I ordered the blank book from Katya in Sarov months ago. Since the war started, buying from her is more difficult. No Etsy, no Paypal. Using payment sites I’ve never heard of. But I want to help her in whatever little way I can. The people who stay in my cursed home country may be damaged more permanently than its declared enemies.

A light grey plastic cover decorated with birds on branches, lavenderish cardstock inside. It’s from the 70s or 80s, I think. Soviet times, just like everything else I buy from Katya. A lot of this stuff is crummy but it tugs at me in a primal way. I feel like a knockoff made of inferior materials sometimes too. Whatever I’m made of, I was made in the same time and place as these relics I buy off the internet.

I figured I’d use the book for collage since that’s what I’m mostly doing now but didn’t decide to dedicate it solely to chopped up personal correspondence till it arrived in the mail. Most of what’s gone in has been source material for the book of letters I’ve been working on. I realized at some point in the process I didn’t like the idea of strangers reading through this personal archive after I’m gone, so I’m slowly transforming it into pictures to accompany my own words.

It’s not that there are many deep dark secrets to be uncovered in the old letters. It’s more a question of honoring the senders’ privacy and preserving the idea that the letters were only meant for one recipient. The things I’m writing aren’t really meant for the writers I’m responding to. It’s public rather than private writing. The context is completely different.

It’s freeing to rip up this old paper. Something of a cleansing ritual about it. Not that I expect to come out the other end shiny and new; only a little lighter, with a few less pieces of baggage.

The blank book is all full now. It sits on the side-table to the left of my armchair. I flip through it every few days. Every page contains fragments that send me down rabbitholes. It’s sometimes unsettling. But everyone’s history is this way probably. It’s a lot easier than rereading the letters was. The ripped leftovers aren’t suspended in amber. Forced through the shredder of collage they must resonate with a new polarity. They don’t all sing but some do.

My job is to send them through the chute and see if they hold their shape, transform, or blow apart.

I talk with my mom about her early days and Mallory and I talk Food of the Gods; I recommend Christian Mungiu’s R.M.N. in this week’s Cine-FILE.