1. Any of several large, web-footed sea birds of the family Diomedeidae that have the ability to remain aloft for long periods.
2. A seemingly inescapable moral or emotional burden, as of guilt or responsibility.
3. Something burdensome that impedes action or progress.
I think that if I was a good writer before, that has ended. I can’t explain where I am now. It’s too hard to find because the words have all moved. On Wednesdays my co-worker has another job at a letterpress. She arranges little metal pieces into mirrored words. Then she turns them into sentences– invitations and announcements. I don’t know what it’s like at all but imagine enormous drawers full of words that slide heavily open. Sometimes I pull too hard and the whole tray comes swinging out, unbearably heavy. I try to keep the final edge from falling off and am left falling hard myself— my whole body drops to a quick kneel to try to stabilize the letters from below. And I succeed but it’s hard to fit the drawer back into the void from here. I scratch up my arm. I rip my shoulder. Mostly I am frustrated.
Among other things my coworker must be better at finding the letters of the alphabet. Even in my metaphor, I cannot remember the order of the cubbies. HIJKL HIJKL. Those are the hardest. And then, after those it’s VW. I can’t remember them even though it’s one of those special orders that you learn as a little tiny person. It has a special name, Alphabetical Order. I don’t even know what albatross means or what’s on the dinner menu or where you are in my list of contacts or how Teresa of Avila ends. I think I can remember things as long as I don’t have to write them down.
I am capable only of uselessly recognizing patterns and then failing to articulate them. Yep, I say to myself, looking to a shelf of books, That is alphabetical order in action. Or– as it more likely, it is not. Over muffins and tea this morning my dear friend Meg told me about her job where she parses sentences in Latin and Greek. Because of the syntax they can figure out when one writer is adopting the style of another and then they can teach a computer to do it the job instead. That sounds like the kind of work I could handle right now. Not the parsing. If I were a person in that story I would be the computer. Computers aren’t expected to know which information is important and which isn’t. They take things seriously. My friend said, mostly as a joke, that she was grateful that her family kept all their conflict bottled up. Wild blueberry muffins, blackberries, watermelon, Pride of the Port, the ability to reamain aloft, birds of the family. Whatever it is, the albatross, I would like to issue an invitation– or at least an announcement.
Are you there? Hotel India Juliet Kilo Lima.
… — …
In mist or cloud, on mast or shroud,
It perched for vespers nine ;
Whiles all the night, through fog-smoke white,
Glimmered the white Moon-shine.’