My Favorite Detritus: 2

by on Sep.14, 2010

Body in the Bog

“divine materials” (Whitman)

“I am going toward a future that does not exist / leaving every instant a new corpse behind me”—René Daumal, Le Contre-Ciel

memento mori

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“Colour differs from substance. Is colour always lyric? We are not sure. It seems to consist of the detritus from natural history stuck into sentiment. For example, it is said that among humans, women are colourful. Nothing more needs to be said on this theme.” —Lisa Robertson, Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office of Soft Architecture

(e.g. Cecilia Vicuña, precarios):

El Quipo Menstrual

“metaphors in space”

“precarious is what is obtained by prayer”

“I have a very intense feeling that what we do is already the remains of what we are doing…by picking up things I am conscious of what has been thrown away but is staying”

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"nest made out of the bones of my mother"

I picked this up from the roadside in Green Lake, Wisconsin, where it had spilled out of a plastic garbage bag along with 6 or 7 fetlocks and a bloody white t-shirt. I took it back to the house where I was spending the week—the only house I’ve known, have had access to, for my entire life; container of my childhood detritus. I don’t know why I picked it up, why I felt so much desire for merger, why I eventually nestled my naked body inside this gristly rib cage. (I wrote about this experience to the poet Antler, who I met a few weeks later, and he wrote back: “it would be hard for adult person to curl up inside gutted deer, but in the dream anything can happen and make sense. Baudelaire miniaturized himself to Tinkerbell size and imagined taking his beloved to see a hideously rotting maggots corpse, he told her ‘someday you’ll be like that’ in hopes it would turn her on to be with him. Hmm.” Later, I visited the Marina Abramovic retrospective at MoMA, where I encountered “Cleaning the Mirror” and “Balkan Baroque.”)

At the end of the week I ate some mushrooms and wandered into the nearby bog, where I stumbled upon the buck skeleton.

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My American Heritage Dictionary, 4th Ed, defines detritus, in part, as “accumulated material; debris: ‘Poems, engravings, press releases—he eagerly scrutinizes the detritus of fame’ (Carlin Romano). […from Latin détrítus, from past participle of détere, to lessen, wear away. See DETRIMENT.”

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Lucas suggested, “as for detritus, do you ever think about the prebiotic? ‘something once dead, now living’ [Bhanu Kapil] ?…it means you can sit back and write a dead book.”

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It’s hard to wrap my mind around this word “detritus.” If you think about it too deeply, you may conclude: there is only detritus.

We have a friend whose ex-wife is a mortician. She always looks forward to spring, when the Mississippi River thaws and the “first floaters” start coming in.

My friend Steve writes about the Mississippi River. I asked him what his favorite detritus was, and he said “the terminal moraine; the psychic baggage of the glacier.”

My friend Alex also likes pluvial detritus. “When the river floods, and rushes through the houses of the town, and takes with it all the stuff in the houses, which wasn’t before but now has suddenly become detritus: photos, baby bibs, foot stools, silverware, dead sisters…”

John’s favorite detritus is the driftwood he finds down by the river, which he collects to burn in the fire pit in our backyard. He often encounters, along the bank, abandoned camp sites and stashed grocery carts. (The detrital shall inherit the detritus.) From this covert refuge in Northeast Minneapolis, one might enjoy an especially good view of our new stadium, and of the mirrored façades of skyscrapers along the new 35W bridge (replacing the one that collapsed two years ago—the construction of which was fast-tracked to accommodate the RNC). For their day jobs, the guys who crash along the river push their carts—full of scrap metal, aluminum, plastic bags, cardboard, whatever—around the streets of our city. Sometimes they carry signs (in case we need captions.)

John said, “What about evolutionary detritus? Like the gall bladder?” He told me he heard that there’s recently been an increase in teen suicides resulting from jumping off the 7th level parking lot at the Mall of America.

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Some people experience a kind of cellular detritus, “phantom phantom limbs.” The DSM-IV calls this Body Integrity Identity Disorder (BIID); BIIDs refer to themselves as “Wannabes.” Here’s George from Milwaukee, as mentioned in Megan’s post, from the documentary “Whole”:

“I felt absolutely as if transformed”

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These are my daughter’s baby teeth.

dental detritus

A few years ago for Christmas, she made this for me on the back of a mirror she found at the flea market in Green Lake.


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More beautiful detritus:

2 comments for this entry:
  1. Lucas

    This post is like wandering through the bog and, while emerging, finding a lake.

    Thanks for the props!!

  2. Sarah Fox

    Lucas, we will have to see if we can arrange such a bog walk in the very near future. Who knows what kinds of detritus we may find before emerging lakeside. . . Thanks for the (constant) inspiration. XO