Kirsten Kaschock

Time is a quality of movement.

This statement has been haunting me for some years. It has turned up in at least three poems I’ve written (if long prosepoetic series can also be called poetry), and I think I believe it. “Showing up in poems,” is perhaps the tertiary definition of haunt.

But what does it mean—Time is a quality of movement?

I’m not certain I have the answer to that, if by the answer, you mean a single answer and for that answer to be complete. And by you, I mean you the reader but also the someone asking questions in my head—an inner four-year old I’d guess, forced to guess.

Time and space are a continuum. This I know from Star Trek. I admit to desiring my own warp drive—the ability to contort experience with speed. To jump from one place to another as stars become rivers. Of course, stars are rivers. The star I see is a river of light running directly to my retina. The same star for you is a different river. And people do this, also.

Time is a quality of movement

is somewhat demonstrable. Writers sitting on their asses, as I am currently on my ass, lose time, or experience time in a way infuriating to those around them. This is because they have un-synched (but not severed) their mind from their body. You can un-synch mind from body in several ways, but reading and writing are two notable ones. The mind feels like firecrackers or popcorn. The body is not active although it may tense as if it were about to be active, straining to maintain that useful sense of potential energy as it goes through the micro-movements of pen-on-paper or fingers-on-keyboard or eyes-poring-over-someone-else’s-leaked-thought.

I will now offer a note about my own body: I use primarily three fingers to type. Two index fingers and the middle finger of my right hand. My left hand modestly pecks out letters from the left third of the keyboard, but the right hand and forearm cross the space as my eyes flicker over the alphabetical choices. Because my hands are not efficient, I use my vision—not to hunt, but to calibrate the position of the keyboard in relation to fingers that should be more capable of independent action by now, year thirty-eight. I type more slowly than many writers. My mind hiccups—repeating itself in brief, spastic loops—while the rest of my body hovers behind in a self-imposed near-paralysis, struggling to keep up. Often I recognize a large-scale ache, and it is usually my right leg, folded beneath my ass in an imitation of the bones of a birdwing—unused.

The passage above may help demonstrate why writers don’t often discuss their physical form. Xeno’s paradox: if we paid written attention to our bodies, the time it would take to get to anything else would be infinite. Tethered too tightly to the writer’s movements, writing time would stretch and develop into a death spiral. (Some species of army ant, blind and following each other’s scents, sometimes meet up with their own paths. Failing to notice the redundancy, they continue circling with a few hundred of their closest friends until they starve to death. The colony contains so many thousand, a cult of suicidal circumambulators does not affect its ability to continue its marauding ways.) And so it is with writers. Their bodies remain, for most of them and for the most part, white noise. When writers write of writing, they too can starve.

Time is a quality of movement

is a phrase that may also explain how that most writerly of vessels, the book, accomplishes its time travel. Stargazing is a kind of time travel. You know this, but I’ll recap: the stars you look at do not exist as you see them now, they existed that way when they sent their river of light to you. Some of them sent off their shine thousands of light-years ago. Some stars you see are already dead. What you see are actually the ghosts of those stars. The sky is full of the living and the dead. Night is like a library in that way. You read words written long ago—a day, a year, a week, a decade—that the author is writing in her now.

Words, like starlight, are artifacts. I think of you sometimes, as I sometimes think of what my children will be like, grown. I have only the faintest idea of you, and that more wishful than prophetic. You exist in another galaxy. A book is an act of faith that there will be more time, enough to get to you, and that it will be able to support this tenuous connection between us. This spaceship. My tightrope-to-a-future-you is only possible because of the book’s immobility. If I were able to revise my book as I came to realize my words had failed (they always, eventually, fail)—you would never hold this ghost-image of me, now, at thirty-eight. A me, freezing myself to cross the void: the cryogenics of the book.1

Time is a quality of movement.

As such, time finds its source in movable bodies: celestial bodies, sub-atomic bodies, bodies of water and light, animal bodies, bodies of literature. I am a writer, but my body is not always a writing-body. The act of willful paralysis I use to preserve myself for future perusal is only one way I choose to manipulate time.

I also choreograph it. I am also mother to it...


1 E-books are on the verge of making such time travel rarer, and quaint. They could give us an eternal now. New versions of the written self at every download.

     contents     next page



Blogger Tom Beckett said...

"Time is a quality of movement."

Heidegger thought being is time. And despite all his baggage, I'm guessing you'd agree.

What a marvelous piece you've written.

I'd love to interview you sometime.

7:06 AM  
Blogger kirsten said...

I would enjoy that very much.

11:06 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home