I’ve been ignoring all calls since you began ignoring mine.

But “Voices” sang to me in the cacophony of critics that spend their day, my day, in my mind commenting on every thought or action I associate with my I. You, I associate with my id. (“’What id like to do to you’ would have been a better line,” one says, as another says “You’d never pull it off” and still another, “They’d assume ‘id’ is a typo.”) Perhaps the emergence of your smile draws out my words, but that information whispers too softly for me to hear over the cacophony.

It’s taken me years to realize that most people don’t carry a village in consciousness; whatever influences lie beneath their surfaces, they’re submerged too deep for experience. Every word multiplies within me, sometimes to parody (parity, party, Herod, heron, hear on…), sometimes to the point of insanity (“Don’t use that word,” “There’s no other word,” “They’ll be offended,” “They’ll understand.”). Fear of insanity almost pushed me over, when I worried I was splitting, before I embraced the richness of polyphony (“Polygraph, to prove it’s not a writing ploy, to prove you’re not a phony”).

“There are four types among students: a sponge, a funnel, a strainer and a sieve…” and yet I’m all four, absorbing literary influences, retaining nothing of names, straining under pressure, sifting endlessly through moments running away from me.

Jewish sources rabbinic and biblical blend incompatible voices into simmering sort-of solitary sources of meaning seemingly deriving from the same source, “The words of the wise are like goads, and like well-fastened nails with large heads, given from one shepherd.” (“‘Large heads,’ really?” “Have you seen his hat size?” “It’s not a claim about only one of his head” “How did you make it past the word ‘wise’ without laughing?” “He never reads a sentence from the start to the end!”)

🎶 How can you just leave me standing?🎶 You unified me, you united, then you u-, yo yo, back and forth, back and forth, then you split and left me with an empty forest, haunted, a forest I didn’t even know existed until you gave it to me, a forest of loss, of lost and found, and lost, a German forest, Jewish/fascist/compounded, a ya’ar (year, yearn), filled with shkeidiyot, I an idiot, un idiota, the Romans destroyed everything of mine, but we still follow their paths, drank deeply from their cisterns, your words, their words, burn, but also flow within. Near death, revealed death, death sought and fought and now lived.

What was the first interaction, attraction, distraction? Unfold the talmudic narrative, not the law, but the play. The saddest story, in French, but Dutch, of one “alone in a world that’s so cold (so cold)” from an almost Italian island, no match, but matches burning out… books burning, the letters to heaven, the stories to my heart. How quickly we grow into the shape available to us. Wax melts, molds, coats. Ink absorbs, marks, indelible. Sounds fade, in German, Hebrew, English, in all the Latin derivatives… oral cultures (“lip to ear, lip to lip, the truth must out, the truth’s a trip”) but their impressions resonate in mental space internal (“eternal, infernal, inferred…”).

“What is man that You are mindful of him?” “What am I that you…?” I told you I knew nothing, and not in a cool, fatal, Socratic sense, and certainly not as a deep negation (“So deep, you need a … Hei digger” “ STOP!”), just simple ignorance, especially in the face (“‘Face’?” “Levinas, loving us,” (though you weren’t a fan, although even less of, dare I say, “Derrida.”) of all you knew, read, integrated, assimilated, reworked, wrote… In your denying my ‘nothing,’ I briefly flourished , flushed with encouragement, but your lips are like scarlet, saying goodbye, and mine are like lilies, dying absent sustenance, whither are you, whereas I decay, “as a blade withers and blows away” and, though they made you smile, you don’t like flowers anyway.


Thank you to @magistrabeck for teaching me that the plural of auto is autoi


Dov (@Drnelk) is a teacher in NYC whose courses bring multiple voices to and out of polysemic texts. He shares with the protagonist of this piece the mixed blessing of internal choral accompaniment. 

Banner image by James Knight.