Thing

P1000993The thing turned up in a corner of the yard, just outside the fence. I found it when I went out in the afternoon to take Quincy for a walk. Curved and black, plastic. Four feet long, a foot at its widest. I thought at first it was a car bumper. I put it in the grass in front of the porch. The next morning it was still there. I sat next to it in the sun and looked close.

I was thinking of Heidegger, his essay called “The Thing.” He writes that distance disappears and all things come equally close because of technology. In 1949 he meant airplanes, the radio, TV. Things congeal around us in a uniform distanceless. But this does not make anything present. The only way to approach a thing, to bring it near, is by sidling up to it, by thinking around, or through, what appears obvious. He performs this kind of meditation on the “thingness” of a clay jug.[i]

So I thought of meditating on this car part. Why did I put in the poem “Nothing” the image of the plastic inside the albatross. I am the no and the yes — a line I stole from ‘Annah Sobelman’s first book. It has lived in my mind for years: an itch or splinter, contaminant. In the poem, Sobelman follows the line with a qualifying phrase. She narrows it, makes it domestic. I want the raw declaration, hanging there on the turn of itself:

I am the no

and the yes

The albatross filled with plastic. Is it part nothing because it’s dead, the door not there. Maybe. More, it gives rise to a no. It is ugly, a painful image. I want it to go. But it persists. It pierces the uniform distanceless of my life, like the no and the yes.


[i] Martin Heidegger, “The Thing” in Poetry, Language, Thought trans. Albert Hofstadter (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), 163-186

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