M x T
Coach House Books
ISBN-10: 1552452905 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-1552452905 (E-Book)
If anyone can write a Cindy Sherman still, Sina Queyras can (Teethmarks). If anyone can write water, Sina can. If anyone can invoke Peter Frampton in one room and Virginia Woolf on the opposite page, Sina can (Lemon Hound). Childhood in her hand becomes the bird that knows how to fly away, and the bird that knows how to circle, and the bird who knows where to land. And when (Autobiography of Childhood).
When, because time is what we most need when figuring our way through emotion. And in Sina Queyras’ latest 91-page masterpiece, M x T, the calculations and diagrammatic sorting—of breath and feeling and the Milky Way—are like small prayers for knowing, and small understandings of not-knowings.
Her poetics is an unpinning of memory + time, and that is a long and beautiful and seemingly simple problem. But when X factors in, to multiply, to give answer to that which can then always be divided, the nature of whole numbers falls apart, and we have fractions of things, of life, we have the separatrix which gives us our fragments, but keeps them close, at our heels:
“… come lichen, come moss, come caper, come cougar with your soft portals, come doe with your thin springs, come childhoods with your fist of leashes, come, my modernist loves, and latch a past in a Jello-o mould, float my heart in a rose bowl, my sincerity in a flan, I would be ornamental for you, I would spread, I would, like the hook of barbed wire, my other half useless without the knot, and coil my lamp for you.” (45)
They are beckoned; they follow. The peregrine parts follow the host, magnetized to us like memories to objects, to songs, to smell. And the water of which we are made finds a way to escape, in a victory over what we are “made of,” to become us: “The body is fluid: I am leaking. / I know longer care who sees me leak.”
This small book leaks grief in the most musical way: “The past is knowable, or so she likes to think, but no, no, she knows it isn’t so, the path with its spiral of revelations. She elbows, she knees locked, tongue parted, spit, not letting anything inside or out, she a sack of sadness, a lost limb in search of a body” (58). And then later, when life has leaked out to empty, to ground, to zero, she shapes memories in the form of the dead: “My loved ones like a dandelion to the wind. I have everything to live for and nowhere to be…The dead know this. They are constantly tying a thread around your ankle. They attach bells to your hair.” (58)
I am not writing a very helpful review. I am not critiquing or unpacking or spelling out new words to say things about Sina’s book, M x T. What I can say is I want to give you something akin to what Sina evokes. Not long, but winded in a way on which we are carried, carried along. I want to be half the horologist Sina is when she uses the words “tapioca air indolent” together, and they make a new mo(ve)ment. I want to write things into amber, as she does. Into Jell-O. Into flan. Something once fluid which finds solidity, which holds things firmly, but in its fixed-ness shows us how beautiful catch and release can be.
If the temporal headache we call memory—where one can not release yesterday into the wild of today, but keeps an eye on the past pacing in its cage, feeding and yearning escape/home—if this needs a new place to pain, then the topography of you and me must read this new formulation—imagine a frenzied writing with chalk on the board, erasures around the edges, getting it just so—a letter, from Sina to Time:
“ … I am still there, supple and driftwood, you lovely, you love me, your memory dark and west, thought like tugboats stitching the horizon, you pulling me, my pudding, my thin crustacean, my biscuit, sideways in the late afternoon, your gaze, having so soon forgotten the sharpness of norming, the bite of your look serating the hour: my treasures, all of them, for the pleasure of that slice once more, of our dangling, you and me, the lot of us in some car, driving some hour, mapless.” (47)
Mullin resides in Des Moines, Iowa, with her husband, Bill, and her dog, Beatrice (no, not named after Dante’s Beatrice, but the divine French actress Dalle). Mullin is currently a media and communications doctoral candidate at European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland.