by sophie


I am writing a book that some piece of me doesn’t want to finish. I am afraid it will end as my last book did, punctuation less, with an open arc, this attempt at translation of a holy place; I am afraid that I will finish it and I will still be in love. Writing a book is a bad way to attempt to say goodbye. A friend once asked if I ever write beyond the exit of a poem. The poems I convinced myself and told everyone were finished months ago reach back to tug at me — they are not finished, though I have been writing them for 3 years now, nearly 4. I have collected and collected and kept and left — indian grass, tallgrass, sawgrass, milkweed, compass flowers, phlox, the cleanly severed hind-quarter of a mouse, rotting wood, lilac, asparagus gone to seed, the wounded snake, trees I felled and the roots I dug into then pulled out with my hands, grasshoppers, stink bugs, the mushroom that grew in my bedroom once, bitten rooms, burns, songs, tears, what the sky looks like when a tornado is near, Road O, Road N, West Road 21, the blue Volvo speckled with pine sap, black plastic caked with mud, raccoon shit, raccoon kits, the skulls of raccoons, dirt around the collar, the taste of someone’s sweat, ashes, cans of rusted nails, raspberry bushes, wet boots, welding sparks, the quarry, the crops when they are tall and when they are cut, the smell of fire, the smell of popcorn, dozens of people I will never see again, a sunburnt chest, pale hipbones, water frozen in a glass beside a bed, the clothes of others I clothed myself in and kept. I take Nebraska with me more and more each year. I was going to say — I take Nebraska home with me more and more each year — but I have come now to have no other home now than Nebraska, the Nebraska license plate on my car implying as much, implying – this is where I am from now. Where are you when you’re not in Nebraska? people ask sometimes, and I can only tell them where I have been, sometimes, not where I will return to. I have a storage unit in Los Angeles, have the house where my parents live, have a fellowship in Pennsylvania that will start when the new year starts. But there is nowhere else. I take lines from poems and move them towards one another, away. I have written so much about the place that all of it seems to blur sometimes, but only ever truly write about loving one person in these years. I wish that I could say, believe, that the end of my time will mean leaving this love too, but I don’t fully believe it. How long does it take to fall out of love? In the tree beside my studio, years ago, a white sheet became tangled in a tree, and I have never moved it. Someday, someone will. Out there in the field too is a box of keys I left — someday, someone will find it, and perhaps need it as I once did – use it as a way to be quiet, a way to make music of the wind.

I think of a woman who once wrote that her lover said he’d been carrying a letter of hers for months, unread. She was not moved by his carrying the letter. i wrote it because I had something to say to you, she told him. The man she wrote to was my lover as well, years later, and somehow now, her feeling seems to be mine, though not about him. Not about anyone really. I think it reminds me of this book I am writing, the book that seems to refuse an ending. I wonder what I will have to do to finish it, wonder when I will let it be finished. Perhaps it will tell me, if I listen closely enough, if I stop thinking about what it is that I want and think instead about what the book does. It has almost become a thing outside myself, and perhaps that’s why I don’t want it to end. I see the end and unravel more of what I’ve collected, add a barn swallow, add a constellation we did not know the name of. Add a wolf spider, a callus, a wood stove, a headlamp. Add the day I collected grass seeds in the cold and the photograph someone took of me collecting the seeds, how he said my hands moved like a dance. I could add mortar and chiggers, coffee grounds and the blue cracked paint on the walls of a room we slept in once. Sometimes I feel this Nebraska is mine, and then the hours drift. I give myself another tattoo and forget what day it is, forget another person’s name, close the same window for another countless time as the rain pours in. The smell of detergent, the splintering floorboards, the loft where only a single body can sleep comfortably. The sound of the mower, the tractor, the storm-chasers and crop dusters. I cannot write my way out of here it seems, any less than I can write myself out of love. There will always be something else to describe that I see, another name I could ask for a tool I don’t yet know how to use. What I know is words. Perhaps I am tired of living in em-dashes, in semi-colon.

And I write to you from the porch of my studio, where I can hear the mice running behind the lath, and the undeniable cicada close by that grinds its wings in the air. And just now, it has stopped. And now there is birdsong, the sound of flies, the wind. And how else can I end this but in ellipsis….