The Technique of Lost Material

Carnival of the Animals
November 19, 2017
But Then Again
November 19, 2017

The Technique of Lost Material

What is lightest you cut out first,
what is darkest remains till the end.
All the other shades you gush out from light to dark,
with gouges of different sizes.

You have to know what story you’re telling from the beginning,
but it always comes out differently from what you planned.
Still, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll be lost till the end.
You have to accept all the imperfections that come your way.

Take that red tree, for instance. It should be in front
of the bridge rather than in between or behind it.
Yet accidents can be meaningful, too;
you have to trust how they announce themselves to you.

This was the end of the line,
the destination of my journey, but also
the place where my story began, and where
my parents died, thirty years apart.

I had biked hundreds of miles
to visit the absence they left,
to see what had changed and what had remained.
The birches were gone, but a new family lived where we used to.

They have two girls, it looks like.
History indeed does not repeat itself,
but it rhymes. That bridge, for instance, also chimes
with another bridge I crossed earlier,

connecting the two islands my parents were born on.
The wind pushed me back so hard that day.
And a seagull soared high above me, accompanying me,
looking at me, my temporary travel companion.

The stillness of motion can hardly be captured,
but here is me trying. It’s even harder to say to your soul,
“be still,” and really be with the pain others caused you,
and hardest of all: to be with the pain I caused you;

(I guess this would always take the form of a letter to you).
This final one is situated halfway through those two bridges,
but I made it last. It’s of a train station where my father worked
when I was born, so, again about arriving and departing constantly.

It’s ostensibly simpler, just a few lines, gouged or written,
more suggestive and evocative perhaps, and less descriptive.
I eked out a new style here, a new path. Despite its simplicity, though,
you can still make out what I’m trying to communicate.

So what I’m saying is that you have to obliterate the initial story
to make room for a new storyline or style.
Everything is in mirror image.
Destruction is a necessary means for the act of creation.