DEAR ANNE CARSON,

an exercise in putting it down

Dear Anne Carson,

You will never read this. If somehow, miraculously, you do, well, I apologize. 

Anne, the first time I read Autobiography of Red was a gifted copy that was a gift but also maybe, secretly, a test. Or an offering. I say test because isn't everything. Sometimes it is hard not to perceive a friendship like you are playing a simulated game.

A book gift, when given as a surprise, takes work. It is not passive. You must read the text if you are to understand why it was given. What made you the recipient? What made them think of You? Or, how open a thing to give someone your favourite book. To have a favourite book to begin with.

I think giving a book, a favourite book, a book like this, is like giving someone a piece of your body. Memento mori less morose. 

I think now of red hands and tomato sandwiches, which they said they made so often. I think of Geryon, the monster, so easy a vessel for so many like us to inhabit. If you're Geryon and I'm Geryon and they are also Geryon I guess we are all just red monsters that need to be loved.

I need to be loved.

It's not that I am not. I am very loved and lucky to be loved by many people who refuse to see it as rotten work.

But it is rotten work to myself, and that is who I am always left alone with.

Maybe I want the love you write about. Sharp, burning. Debilitating. 

The first time I read “The Glass Essay,” I lost myself. Like you, Anne, I appear back in the fragments like your series of nudes. That's the glass, the reflection. The sharp edges. 

I have intrusive thoughts that follow me too, Anne. A hunting knife severs my spine, hands crack wide my jaw. Being choked on the schoolyard, which is just a memory.

I don't remember where you write “Every touch is a modified blow.” Now, more than ever, maybe you are right. Haven't we always been socially distant? Where does it end or start? When they grab me to guide me into a hug or to link arms my body is shocked. Touch. It has always been an absent thing and now it slinks farther and farther. From it I have learned repulsion. If you learn to not desire something, it can hurt you less.

I think of another friend, how they hate that line. How they would fight you, Anne, over it. How they are right to.

I don't like to think of a physical touch as a blow. I've seen that, how dark a bruise can get, how you can hurt someone with intention. I think more so of the touch of writing, how a line can hold so much weight it holds you down. How reading a revelation can rob you of a breath.

Really I just want to know, Anne, if you ever learned where to put it down. I want your step-by-step guide. Anne, where can I put the grief I can’t hold?

It’s only days later that I realize I mistook memory for grief. Are they the same thing?

Nude #14

The body wrecked into an ouroboros that feeds itself a never-ending pool of sadness.

The morning of my breakup, convinced I was fine and ignorant of the deep depression that would follow, my body demanded I read “The Glass Essay.” A yearning for a modified blow, I suppose. I think, like now, I was looking for an answer. You were writing about a break up then too and I yearned for solidarity. I didn't find it, really; instead the grief memory grew so large it manifested an ocean.

But Anne, we are so separate as people. We joke about meeting you in a Michigan Whole Foods parking lot. Reenact the sketch of you and Joan Didion and how she trapped you in a bottle.

I think I actually admire your absence. I wish I could be more absent.

Anne, do you have black friends? Do you believe in abolition? Are there transgender folks in your life? Are these thoughts worth having to you at all, Anne? I don't think I care to know the answer, but it grows the maw. There is no warmth, I find, in trying to reach you. Instead, like the moors you wrote of, I feel the divide of race and class, knowledge and agency. 

I’ve never seen a moor in person.

You see, I've never read Wuthering Heights either. I don't think there are people like me in it.

We talk about your capital W whiteness in the car ride home. How it gets in the way. How We are tired of white monoliths that are just brick walls. I am tired of not relating to the world and I don't really care about the Greeks and their tragedies.

Maybe this is unfair to you; you can't help your whiteness, after all, and we do not know each other, and we never will. An author does not exist as a perfect creature. I know that as I write this to you. It’s Mitski saying, how can I use this for money? I wrote this laying in bed disgusted by the past ways I have exposed my belly to people. I delete any work that shares a part of my life from the internet just to write this to you. I am stuck in a cycle. I only exist through validation. I will disappear without it.

When I meet you, Anne, you sign my copy of Autobiography of Red. It’s the gift copy. You have given a talk about a book I won’t read with some man I don’t care about. Everyone is here to see you, Anne, and the man knows it too. 

I don’t remember anything you said, or the man said. I am attuned to someone else. My body has rendered itself a sponge of grief memory. My body has accumulated many grief memories  for months and I cannot remember if the tipping point comes before or after. My body is attuned to every breath around me and I am searching the crowd for someone to wring me out. Like the answer to the problem is a tight grip and a firm shake. 

I'm not the only one who needs the answer to this question, Anne. 

I tell you:

Your writing cuts, it is a knife

Or something like this

I don't think you apologize. Maybe you do, I can't remember. I always get nervous at book events, like everyone can see I’m an impostor. 

You write: Cleopatra.Respectfully yours, Anne Carson

You forget the I in my name despite it being written correctly on the post-it note. It’s a simple mistake but I’m not even surprised you make it. It dulls your respect, at least.

I miss hearing you speak in March because I've lost a year of my hard work. The grief memory was probably to my neck then. My intrusive thoughts flicker behind my eyes in a loop.

I grieve remember on the work floor.

I grieve remember in my room.

I grieve remember in my bathtub.

The couch.

I fill my small apartment with all of that grief memory.

I put it down in the wrong places, in people.

See, Anne, I just wanted to know if you learned where to put the grief memory down. That is what this is really about. I’m looking for the right place.

Maybe in writing this at 2:38 AM on Halloween morning as my brain and body fail me I think I answered our own question. I draw your nudes to be closer to you, an exercise in futile learning. I wish we could compare our answers, but maybe I’m okay with not knowing yours.

Sincerely,

Cleo 


Dear reader,

Now we enter the free talk portion. This might have been a zine, I had some concept illustrations for it but I also just finished watching My Neighbor Totoro and I do not want to draw bodies bloody and sad. But I wrote this and I want it to have a home, somewhere which I guess is here. I wrote it on the eve of deleting any zine that featured bits of my life off of my gumroad because I felt disgusted by the exposure. I think my first zine, Kingston is for Lesbians, was the rawest piece of art I had ever made, but a lot of people are drawn to it for the wrong reasons. I am trying to move away from how people, especially white people, interact with my work. Also, I just want a fresh start. I’m not the same person as I was when I wrote those, and that’s growth baby! Anyways, hope you enjoyed and maybe I will write and use substack more. I have poems I’ve forgotten about and a 150k draft about being a t4t werewolf.

love ya! bye