Mei-mei Berssenbrugge


I wrote “Safety” in December 2001 in Tribeca, where I live. I was struggling with the idea that artists should be witnesses, but now I don’t think that. I was struggling with the dynamic that the eye seeing puts one next to or exactly contingent to an event, and the resulting magnification of compassion




Increasingly in our world, forgiveness is asked for, granted, withheld, face-to-face or below the surface, like slow combustion, and I need to elucidate the chain of oxidation.

You fill around the open space of our being here, tensile welds, not empty in the sense, a weld yields.

The pathetic story’s removed from calculation.

Yet, banality in identifying with others is no cause for pathos to dissolve.

So, I continue to calculate my house as a holding place for something to look at, image or word, which building would illustrate. 

I saw, when a building falls, interior remains interior.

Then, individuals acquire that same size.

Also, the innateness of being a witness annexes size, by seeing putting me next to.

I mean, immense size.

One folds in and re-opens to outside, not “as if” building for someone afraid of heights who strains long, structural tresses of light, trying to wear out an image.




Urban space is a series of partial views, convex, opaque.

You go from mass to detail, individuals, little ants.

The instinct to preserve oneself deflects onto vertigo from the domination of space, fear of death to fear of damage to a beautiful body.

You connect dwelling to a child guarded by a woman.

Its fate is foretold, child implicit in a word-chain, flash, flowers in ice.

In the days left, we could count our probable meetings, first surface content, then in your language as in my dream.

The more disconnected your monologue, the more it correlates to something latent in that moment, separation, flowers in ice

It’s not raining, but it’s as if there were mud everywhere, and you’re plastered in mud.

When a person falls in front of you, something like rain washes mud away, and his leg becomes white as a piece of marble.

Being with each other, response comes from both sides; we want to reveal and conceal nothing, but there’s a sense something does not go across, a secret. 

In this sense, hospitality between us is a secret interior, instead of reality being the plaintiff’s responsibility,

Shards, detail, singularity, garden in winter in glass, palms, extreme refinement of the civility.

There’s a linking of structure by joint and weld, a springiness, and an unlinking across an expanse.

The rigor of the link is an artifact.

Its volume is innate in the witness, leg covered over, memorialized by what I saw:  concealed, closed, covered with sight as with gauze, light surface with which I wrap you, light trampoline.


Bio: Mei-mei Berssenbrugge’s books include Empathy (Station Hill Press), The Four Year Old Girl (Kelsey Street Press), and Nest, forthcoming from Kelsey Street Press.  She lives with artist Richard Tuttle and their daughter in Abiquiu, New Mexico, and in New York City. 

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