13 March

On the first day that I visited her she told me that a spring in her mattress had been making a noise.  As we laid there and moved around, the spring made a noise and I knew what she had meant.

When you left me I could not speak or breathe.

I was chained to a reservoir of doubt that I haven’t yet surfaced from. When I told you I loved you, you felt compelled to respond that you, too, still loved me; and perhaps you really still do.  The artificiality of that moment, though- the words did not carry the same weight, the sounds emanating from our lips were sounds from a scene we’d rehearsed in our unconscious minds, robbed of their old vibrancy by the resentment that plagues lovers who have loved past their time, of lovers who are clinging, and love rots when it becomes overrun with possession.

In our predicament, we could not afford artificially.

In your manner, I could see you were confused.  You were ahead of me-I was not yet confused, as I was soon to be when the variables of our predicament unfolded upon me as I shut the car door and left the driveway.  I looked behind me in the rearview to see if you were waving, as you once had months ago.

I stopped at the hamburger shop to write of you in my journal, to write the lie of you, to deceive myself as I’d deceived myself in all our happy suffering together, ever since the night we met when we spoke in between kisses of my upcoming graduation and how profoundly, profoundly difficult that was going to be.

 

 

Adirondack Winters

 

Huntington Memorial Camp.  Raquette Lake, New York- in the Adirondack Mountains.  2016 has been my first winter in graduate school, and my first winter in quite some time to not visit this special place. 

The walk to the church wasn’t terribly long, maybe three quarters of a mile, but with our boots sinking into the heavy snow in some places it was forty minutes before we could see the cross that indicated the church above the clearing empty of foliage. The path wandered through a pine forest stretching across the entire island, with the camp area and the church being situated on the only clearings; the trees reached tall into the sky, a hundred feet perhaps, and many had fallen or had been cut down and laid decaying along the side of the trail. I pulled papa’s knife out of my pocket and thrusted it into the tree bark. I was tempted to carve my initials into the tree, or better yet a symbol of some kind.  Why would I ever want to do that? The others had walked ahead of me along the trail and were talking about Disney movies. No one saw the knife as I wedged it out of the bark and back into my pocket.

I took a few long steps to catch up to the girls. A few birch trees were mixed into the pines. I got an idea. I walked off the trail, luckily no one looking back, and scouted through the patch of birch trees to find one peeling naturally, where peeling the bark off could be beneficial to the tree, a servicing of rotten bark.

I found a thin strip that peeled off smoothly when I pulled it. It was thin, about a foot long, and stiff as cardboard. I put it in the pocket of my khaki jacket and rushed ahead to catch up with the group once again.

Before we could see the church the colossal tract of unadulterated blue that was the lake consisting of drifts of whitecapped waves emerged to our eyes through the trees. Two icefisherman sat with fishing poles out, reminding me of fishing with dad the winter before, the time we’d both happened to be sporting mustaches and had managed to get a picture of them together, the only one we’d taken in years.

Some of the nets had tents sitting above the holes and lines wading into the depths of the water. Two dark figures walked briskly across the ice a mile away, two little dots on the horizon below the skyscraping mountains prodigious against the clouds. They stood there, lofted and imposing, dominating the scene ahead of me, the faces peppered with pines and little shelves of desolate white bareness, vacant white trails forsaken of life, barren but of what I knew even from this distance to be snowmobile trails currently lacking in movement.

“Are you coming in or not?” Kate yelled.

“I’m coming.”

I walked up the stone steps onto the church porch. A bench sat at the top, looking out on the water. There were brochures in a cabinet mounted on the wall.

St. Williams at Long Point, they read. The church was Catholic and small and symmetrical; the orange brick hat matched the roof, a series of pillars leading up to one larger middle section, and a tall, thin cross rested on the very top nestled among the pine boughs.

Here I took out the bark I’d found earlier, and began stenciling words to a poem in French to read to the others later.  The church smelled of candle wax and old books, and we told stories of the scenes in the stained glass windows until the sun fell and it was time to head back to camp.

 

Rob Nixon’s “Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor”

Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor tackles the clash between exploiters of natural resources, driven by desires for short term profit gains, and those native to the exploited areas with no choice but to live with the ecological aftermath. Nixon asserts his theory of slow violence played out in the environmental calamities of the neoliberal age, where technologically developed nations take advantage of material and natural resources in less-developed nations for their own gain, systematically creating a pattern of devastation and abandonment. Slow violence oftentimes occurs out of sight, transparently, dispersed over time and space, and is typically not viewed as violence at all (2). In the face of systematic, structural violence against under protected natural resources in developing countries, Nixon challenges the contemporary ecological criticism movement to “engage representational, narrative and strategic challenges” posed by the hegemonies crafted by systems of slow violence, an effort to combat the lack of excitement and spectacle he asserts important media events inspiring real change require, what he calls “contemporary politics of speed” (2,11).

Nixon begins his survey of the repercussions from ruinous industrial practices in India, exploring the transfer of toxic risk from western corporations to the still-developing nation, one result of which is a toxic gas cloud fictionally rendered in Sinha’s Animal’s People. Having slashed their safety budget, Union Carbide unleashes an accidental (but avoidable) gas cloud that ravages unsuspecting and unprotected natives, a disaster that kills many instantly and affects successive generations who live on contaminated land, eat contaminated food and drink contaminated water. Ideas of corporate transnational distance, foreign bodies and structural neglect demonstrate how free-market ideologies often invite “biological assault” that unevenly disparages the poor (65). He moves on to explore “resource curses,” a phenomenon in which decolonized nations develop into single-resource economies (oil, gas, tourism, coal, etc.) Played out over the last century in the Middle East, Nigeria and Kenya, resource curses have helped institutionalize racism, class warfare, unbridled environmental destruction and oppressive, self-serving oligarchical political regimes. The human cost of fossil fuel industries is asserted as a symptom of slow violence that is rarely visible to the untrained eye; the militarization of economic commerce further degrades natural environments. Nixon expounds upon the symbolic act of tree planting in Kenya, lacing together environmentalism with gender empowerment, democratic community cohesion and steady, non-violent political protest.

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The closing chapters of Slow Violence detail the convergences of race, class and ecological impact in spheres of the megadam, game reserve and ecological aftermath of modern, technologically precise warfare (precision to the point of being imprecise). Nixon notes how both mainstream and academic writers in the United States were, on the whole, were failing to notice and publicize the struggle for environmental action around the world, specifically in poorer nations afflicted by slow violence (236). What interested me particularly in Nixon was the failings of corporate responsibility—such as narrative tooling for propaganda purposes and the Corexit dumped in the Gulf of Mexico by BP after their disastrous oil spill (100, 140, 273).