Yesterday's Leaflets

the poetics of absence

I was reading Mamet and thinking about the art of filmmaking, if it is not a kind of epic poem to create a film. All that juxtaposition has to mean something. I envy films because they get to travel in time, disregarding all laws.  I want to do that, to be here and there and still be part of the narrative. I had gone for a reunion in Nakuru. The house looked like a studio apartment, the kind of place I always imagine myself settling down in. It had an old feel to it, from the roof you could see Lake Nakuru under a charmless haze. There were weeds at the back and front, and like its newest inhabitant it was a place still under renovation.  Tomatoes were growing at the front, too.  but what really got to me was the silence surrounding it. It was the same feeling I got when I was reading Gurnah’s ‘Desertion’: I was back in Mombasa, on a terrace somewhere reading Shelley and sharing a cigarette with a white District Commissioner.

Instead of enjoying my Tusker I kept thinking about the words ‘juxtaposition’ and ‘uninflected’. I still have trouble using the later in a conversation. So during the reunion and the trip back I would turn to pages of the book to read about something that had resonated well with me. On the dance floor I would look at a couple dancing and imagine that their gestures were uninflected, the light in the restaurant was uninflected, the very idea of a reunion is uninflected. A good friend of mine has a weird way of talking, weird to mean whatever he says does not make sense. He is always using words the way E. E. Cummings would.  Now, Imagine that! I think that E. E. Cummings was trying to make films when he was writing.  My friend, Patrick, is a Cummings. I was imbued and confused by every little detail about the day.

It had been a long time since I was with my friends. We had our own cult and way of thinking, every sentence spoken implied more than was obvious. Over the months absence and silence have also acquired their own greater meanings, perhaps more important than anything that we had ever talked about. I read that some poets use the white of the page as text. I wonder if it means that we can use the silence between as as meaning, as life. Of course we had our moments of silence back then, but this new silence is louder.

The absence of things has come to mean a lot, especially because I never know how to take anything in moderation. I took in expanses of valleys and skies. I imagined ‘A Hero Of Our Time’, the beautiful descriptions of the mountains, I questioned my own ability to write, to create. I was back in my room reading Rilke’s letters, trying to borrow his solitude. I was thrown back that cloud of silence, to closing my eyes and dealing with the absence of  everything. By the time I was done reading Mamet I realized I still do not know much about writing.

This is me, trying to get there.


2 thoughts on “the poetics of absence

  1. Wambui Wairua says:

    This was long overdue. I am glad that I’ll be able to find some of your writing here whenever I want to.

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