Thursday, February 28, 2019

Helen Hajnoczky : Writing Day

There is a little knot in me, getting more and more tangled up. I go out for a walk at lunch and I can feel it whirl a little. I can feel it tightening all evening. So at night I pick it apart and find it is much denser than I thought.

Sometimes things vanish so slowly I don’t notice. I resent this. There are materials of irreparable breaks and there are materials of mending. I feel the break in both equally. The objects around me that breathe in this air and moment, bound in memories. I run my hand over one of these things just quickly, and think about it as I make dinner.

I write a raw feeling out bluntly. I pull the stitches of the poem together messily, gathering the fabric of it into an uncomfortable lump. I write that sort of thing for me. I like to keep the reader in mind, but sometimes I alone am that reader that I have in mind. I like the ugliness of the knot. It speaks to me.

Or I bring the pieces together with quick little stitches, pull them tight, and to my surprise find the thing looks unexpectedly nice. I appreciate this and consider that I might come back to it someday when I’m ready to wear it, or ready to loan it out, ready to give it away.

I mend something torn and precious to me, holding it in my hands. Repairing it doesn’t hide the tear. Pulling the needle in and out and in and out and messing it up. I debate going back to fix the last stitch. Decide it’s worth it. Or I don’t, and I let the mistake become part of it.

I have another idea as I untangle this and mend that. An idea like a braid. I think about its strands for a year. And then late one night I hide under the blankets and weave it into the glowing void of an app on my phone. It looks so smooth.

The clouds are beautiful today. The sunset sent just for me. I don’t care what anyone else thinks the sunset means. I don’t care if it has nothing to do with the sewing theme. I depend on that light, on the heart that metaphor means to me. It’s not a metaphor, at all really. That’s the sort of thing I write for anyone who isn’t me. That’s the sort of thing I write just for me.

Words aren’t a tool in this case. Words are a medium and I like to study their sheen in the light like a monochrome painting. I like to admire the shadows their heavy impasto casts. I mean, of course, yes, I write a lot of emails, for instance. I write a lot of text messages with the winking tongue out face. I add that one to about 80% of my texts. This is more something sore or ebullient or ruined.

It’s only the poem that holds its making, not me.  I am or am not that poem in essence. It becomes in me. It works itself down and through me like a seam. Like that sunset. I know and I don’t know what words mean. I let the sunset creep in. I thread a needle, make dinner. I am reminded, I am bothered by something. By a blunt edge, a glow, a sharp needle.

As a general note, I love notebooks but I find myself writing on my phone a lot. I’m going to have to accept that these aren’t stopgap works. This is it.

And I like being in the room with others at home. I always thought I wanted a desk looking out a window, so in looking out the window I could think important solitary arty thoughts, and write them in a resplendent notebook, and readers could read my poems and then stare out of windows, thinking insightful arty thoughts, but I mostly find myself slouched on the couch, feet up on the coffee table. Or once everyone else is sleeping but the aura of their warmth still lingers in the room with me, and I can listen to them snoring loudly in the adjacent rooms, I write. I find that a productive kind of safety.

Night. Night is definitely my writing day. Except when it isn’t. But it usually is. Except it isn’t sometimes. But usually. Or sometimes I flip through photos, often now that I think about it, or the smooth arc of brush or a knife across paper or canvass. Or the slice of a thread being drawn through fabric. The closing sound of the thread drawn taught brims in me.

The table is littered with bits of trimmed thread. I gather these up and put them in a beautiful glass vessel that my dad gave me just because I said I liked it. It was his. The kind of thing I’d never be able to give away, and he gave it to me just like that. It shimmers like a sunset in the midday sun, or like a sunrise in the lamplight at night.

Bits of the ball of string and yarn from a project I made for my dad could be used for mending, but formed into the shape of the dish, when I hold it in my palm, it’s its own purpose. There’s mending and there’s making and there’s memory and there’s me. And there’s the poem somewhere in there. Each one that forms I notice I’ve been pulling together for years.  

The poem is the tangle in me that I untangle, but in untangling it I create a tangle, and this is what I have to offer, like the glass vessel. Everything we do together seems so fragile to me.

Helen Hajnoczky is the author of Margyarázni (Coach House, 2016), which explores ideas of family and first generation cultural identity through folkart and poetry. She shares her visual art, poetry, and eyeSnowScape artworks made with her late father Steve Hajnoczky on Instagram @ateacozyisasometimes, and online at Her above/ground chapbooks include No Right on Red and A History of Button Collecting. 

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