Poems and Texts

ESSAY ON THE APERTURE by MC Hyland

ESSAY ON THE APERTURE

The aperture is not an eye responding automatically to prevailing light conditions. One begins by lifting aloft the small perceiving egg. Evening turns briefly and staggeringly blue, requiring an adjustment in the organs of perception. Standing over the sink I suddenly reperceive a remark made by my grandmother twenty-five years ago. I mean I was an imperfect recording device. A woman standing in the street moves in a way that causes her to appear, for just a moment, as someone known to me. Depending on the light admitted, some things may be made clear while others may be obscured. What light the poem is able to admit just before the outlines begin to blow out. What matters is that the aperture’s adjustments require an intervening hand. I do not wish to suggest by this that the eye is “natural.” Neither is the “I” of lyric natural, although it forms in some poems a mechanism for perception. Barbara Johnson writes of the splitting of the speaker into an “I” and a “you”: this is how a fertile body enters both language and choice. She writes female logic is a way of rethinking the logic of choice in a situation in which none of the choices are good. Like many of my friends I was a being who desired and chose, shifting in and out of spaces for which I possessed adequate speech. In the language I am learning, I am forced into the present, so that the doctor’s annual questions are unavailable to me: Are you now pregnant? Do you wish to become so? Have you ever been so? I mean a body is a tool for the production of language, though some bodies produce a more slippery “I” than others. For example, I have placed in this essay a set of statements which may either mislead or hint at certain truths of my life. Both “my” and “life” are and will remain open questions. The lyric “I” tightens the aperture around some subjects more than others, so that reading Mary Hickman’s Rayfish, I remark, I didn’t know Mary had been a doctor. Similarly the camera is understood to simply record what is available to its eye, although often elements of the scene swim into visibility for the first time as the film develops. How does my “I” allow light into the poem? How does my “I” cinch against illumination? My grandmother’s remark adhered to codes of racialization common in her generation of white women. Internet comment sections suggest these codes remain common in my own generation. What I suddenly perceive in her remark is a pinhole through which I might have passed a question. The glimmer of light now shining through that pinhole has traveled across the vast emptiness of space, only to arrive some years after her death.

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