FROM AFTER YI SANG: A NOVEL
Michael Joseph Walsh
As if dying instantly, the room organized itself around the angle of my head, my presumed line of sight. I was so at peace I didn't even sneeze. I thought of opium, the front part of the room, its little nip of sun. I thought about the multiplication and breeding of "virtue." Was that evidence of my recovery? The nights took a long time to arrive in those days. Once, holding a familiar knife, the barber lifted my chin, and I felt like a photo of a man stretched out across some train tracks. The sun crawled out from under the blinds, as if to help me remember my life. It felt a little like crying in bed.
After that I wanted a long, sound sleep. The deleted phantasms of hope and ambition were jogging up a long bare alley. It was a challenge to rein them in. It was like we were children, trying to counterfeit ourselves. I walked at a leisurely pace. I relaxed my body until my legs were two columns of text on a page, until I was so at peace I could hardly bear the weight of it. That night I watched the sun go down on glass, steel, marble, money, ink. Everything right there, burning up in front of me. I smelled the earth for the first time, then, like others might.
In those days I worried that I might think myself out of myself, and these thoughts dropped their shadows into both my life and my work. I thought of them like fish: I attended to them, to their "smells." "Life is self-providing," I thought, "it's painful to be alive." For a long time after that I sat alone, shivering. The occasional shrill scream from the train, a blank mess of stars in a sky like a burning Void: I don’t remember much else, at least not in the usual way. There were four of us at that point, whirling around in tight correspondence. We pulled the quilt back over us, and it was like the moon sinking back into a mackerel cloud.
"Is it morning or evening?" I would ask. Life was one long poem in that sense, always ready to explode into laughter. I would fall asleep luxuriously in the moments between blinks, feeling clean, even when I wasn’t. When all was said and done it was like applying another lash of the whip to a running horse. As both author and persona I slept soundly, having been a main player even in the depths of my sickness. The rain picked up, the wind picked up. I could hardly believe there could be dreams this vivid. "No one expects to control their dreams," I thought. The earth crumbled beneath me, then, and I laughed a laugh I could feel with my hands.
This piece is made mostly of language pulled from my personal diaries. It also borrows the occasional sentence or phrase from the translated fiction of the Korean writer Yi Sang.