Writing as a memorial of loss

A couple of weeks ago in Bhanu’s class we looked at the architecture of memorials, specifically Maya Lin. We had an in class writing assignment to write a memorial of loss ? using some prompting questions taken from Maya Lin and other architects.

Here’s what I turned in:

Memorial: A Window of One’s Own

I can’t tell you what has been lost.

What ever was lost is gone, gone so completely that I can’t even name its absence. Instead I can start by answering the question: What has not been lost? ?

No one died. No one was killed. I didn’t see anyone killed. No one I knew was killed. No one I knew very well was killed.

There’s that.

Everywhere we lived there was at least one window. The homes and the homeless homes, the motels, the trailers, the projects, all these places had windows. I crammed all of space/place into a window. The window became a private room, became the universe. Everything else was lost ? (or what I thought lost ? was before the event of loss).

The window was shattered, metaphorically and literally; the point of viewing lost.

But no one died.

I cried in the hospital thanking her boyfriend for taking the knife into his chest instead of letting my mother die. No one was killed.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

How will I mark the space of this memorial? Rebuild a window? A mock window? A window that is not a window? A stronger, better window? A non-window?

What is non-window? A wall? The outside? Non- window is no universe, no private room. All I need to write is a window of my own.

To mark this memorial space I will give myself a window of my own. I will re-tell the story, the perpetual shattering of my window. In the re-telling I will make present a window of one’s own for any one.

I encounter these marks as I create them. I fall in love with them as I arrange them into a window memorial. The people without windows will also encounter these marks and mourn their loss. We find here a window of one’s own ?, ever-present.

The men and women with windows and rooms and houses and yards and vacations and nations may know me finally. Or they may laugh.

Love lives in this window. People fall in love through this window.

I live here. My face reflects back to me. This window is where I meet myself. Birds live here and so does fear and danger and grace.

Grace is an old woman sitting by her window on Sunday morning.

The space of the world was a windowsill, a point of origin with two directions: inside and outside. The windowsill was a few inches deep and a couple of feet wide. The flatness of it was like a home, designed by an architect and painted white. This was where I rested my elbows to read or imagine my life in the direction of out or in.

When they started shooting, I turned away. I sat with my back against the wall. The window behind me was a too bright light, like the moon over my shoulder. I listened to gunshots and screaming, nothing between me and the outside except a window.

A window can’t stop bullets. I turned my back to the outside and stared at the hardwood floor, the inside walls cracked and stained, our neighbor’s furniture and her entertainment system.

The window was closed but not locked. Don’t know why she didn’t lock it. Always lock the window. Always. All some crazy motherfucker has to do is slide it open. Even a locked window ain’t shit for a crazy motherfucker. But you got to lock the window, right?

This is a memorial to a loss of almost nothing. It’s such a small thing, hardly noticed. Who will care? Who will read it? I’m following Jesse Stuart’s advice and writing for myself and not anyone else. This is a memorial in which I can live. This is why I write: so that I can live here. I’m writing a home.


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