Fall 2021 | Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Naïr Read An Excerpt From "A Different Distance" – MQR Sound
Poets Marilyn Hacker and Karthika Naïr read excerpts from their correspondence sequence, "A Different Distance."
My heart sinks as night falls, minutes later daily. Soon, March, spring again, but “curfew,” “confinement,” still menace. “All this for a few old farts who’d die soon anyway . . .” comments in Le Monde. I remember the AIDS epidemic, shunned gay sons. I’d rather be shunned for flamboyant life than “for my own good,” I think eating a salad alone at nine o’clock for the three hundredth COVID time —MH, 15 February 2021
The COVID Age: that may be the Anthropocene’s gift to the planet. My thoughts are dark, sometimes dour, these vaccine-less days and nights, especially nights, already overrun by triffids, viciously potent, tsars of vast terrains of my body: mucous, skin, breath; now venturing to occupy the lands I’ve tried hard to defend all these years. That space where word meets page, that grand blank expanse. —KN, 2 March 2021
Expanse, constriction . . . Marwan Barghouti has been in jail for how long? The Gazaoui student, at Harvard on a fellowship, goes out, gets coffee, walks to the library, thinks – but I don’t know what he thinks, only that he’s there. And I’m here, a constriction round my temples, not an occupying army, only my weakness, my body’s vain protest at its prolonged isolation. —MH, 7 March 2021
It’s been a prolonged cosmic spoof, the quest to get vaccinated: I’m new kin to Don Quixote, one whose windmills keep shifting. Hospitals, barely equipped to protect their own, can’t inject chronic patients, despite trifectas of RDEB, cancer and chemo, if we’re ambulatory. Vaccine centres asked I turn seventy-five. Today, I savour post-vaccine fatigue. —KN, 16 March 2021
“Fatigue, regrets . . .” a quote from Adrienne Rich in a notebook margin. Once, twice a week, evening conviviality, banned now. One friend in the Lot, one in the Vaucluse, with a spouse/friend, watch seasons change, take up gardening, hike, ride bikes, study Italian – Voltaire’s dream? COVID shuts the city down again, possibilities contingent on – but who knows? Not budding trees, locked cafés. —MH, 19 March 2021
Budding hope gets locked once more. Caseloads skyrocket; caregivers, frontline workers fight, feet on quagmire, less equipped a year later, not more, despite all the tedious talk of war and wartime effort. Talk comes cheap to our government, talk that’s a perfect smokescreen for failure, torpor, electoral ambition. Islamo-gauchisme gains screen-time: great game- plan for twenty-twenty-two! —KN, 29 March 2021
Two hours before dawn, I give up on sleep, turn on the bedside lamp, pick up the book I put down at midnight, attempt escape to Algiers, another decade, history, someone’s struggle who’s not me getting old in a quagmire city, “Unfortunately it was paradise. . . .” Solitary confinement now. Food shopping the only vestige of human exchange, though daylight lingers. —MH, 29 March 2021
What lingers, through day, month and year, will be kindness – kindness that kept me sane and safe, yes, even with the same unsought trifecta snapping at my heels, noisy and unfunny, save during our chats, d. Scaffolding to laugh (and weep) at this, the théâtre de l’absurde of our own grandly defective bodies. In this almanac of blessings, laughter became you, d, and somehow, spring tide. —KN, 31 March 2021
To read the authors’ correspondence alongside these poems, you can purchase the Why We Write issue of MQR here.