As I Lay Dying

“And at night it is better still. I used to lie on the pallet in the hall, waiting until I could hear them all asleep, so I could get up and go back to the bucket. It would be black, the shelf black, the still surface of the water a round orifice in nothingness, where before I stirred it awake with the dipper I could see maybe a star or two in the bucket, and maybe in the dipper a star or two before I drank. After that I was bigger, older. Then I would wait until they all went to sleep so I could lie with my shirt-tail up, hearing them asleep, feeling myself without touching myself, feeling the cool silence blowing upon my parts and wondering if Cash was yonder in the darkness doing it too, had been doing it perhaps for the last two years before I could have wanted to or could have” (11) 

The continued use of cedar despite clear inconvenience invokes a sense of reverence. Moreover, the water is define through absence “in nothing” — this is similar to the description later in the passage of “feeling myself without touching myself”. This is all heightened by the constant use of dark imagery, such as “sleep”, “black”, “darkness”. The passage presents a strange paradox: absence of a substance is felt most intensely. 

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