Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 33.7 (Susan Howe)


The Birth-Mark
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Howe, Susan
The Birth-Mark:
unsettling the wilderness
in American literary History


Purchased at Talking Leaves.

Speaking of the wilderness...

Lori and I went for a hike in Allegany National Park on July 4. We took the "Bear Cave" trail, a four-mile hike up a slope and down on a semicircular path that begins and ends on a flat paved road. On the way there, Lori noted that last year several bears had run out onto the highway and been killed. On the trail, she wondered aloud if we might see a bear. I asked her what we were supposed to do if we did. She said she thought we were supposed to stand still, start yelling and make our selves look large.

Later on down the trail, we came upon and old tree that had obviously been used as a bear scratching post. We never saw a bear, but we walked more quickly after that.

The bear came up again last night as we took a walk around the neighborhood after dinner. We were talking about a woman we'd seen at a party who always seems larger than life. She has long blonde dreadlocks, a large, voluptuous body and habit of wearing very tight, brightly-colored clothing. I think I made a quip that her "larger than life" quality meant she'd be good to have around in case of a bear attack.

Well, this morning I started from sleep at around 6:30 a.m. in response to the following dream:

Lori and I were standing before a low, wide tree on an otherwise empty hillside. Behind the tree was a bear. I knew that the worst thing to do was to run, but my fear got the best of me and I took off. The bear immediately jumped out from behind the tree. I stopped in my tracks, but it was too late. The bear had been provoked and it rushed me. I woke just as his paw clipped the side of my torso.

from The Birth-Mark

I hear the stutter as the sounding of uncertainty. What is silenced or not quite silenced. All the broken dreams. Thomas Shepard writes them down as soon as 1637. And the rupture from Europe. Continents have entered into contact, creating a zone of catastrophe points. A capture morphology. All that eccentricity. All the cries of "My god, it is I." Mary Rowlandson is an early witness. Metacomet (King Philip) is Leviathan to the Mathers. Rowlandson knows he is human. Moby-Dick is a giant stutter in the manner of Magnalia Christi Americana. No one has been able to fathom Dickinson's radical representation of matter and radiation--such singularities space, so many possibilities of choice. History has happened. The narrator is disobedient. A return is necessary, a way for women to go. Because we are in the stutter. We were expelled from the Garden of Mythology of the American Frontier. The drama's done. We are the wilderness. We have come on to the stage stammering.

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