In Fathom: An Uncovering of Trauma, Lisa Dart shares a long and difficult story. It is a story of emotional breakdown, of hidden trauma, and of hidden memories, brought to the surface and explored through the work of psychoanalysis. Through talk with a psychoanalyst, exploring her feelins and episodic madness, the narrator starts to understand herself, and by getting back to that one, fateful day, she can begin to build herself up from its shatterings. Here, we share an extract of her ground-breaking book, published under our Ortus Press imprint in 2019.
But I can’t speak.
There are no words for this. Some things you know by osmosis; things that slither around somewhere out of sight and mind, watery. Things that come up like great slippery fish, gulp, and then disappear again, leaving dark, tremulous circles. And in that somewhere you know that you don’t know, but what, for the sake of your sanity, you must try to recall. When I think of my father, it’s his gentleness, and his gentleness with me especially, that’s uppermost. His manner and his quiet voice. His gentleness and his hands. He took pride in his beautiful, broad hands. Right and the end of his life, the nurse in the care home said, ‘He’s a gentleman, your dad, a real gentleman.’ But at the age of thirty-nine, to say it in an old-fashioned way, he tried to take his life by his own hand. Like Sylvia Plath, I cannot put my father together, not precisely, not pieced, glued, and properly jointed, because I don’t remember what happened.
Even I become exhausted, finallly, by my quest for facts. Eventually, I come to understand what B means but, as I’ve said, it takes a long time to learn my story isn’t a story about facts. It’s a story of knowing and the not knowing of…And it takes even longer to learn this is a story about me, myself, I. And that there are many parts to this I::
I-the pupper, who doesn’t know, and I-the-pupper-master who is terrified of the knowing rising up, out of control.
And there is She-who-knows.
And She-who-knows has always known, and her knowledge, mutitudinous, lies ocean wide, ocean deep, and, sometimes, her knowledge surges and breaks in waves of strange eloquence.
To begin with, the I-the-pupper knows nothing of She. Slowly in the talk with B they will meet in the story of I-who-is-becoming. The talk with B in the small room is somehow indirectly, so very indirectly the way to heal. Yes, B is there to help the I-the-puppet who is in the not knowing of, meet the She-who-knows and to help discover the I-who-is-becoming.
B and the samll room are the way to remembering. Memories surface, incidents, words recalled from way back: the necessary flotsam and jetsam. Stories aboung. Which words will be retrieved to tell the right story? Even the facts shift prismatically to tantalise. Hold them up one way and it seems for a deceptively pure moment you know, know what happened. And it is clearly the truth. But then you dream. And She-who-knows swims her way up, pushes her head through the water – her eyes staring and her scales silver. Glittering. And it’s then you begin to wonder. What if She-who-knows comes out of the water and is glimpsed in the light? Behind the black door, with its brass knocker at B’s house where there are many stories, you will find, as I did, the plenitude of stories simply increases your desire to settle on this one. The right one.
And for me, and B perhaps, that story starts with the red scarf.
Lisa Dart has published poetry, reviews, creative non-fiction and articles and has won several prizes for her work. Fathom is available now.