small. afraid. but full of life all the same

been moping about yesterday for a good long time, first feeling a little sorry and angry for myself and kinda regretting throwing myself into this process. but enough! tomorrow i’ll try again: if I fail I fail, but I’ll prove that I can come into something afraid and nevertheless be receptive to everything i learn from it; listen to harsh criticism and accept it in the spirit that it is meant; try my best and not hold back anything even if I think it won’t be enough. if I break in the process, then let me break hard enough that I can start from nothing again.

                                        I beg them.
Teach me mortality, frighten me
into the present. Help me to find
the heft of these days. That the nights
will be full enough and my heart feral.

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what I see in myself as I sit here alone

well, I’m halfway through my first week of ILP!!!!1 already I’m reflective; I’ve also started to wince at the sound of the word ‘transboundary’. you gain some, you lose some.

1) when I concluded my speech last night the first thing El asked me was ‘did you enjoy being up there?’ I knew it would be the first thing she’d spot about me once she asked Jean, three lines into her speech,  to open her shoulders and not be embarrassed about who she was. I don’t know how to spot these things in other people, but I’m not so lacking in awareness that I don’t know that I broadcast hesitancy and lack of confidence in waves.

I just realised how embarrassingly apologetic I am all the time. El told us to talk a bit about what we wanted to work on or that we’d like her to watch out for before we started our speeches and all my flaws just flooded into my mind- my speed, my stammering, my tendency to ramble, my constant use of fillers, the way I smile when I think I’ve screwed up. but maybe that’s not a good example of what I mean, since those are legitimately things for me to work on. But- what I mean is. ILP is assignment after assignment, deadline after deadline, one day after another. why do i proffer all my work ready to fall to my knees? the tutors must know it’ll be flawed; that the research is incomplete and the language unpolished. so why is my first instinct to reveal all even before they call me on it? to try and lower their expectations? to elicit pity? but why should they appreciate work that I can’t even pretend to be confident of?

2) her ultimate advice for me was not to put on a ‘mooting role’ and just to be natural. I don’t entirely know what that means. I guess I’ve always treated public speaking as inherently different from talking in just about any other context: I conceive it that way. I need to prepare for a speech. I need to know the structure of what I’m saying, to have practiced the cadences prior. My voice sounds different. I don’t know if she said it as a kind of shorthand for like- relax, don’t be so stilted, moderate your speed- or if she meant something more transformative. something like, public speaking is just another form of communication. you don’t need to script what you’re saying beforehand. you can let the words come off the cuff, and trust in yourself that you got this and that you can explain what you think without something disastrous happening.

3) so I was listening to Mallory talk about transactional relationships today and I guess I’ve always been guilty about that with you. but I think that maybe that’s what inevitably happens when you feel like you’re getting less than what you’re giving in a relationship- you start making totals, thinking twice before giving what you would otherwise give freely. here’s the problem, right- everything that ever happens between us? happens on your terms. It’s not like I didn’t know that, honestly. you said as much yourself. so really, who’s the dumb one here? every single conclusion i’ve ever come to about our relationship has been ‘end it’. but still here we are.

anyway, in some strange metaphor for helplessness, i can’t move my arms without trembling after tonight’s yoga class. i need so much more strengthening, everywhere.

bring in the gods

by Jack Gilbert

Bring in the gods, I say, and he goes out. When he comes
back and I know they are with him, I say, Put tables in front
of them so they may be seated, and food upon the tables
so they may eat. When they have eaten, I ask which of them
will question me. Let him hold up his hand, I say.
The one on the left raises his hand. I tell him to ask.
Where are you now, he says. I stand on top of myself, I hear
myself answer. I stand on myself like a hilltop and my life
is spread before me. Does it surprise you, he asks. I explain
that in our youth and for a long time after our youth we cannot
see our lives. Because we are inside of that. Because we can
see no shape to it, since we have nothing to compare it to.
We have not seen it grow and change because we are too close.
We don’t know the names of things that would bind them to us,
so we cannot feed on them. One near the middle asks why not.
Because we don’t have the knack for eating what we are living.
Why is that? she asks. Because we are too much in a hurry.
Where are you now? the one one left says. With the ghosts.
I am with Gianna those two years in Perugia. Meeting secretly
in the thirteenth-century alleys of stone. Walking in the fields
through the spring light, she well dressed and walking in heels
over the plowed land. We are just outside the city walls
hidden under the thorny blackberry bushes and her breasts naked.
I am with her those many twilights in the olive orchards,
holding the heart of her as she whimpers. Now where are you?
he says. I am with Linda those years and years. In American
cities, in Copenhagen, on Greek islands season after season.
Lindos and Monolithos and the other places. I am with Michiko
for eleven years, East and West, holding her clear in my mind
the way a native can hold all of his village at one moment.
Where are you now? he says. I am standing on myself the way
a bird sits in her nest, with the babies half asleep underneath
and the world all leaves and morning air. What do you want?
a blonde one asks. To keep what I already have, I say. You ask
too much, he says sternly. Then you are at peace, she says.
I am not at peace, I tell her. I want to fail. I am hungry
for what I am becoming. What will you do? she asks. I will
continue north, carrying the past in my arms, flying into winter.

the hereafter

you know what this makes me think of? in introduction to transnational law, when we were discussing why states sign international treaties if they do not regard it as binding and are merely putting down in lip service what they think would be in their best interests to do anyway- I think Michael, to push back, said that governments do regard treaties as binding and to that end use it as a tactic to precommit their successors for fear that they’ll try to backtrack on what was previously done and promised.

question is: do other people have to negotiate with themselves as if they are rogue states?