Spatial Meditation No. 1 (after Rachel Khedoori’s Untitled, 2011)

By Donna Stonecipher

Rachel Khedoori, Untitled, 2011 © Rachel Khedoori

  • 3 May 2020

As part of our ongoing Antiphony series of newly commissioned poetry, Donna Stonecipher responds to Rachel Khedoori’s Untitled, 2011

We kept replacing a house with a house with a house, thinking we were getting somewhere, elsewhere, but one day we held still for a moment and realized that all of the houses had been accumulating underneath our current house the whole time, one atop the other like a fragile hazardous lighthouse whose weak beacon would never be able to keep us from breaking to pieces on the shoals. Our apartments kept us in pieces: we had segmented ourselves throughout the rooms, our dreams in one room and our nightmares in another, our plans to get somewhere, elsewhere drifting here and there in precarious piles. If there was no progress, there could be no stasis. If there was no future, there could be no remorse.

If there was no original, there could be no copy, only a utopia of copies, everywhere and at all instants like our own inevitable selves, filling selvage after selvage with inevitability. Developers tore down unprofitable houses and replaced them with profitable houses, but the unprofitable houses did not disappear: they accumulated like strata of sedimented geologic time in the minds of those who would never be free of them. But weren’t we also obsessed with profit and loss? Trying to get somewhere, elsewhere, yet engulfed with grief, stuck in the very same plot we believed we’d set out from? If there was no replacement, then there could be no retracing. If there was no development, then there could be no ruin. If there was no mobility, then there could be no nostalgia. There could be only a mise-en-abyme of home.

Donna Stonecipher is the author of five books of poetry, most recently Transaction Histories, which was cited by The New York Times as one of the ten best poetry books of 2018. Her work has been published in numerous journals, including The Paris Review, and has been translated into eight languages. A collection of criticism, Prose Poetry and the City was published in 2018. She is based in Berlin and her German translation of Austrian poet Friederike Mayröcker’s études will be published in 2020.