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night thoughts

night thoughts

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Written by Sarah ArvioAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Sarah Arvio

  • Format: Hardcover, 192 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • On Sale: January 8, 2013
  • Price: $26.95
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-95955-3 (0-307-95955-4)
Also available as an eBook and a trade paperback.


& now an airplane lands in the field
& incinerates I use this strange word
when I tell the dream not flames or burns
there was a rusty barrel out in back
we called the incinerator strange word
for an old barrel where we burned the trash
I took my diaries out there in back
in the brightdamp where a spatter of rain
fell in the ashes & striking matches
lit the edges & watched as the pages
curled charred & would not burn I said my life
burn up my life & for one lifetime
I thought I can stop now & take them back
but no they were burning so I let them burn

From the author's notes: 

My first real breakthrough was the dream called “airplane.” Describing the explosion of the plane, I used the word incinerate. And then I remembered burning the diaries. When I say ‘remembered,’ I don’t mean I recalled something I had thought of now and then over the years. I mean that the memory broke open, shocking me, and I saw that -it—-the -event—-had happened, that I had known of it long before, and then forgotten.

The sudden viewing of a lost traumatic memory happened only a few times during the analysis. ‘Sudden’ means -shocking—-the return of a powerful memory. Other memories came more slowly. I understood later that a traumatic memory lost and then found releases other memories. By ‘breakthrough,’ I mean this was the first time I had the sense that there was more to know about my suffering and that I might be able to find it.

"black slip"
I borrow a slip from another girl
a black slip with a lace décolletage
& she accuses me of stealing it
no I say I didn't steal the slip I
borrowed it but no one believes me here
the magistrates are standing near the wall
& they sentence me to a razor death
my executioner has jetblack hair
long & skanky & it swings as he steps
toward me with the razor in his teeth
I'm sporting the black slip in which I'll die
the black slip with the lace décolletage
but then I seize the shining instrument
& zig it through the air & slash his eye
From the author's notes:

"black slip"= black lace slip.  The word décolletage, a low-cut neckline, comes from the French décolleter, which means cut out the neck of, as for a dress, and also cut someone's neck.  Here, I'm the wrongdoer, having stolen the slip, and I'm sentenced to a razor death....
The razors were anguishing, senseless.  How could god, the gods, creators of life and dreams, inflict them on me in my sleep? In "shiny foil," my molester--as I call him in the dream--is sentenced to be executed with a razor, but by the time I understand that his molesting is a form of love, it is too late to save him.
Just now, as I write, it occurs to me that foil also has another meaning, a literary one:  isn't the molester a foil for my own spurning of love and longing for love? A thing that contrasts with and enhances the qualities of the other.  Here again, foil:  they were foils for each other, the two brothers.  I mingled them together, remembering.  They harmed me; they hurt my life; they did me irreparable harm. And yet, there was something shiny about me and the one I called the cat, as he bent his head and looked in my eyes--out there on the driveway.

Excerpted from night thoughts by Sarah Arvio Copyright © 2013 by Sarah Arvio. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.