Renee Gladman

from The Eleven
Calamities

3.

one of my favorite words was in my mouth, and I was torn between chewing and swallowing it, so that it could become a part of me, another organ that processed or eliminated some material of my being, or spitting it out immediately, without doing any damage to its form, so that I could study the word in all its glory. That word was sentence, and it wasn’t just that I had the word sentence in my mouth but the essence of sentence as well, such that against my tongue I felt that I was harboring a kind of chain, as one might wear around one’s neck, but rather than being made of metal it was paper in content, though nothing like the paper one wrote on or drew on, perhaps more like the paper one glued and immersed in water and turned into sculpture. My sentence had sculptural content that I couldn’t deny. I began the day with this word in my mouth that absorbed every other word around it. It sucked everything in and enforced an order that made me particularly aware of time. I tried to move forward in my mouth, using this paper chain to describe the experience of being in my mouth. I was ready for its philosophy; but when something is in the mouth, there is not always that clear relationship of container to contained. The thing inside you could be so enormous (in concept) or conversely so minutely intricate (like overlapping web structures) that although your body encloses it, it is the only reason you know your body. It is the only way you have to say, “There is something in my mouth.” Something reversed on me when I tasted sentence, as if now I was consumed, sealed inside some container; and though this sounded like a bad situation to find oneself in—mouth full of papier-mâche, a word that represented all thought structure sitting right on the tongue—it was like dreaming inside a machine, or dreaming up a machine that was your life.