Reading Diary: On Lisa Robertson

being slow enough to insist

About Lisa Robertson

It’s January and I start reading XEclogue and The weather,
Immediately to feel in trouble and continue
to read on. I try to be open,
sitting in my room, feeling unqualified,
with nothing concrete to say, to have had, and still so.
No focused thoughts, feeling
not welcome but giving in to how the words take form,
I am lost in traces of conceptual quality

in affectionate sentences
in stems of thistles, I only understand less

my attempts at being touched
fail. Flicker, as the only tangible thought,

obscurity the sensation in missteps
where it leads us
to ask how we become unburdened?
we strive to slip across thorny bushes
not to be free but to impinge,

bursts and then residues
of war and news
of strategic powers, of refugees refused, gates
of nation states effected, gates of gas pumps, gates of fear
not intending to serve, I
modulate one central sentence of Lisa’s:

How are we to survive while unlearning?
We don’t and we do,
the cat races around hunting insects, birds for playtime.
It goes on untamed and reckless
on all of our 52 square meters
we are tumbling and together

while ants sprawl across our window sills, in the coming heat.

in small displacements of loved friends from apartments. Some have to move out because of
prices, because of demand. Some can now buy their own and try to be modest about it.

We work to protect certain ledges. The undernourished. How can we share without being split
by ownership? In the musculature of finance, we can’t afford to stay or leave.
Nettles and wild swarming grassscapes, bramble. We do our best to concentrate
without losing all hope in what can be done.

for now, we are all about to
realize failure, flicker, as the only tangible thought,

to find ground,
still it takes too long
to reach that nowhere.
March. I order more of Lisa’s books. They arrive in time, and I find they don’t help me.

Instead they have more titles:

R’s boat
Cinema of the present

I read and read and now, this now stretching from late January to early May,
Lisa’s poetry makes little to no sense to me.
I feel I need to bow my head and just keep reading.
All the well placed sentences. The concepts where utter precision is mixed up
by a promiscuous will. No shape is for later.
I wreck these poems of research, of conceptual thought but don’t succeed in getting much,
other than scrap parts, the smallest detail to cling to.

an uneasy embrace of passivity

even more often,
I let the cat jump into my lap and interrupt any
attempt at reading, any other thing than
claws pulling shirt sleeves

my skin becomes tender
rent is not paid, no other possible reactions
but thrilling sensations by the touch of fur
as she walks by. Abnormally increased sensitivity.
nerve problems, nutritional deficiencies, viral infection.
So we hide for less impulses.
with nothing to say to those outside
our apartment, space squeezing
a cathead up into my armpit, chilling and so there is no new york and no copenhagen, no less
any other place, and it soothes. Until a boy I fuck tells me he danced in new york for 3 years,
and all exclusions are useless.
now dirt is dug up by the cat wherever dirt was to be found in here,
restlessly searching for some easy fixation.

then I try to go outside. In other words I meet with several willing daters licking their lips as we
talk each other up.

and when all is about not carelessly fucking, I find my self with nothing to report
quarantined, to tread down a normal bloom, I find myself stupid and desperate, florid with it.

distractions in my lap in my mouth in my bed
whatever feels like collapsing
now and then, distance and its counterpoint. To be hysterical, to come home and find the cat
running up chairs, claws cling to, to hang on coated cotton,
all kinds of upholstered fabric.

all this is, is purposeful, if bringing the living upfront is

until the oak by my office finally flowers
as we had decided
it was too late

When we wait, trying to avoid the strict sensations of turning away
the even nearer return of retries
hurts us as we still insist on wanting

The not-realized buildings, slags of thought
which sustain our hope in feeble power.
I only touch the dirt beneath a cat-peed-in plant and
all around here: is frailty
is giving and warning
is struggling to find that atmosphere of bravery, that
2011 hope
the spirit of political friends around whom future contours are dreamt.

And when we all pass for birds in the yard
it is May 21st and I lose it.
what needs to be splintered, for better commitments

we are feline foam, are derivates from fatty acids,
compartments breaking up become wildly distributed

A build up of risk taking again
against our anxious boredom
again we are making up stories of possible futures against
the I know better, against credit as a form of fortune telling.

We lace them up
our black boots ready to stampede, our sneaks ready for running
we learn a lot about transitions
sand and water
the hawthorn and its blossom

from mildness controlled vegetation
to popular flower pornography.
we embrace a different now of urgency, leaking into sentences with affection, stems of thistles

nothing is left but what unleashes softness

we split privacies, teach. What our acts of arson make present,
the dump and the greenery
plants rise in the direction of the sun and collapse, in the direction of the ground

no pity asked for, no giving in
a gate made of floral foam, beeswax, silver leaf, drywall,
manuals of woody plants
a gate made of cotton, nylon or rubber
gate of krill and gate of carbonation

a gate, a wedge, a runnel. All shut and open
beyond control of what passes through,
demanding less sentimentality, diffusion as means to precision

we suspend the unprepared, the forgiving
leave fractions and find more pebbles
to gather concentration, heaps in the hands of all
Here are only jumps at the walls of sincerity
the end of pulling, of pinking, of comparisons,
of false assemblies, hard leather.

we do not want to escape, even less to be free

Here’s more attention to those who still insist on wanting
with no investment plans,
no absolution dads,
no illusion of the intelligible
who find ways to tread in worlds

Here’s what refuses needs
to find people in kind things,
namelessness prolonged, and the intimacy, so
avoided, so packed off, impeded,
becomes an activity like walking

Here are convinced people and days, good
rain, lucid days
with hail or wind, woods and hills
the rind greens, emotions dangling,
what can’t be stopped

To have more than animal witnesses
sentience in downpour
the promises, we fight to give

Here is to keep them present
to body build new fibers,
against the musculature of finance,
what it takes of color, as the light
blue of our front doors.

Here is to be homely in improbabilities
have glimmering slicks come, and
cut through exactly that
redundancy of dance
to know and unknow
how foliage chuckles and how more will be lost.
Malte Tellerup: ‘danish, writer, editor at forlaget ARENA and master in arts (literature). 26. never published fiction in English before.’

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