…a brief philosophy of lists

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You have read Bluets and The Pillow Book. You know a list can make meaning and image and emotion. A list can be light with whimsy or heavy with cost. It can voice a plea, an observation, a question. It can push deep or brush lightly, respectfully. It can be one or all of these things.

It can tell a story; apples, shampoo, pregnancy test, vodka.

It can express desire, fear, craving, responsibility.

It can manifest on paper, on a screen, on the back of a receipt or bus ticket, a column of urgent beacons in the mind, a strand spilling from the mouth to instruct others or the self, chalk on a blackboard, haphazard scraps pinned onto cork, a softly whispered prayer.

But you are not Sei Shonagon or Maggie Nelson. You may have the words but it’s likely you’re lacking the bravery.


You can only write for short snippets of time, when your body allows. And not writing fills you with a bigger, deeper, darker howl of fear.

So, list your desires, your fears, your responsibilities. Look for the lists in other people too, those pressing needs that you see in their eyes.

Each one as singular and revealing as a fingerprint.

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