Time Passes Piles Up Presses In & Flattens

by Chris Campanioni

Do we spoil things with our mouths or do we put spoiled things in them I mean to say

Do we spoil things by saying them so is speech more or less expressive than what I am right now feeling in silence & how to tell the body from the mind what the body feels from the mind & what about the moments when one can neither think nor feel what about them what about them what about when I want to want but not to want to have only to want this & this hardness & hollowness & also the heat of this the strain & bother of this to say that everything passes except words—words do not pass. & when they pass they very often move me & very often make me move inside another. & it seemed to me to be my greatest accomplishment—to write a memoir in which one learns nothing about its author, as one reviewer wrote. To know the outline of someone & not the details, the fine lines, the curves & shadows. The play of light & the lack of it. But didn’t I show so much more than the outline—aren’t I showing so much more than the outline? I am right now leaning to the left & arching my back so as to procure a better view for you. The exact words were when I finished the book, I wondered how much I actually learned about Campanioni’s life.

I had to look them up to remember. I had to look up to remember L, & what she said or really how she said it while we’d been walking up or down Orchard (I can never tell which; up or down, north or south) to stop on the corner of Spring or Kenmare & stare up at the sky.

The time of day always gets me she said, not looking at me but instead looking above as I looked from her face to mine (I had to imagine it), back to her face, & finally toward the sky. So I could see what she was looking at. Which was the sky & the day turning into night. But not yet. The time of day always get me, L said, & this time or by this time I was holding her hand, I had been holding her hand, I am still holding her hand in my memory as we watch the day blow out, the world dying, as she liked to think of it, even if she didn’t like to think of it at all. It hadn’t happened yet. It hardly ever happens. It only happens once a day, & it was about to happen & it is still happening whenever I think to look up at the sky at the same time, whether I am alone or whether I am holding onto something or someone. The world dying, the world & us, but especially me, who’d take the time to think about what form it’d take with point-five margins. Always already anticipating myself, which means I am always also missing myself. To touch death with excess.

Was it always like this? I remember burying my face in my own arms so I could better imagine what it was that was happening to me. Before I knew what it was to be inside language. Purple & red shapes would shoot up in the dark & I’d lose myself within their careful choreography, not knowing or maybe knowing too well that it was me who was deciding the movements. & when I would leave, finally, to sit on the steps that led to my home, my mother would sit beside me. I would listen for the sound of tires in the distance, & the lamps that would light up, one by one, & I’d pretend to count them or guess which lamp would light up next, & at the same time, try to mimic the music my father would have been playing, the bouncy voices of people I didn’t know pushing out of the window like smoke, everything heard in pieces. There’d be smells too, but one always forgets to include smells even if it’s the one thing that brings one back. & I would sit like that, quiet & careful & thinking hard about the pulsing coral orbs that I could see if it was dark enough & see if I could see them even in the light. I sat like that, on the steps that led to my home, or in the creases of a burgundy sofa, or in the backseat of a car I only know from the inside. & sometimes I think I was only ever so inside myself so much that I missed out on the people who sat beside me. Or maybe it’s only how I am remembering it; how I am remembering me. Which is another sort of death.

Remembering the way people’s skin smelled, & how some bodies smelled different than others, & the way my eyes would burn & tear up & everything would blur out, & how I had to lock myself in the bathroom with my feet hanging in the air to try & think about it.

In another piece, in about sixty pages, I’ll tell you that I don’t miss anything. But I don’t think that’s true. I miss certain movements. Certain words or ways of saying them. I miss meeting strangers in phone booths, for instance. I miss a particular phone booth on Rivington near the corner of Clinton. & a summer night, & the passing storm.

Memories, too, are each a work of art which re-fashion people & places & feelings. As if one was standing below them again. Below or above or inside. To look at them & to look away differently. Was it always like this? What degradation, what a cheap trick, to write all the time an autobiography; Mallarmé’s dream: the book as world, the world as a book. The experience is like living everyday as though you are telling yourself a story & knowing at the same time what is the truth. The story, the truth. Forgetting as one forges or the other way around.

& our interaction—what comes between words & voice, voice & rhythm, rhythm & image, image & writing, writing & silence—is where the text is going. Where the text has already gone. Silence & sonic utterance.

When I began this book, I was already spoken for. Then I wasn’t. Then I was.

If something is spoken for, it is not available because someone has already bought it. Or if they haven’t already bought it, they’ve reserved its purchase. To retain or hold over to a future time or place. Reserve, from Latin reservare, to keep back, from servare. To keep.

But what is it that we really keep? What remains to be held? What do we hold onto & what do we hold only within ourselves? & what disappears what disappears what disappears what disappears.

& even as I write this the world is closing in again (with my view of the Verrazano from the bedroom, from the edge of the bed) that synthetic sky which gets more beautiful with every passing polluted day, purple-pink gradient in my camera-eye & I note the time with my fingers, as if to trace the world unfolding, after it piles up, presses in, flattens into a measureless moment. Every time the same & every time different (I check my Notes.) Involuntary or unintended. It was beautiful in the way that beauty never is, the way beauty has of coming too quickly, of completing & in completing things annihilating all of their admirers’ dependency for change; a spasm or swallow. A deep deep breath to let the evening in. It makes me think I should have kept everything to myself.

The time of day always gets me, L said, turning her gaze from me up to the sky, to watch

All of these pieces were written at different points of time & later rearranged in another sequence so that what you get is not the publication of a book but a life-out-of-order.

the world close in on itself. I had felt this, too, in my own way, many years ago, even if I couldn’t recall it on my own. & anyway isn’t that the point? I always think; how through another person or thing, people experience emotions & moods that we could not find on our own, that we could not find in our ourselves. & it makes me remember that the very thing which most makes us us comes from elsewhere.

The start-up screen of a computer’s operating system always reminds me of a face. A flickering like flesh stir-frying in grease & oil.

Some relatives are meant to be imagined years before they die. They exist there, in the same room (lime-green walls, a dining room table coated in plastic, a crucifix above the couch, which is strewn with painted flowers), wearing the same clothes (a soft red shirt-dress, a soft red handkerchief), moving in a similar manner like a rerun.

Having left so much family in places I had never been before, growing up in North America, I had a lot of relatives who were relatively unrelated to me, by blood at least. These North American relatives even adopted false titles to preface their real names. Aunt Marie. Uncle Joe. But they were as real to me as my own relatives, my own breath & sweat.

Is being touched about touching or is it more about feeling & in feeling something feeling something the same as someone else which is to say feeling something at the same time that someone else is feeling it too.

It is always something I am thinking that puts an end to something I am feeling. & what is a pose except the ability to hold onto an emotion while at the same moment making a move toward another. There is no question mark because there is no question; & what I always want is a fluid movement. & what I want is all the time to hold both. The before & every after.

Think about the difference between the stage & TV. How one can see the props & scene changes, the curtain rising, the curtain draping back down. & the TV, if it’s always on, as it always is in my parents’ home—the TV never really separates truth from fabrication, the life from the lie of acting, because without changes there’s just the constant flicker of beginning & end, backdrop & foreground, regularly scheduled program & commercial, all of it a part of the production. The Internet is like that, a TV that’s always on. So that it’s impossible to see where one thing stops & one begins: the point is that nothing ever stops & nothing ever actually begins. The point is that everything is only ever all the time. Nothing goes off, nothing ever goes off.

Or: It is like turning on the TV to see that the TV has already been on. It is like having an already-turned-on TV. I imagine saying to my parents, if they had asked me the difference between TV, & the Internet, the Internet, & TV. & they’d return, but isn’t that the point, I imagine, of the remote. To turn things off, to turn them on. Remote, from Latin remotus. To remove.

In the mid-2010s which sounds strange to my own fingers as I type it, transformational shows were all the rage of reality TV. Who could lose the most weight? Who could go from single to soulmate in a matter of carefully screened moments? Who could be the next American idol? Who could get fired by Donald Trump? Who could marry a millionaire (or an ax murderer)? But the most transformative thing reality TV ever did or does is actually its repeated aptitude for transforming something into nothing.

The best kind of desires
Are the ones that disappear are disappearing

Another way of saying this is how can one make nothing out of something

A photographer who has photographed me over the last seven years says this year my look has changed. He says my look has changed & that over the last six years I was handsome & this year I’m a curiosity. He says this year I’m capable of unearthing people’s infantile desires. Uncertain of whether this was a compliment or a critique I asked myself in return is it that my look has changed or is it that my look has changed me.

A question I always ask myself
How many times can I change & still
Remain exactly who I am

My favorite films are the films in which there are no real actors, no plots, no character expositions, no ground situations, no inciting incidents, no dialogue or narration, only the thin silence of erasure, one slide replacing the one before it: the mirror of its audience who are not so much seeing thing so much as we are seeing things replace themselves. In this way seeing & not seeing can coincide. Nothing happens in these films except everything.

Opening the first page of a book is like looking at your lover for the first time, or like looking at yourself for the first time from the eyes of your lover

It is a well-documented fact
That before first dates with future
Lovers I would make them a mixtape
I discovered that by simply altering
The arrangement I could elicit
Different emotions in the body
Of the listener
To say nothing of my own

Moods built for mass consumption
& easy duplication
Moods built like books of recipes

Not really & no longer interested
In writing books
Meant to be read but in writing
Books meant to be written

I highlight a passage with the word blond
& remove it In the winter
There’s no arguing
About the color of my hair

A deep secret Sometimes
I write the book as if it were
The review of a book to be written & later
Remove references to page numbers & most
Of the time any observations
About the author

The best books can be read front to back but even & especially from the back to the front. To write this book one would have to insert something at exactly the midway point, which is always moving, edging over or

A friend on Facebook writes to channel Botticelli vibes take off your makeup & your clothes, & plunge yourself into a bathtub. Don’t forget to arch your eyebrows.

You can picture this in black & white because black & white is something that has always seemed to me to be more substantial, & at the same time, subdued & pastel, as immaterial as a daydream.

In the book I’m reading I underline a passage that says forgetting is among the most beautiful things that can happen to the human brain. So I can remember it.

I like to forget my lover on occasion because everything that has been forgotten or become unrecognized becomes almost instantly more beautiful. & in becoming more beautiful it makes me want to remember you more.

Chris Campanioni is a first-generation American, the son of immigrants from Cuba and Poland, and the author of the Internet is for real (C&R Press). His “Billboards” poem was awarded an Academy of American Poets College Prize in 2013, his novel “Going Down” was selected as Best First Book at the 2014 International Latino Book Awards, and his hybrid piece “This body’s long (& I’m still loading)” was adapted as an official selection of the Canadian International Film Festival in 2017. He edits PANK, At Large Magazine, and Tupelo Quarterly, and teaches Latino literature and creative writing at Pace University and Baruch College.