The New Vertigo

I like to write, but boy, do I have trouble at times settling down.  I love to write, even, but the other pole – the love of motion – makes it rough to sit at that desk.  I’ve got to keep moving.  I’m not the kind of writer to dictate into an IPhone as I’m walking, or as I’m doing spins on the dancefloor; so I do need my desk.  Once I re-discover my desk as a long-lost love, I start to wander in my head.  

I’ve paired up with a compatible subject for a poetry sequence — home/homelessness. It troubles the idea of home and explores the commonality of homelessness. Is it something about me, my tribe? Wandering Jews are well-known entity, starting with God ordering Abraham and Sarah to leave their home and get moving into the unknown.  In the current cyclical readings of Torah, we are in Exodus, wandering in the desert.   

My tribe as human?  Metaphorically we might now feel that we are all wandering in the desert.  The first thing my IPhone showed me this morning was a suggestion on the Home Screen: “It’s true that nothing makes sense.” What the —? 

My imagination has taken me from the familiar metaphor of wandering in the desert — too well known! — to a newer whirling sensation.  The ground under our feet is unstable, there’s a grave disturbance in gravity.  Gravity, the holy grail of reason and science, is unreliable.  There isn’t much ground under our feet at all.  

The motion I often feel, by will or fate, is vertigo.  When God displaced Abraham and Sarah, he sent them into vertigo to fracture their continuity and make them see life as completely new.  Vertigo, the up-ender of received wisdoms and expectations.  Vertigo, like Sappho’s bone-whirling eros.  What vertigo shows us is this: it seems artificial these days to try to make sense from the same old positions.   We have to stand elsewhere, otherwise.  Turn ourselves upside down.  Stand on our heads.  Headstand.  What an extraordinary pose in yoga. I can go upside down where, if I can hold still for a few minutes, I am aware of myself as a being en passage. It’s all beginning to make sense.

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One Response to The New Vertigo

  1. Vladimir says:

    Reminds me of some Khodasevich poems, like this one, for example:

    Vladislav Khodasevich
    Step over, leap across…

    Step over, leap across,
    fly beyond, however you like, get through it —
    but tear yourself off: be a stone from a sling,
    be a star that breaks away from the night…
    You lost it yourself — now look for it.

    God knows what you grunt to yourself,
    looking for spectacles or keys.
    (Translated by Peter Daniels)

    Or This one:

    Twilight was turning to darkness outside.
    Under the eaves a window banged wide.

    A curtain was lifted, a light briefly shone,
    A swift shadow fell down the wall and was gone.

    Happy the man who falls head first to death:
    At least for a moment his viewpoint is fresh.
    (Translated by Michael Frayn)

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