Audio of Laura Goode reading “Variations on a Theme of No Escape from Yourself.”
VARIATIONS ON A THEME OF NO ESCAPE FROM YOURSELF
Laura, you are unerringly yourself: twenty-seven, white,
& a woman. Often overwhelmed by the endlessness
of possibility, often convinced you chose
incorrectly, often impatient or brash, but
rarely impulsive. Today you will be clear.
The assignment is to write & to be a
person at the same time, to grab the poem
thundering over the plains pull it into your body with
one hand & transcribe with the other all without
succumbing to the suspicion that if you must wash
tomorrow, the importance of washing today
may be negotiable. You are required to note the coral
bric-a-brac scars, the infinite mangles, termless
conditions, far uglier than your own. It does
not fit, you say. Nothing stops you from leaving
& yet you stay. When I tell you approximate the sunlight
I do not mean imitate it poorly—I mean draw nearer to it.
Who is to say one misses the past more than the present?
Is the scent of cut fennel, like licorice sunbathing,
the past? The thing you & I have in common
is the same thing that makes us grow older. You don’t want
to talk to anyone, talking opens a file begins a prelude
initiates a record the only completion of which will be
death, after which you will be left bereft, baying
it’s not the same, talking to emails. Have I
told you this already? You cannot slake the grasp of that
which grasps you; nothing is moving in the shadow
where you think it is. Everything you
thought could never possibly happen to anyone
has happened to somebody, and yet you want each
year’s harrowing detail, itself a negotiation with time—
pink sky, 1:23 am—the shore not far north, a car passing two
streets away. What will you do tomorrow? You have a garden,
its camellias & plums, its rosemary & rye. Everything
will cost either time or money.
You argue too readily. You need far too much.
There is only so much a command of language
can excuse. You are free to create a second
world if you find yourself dissatisfied with this one.
You are free to decide what laws there shall be,
but once imposed, they must be obeyed. Is your world,
your word, meant to be credible? You grow
tired of your own plaintive tone. You must insist
upon your own destiny yet not go out in an orgiastic
flight of rapture. You must not indulge the thought:
was it only the newness of trains that vested them with such
mystique, the sheen of the streets a mirage? Growth
can be unintentional just as trust can be broken
with the best of intentions. You are not
nearly as original as you once thought
you were, or as charming, or prone. In the distance
of your recollection could you feel the deer’s
heart halt beating as it pulsed beneath your thumb? There,
in the clearing, you perform your feint: to imagine this the whole
story, the one where you reach the end and feel satisfied
& know well before the end that the end was coming, yes,
you have anticipated the end & prepared well for it,
you are to be congratulated, excellent
your recognition of the imminent. No matter that
you may have missed a quake or two, a volta
you mistook for only a short line, a hard day, a dosage
to adjust. It’s like writer’s block but you’re still
writing. You are a woman sitting on a porch, your future
madness or children or death cause unknown, your past like
a pressure change like a calling voice like a depth
charge, its heartsad day, its shadow & hole, the past the
pendulums of incense & myrrh, the past an unconscionable
love—the present the last supermoon of your
annunciation. You—who? Laura, your second
self. I want to be a part of you.
STAY WITH ME TRAVELING FURIOUSLY
Everything is at once seen & a lens through which to see
any other thing: the farm, the conversation, the gift. To be in motion, traveling
furiously, and at the same time distant from another. The suspense
of a subway platform. Billboards in stasis as cars range past.
How motion becomes no antidote to distance.
In an open-air metro station you heard about on the radio
The digital accruals dissect the most apparent orderings, then talk about it
Well it’s unfair to blame it all on technology, after all it at least has the courtesy
To leave an inalienable record of itself:
We must find a new encoding for that which we have always sensed was coming.
To discover the old system has become insufficient only by virtue of finding
another. Discrete as the stained-glass Dairy Queen off the old Highway D.
(This could be described as my scarf period because my neck is cold or because
my hair is long enough to graze them now, but nobody gives a shit about either.)
Oh, Cali-lemon moon. Born upon a hostess lonesome in her grudges
again, upon the raccoons pawing for worms under the garbage row
upon the GPS images of Pine Island and Mud Lake, tracing upon
the candy-colored galleries & coastal hostels, benediction, benediction.
Connective anxiety. Editing our interrelation, modifying
the record of it. Once one has recorded an event
the memory of it transmutes. Take for example: a Polaroid of a man
& a woman, all bedroom rock & whiskey milkshakes. You were not there
when it was taken. It enters the dream realm, digitally,
with surgical purpose. It loiters. Suddenly there they are
looking at each other not talking about you,
in the line-broken map you made of them. Cruelty is an addiction
just like any other. He loved her. It smarted. Then like
a thunderclap, a baby girl newly reckons herself into the world.
You can hear her wailing over the phone: she is wailing
& you can hear her! (Welcome. Where it is in my feeble power
you will be made safe here.) You cannot believe her beauty, nor
her devastating asymmetry. Will she sleep with her head facing the moon,
or away. What shape will she make
with that memory her mother holds in her palm.
She will know what you know and name it something else entirely.
YOU DECIDE WHO I AM TO YOU
I think a lot about who to delete on Facebook
based simply on whether they are interesting or not.
It’s cruel, subjective to identify people like that:
Relevant to Me
Today I was struck by an urge to write poems
like a twenty-year-old girl writes poems
wear her clothes
I suppose these are the signs of aging
nostalgia, contentment, a knowledge
that she’s in there somewhere
both lost and innate.
When I was twenty-two I said no more couplets
but what did I mean?
I have wanted so long to speak plainly.
This has been my project, to
learn to speak in a way
that others could understand
(me).What is the value of that?
So as not to be alone?
A postcard never keeps you company.
Language actually does very little
to erode the appalling barriers
between skin and not.
So I have begun to write poems again.
What is the value of that?
I don’t mean to sound cynical
in this, my twenty-ninth year,
as the flap of the green curtain still
speaks to me, as does the smoke-
furred cat in the fiasco
of day. What I
have learned is you decide
who I am to you. My value.
How you cherish me
is your purview and not
mine. To a few I have said
treat me with care because I am
helpless to resist you and this
is what it means to have
a weakness for someone.
In truth we are all the weak-
nesses of shadows. The mystery
that is our engine is
how to be fortified
by weakness, the way
we are doubled by chance,
the way that the way you
are makes someone else
fuller of self. Just as we undo
one another, so do we multiply.
We double ourselves, each
other, with every
mess of years, every ruination
of love: we shatter and
fragment and multiply in
coalescence, oh, you
know how we explode—
how populous and how
magnificent, our surrender.
Laura Goode is a novelist, essayist, poet, and screenwriter living in San Francisco. She produced the feature film FARAH GOES BANG, which she co-wrote with Meera Menon; FGB premiered at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival and won the inaugural Nora Ephron Prize. Her first novel for young adults, SISTER MISCHIEF, was released by Candlewick Press in 2011, and called a “Best Book You Haven’t Read of 2011” by Vanity Fair online, as well as a 2012 Best of the Bay pick by the SF Bay Guardian. Her writing has appeared in New York Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer, The Millions, BOMB, The Rumpus, The New Inquiry, Boston Review, The Faster Times, Racialicious, Feministi