Notes on Barthes

I am engulfed. I succumb.

I am dissolved, not dismembered; I fall, I flow, I melt. It is a gentle abyss, and the lover is absolved of any responsibility for the act. There is no longer any place for me anywhere, not even in death. It is an excessive happiness which enables me to unite with the image; in any case, severed or united, dissolved or discrete, I am nowhere gathered together; opposite, neither you nor me, nor death, anything else to talk to. It is an open death, a dying-together. I conceive of death beside me. I am outside the fatal couple of life and death by opposing them to each other. I swoon in order to escape morality, logic, language itself and the responsibilities of using it.


I am dissolved and the lover is absolved of any responsibility. We kiss like a drawer, in order to put something away.

There’s sheets, a shirt, the covered buttons pulled out of their clasps, long expanses of cotton stretched across our arms. We begin by letting the sheets stifle each other, twisting them around our feet, our knees, like breath folded over breath. It opens at the belly, this slit of flesh, widening, inching over the chest, the neck. Our raised arms, at once flesh, are not flesh.

And if there were two more of us, rubbing static out of the rug, just beginning to breach it, snow would flare on the windows and snow would make the shape of enormity. I have holly in my hair. And you, you spread like snow over window. It’s simple. Two shapeless figures wander outside, scared this time, mittened, coated, made of cotton-this and cotton-that. So the frosty hairs of winter bristle all over our arms, and since there are only two of us, it begisn as brittle as a bone. This winter, this folding, this sleep achieved in the creases of a sheet, in a theater of white. We are what happens when winter gives up.

The Absent One

The other is a condition of perpetual departure (migrant, fugative). Amorous absence functions in a single direction, expressed by the one who stays, never by the one who leaves. The amorous subject is always loved less than she loves. It is Woman (who stays at home) who gives shape to absence, elaborates it’s fiction. This endured absence is nothing more than forgetfulness. I am, intermittently, unfaithful. For if I didn’t forget, I would die. The lover who does not forget dies of excess and exhaustion. But one can wake from this forgetfulness in great haste, and to sigh gives form to this yearning to join body with body. The sigh is an image of embrace. Isn’t the object always absent? This perpetual absence creates an unsupportable present (you are gone—since I lament—and you are there—since I am addressing you—). The present moment of this address is rankled with anxiety. Absence becomes a reason for language, for expression, for creation. Absence is the stage upon which the amorous subject acts out his desire. To manipulate absence is to extend this interval, to delay as long as possible the moment when the other might topple sharply from absence into death. There are the raised arms of desire (that require an absence) and the wide-open arms of Need (which accept the presence of another). A lover oscillates between the phallic image of raised arms and the babyish image of wide-open arms. Love protects people against the real world. The absence of the other holds my head under water; gradually I drown, my air supply gives out: it is by this asphyxia that I reconstitute my ‘truth’ and that I prepare what in love is Intractable.


We live in a large room. The space is good for us. I walk carefully across the floor, biding my steps toward dinner, maybe the scent of warm pork loins. On the other side of the room, I see the other side of your back. I have two lovers I think, One on the front and one on the…

(If the hours we spend together don’t add up, you don’t love me)

I begin my day like a woman. She times her longing with a stopwatch, holds her breath, then composes it. Her songs float from her head like balloons. The songs are paradoxical. On one hand, she sings because her Love is leaving. On the other, she sings.


A dazzling impression is one that ultimately prevents sight and prevents speech. It is a hieroglyph of kindliness, an image. The amorous subject perceives the other as a whole (with a remainder that cannot be expressed). He glorifies himself for having chosen the perfect other. And when imaging how he would want to be loved, he loves everything—this everything is adorable. There is no residual quality of adorable—it says everything and nothing. Because the lover knows nothing, he says nothing (he says adorable). I encounter millions of bodies in my life; of these millions, I may desire some hundreds; but of these hundreds, I love only one. The other which whom I am in love designiates for the specialty of my desire. The specialty is indefinable (why this, out of all the bodies to choose from) and so when one says adorable, one is saying “that’s it! That’s it exactly (which I love)!” The more I experience the specialty of my desire, the less I can give it a specific name; to the precision of the target corresponds the wavering of the name. The adorable is the collapse of language, the adorable is a tautology (the adorable is what is adorable). It is a fascination, the end of language, a repetition, the glorious end of the logical operation, the obscenity of stupidity, the explosion of the Nietzschean yes.


I don’t know why we were “cotton.” Why not “silk” or “polyester?”. And the sheets were actually twisted in the bed, not folded. Our shirts stifled each other. There were socks on the floor. Underwear. But these puffs of cotton whiteness filled everything in—made us lazy. Our mouths were oh-ing, (oh I love you oh love) yawn-shaped, the gauze stuffed in our throats. So we said nothing (instead of yes).

The Intractable

Despite its difficulties, I affirm love as a value. “I love, but all the same…” It’s a let’s—pretend realism, I counter what doesn’t work in love with what makes it worthwhile. The intractable lover resisting mere loving for being in love. This lover lives according to chance, he burns, he is tragic, he doesn’t last. Love gives the lover strength, but the lover is alone in this strength. There are two affirmations of the intractable lover: the first “yes” upon encountering the other (this is pure happiness that cannot persist through time). The second is the surmount of the melancholy that the initial passion becomes and then a “beginning again.”


Let’s pretend we don’t have appointments—no hand-shakes, skyscrapers, pay checks, or clocks.

The reason the telephone exists, is the same reason why I won’t answer it. The telephone rings and it’s not you. The telephone rings and the delicate bone of it breaks. The telephone rings sporadically—an aside to a play. I don’t question it. The telephone rings and we speak (this is like cutting our legs on cacti). The telephone is not our telephone, so it’s pushed under the bed. It rings. You never say anything.

The Tip of the Nose

The perfect embalmed figure of the other is suddenly specked with a gesture, a word, that suddenly attaches the other to a commonplace world. This noise is a rip in the smooth envelope of the image.

Picture Pygmalion, only give the statue a human nose. When I touched your stone arms, stone legs, stone head—the nose ran.

You are a good man (just a good man).


You have not arrived. You insist on not-arriving until the entire house (floor, bed, windows, milk) dwindle into threads. I’m strung to the ceiling. I will fall, I think, Any second the threads will break. I dread it, without comprehending it. Dread hangs there, not-arriving.

To Love Love

I’m doing dishes in my bra. This is half of a sign. You lean in the doorway like the other half of the picture, so I slowly undress you. Your legs are lean and white on the kitchen tiles. The word beauty is there, weaving its fingers in your pubis. And this, this is how language is built and lived in

To Be Ascetic

When you don’t want to make love, I wear the nun. Do my nun-work in the garden. Wretch every vegetable out of the plot. I’m religiously frigid in the blueberry patches, yanking clots of bruises off of the bush. Just look at me, hunkering under the peach tree. I put fruit, like microphones, into my mouth.


When you make pork loins, you are cooking. This is your specialty. I eat them because it is the unclassifiable pork loin (of you). I eat your innocent animal (the animal you are and the animal slain) I see your reflection, I think, in my spoon. I eat quick, cut by cut—I’m starving. I’m fasting everything outside this room. There’s you, your miraculous pork loins, and nothing.


You control time. You roll it into your fingers, into this little ball, and bounce it on the floor. That’s when we laugh, slinging time back and forth as if it wasn’t extraordinary. Then you steamroll it from here to Paris. (which is where you always go) So time turns into this arduous road, traffic-jammed. And I can almost hear the beautiful Parisian women laughing, holding time on their tongues and sucking it.

The Dark Glasses

When I cry, I place a piece of cloth over my face. That’s passionate mucus, making a wet spot where my mouth was. Saliva sticking to the words. At all costs, I will not remove this cloth. I am a child, wearing my father’s clothes. The child is because of you. The father is what I give you.

Tutti Sistemati

Married people make love in Paris—like tourists. Old couples stroll through the pigeon shit, dying in the eyes, appeased with their dying, clutching some old hand in their old hand. Everything’s settled in Paris. Love is like a habit there. So I hate it. Hate the air they kiss around my cheek. Hate, even, postcards of Paris (which are worse) They dangle before my eyes like prostitutes, pretending love, pretending death, pretending to be what we are all pretending to be: content.


I collapse like the twin towers without you. Yes, the twin towers. I place my worst suffering (you), on pictures of suffering. I grab at catastrophe, like a child grabs at his genitals, offending everyone.


Hey. I have an idea. Let’s try to love without suffering. When we’re together, we’ll strut like water-walkers on the lake. Yes. We’ll look at the water skim across it like some unimportant document. And when we’re apart, let’s simply exist. Like insects crawling across the page.

The Heart

Why heart? Why not colon? Both know the comings and goings of my body. Both are tender, pulsing, dumb to what the brain tells them. Both weigh me down.

“All the delights of the earth”

Take food for instance. Take bread and butter it. So there’s butter, cream, jam, both sides of the knife pushed in it, both sides spreading out. Take the bread out from underneath the both of you. This small kitchen, this small room, the linoeum sticking to your bare feet, smacking your feet like lips on the floor. This is the image of bread pulled out in large heaps, bread painted white, then blue, turning into a block. This is the big head in your hands, this goo, and you’re talking yourself  full of it, (teeth) teeth gnashing. It is a chewy kind of pain, a down-in-the-bowels coming-out, an experience so shared you become more brittle. You break it and you break it.

“I have an other-ache”

I have this television, so water-tight, so  I dropped it into the lake. (it’s water-tight) and your face in it (I think) your face underwater on it (in it?)  muteness is shimmer is too much for it, the glow so I go my eye shrinks to you toward some underneath previously thought thought an imperfect mirror or a screen or simply the opposite of my feet on the shoreline the fact that I haven’t yet managed the dive in (on) you these little feet away (a homonym) from the shore my feet keeping themselves (rather this entire body) up.

“I want to understand”

To reflect on love is always to touch it’s madness in sections, in the middle of it’s escape.

I think the wild thick leaves bend down at your feet—What could we do? What might we remember if the light flashed before our eyes, if the pictures of bodies didn’t?  Think of forwarding your mail. Mail being like wind, and wind being an oscillation of noise and noiselessness. Think of parting leaves the size of thighs and sticking your face through them. Think of two people swimming below, two people in bed, two mouths breathing into one another. Think storms and storms; how the heat plucks up the dew every morning. Think of his chest, there, rivering in another sleep and putting your hands in it—Think of the reflection of two toothbrushes in the mirror. The mouth foaming, the edges foaming, the water butting up against the sand. Think of the Chinese proverb “The darkest place is always underneath the lamp.” Think of watching a tent collapse. Of being inside it and not finding a door.  Shades of darkness folding over you. The will-o-the-wisp rises, life-like. It rises in fumes, stinking, congested as phlegm. It is a kind of madness you do not touch for fear of coming in after it. Think of what happened, what was destined to happen. Think of the fear, the utter fear of what could happen if you made it, if your were standing on the other side of the ravine, on the last page of a large leaf. If fate were not mud, but a foot pushed into the mud.

“What is to be done”

An ethic is really a system of logic that cascades through the alternatives until there is pure action, pure of regret. The lover has two alternatives to act (and love) or to fail (and give up). The lover slips between these two: He chooses not to choose. There is no hope, but all the same… The facts bear no relevance—there are signs to be interpreted. There is a “tumultuous maneuvering of images” between lovers. This is nothing (these signs) but they exhaust me. The fact come to lovers only spontaneously, delightfully—but it is not a spontaneous act, but the fear is spontaneous. The signs, the question of what is to be done, seem to float around me, they independently function.






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