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Syndic Literary Journal

Syndic No. 40 ~ Britta Kollberg 2

How I Quit Story and Started Telling

Written & Narrated by Britta R. Kollberg


Kokopele carries his story like a flute ahead, making himself heard before you or anyone can see him. He showed up on a website when I started searching a way out of what I was doing into a new career or a new direction of thinking at least: writing story. Stories—of others, of fairies and faraway times, of good causes and businesses like the one I was managing at the time and trying to leave behind. At that time, I thought stories were the thing people wanted to hear, whatever the genre: PR, novels, movie clips, grant proposals. And it is true: A story is experience condensed, easy to digest for those who watch and don’t have to go through it. So, music too relies on story, just as my life, just as Kokopele telling his dreams and wisdom through tone and melody.

I did take a turn and left that job. Stopped managing and started stumbling again, step by step, word by word, looking for the rhythm and sound of Kokopele’s flute in my voice. The stories, however, try to crouch in, to hide between the lines and reach out for metaphors for every little move of emotion left. There they were, my own stories, peeking through each breathing pause in the flute’s melody and yet inaudible, yes, impalpable for my memory lost in the void of looking ahead.

Can you write, can you write anything (whoever is you) if not about yourself? Can Kokopele play a tune that doesn’t make us lean into him and see why his back is bowed down so deeply, moving ahead and turning into his own belly button while he goes, breathing and humming alike, walking and not knowing where or why? Can you write anything without pushing your memory back continuously or taking it out, staring at its rigged edges and cutting your fingers again as you turn and squeeze it for sound and sense? Is sense a category at all, or isn’t structure the thing that gives comfort like the lullabies or bed-time stories that try to calm down a baby after a long day of laughter and despair? Rhythm is crucial as new music seems to forgo melody and harmony (or even disharmonies) more and more and relies on the beat. Is that the happy end of each story: the beat hammering on like your heart however high or low the tones go, how artful or poor the singing, and how empty the lyrics, repeated again and again and again? Kokopele walks on, bowing deeply, and so do I, crouching around the stories I couldn’t blow out like a wedding candle after or indeed before a divorce. Covering memory with my hands and all my body, with my breath and the paper wrap I’m filling with crinkling or neatly folding words.





Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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