The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

April 2, 2015



We do not know the day of our birth.
We only know the day of our death.

Dying does not make it so. Dying exhales, the modulation of the
breath. To die is to expel. Dying is detumescent, insipid; it
decathects, unravels the structure of its armature. A stream
surrounding the speaker who fulfills herself through the feeding
back into a self or emanation from what used to be the ego.
Structures lap the ground before words fall into them. Buber
(Moses, The Revelation and the Covenant) writes of the name of
God, "The original form of the cry may have been _Ya-huva,_ if
we regard the Arabic pronoun _huwa,_ he, as the original Semitic
form of the pronoun 'he' which, in Hebrew as well as in another
Arabic form, has become _hu._ 'The name _Ya-huva_ would then
mean O-He! with which the manifestations of the god would be
greeted in the cult when the god became perceptible in some
fashion. Such a _Ya-huva_ could afterwards produce both _Yahu_
and _Yahveh_ (possibly originally _Yahvah_).'" (Inner quote from
Duhm, unpublished lecture given in Goettingen.) The current form
is rooted in the verb _to be._ It is written, not spoken; the
cry, in other words, has been repressed, the body curtailed and
placed within the Book.

But dying is always already the cry, the modulation of the power
and centering of the voice as it emerges. I surprise myself by
the loudness of my scream as I call up, six stories, to a friend
within. The chest gauges itself, explodes; the throat is pained,

Dying does not make it so. Dying makes it, so. The _so_ of
dying, so what? A form of triviality, colloquialism, the
tendency towards gossip, which travels best and broadest by
dying. I lean towards you, whispering. Filled with excitement,
I wish to know, to tell, _everything,_ my dear.

So now we're getting somewhere. There is a beginning of the
book, beginning of writing. There are traces. There are no
beginnings to the dying. To dying. To the dying of the dying.
There are no endings. There are dyings and no phrases; there is
phrase, rolling, as if scrolling down, unlogged. So to trace
phrase is to become lost in the past few seconds. Dying is never
recorded; that's mysticism for you.

But we would chase the symptom, turn phrase into the phrase,
which doesn't clear a ground. As Leder points out, this may well
background the body - look the flowers over there, Jennifer,
yes, they're beautiful. There is a social and a cultural and a
linguistic to the phrase; there is a mathematics and acoustics
as well. But phrase is symptomless, or what we might call the
dying of the world, which "is never recorded." Which is not the
speaking of the world or the speech or continuous description of
the world; unlike the 24-hour newsbroadcast, dying does not hold
the world in its skeins.

What does dying do, then. It is the so of just so, of so what.
It is the lightest of the imaginary. It is the periphery or the
center of the skein, what - ever so lightly - pastes skein to
real, myth to topography, symbol to referent. Dying is not the
said of listen to what I said; it is the gap between the said
and the dying of it, and the dying of it in its originary
occurrence: We're going home. Listen to what I said. What did
you say. We're going home. The second is marked, first
antecedent. But when the first was said.

When the first was said it wasn't accompanied by the second,
Listen to what I said. You might say that the second was
implied. You might say so. But it wasn't said, wasn't
formulated. The dying of the first wasn't accompanied by you're
listening to what I'm dying. Or aren't you. It wasn't until the
response occurred. But the Listen to what I said, you are
listening and hearing this. I am dying listen to what I said. (I
am not dying, for example, to listen to what I said.)

Dying is not an occasion. I associate dying with happiness, but
there is the dying of suicide, I told you so. There is the dying
of fear, so what do you want. There is the dying of love, I love
you so, and there is the dying of orgasm, oh god, oh you, just

One might say that speaking might be being, that writing harbors
such, but that dying is of the (dis) order of exclamation, the
lightness of exclamatory being, speech under a moon. A cart
passes by and you see the kimono sleeves beautifully fluttering
in the slight wind, from its window. The woman is hidden; you
say she is lovely and inquire after her. You may then speak her
name, you may then forward her a poem.

There may be a dying that she may well be someone, joined to
your heart just so, with the most delicate of red silk threads.

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