Carl Jung claimed that
the German word betrachten
means to make something
pregnant by giving it your
attention. "One concentrates
upon it... it gets restless,
it shifts, something is added ...
one fills it with living power
and it becomes pregnant."

(is there a yiddish equivalent?)







I have seen

Someone’s missing and it’s me, I hate that dream. I woke up inside the dream at Lynne’s, only in the dream I was back at 17th Street, I was alone and I knew someone had been there or was there, but not in bed with me, I thought it was DC, I smelled the cinnamon of him, but I never slept with DC there. You slept with other women in our bed I’m sure, but I never brought DC. I have dreams where I wake up in my bed and there’s Someone in the Apartment, but this was more frightening because there was someone not in the apartment and I didn’t know who it was, or was supposed to be. I couldn’t call out a name; I was afraid to call out, “DC?” and find it was you instead. I slipped out of bed, I had to find whoever it was was not there, I thought it was you, hiding, I pulled open the doors of the closet. They were empty, which made me afraid we had moved out and someone else lived there, I'd be mistaken for an intruder and shot, I circled — kitchen to porch to hall to living room and back to the bedroom — and there you were in the bed sleeping, which made the missing person me, and I woke up, really awake, not in a dream, in the spare room at Lynn’s commune and the first thing I thought was DC’s missing, gone to Cuba forever or until the Revolution, whichever comes first. And I’ve gone missing in someone else’s home, and I want you to miss me.

That’s the morning you called, an urgent invitation of American antiwar leaders to meet in Paris with the Vietnamese National Liberation Front and you were invited, with one of the Oakland Seven and people from SDS and The Resistance in Boston and Madison and you had to leave in four days and my immediate reaction was Pissoff, Jimmy, why not me? which I held in like air underwater, saying, Sure, I’ll stay at 17th Street while you’re gone and then we’ll talk about us and see. And congratulations and that’s wonderful and this is the best thing that could happen, because it was, for the Vietnamese to hold talks not only with their enemies but their friends, in the same city at the same time. Ho Chi Minh’s strategy, Fight and Talk, Fight and Talk, not a bad one, applicable to many situations.

The first time I went missing it wasn’t a dream at all but real, off Fordham Road. I heard them down the hall, probably at breakfast, so it had to be Sunday, no milk deliveries. I didn’t want to open my eyes. I heard Dad’s yuh hmp nah no shit, thank god the catheter of the Communist Party channelled his bile into hating the bourgeoisie more than us, and Mom’s nonstop commentary on neighbors, work, the block, dance, like a conversational helicopter that never landed, and I thought, someone’s missing from this family, someone important is not here, I hear two people in this family and there should be three.

They were missing too. Dad at the Shamrock except to work and eat, Mom swaddled in talk until she took off for LA, leaving me to the mercies of the Last Milkman in the Bronx. The next year, I ran South to Mississippi. But that morning it was Sunday, 1963, they were down the hall and someone was missing and it was me.

Now I’m alone in our apartment, you’re in Paris, DC’s in Cuba (no letters yet), and I’m alone in a way I’ve never been, never off Fordham Road even, and this is the goodbye letter I keep writing in my mind, putting in details, taking them out, going round and round, the letter I rehearse and never send, for I want to be sure to say everything and not regret what I might leave out, not sure even what’s relevant. And half the time I want to stop and write instead a letter that says Darling my darling I love you and can’t live without you and I will love you until my heart bleeds dry and I have the love of the most beautiful brilliant man in the world and I am not myself unless I love you and doesn’t that solve everything.

I hold on to moments of you, turn them over as if they hold the explanation, and it’s always some explanation about you, tailored to what you'll understand, the way I was furious at you most of Stop the Draft Week, for example. Not for the reason you thought — that you came home from Detroit with the clap. You looked perfectly goofy when you announced it, oh and um by the way I have the ... and I kicked you out till the penicillin took effect, which made me so horny I could barely wait for the insult to wear off. If you were arrogant I’d have hit you but you’re — whatever it is I’m trying to figure out — you manage to make yourself the measure by which everyone is taken. You’re normal, you’re normality itself, which is the power of your persuasion, you believe that what you are — anti-war, non-monogamous, forthright, honest, pagan— is the natural state of man and anyone can achieve the humble state of being like you, and how can that be arrogance?

Then my mind slides to Grove Street. You’re on the step of the semi and my anger with you is so merged with the whole week, the barricades, the cops, till I can’t tell anger from intoxication from joy from fatigue. I’m seared with the pure magnitude of what we’d done. You’re on the step and across Grove is DC, watching us, and I’m having an out-of-body experience, the way a soldier at the Shelter Half told me it feels to be under mortar fire, that God is detonating the air around you and you run flying, toes touching the ground like fingers on piano keys, just enough touch to make a sound, lift you off again and the next patch of air may kill you, and I’m above Grove Street looking down on myself on the truck, you halfway across the street walking toward DC, your deep friend and my lover, and all my feelings are divided in two, I was in a rage at you and would have died for you, simple as that.

And no matter how I try to hold on to moments like that about you, I come round to Mississippi and Fanny Lou Hamer and my Bay Bridge yiddische troll, who are trying to tell me something which will add up to a revelation which I will impart to you and that will solve everything.

Mrs. Hamer is speaking at the AME church in Indianola and I’m in a back pew in the Sunday smell of fanned air, ironed clothes, courtesy. I think of her as earth and water, the Delta itself, the water that carves wood, the earth that grows cotton. She’s talking about the vote, and I’m thinking about Mrs. Givens, who goes to another church, talking to her on her porch about going down to register. We learned early, we whites, to sit on a step or stand below the steps and talk up to the people so as not seem like white authority, and even then, Mrs. Givens is saying “I don’t need to redster, that’s white folks’ business.” I said, “White folks’ business is your business Mrs. Givens,” and she replied “If’n you say so,” because I was white and said so, if I said voting was her business it was because I was white and knew better.

I told that to Mrs. Hamer after church, that I thought, Better Mrs. Givens doesn’t vote than vote because a white woman told her to, and Mrs. Hamer got very stern and said “Better she hold a ballot in her hand because a white woman told her to, than stay home because her fear told her to. I know her, she’ll go down to the courthouse. Don’t think of yourself as a white girl, Cathy, think of yourself as the words Mrs. Givens can’t speak till you say them. How do you expect her to know she can say them before she hears them said?” I said something deep like “Yes but,” and Mrs. Hamer said, “Sometimes we spend our whole lives waiting to hear a true voice and we knew it was in us all the time but our throats were too dry to speak and someone had to give us water. Her throat was dry and you gave her water.”

Somewhere in there, I am Mrs. Givens. I’m waiting for someone to speak my mind.

And you did. You’re air and fire in the manner of being mortared and we run flying with you, or because you attract enemy fire, all audacity and combustion, fighting gravity. My troll would call you a luftmensch, but she was burying sacrificed children under bridges to hold them up, so much for earth and water. And what did I do almost the first day I met you? Invite you to bang me now immediately this minute on the couch cause my roommate’s asleep in the bedroom and then wait for you to say, Come be with me in San Francisco because it’s the center of the world, become the person you need to be, not a dancer, this is not the time for that, no, an organizer, a leader, a member of the revolution, come with me into The Storm, and you were right. You knew me better than I did, but you weren’t looking at me you weren’t looking at me you weren’t looking at me.

And at the moment you called me out of myself, drew me to you, lifted me toward who I was going to become, you were committed, joined, welded to Shauna, for reasons I understand better now, and for some other deep reason I will never know.

“Sometimes a person has to speak your mind,” Mrs. Hamer said, “Lord knows Bob Moses did.”

“Spoke his mind?”

“Spoke mine.”

People like Mrs. Givens didn’t feel the vote was rightly theirs. They didn’t feel the loss of something they never had, which my troll says is a need, but Mrs. Hamer did. The vote was always hers though she never had it and because she knew that, when she was called on to be, to respond, to be called out of her life, she came. I’m making all this up, I never talked to her about it, we were too busy. Someday her biography will be written and I’ll know, but I believe that. Whatever part of her was not owned and controlled by the plantation, that part waited and said yes when Bob Moses called on her, yes the vote I have never had has always been mine, and I lost it, and yes now I will go down to the Registrar at the courthouse to get it back and be fired from the plantation and be beaten half to death and change everything.

And did you find, said my troll, when you went South, something you lost what you never had? And I said yes, yes, yes. I didn’t know Mrs. Hamer existed and I found her, NOT as a role model, mentor, mother I never had, sainted figure, leader, but as a what? A woman to say something to me that at the time was not about me but about Mrs. Givens, a 90-year-old sharecropper, and later would be about me. And you.

And I can hear you saying I’m not sure what you mean, darling, meaning I think I do know what you mean and I fear the way this is going, but this is my letter in my mind and it goes wherever I want.

It was like one of those dreams where I try to reach a person in a crowd and can’t, except it was real. You fell and rose, Cosmo sprayed paint on a cop’s face shield, I scrambled up the hood of a car when the crowd pressed forward behind the cops, you waved your hand like a wand, and we saw you stride across the liberated intersection, fist in the air, you crossed the intersection like our collective torch, and I hate symbolism, I hate interpretive dances where each gesture has to have a “meaning.” But how were you walking? With your back to me. And in what direction? Away.

I didn’t think that then. I felt joy, I was the person you asked me to be: Cathy of the crazy Fordham Road Cohens transformed into myself, more than myself. You called me out, you broke open my voice.

My best friend Carol, the one I went to get the dress of shmutz at Macy’s with, is still in the Bronx, still off Fordham Road, engaged to a nice Italian boy with connections. 1968 will be to her the year she got engaged to Rollie and she was no less called on, called out than me. I dragged her to the March on Washington and when we returned, she was home and I was not. There’s nothing she lost she never had, at least not yet.

The Heavy Couple. We were driving across the Bay Bridge to meet people (we’re always driving across the Bay Bridge to meet people) and I said, Herb at the Lawyers Guild complains we never have dinner with him, we have some constant excuse, yet we like him, there’s nothing wrong with him. You said, Yes, it’s unequal, he wants to be with us and we not with him, that was when I understood we were a Heavy Couple, not a Heavy Dude and his chick. And sure enough, we walked into the Berkeley house and someone said now we can start finally, and they were looking at both of us, not you alone. I felt the tilt like a dizzyness in my ear and said nothing for half the meeting, flipping from being Cathy the chick and Cathy the heavy too rapidly to think until Hank asked me what was my opinion of the matter at hand, I spoke, people nodded in agreement, I thought, they’re nodding at half a twin-star and what would they do if I were not? And how would I ever know but by breaking up with you?

How could it turn out that when we’re together, someone’s missing and it’s me? And when we’re apart, something of me is missing and I’m afraid it’s yours, a property of you you lend me?

In dreams I have to type an important letter, people I love will die if the letter is not sent. I type the wrong word, smear white-out on it, the letters run, I start again, put in a clean sheet. I can’t read my notes, one wrong word and people I love will be killed, I type went instead of want, white-out the e, type u, white-out the u, type o. Mom will know what to do, I dial three digits of her number, my finger sticks in the dial, I can’t find the 5, confuse it with the 6, dial again, she never answers, never solves, never predicts, just like dreams.

I have a dream. I wish he never said that. Live your dream, follow your dreams, I have a dream. Fuck dreams. If only he hadn’t said dream. If only he’d said We have already seen, we have known, I have seen it with my own eyes, it is possible, not dream-flying possible, not riddled with dream-bullets and still living possible, if only he had said, “I have seen the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners sit down together at the table of brotherhood.”

I can say that. I didn’t learn everything from you. I didn’t have to read a book to find out there was poverty in America. We were poor Jews, and crazy, I thought there was nothing I could do. Then I was called out and I went and we sat down together in Mississippi, the children of slaves and the children of racists. I was there, it happened. Martin Luther King was consumed with the day when every valley will be exhalted, not just one or two, a valley in Lowndes County or a valley in Indianola or a valley in the Fillmore District. I paddled my hot feet in the reflecting pool and I thought, because I was 18 and Dr. King said so, it was only a dream and not a fierce tiny reality always collapsing, always being rebuilt, preserved at the cost of lives, at the risk of sanity. I had to go South to learn that. If only he had said, I have seen this man and this woman, this family, these neighbors, risk all, cross over the color line, defy the law, commit treason against an evil state, because they know what they have lost that they never had, a moment in the Promised Land. A moment outside the national nightmare that tells us our enemies are Blacks, poor people, workers, Vietnamese, communists, dopers, Cubans, they’re our enemies our enemies our enemies our enemies, they want what we have, they want to steal it, they want to kill us, they’re violent and dirty and lowbrow and craven and undeserving. And we wake out of the Dream and we see they’re our friends. Now DC is in exile in Cuba with his friends, and you’re talking in Paris with your friends, and I’m due to speak at an AME church in Oakland on Sunday with my friends, and if you don’t hold on to that you fall into the American Dreamworld, the picket fence horror show, the supreme white man with two cars a house a good job and a chainsaw and he’s after our friends, our friends, our friends.

The night Mr. Williams shot back at the carful of Klansmen I could say, This is no dream. I live in an oasis under seige in the “desert state of Mississippi sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression,” but not in a dream, in the world, and I am free.

And what that means And what that means And what that means And what that means is that when you come home from Paris I will tell you I want to leave you. And why is no given thing you ever did, not even the one act I can’t bear and can’t condemn, that when the sky cracked open and there was nothing behind it and you thought existence had deserted you, you went to Shauna and not me.

Everything we did was more yours, every problem of yours was more important, even when we had the same problem. The snitch jacket was aimed at me as much as you, but no one thought so. It was your problem. Lester Krup meditated and saw you in the window; when I talked to Krup, I talked about us and he talked about you, and that’s not your fault, how can Lester Krup be your fault? (Because he’s a man and men are all the same, which is not true). I told the ladies in the Night Kitchen I’m my own woman and they said come back when that’s true. Is that what I lost that I never had and don’t know I still need? You go forth and go forth and make things happen and I am part of them and I’ve become someone who can say I’m me and I’m proud to the weirds in the kitchen, so why does it sound ungrateful when I say you aren’t looking at me you aren’t looking at me you aren’t looking at me. Because there’s something irresponsible about going forth and going forth and cloaking everything you do in a greater responsibility that looks through me like a pane of glass into the world. I don’t know if you love me when you are not with me. I think you love me when we’re together, when your light reflects off me, and when we are not together you don’t see me, there’s no light, and you see only what you reflect off of.

I have to believe the way we loved each other has left some mark on us, some shape. People who suffer great pain or overwhelming joy and lose their memory of it from a drug or a blow to the head, wouldn’t the terror or the bliss leave their cells or enzymes altered, something changed that says it was once there? Like growing up. I’m the same person I was at 12 and that girl must still be alive because she never died; her cells changed and her organs and her shape, and I claim her, little Cathy from the Bronx. But she’s nowhere to be seen.

You’re different because of me, Jimmy, but I don’t know how.

What would Mrs. Hamer be if the civil rights movement had not come to Indianola, if Bob Moses had not spoken her mind? A plantation timekeeper, a mother and wife, a person of character. And what would I be without you? What does it matter that I may never know what I would have been without you? I cannot now ever have been without you.

How will I know what won’t happen unless I leave you, what is ahead of me drawing me up like water from the sea, falling to the ground somewhere I can’t imagine. Whatever it is it is not a dream but real, will be real, and that’s all I know, which feels like a vacuum sucking at me, air exploding. I love you, I love you, I always will, Jimmy my fire and air.

Someone’s missing and it’s me.