[Writing when writing is impossible

por Jen Hofer
the given

I think it is necessary to risk an inability to speak if I am to find whether anything can still be said…However oblique the angle, the poems’ line passes through the space of a beloved. Why write if this is not so? The possibility that the beloved will not answer, is dead or absent, is interior to this address. It is the possibility that the poem takes place where space has vanished. The lyric is the recognition that one might not speak at all. Still, I am in love and in the world. Neither is given in advance where what advances is the war. (Taylor Brady)

the disaster

without language
to speak. Silence
as distinct from
every manifestation appearing.

Not to write —
and it is never sure;
One must just write,
Not writing is
a means of expression
in order not to write — in order that, writing, I not write,

concession — despair,
the favor the disaster
sovereignty, utterly

To fail
To want


a relation of submersion

out of failure,

anguish anguish,

May words cease to be arms; means of action, means of salvation.
A gunman with an assault-style rifle opened fire on a group of people standing on the sidewalk in front of a South Los Angeles home Friday afternoon, killing three, including a 7- or 8-year old boy, a 17-year-old boy, and a 21-year-old man. (Los Angeles Times) While in U.S. military custody,( Sadiq Zoman) was beaten, tortured with electric shock, whipped, one of his hands was broken, his head was bludgeoned, and he was dropped off comatose to the General Hospital in Tikrit a month later. (Dahr Jamail) (FBI) agents (at Guantánamo Prison) saw female interrogators forcibly squeeze male prisoners' genitals, and witnessed detainees stripped and shackled low to the floor for many hours. (Marjorie Cohn) After the attack on Djawara, some girls from our village went to gather firewood in the wadi and came across some Janjawid. One of them managed to escape to warn us. When we…arrived in the wadi, the Janjawid shot at us. The four girls were raped. Here girls have a duty to get married - there are hardly any single people - but none would marry these girls now that this has happened. The four girls are 13, 10, 12 and 9 respectively. (Amnesty International testimonies) Those arrested for political reasons are frequently tortured to extract confessions of membership in the (Free Aceh Movement). One 22-year-old man was reportedly beaten, burned, trampled on by 30 men, forced to strip and perform oral sex on another detainee and made to run barefoot on hot tarmac until his feet were burned. Another shop owner interviewed by Amnesty International in May 2004 still had dozens of cigarette burns on his arms three months after his arrest and torture. He claimed to have been accused of being a (Movement) intelligence officer after refusing to pay policemen "cigarette money". (Amnesty International) According to witnesses, the Ghalya family went to the beach (in Gaza) on June 9 for a family outing. After shells fell nearby, the father...gathered his family together and called for a car. An explosion then occurred in the middle of the family group. “Their legs I could see inside. Their intestines I could see spilling out,” said Mohammed Sawarka, 28, who rushed to the scene to help. “A 1-month-old child was dead inside its carriage.” He also found a hand in the sand. (Human Rights Watch) A young Palestinian blew himself up in a crowded Haifa city bus, killing fifteen and wounding three dozen. Washington Post reporter Lee Hockstader described the scene…In an instant, the bus became an inferno of death and blood. Corpses and fragments of bodies were strewn across the seats and aisles, and the wounded staggered out the doors and tumbled from the shattered windows. The bomb tore apart students and retirees, Filipino workers and Russian immigrants, soldiers and civilians-a random sampling of this working-class city's diverse population…Palestinian officials…point to the provocative impact of incidents such as an alleged Israeli booby-trap bomb that killed five young boys in Khan Yunis on November 22, 2001. "Everyone should realize that atrocities lead to atrocities," said Nabil Sha'ath, the Palestinian Authority minister of planning and international cooperation. (Human Rights Watch)

I live by tangible experience and not by logical explanation. I have of the divine an experience so mad that one will laugh at me if I speak of it. I enter into a dead end. There all possibilities are exhausted; the “possible” slips away and the impossible prevails. To face the impossible – exorbitant, indubitable – when nothing is possible any longer is in my eyes to have an experience of the divine; it is analogous to a torment.” (George Bataille)

the disaster

condition is no condition:
which no destruction touches,
as it is bereft

of beginning over again,
It is the irreducible — the incompatible,

which even affliction does not divulge,

— on account of our being indestructible
and infinitely destroyed.

If one wishes
— why? but why not? —
the wounded
the already dead body
the body animated
desire of dying — desire that dies

exposure to the outside,
within bounds,
deprived of humanity,

there is the answer to the question,
that makes the question
the question, makes

the interrogative
without any inquiry, which

is precisely the absence
Brooke Nicole McKinney, a freshman at Valley View High School, was fatally shot late Saturday while attending a middle-school graduation party on the Moreno Valley’s south side. As she lay in the driveway of a home near the party, at least four neighbors…said they saw several young people photographing Brooke’s body with their cell phones. And while police did cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the girl, a bystander kicked and beat one of them. (Press-Enterprise, Inland Southern California). In Haditha an explosive charge went off under a US Marine vehicle in the Al-Subhani area, destroying it completely. (Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas was killed.) Half an hour later…US aircraft bombarded four houses near the scene of the incident, causing the immediate death of five Iraqis. Afterward, the US troops stormed three adjacent houses where three families were living near the scene of the explosion…The US troops, along with the Iraqi Army, executed 21 persons; that is, three families, including nine children… seven women, and three elderly people. (Walid Khalid) The photographs show what appear to be Indonesian soldiers hanging prisoners by chains, shoving steel poles down their throats, forcing them to eat dirt, applying electric shocks to their genitalia, and burying bodies in unmarked graves at night. Among the military and militias' other favored methods of torture: pulling out finger and toenails, crushing people's fingers and toes under chair legs, dunking them under water, or temporarily suffocating them by putting bags over their heads. (Lindsay Sobel) Police…found a human head in a plastic bag outside the main entrance to City Hall (in Acapulco), a day after authorities found a decapitated body…Authorities were investigating whether the head was from the decapitated body found Wednesday, which had the letter Z carved into its chest. The feet and hands were bound, and the body appeared to have been dragged by a car down one of the city’s main avenues. (Los Angeles Times) (In the Democratic Republic of Congo,) torture methods comprise beatings, burning victims' bodies with hot irons, regular use of leg irons and of a disused refrigerated room. Some detainees were held in underground pits. (Amnesty International) The report reviewed the cases of ten children held in Gush Etzion (Police Station) between October 2000 and January 2001, and noted that interrogation methods commonly included severe beatings, dousing in cold water, putting the detainee’s head in a toilet bowl, threats and curses. (The Palestine Monitor) During his imprisonment at the…(Bagram Air Base, HUSSAIN YOUSSOUF) Mustafa estimated that he was interrogated about 25 times. Sometimes…the soldiers forced him to kneel on a concrete floor with a bag over his head. Other times they woke him from sleep or interrupted him in prayer…One day, he recalled, “an American soldier took me blindfolded. My hands were tightly cuffed, with my ears plugged so I could not hear properly, and my mouth covered so I could only make a muffled scream. Two soldiers, one on each side, forced me to bend down, and a third pressed my face down over a table. A fourth soldier then pulled down my trousers. They rammed a stick up my rectum.” (Emily Bazelon)

“But it’s our country. We’re at home here.”
“And since when does being at home put you above morality?”
“What morality? I only recognize the power of the State, even when that’s based on nothing but violence. It’s violence that accelerates the progress of a people.”
“Morality is violence. An invisible violence at first. Love is a supreme violence, hidden deep in the darkness of our atoms. When a stream flows into a river, it’s love and it’s violence. When a cloud loses itself in the sky, it’s a marriage. When the roots of a tree split open a rock it’s the movement of life. When the sea rises and falls back only to rise again it’s the process of History. When a man and a woman find each other in the silence of the night, it’s the beginning of the end of the tribe’s power, and death itself becomes a challenge to the ascendancy of the group.” (Etel Adnan, Sitt Marie Rose)

the disaster

the collapse of a little heap of sand.

“ is being killed.”
to kill
and always to kill

There is death
and murder

dealer of death.
this death and this murder.

without relation to anyone at all. dead is
dying, a murderous death —

death and murder,
a relation of singularity

is being killed.”
the deed cannot be done once and for all,

it operates
which destroys
or gift,
of Speaking — Speaking
the sheer saying — whereby this effacement,
effacing itself perpetuates itself

“ is being killed.” dead

murder — Late Tuesday evening a shooting claimed the life of a teenage boy…in the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles. A 14-year-old male Hispanic was walking with his sister and friends…An unknown man approached them and asked “where you from?,” at the same time shooting the victim multiple times, striking his upper body. (Los Angeles Police Department) “One morning (in Hebron), a Palestinian boy was leaving to go to school and was surrounded by five adult male settlers, one of which put a battery operated power drill to his chest (a witness) said. “This is a tactic they’ve been using against the children in the neighborhood. The boy survived and was not hospitalized, but the psychological impact of the act…breeds fear in the neighborhood’s dwindling Palestinian population. Another story detailed the abuse of a small child. “A female Israeli settler used a rock to pry open a young Palestinian boy’s mouth. She used the rock to grind down the child’s molars, (the witness) said. The speakers named what they called the settlers’ other staple methods of abuse. They allegedly included stoning, arson, beatings, destruction of property and violence inflicted by even young Israeli children. (Katherine Cox) Three civilians were killed Friday when a bomb exploded in a minibus in Kirkuk, and an Iraqi soldier died in another bombing in the west of the city, police officials said. Gunmen killed five Iraqi soldiers at a check-point south of Kirkuk. At least 21 bodies were found across Iraq, many showing signs of torture. One of them was a boy in Baghdad between the ages of 4 and 6 who had been tortured and shot in the head. (New York Times) The…report (on Herat) documents beatings with thorny branches, sticks, cables, and rifle butts. The most serious cases of torture involved hanging detainees upside down, whipping and using electric shocks. Members of the Pashtun minority have been specially targeted for abuse. A family of four in Mahmoudiyah, south of Baghdad, was killed by U.S. soldiers who raped one of the women, murdered her and burned her body. Subsequently, two soldiers from the same division were tortured and killed and their bodies were mutilated after they were kidnapped at a checkpoint near Youssifiyah. People were in the village when the Janjawid arrived at 10am. They were more than 300 and they were divided in three columns which were heading in different directions. They were ululating and shouting ‘We came to kill the black slaves.’ They came in the houses and ran after those who were trying to flee. I was running away next to the imam who was very old. He was shot four times in the back and in the leg. They then burnt the village. Only 10 out of 100 houses remained intact... (Amnesty International testimony) Two Palestinians blew themselves up moments apart near a row of packed cafés on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda pedestrian mall, killing ten and wounding more than 170. Some twenty minutes later, a block away, a car bomb exploded. Michel Haroush, a French tourist, told reporters, "I fell down, and next thing I saw was half a human body lying by my foot." Another witness, Yossi Mizrahi, said, "I saw people without arms. I saw a person with their stomach hanging open. I saw a ten-year-old boy breathe his last breath. I can't believe anybody would do anything like this." (Human Rights Watch)
A performance of fact takes place on the battlefield, where the warring factions each attempt to discredit the other, going to elaborate lengths to manipulate the landscape of information. Catastrophe facilitates these fictions. W.G. Sebald…writes (of WWII air raids) that “the need to know was at odds with a desire to close down the senses. On the one hand, large quantities of disinformation were circulating; on the other, there were true stories that exceeded anyone’s capacity to grasp them.” At the same time that the scale of actual destruction surpasses comprehension, the tales of imagined destruction render fiction strangely tangible. In this unstable landscape, weapons of mass destruction present a glaring threat, while the devastation of war flickers as a mute memory. (Jennifer Gabrys)

the disaster

itself simply itself
there is saying — and there is saying.

a series of “small notches”
let us not fail this this
— in other words,
inscription, not distinct from

Let us make no objection
is to say,
the great verdict always right
on the condition that one not cease
one could not conceive

lived reality.”

such is the requirement,
the “object,” “the lived”;
the very significance of signification,
ultimately escapes,

which is only ever approximate),
which exceeds, or in any case
a certain “motivated” relation

an unstable presence-absence which — and
Anthony Michael Ramírez was gunned down June 21 in San Bernardino while he and his brother played basketball. (Los Angeles Times) The blast shattered windows, ripped doors from their hinges and set rows of cars ablaze. Carts used by children to carry goods for shoppers lay wrecked in the dusty street among other debris: metal, human flesh and crushed vegetables…Officials said…77 people had died in the explosion and 96 had been wounded. At the morgue…volunteers helped people find their relatives. Others, including Ali Aboodi…collected body parts. “This eye, this ring, this leg,” Aboodi said, as he separated the remains into three nylon bags. Some of the remains, including a small arm, belonged to children. (Los Angeles Times) “I think all foreigners should stop interfering in the foreign affairs of Iraq,” Wolfowitz said on his fifth day in Iraq to assess U.S. troops and Iraqi sentiments. (Jacob Ross, http://www.ausgang.com/) (The civilians murdered by U.S. soldiers) ranged from little babies to adult males and females. I'll never be able to get that out of my head. I can still smell the blood. This left something in my head and heart. (Lance Cpl. Roel Ryan Briones) In reference to the photographs of torture by soldiers working as prison guards at Abu Ghraib, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said: “My impression is that what has been charged thus far is abuse, which I believe technically is different from torture. And therefore I'm not going to address the ‘torture’ word.” The oldest living Canadian WWI veteran was interviewed on the radio a couple of years ago when he was 106 years old. When he was asked what he believed is the key to longevity, he replied: “work really hard and mind your own fucking business.”
And if it becomes necessary for intellectuals to turn into snipers, then let them snipe at their old concepts, their old questions, and their old ethics. We are not now to describe, as much as we are to be described. We’re being born totally, or else dying totally.
Yet our great friend from Pakistan, Fayiz Ahmad Fayiz, is busy with another question: “Where are the artists?”
“Which artists, Fayiz?” I ask.
“The artists of Beirut.”
“What do you want from them?”
“To draw this war on the walls of the city.”
“What’s come over you?” I exclaim. “Don’t you see the walls tumbling?”
(Mahmoud Darwish)

the disaster

being as being
into its orbit
fictions, questions, answers, propositions of truth and of error,
affirmations, negations, images, symbols, words of life and of
death) —

the demand without any rights,

thus, for thought — for thought

Moreover, thought

this nocturnal disaster is thought
thought in order that thought might
inasmuch, in any case, as it is over.

the gift — never
given — which we know
and in whose retreat
mortifying itself

the simple is not simple,

its separation from being,
as distinct from the simple,

being sorted out and

*texto leído durante la conferencia Writing when writing is impossible, impartida por Jen Hofer en el marco del Laboratorio fronterizo de Escritores

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