I taste a liquor never brewed—
From Tankards scooped in Pearl—
Emily Dickinson (214)
“I hoped the Unfounded would pierce the ribs of a tiger and in that gesture transfigure my own landscape into the infinite”
Hilda Hilst, With My Dog Eyes (46)
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
I don’t believe that being anyone in particular excludes what one may write. Issues of authenticity can be complex, but this is a game not a statement. Or a statement, not a game. Maybe I don’t mean that. I’m ready to argue with myself. I like to find out where I don’t yet know what I believe. Amid names seems a fair ground to practice.
What is privacy now? A pseudonym to me is another resistance akin to not being on social media. You could say it is a more discrete way of doing the same thing.
Sometimes I want to be someone else.
Invisibility can be an amulet. Especially when chosen. I began to collect reasons:
Having multiple names or identities is a way to be free of whatever restrictions a person experiences within one. Elixir or antidote to distract, comfort. Even illusory. A survival technique. Like rocking or head banging. Maybe delusional, but more playful than harmful.
Psuedonyms: a way to make friends.
Escape scrutiny as a woman, a writer and a mother. Depart from male assumptions of how or what or for what purpose women should write.
Work may be received and read without preconception.
Names reconnecting with ancestors before assimilation. Time traveling to an immigrant past.
What would happen if I could write and not be myself? Why not try for impossibility?
Consider a collective “I” or avoid the “I” entirely.
Everything I write is already a fiction. Why not have a name as a fiction as well?
Use a procedural formula to create a character’s biography or name.
I know I’m not addressing accountability.
How not to be finite?
Creating another identity is security. Another person one can be in case of losing one’s mind, person, powers.
Another person who understands one completely. A partner who will never be disloyal. Who acts exactly how one wishes. In other words: pure unreal invention.
To be someone else is another chance to make different mistakes.
To be someone else may be a counterintuitive way to learn something about identity.
I could double all of my correspondences.
Am I more or less persuasive? I wonder if I might be more persuasive under another name. A less American sounding name.
If I were a recluse would I receive more invitations?
I’m being absurd, I know.
I could look however I wanted, be any age, live anywhere in the world. This is an encouragement to research.
I trust that you understand why my name is now a secret.
I would be writing. No, she would be writing. Lost and obscured after speaking with her dying father on the phone. What is dementia? If he is someone else then does it not make sense that she must be someone else in order to comprehend him? Who, in a wordless state? Do we make sounds on the phone? Yes and the light is fading. Dear father.
What can she do? Her written husband is absent. Her actual husband is in a foul mood not wanting to do the dishes. Who can she be with in words?
She writes to one of her several seers. All of their names begin with U for unfounded. No, only Uriel. Standing before me. Make them all angels. All names. Angels who are bored with nether life and seek human distractions.
Dear Uriel, I am so lost, so non-existent. Without your love. Arise momentarily again and again like waves. There is no other way. Envelop me. What have I asked of an angel?
I look up: “I want to be someone else” and find:
“A subconscious desire to have a different life. Images for ‘I want to be someone else.’ She stole my life. My pretend life. I have trouble finding people with similar stories. Me too. I want to be another person. How much is enough? My life was another person. My flaws, myself. Hit reset. I want to be his-her. Who am I really? Being anyone is better. I am not myself. It’s so hard waking up each day. Going out. Pretending. In a fixed fomented zombie-true routine. I am very sorry for bothering you. I study different cultures but sadly am still myself. I wish I were my own best friend. Pure envy.”
To justify to myself when I am in the wrong, when missing. I say I do so because I must. Not every line is as it is. We speak in lowercase.
To justify my actions I could say he was dreamy. No. I could say that he ceased to dream. But the look on his face sometimes surmised no leaping ahead. A tired gaze which says I know you. And yet I was perfectly unseen.
And what are one’s actions? The action of thought is a gamble. We are guilty. Or shall I say, I am guilty. Of thought crimes. Written excursions. In tandem. How many hands are needed?
To justify my experiments I told myself that sometimes one pair of hands was not sufficient to the task at hand. To justify my thoughts I spoke of thoughts as providence. I spoke of language as the ultimate liberator. I spoke to myself as if writing were not an action. Or I ceased to speak to myself at all.
To justify my excursions I told myself that when a bookcase breaks, books three-deep, it is time to replace poor particle-board with proper shelving. I told myself that my father lived far away. Three-thousand miles. I told myself I had teen-age children. My bedfellow told me, you have a husband. I told myself that his condition was unalterable. I told myself my father had had a good life. When he remembered who he was. I told myself that to visit every few months was most likely the best I could do.
To understand my actions I consulted the dictionary. I placed behind the photograph where everything had been alright, a new photograph in which the present picture was alright. I did not try to convince myself any longer that what I had hoped to keep intact by gazing at the first picture could be true. I knew it was a lie because in the photograph the children began to appear younger than they did in real life. I ignored my own aging as this was more convenient. Avoid mirrors. Avoid maelstroms.
What actions do I wish to investigate? Is loneliness an action? What to say of a person lonely when surrounded by friends but then desperately lonely also when alone?
These thoughts are not impressing themselves the way I wish they would and also I am a little bit too far to the left or the right. Is my desk centered in front of me? What does a person call such bouts of disorientation? However many books I write I must still convince myself that I have ever, or am able to write at all.
Why do the diminishing flocks of snow in squares on the lawn tempt me to stroke their pale backs? Such creatures flatten and dissolve. How long they will exist is a prelude to their ivy borders backed in peaked wooden fences. Every point along the edging is where skin flags.
Laynie Browne is the author of twelve collections of poetry and two novels. Her most recent collections of poems are P R A C T I C E (SplitLevel, 2005), Scorpyn Odes (Kore Press, 2015) and Lost Parkour Ps(alms) in two editions, one in English, and another in French, from Presses universitaires de Rouen et du Havré (2014). She is a 2014 Pew Fellow.