Tony Tost


                                                                                                       Over the years, I have come to believe that
                                                                                                       every machine people invent is nothing more
                                                                                                       than an extension of their innards.

                                                                                                                                     —Stan Brakhage

I sat near the well with a full bottle of aspirin & Lyn Hejinian’s My Life to see which I could get through first. Emptied the bottle on the 91st page of the Green Integer edition (“To the degree that seeing & hearing are activities rather than receptivities. The obvious analogy is with music."), which captures at least seven layers of vision. Mostly peripheral, shot out of focus. Astral aural feedback, a song. This version of My Life is borrowed, used, with a cigarette burn on a few pages (these are the carriers of light). This version then has more open eye vision, light rhythms, unlit rhymes. Nonetheless, says the empiricist, anything that isn’t another thing is linked to that other thing by the distance (or distances) between them : I’ve got white powder on my finger tips, for instance, & blisters on my sisters. Since a review clearly isn’t music I’m now trying to figure out what a review can do that is purely review. I really wish to open a different bottle. On each page of My Life I thought : “so this is the exact edge of my being : I cannot spread myself onto this page, I cannot scratch the page & direct my attention to what My Life is." It seems apparent that on each page the same image will rise, that of a woman giving birth. As though the commonplace were sacred (I in humility wish to join this song) about fifty pages in I could feel the book affecting me physically; specifically, very physically in my kidneys. The brain is also an extension of the hand. The eye extends. A Hejinianian sentence is nearly uttered, as though by mouth, & says myth is death but death is everything. Even holy trees, at last, die. But not even death protects us from a profane gaze, or the weather. Like a dog in a shaft of light Hejinian wants you to note the primacy of her materials. Which may be why she so seldom "paints" the page & why this is how we now feel so compelled to chew not only the tablets but the bottle itself : the history of science is her story, that of an eye learning to see itself. The history of the arts is an anatomy of the eye. I’m getting into this book. Me. Tony. My. But it’s a union it’s a sub-version it’s a re-vision of that old Shakespearean rage : marriage as the tragic as opposed to the comic closure. This time the social cycle stops. So we can’t go on until Lyn births another word; a fear of finishing so low, & so for hours now I have believed in the value of my immediate perceptions (tell me about your day) & Lyn has guided me from pain to numbness; & now we’re returning, to paint ("Thought balloons are softer than word balloons"). Page 112. Returning to pain. Hejinian recognizes that history is her story, a description of the eyes, the late Elizabethan sunlight trickling through the windows. Holes there are, that we watch : a squint can be interpreted as a world-view. Hejinian recognizes that the eyelids track trajectories in time. Her view is fully dilated. She specializes in a near & a far sightedness (most of my favorite writers have actually had eye troubles : Dahlberg, Creeley) (Robert Duncan tripped as a child wearing sunglasses in the snow) (Hejinian was born with two eyes). "I shall deceive my emotions solely from the arrangement of surfaces," she seems to say. My Life is nothing less than a Renaissance, the rebirth of a previous afternoon. Nothing less than the rebirth of birthing. My Life precedes me; it was here before I was, & it’ll be here after I’m gone. That the bringing about of closure is often impossible to distinguish from an act of vengeance (as in the carrying out of capital punishment) is, apparently. I can understand this in time. A proem poses no answers, or a poem proses some. Would one film this with one’s eyes closed. If indeed there are forty-five sections of forty-five sentences to My Life (corresponding to Hejinian’s age) I am ready for Lyn to scoot herself outside of time & start erasing the book, one sentence after another, once again aligning her worlds with the word, a re-vision of each sentence (a sentence is a metaphor since when) as sweet repetition.