Vertigo

Sometimes I feel as if I’m losing my balance,

 

leaning too far or falling over,

 

not like James Stewart in Vertigo who experiences a sense of rotational movement as if the scene is unscrewing itself,

 

I think it has something to do with the absence of completeness,

 

the feeling of incompleteness.

 

I try to lean over without falling over.

 

In the film the camera pulls away while at the same time zooming in,

 

letting the air uncoil like a sprung spring,

 

which causes the background to dissolve, as when you hold onto something that doesn’t exist.

 

It is true, longing is often associated with loss like a kind of negative pressure pushing you away from yourself.

 

A man falls in love with a woman who doesn’t exist, who is impersonated by a woman who falls in love with the man,

 

who is only interested in the other.

 

It turns out she is willing to be somebody else in order to be loved.

 

She doesn’t need to be herself.

 

You trust your feelings, or whatever it is that enables you to feel loved,

 

even if you’re not real.

 

An individual is never more alone than with a person who doesn’t exist.

 

Dr. K in W. G. Sebald’s Vertigo similarly confuses intimacy with disengagement, as if he’s punishing himself.

 

It is often the case that we end up losing what’s real in order to preserve something we imagine.

 

You lose your balance when you don’t exist,

 

in the film it feels like falling.

 

Sebald’s narrator moves from place to place but finds he cannot escape the contracting sickle-shaped circle of his feelings,

 

as if the trip is a loop that adjusts to his longings.

 

There is nowhere to escape to.

 

There are only lines in the mind, keeping out and letting in,

 

depending on which side you’re on.

 

For the most part I don’t think our feelings have a clear sense of their own incompetence.

 

There is probably more longing than is actually necessary, for instance,

 

although without it the feeling of loss would increase suddenly,

 

like one of those balloon payments that gets people into trouble.

 

 

*

 

Peter Leight has previously published poems in Matter, Paris Review, Partisan Review, AGNI, Western Humanities Review, Cincinnati Review, Seneca Review, The Southampton Review, Cimarron, Hubbub, and other magazines.

 

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