Boully's book The Body was published in 2002 by Slope Editions. Her work
has been anthologized in The Best American Poetry 2002, Great American
Prose Poems: From Poe to the Present and The Next American Essay. She has
completed a new manuscript, The Book of Beginnings and Endings. Excerpts
appeared or are forthcoming in Seneca Review, Boston Review, Mi-
Poesias, Web Conjunctions, and Notre Dame Review. She was a Ph.D.
student in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New
York. Born in Thailand, she was reared in Texas. She studied at Hollins
University and the University of Notre Dame.
There Is Scarcely More Than There Is (i)
a short and fleeting visit (ii)
In the vase of hydrangeas, the hydrangeas suited the vase rather well, excepting of course, the bumblebee that wished to, but could not take its place among them. When shredding carrots, we did it the old-fashioned way: with blunt knives. How else to motion to the figs, that they were readied for quartering? In the bowl filled with water, the green beans floated on the surface, as if they had never been loved by the bottom of anything. I did not think she would last long. She said she needed cats because cats would love her back, and they would love her unconditionally. I did not think she would last long; she was already twenty-two and wrinkling and taken to hard labor in rural Blue Ridge weather. She wanted a drill, and so I bought her a drill; I bought her a drill without thinking about whether or not she would pay me back, and in the same manner, I gave her kittens, a brother and sister pair, without thinking about whether or not she would pay for their feeding, for their inoculating, for their spaying and neutering. They destroyed my fresh bread; they destroyed my just-bought shower curtains. Holding them under water for defleaing, I thought of Delmore Schwartz, his gift of kittens to Jean Stafford, how Robert forced her to drown them in the lake before their leaving. The vase never did hold hydrangeas, but rather lilac and wisteria that I cut from the bed of the creek, where they grew, in front of my apartment, where everything continued to grow when it was not quite yet spring.
In the museum of love (iii)
She kept the photographs of her old lovers in a box, which she would, from time to time, shift through, taking out a photograph of so-and-so and saying how things ended with a tragic demise on account of a boyfriend in law school or some fight. When she asked me for mine, I knew that things would be over between us; when she asked me for mine, I knew what story she might tell to future others who would know sooner or later about the vase of hydrangeas and the bumblebee who wished to, but who could not take his place among them. In the museum of love: an empty space, enclosed in glass, reserved for a missing journal. In the museum of love: an apple basket (where the kittens slept); an orange blanket; countless empty bottles; a bedside table that was not used as a bedside table. She said she had given me everything, excepting fidelity; she asked why couldn't I love without there being acts of love? She would not last long, I knew. When she got sick, she said she needed an enema. I bought her a box. I bought her a box of two without thinking about whether or not she would use the both of them, without thinking whether or not this would make her for better or for worse. She said the gas in her intestines needed to be massaged out. By doing hand stands, she said, she could force the air over and out. I didn't think she would last long, and the wisteria began to overtake the fence at the beginning of spring that was not quite yet spring.
There was a church, we knew, where people prayed, but we, having other things we wanted to yearn towards, never entered it; there was a church, we knew, where couples were married, but you, wanting other things, never asked me to join you. In Fincastle, in Rome, in small towns where wayward sailors wander, there were, as there always inevitably were, churches and the random girl passing whom I could have sworn seemed to smile as if she seemed to know you.
The Expelled (iv)
I was not quite twelve when they told me that I was ugly. They said, "Oh her? Oh no, not her, she's ugly." I kept thinking about it: the injustice done to characters and how they will have to, at the bequest of a heartless author, carry something ill with them their whole lives. In my case: ugliness. In my case: self-hate. In my case: the continual need to love in order to be loved, that is, in order to love through the love of another. In a stuffy apartment, I was made to live by the hands of a heartless author. I lived with flies and bees. They wanted to see me; they wanted a way in. I refused even to let in the maintenance men. I stayed in bed; I slept all day. They thought I was sick; they thought I had committed a grievous sin; they brought popsicles and honey; they brought ham and cheese sandwiches. They said that I was so thin I was withering away. They said that I was making myself ugly; they said I was letting myself go.
this sudden affability after such desertion (v)
And then, when you see me again, you see me again, and the scene is set for love and more so for desertion. I knew, despite everything, you would not give me a free movie ticket. I would watch the worst movie ever made alone. And I don't think I would even want to hug you anymore, with your being so ugly now and so thin and your hair not growing out at all as a girl's should but full of split-ends. You would never look like a girl--not with your hands, not with your gestures, not with your vocabulary full of sin. What the reader should know: the incident involving strangling, the ripping of the phone from the wall and then the ill use of the phone cord. What the reader should know: the apartment deposit was never returned; you peed standing; you kidnapped the cats.
for, no matter what I may be doing, in my heart is the wish for children and knitting (vi)
My biggest flaw in loving: I am never lazy, and so, it is always I who ends up having to do everything in order to ensure that things get done. Trust me, I would always much rather be reading and writing than washing the dishes, scrubbing the bathroom, minding the garbage, sorting the laundry, polishing floors, grocery shopping, fluffing the bedding, cleaning up after our sins. Trust me, I would rather be mothering and purposely pursuing the soft blends of certain baby-blue yarns than reading or writing. And now, several loves and several years later, a new want that will not pass; and now, the mourning cloak that no one sees but me; and now, the happy man who does not know, who must not know, but who knows and pretends not to know. I do believe in kidnapping (I do. I do. I do.), the kidnapping of the unknown and the kidnapping of the what once was.
deeply troubled glances at the ceiling, a consolation (vii)
And when I am alone in the end, who will be the one to tell me that I have gone completely crazy? I needed a fireplace to make me feel other-worldly; I needed a view of the mountains and a lake to make it so that I could write again. He really doesn't understand much, he really doesn't, and so, I go on with all of my scheming, all of my bitter preparations. Some night, alone, while he is sleeping, I will drift. I will drift so that the world will never again know me; I will drift so that train will forever be departing.
the entire catastrophe of being a poet (viii)
The entire catastrophe of being a poet is that, after the fact, everything will be too eerily coincidental: the fact that the fire could not and would not light; the fact that the kindling flamed fast only to extinguish itself; the fact that the bed sheets were two sizes too small; the suggestion the doves gave of not being able to roost, of having to move on again. And later, some evening without a fire, when the poet writes it down, as she will and as she must, the other more obvious metaphors of lameness, impotence, shame, and weariness: the thunderstorm that was not as tormenting as the weatherman said it would be; that we could not, try as we might, properly row our boat to shore; the same storm's lightning felling the old sycamore to cinders and ash; the sound of a train in the distance; the over-used view of the moon caught between branches. And so, the entire catastrophe of the poet is the conspiracy of the world, how everything can be read yet how the poem the poet writes regarding this written world will never be read by the one for whom it is intended. The bridegroom after all is not ready, will not tear through the scenery, does not have a musical mating call. And when the snow storm comes late in spring and gathers in clumps in your windows and doorframe, and you know the wisteria is suffering some other kind of forbearance, then you will know what this means: a metaphor for another kind of demystifying; another kind of premature parting; the beginning of solitude and other such things.
another abundant source of hurt (ix)
Sometimes, there is much lying involved. Her soothsayer said she ought to surround herself in reds and pinks, and the same night, (how fortuitous!) I had written her a letter in pink ink. (The message must have meant me.) [I don't know really how writers can go on this way, having to make sense of everything. I will stop with the storytelling; I will stop writing for academia and magazines. Someday, I will be able to refer to all the people involved by their first names.] Sometimes, there is much lying involved. When the storm came, I saw the whale cloud; I saw its ribcage as big as heaven and the many long-haired, drowned women contained therein. I knew that if I were not careful, I would soon be one of them, and so, I began to keep my distance, even though she said she loved me, even though from out of the storm, she took me in. I don't remember what else it was that her soothsayer said, only that I came to, over time, despise her predictions, her prescriptions for behavior and love. There would be no more letters. When I met him and told her that she would not be accompanying me home, she plucked the phone from the wall, she ripped out the cord and hid herself somewhere with it.
Never in all my years as a writer have I written a tale in which a person, struck by their own hand, falls down. This is the first time in my work that a person has suicided. (x)
So he always eluded her, politely. (xi)
She knew that he too would not last long, not the way he went so long between laundering and would not bathe. In the autumn, (she could still smell the trees) he would begin with an itching that then led to dandruff the size, he said, of silver dollars. He smoked and drank and dipped and toked and later, much later, when the demise of their love was beginning to go awry, he took her to a party where everyone was covered with bruises, so decrepit were they on crack that they wrestled and boxed each other all night in an attempt, she thought, to work out their ambivalent sexual tendencies. She told someone, You look like Frank O'Hara; he didn't know who he was. When it was her turn to hit the pipe, she declined, as politely as she knew how to in such a situation, saying that she had already had her crack today and no thank you. The letters would come, and he would go; new names would come and he would go. You are only beautiful when you are yourself, and that is rarely, he said. In a last correspondence, he was abroad; he said he saw mountains so beautiful that they reminded him of her. In a last correspondence, she posed a question which he never answered. In last correspondences, never so much about what it was that really did happen in the end, in the very end. There is instead so much talk about beginnings. And so, that is where, for so long, I stayed, within budding hydrangeas, within unnamable endless flowerings.
that which is empty and available is often frightful and inspires horror (xii)
I'm still longing to live in a place that is beautiful, a place that was meant to contain me. (I keep leaving out what happened, what really happened towards the end: her stalker getting the best of her; his new love of fat girls; my move to Montana, refusing to see either of them again. I have a duck pond now; I have a love that keeps getting boarded and then snowed in.) I knew I would not last long. Robert Walser writes that "When girls want to be noticed they start to make arrangements with their hair; this can be perceived as a subtle challenge to spend one's time voluntarily falling in love." (xiii) And so, I became empty and available. I become, according to my journals, something that was more messy than kept.
It's the same old stranger as ever, for whom alone accusative I exist (xiv)
In my position, alone, in relation to someone who comes and goes, an action without end, I too drift among hermits, show crabs, pedestrians, tellers of misfortunes. I know the omen, the omen across the table who glances up occasionally to remind you that this too you will not have. He is eating his soup; he is living with you; he has not asked you to spend your life with him. Perhaps it is not him and has nothing to do with him; perhaps it is this lover that I have not loved yet and yet love despite my saying I love you to someone else. You see, the destination of the verb is occluded by the beloved, who leaves, as ever, no forwarding address, who departs, as ever, when least expected. The accusative then, stands in for the lover, who loves an unknown who is furthermore moving towards the unknown, leaving little more than indefinite plans and solutions. Perhaps, yes, one day, someday, possibly. Nevertheless, I continue to collect the various newspaper clippings, note the date and time of apparent rummaging among my personal belongings, save the evidence in case of interrogation. After all, I don't really love you; I love what I dreamt of you. The missing journal will show itself again. The joke will be that it will reveal, will explain nothing; the joke will be that it was always and continued to remain empty.
(i) Stein, Gertrude. Lucy Church Amiably. New York: Something Else Press, 1969. (205).
(ii) Walser, Robert. Selected Stories. New York: NYRB, 2002. (55).
(iii) Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. London: Faber and Faber, 1996. "such was the museum of their encounter" (50).
(iv) Beckett, Samuel. Stories and Texts for Nothing. New York: Grove Press.
(v) Beckett 91.
(vi) Barnes 82.
(vii) Walser 162.
(viii) Walser 23.
(ix) Walser 86.
(x) See Walser: "Never in all my years as a writer have I written a tale in which a person, struck by a bullet, falls down. This is the first time in my work that a person has croaked" (170).
(xi) Walser 164.
(xii) Walser 92.
(xiii) Walser 160.
(xiv) Beckett 91.
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