Rachel Blau DuPlessis
Draft 112: Verge

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You know this story.

First, “Horrible things happened
        and they were introduced to us
                as something good.”
                Fissures and divisions
between those
        who considered they were as
                civic as the others,
or had more right to act, but
        at that punctual moment
                and then for years after,
found they were, or were found as, not.
        Certain atrocities
                registered. Then were forgot.
Everyone, it seemed, had realigned,
                double crossed.
Maps had scratches, ridges, edges
        that they never before,
                it seemed, had.







Sizes, wires, assizes in the site, other boundaries on this border. Maps and lines are drawn over bodies. Where did “history” put this place? Why did it not “stay there”? What about “them”? Should they live here, or are they basically foreign? What are the facts about myself? What is my where? It’s true that once there was an ending. It seemed as if this were what I had wanted. Why did it then open? I hardly can remember, but then it’s suddenly vivid, though even my own stories have veered over time. Another time pulses through the stifled civic membrane.

Restatement slid toward resentment.
        An otherwhere of once-upon-a-here
                took shape. Everyone
told incompatible stories.
        Everyone held to
                inconsolable memories.
Everyone marked
        buried intensities of presence.
                Different and similar outcomes
were obliterated. Disappeared.
        Deemed incompatible.
Loss became gain;
        gain compensated loss.
                It will remain, even if said, unsaid.




& buried

“When the axe came into the forest, the trees thought, ‘It’s fine; that handle is one of us.’” What led to what? The incomparable, the scale off, the trans-located, exiled, awkward and alarmed, the clatter, the shattering, have all been part of our lives for so many years. This is what we have. Then you get tired. Then resigned. Then it becomes half noticed. Or less. Where then, abruptly,

        many years later,
                people ask each visitor:
“Have you crossed yet?” and say
        “You should.”
                Meaning over to the other side.
Though there was no particular news,
        nothing to register except normal erosions,
                but the whole was considered
something to see.
        Shadows had already cast full sorts.
                And still they fell.



Everyone’s insomnia is marked. Who wants to reflect on this? You might cure insomnia by a very deep dream of sobbing. But that works for only one night. The ordinary is so ironic: such as cascades of rusted metal trash water-falling down the railroad cut. I mean where I do live. My eye core split and doubled. Now what? Sometimes things rest on mean-spirited technicalities. Cell phones do not work across the divided city nor the nation(s); that is, you can’t place a call down the next block. Understanding and repairing were vague and then postponed. Yet now a little has started. We may never know. That’s all. Why should I say more?

“Who would kill an orange tree?”
        Sometimes anyone.
                It was a terrible way to be.
Here is her facing a life in
        the autobiography of a visage
                written by alternative ears and eyes.
She does not match up
        with her doubled national flesh. Yet it looks like
                she filmed herself in a mirror. She filmed
herself as doppelgänger. She filmed as a mourner.
        A dialogic implacable crush
                of selves
sits shiva over the other
        speaking on (or to)
                the crossroads of those shattered bits.
“What is man’s relation
        to his/her own history?”
                said someone with a lexical-
rhetorical flourish
        of attempted fairness.
                This place,
as they said
        in the explanatory museum placard,
                is a “bone of content.”





For there is a nano-second of resonance, of reverberating networks of sound that indicate a meaning (or an illusion for a moment), even an oddity, beyond the jolly despair that might lead to nihilism if you simply “read the news.” This nano-touch is called “the small.” “The dot.” “The person.” Volta! Volta! Who can say what this is to be in time, this strangest space, for there is something enormous even inside the tiny spot of this smallish locale in which the thing called “I” (also m-it-e, or me and it) cruises its happenstance. But then, to hammer in this point, I heard of

that man who would never cross
        (his wife told me this) because
                he refused to show his passport
at Border Control
        in what was (technically, for him)
                his “own country.”

At the actual checkpoint,
        near the little maze and queue
                where people cross over
carefully walking through,
        someone had graffito’d
                “No Borders”
as protest. So people read this
        on their way to the parallel ghetto
                in the other half-city.
When you got that twice-stamped visa
        like a high school hall pass signing you in
                and then out,
it came from a state
        that does not “officially exist.”
                That itself means multiple things.
Questions: why, how, when, what and to whom.
        It was like living
                in a dream.

line up

identity card


Which are the facts and which are the shadows? It is another knowledge of the country. “Don’t try for peace (we HAVE peace). We want reconciliation.” It was “a struggle between two historiographies...,” someone noted. But it’s clear that two were not enough. So “for starters,” or “at least.” Which is the door and which is the wall? Sometimes there is a sense of panic. One must record the sense of panic, the sense of grief, followed by the feeling of being snookered, lied to, manipulated. You have been honed by the chisel of it. Then became inured, numb. How much political irony can one person stand? “It’s a textbook case.” The Green Line became known by its other name: The Dead Zone.

Without her husband
        she crossed every week
                because certain groceries
were cheaper over there.
        She found
                streets that continued
the streets on her side
        ones she had always remembered,
                the small places being the same, or
pretty much, just slightly shabbier
        or maybe names changed to
                other heroic names,
but there was the wall blocking everything;
        there was scrub in between and sagging houses.
                Those too had names.




Because presumed temporary,
        the wall had been built shoddily
                and without any irony.
People’s (long-ago mapped)
        houses and shops
                were now trapped.
The sealed, grim properties
        had begun to look
                really terrible.

Attention: tourists/ visitors/ residents:
        you are forbidden
“UN Buffer Zone.
        No Photography.
                No Litter Please.”

Where is one’s own sense of what happened? Can one access one’s own history with others? Articulate its stakes? There is shame on every level. Shame for every side, and rage and shame for micro-twists of fractal sides. Twinned and tripled cataclysmic dreams bleed over all four margins down into the tight-sewn gutter of the page. The book tries to contain and present these bloody verges. It fails. Bad blood escapes.

The site was bolstered with sand bags,
        watchtowers, with strategic
                barrels filled with concrete
and a general double loopiness
        of barbed wire and razor wire
                built for business.
There it is:
        The Border.
                Zagging and tacking thru the city,
embodied and embedded
        in unheimlich wandering.
                Despite the time that had gone by,
the mix of boredom and menace
        that emanates from guns
                remains palpable.
But better not to seem
        to think too much
                or see too much
because the two acts
        and their auras as you walk
                might make you too visible.

Along the Dead Zone.
        can only run
                as fast as one can run.
Some things cannot be outrun.
        And sometimes
                where we are right now
those very things
        have all been done.
                Such times have taken place.

Cross-quarter day
        is halfway between solstices,
                and just between solaces.
One throw of the dict
        did not annulify
                the chunk of fate,
nor definitional geographies of Treaties
        nor hierarchies of Passports,
                nor pious Conspiracies of Certitude.

Corners once protected
        from sniper fire
                where armed men
had hidden in concrete boxes and peered out
        are now dirtied excrescences
                surrounded by dried grass.
Twenty different brands of trashed
        water bottles thrown into the Zone
                cannot be cleaned up
because entering the scrub-between
        could still get you shot.
                So it’s garbage-y
right through.
        Like a vacant lot.
                Never mind
the level of forgetting
        and those condemned to remember,
                nor strains of verb and noun
between forgetting
        and remembering.
                Each was on the verge of shifting over.
One side saw the Dead Zone
         as temporary,
                 the other as permanent.
But the sides kept changing
        which was which.
                The stakes were such
that no one knew
        how to calibrate all this.
                To say
“reunify” was sometimes close.
        Though people remain at odds
                over sovereignty, alliances,
and control
        (“of the military”).
                There’s also the contentious
writing of public history,
        (“school books”); there’s
                restitution or not
of houses and gardens that others
        have lived in, fondly, planting,
                weeding, making them their
very own for fifty-plus years.
        How to calculate?
                “Private Property?” “Reparations?”








“orange trees”

The cost involved the cost of words. There was also the question of which language, or both. Or yet another language—English. Like a fairy tale, this quest demanded the tracking of paths, where all signatory phosphorescence had faded and where the signs were often broken, left like shards. Is there a residue that remains? Mend? Or sweep away? This poises on the sedimentation of micro-tones, on empathy for dark news read in the darkness with listening eyes, and with ears all inky, smudged by little shaking hands. Thanatos might take care of itself. It’s desire that needs nurturing. “Change or Die TPYING.” The P is Greek for how we would write R.

December 2011-April 2012                        

Notes to Draft 112: Verge
The poem cites from Yiannis Papadakis, Echoes from the Dead Zone: Across the Cyprus Divide. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd, 2005. Quotations from his work are italicized. There are also two citations (what I heard and wrote down) from the video by Kutlug Ataman, “1+1=1,” 2002, concerning Cyprus, and seen in the Istanbul Modern Museum in 2011. A further push came from Mary Layoun, Wedded to the Land? Gender, Boundaries, and Nationalism in Crisis. Durham: Duke University Press, 2001; I cite a proverb she also cited. The “bone of content” is a phrase I actually found on a museum placard. This poem also draws on a few comments made about a work by the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs. In 2004, Alÿs walked along the armistice border in Jerusalem, also known as “the green line.” Alÿs used green paint to mark his démarche. See Sometimes Doing Something Poetic Can Become Political And Sometimes Doing Something Political Can Become Poetic: The Green Line, Jerusalem 2004-2005 (New York: David Zwirner, s.d.). Donor drafts are 17, 36, 55, 74, and 93, that is: Unnamed, Cento, Quiptych, Wanderer and Romantic Fragment Poem. I am grateful to the hospitality of Evy Varsamopoulou and others.

This material is © Rachel Blau DuPlessis
www.alligatorzine.be | © alligator 2012