Intersection – Anne Carson

Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Wonderwater (Alice Offshore). The “Hö” mentioned in the second paragraph is Friedrich Hölderlin, and the italicized lines of that paragraph are his, translated into English from German. 


There is a moment you are swimming in the pool, stroking forward strongly and down across the fingers of your right hand as you press it through the water, comes a hair. You feel this hair as a jolt of what should not happen. Just a single hair, so slight a sensation you could think you imagined it except, pushed against your fingers by the pressure of the water as you continue to thrust, it clings an instant, it will not go its way, you may have to shake your fingers sideways in the water spoiling your stroke and then it slides off, this hair that has no business there, someone else’s hair, this little nightmare of a hair whose touch has suddenly startled you out of the sleep of self-containment that swimming induces into the fact of dirt. Other people’s dirt. Other people. Your own dirt, you. Not this pure noncontingent forward motion unmarred by agent or accountability but you, a person, a person known all too well, a person in a swamp of others and others’ dirt, hair, skin, fluids, anger, who knows. You in all this. You utterly violable. Of course everyone is aware swimming pools are full of dirt but there is no reason to think of this now. The thought in fact is canceled by swimming by its sound aspect – both deaf and cavernous – that separates you from normal perception; by its blue aspect, an immaterial blue that reminds you vaguely of laundry ads or other planets; by its water aspect, which cannot help but evoke the whole history of purification and lustral joy not to say ritual rightness; and above all by its heroic, streaming, organized, forward motion. What could dirt have to do wit this motion?

Geometers use a word, anexact – not inexact (that would be reversible) – anexact, an impure version of itself purely represented. Often enough I tried language. When the equilibrium of a self-regulating system is reminded of the slow death in which it is suspended, the motor may falter. Love and Strife snag one another on a moment of coming undone. Have pity on this moment. Often enough I tried language but they didn’t hear you. A thing cut in half, restless, much too young. I saw Hö as someone moving along a line. He moved past the harbour, like a clear stain. He moved sharper and sharper, as if on a whetstone. Met something coming the other way.

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1 Response to Intersection – Anne Carson

  1. St. Germain says:

    Anne Carson is absolutely unafraid and she gets to places no other poet I’ve read gets to. I’m reading Red doc. It was the subject of a disgruntled critic’s review in the NY Review. Seems like her absolute insistence on being herself was her biggest sin.

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