Blackberries, and giving a name to the ache.
Adapted from: a life's worth of brain excavation.
My brain is a marvel: I can’t count on it to retain the plot of any movie or book I read, but lines from poems I loved as a teen will bobble to the surface from its depths with zero notice, entirely preserved. Yesterday, as I watched Toronto zoom by through the foggy windows of a cab—which is to say, the conditions were perfect—one announced itself like a cold marble on the tip of my tongue. “Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances.”
I had to Google it to confirm: it’s a line from Meditations at Lagunitas by Robert Hass, which I once wrote out by hand so as to always have it in my journal. Teenagers have always been doing the most.
It felt like the answer to a question I didn’t know I was asking. A cork for the void; a diagnosis that gives a name to a pervasive pain. Desire has been on my mind, in its many iterations: Hunger, want, longing. Appetite, perhaps most of all.
Could a word sum up an entire life? Maybe. Appetite would be it, for me. Inherent in it is a sense of expansion. A gap-filling. A travelling towards. The bridging of endless distances.
As it relates to food, it relates to everything. The distance between myself and the culture that I am from, mirrored in the chasm between my parents and I; between the edge of my experience, and those of the places and histories that I have yet to know; between the familiar and the foreign, the past and the future; between the self that I’ve been, and the self that I am returning to. Everything I crave is a reduction of that distance.
I am governed by a spiritual hunger that has manifested in a myriad of ways, from the physical act of eating (always insatiable, which I now know is a metaphor) and a lifelong melancholy to this pervasive manic desire to try everything once. I want to clear the plate that this existence has offered me and leave nothing behind. When I was a toddler and still lacking the context for most nouns, eating was my go-to response. “We bought you pencils,” my grandparents would say, to which I’d quickly reply, “Can I eat them?”
This instinct is with me still, which I’ve been misdiagnosing this whole time as some sort of character flaw. It’s been revelatory to see the lack that’s inhabited this flesh prison, finally, as what it is: appetite. A love of life expressed as a hunger for living, to which I have been feeding all the wrong things. Because poetry, sensory discovery, community, communion—these are the things that sate me, that bring me closer, that tighten the gap. Everything else has been a temporary distraction from the pangs.
It feels like time to try something new. The appetite is growing. The fruit is ripe.
Kismet: I saw this image this morning and was verklempt.
There are moments when the body is as numinous
as words, days that are the good flesh continuing.
Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings,
saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.
With love and some clarity,