Ruth Barker

O, O, O.

2010

 

 

 

 

A friend stands very still with her right arm extended from the elbow to the wrist. Her palm is flat and open. The back of her hand faces the floor. She says something about Lightness. She says

“Something, about Lightness.”

But the city is frozen and the air is thin, and frosty, and tastes like blood.

 

 

I stand on the ground and I say “Think of Odysseus as an emblem of Lightness.”

I stand on the ground and I say “I think of Odysseus as an emblem of Lightness.”

I stand on the ground and I say “I think of Odysseus. O. O. O.”

 

 

Odysseus is light because he is not firmly attached to his own skin. He slips in and out of himself, and in and out of truth. Odysseus is an image of transparency. He is one image laid over another, where both are visible at points, and neither is what it used to be.

 

Odysseus is a father, and he is a son, and he is a husband.

Odysseus is a hero, and he is a journey, and he is a failure.

Odysseus is a servant, and he is a gift, and he is a king.

 

Odysseus is his own figure, and he is also the stories that contain him.

Odysseus is his own figure, and he is also the stories that do not contain him, but which he has fathered.

Odysseus is liar and truth maker and storyteller/storytold.

 

Odysseus is storyteller and storytold and so he is Light, and able to wrap his skin around him a hundred thousand ways in a hundred thousand words; to weave it as a skein and wear it well. Lift the hem of his covering and you may see anatomy unveiled. Because stories are the clotted muscles of his language, which bunch as they do around their ancient bones of archetype and structure. These fossils give all stories shape. They give Odysseus his shapely legs, and let him walk and talk and lie. These fossils let him raise his candle in the darkness, shedding light on the Stygian gloom of the unarticulated, the untold tale; the inky wastes of the wordless and unimagined.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once I raised my right hand and, with a pencil, wrote:

 

Death/mortality is related to language/thinking.

Fear of death reflects a fear of absence (because death is anonymous).

Fear of death reflects a fear of the loss of specificity (because death is a common condition).

Thinking and language are ways of defining self as well as others and the world.

Thinking and language are ways of articulating self as well as others and the world.

Thinking and language are live.

Definition, action, specificity are components of the Live.

Obliteration, loss, and the un-nameable are referents of Death.

Language/thinking opposes death/mortality.

 

I was trying to figure something out. It seemed so clear, at the time. Now I’m not so sure. Today, I might write (in pencil, or in ink):

 

Silence/darkness opposes speaking/lightness.

Fear of death reflects a fear of darkness (because death is undefined).

Fear of death reflects a fear of the loss of specificity (because in death we cannot speak or describe).

Speaking and telling are ways of illuminating self as well as others and the world.

Storytelling is a way of illuminating self as well as others and the world.

Storytelling is a way of making light/illumination.

Speaking, recounting, and naming are moments of illumination.

Obliteration, darkness, and the un-sayable are referents of Death.

Storytelling/illumination opposes silence/death.

 

 

Odysseus stands in the sunshine, throwing the shadow of his shapely legs onto the sand. He pokes his tool into the words, and he shuffles them. “There never was a story,” he shrugs, “which couldn’t be mixed up a little.”

 

 

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O,

And I said O, O, O, Odysseus.