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In What Began Us, Melissa Buzzeo writes the space of absence, the space of the irretrievable love, thing, memory that marks its presence by its elusive nature. As if she is carving a body out of time, as if a body can be birthed by the space it leaves behind, Buzzeo uses language like small tools that carve up this flesh, or monument to a past no longer retrievable, “The flock that opens up in remembrance, roaming a tile, roaming a shape.” The continuous anaphora of “re”: “To start as remembrance. To start as resurgence / Resembling body, resembling distance/ To reconceive/ To reletter,” which flows in and out of the delicate and austere line structure serves as a literal carrying back of the reader to a place that exists in feeling if it can no longer exist in sight.


The “re” is the clicking of the shutter of the mind’s eye, seeking to capture a psychic space that rests between sense and recognition, “as the ending of nerve becomes the place graspable.” In a recent reading of her book at Naropa University, Buzzeo described trauma as, “a constant attempt to reapproach something,” or as a response instead of an event. In What Began Us, trauma is not a site or source, but a language to be whispered, a “mutual cryptonomy” between writer and reader. The text is a shared space for the exchange of a secret “That became paper in your hands. That evaporated in your hands but not in story not in exit.” It is not the materiality of the document that matters, but what the reader takes away from reading. For Buzzeo, this is where the story really begins, “after consumption and beyond the boundary of the book.”


The physicality of opening and closing a cover, and turning the pages of the book is like touching another skin, as if the reader is opening the flesh of the writer, held by the writer’s body. “As every parcel, as every stretch of lungs. That which allows for the other room, for the space filling the area between flesh and spine between cohabitation and met.” The gaze of the reader at the words on the page is a gaze into the curves, creases and ridges of the writer’s form, for which Buzzeo creates a double meaning.

“Words pushing past you. And there are assonances and curves like sounds I remember the push of the letter the transference that met and seconded this mouth pressed so firmly into that.” The eruption and dissolution of boundaries between bodies reflects the eruption and dissolution of memory, where one body presses on another or where one thought presses on other thoughts. These continuous and uncontrollable experiences reshape our perception of the present, instigating a disruption of our own subjectivity. “In lack the interruption the indeterminancy of a space in question”—it is in the absence of the subject that limitation is formed, and this limitation enables us to move on, to continue: “You are structured to leave and never to stay. /In order to substantiate the not-yet-made."

M. Perel



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