Fall 2007

Desirebookcover for Desire

I’m late for work, but I weave into a drug store for the cold grape juice I wanted yesterday. They don’t have Welch’s, so I buy an orange juice and take a new alley out, which drops me off in front of a used bookstore. It's a ratty place I've never been in, with racks of old, sun-faded books and magazines.  

There is a photograph of Bob Dylan on the cover of an old Rolling Stone magazine in the rack. I put down my things and pick up the magazine. I have seen Dylan's face change. I have seen it become what it is. I can see him more clearly than I can Elena.

After Elena disappeared, I moved in with my father and his new wife and her kids. In the three years I lived with him, he traveled a lot and I spent most of my time in my room, listening to music. When I learned that Bob Dylan's BLOOD ON THE TRACKS hit the charts in 1975, the year we were in Africa, I took it, even then, as a sign from Elena. It was my access to her, and I listened to the album over and over, in love with the man who wrote it, wanting for myself anyone who would feel so much emotion about me, yet all the while understanding that part of him was blind to who his lover really was. The mood of that album, with all of its pathos and romance and sarcasm, seemed to me the clue to who my mother really was. The woman in that album is a dominant and mysterious force, but she herself cannot and does not speak. For one thing, speaking wouldn’t be worth it, (it's all too complicated for language), and for another, the guy would just turn it around and use whatever was said for his own purposes, use her to forward and fuel his own emotions.

Way back then everything about BLOOD ON THE TRACKS promised to take me to my mother. Dylan's music was my personal tracking device, and I used it to follow her footprints, where here and there lay the blood, sometimes still wet, which made me wonder if what I was tracking might still be alive. Occasionally, between the words of love and desire and longing, I would hear whispering, strange and inexplicable, someone saying run or murder, as the music played and the sun descended and rose again. 

The light is beating down and over the words on the magazine there is a cracked and moving pattern of black: a bird flying overhead. I step into the shade of the building and read the article. The author has varied opinions on what such and such Dylan lyric might mean. It’s absurd. All opinions are absurd. No one seems to understand that Dylan is tracking something too. It will be terrible when Dylan dies. He was never blind, ever. It was Elena. It was me.
 
With Sam, we traveled around China right before we moved to Africa. In Red China we saw hospitals with dirt floors and no anesthesia. They don't need anesthesia, Sam would say, they have acupuncture. And at a small party, demonstrating both hypnosis and acupuncture simultaneously, Sam inserted a seven inch long needle through my mother's hand: in through her palm, out between the two middle bones on the back of her hand. I am thinking of Elena and her hand because she was willing to let go in that way, to allow Sam to hypnotize her, to allow herself to feel no pain. It is true that I'm not willing to go so far with anyone, that I do hold back, as Michael says.

To let go is to pour liquor all over your newspaper cave and set it on fire. Or to record BLOOD ON THE TRACKS.

To hold back is to stall, waiting to find out how the facts fit together.

I drop the magazine back in the rack and walk to work.



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Excerpt from DESIRE, Coffee House Press, 2004 

Lindsay Ahl's novel, DESIRE, was said by Booklist to be "nothing less than a tour de force." Her fiction can be found in several journals, including BOMB, Global City Review, Fiction Magazine and The Brooklyn Rail. She was a Fellow at Bread Loaf in 2004. She is editor-in-chief and publisher of BLISS Magazine, and currently teaches creative writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico.


 
                                   
       



  

                  

                              

                          


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