I WANT TO TEXT YOU ABOUT ROBERT DUNCAN
Robert Duncan had something to say about psychosis but I
have no one to text it to. If I have no one to text things to
are they interesting? If the things I find interesting are
really uninteresting, then what am I? Robert Duncan said
you’re psychotic once everything in your life acquires
meaning. Actually, he said, at that point you are merely
“seen as” psychotic but I’m done pretending that the way
we’re seen has no bearing on the way we are.
I want to text you about illness and poetry, neither of which
I could live without, and which have now been inarguably
linked by Duncan, for the poet is the person for whom
everything has meaning. But I don’t want to put words in
your mouth, so I’ll just speak for myself. It is either the
poetry or the illness which imbues everything with
meaning, I can’t tell anymore.
The meanings must be sorted, which requires space. When
there is none—when even the air between the thumb and
the forefinger cannot fit into the skull—I write them down
and for a second there is room and the new meanings stop
causing pain. Moments later, they are pressed up against
each other again, against me. I empty myself all day if for
no other reason than to preserve a body that can’t hold all
The poems could be the method of release or merely the
receptacle for what’s released. This too is unclear. I want to
text you about it. Texting someone is emptying yourself
into them. Don’t get excited. It’s not you, it’s being empty
that I want.
Since the process begins in the brain, which, for the sake of
transparency, is my brain and no one else’s—the meanings
come out in words, but not just any. I don’t think in images
so there are very few images in my poems. I am a bad poet
and bad girl, which could be related but hopefully isn’t. I
would not be a good girl in exchange for talent.
The meanings always come out as concepts, or, as they’re
known when they come out of my mouth: commands. But
everybody loves a declarative sentence. The poem is telling
you how to feel. The poem is how to feel.
Pound says the purpose of an image is to present an
intellectual and emotional complex in an “instant in time.”
Maybe I just don’t trust an instant in time to communicate
what I have to. What can an image say about illness, about
The image is a bottle. The image is a bag. The image is a
peach pit. The image is an ocean. The image is a balcony.
The image is a full bladder. The image is your reflection,
which reveals how drunk you are. The image is infantile.
The image is two bruises, on both my knees. The image is a
lie about sex I didn’t have. The message is: substance abuse
because sex is a substance just like any other.
The image is a messy bed. The image is my brother, on
your shoulders. The image is weed socks. The image is
braiding your hair. The image is a cut on your scalp, where
I shaved too close to the skin. The image is a birthday
present. The image is sucking your dick. The image is a
dog. The image is your new girlfriend. The image is
flaccid. The image is boring. The image is sorry. The image
is explicit. The image hasn’t happened yet. The image is
merely inside the skull. Now the image is outside the skull,
I saw it coming, especially the end. The message is: I
anticipate my inability to feel close to anyone. Everything
in the image acquires meaning. When something is
meaningful I want it gone.
The image is a text message about Robert Duncan and
psychosis that I hope you find interesting.
Aja Moore is a Lunar Aquarian. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Minola Review, The Puritan, The ÖMËGÄ Blog, Sadmag, and ALPHA.
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