Houses

One year in Philadelphia. by Laura Kochman

there is no document
of civilization that isn't also its ruins.

—Natalie Eilbert

 

Last night I dreamed that I went back to the Margate house, a thing I said I'd never do, and it was spliced and repainted, turned into a sort of house-hive with the other houses around it. All the windows were bright, and the decor was minimal. People swarmed in and through its doorways, talking loudly about how upscale the space had become, how clean, how large. I ran around it frantically, looking for traces of the old, dirty architecture. The only thing that stayed the same was the beach.

This morning B and I are sitting at a coffee shop around the corner, reading and working on a book review and chatting about Jane Jacobs and the possibility of reparations. It's nice to slip back into these modes that I am always fearing I am losing. I'm not. It comes back. The beach stays the same, underneath, though it shifts. One year in Philadelphia.

i approach the house and she spins away from me keyless by Laura Kochman

Last night I dreamed of approaching the tower from my recurring dream, of green light and safe space and the illuminated hotel lobby that feels like home—the tower always looks a little different, but it is identifiably the tower. I think here about Bachelard and the tallest point in any house, the well-lit garret. It's the place of elevated thought, heightened reason, closeness to light, airiness. In the dream I had to approach the tower by water, a channel that ran through a city, by stepping onto a small raft that would take me there, and I stepped off the dock with my arms full of books and sank into the water instead. The books weighed me down and I considered not letting them go, but I had to in order to get to the surface. It didn't occur to me until after I woke up that they were already ruined.

The tower appeared in another recent dream, this time a giant buoy at the end of an arduous harbor-side trail. I stepped onto the platform and it rocked back into the water, and I saw that there was no door, and the water washed back and forth over me as I refused to leave.

Years ago, my recurring dreams were of giant, deadly dark waves and sinister bodies of water, and it is disconcerting to see my old, bad recurring dream combined with my new one, the one that is inexplicably happy and safe. The hotel is gone—the tower turns away from me, not a safe place for me but a place safe from me. I think here of Baba Yaga / Baba Yaga's house, the denial of entrance, my own poetic confusion of occupant and intruder, the woman who is both old and young, good and bad, a helpful obstacle.

I have no background in dream analysis. But writing dreams down feels worthwhile. These days it's the most reliable of my creative acts, not including the act of dreaming itself.

by Laura Kochman

Laying the foundation is the most difficult step. Measuring and leveling, again and again. Everything needs to be so certain. My body is not a male body except in the sense that it is male. The box I sometimes check. I look awful with long hair and all the best dresses dip in the wrong tight way. It's no different than everything else you know about me, still and glittering in the air. And even were I strong and clear, someone like a sky to fly in, I still know you saw me first down a path, thought a thin boy was shuffling toward you. I place cement blocks and above them I will place the floor, the walls, a place to stay. - T Fleischmann

One of my favorite things about this book was its bookiness, the way it built itself out of itself. Everything moved steadily, looking back over the shoulder with a certain rhythm. So much loveliness. The self building the self from the self of the house to the sense of the body as a room as an art form as a gallery display. On and on. B and I had a small conversation this evening wherein we both listed off the books that we're intending to read, both lists ending in on and on because it just keeps coming, the emergence of books that make me want to read them again. When I was a kid, that was my habit—I'd get to the end of the book and I'd turn right around and read it again. In my car, I've been listening to the same CDs for over a year. I like to know all the words. It becomes a certain rhythm, certain, I mean to say, in the sense of knowing oneself. In building oneself out of the gallery all around, taking it in and exhaling it. How dare you sit on my body. I'm art. Look at me! I'm god damn art. - says the body.

like an explorer the discoverer is not so much of a settler though they settle down and by doing so change the neighbor. by Laura Kochman

Language would be easier if we could remove the prepositions but then the objects and subjects would be  difficult to discern. Like I said, in my career as a writer—I know it suspect for poets to speak of career—I find myself more attractive as an object. If I am the object then who is the subject? Unnecessary. - Rachel Levitsky

This passage sounds like it comes from an essay or an interview or some kind of thinkpiece, but it's in the middle of a poem from Neighbor. This straightforward Rachel Levitsky voice comes in from time to time, addressing the means and motives of the project, how she feels about it, etc. Like a note to herself that she forgot to take out. This book is managing a balance between rawness and purposeful construction that I'm really enjoying—maybe a mimic of the same balance between self and Neighbor/Other, that strange relationship wherein you are formal and polite with someone, yet share some degree of intimacy. I live in a duplex, and sometimes we hear the neighbors' baby crying, which sounds a lot like our cat crying. I hear them most often when in the bathroom, which is the closest point between our two apartments, the thinnest wall, the most personal space to be in when you hear your neighbors talking. To share a house or a neighborhood is to share some kind of daily experience, putting your body near to another body. Under the circumstances / suburbia / this makes me more interested in parts of my thesis.

I read another book earlier in the day that I was not nearly as excited about. I read it, and it didn't make me think about anything at all. I guess I thought That was a book but I'm not sure that counts. I'm interested, mostly, in books that enact the ideas they're writing about.

by Laura Kochman

This is a friend's blog. She is basically doing the thing that I am dreaming of (you know, other than writing). One day, I am going to scrape something and put flooring down and DAMN I am going to tile a wall. I can just feel it. Every time I go home, I try to convince my parents to take my home improvement advice, but they are so complacent. Once, when I was home from college, my dad left on a work trip and I painted the bathroom while he was gone. I loved it. He thought it was okay. If I could find the very safe and obvious place I stored my camera's battery charger during the move, I'd put a picture right here of the nine little orchid blossoms I've been checking on every morning. This is the first time one of my orchids has bloomed while in my care, so that is really fucking exciting. To be fair, it's the orchid that still has the flower stalk it came with—neither of the other two have ever grown a new one. But I believe in them.

Go to the world / Where is it / Go there by Laura Kochman

They're building this morning, in my first Tuscaloosa neighborhood, the domain of my little brick duplex that is gone. Two more houses had walls go up yesterday, and very early this morning we couldn't sleep for the hammering and drilling. Now that I'm actually awake, it reminds me of the car repair shop by my pink house, the energy of building building up, a made thing brimming around the corner. It's a good sort of background noise for reading poetry this morning (Brenda Hillman). I just wish they'd start at 8:30 instead of 6 AM. I'm not awake enough to read poems at 6 AM.

by Laura Kochman

Last night I dreamed of moving into a house with too much living space. Extra bedrooms and multiple kitchens. Everything was boxy and sort of jumbled. There was a trap door to the attic, and through it I saw a landscape of puppet-like dummies, life-size, dangerous. I knew when I opened the trap door that whatever entered the attic could never come out again.

by Laura Kochman

I found out that the realty company that bought my old cul-de-sac tore down another duplex today. Before the person who lived there moved out.

Because his lease, you know, wasn't up.

When he wasn't home they went in and removed his belongings, and then bulldozed it. I'm so in shock I am sputtering. Homes-destruction-privacy-safety-interiority-blah-those-things-I-won't-shut-up-about, WHAT THE FUCK. Setting aside all my deep philosophical feelings about renting and homelessness, there is something seriously wrong with the housing situation in Tuscaloosa. The rental laws are holdovers from much earlier in the last century, designed to take advantage of people who don't have enough money to advocate for themselves. A fair, honest landlord is a valuable thing. A landlord who won't knock down your house while you're still living in it is not too much to ask.

[Photo courtesy of a friend--ironically, that beige house on the left is where I'm moving soon]

a series of locks and breakages by Laura Kochman

In the name of shaping things, in the name of movement and transformation, in the name of central air conditioning and mornings sandwiched between boyfriend and cat, I am leaving this open, lighted space. I'm giving my ladybug house to someone else, and paring down the long list of objects I've compiled. Our new apartment will be a small puzzle, and I do so love it when everything fits together neatly [See: my grading spreadsheets]. This past year has been the only time that I've lived alone, and I've enjoyed that sense of control, but I want a shared couch and an interlocking library. I spent a lot of time, in college, longing for a stable living space, but moving into this new space is the thing I'm longing for now. I wrote 33 pages last semester about the moment of interface between states of being, and I can feel myself approaching this point of breakage, the halting lock that opens, the lapse. One month and one half month until the chaos of boxes and sweat rises and subsides into a new sense of daily reality. The cat likes to curl up in my lap and press his forehead against something stable, so that he is entirely contained, the pressure of the other reminding him of the safe walls of his own body, I imagine. Like being tucked into bed, I imagine. The shower curtain is making the move this time, though. That thing is a beauty and it's going to live with me until it molds.