Day 244 / 2 in the afternoon

We are here now. Not where we said we would be. But also not where we never thought of. We are here. It is still unknown whether we will be on our way. Whether we will be tortured. But for now we are in a stand still. There are no more packages. When I need main street, I go there instead. Because we are completely deserted. And they rely on us taking care of each other. It has been established. We’ve begun to see that. They cannot continue without this reliance on our willingness to do whatever it takes for each other. They cannot continue as an entity that survives by way of offsetting without our willingness to offset what allows them to be an untouchable entity. So at what point do we say, enough is enough, pass on, let each other down in order to not allow the entity to keep working. 

This morning, our plan was to go to main street, one of them, to sit down, be away from each other while also being right beside each other, and then check in. But it didn’t work out. We would interface intermittently with each other over the course of deciding the procedure of going to main street, going to a body of water, going to procure food and other essential items, but we would never even get that far. Somehow, soon enough, it would become about where we came from, too, except this time, it would be relevant. Despite claims on the contrary, it would make sense to bring up where we came from in relation to what we were doing to and for each other now. Now we are still in the intermittent place. As we were finally on our way out, as we had finally met some kind of point of diffusion, as we had finally decided there would be no main street today, only passing through main street, if need be, only passing through main street if it was necessary to pass through it in order to get through at all to a body of water, something changed. We realized one of us was wearing the wrong thing. We realized we forgot to bring some crucial items. All of this would both add to the diffusion as it would add to the aggregate yet delayed resentment. By the time we had settled on a route, one of us had already begun aggressively cleaning as one of us had begun noticing the issue of near future caloric intake. I could have been done now. Everything that needed to be done in order for us to move on could have been done, in one way, but now time is diffused. We could make it a good thing now . . .

We were heading toward what I had believed to be one of the main streets and then we came to what looked completely abandoned. So it was an abandoned section that could merely be disjointed and not too far away from the main street, disjointed but connected underneath. We found out later anyway that it was just that. I said, we could be the next neighbors to join this community, to make something of meaning here, of sustenance. What would we even make? It could just be an homage to us . . . It was like this conversation diffused our anger, our hands touched, and we were a unit again. 

Then we began to route ourselves toward a place that is becoming more and more familiar to us even if it has not become a part of our memory yet. We needed some help getting there. Turn right, turn left, turn right, stay on the road. I can’t remember where the conversation went after that. It didn’t matter. We missed a turn but then we went back and soon arrived. Already we had a better sense of the place, we were already less tentative, we already felt we needed less permission to set ourselves down somewhere, that we were not intruders, that any contact we made with others there would not intrude upon them or us. We found a place between two spheres. We sat on the edge that could have connected them. We began to settle in. Another arrival eased us. Said hello. Not to us but to another group. This eased us already.  

So many unknown creatures here—have they always belonged here? As long as we have? How long does it take for pollination to occur? I am noticing the sounds of pollination and how easily these sounds can be confused for other more menacing sounds and how other sounds we have thought of as menacing really would only be so under a particular set of circumstances. Apparently everyone is afraid of that. We have been here for what seems like less than one hour and everyone has almost been kind. We are surrounded by kindness and we are surrounded by judgment but judgment can also be the purest form of kindness, true judgment. 

It is hard to tell whether we are the loudest things here or whether what we fear is an intrusion has already been anticipated or adapted to beyond our self-consciousness. Nothing that has touched me here has hurt me. I have asked the one if the one is going to be ok. I don’t know is the answer. It is jarring at first to be in this place and then soon we realize we have to adjust our idea of peace and control. Just now we saw what appeared to be a miraculous act of navigation on the most local of levels. And then we realized it was actually a public display of affection. What appeared to be a solitary act became or was made apparent to us as doubles. But they were not equals. What we thought was a single existence became a question of whether one can coexist within oneself. Have we received our weekly vitamin d? Have we ever? I am neither not ready to leave nor am I ready to go. 

We get the feeling through intuition and words we’ve heard that some of the friendlies here could be coming from the same place as us. Through various things picked up we believe this is a temporary excursion for them, a day of rest. Is this our day of rest too? How? We find the most rest while working through rest, resting through work. One of us does. But the one’s working community has sung and sung and made banners and made anthems to commemorate or remind the community of the community’s contributions back to other communities who have been singing for a long time, singing without banners, without anthems, without even listeners, the one’s working community has utilized these contributions as a way to lure and to set itself aside from other communities. But if anyone stops marching, the community ceases. 

This shuffling back and forth, this shuffling that requires so many past lives, so much sustenance, so much vitamin d. Like we have misunderstood ourselves. Like we have sat, heavy, with idle, and thought. We have procured enough materials now. We can get there again. Tomorrow we will procure again. 

I have not gone to the supply shop yet. I have gone to the nursery and to the army discount store. But I have not gone to the various supplies shops yet. I have set the plants out outside, or, rather, one of them set out the plants in front of the building for me. One fern, two palms, and yarrow. She has a relationship with yarrow, a personal relationship. Still I don’t know if I’ll ever make it there and a part of me worries I will have disappointed them, I will have made them feel like their time was wasted with me, like I was just wasting their time. I would be an idle person, so idle . . .

The more I think about the main event the more I think what we are celebrating is not a beginning but an ending. The more I think about the main event the more I think what we are celebrating is not a beginning or an ending, not for us, but an ending for those we have known and held onto and whom we have needed in order to know, an ending between us and those we have come to know just each other through. To be given a chance. What do we owe them? Everything? Is it wrong that they have no idea this is more of an ending than it is a beginning? Who are we beholden to here? Who are we cuckolding? 

Sometimes I think we’ve gone back and forth so much between leaving a place temporarily and leaving a place permanently that we’ve forgotten soon we won’t have a choice, or the choice will be made for us anyway, or we will indeed make a choice but it won’t even seem like we’re making a choice anymore. Sometimes I think we already made a choice by not making a choice and so now what we thought was the worst possible circumstance is now no longer so foreboding, is now something that we can put up with, if necessary, before we get to where we will wind up eventually, not to where we go. Somehow the foreboding is no longer something that weighs daily on us, though we are aware of its shape, though we are aware of template, somehow we have become too busy with the daily task of going back and forth, of keeping up with the needs of the temporary encampment and with maximizing our meaning here, which sometimes conflict with the needs of a less temporary future encampment. This is a place that could become familiar to us, if we dared. This is a place that could also become forced upon us. That’s all.

There is a restaurant on main street I am taking cues from, there is a restaurant on the main street toward main street that I am learning from. Could I go in and ask if there is a place for me there? Where would I begin? It’s not that I would cease to pursue this other main line, this main line I have had to set stones down for, but it is possible, I think, to pursue two main lines simultaneously, and to the end. And is it fair if one of them becomes a backup plan? It is best to become mesmerized so that you become confused as to whether or not the backup plan was ever really a backup plan, or an exit strategy.

Sometimes I think our neighbors don’t really see us as neighbors at all because they figure we won’t be staying past the season, not because they know us, not because they know anything about our exit strategy, but because people who stay in this house are frequently passing through, so they’re just used to seeing people come and go frequently. It’s not their fault. It should also be noted that we did not take the initiative to go over there when we first arrived to introduce ourselves. How many of us can fit behind the wall that separates us from them? The grass is allowed to grow up to the knees here and the mulberry tree is open to the entire street for picking. I find it most fun to get a ladder and go one by one. I say this but I’ll never do it. I am a perfect voyeur instead.

Why doesn’t the neighbor approach me? Maybe I have never looked troubled enough as I stand by the mailbox? One has been approached several times now, one has heard many of the neighbor’s stories, one has heard some of the neighbor’s stories about the other neighbors, like the neighbors who are always fighting, and one has heard some of the neighbor’s stories about the neighbor’s memories of camping. We wonder what the neighbor’s role is here, is the neighbor in charge of things or does the neighbor work for other people here who are in charge of things? We have our suspicions. There is something about the neighbor that inspires a mouthful of mulberries. There is something about the neighbor that inspires a sorrowful feeling and shirt open, guts hanging out. How can we derive what we derive from the neighbor’s neighbors without knowing exactly their relations to each other, though we have our suspicions, how can we stand here, apart, behind, away, go past, give each other looks, as though, always as though . . . while also knowing the same reason we have a haven at all right now is related to the reason why the streets are so broken here, is related to the reason why the music is played loudly with disregard, is related to the reason why there is someone outside fixing their vehicle, having lemonade.

I could continue, to live off the good grace of others, off of what has gotten me far enough to live off the good grace of others. Is that what the training was for? I could be a permanent guest in other words but then I would only be offsetting my own needs, whose other needs, for example, would I even be capable of offsetting as a permanent guest? Would I be able to offset another’s offspring? On the other hand, we have sometimes even beguiled ourselves with the possibility of using the exigencies of guests instead. In this scenario, the guests would be paying for us to live where we already and almost live. Having guests or a consistent flow of guests would give us a reason and the means to live somewhere ourselves. So what is offset would simply be able to belong to us.

It was never explicitly stated, no, that we would be officially in charge of looking after this house. But it is implied nonetheless. It is implied that we would only be fucking ourselves over if we chose to let everything go. Our exigencies made it so that in about a month we would be checked in on and depending on what was found out of us, of what we did with our time here, it would play a part in our ability to move on, whereas our host has put herself in a very good position. It’s like we have been cuckolded but there is no point in making a fuss of it. Besides, we are leaving soon and it doesn’t make sense to try to find another place to go. Even if we have been cuckolded. It’s nice to have the place to ourselves. To have a place to clean aggressively. In part for ourselves right now, in part for ourselves in the near future. 

If I chose to just allow my weariness to be a reason to allow, to make allowances on one defining thing that does not define me, on one show-stopping piece that does not show who I am, I will have shown what I am willing to allow, shown my place in the world to allow, to not allow, and that’s maybe all.

Yesterday we were right beside each other and it was late but our timelines were somehow mostly in sync even though we were on totally different levels or maybe for the first time we were actually as close as we would ever get in terms of levels. Or maybe we were just both content in the cruelty of the world that we can’t control. Anyway, the one began reading aloud to me. I didn’t want it at first, and I still didn’t want it fully when I said ok, but then, once it began, I was with it. It made complete sense to me. What, in another world, in another world prior to the exigencies of thinking of this new way of living, for example, would have been felt to me as a waste of time, a draining of my time that otherwise could be used somehow more productively, became exactly the work. Anyway, even there, in that reading aloud, in that space of eclipsing, I heard the word . . . Miracle . . . Oh no . . . 

I have just now started making a plan to smuggle some of our sustenance out to the other encampment. I don’t want to be unfaithful but I have been keeping tabs and it has become indisputable that certain items are spoiling when they could have been shared with the other encampment. If I didn’t think there were sure to be extras, I wouldn’t offer from our pile. If I didn’t think there were sure to be stuff left over for the birds, I wouldn’t sneak around. 

Today about an hour or two before our checkin time, as scheduled, one and I began the exercise that needed to be complete before our checkin time today. Apparently we had different ideas of what would count as fulfilling the exercise, apparently we had different ideas of what the purpose of the exercise was at all. In truth, both of us were a bit lost. For me, on my end, it was a test of patience, a way to check my anger. I think that for the one it was a way to test one’s sense of distrust, a way to let go the need to do everything according to the right way. What is the right way? What is the right way to do this exercise? the one kept asking, wanting to stop. But I wanted to figure out as we went. The truth is, neither of us had “fun.” So we missed the point. Or we missed part of the point, since a part of the point was also the exercise of it, but the point we missed was that it was a chance for us to have fun. I guess we forgot to mention that we haven’t been doing much of that lately. Even our time of leisure is timed these days.

Yesterday, for example, we actually talked about what would happen if we actually had a baby and that baby lived and if we died while that baby lived then who would be the next of kin to take on the responsibility of making sure that baby would continue to live. We actually talked about that, like it was no big deal, as we were walking away from a place of serenity and things that we could only describe as dragonflies, because I guess we had gotten our fill. Was this just idle talk? Or were we making a game plan somehow? 

The point is that even in this moment of leisure there was little feeling of fun. I mean, after all, what counts? I am realizing now that, in a way, our aimlessness still requires the layout of an aim. Whether we are together, by ourselves, or with other members of the community, whether we are together and I am with the one, or I have left the one by oneself and they feel totally cut off from the community. As though I am the only link to it. And yet it really isn’t fair to compare our aimlessness to the aimlessness of the community. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a cloak and there wouldn’t be so many swords showing up just when I am smiling.


Valerie Hsiung is a poet and the author of eight collections of poetry and hybrid writing, including The pedestrian (forthcoming from Nightboat Books, 2026), The Naif (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2024), The only name we can call it now is not its only name (Counterpath, 2023), and To love an artist (Essay Press, 2022). She lives in the mountains of Colorado, where she teaches at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.