absent persons can be felt, Stern tells us, as potent, almost palpable presences, or as silent abstractions known only by trace evidence - the dead rematerialize in many different forms -

while the beloved, it is said, experienced as an almost constant presence, alters your perceptions and your movements -
I'm crazy about her shrimp! shouts Charles Simic, jigging around the kitchen -

how can such experiences be accounted for? asks Stern, with the peculiar anxious, earnest uncertainty that propels these sentences, marked by laborious composition: to grasp what appears now so elusive, now so common place - snapping at empty air -

the storms pluck at the skin of this, Simon immediately spotted, by no means high performance tent, which we take into the mountains when the most violent storms of the year are certain -

why? why? wild creatures start to move about, calling to one another, so to say: for our delight, we're sitting on the ground, we've come 4000 miles to sit, eat out of doors, sleep on the ground, start in this way from the lowest point, as Braque said of Ponge (nothing is lower than the earth, says Braque)

sit down! on the grassy terrace in the warm evening at Camping Montagut: your working life is far away - your working selves are tiny figures - when you get back the details will grind you down, punctuated by revolts of the run down house: the body: my other grandmother is in poor health, as they say: a battle begins, for a person's body - there is a system - those dreams where a person struggles to avoid being dragged in to an escalator by their hair - a struggle begins in the United States of America, which a person is destined - ninety nine times out of a hundred - to lose - an old person and a sick person who can not fight so effectively - must be kept alive in order that funds will flow in to the caring - the housing and of course the medical institutions until that person is no longer able either to yield, when squeezed, or to draw down funds, via arrangements made in times of health, when the traps were set - an independent person with a family of human beings around them, who have tried to find the best way through, barely stands a chance, not to speak of an isolated person - a person without money and without their family - such a person requires care and demands and pleads for care - such a system is not set up to provide care, as such - just as in the Trojan war, where the soldiers wrangle over the body of Patroclus until it is torn up, a person's body becomes the subject of a vicious wrangle among interested parties, with the added dimension: they're still alive -

mammy awalt! how I remember her: her hand: when she was so old and had begun to fall - so thin and bruised and swollen - there was nowhere for the swelling to go - I went with my grandmother to the old people's home - so help me if something about her bearing, as she held her hand up patiently, shaking her head over it - something about her posture in that low chair - I was a young child, I mean - is the same in this picture in front me in which she appears to rise out of the lawn - their feet are in shadow - both of them, mother and daughter: so alert! before the camera: the mother: stylish, unsmiling, self possessed; my grandmother: looking slightly aside, barely ironic, smiling: dressed, as usual, as a boy -

of course they look like they're standing on the grass in front of the house as we drive away - their hands have been lowered - it's the end of all gestures - it's a tiny photograph - we're looking back -

yet this small photograph: of my great grandmother and my grandmother, which I thought I could take from an envelope and handle with impugnity - but I begin to feel uneasy, in the grip of their gazes: something of the distress of leaving, at once the accusation of abandoning them, in silence, and the distress of return, driving away and back to study - the puncture in skin of experience is at this abandonment : first to solitude, of the old and the infant, under the sign of escape, under the sign of what must be done: this is both the condition, perhaps we feel, of this position of ours, and its distinctive source of difficulty -

our stomachs and our whole bodies are churned up by such a memento: an object of genuine power and animation: a person - thing! broadcasting its rays -

well - but in the face of these what do you say: ancestors: a person : I am, if I can say, disarmed: there is a deficit ; the proverbial incompleteness of the living -