The Mute Story of November

Living as if every moment announced a beloved
and it does

Then the bleeding-off

Maybe you are the sea to me, or me to you
A reasonable enough supposition

Can’t you see, I’m busy

Gingko leaves at my feet
A flood of questing yellow

They say that everything that is growing
will stop growing soon, maybe

this weekend, the first deep freeze
The season of falling

will give way to the season
of brittle upturned sticks

Who cares, it’s all equally gorgeous
and last night, a lunar eclipse

Immaculate white moving in and out
of a rusty red rind, I pulled

a sheet of Plexiglas over
the hole in the roof

so I could watch it from inside the boat
The boat from which we ride the sky

Nothing can go wrong, do you understand
Nothing can ever go wrong

This is what happens when you cease
your management

The blue and gold of the morning
just appear on the sidewalk, ongoing drift

of garbage, a tire is good to sit in
A window pane may flake in the wind

The mute story of November

I don’t even have to steal
your words, you give them to me for free

So strange to know that you can and cannot hurt me
My heart just can’t break any more, now that

it has changed substance, is full
of fluid and fire and air and turning

like a little wheel in its broth

And I can and cannot hurt you either, now that
I am utterly virginal, preposterous

as that may sound, it’s also true
Sometimes you get to start anew

The pages of my book wet and limpid
with tea, on a Sunday, the spidery plants

reaching haphazardly in all directions
from their dilapidated mobile, it’s part

of the magic here, and the painted green
cement floor. What part of this autonomy

am I not supposed to like?; I too have been
much lonelier. Maybe in eleven rooms

you’ll find some sort of home, or base, it’s like
there’s this enormous surplus of feelings and/or words

and we prick at the tarp, letting little pinwheels of light come in
but never really touching the source

So little time, really, we’ve eaten some food, slept badly
swam in jumbled waters, very little coming

I don’t even know you, shadowed by the knowing
The knowing that has nothing to do

with life-stories, their wicked specificity
Sometimes my speech moves so fast inside me

before it hatches, and I know I’m about to flop over
into tongues, but I don’t care: this is the speed

at which I run, and you run fast, too, so I let you
touch me with one hand while the other steers a car

through midtown Manhattan, it’s almost as if
none of this has ever happened, it just shines

then gets enclosed in an envelope decorated with faded blue stamps
from the Belgian Congo. It’s such a relief

when tears come from the cold, like yesterday
on River Street, all the men lined up in their idling cars

by the power plant, what are they waiting for?
With all due humility, I have to say

I know it now, or it knows me
the peace-feeling

that stays even as the body races and pants
above or along it, when the team suddenly does

a jazz square in unison, when a dream repeals
an impediment overnight, when the whole world

The whole world is strobing

Here’s what happens when you don’t do your dry cleaning for a month: yesterday I looked like an angry German nanny, today I look like a sugar cane farmer on a french Polynesian Island.


You don’t know anyone at the party, so you don’t want to go. You don’t like cottage cheese, so you haven’t eaten it in years. This is your choice, of course, but don’t kid yourself: it’s also the flinch. Your personality is not set in stone. You may think a morning coffee is the most enjoyable thing in the world, but it’s really just a habit. Thirty days without it, and you would be fine. You think you have a soul mate, but in fact you could have had any number of spouses. You would have evolved differently, but been just as happy.
You can change what you want about yourself at any time. You see yourself as someone who can’t write or play an instrument, who gives in to temptation or makes bad decisions, but that’s really not you. It’s not ingrained. It’s not your personality. Your personality is something else, something deeper than just preferences, and these details on the surface, you can change anytime you like.

If it is useful to do so, you must abandon your identity and start again. Sometimes, it’s the only way.

Set fire to your old self. It’s not needed here. It’s too busy shopping, gossiping about others, and watching days go by and asking why you haven’t gotten as far as you’d like. This old self will die and be forgotten by all but family, and replaced by someone who makes a difference.

Your new self is not like that. Your new self is the Great Chicago Fire—overwhelming, overpowering, and destroying everything that isn’t necessary.

Julien Smith, The Flinch

I’m feeling so drained. Like something is feeding off of me. Time to protect my energy.


I frequently write about love and therefore about jealousy. It’s part of the deal; it’s what comes with love, for most people, in most societies. Of course, it’s also dramatic, and therefore novelistically attractive, because it’s frequently irrational, unfair, boundless, obsessing and horrible for all parties. It’s the moment when something deeply primitive breaks the surface of our supposedly grown-up lives—the crocodile’s snout in the lily pond. Irresistible.

-Julian Barnes in The Art of Fiction, No. 165, Paris Review