Reading Danielle Vogel’s Narrative & Nest: Pre-Natal Architectures and Narrative Rituals
I read it in the bathtub. The children are away for the night and my husband is working. The dog sits on the mat next to the tub. The water is scented. I read it in the bathtub, submerged naked body –under waters cloudy.
I read every word from the first page, rights reserved, sculptures by, design and typesetting. I believe the voice talking to me from the page. I have to move from the pictures to the voice. I have to have something to hold on to. The voice as I imagine Danielle’s voice but also not Danielle’s voice as if she were talking to me disembodied as the voice is disembodied, as I am not hearing a sound, but it has the shape of sound. In my head, it has the curve of sound, it has the weight of safety, and it has the feel of a place I trust. I have the need to hear the voice tell me about writing, I have the need and maybe because I know nothing. Do I know nothing? What do I know?
“This is what happen when the book is not yet possible” (Vogel 2).
I hear the voice ask its own questions, did I have the questions or did the voice prepare me to have the questions. I’m thinking about tactile, about fingers, about the edge and the slip. I think about the past. I think about bones, why here it feels like muscles and tendons, like a slippery sinew but in my page, in my voice, it’s all bone. It’s hard. I think I don’t want to hear the voice, I think I don’t want to believe the voice; if the voice can’t be believed, if then... maybe there is too much water. I feel the anxiety of failing. Is it my failure or is language failing?
“that in trauma, the floor is pulled out from under the voice” (Vogel 6)
You think it’s not there, but it’s always there. And in this case, I am in and always in the water.
“the tight, but ductile gloss” (Vogel 7)
I don’t think of birds when I look at the pictures. I think of vomit. I think of something being forced out, the helplessness and the panic. I think of breasts full of milk, so full that the nipple emits a stream high into the air that peaks and then whimpers out. I think about bodies excreting babies and shit and I think about bodies being forced to take in, being filled. I think about openings and what exits and enters. But I don’t think about birds. I read about nests, the voice tells me about nests, about how they are built and sizes and distances. I don’t feel bird-like. I feel robbed of the language on the torn paper, as if they hold a clue, as if they bridge the space between the nest and the body littered with its holes, that can’t be shut up, that complicate…but I can’t piece them together, they’ve been torn out, they’ve been torn from me and then I can’t reach them. They just dangle there. I think about how they feel falling out. I think about pulling.
Pg 8 is a color photograph of a dozen empty vessels, their mouths are empty and ragged. Not smooth like a clay pitcher, they’re pinched like ripped paper, they’re popped open like aliens have emerged, they’re like balloons with the air leaked out and frozen at the moment when the latex bursts under the pressure. I think of wombs.
I put the book down on the seat next to the tub now. I look at those bare, naked vessels with their needy mouths and I think about wombs cut open to let babies out and then sewn back. I think about my body with its scars and how I say when I say I had a C-section, again, and again, and again, how I feel the need to justify it, how I feel somewhere what is that, like shame. But it makes no sense. The body does what it does, and the terrible love pulled out there, it’s complicated. The body eats and eats sorrow, it swallows love in days that flee from me. And then I put the book down because I can’t read anymore.
And then I think, as I’m crying, about the narrative of how I would write what is happening and then language is there to put the boat right, to pull the stopper and to step away. I am thinking about how the voice is narrating and how I am narrating and how this living voice at this moment is narrating its own thoughts and how I inhabit this stopped voice and the distance between us and about mud and clay and the shapes of letters. I think I have never looked for clay. I think I’ve spent many days as a child under bridges near canals. I remember the duck shit but never the nests.
“Every nest, like the body and manuscript, has a problem it must move through: functionability “ (Vogel 16). I think about rituals, I’ve been thinking about ritual, public and communal rituals. Going to the river and writing an exquisite corpse and throwing it in the river in the vessel of an empty wine bottle. I thought about writing Danielle a letter, a private confession. But it felt like a trick, in the face of the honesty of the text, in the place of the vulnerability of the text. Where was I failing? Could I be there too?
“the contortion” (Vogel 19)
I get out of the tub after I finish the book and I take pictures of the rituals I have set for myself. To bathe, to rest, to drink hot tea, to be in the hour in language, like a sea you wave out on, who finds you and to where. I always feel like a fraud, like an interloper. I can’t stop coming to language but I think it’s laughing behind my back. I think I could fall better, maybe now in the thread of this, I can unclench. It means something to me to be in the world with this voice, the voice that makes and takes the time to say these things. It means something to know that there are eyes and hands and bodies in the spaces here, near and far, and they are watching and thinking, dear keepers of the sacred spaces where we lie down and say: this is what I have to offer.
I’ve been investigating the book as an architecture of the body—and the body as an architecture for the book. This collection explores a manuscript, pre-completion. Each ceramic swallow-like nest, pod, and hive performs as a dwelling for excerpts from my manuscripts-in-progress.
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