Facticities, Etc. by Renée Ashley

She was born.
She was born and the hospital fell into a crack where it burned.

Facticities 01

Simona Frillici, Saluti Affetuosi, sewing thread, photocopy, colored tracing paper, 15.75 × 15.75 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pierogi Flat Files.

Peter Moysaenko How do you differentiate between factuality and facticity, between fiction and falsehood; or do such questions represent rather the inconsequential territories of a semantic concern?

Renée Ashley The meanings of truth—or of the words that constellate around the concept of truth—a bit like a smashed window, if you ask me. The variants are many and wildly uneven. And those “territories of semantic concern” that are and surround the shards aren’t inconsequential in the least—they’re the stuff that makes the ground for play! Facticities is a delicious word. Isn’t it a great, funny word? Apparently means the kind of facts that can be verified by some sort of record, which, of course, for me, growing up in a house of slippery truths, brings up additional issues of reliability, as well as liability to error in the act of recording. (My birth records were lost in a fire, I’m told, at Hoover Pavilion in California at Stanford—who’s to say they were recast correctly? Who’s to say they were error-free in the first place?) And, of course, there are all the bigger-than-a-breadbox issues of truth versus factpoetic truth, say, versus, literal truth or objective truth—and then even what about the relative truth, the Siamese twin of literal truth (think Rashomon or The Alexandria Quartet)? The play, the resonance of both play and possibility, lies in that powdery area between the shards where the edges just don’t quite match up, the break isn’t clean. The crevice of “just what are we talking about?” is rich turf for poetry. Facticity wants to make a point about what is verifiable versus one’s psychological or spiritual state, which is wholly unknowable as factto others. It’s the shifty play between the denotation/connotation/tone-in-receptivity/comprehension/knowing of all those true-or-not making words—facticitiesfactualityfictionfalsehood—that made the impulse for the poem possible. Words that dance around the same semantic maypole, words like factoidFacticities has the same not-quite-legitimate ring to it, a sort of I-made-it-up-but-you-know-what-I-mean quality. (Factoid, which, by the way, is not in my Webster’s Ninth Collegiate, is a seeming-fact that is unverified, and sometimes unlikely to be true, or even truthful in the relative sense, that is lent credibility by the authority of its source, e.g. the newspaper, book, the black-and-white—in the way autobiographies should, no doubt, most often be called autobiographoids and even most histories historoids.) Of course, all of this is articulation-after-the-fact. It was simply play, instinct, and insinuation before your question. Though the window was already broken.

Facticities, Etc.

She was born.
She was born and the hospital fell into a crack where it burned.
Then there was no proof she’d been born but there she was.
The parents were old. One was older.
One was drunk. One was mad. And angry.
Now one is dead and there’s a story to that.
And one is not and there’s a story there too.
She began writing.
She began writing about what she did not know. And she found out.
Again there was no proof but there she was.
One parent read the writing and cried: … Nothing I could do.
One parent said: If it hadn’t been for, we could have. Different, the parent said.
She discovered she knew more. She thought more. She thought differently.
She wrote about what she did not remember. And she sometimes remembered.
Somewhere in all that five dogs died. And a budgie. Two turtles.
She can’t count the cats.
Somewhere in all that she married. And married again.
She married one who ran and one who drank. Who was older. Who was angry.
She said: I know this story. He said: You have no proof.
He was right of course. He was more often wrong but in that he was right.
She writes the bone now. She writes the brain. She says: You were right.
She writes: If I can stay alive.
She says: How long we must stay alive.

Renée Ashley is the author of four volumes of poetry—Salt (Brittingham Prize in Poetry, University of Wisconsin Press), The Various Reasons of Light, The Revisionist’s Dream, and Basic Heart (X.J. Kennedy Prize, Texas Review Press)—as well as a chapbook, The Museum of Lost Wings, and a novel, Someplace Like This. She has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and is on the core faculty of Fairleigh Dickinson University’s low-residency program in creative writing. Her second chapbook, The Verbs of Desiring, will be published by New American Press in 2010.

For more by Simona Frillici, visit her page at Pierogi Flat Files.

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