A Lover Left Me And I Began To Write

Alan Reed

Alan Reed is a Montreal-based writer. He is the author of a novel, Isobel & Emile (Coach House Books, 2010), and a collection of poems, For Love of the City (BuschekBooks, 2006). His stories and poems have appeared in the journals dANDelion, The Coming Envelope, Papirmass, and Performance Research.

His poem loosely reworks Maurice Blanchot’s theorisation of the act of writing from L’Espace littéraire. It takes the concept of absence that occupies a central position in that work and approaches it as if it were also a site of loss. It articulates a theory of the origin of the act of writing from this new position, as a response to loss that deploys the timelessness of literature as an attempt to re-establish the integrity of experience in the wake of loss.


Écrire, c’est entrer dans l’affirmation de la solitude où menace la fascination. C’est se livrer au risque de l’absence de temps, où règne le recommencement éternel.

Maurice Blanchot, L’Espace littéraire. Paris, Gallimard, 1955.

We were together and then we were not and what we were we were not anymore.

There was what we said in the end there was the way we said it. How it came from our mouths a surprise. We stood bewildered before it no matter that it was true that it was over and then it was over.

That was all.

That was all it could be. Where there was life there was not and whatever could have made it otherwise was no more. We stood. We said goodbye and it was already too late to say goodbye. It was already over.

And what is left after it is over. What life is there.

Afterward I sat by myself it might have been dark though probably it was not it was likely the washed out grey that certain afternoons have in that kind of empty light I was alone and I sat. I sat with what had happened I sat and I remembered. It played out again silently in the quiet of the empty light what we said was said again how when we left we each left alone.

What plays out again does not happen again. It is of another time it can only have happened it can only be the trace of what it was. It is not what is left it is only what was. That is all it can ever be.

I sat with it I remembered and remembering is a stillness. To sit with it with what was is to be transfixed it is to take on its stillness. Stillness means to be apart from what is happening. It is not life it is something else and it is stillness because that is what it is to be apart from what is happening.

If that is what is left.

Not memory not remembering but what it is to remember. The stillness that opens from it. What it is to sit with this stillness apart from what is happening apart from life. To sit with something that has happened and now it is something else something that cannot happen that draws close but will always be still that cannot happen again.

If what is left is to be left without anything that could happen. If this is a comfort that there can be nothing that can happen that without anything that could happen there can be no end to anything even if it is already over. There is only stillness. There can only be stillness. If this is why I was sitting at a desk in the uncertain light coming in through a window.

The surface of the desk was worn and pitted my hands were hesitant. The shadow on the wall was only my own. I did not know how to be alone. I wanted to stay close to what was to feel again what it was like when it was what was when that was what life was. I wanted to stay in stillness.

In stillness there is nothing that can happen there is only what was and what was can only be still. What is possible here is only ever possible it does not spill over into something that happens. It cannot be alive it can only ever be what it always was.

It stays still.

Instead of happening it can only be what might have been. What might have been means what never was but might have been. If something had been different if there had been more time if that moment of life had carried on longer or differently and it did not and so it is what might have been.

In this stillness everything that might have been plays out every way it might have played out but not so that it happens. It has no life and what was remains unchanged that is what stillness means. To happen is to change and in stillness it does not. In stillness what was unfolds only as what it was and not anything more.

In stillness I am what I was what I know how to be. I do not know how to be what I have become I do not know what this life is so I will be what I was no matter that I am not anymore. From within stillness my hand moves like it would have. It is something that happens it is not me doing it but it happens. It is something that reaches out from stillness.

It is not what was it is not what I was. It is. It is and it is what was it is as if what might have been has happened. And it has happened and because it has happened it is not what it was anymore. It is not that past life even though it still is it is something else and it is my hand I am this something else taking shape in stillness.

I am what I was and I am the something else forming before me. In this moment I am not myself. When my hand moves I am only watching what I am is not part of this. I am not part of this. I watch as what was rises from inside me as stillness pours from me.

I watch as I write.

I sit at a desk bathed in a cold and uncertain light and instead of life I hold stillness inside me. I have lost myself in what was and I lose myself again and what might have been reaches out from me. It moves. I sit and my hand moves before me with a life not quite its own I watch as it writes and in writing what I was becomes something else it returns to life. What might have been unfolds on the page into something that is something I can be.

From stillness I return to life. It is what it means to write.


Pour citer cette page

Alan Reed, « A Lover Left Me And I Began To Write »,  MuseMedusa, no 6, 2018, <https://archives.musemedusa.com:443/dossier_6/reed/> (Page consultée le 07 December 2022).