Rosmarie Waldrop


We’ve been told that Adam named every beast of the fields and every fowl of the air. And whatever Adam called every living creature that was the name thereof and took its place in the language. Language not specified—the Tower of Babel not yet built.

This story posits that the beasts were already there, that naming was like the daylight needed to acquire color. Others claim that it was Adam’s calling them into the word that made them cross the threshold into being. Others again scoff: What being! When Adam said “cat” he made her a concept and took away her singular reality of flesh and bone.

Nevertheless, naming seems the right approach to what is outside us. If a name doesn’t quite reach its aim we try very hard to fabricate another, tailored to the situation. With explanation and justification as needed.

I once tried to call my husband Keith by his official name, Bernard. He refused even a first step toward becoming a woolly saint. Who’d bring brandy whenever I was in distress.

When we think we have securely attached a name, what then? Do we stand there pointing one hand at the word, the other at the thing? Caught between sighs of intelligence and the silence before dawn?

I thought by taking a new name I could write a new self into existence. With the name as anchor. To wear like an amulet.

However, nothing is altogether simple with a name. It is a stratagem that works by division and fissure. Even while pushing us toward others.

For instance, the name my father gave me is lingering in my neocortex. Am I still its captive because it was repeated to me so many years by so many people? Till I seemed to become that name?

But doesn’t my life slip away between the letters of both names? What suture could join all my selves? Resist the singular the way my friend’s daughter has chosen to become “they”?

My old name drifts into my dreams though its time and mine no longer coincide. It promises a “return to myself” by taking me to visit the dead. Who want to know what I’ve done with their names. Do I burst into tears when I hear them?

It seems names and selves must surrender to passage as much as the body. For now, I rehearse by saying “I,” which is itself passage. On to the next speaker. To anyone.

MAKING SENSE                                                                            

Trained to “make sense” I’m unprepared to let sense, whatever it may be, rise by itself. Like the smell of lilac. Or not. Why not go where my feet may take me: chance, risk, probability?
But what if my thoughts get lost in the speedways of time. While my feet are stuck. To one particular spot. And the interval is the anxiety I feel about my life?                      
That the conversation seems always in a foreign language. When I think I follow. Carefully putting one foot in front of the other. I end up under stars projected by my own brain.

Whereas the moment I just hear a roar rush past my ear. Could that be sense beginning to happen? Only, I panic and plunge into the night, the other side of attention. Hoping the noise will fold into the purr of sleep.

But the dark is too vast to shelter. Except perhaps inanimate things. Our very being depends on the light that pours with implacable indifference. Over sense and its absence as if they were figures in a landscape.     

So should I stop trying to keep up with the wind? Thicken my breath into body-time to float among questions and contradictions as if points in space? And watch the yellow leaves fall? And fall with them toward the slower world?

Poet and translator Rosmarie Waldrop lives in Providence, Rhode Island, where together with her husband, Keith Waldrop, she established Burning Deck Press, a seminal forum for innovative poetry in the United States. A Keith and Rosmarie Waldrop reader, entitled Keeping / the Window Open, is available from Wave Books. She is the author of more than 20 books, including The Nick of Time, Gap Gardening: Selected Poems, Driven to Abstraction, and Curves to the Apple (New Directions, 2021, 2017, 2010, 2006). Her novel, The Hanky of Pippin's Daughter, is again available from Dorothy a Publishing Project and her collected essays, Dissonance (if you are interested), from University of Alabama Press. Waldrop has translated French and German poets, such as Edmond Jabès, Jacques Roubaud, Emmanuel Hocquard, Friederike Mayröcker, Elke Erb, and Peter Waterhouse.

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Founded in 2020, Three Fold is an independent quarterly based in Detroit that presents exploratory points of view on arts, culture, and society in addition to original works in various media, including visual art, literature, film and the performing arts. We solicit and commission contributions from artists, writers, and activists around the world. Three Fold is a publication of Trinosophes Projects, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

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