SEEKING AIR

by Barbara Guest. This book frightened me. When I was first reading it I had to stop. Then I had to place the book at the bottom of a stack so  I wouldn’t glance at it. Finally I went back. I read it. It’s hard to say what’s frightening. Just that something else besides its contents is living in this novel. Here’s from opening, then chapter seven:

Begin with telling her everything, she had said.

This provoked me into wanting to say less and less.

Yet there was such a marvelous, such an extraordinary circumference around what I might or might not tell. I thought about it. I never thought about it less than an ordinary day.  I considered it into the reaches of the night. Even past novel reading or picture seeing. I wondered what it was that I might say to her. These are all parentheses, thoughts also, they go, as one would say, along the routes. They march down the avenues.

There is no point in telling you about the Ecuador or Chinese shops. You have heard about them. You have even visited the squares and sat in front of the flags. You have even entered the buildings. I think you have been just in your remarks. Not always swimming on a bland bright day with the sun at your heels, not always acquiescing to the psalm singing drift of the white lilted bright Asiatic day at your roots. Do you think so?

And now that we are quite away from everyday, now that we have forgotten perhaps to say now and wander correctly groomed, I wonder. Are you like a movie? It began this way.

7

Things have fallen out and things have fallen in. -H.G. Wells

Miriam we are going to Minna’s. Ah this is when you put your hand in mine. We are going to pass through the corridors of–my past. Then stairs. First up to the rooms. We push the bell. Someone nearby says, “They wouldn’t let me into the bar of the Seven Seas.” We are in a hallway. Miriam. I touch you. You who have never know the years of these rooms. I feel your heavy dress. We go up the stairs. There it is.

This is the water’s music. I am walking by the water. I am telling you my sister, you are syllables. You are the music dropped on leaves. I am saying there is the funeral of Lenin. If you wish to listen. I am saying we are living at the top of the house and there the chords make such a sound the steeple sweeps sideways against the sky. And then we begin.