I invite you to consider regeneration as a waiting on, not a waiting for.
New Directions reprinted Muriel Rukeyser‘s Elegies which first appeared in a limited (300 copies) edition in 1949. In their introduction to the reprinting, Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller write
Meanings, Rukeyser held, were the first casualties of war; the search for meanings would always be deferred till “afterward,” when it was too late and the meanings were lost. The Elegies do not wait.
They lie dormant for meaning to connect with them. They are a bridge over time. I take as my text a stanza from the eighth, the “Children’s Elegy”
However long they loved us, it was not enough.
For we have to be strong, to know what they did, and then
our people are saved in time, our houses built again.
In my mind’s eye I appropriate the lines to the experience of a whole generation of gay men fighting a dreaded disease and a society reluctant to provide the resources to turn the tide. Like Rukeyser’s war the worst of the AIDS crisis is in the past and yet the sentiment of saving (Benjamin – even the dead will not be safe…) our people, those that belong to us, and the historical task of rebuilding resonate strongly.
And in my bricolage fashion I mount a collage here with the third elegy “The Fear of Form”
Blackness, obscurity, bravado were the three colors;
wit-play, movement, and wartime the three moments;
formal groups, fire, facility, the three hounds.
See the documentation brought together by Douglas Crimp of the cultural interventions and formations, especially AIDS Demo Graphics. Fear of form overcome, very much along the lines described by Rukeyser. Uncanny to find resilience celebrated in the poetic record long before one’s personal witnessing. And yet not so unfamiliar and alien. There is no waiting for the rebuilding. The barbarians are always with us. We don’t have to wait. We are not characters in a poem by Cavafy. We do not wonder what next : “Now what’s going to happen to us without barbarians? / Those people were a kind of solution.” We find our own solutions (and our memory traces of barbarians) in such places as Rukeyser’s Elegies while there is still time.
And so for day 1252