Divination is the craft of learning the language of the Open to ask after it. Speaking in tongues. I am a child and know very few things, especially about speech, language—this vast, interminable art. Seeing this, my many mothers took me by the hand and began by teaching grammar.

My first grammar lesson was in hexagrams. Through two lines I learned how to speak and how two is one and one becomes two; the full line into the broken and unbroken; the yin and yang not a dialectic to be synthesized into a final and more complete third, but a set of poles with no arrival; the conjugation itself an annihilation, an obliteration, something which cannot be arrived upon, because of the sheer fact of the matter that we exist. That there is matter. That we are mattered, and material is recalcitrant—once it starts stirring, annihilation and mattering already nest within each other which means a total return to emptiness will never be pristine. The Open always shot through by small enclosures—our bodies. Empty and shaped at once.

Afro-Brazilian feminist revolutionary Beatriz Nascimento has reminded me many times that the body is the territorialization of memory. The body is memory territorialized; when that untouchable, vast emptiness from which we were borne remembers itself as one place, one time—that is how the body comes about. Territory is undoable; mountains do not become undone just like that; we cannot simply unknot ourselves and slide back into the All.

What can we do, then?

hex#56 (001101)

hex#56 (001101). Wandering. The Sojourner. Errantry. Fire over Mountain.

I am home. I do not feel brave. Today is the second full day at home. Yesterday, I was sunken. Truly, devastated. Truly, stricken. Only terror in the face of the expanse. Today I do not feel brave but I feel ready to try again. Conviction. The determination of a small, easily bruised thing wandering forth in the spring. A soft body inching across the green, perilously.

In these days when I don't know anything, all I can do is labor to learn as many languages as I can. As many ways of calling out to the deep plains, the seething waters, as I can. All their small names.  All I can do is learn with my body all of these motions, these gestures, allow my own body to be tried on as different tongues for the world to sing itself into being, as different skins and surfaces for the world to sense and touch itself, this intimacy. Skin to skin, through me, this meeting place, this small shoal between form and formless.

Yesterday I went to dig 洋姜/Jerusalem artichokes in a grandma's yard with my mom, not knowing what to do. They are friends who grow plants together—they call themselves 花友/literally, flower pals. It was so luxurious, this bending down into the top-frozen dirt in her yard, shoveling brick and root out of the way, everyone in that yard so old, even me, so old, each wearing colorful scarves and beat-up rubber boots, grandma in kneepads too and a red visor and tattooed eyelids, turning the earth over in search of these small, white, tender, thin-skinned roots. These creatures, ghostly in the soil, pale, tuberous things sleeping in the dirt, fumbled out from under their earthen blankets by gloved human hands, after years seeing first light.

Ink-eyed grandma lowered herself down into the dirt in her polka-dotted boots, everything about her and her body weathered, threadbare, creased, aglow; she looked at me; she said: Here is what we do. Look at me. Inhumaneness and miracle are in fact the same quality.

We are young and yet capable of ritual: turning a small thing in the hand. Repeatedly turning around something which appears known. The motion of turning over a stone, over and over in one's hand, to reveal its infinite faces.

Look at this invitation: What appears to be bad fortune is good fortune. What appears to be sickness is health. Pain as a state of allowance and wonder. Omens as the contours of endings; To be capable of noticing omens is to see thresholds, to see when instruments expire, and to see subterfuge as always temporary. To see the teacup is already broken.

You cannot have it, the thing. It is not an object. The vast, it is territorialized only temporarily. But is that so terrible? What you can hold, take it and turn it over and over again in your hands, see that it is a different thing each time. See how it turns itself, then turns you, all of it, inside out and around. Objects are hollow; look at the relations. See how you are an unfolding of the alter, the other. Here, take it.

Speaking this, she hands me a smooth, pale root, this immortal child we unearthed. Holding a soft white baby in my hand, so wrinkled and brown against it, I know I must give it up. I have to give it up so that I can meet it.

This, I think, is probably what Édouard Glissant meant when he wrote that the only way to move was errantly—to undertake the journey not as quester, conqueror, adventurer, but as an errant thing. An errant wanderer. Yearning after totality while relinquishing one’s claim to it. To strive to know it and in doing so, knowing the impossibility, the impossible beauty of this task, to renounce it even in the search. This is the only way to meet the Open thing; to confess oneself as a territorialization of other things, to become an Opening within which one can sink, can access, can locate as opaque the infinite depths. That “precarious exilic realm” that Edward Said named in On Late Style. Where we “first truly grasp the difficulty of what cannot be grasped and then go forth to try anyway.”

It’s hard not to call the infinite by the name of interminable, to see the cruel radiance of these plains and not call it exile. Call it exile, then. Even exile is only a shitstorm of homing and homecoming. The earth is trembling; it trembles; even amidst tremblement islands make themselves. Archipelagoes, like Glissant said. Where we make our homes for a few seconds, take a lover, for a few seconds, see and are seen, just for a few seconds.

hex#49 (101110)

hex#49 (101110). Molting. The break. Fire under Lake.

I have returned to the mountains. The rolling hills, littered with shells & empty castings & things shedding their skins. Here it is all still, all motion & reflection & fluttering husks.

The trees are gnarled and knobbed. Everything shot through with everything else. Here nothing pretends it has borders. The task of boundaries was given up a long time ago. The mountains are a massive spillage. Everything in everything else.

There the grasses are, stuttering in the light breeze. Quivering, so tense, such an inelegant, interrupted movement. The grasses and I both convinced by the stuttering. It couldn’t be any other way. The universe rings through small husks; look at how the empty catches, transposes, disturbs the light.

Things must be empty to ring, but sometimes, looking at that hollow, I can’t help but weep. Sometimes I am old enough to see how the empty is really the swell between things pressing close to each other, but today I am young and inconsolable and wrecked by it.

Today the world turns her hollow face towards me and I must beg to be saved. Simone Weil wrote of pain as the sensation by which the world enters into the body. That the world impressed itself upon the soul in wonder, in joy. But that the body learns through pain.

I don’t land, I am beached. Thrown against the body, my own body, knocking at her door, begging to let me in. Bring me home. This is where it all washes up, at the threshold between sea and sky, the tips of my fingers. In all the shoals you can find our face, pressed sideways into the sand. Breath turbid and bubbling. Lying there facedown, encased, in great joy and great pain. It’s unbearable. I don’t know how to do this. And so, I follow us. I seep back into the soft abyss of downstream waters. I answer to that which beckons. I open the doors to all asking entry. And I cry, I cry, I cry, because oh, it is painful, oh, it is destroying this body to do this all because I am young and unsteady on my feet and I do not know how to take it not as a lightning bolt to the body.

Somehow at this place with no memory of borders I have found an edge to sit at. It’s precipitous, standing here, at the cliff, facing the terror and radiance of the Open. How am I supposed to learn how to let land disappear from under my feet?

The sages make it look so easy, this courageous, humble learning that is tasked of us. This slow learning. This patient, powerful following. They do it with the steadiness of a mountain. But me, I’m writhing with pain trying to learn these words, trying to learn the way they sit together in something like grammar, to earn the right to ask the unseen to reveal itself, to press in the manner and the posture needed to stir the weave—change it between states—entangle or unravel. Temporarily. All temporarily.

In agony and too shy to cry out I sit at the precipice of the mountains with no edge trying to see it for what it is: Archipelagic, not continental, terrain. The body is the territorialization of memory. Divinity into place. Formless into form. It comes together, comes apart. Terraforming.

hex#48 (011010)

hex#48 (011010) The well. To draw up. Unseen depths. Wind under Water.

There’s a bowl on the floor but in the darkness, it doesn’t look like a bowl but a hole. I can’t tell if it’s empty or full—it’s that kind of blackness in it. The center recedes, and in its recession wells up, becomes full.

I am full of feeling. A small overflowing person in a broad overflowing room. On the floor. Things are as they are. Things sit inside their own shadows. Resting, sinking. That is that. Things I cannot see by looking at them but the periphery, insistent on undressing: the sound, the shadows. That’s why the darkest part of a shadow is the edge of the penumbra. That’s where substance sits—the whispers from the sidelines, the slight Beyond past sightlines. Not the object, not the shadow or the light, but where they meet.

Inside the edges, the unpolished wells up to conjure the finished, an elegant stumbling to appear a flickering god. Each word spoken a lantern floated; each written, a line cast. I am still shy, but a little braver.

Shy to receive the offered. Trembling, and so, looking at the shifting. Turning the stone, the pale root. The gorgeous things announcing themselves in a manner that pinkens my cheeks. Undressing themselves in front of me, prettily. Hands open and empty. Fingers out; too shy still to make contact.

Breathless, I trip into the certainty of the shift, the final undoable insufficiency and expiration of all tools. The infinity folded inside the nothing asks for water so I draw it up, helpless.  That’s how the world comes to know me, how we speak each other into completeness—through the gasp, the stutter.

I am full of feeling and replete with worlds. I know I am speaking in tongues. I accept, I sink. I enter into the earth.

Kelsey Chen (she/they) was born in the year of the metal dragon. She grew up amongst the alpine mountains and the mist. She is an expert of the makeshift. When she was young, the media that captivated her was the dirt, beans, and trees; then, for a decade, it was oil paints; now, much of her time and attention is turned towards wood, porcelain, words, and light. Find her work here: www.kelschen.com