As Crowded as the Sea

Un instante cualquiera es mas profundo
y diverso que el mar.

~from ‘1964’, Jorge Luis Borges

The false and unfalse crowd this book on facing pages; some lies are even, some are odd. It is a small book, no wider than my palm, and slender — the leather of the cover warms to me, meets me flesh to flesh. The title has worn away from much handling, and title page inside is missing, so I am free to name it whatever I wish.

Inside is a minute, no more, from twenty-three minutes after one in the afternoon of March 16, 1985 to twenty-four minutes after, a small slice of the life of a nameless French expatriate. Or not her life; for the book takes her life and swallows it, and swallows everything on the corner where she stands, poised between California Street and Oakes Avenue in some western American town.

It is a strange book. What are we to make of her dreams of taller trees? What is the song that blows from the window of a passing car, a song she recognizes as Carcosan? She is driven by some strange urgency — the traffic that leaves her pinned to the corner is light, but she rails against it — but somehow we are never told what drives her on. The streets run with salmon for fifteen seconds, but neither she nor the book finds this strange enough to comment on. It is reported, no more, as fraught with meaning as the distant sounds of the navy yard, as trivial as the changing shapes of clouds, which obsess the narrator throughout.