Of the Bound

Abeir Soukieh is a poet and writer based in Canberra.  She is an Acquisitions Editor at be:longing and her work can be found at be:longing magazine, Not Very Quiet and the Cordite Poetry Review.

Of the bound. Kapuscinski

Passage from Ryszard Kapuściński’s travelogue “Imperium”.  

Oh! The comfort of boundaries.

Such that the mere thought of crossing them might elicit varying levels of discomfort. Whatever the case may be, it’s not comfort that you feel, it’s comfort negated or altered; a dis- or a variation on the theme of comfort that either appeals to you or doesn’t.

But, at the very beginning, first and foremost, you maintain a sort of blameless ignorance of boundaries.

That is, osmosis; passivity; obliviousness; non-participation; unawareness.

But then comes the awareness.
The awakening;
The great eye opening;
The veil lifted;
The shock;

That palpable non-ignorance of barriers, boundaries, borders, boulders, barricades, blockades, bars, backs, barracks, breaks.

And, with said awakening, you must then choose either to fall asleep again, or not to. Or you could do both. Or neither. Ultimately the choice is yours, and it’s not finite, and likely changes depending on circumstances, moods, whims, bad hair days, and the like.

However, there are essentially two different states at play, regardless of the choices made; two states on either side of a continuum; to see or not to see; to look or not to look; to awaken or to sleep; to live or to die…with several thousand, thousand possibilities in between.

But, when one awakens, or is awakened, there is this moment;
this clarity,
and ‘…this incalculable tumble before the image of what we are.’ [1]

Incalculable because different people reach for different parts, moments and ends of the ‘tumbling’ spectrum;

Can they, will they ‘forget’ what they saw, felt, and/or heard and continue wilfully to be unaware?

Or can they, will they alter fundamentally the ways in which they have thought about things up to this point?

And, indeed, after that, can they then, will they then, alter the ways in which they behave such that their behaviour aligns more appropriately with this new attitude of theirs?

Really, it’s up to them whether they see enough value in the boundary to keep it there or enough value in traversing it to traverse it.

But this moment, this clarity and this tumble that asks of you to make a choice, first must be affected by something.

By a something that is different;
By a not expected;
By an apparent negation;
By an alteration;
By a variation on a theme;

Variations on a theme. bread


By a foreigner.
A foreigner. The classic.

And how a foreigner might represent the possibilities…
That there’s more, and elsewhere, and different…

If a measure should be one’s backyard, one’s street, one’s city, one’s country, to fathom existence outside that boundary can generate a kind of nausea [2]…the nauseousness of further, and anything and everything…the limitlessness…the freedom…

The foreigner represents a mistake in boundaries, in isolation, in privacy;
The foreigner capsizes delusions of solitude, retreat and ownership.
The foreigner worries you, does the foreigner not?
That your centre is not the centre.

If the foreigner should represent the possibilities of time and space and understanding, they also represent how much you don’t know. And that is what makes you…uncomfortable, unsettled by the ‘measurelessness’…that not all is categorical, defined, finite. There’s more. There is only more.

This is possibly more an ode to laziness or habit than to fear. Fears of change, fears of the unknown, they all derive from an unwillingness, or a perceived inability, to do anything about it.

It just all seems like a bit of a drag, really. An “mmm, I don’t wanna, plus I don’t hafta, and so, I ain’t gonna.”

But then also the fact that there are infinite possibilities dislocates the uniqueness we seek in everything, confounding and disrupting.

As a result, boundaries are made necessary to make things appear valuable.

A delimiting of the areas that are of value to you.

A measured vestige of worth.

One that is recognisably worthy by virtue of its limitation, made unique and necessary.

And so, with the collapse of these boundaries comes the collapse of value, of meaning, a value and meaning that you, perhaps, thought inherent. With the collapse of boundaries comes the sadness; that you could just as soon replace one with another…replace one with a better, even…?

But, then again, nostalgia prefers the known, despite its discrepancies, its imperfections…it has been and it is known and it has its own uniqueness, I promise…

It has happened.

You can understand what has taken place already…what you have seen and felt and traversed. Thus, this fear of the unknown is more a fear of having to put effort into uncovering the unknown and then making it known. A fear of having to do, move, act, speak when all this time you were fine, immobile, inactive, switched off, staaable

And so, the boundaries become realer, they are made solid.

Conscious wall-building as opposed to osmosis.

Essentially, we don’t want the barricades to fall through…we are determined to keep our ignorance…ignorance of the possibilities, of the made-up-ness of boundaries, of more, of less, and of ‘[the] meaningless pantomime [that] make[s] silly everything that surrounds [it]’. [3]

The foreigner, then, makes for quite the discomfort…a threat to already-ness, to habit…

The foreigner really makes us wonder

Then, either curiosity wins out…or we continue, wilfully, to deceive ourselves.

For, I am content.

I have no reason to do it.

Sure, I have no reason not to do it.

But like, I have no reason to do it.

And I prefer it that way.

© Abeir Soukieh, 2017

[1]  Ma boi Camus.
[2]  Satre said some things.
[3]  Ma boi Camus; again, he’s like, just real good.