MANUAL LABORS

 

 

Julie Carr

As

when the hand finds the stone, uses it to make food, to make the body, other bodies, other hands. After years of the sea—back to the earth. Fearful symmetry. As when we went to black rock beach for the sunrise. Apples and bread in a bag. Some coffee in a thermos. Clustered on a big round stone: Anna, James, Laura, you and I. The sun never rose. After a while it was day anyway and we drove back to the house, “Now, there, you see how writing exteriorizes what we didn’t know.” Then we were tired. Our mother banged around in the kitchen. Nothing compared to today’s exhaustion. The infant waking at 3 and crying! Dark hours of holding, rocking, shifting. Finally she sleeps and we get up. Ruin. “Which might only be a shadow print on pavement.” Like the inner part of a novel about the disappearance of a writer. The writer’s wife is now free, baby in arms, to lie down with the other writer. Or the other novel in which the writer’s wife dies by falling, hitting her head on a rock. Just like Louisa in Persuasion. But Louisa doesn’t die; falling into stone, she is merely subdued, subdued enough to marry the poet whose other wife has died. She becomes a kind of flower, absorbing, absorbing, nodding in the sunlight. Or the other novel in which the writer’s wife and son have been killed. He abandons poetry and takes up mystery. As the central character in his own story, disappears into a notebook. An airshaft. Or a wave. The hand is used for writing one’s own disappearance. As memory becomes a solid thing. Stone-like and finite. As when my husband stood on a rock at the shore, facing inland, toward our children. A sudden wave swept him off his feet into the swirl of foam and sand. He was soaked and his wedding band gone. His naked hand. Or when we hauled a bicycle out of the bay. It was coated in barnacles, as if a frosted wedding cake. Not an inch of metal uninhabited. The thing, once motion, for motion, distilled, frozen. The hand with the pen is drawing. Belongs to Will. Lived in the basement and drew pictures of children by night. Cracked eggs at the diner at dawn. By day he played with us, took us to the park. This is ruin. The recording of. Like the novel in which the writer is so distracted by the outside world that he cannot write. Closes all the curtains, unplugs the phone. Then, still distracted by the objects in his room, he empties out a closet, squeezes in a small table on which he places his laptop. In the closet there is nothing but this computer and his hands since he cannot fit his body in, sits at the open door. But soon his mind is filled with distractions of its own making, and again he cannot write. Wraps his head in a red scarf, hoping to block out all intruding words, images. But his eyes seem to wander outside of his body, go places he does not want them to go. His ears too, like hunter-gatherers, nomadic. He wraps the scarf more tightly. He covers his eyes with his hands. Without his hands, the machine is inert. “Sat in the clear light of day, and took from it some hope of escaping the turmoil inside him, of pouring himself out of it, as a white waterfall, gushing with spume and spray, comes bursting forth from a dark, rock-filled ravine into the bright freedom of open space… “Or the other novel in which the man, searching for his lost wife, climbs into a dry well where he dreams he can travel through stone, find her there in the inside of stone, wearing the very dress she wore on the day they race. Wakes to find himself eating the earth, his hands written into the wall, his written hands writing, “Radiant impression / of sun / on stone” –