(When remembering Kathy Acker tenses become disobedient.)
Before Kathy Acker fades away from this present into color, she teaches me the disease of writing. She comes closer to her own difficulty and opened the spaces between discipline and punish. Diseased. The unease of the foreign on our skin. In the morning, Kathy and I leave the streets of San Francisco littered with remains from our dreams.
Over coffee, she tears away at the soft edges. The corners of her mouth. Lips that have cracked from the dry winter.
Be with me tonight, Doug. Stay here. I have lost this. At the crossroads. To return to origins through languages. To revive the space that has been made to disappear at the moment of blood.
Kathy gave me skin.
In a dream I saw a way to love. To survive the breaking of this body into loss. So we stood barefoot near the edge of a river. In mud. No one saw us. Or if anyone saw us, we no longer cared about their seeing. Only our bodies in this space. Water moves over our bodies. To become awake on the inside of skin. My body alert to this becoming. We are carried to a present before the past disappears Kathy. To live with water washing our skin. I want to come to your body with my body. To come near your skin. To wound. To seize. I take a hold of your bones. You close your mouth. Somehow you keep your eyes open and you see something blue. She once told me that I could make her come to blood just by touching her skin. That with each touch she began bleeding.
Before Kathy had her first tattoo written onto her skin, she spoke. “I have been afflicted by some highly disturbing symptoms caused by the mere act of writing.” To lift the veil. “I speak but do not speak.”
I know how to make a reader come.
But the primary pleasure is not for the reader, Kathy says, it is for me. Years later, Helene tells me, “I feel like I am protecting myself from reading you. I keep a layer over this space that wants to open. That hungers. I am frightened by your inside, Doug, so I read you safely, from over here. I know to stay away.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I search for deserts.
“I hold back from reading you.”
Kathy took me by her hand. Led me into an awkward land to live among lost souls. And we walked down the empty streets, cold, in Providence. To find the ocean. To step into movement. I am bleeding tonight. The words she says wait on the floor. Like her words, she wants to serve. To survive. “I know this desire,” Kathy says, “to be owned. To be placed.” There is an antagonism between my body and my language. I am separated. Someone had broken into her body in an ungodly manner. A thousand and one ways for saying. The new moon slices the dark sky. I can see the fold. The gaping wound. Flooded by rituals.
She comes and goes.
Condemned to say nothing, but the same word. Again and again. The breakdown in repetition. The sight unseen. Uncertain girls with fragile hands led me to this other place where bodies have been rejected, expelled. We were on the outside. Orphans interrupted by sudden memories. The shock of recognition beneath naked feet.
In those suicidal late nights before every holiday between midnight and two a.m., Kathy always called me. She wanted my voice. For her body. Tell me a story. I need sleep. Her soft, gentle, obsessive voice cutting into the night. Kathy’s skin becoming a lonely child for just one word. A strict wanting that never dies. No one knows this silence. The silences we have just entered with Kathy’s death.
Tired. She comes slowly. These nights appear longer than those nights that we had devoted to watching bodies becoming unrecognizable. Kathy wants. Still. For me to utter memories of other skins the way a photograph remains marked by movement. Once I tried to forget not the memory, but the wanting. Mangled bits of old meaning that have lost touch with language. We stood in some alley near Alphabet City after a reading. We stood in the dark where we could not see each other. This body unable to control its own life. My eyes weak from a night of smoke and pained desires.
I want to take you inside. Where you become obscure.
Not wanting to look, I reached my hand toward the place where her body was not mine. This innocent shame of some pain. Kathy said she wanted to wake in my skin. “We need,” she said, “to stop kissing each other because language can no longer exist.” Her teeth in my elbow. The unknown smile of a girl locked in her own childhood.
I thought she doesn’t have a father. Tenses resist death.
Kathy turned page after page locked inside her need to push and shove her body through books the way sailors travel the waters without maps. Bold thumbs. Coarse calluses. Broken bones and torn muscles. The dangers of reading without flinching. Without turning away. I feared she would turn away. Become lost. Separate her self from this. Here. We had died. Captive bodies. Deteriorated. In this life, we had become nothing more than a chance encounter between flesh and page. “When you read my books,” she tells me, “I become dirty.” Her fingers wet.
January 23, 1996
I can’t bear it … depression depression … I am retreating into a new book, want happy books cause it’s so dreadful in the ‘real’ world … oh well … take care of yourself darling,
There are people who never feel and who have no idea what they are missing. The vestiges of childhood. Living needs a sting. Call me.
I write on you, Kathy.
My words cut her words off at the pass. Spaces. The violence of the meaning of our hesitation. She said that she feared she would become a termite of her own body. That her bones would become dust in her mouth. I need this love. The words stuck to her skin. Covered her in their memories. Suspended in their own dread. Ferociously religious in our longing to return to the moment we open our eyes and come. To speech. Abandon the world and fall into breathing.
The landscape of depression is revealing.
Kathy told me she was unable to read any more books. That her past was not there. Could not be found in there. It just wasn’t there.
A young woman lingers. Wanting. We traveled down corridors with invisible doors. But she could not wait. She ran down a narrow hallway. Locked doors. A man is chasing her. But we never see this man. We can only know that this man wants to destroy her. I wait in this place where the sun never shines. Flowing white curtains. Spring rain and that breeze off the coast. The disturbed chaos of an Argento film.
I want the spaces to speak, Doug. I want to show you.
“Look, Doug, between these spaces.”
I saw men dressed in scarlet robes. Red and red and more red. So much red so deep into their skins that they were nearly invisible in their own body. Girls we could not rescue.
I have written this on my body for you to remember.