Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The suitors aren’t ready for the noises in the walls, the reptiles issuing from crevices in numbers not previously seen unless you count the time when the climate had shifted slightly and the day lengthened by an average of twelve minutes so that there was time enough for breeding and time enough for the reports to get filed. A rare combination indeed, but when you factor in the questionable advice and the people stacked up like off-brand china on either side of the boulevard, you get one of those impossible to predict and impossible to replicate moments that put me in the mood, nine times out of ten, for an aperitif. That remind me my middle name is the one most apt to cause me difficulty, even mortal danger, when we return to the town on the mountain and find that some others in the vicinity have co-opted it and have tarnished it ruthlessly over the two or three decades since we left. Now there are scores to settle and the possibility, however remote, that I will never again see the banks of my beloved Ganges, will never again be able to wind surf on the Mediterranean among what you first assume to be boulders but which begin to look suspiciously like sea turtles or even mermen as your speed increases and your imagination does everything it can to keep up, to keep from being rendered obsolete by the more urgent requirements of the body. Like digestion. And that thing that happens just before digestion, but just after the visible world has turned into a two-dimensional replica of itself. Maybe chemistry is to blame for this disturbing phenomenon and maybe there is not enough blame to go around because whoever is in the business of manufacturing blame hasn’t realized yet the enormity of the task at hand. The headwinds to be conquered and the mountain peaks and the cardboard boxes in which you conceal your liquor as if you were an eighty-six year old man and you have forgotten how to determine what a loved one’s facial expressions mean. Oh, you have some inkling because of your training as an artist, the hours spent rendering still lifes in charcoal and pencil lead, the pieces of fruit gone rotten at the edges and drawing gnats, the underside of bridges where the rivets seem as big as your hand. But all of that barely adds up to a complete geometrical figure. A rhombus, say. Or its numerical equivalent such as that which (when it is applied liberally to precious metals, to gold and amethysts) makes certain people of your acquaintance completely independent of the vicissitudes of the heavens overhead. That convinces them they can journey out into the heart of the open sea on little more than a raft and expect to survive that journey, expect to wash ashore three months later looking very little the worse for wear. Sporting a beard, maybe, at worst. Licking obsessively at the corner of their lips where the flesh has not so much worn away or disintegrated as it has transformed itself into something less pliable than it used to be, something less likely to let itself get pushed around by the salt and the sun and its heat.   

Monday, June 17, 2013

Much of the furniture has been broken and some of it burned but there is no one you can complain to because almost everyone in the vicinity is wielding broadswords and something tells me they are not made of cardboard. Clearly, they have been forged by an expert smith and decorated along the blades with designs that suggest a more than passing interest in numerology, something Eulalie herself comments upon after she has left for a week and then chooses not to return. She writes instead on stationary colored and scented of lemons. Her hand is sprawling and ostentatious and I wonder for a moment whether or not she has hired someone else to write it or her. Lately, Eulalie has the money to hire strangers to perform almost any action she wishes though no one seems to be able to account for how she got the money or what she intends to do with it now that she has it. I suspect a scam like that she ran in the Dominican Republic once that involved forging historical documents of questionable value or marginal interest. She could have made a fortune then, of course, had she gone for something more sensational, like an alternative Magna Carta or the missing pages of the Gospel of Mark, but she worried notoriety would undermine her operation too quickly, and besides, who wants to pursue the obvious? Why spend all your time chasing trends that someone else created when you could just as easily be creating them yourself? At least this was the question as Eulalie formulated it when she was still deep in the quagmire of despising pretty much every other person on the planet, a habit that arose, I believe, from the fact that she was unable to identify anything she could point to that distinguished her finally from them. The passages all lead in the same general direction and the poor lighting is not so much hindrance as invitation. Just the sort of thing to make you wish you had been born in a cave with the whip scorpions and the blind catfish as boon companions. That way, when people wrote your biography after you were dead (for what’s the good in writing it beforehand?), they’d have to do so as a collaboration because the single angle is guaranteed to obscure the view when it originates so deep underground. It will make the world seem linear and obscure and full of creatures that make a high thin menacing sound whenever they flit past your temples or when they scurry occasionally over the tops of your feet. Despite what some might claim to the contrary, I don’t care that no one is occupied with documenting my life. I’m a little unsure as to whether what has happened to me and what I have in turn caused to happen even actually fit, in totality, the definition. My life is more like a sketch really that someone started in the margins of an otherwise mediocre graphic novel, a sketch with two or three stick figures circling ominously on themselves and a rudimentary moon hung in the corner for effect.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

You can have your well-groomed protagonists stumble into any number of occupied rooms, you can have them paint snails in florescent colors and reveal their scrotums, but the door – the enormous door, that is, the crucial door I have been searching a quarter of the world over for because I dreamt once it existed and I became convinced, not because it was in a dream or because I give any particular credence to dreams but because I am easily convinced, because I take immediately to heart the slimmest or most circular of arguments and the flimsiest bit of evidence – the door is not going to appear suddenly through the use of techniques such as these. You’ll say that doesn’t matter because the door doesn’t exist and I’ll be forced to agree with you. But, at the same time, I’ll be whittling away at pieces of driftwood the neighborhood kids bring me routinely because there is a rumor I have a fortune and will pay cash, upwards of five hundred dollars, for random pieces of junk whenever such junk sparks my imagination. This happens so frequently I am, as a result, inundated and must fight my way to the surface, to the outside world, so that it is no exaggeration to suggest that my life is in danger! I have been within millimeters of suffocation at least three times before! When the cemetery begins to flood, the last of those who have come to illegally unearth their forebears, to whisk them away to a resting place on higher ground, drop their picks and their shovels and they wail at the moon as if they expect to find some condolence there when, in fact, to this point, there has been only silence. A serenity almost mocking in its infinitude. But what do you expect from something so far away it took us a thousand generations to tame? And even then, we did so only at our own peril, one or two at a time, strapped to devices that look now, all these years later, like antique wash tubs or the inventions of a visionary Chinese author from the distant past, inventions the precise use for which has been swallowed up by the significant differences between the language he composed in and the one we use today when we are reading, or just pretending to read. I am all for broadening the focus, for shifting ideas back to their root and origin, but what if the ideas are ideas in name only and when you cut them apart, you find inside merely a kind of blackness, the non-human equivalent of a blank stare? What if they aren’t even tangible the way potatoes are said to be tangible, which means, I suppose, you can hold them in your hands?   

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Too frequently we start from a location that has already been created, has been forged of something like iron but without the secondary qualities and the increased chances of rust. I attempt to identify through cross-reference my own particular origins using an appendix in a hefty textbook from a past course of study I pursued in accounting, and then, when that doesn’t work, I file it under a heading I promptly forget, but it doesn’t matter. Everywhere you turn there are like substances and like phenomena and trying to differentiate between them will only lead you to something very similar to mental collapse. Or away from it should you already be in the vicinity. Eulalie takes the cup proffered and encourages me to do the same but I am leery and I’m not precisely sure why. Certainly poison crops up in my thoughts more frequently than it ought, and my attempts to rid myself of it just increase the instances until I spend at least twelve to eighteen of the finite hours in a week obsessing over who has had access to what I put in my body and who has had access to my body itself and what the overlap suggests. The man pulls a framed photograph down from the shelf and we pass it around as if it contained a psychotropic substance of the sort that causes benevolent hallucination involving forest creatures, say, not yet altered through the taste of blood, sailing vessels approaching on a bay that stretches eighty miles in either direction and reminds us that it’s not possible to see beyond the curvature of the earth without the use of specialized equipment and an imagination such as Dante possessed when he was first learning to speak but hadn’t yet met his Beatrice. When he didn’t yet view the world the way we do when we have suffered a lesion on the prefrontal cortex due to a skiing accident, perhaps, or just an ordinary mutation in the genes that help configure that particular portion of the gray matter. The woman in the photograph attempts a smile, but her head is tilted toward the earth and her eyes are averted and you can tell she has been told previously one or two very brutal things by this man who has presented us with the picture as if nothing were out of the ordinary, things that would alter the very texture of your skin should you hear them. Would turn your skin, in fact, into just the sort of pale imitation it appears to be in this or any photograph. A facsimile, a poor, reverse-engineered replica that, if you were possessed of it instead of the skin you were actually born in, you would suffer to the very end of your days from tremors and phantom pains and a sense that whatever is outside is painstakingly trying to make its way in.          

Monday, May 13, 2013

Adrift again under a zodiac like no other, one uncharted by those who had gone before because they lacked the basic tools necessary -- the implements for making circles on paper and stabbing your friends with playfully and not so playfully, the protractor with its conspicuous voids at the center -- we began to realize the false world itself was a mere construct, a mechanism through which we attempted to escape enslavement by an entity that contoured information into the semblance of a world so as to keep us in one place, subservient and satisfied, content. The waves battered the craft at irregular intervals and threatened to swamp the whole mess now and then, the sound they made like the sound of nothing turning inevitably into something, transforming itself through the assistance of whole numbers and footnotes, the treble clef. By the time sleep came, it was no longer a relief, but a second burden and a form of decay, a means of being in two places at the same time without the benefit of experiencing either one. Odd, how our patterns are not really patterns at all when viewed from above, through eyes inhuman in that they do not and can not belong to us; they’re not really even eyes when you get right down to it, not cellular or reflective in any way. What we call patterns are, rather, random shapes and inclinations like those that afflict the song birds in the fields across the street, causing them to change locations innumerable times throughout the day, to flit from one dead strand of vegetation to another without purpose or benefit made obvious to the observer. My heels ache with the loss of practice, the surface of the earth like broken pottery and the distances covered similar to those you’d expect of languages or migratory waterfowl so long as they aren’t arriving from Ethiopia, a location chosen simply to illustrate an outlying logical possibility and not to forge a political statement of questionable taste. The man is at the door before we are, his forearms banded with muscle and wound tight upon themselves as if he had distilled them down from another essence, a novel concept governing anatomy discovered in the pages of a magazine that otherwise includes commentary on the niceties of theosophist thinking and the proper seeds to plant come spring. He will not look me in the eye and I know before either one of us is given the chance to speak that he holds me accountable, that he believes I have somehow turned this particular pestilence loose upon the land and even if I am here to rectify the situation, his forgiveness is not forthcoming. It is locked away in the cellar of the organ that rubs occasionally against the bones in his chest and it will perish there unlit and unseen, a mere rumor, really, failing, as all rumors must, by definition, to transcend its hopeless situation and stand upon the semantic equivalent of a ridge overlooking both the named and the unnamed valleys that are laid out below it, orderly and inviting in the dishonest light originating with what at one time were stars but are now (now that we have seen them up close with our own eyes and have suffered the unpleasant consequences) merely conglomerations of methane and hydrogen gas morphed, for our convenience, into unquenchable flame.              

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The heads carved from stone appeared at first glance the handiwork of their ancestors, totemic reminders of human agency from the very beginning of habitation, but we were assured this was not the case, that their cosmos was a self-governing entity or field and there was no causation as we normally understand it, no first this and then something else, but an entity forever unfolding within itself on the vertical axis. It took two weeks to communicate this properly, though, and during most of that time we made the forgivable mistake of praising the ingenuity of their forebears, the vision that allowed them to rework misery, the iron-choked cisterns and the innumerable broken toes, into something that changed the subject, that denied all subjects but the one deemed most worthy of discussion by their effeminate elders and thus, by definition, that which was to be frowned upon by the visiting archeologists or the occasional minister washed ashore and all but insane,  his hair grown unruly in the wind and the skin on his forehead peeling with disease. Who are we, though, to count backwards, to suggest that the numbers we have used to this point successfully no longer function the way they were intended? That they belong to an order of existence three furlongs further east where the residents are terrified of the sound of a passing locomotive and they attempt to mask their fear with actual masks, with noncommittal faces worked in alabaster and holes where the eyes go, crow’s feathers hung (for a time anyway) from the sides with ordinary white glue. The house is like any other in the region, but for what looks like sod on the roof and the doors here and there leading into underground caverns. Eulalie waves her arms and the man sees us from the kitchen window, nods in our direction as if he has had a premonition of our approach and wishes to acknowledge that we are welcome even though he doesn’t believe in premonitions. Somewhere, out of sight, hounds bay with a fury that bespeaks their acquaintance with, if not evil exactly, the closest thing to it that doesn’t pulse in the light of the moon, doesn’t throw its own light around as if it were constructed of almost nothing but light, and so has extra sums to do with as it pleases. Eulalie mocks the bitter wailing with a brand of her own and I wish for about the thousandth time that I had never met Eulalie, that our paths had wandered close enough to one another to occupy the same mountain, say, but had veered sharply at the point of contact, had recognized the impending catastrophe and had taken it upon themselves to avert that catastrophe by hurrying off into the vegetation on opposite ends of the mountain where they would simply peter out and disappear from underuse like metaphysics, or the harpsichord.     

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The transmutation of one mineral into another, or into something completely un-mineral like, take your pick, was exactly as advertised by those who had told me about it upon my arrival -- with lightning flashes fifty miles distant and regular updates on the airwaves by anyone who had access to the airwaves, who had paid their money up front and were delivered of equipment eighty years out of date. You turned the knobs one way and you received information from as far away as Spain; you turned it another and the information you received was no longer really information at all. It was a bland re-working of stage dramas with names that suggested they took place in the Ural mountains and examined the everyday lives of everyday people but delivered nothing of the sort. I pitched my tent close to the outcropping the locals had named for a legendary pair of lovers who would meet up there nights when the moon was full and sometimes when it was crescent-shaped, or, as the locals frequently expressed it,” mimicking the uterus”, until they were discovered by a great, lumbering aunt of one or the other of them. She (it was said) wagged her finger in their faces and, when no one paid attention to the warnings she doled out from that evening forward with such regularity even her own siblings (at any rate, those who were still living) believed she had gone insane, she cast a spell that no one was able to break because they didn’t fully understand how it worked or how exactly it had managed to change the lives of those it had been cast on. The only difference in the victims was a certain ruddiness of the cheeks that appeared now and then inexplicably and a tendency to dream about snow leopards when before they wouldn’t have known what the animals looked like. When not pouring over old atlases or boning up on my trigonometry, I spent my evenings there reliving the experience, jotting some of it down in a notebook that I subsequently misplaced, but the trumpeting like bereaved swans and the sulfurous aftertaste stay with me to this day due to their novelty and what I’ve come since to understand was their association with that thing we term the Ground of Being when we need some entity or some place from which to begin. Someplace other than our own remembered origins which have the feel to them at this remove of something invented, something paltry and a little unconvincing like the plot of a novel, say, or almost any spoken sentence accompanied by tears.