Ana Patova Crosses a Bridge

By Renee Gladman

Dorothy, a publishing project
November 2013


Meanwhile, the eye witnesses the story
of what we were when we happened,
when the last person left and the first
person returned as if the same moment,
as if the inhale began in the exhale, that
first person leaving, who belonged to all
of us, and what we became in his
leaving: our reaching for our cups. We
were holding space and making space
through stillness, looking for structures
to reflect what we were seeing, which
was nothing. I wrote about buildings,
and for the first part of the crisis this
kept me occupied. I was holed up in my
home. I slept on the books I wrote, which
I’d glued between boards and given
unassuming titles, like Slow and Tired, but
these books were my life’s work; I knew
once I’d finished them I would never
write again; rather, I would not need to
write or live or sleep, it felt like. When I
changed my mind about this, when I
changed my mind—but, it was me and it
was L. and it was Z. and B., and we were
all high on coffee, and sometimes pills,
waiting for some storm to come, some
document from abroad.





The crisis came out of its originary
moment making numerous, slow,
overlapping circles around the city
until every building and every
inhabitant was floundering in its
enclosure. The crisis wore a T-shirt
to the market and handed out flyers
about climate change and asbestos;
the crisis put bugs in your bed; it added
periods to your sentences, so that you
spoke plain and without invention. The
crisis took words out of my books and
strung them together, put them in
envelopes, and mailed them to my
friends, appalling them with obscenities
and abstraction. The crisis made me
give up architecture, drawing up plans
for building, and sat me roughly in
this chair from which I did not leave
for years. It was ten years, the despair,
and it was five days, and it was your
childhood, and the time it took to cross
a bridge; it was the love you could not
have of the woman who called your name;
it was while you were farming, while you
built a circular home. The crisis tied you
to a chair and said, “Write!” then took
your sentences as they landed. I farmed
from my window. I went on excursions
to find the words the crisis had removed
from me, my sentences that the crisis sent
on circuitous routes through every part
of the city and dropped on people’s heads,
in crevices along the harbor, on the floors
of banks, and made me go to them and
made me sit here.





I wrote a book where after every sentence
I or my character or an object in the
room disappeared. The book grew into
five hundred and forty-two pages, which
surprised everyone, a book where it was
not right to add periods, where you
couldn’t partition with commas or
ellipses, where you couldn’t vanish by
telling people you were vanishing—you
dissolved, you cut, you cleaved. It was a
book in which I recognized a companion
text, one that would hold everything this
book was erasing. I would have to
write this book as well, but not in this
room, not on this hill. I felt I’d have to
go somewhere new in order to see it,
into a world that could hold the things
I was missing, and Luswage was missing,
and everyone. The book I’d have to write
would not take over the world as our
current books did but would just be a kind
of archway, a beginning. I wrote a
sentence and downtown was gone; the
last building stood up and walked away,
the fourth since that morning; I wrote a
sentence to replace the building (everything
that vanished got replaced, at least in the
book I was writing), but its space in the
object world remained empty. A new
object vanished: I was still writing.





A group happened, because place and
time had done something to you: you
were waiting for a train, you were waiting
for a city to stabilize, for its buildings to
stay in place, for traffic to return, for
there to be traffic, and you wanted to
write about it, even though you didn’t
understand it, and you wanted other
people to read what you wrote—your
friends, who were also writing—and you
wanted language to move out of you and
out of them into the space between you
and for it to do some extraordinary thing
of bending and becoming, in the way of
these bodies surrounding the table, for
language to take on dimensions of the
body and for the books you wrote to
come out this way, as light bodies.
Zàoter wanted to turn his language into
a map, so he approached the table of our
seeing. He bent over the table, he spoke
as he was bending, he hurt himself. We
moved over to make space for him. I was
there, because I wanted to be alone. I
wanted to build a text. I wanted my
buildings to curve and canopy. I wanted
to love. I wanted the books I wrote to
explain what I saw, to make visceral the
objects of my seeing. I wanted to straddle
this one woman. I wanted to call out her
name. I had travel on my mind. I came
to the table. I needed new words. I needed
science. You performed this and then the
group absorbed you. Amini wanted to
climb chairs—she came to the group.
Tomás Bello missed his students. The
group was one and it was four and it
was waiting and it was the story of our





We sat in darkness and experienced
vision as a group of people sitting. We
saw, because we believed in each other’s
seeing, though we ourselves were blind
to what was possible to be seen, which
was nothing. There was nothing to see
because we were in this group of familiars
and the despair was all around us. Years
were passing, we were growing old,
somebody was handing out glasses. You
heard a man groan when someone
stumbled over him (the light was really
too low); you felt people were touching
themselves and touching others and
failing. Downtown had re-established
itself in the eastern extreme of the city,
so you had to go there to get warm. I
drew an x on a map and said, “You go
here and wait for me.” I didn’t know to
whom I was speaking. It was the crisis,
everything was dark. But the people
who surrounded me were my friends
and though we weren’t writing books at
the time of this gathering I understood
us because of the books we had written.
I was safe because of these books. I could
say, “Come to me,” because of them.
What was seen was also something
related to our reading, but visible only
in darkness, only in darkness did it
become nothing and full of color, only in
the dark did it abstract itself and move
about the head of the person across from
you, only when you said, “Yes,” only when
you let Tomás Bello do your seeing.





The group of us walking began to rewrite
that group of us sitting at the café and we
became something like a party in a living
room, though nothing yet being celebrated
but someone perhaps giving a talk and
other people asking questions, or all of
us sharing letters from abroad, which
were sometimes being translated by Sirin
Cucek, though most of the time
experienced as visual pieces. These were
gatherings where someone showed a film
and we watched a cow eating grass for
ten minutes and, after the cow left, we
watched the grass, not blowing in the
wind but frozen and wet with mud. We
watched a large man situate bottles
across the surface of a desk, the washed
out light landing where the bottles were
old, and his doing this again and again,
making the film long. Someone fell asleep
and we drew close. Tomás Bello wanted
to talk about what we were seeing, but
Luswage refused him. We had taken the
long walk here, and had done so days in
a row as this film transpired then began