Surrender by Marcus Civin

Paper accumulates. Among other things, I am a teacher, an art teacher—I get notes and I make notes.

I started gluing some of my papers together, making my papers into stuck-together paper chunks, bricks of paper, stuck-together piles, thick clumpy piles of paper.

I see drafts on paper, and drafts for drafts, paper proposal #4: list of relevant questions. There are my handouts and there are other people’s handouts, and then maybe I just sent around earlier a sign-up sheet on a paper pad. I make signs and posters. I get schedules of soon-to-be speakers, announcements for screenings I would like to see… I get copies from students of pretty good permission forms they’ve written and printed out for their students, and I treasure their perfect paper ‘zines… And there is that peculiar museum map, there are magazine clippings handed off to me. I accept them. I accept these papers. I keep them sometimes.

I make diagrams too. Last week, I drew out a version of a museum case as I would want to see a museum case… With arrows and circles on graph paper pieces, I might illustrate an argument for a student as I understand the argument from a reading.

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I also make lists, TO-DOs, and reminders to myself: Taxes, rent, call for haircut—a list on a notecard that rubs against another list is in my pocket, with keys, or phone, or wallet. I call for a haircut, and I might tear away that piece of paper where I wrote: call for haircut… or I cross out those words. Or else I continue to sit on that paper, on those papers, on my TO-DO lists and notecards in my back pocket. My TO-DO list is in my back pocket. I’m sitting on it. TO-DO: Watch The Rape of Europa, get train times, field trip snacks.

My listing, my TO-DO’s make a conversation with myself. The conversation with myself goes like this: Marcus, did you check out a camera? No, Marcus, I did not. Marcus, remember to check out a camera. Marcus, I checked out a camera. Marcus, return camera. Marcus, did you return the camera? No I did not. Marcus, return the camera. Marcus, I returned the camera. Camera charger. Marcus, find the camera charger. Marcus return the camera charger to Pat.

Then, too, there are drawings, sketches, not mine, they get left behind, I find them in the classroom, they float from time to time across a scratchy tile patch of the charcoaled floor, and I don’t throw them away with the water bottles and bags from pretzel snacks. That paper from the floor is sometimes deliciously thick, I think, the drawing is like a rough emerald… I like the paper sketch left behind. I pick it up.

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I am paper—paper in my bags, my pockets, my hands. I think I am a certain percentage paper…  If all the paper I have with me was stuck to me, my body would be 14% percent paper.

Sometimes, some days, a phrase will strike me, and it will seem like the most beautiful phrase. I will write it down on paper in block letters: “The Proof is in the Pudding.” Someone said that. I loved that. I wrote that down on a Monday morning, “The Proof is in the Pudding,” in block letters. “He has a big heart.” Someone said that. I loved that. I wrote that down on a Saturday afternoon.

Paper piles up next to my bed, on my kitchen table, on my desk, on my other desk, and on my mother’s old sofas—all of the notes and drafts and articles and drawings…

I do recycle. I bring down bags of paper for recycling.

My mother asked me to clean out some storage and there I found more papers: old papers, programs from plays, car service receipts for cars no one owns anymore, an essay I wrote on Hamlet in high school, letters from old friends about our battles, bitternesses truthfully I had mostly forgotten.

Paper is with me, it comes to me. I would be under a layer of paper.

I want the glued-together paper piles to be brown and red and orange-red, or otherwise they should be black. I’ve been dipping and painting the piles, and now I think they are sort of like internal organs or jars. But only paper organs or paper jars… Now, they’re thick with paint and paper.

One night I had a dream about a white surrender flag. In the dream, a surrender flag popped up, like in a forgotten Hollywood war movie, out of a tank. I started thinking about how a surrender flag might be torn from whatever there is, whatever scrap is white, whatever scrap of shirt or underwear, whatever can be found in that moment where surrender is necessary.

The white surrender fabric feels related to the paper piles somehow. Paper is everywhere—special often, to me, but everywhere. The surrender flag is more unusual, more of an anomaly… How often do I surrender? I never plan to. I never really do.

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