to begin with & when I get that from you, I can make you anyone, then, I can make you another, even the persecutor? Bright lights big city baby you knock me out, yeah have a life, nurses, it’s twelve o’clock & fifty seconds bright day: bright & gifted children top soil red wood tubs & boxes hot lunches & terrace design maintenance care of aged & sick this is the book telephone book & mr. h-o-h-l the lawyer wouldnt talk to me write him a letter in anger, a, write to show, specializing in psychiatry gradual planes garden design, the nurses registry 5 n. main st spring valley, nyc#5626255: 150 a week to nurse, 15 a week to registry, 30 a day for replacement, 1 day off, 6 days a week live-in, pay carfare, mrs. wulfurt, $195 times 4 = $780 a month plus carfare, you set up the bed. This morning pictures the dark windows of the loft in morning, afternoon, the blue windows of the bathroom window & more of the extra now, the dark handling of the morning windows & last night end myself in the mirror & ed in bed, he’s asleep, he laughs the shutter button gets stuck the camera shakes lines & jimmy reed gets stuck for the seventh time got me runnin got me hidin baby what you want me to do & that’s pretty nice too & I feel heavy with three meals today because of bacon & eggs & veal & greens & home fries & peaches & beef & greens & wine & someone says it’s all shellfish all right & someone says yeah we were in boston that day, you remember, & braids tickle my ankle & I am uptight distant & far away because I got up & went to canal street, ed, & I passed the public scales on 6THAVE, that’s commercial weighing by water ron said & it’s a trial: you get on the subway a black man in a straw hat is motionless & a black man in glasses, their heads go down are cut off & a sun-tanned black woman, you see ads for cheeseburgers you see ads for radio station WXYZ, you get off at 47THST&6THAVE & what does it say sale what, I cant read it from here something for 49¢ & someone says I can read that & I can also read 1st quality stockings & I guess you can read 49¢, no you cant read that, it’s light bulbs in a glass case & I met ed at arnold’s saw the films we try to synchronize sound: nightmare alley with tyrone power, dante’s inferno on 47THST: it’s red white & blue & you eat dried cheeseburgers dipped in sauce, cell sauce, you’ve been in the city two days & that guy in the picture was sitting right across from you & he didnt even know it & he doesnt know it now, no how cause you took his picture in the mirror with ed & ed’s arm’s black & the waiter’s black in white waiter’s hat & you see a jewish man eating food in a big brown hat with striped brim band, bands of deli deli deli & franks franks franks lines lines lines fluorescents fluorescents fluorescents fluorescents lights have changed my life & it was brighter
in there than it was outside & that was very bright & bright green to make you sick, construction green dark on a bus on a bus, grass: a place to relax excitement confusion I guess we separated & I went to the hospital again you see a patient looking out a window dark & read time magazine & r’s not there we’re back at arnold’s, ed talked on the phone & the floods are too high, high orange doors to the construction palace & someone says that’s the reddest thing I’ve ever seen & that’s three sets of teeth & you look down like girls on toys through a hole a hole so deep it makes ed black & ed in his black-green shirt t-shirt looks dean james green & you must be in the subway against bright green bricks & r — green he makes a face & you mug they say, one hand on his other hand’s elbow & what’s that: you see the bank in the park, that’s right, lights on & wait till you see what’s next it’s so dark in here & it’s nice, yeah it’s lions in buildings, right, gradually coming down in a fabric of glass, no mistake: we took the subway home. Later we stopped at smiler’s 6THAVE & fruits prices quality reflect on the car, as before: bright lights field big city field baby you knock me out & fuck gp he doesnt trust women or just women with children & he wants to live in his past so he leaves us out in the process that’s his states of consciousness & you cant accept us just floating around with no identities except we’re teachers I think I think we say we’re teachers & I guess we seem young to him: can he see us you stop time & I’ll stop time too with you & could he see us & his sister-aunt bob gone to the coast for her 50th wedding anniversary fuck her & fuck here now’s the time to fuck aunt bob’s the one who wouldnt admit me to the hospital when I was almost eighteen cause she didnt want the responsibility in case I died, who moves: the moon & jimmy reed. You listen & you become strong in your resolve & you move never to give anyone a way to identify you, a sense of your ease maybe but no word & what’s the word it’s poet, son. It’s lamppost fence: you’re a fence & you’re perverse, thief, I hope & a woman was an outcast, e & a woman was ugly & her tongue was tied & a woman was blonde, what century & in what city do you see & do you see a faster way, find a faster way to get to the line that goes in all directions flame no continuing space a space to live in flame you can see it right away no figuring & most of all sleep no questions that’s the end: there was a guy who tried to pick me up on the subway & he said why dont you trust me & he said well if you’re in a hurry then why do you walk then why dont you run & you take pictures I see pictures for me & another like me & so on. Notes: previn glenn miller columbia decca prestige audio fidelity is a command enoch light & numbers at sam goody’s & someone says we should have a small professional specialty store for what you want & he’s queer & all I want is old black magic & he talks an english accent, says this store’s too big & he comes up with enoch light & up with friendly hippie construction workers smile like neil & dope seems to reign supremes in the store for
a while with nathan jones & chaim arnold & mrs. kerlew legister calls & signs her name in her own black hand written by the other black nurses out of the black house in black jeans with black coffee besides the black mrs. sampson & lilah’s black & she says what records do you have & I have that old black magic & janis joplin real as life & she says as soon as I start singing one of those songs I have to go out & buy it & I’m much more at home here black with blue notebook, store it up, than in the country passive in the city sit back & be in pain queens plaza. I pass an indian spice store on broadway of elmhurst & I buy spice tea cause the store is there & I’m black & dr. attoh the west indian is my friend today & g says get that thing off me & demands a glass of water & the F train goes to kew gardens & I buy cashew nuts & the tea we couldnt drink it & the indian man stands up straight to tell me that asafoetida a bad-smelling gum resin obtained from various asiatic plants of the carrot family is a natural laxative & he says or he adds to keep your emotions pure or was it emulsions or motions movements bowel movements fine powders real time: ellsberg, victimology & I remember that asafoetida is the substance they use to see if babies think the things adults hate the smell of smell bad & the answer is they dont especially shit & a woman in the hospital elevator says to me because of your braids they might need you in that play & I say what play & she laughs as if I know & if they all knew how old I was they’d 1/2-shit jesus christ the spartan restaurant & where was that asshole priest today we go black to massachusetts g burps & I know what p means about seeing all these people before but now I dont & will it make me put everything into words & who is p always formulating for me he never leaves my thoughts alone, it’s fifteen to four & the 5THAVE crowds are waiting for the RR train & I’m all alone in the hotshit crowd, they get off early, just waiting for some room: nurses internal what balls not all to have a family. Power money room. Gentle witch the orange pen & change of $20 in my pocket overwhelms me, how to run the splicers & the rewinds & who has films that want editing we all do & can I have the mylar splicer & take away that spool we want this over here, a loud buzzing, you want that? Background talking & walking & a sitting at the editing table says can I have a reel, emulsion side down it sticks that’s gelatin & the raw part of the film is an original the viewer left right, emulsion side down print up base side straight up & down correctly wound it must be rewound, any questions? Emulsion side upside down. Flip it for the image, this is a viewer: a hippie runs off the train at 42NDST he almost missed his stop, pinkerton gent agent getting on the train whizzes around, the kid must be a criminal he thinks pink, punk, sits down & looks silly, holds his hose his hat & his brief case he has a good tan not time, that’s g. gordon liddy says: if you’ve got the time we’ve got the beer milky beer looking up, this is a detailed
diary of my rapes: now the pinkerton is taking notes, he couldnt stand it but I have an orange pen & he’s not looking up at me, his legs crossed mine apart the two of us writing furiously on the train at prince street he crosses the other leg, he’s writing about tom, a traitor like jean genet he can only write in the dark, notes: 522-2222-030A just charge it & say you’re mrs. roy pierce personal loan department chase manhattan bank & how do you cross a palm with a negative sitting in the regular studio there’s a chair there where two birds artificial birds fly by & you may not be interested in artificial birds in the sky but paul is & he makes a fish come in right over the sun as if the fish were flying & I turn the volume up & we’re sitting in the regular studio in the fucking chair & we make a memorial or stars to the sun sinks down toward the fjord where paul came from far away from twolaneblacktop art & but there’s still a tree & this is drawing drawing’s cheap an optical printing’ll cost you two bills you draw the bills out of a number of them 354 356 357 & it runs to nine bills on the a-wind underlined & in other altered states on the opposite side of the space there is tom please per-mix me to tower a bone & knot over hills where your ground makes sparks in the air no ground blue once easy yawn rolls through the box car with a simple engine on it rolls through the mountains on tracks: there’s something to that story & I say wow I know what that is you know those apartment buildings on the west side highway & he says yeah & I say that’s what that is & he says do you have any memory this time at all & I say not so far & he says you will I think & I say that’s pretty nice too & he says mm & I say lights & he says butterfly & I say that’s nice you know that sign & he says yup & I say teneco I waited long & he says automatic exchange lanes keep right & I say we were as far as riverdale ten cents & he says I dont remember this day very much & I say we’re going back now & he says I think we had k with us too didnt we & I say yellow pail & a blue jar at the gas station & he says was k driving & I say this might’ve been the hitchhiker night & he says it was & I say how do you know & he says I can just figure it out & he says what’s that & I say not me & he says lights on & I say I dont know & he says j’s friend from topeka was there was that it & I say a mystery & he says I dont know either & I say next morning & he says we & I say I slept on the side by the window & he says I slept by the door & I say who’s that I dont know who I was who I was sleeping with then & he says obviously & I say obviously so a moth flies in & we’re sitting in the back seat of the 1964 cadillac convertible k&e in the front up the west side highway the miller parkway listening to pres. nix. announce he’ll visit china but the date is secret so is beethoven’s motive for 1st symphony & so is brahms’ motives same screech cars pile up not on top I’m with the machines on this one & jim the drummer called & e gets stoned then the h-hiker who got part of the next page turns out to be a preacher for the jesus
revolution of teen challenge an ex-drug addict he says & he says when I saw a pair of white hands on my back I never took drugs again & yes he says I saw white hands on heroin no I wasnt on heroin when I saw them yes I was & I never was again & I spoke in tongues he says a tongue freak revolution from the top & so he says regina coeli brother he says blessed mother mary magdalen & christ you know the preacher got into the car with them but he didnt notice he preached & as he left he cautioned them I got a contact high amen & sends us high literature later & when we get to massachusetts it’s topeka but first we leave off jesus in poughkeepsie he belongs & when I see the woman from topeka my first thought is well could she be his very own ex-wife & we come in laughing & we file in laughing & we seem much younger than psychology & I write the end of a note to michael says I cant believe that anything in the outside world is that important I surely didnt do anything vicious love & I’m still awake at dawn for the fields to watch me & the field watches me, ed’s back the field
“The truth is that I operate as a writer and in some ways as an editor very much inside a space of instinct. There’s a kind of silence there …” —Danielle Dutton, from her interview with Karla Kelsey in Feminist Poetics of the Archive at Tupelo Quarterly[...]