Renee Gladman

Calamity

I began the day wandering the streets of the small city where I lived in pursuit of two variables (acts and location) that belonged to the same expression (“acts of location”) but mysteriously so. I was looking for an event (in the world) that would index the moment the expression came into being, such that when one said “acts of location” sound or sight would confirm it. Moreover—I thought as I meandered—the event needed to occur between my body and the city. That is, I wanted to express, within the object world, a series of “acts of location” that needed only the body (and the world) in that moment of expression. Yet, I also wanted to find the variables of the expression as independent facts in the world, and, between them, to recognize some form of visible scarring that would indicate, not only that I’d found those facts, but their interrelation as well. The scarring would act like a body (though not mine) which one approached with a word that functioned like a name but didn’t have to be the name that necessarily belonged to that body but could be a name that the body put on for a time then took off to hand back to one. It needed to be a name that could be worn by most bodies, because the idea was that you’d find scarring everywhere, between every gesture and the space that manifested around it. I was trying to see location like I saw wind blowing the small branches of city trees. I tried to have it sync up with the incessant sparrowing I heard. I wanted location to be ordinary and for acts to be countable. However, I did not want “acts” to be sitting on top of “location” in such a way that one was metaphysically indisposed, having to pull the two apart as I was now doing. There had to be a pre-space, before the expression, where they were adjoined but not merged. An act was everything and location was everywhere, which made the whole thing hard to break down, but when you said “acts of location,” you didn’t think all possible things at once. Rather, you narrowed in on a feeling, a specific event that made a boundary in time. I was trying to walk through the city with this unfolding. I began northeasterly with pieces of paper on which I’d scribbled words like “houses” and “bird” and “cinema,” and carried those pieces to sites I thought of as “church,” “bus station,” and “art gallery,” leaving each piece in some kind of correspondence. I lay “houses” within “church” and pulled out my recorder. I hid “bird” behind a trash barrel at the “bus station,” then got on a bus. Somebody asked me what I was doing when I began making new slips for “acts” on the bus. I tore the paper with ceremony and hunkered down to make the folds. A person tried to grab one, but I retained it at the same time that I put “cinema” in his pocket. I thought he might fall to the floor and allow his face to open. I thought he might do something devotional. But, instead he stared and did not blink. You couldn’t understand it if you couldn’t ask about it and you couldn’t ask about it unless you revealed the “act” in his pocket. I walked into the “art gallery.” The ceramicist had her nests on the wall. They already had pieces of paper coming out of them, so there was no place to put my words. I still had “acts” to pass out, more than the “houses,” “bird,” and “cinema” of several hours ago. I had “fold”: I wanted fold to be an act of location and I wanted everybody to have a nook. Inside the nook, I felt, we could understand something that had always eluded us. We would know enclosure. But, that would be “place,” and place was not precisely location. I let the thought go. I grabbed something that was a hand and, also, another idea about “acts,” how acts are sometimes like “pocket notes” that you use to process an experience or work of art, how you might hang nests on a wall and nest in each of them fragments of a manuscript and let pieces of that book fall to the floor, such that within that sequence would be seven acts and seven pocket notes. However, though “the floor” could be argued as location, a fragment falling to it was not the “acts of location” we were looking for. The ceramicist wanted tequila before her opening. We didn’t know if going next door to drink it was making new location or just extending the old one. We didn’t know when our tequilas stopped belonging to the name on the bottle from which they were poured and became parts of the “bird” we uttered during our sips. There were always extra folds of birds of paper and you could move your finger along the length of them and have witnesses, and do this for minutes at a time never having to explain what you were doing nor the desired effect, because it was clear that these folds were the scarring that made people feel safe in public.

Editors’ Notes

Renee Gladman

Renee Gladman Renee Gladman is a major influence on the emergence of contemporary experimental prose writing. Her most recent works are three volumes of the Ravicka novels: Event Factory, The Ravickians, and Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge. Since 2005, she has operated Leon Works, an independent press for experimental prose and other thought-projects based in the sentence, making occasional forays into poetry.