Rachel Sforza Hersch

frozen water rocks

The quiet end of everything just became quiet. The quiet of the snowflake fallen just became quiet. And the quiet crack of the limb cracking in the forest, too, just became quiet. The quiet of the stars elsewhere exploding became quite quiet. The girl who had a single match, she became quiet. And the boy with a single toy was quiet as well. Inside my paper house, it has always been this way. My paper plates and paper bowls, they both have always been so quiet to me. My paper cat and paper robe, washing in paper water, everything is so quiet here! Before even the paper sun had risen and shone its paper light across the valley, I am looking forward with my paper eyes at paper life and death. I cannot imagine what is written there, nor guess what has been perhaps before my time rubbed out. There are some terrible smudges here and there, somewhere far ahead, lost in the horizon of ‘tomorrow.’ Everything had been so very quiet, I was sure that I had begun my end. But I’m afraid right now I can’t replace such paper love with cashmere, poetry, and lace. At last, I am so oppressed by all the paper. The great heaviness of my solitude is like the silence of a gun, or the flexing of a bow, or the latches in an aeroplane cradling a silent bomb. I know the quietness must break up. Quietly, in space there is no papery sound—just space. And the flashes of God’s light spanning the breadth of entire galaxies bursting forth, is no more than a simple campfire ember burning out, after the campers have gone.

Concrete & Sand

concrete

There are objects, and no one remembers them. There are people, and no one remembers these. There have been and there will be times that disappear. The strange notion that any of this can be kept (whatever ‘kept’ means, and shall one day mean) persists. But for now, it is pleasant to take a hand to the wet grass. It is good to feel the water breaking along the shore in bare feet. It can be frightening of course to hear storms overhead, so frightening that we will paint them with our own feelings, which they lack, and call these sometimes ‘frightening’. All these things and more will pass to nothing. It could be so, once we are gone, that we shall have created traces which the absence of any consciousness at all will never need to know about.

Written On Water

boy

His friend had once declared that he had had the fantasy to remove by his death any evidence that he had ever existed. Imagine, the friend had once said, how in the past people strove for immortality. Now, he insisted, everybody—from the day people are born—they are followed by and create strings of numbers, identifications, and identities by which they will be known down through the ages. Poets, politicians, philosophers, the people who live next door, everybody who’s moved away! The whole world! Everybody’s immortal! What everybody used to strive for today is unavoidable. And the friend’s laughing friend would say to whomever he had managed to collar when the two friends bumped into each other in public: My friend here wants to erase every trace of his existence! Then, he would kiss his embarrassed friend on the cheek, and wander off, still laughing.

Helpless, helpless

house

There is a place called Ontario. I had been there, long, long ago. In it was a lake and an island. On the island was a cabin. There was no running water, and there was no electricity. This was long ago. For water, visitors to the island walked down the pine needle-covered winding path to the lake with galvanized buckets, and carried them full of water back up to the top. To call this a memory is improper. To call this the ‘past’, too, is improper. Neither the past, as it once was, or—might have been—known, nor memory itself, exists anymore. They have all been smashed on the head of a pin, which formerly stood—the pin, or the head of the pin, in particular—as the image or the metaphor for the opposite or counter-reason for time being stretched out. Which is to say that if it were not ‘stretched out’ then everything that was shall already have been. That was the argument. However the instantaneity, the technological ubiquity of everything all at once, the operational ease with and by which any object or factum or ‘thing’ in the known universe can be summoned digitally by the wizard wands which persons today so commonly wield & possess, this has made the dimensions of time itself as we humans (when we were such) altogether, and if not that, then altogether quite, vanished from the planet. What were once imprecise and fallible and even unreliable memories become data points, scattered across a Cartesian coordinate system, perfectly locatable wherever they be, having no more nor any less value or meaning than any other dot or datum, virtually anywhere in this vast nebula qua network. In sum, the eternity of everything has made our own human living somewhere in the galaxy, this ‘Milky Way’, now pointless, useless, and any remaining nostalgia for the rag and bone complex of life itself is become its own remnant that in its hum-drum biology is only a superfluage which so far can’t be gotten rid of, like other things that once were discarded by hands as ‘excessive’, or ‘obsolete’, or ‘gone past’, or ‘let go’.

Beyond Moore’s Law

folders

Picture an Operating System called Extinction. When this system is installed successfully, and enabled (or activated), the user becomes extinct. In the ever-increasing acceleration of the march of time, this is not so far-fetched. The speed with which the acculturation of technology spreads around the globe speaks to this. Slogans that are rooted in an overall system that to give a laptop to a child in the third world can change that human being’s life, presume much more than literacy and democratic opportunities. That child will become an operator of that computer or technological system on par with a child in North America or Central Europe or any other spot on earth where, like brushfire, technological advancements are occurring at their own pace, a rapidity behind which, like the ruts of a wagon’s wheels once left in the prairie grasses of Nevada, the past as biology is left far behind forever. My own written notes and scraps [a child’s]—stories, reports of family trips, poems—left in a three-ring binder and a scientific record book whose maroon plastic cover guarded the inscribed contents against chemical accidents and laboratory spills, will be, if they are not destroyed soon, readable by a human being in a thousand years, just as Catullus’ poems uncorked from a merchant’s wine bottle breathed new life into the world of love a millennium later. But, already, writing that I committed to a computer’s operating system even twenty-five years ago is not just obsolete: it is gone. It cannot be read. Either the machine on which it was recorded or the program by which it was saved, these devices in the service of keeping memory, that is to say, in the service of passing on human memory beyond the existence of that human’s biological existence, are already gone, or as good as gone, before I myself have died, within barely just half of my mortal lifetime thus far. Thus we live, or we are about to live, in an age where there is and the can be no difference between Gabriel’s horn being blown and the blowing of Gabriel’s horn, between one moment and the next moment, but during which we are all in and a part of the process of recording it, the motions and sounds of erstwhile human life, become now a giant God-less movie in a giant outdoor (and indoor, too!) theme park for nobody watching.

A Forest Rock

rock

The rock in the woods was beautiful. There was the desire to pick it up and carry it home. It would look nice there. Other days, other mornings, other rocks were seen in the woods too. The idea of having this particular rock in the yard was good; it would be good to be able to see it every day. But, it was also possible to leave it right there in the woods. Some mornings when he walked, he might see it; some mornings, not. It didn’t matter where it was to be beautiful. And besides, the idea of owning a particular piece of land and to have this rock inside that area that had been surveyed by men and their equipment probably decades ago, and to have a little paper map somewhere folded up in a folder in a file cabinet with the readings on it, and to have paid money to call this land ‘his’ and the woods where he walked ‘not his’ where he walked anyway alone every morning and never saw anybody, there was just no point at all in moving the rock.