TEXT prose


Michelle Cahill


Letter to Derrida




I have been meaning to write to you for months with such intensity that now at last I am ready to begin, for your words repay no casual browsing. There is no beloved face or voice, which I hold in memory, that so affects me. I admit it is your borrowings, misquoted perhaps, postponed, but savoured nonetheless. Why,  I have asked myself, for months, (no, years), does this trouble me?

You once told me there are traces of us in everything. I read our language in the streets where I walk or in the houses I enter to sleep and to breath, or in the bones of the child that I hold, or the man who has loved me with the coldness of a lover, in whom all images are reversed.

For I do concede the violence of my words. My therapist doubts if I am narcissistic. He does not even think me passive-aggressive, but you have made me know my repressions; indeed, my every fetish.

My dearest, this body of writing is a fantasy. Its words are like cells which divide and expand into an anatomy of passages. Do not trust them. They are nurtured by the lies of ink, the false promises of white space. They are shaped by perversity, their rigours are syntax. Some form into patterns, appearing not as fully present; little embryos of stories. Other words miscarry. They read like crypts of coral or broken shells, semantically fated, and asking to be filled with a different mouth.

But speak now, dearest. Deny this body of writing is yours. She is spectral, a dopplegänger, a kind of fragmentary haunting. And yet she is here, where I have always been in this blank darkness. For reading and writing—are they not like the first purlieu we come to inhabit?—a space before time, before day or night, a space of aloneness and comfort in which the one who sustains us is invisible?

Close your eyes.

Forget the rough ride. We’ve turned round and round in circles. With you or without, I am in a double-bind. Between the extremes of excitation and error, (terror?), between deciphering and detour do I find myself banished. How can I say what must be spoken without contradiction? Without waging war on us? I have thrown away my gods for things more tactile. Am I not this body of writing, who bears your mark, the many plurals therein, assuming but a singular completeness? How well this serves me.

You have shown me a vividness despite your absence. For it is a wonder to play at scribbling the texts of our bodies, the bodies of our texts, outside of which, as you rightly say, il n’y a rien.

Because of you I see with your eyes, knowing that my desire to see is a desire to escape from seeing, a desire to come by delay, to hold what is empty, to taste sublimely what is impure. None of which brings me to my point.

Should I confess what is undisclosed, promise me you would deconstruct this shameless rubbish. Show me your devotion. Despise me. For accordingly, this author, this narrator, this third person, is other than me entirely. She is a whole, made up of parts. She is a ghost-ship, a phantom crew navigating the uncharted.

Pardon her composite epistles. She is like pillars of coral, each containing a thousand tiny cavities; half-coloured, half-faded, washed ashore from a reef, or swept along by a windy swell. Each piece carries its hint of another life, its clues borne out by fish and reef plankton.

On small indeterminate ‘traces’, as you would call them, do all my worlds rely. My nuances are fragile, playful, subtle, obstinate, and because of you, impossible. Like vibrations, you touch them and your boundaries slip away. In preserving them I am guessing. Because of you I am living with the speculative. Because of you I am swept in the currents of a partially imagined past through the appearances of what is present, to a space which I depend on for recovery.

So fatigued am I, so defeated. And yet it is to this alchemy of language I unwittingly turn, placing my entire fate in your hands.

Without you I am powerless.



Michelle Cahill’s fiction has appeared recently in SoutherlyTransnational LiteratureFamous Reporter and Prosopisia. In 2009 she received an Australia Council grant to write fiction at Sanskriti Kendra. She has published two collections of poetry, most recently Vishvarūpa with 5IP. Michelle is co-editor of Mascara Literary Review: www.mascarareview.com


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Vol 15 No 2 October 2011
Editors: Nigel Krauth & Kevin Brophy