Babel V

I wanted to catch you before time left, and hoped that somewhere else it had not yet turned. As though the intensity of what might be said depends on its temporality: love in 2007 may not sound the same in 2008. Here, even seconds count.

To arrest means to halt in motion, and we hope it offers second chances. I have often imagined there was a deep silence before language fractured into peoples. We are told disintegration followed, but increasingly I wonder if the magic of Babel lay in attempts to forge common vocabularies, to speak through touch, to dance away presumed difference. Might we have got the story wrong: not destruction, but possibility.

To think of Babel is to invite what Audre Lorde terms the differences of who we are into the now. To say, following Whitman, we contain multitudes. To claim, as the possessed man did, I am Legion. To conflate love and madness.

You hear 3 out of every 5 words I say and I understand 2 out of every 5 you say. Neither of us labor to be more intelligible. It is an intimacy of the partially deaf and blind: your body language remains inaccessible mine remains untranslatable. When asked how we compensate for such “lacks,” we don’t quite understand the question. We assume all intimacy hops along as best it can, a perpetual 3-legged race.

I cherish that you have never asked me the expected questions; not that you catch me off-guard, but that you make me turn toward you. You provide me with orientation. And yet, I will always feel a little lost.

It might be that I have begun to chronicle our impossibility, the now that does not tend to tomorrow, the structure we term nostalgia or memory. That I insist on failure as the condition of us does not frighten us. We have long been inhabitants of negation. We have yet to understand whether our persistence is a happy accident.

What can be said now may not be said tomorrow. We settle into time-bound anxiety, suspicious of the never guaranteed future. Yet, we believe something continues, call it the ashes of words in the wind.

For now, it must suffice to say we are here.