“Will there be a last letter?”


    
after Sans Soleil by Chris Marker




Memory is not the opposite of forgetting but its lining, said Marker in the film

you love. Just last week you wrote to me

I keep wondering how I remember so little. In class, over Zoom, we

were supposed to write about frozen time, landscapes of memory. I was thinking

how bright your room was. Infinite

brightness. Brightness

without clarity.

The last time I saw Sans Soleil I was 20 and in England. Y and I were trying to stay awake until dawn
             in my room. We were

both fascinated by exhaustion. Its texture, how it was almost

writing, in

a way which no longer makes sense to me, which does not yet mean in a way

I can finally trust. Last night

L and I were talking about the poems we’ve written and I thought of you. What is it that draws us to
            L? Is it the same thing? Once I would have done anything for L, set up two

mirrors in a dark room and stay still in between

their shadows. I just realized that. Everything I write is true, L said. I’m not sure you understand what I
            mean.

If I could build a house around our letters. If, instead of writing, we could build beautiful, carpeted
            mansions for no one to live in, rooms so bright you can only think

of other colors. If we could really talk about what interiority means. What baroque means. What pure air
            means.

Today in class, we were imagining the windows in a memory, incantation’s

flood, perfect confusion, a novel’s lurid, velvet rooms, love

and perfect brightness and mystery, and blackberries

soaked in oil, our own heads filled to the brim with cold language, spells, unable

to speak. S, one

day we will end up in Naples together. It will be the year when Naples is freezing. The year when
            both of us are leaving behind something enormous and thrilling. One of us

will borrow a car from a friend and we will take turns driving it to the volcano, the mud pools, past
            the processions for St. Gennaro. We will take turns crashing it. We will not talk to each
            other. We will not make mistakes. Sometimes

we will write our poems. Our poems will be very short. I will read a book by Irigaray that teaches me
            how to swim with my teeth. You will dig for something small and heavy in the ground.

And then that year will end. And then another year will end. And the next year will be totally blank.



(1/13/21, for S)



Yongyu Chen is a poet based in Cambridge, Massachussetts, where they're currently studying for a Ph.D. in Film and Visual Studies at Harvard. Recent work has also appeared in Nashville Review and The White Review. They were born in Beijing and grew up in East Tennessee.