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105 MARTHA RONK LI PO There is the watery, uneasy feeling, that one has been there before, has encountered that reservoir of emotion, some other year, under one’s fingertips if one could only remember when and where; and how often of late I find myself seeking it in the utterly useless as if I were, as I sometimes feel myself to be, the ancient Chinese poet gazing at the moon’s reflection and longing for comrades of old from the other side of the mountains. Having been or having thought myself to be committed to the useful, I now find myself wandering into patches of sunlight for no reason but to be there, looking down for long stretches at the arrangements of moss on stone, floating on my back in a pond looking up at clouds. Uselessness is the purview of the very young and very old whose gift is the finding out of these reservoirs—even time falls off the edges, unrelated to anything and especially not to you. 106 MARTHA RONK LOLITA She can, you realize over time, only address one person at a time in a private language whispered into an ear. Last night the film focused over and over on the adolescent’s ear, the nape of her neck toward the back of her neck; she was lying by the swimming pool, her one ear exposed. She is, the woman I am speaking of—not the young girl in the film who destroys everyone’s life by her seductions, advertent, inadvertent—a woman who has constructed her own language, a private language that would have been seductive many years before, but which, given her age and the use to which it has been put, is something else altogether. Yet, in the momentary thrall of such language, one experiences the days of one’s adolescence when names were secrets, codes were operative, and what one whispered into ears was momentous, and one feels the grating violence of desire. 107 MARTHA RONK HENRY JAMES: “THE REAL THING” It was not so much that I recognized her with certainty, as that I was certain she was not brand new. She moved as if she were copying the ways people move. I told her that in one story the characters who were “the real thing,” proved no good at playing the roles of the genteel. I always buy everything I want she said because I have no bad habits. She was addicted to buying used handbags. She arranged them along a shelf and spoke to them in their slouchy configurations as if they were dolls that would, as she remembered from childhood, come alive at night and move about. One by one, over a shoulder, by a side, clutched under an arm, they were functional enough, but lumped together on the shelf they were ciphers for the postures that seemed far more real than her own as I stared at her, certain that despite her obvious youth, I had seen her somewhere before, worn and creased and slightly used. ...


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pp. 105-107
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