Letter: Amended Entry (Undeliverable) by Nathan E. White

Editor Carrie Ivy, Letters, August 13th, 2014

Without gamble, challenge, elation...


Aaron, kindred, united front, tenaciously yoked in that backward region upstate, stirring up conservative backwaters. What now? Local bands engaged in Ithaca, Albany, Saratoga Springs…crowding under fake palm trees at the Lost Horizon…Redrum…© tattooed on your right shoulder…the urgent abortion that may have prompted corresponding demise. I count you among my closest, but too much transpired, too much abruptly severed—incrementally, imperceptibly, utterly diffused with time and gentle forgetting.

All former contact decisively banned. I left, I had to. Forcibly escorted. Meeting adjourned. Starting afresh with you back haunting Rome…me, revived in Philadelphia. Two decades out—I must be off by a letter or two. Some slight adjustment. Scanning directories, premium databases, death records, there’s no end, I can’t locate you. Do I have your name wrong?

I can’t stop thinking. Why immediately, peremptorily, label most anything unfamilar as suspicious? A handbag, a parked car. In cycles, repetition chiefly concerns us. Notice any restriction, deliberate omission? Regulations / statutes / misdemeanors and felonies (sliding scale of severity) / police / prosecutors / judges / wardens / guards / parole boards / politicians / legislators / taxpayers. Gathering congrats and backing statistics, tirelessly confirming. Anyone unaccounted for? ____________ (Fill in the blank.)

Yet this driving need for showmanship, commenting on the thinnest trickle of news, with everyone instantly expert. What evidence? Light adversity, as drawn in two dimensions? The eye early on may furnish the horizon, as Emerson suggests, but symmetry (reflected side to side, bilaterally) draws our attention, gains approval as common measure of health and affinity. Exuberant.

Title taken as “the coincidence of all the elements that constitute the fullest legal right to control and dispose of property or a claim.” Community no longer bound to its art, or propped up ritually through marriage, birth, burial. Something beyond Babel, a scattering of language, this suburban retreat. Together at the table, properly seated, each meal taken separately.

So what to endorse? And not of necessity, but love.

Distraction chosen, retained at any cost, against any reservation (in the form of doubt). “What happens in the shadow, in the grey regions…all that is elusive and fugitive, all that can be said in those beautiful half tones, or in whispers, in deep shade.” Each snowflake offers a unique lens—I can’t fit my eye to it. What impulsion: various leaves and flowers, vegetables and pine cones, seashells, earth and moon, certain portions of our bodies adhering to Fibonacci’s sequence? Chance or correlative? The ruling?

How many ripe inventions unanticipated? Why insist on some obvious sign, patterns quickly discerned? A world hardly comprehended or glimpsed, or explained to our satisfaction with formula, calculation, theory—a world maintained as withheld from us—why divine? Anything hidden finds itself tied to intent, purpose, deliberation. “It is the human that demands his speech / From beasts or from the incommunicable mass.” Heads up peering around the corner.

From absence to (if lucky) archive. “The good life gives no warning.” Few associate drought with tundra.

Mutable, suspensive, while “eternal greenness speaks to the imagination better than eternal light.” I miss the keystone pines that braced me as a child, reticent fields, minute crystals crunching underfoot in late November. And the stolid Amish, who in practice and planning renounce convenience, toiling judiciously “to save what the machine would waste.” The machine seeks precision only.

Rejoin me.

Aaron, I hope something sustainable for you. “What we lack is not a will to believe, but a will to wonder.” Step back. Without gamble, challenge, elation, failure and failings, choice—why read only to match our understanding? No need to quantify devotion: to say this one exceeds that one. Or that one investment, one alone predominates. Federal and state and municipal laws outstrip the strictest orthodoxy. Hitting a moving target requires a proper lead.

Tend the field, fence or no fence. Risk thinking of extinction as some distant, improbable event. Unlike vacation or retirement that we expect and save for…purchasing maps in advance. Recall the distinguished laureate (slated, prior to the moment of appointment, for eventual dismissal) outlining the penultimate, counseling the mottled whale:

…………Tell him
…………That we who follow you invented forgiveness
…………And forgive nothing

Fitting device: abscising end punctuation. In our turn we’ll be spared both privilege and closure. The faculty of judgment calls for a proper fraction.

Generally, complaints against convention issue from a contemporary vantage, from hindsight. Not so much greed, as ease. Words once ran together in tandem across the page, unmannered, adolescent. Recumbent dictionaries on my desk rule out attraction, tagging archaic and obsolete when the numbers don’t support.

“We’re all criminals here.” Will the enduring cockroaches and sharks, crocodiles—or extant birds, flowers, bacteria have anything to say of us? They think they’ve earned leisure.

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Header Photo courtesy of artist David De La Mano. To view a gallery of his street art, go here.

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Nathan E White letter nailedA giant bending his ear, Nathan E. White is the author of Apparent Magnitude (Aldrich Press, 2013). He offers critical instigation on his blog, The Work Stands.


Carrie Ivy

Carrie Ivy (formerly Carrie Seitzinger) is Editor-in-Cheif and Co-Publisher of NAILED. She is the author of the book, Fall Ill Medicine, which was named a 2013 Finalist for the Oregon Book Award. Ivy is also Co-Publisher of Small Doggies Press.