One tower has something written on it in Greek, which suggests the other one is probably ornamented as well in a language we have not studied. One would like to translate, but the energy expended in looking up words and conjugating them when conjugation is both possible and expected causes one to become thirsty at precisely that moment when almost every liquid in the vicinity has evaporated due to exposure to direct and plentiful sunlight. There is something colored gray and smelling faintly of ashes in a plastic container in the cupboard, in the shadows out of reach of the sun’s prying rays, but Eulalie warns me away from it with a song she apparently composed specifically for this occasion on some previous occasion when I was out of the house or had been detained by the local authorities. The sound of her voice has not altered since I first heard it decades ago when she was sitting under a tree in the moonlight and replaying the day’s events out loud to no one in particular. It has a rasping quality to it that, far from suggesting permanent damage to the vocal chords and a congenital tendency to moral transgression somehow responsible for that damage, convinces you that her time on the planet has been spent looking after those who might otherwise have been forced to live in mud huts in the canyon and to allow their children to wander away somewhere around the second grade. Those people travelling between one tower and the other, we are told, do so by boat and they have the wind at their back and are entirely free of care or worry so long as the fruit and the flower blossoms continue to drop haphazardly into the boat with them. Certainly this would be the perfect opportunity for someone following along on the bank or standing at the top of one of the towers in question to take a photograph and attempt to sell copies of the photograph to the passengers once they have disembarked (if they are allowed to disembark) or to a magazine of the sort that is still interested in the outside world as opposed to the abstract interior world that has become of such enormous interest to those who still purchase things like magazines. For her part, Eulalie denies the primacy of either, stating that interior and exterior are separate sides of the same worthless coin and that we ought instead to be concentrating our attention on the unremittingly dull if we wish to get to the bottom of anything, if we wish to understand why our hearts and our shoelaces, for instance, are made of fundamentally identical materials.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Stumbling over semi-circular concrete edifices with pungent soil and ordinary flowers in the center of them, children throwing dice in the dark, we begin to rethink and replace even our most primeval desires. We locate them somewhere close to the gall bladder. But this is disingenuous on our part, a strategy we invent when we are between two locations, we are stranded like ducks frozen feet-first to the surface of a lake. Eulalie recommends visual illustration, the putting of pen and ink to paper and then wadding up the results because they remind you of something you saw on the isthmus. Chained mammals. Butterflies drinking at the corners of their eyes. I dispute every third claim she makes on principle, then turn my attention to the nearby sounds of thunder, of rainwater on the street. She knows my hands are growing steadily weaker. They can’t be trusted to hold tight to a rope. Just the sort of failing that can cause the forest floor to rush up at you like a predatory fish (assuming, of course, you are dangling for some reason above the forest floor on a rope). This doesn’t mean I’m planning to un-build what we have spent entire decades building. It doesn’t mean our time together is destined to become something legendary, something you put in a book when you can’t think of anything else to put in it, like the chemical composition of magma or the lineage of one noble Greek family or another. In a handwritten note, I discover what appears at first glance to be a secret code and I take it to the African up the road who has experience unraveling such things, who spent his formative years in the employ of cartographers and had to run for his life on more than one occasion when the building in which he worked was damaged by an earthquake. His fingernails are yellow or gray and have been chewed ragged and I wonder if maybe the ringing in his ears he complains of from the moment I arrive is the sort of thing that drives one crazy, literally crazy, if left untreated. But then, something is bound to drive one crazy at some point, isn’t it? Assuming one is a little unbalanced to begin with and susceptible to outside influences that the rest of us wouldn’t notice even if you made a special point of drawing our attention to them. Influenced by the African, Eulalie spends hours recalling events from a past with barely discernible labels on it, evoking rivers overhung with vines and toasters that belonged to historical personages of the first and second rank. You can make an entire workable ontological system, she contends, by casting about in the remnants left by those who have come to visit, those who endeavor to return transience to its original luster. By way of illustrating a not altogether separate point, she pulls out of her hat phrases she has written down ahead of time on small, ragged pieces of paper and placing them next to the objects they are intended to describe. The porcelain tortoise. The book ends with gaudy pirates standing astride them. She turns the fan on and starts over. This lasts for a good twenty minutes, interrupted only briefly when she unwraps a piece of caramel and eyes it suspiciously as if it were made of lint, before placing it on her tongue and closing her eyes. I am tempted to fear for her mind at times like these, but I know my fears are misplaced, as is my lust. These emotions more properly belong to that stage of our lives together when we saw one another as emblems rather than actual human beings, as stand-ins for ideas and attitudes we knew through our careful reading of Kierkegaard and our careless reading of Kant, and conversations with all the right people (read baristas and the occasional unemployed environmental engineer) we were expected to adopt. Ideas and attitudes we were then expected to alter, but only rarely. Only when they had ceased serving their original purpose and had begun instead to ossify, to lend an undeserved and undignified weight to any otherwise mediocre sentence that just happened to contain them.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Exile seems more and more likely, days spent in a shack on a promontory overlooking the sea. What’s to complain of? My ribs ache on one side only, in the evening when the wine has grown bitter and the conversation circles around ideas that have only recently gone out of fashion. Neuropathways and brie cheese. The distance between two points that seem to be placed directly on top of one another. I’d like to take the opportunity to recall past events that may or may not have happened to me, to bundle them up with twine and toss them to my accomplice waiting in the next room, but I know she is sleeping and the least disturbance is liable to enter her subconscious mind and re-arrange the contents, not necessarily for the better. Just try then to undo the damage with bicycle rides, with miniature origami flowers arranged in intricate patterns. Not that anyone affected would recognize the damage had been done in the first place. They would glance at you out of the corner of their eyes and shrug their shoulders and the rest of the afternoon might be spent then repeating meaningful phrases as if to leach the meaning from them and turn them into a veritable gruel. On the sidewalk I am forced to turn my body ninety degrees repeatedly so as to be able to pass safely through barriers placed there specifically to keep me out. The idea seems to be that my presence will make others uncomfortable and they will flee in all directions in a panic, but precisely the opposite occurs. Before I know it, I am surrounded by curious faces, people with expressions of wonder and something even like (dare I say it?) awe in their eyes and around their mouths as if they have just stumbled on a fragment of an Ionic column sticking up out of the broken asphalt of a parking lot. I am offered joyful chanting on all sides, and handshakes and even a mint julep by an old man who says he has seen me before, on the other side of town where things like this just do not happen. Where you are told what to wear and how to behave and what subjects to study from the time you are eight or nine years old until the time they put you in the grave, and even then, there are plenty of expectations. You can’t just lie there, for instance, at your ease for all of eternity. You must make every effort to start another journey, to gather what things you need and set off (after, of course, a sufficient enough time has passed to allow those who knew you or those who just thought they knew you to grieve) over the mountains that mark the barrier between this world and some other one that probably, if we are being honest with ourselves, looks a lot like this one and offers many of the same pleasures and disappointments. Fact is it’s hard to take seriously the alternatives that have been presented to us in the meantime. The stratocumulus clouds. The doe-eyed virgins in their tunics.
Tuesday, December 11, 2012
The steppe invites all and sundry, beckons with a bird hung high in the air for an hour or more, the sound of exotic stringed instruments manipulated by experts. I take notes in my head and then erase them immediately, cast them out the way one casts out demons when one is plagued by them or knows others who are. Not that there is a lot of gambling here, or algebra or masturbation. It’s just the seasons begin to take their toll – they rumble in with authority, and with spiderlings at the ends of their webs. With brazen calls for starting over. Eulalie wanders down the hall as instructed, feeling at the core of herself that something is amiss but not wishing to acknowledge this because she has acknowledged such foreboding in the past and had it come back to haunt her. Or at least tap her on the shoulders as if to say, “you’re standing on my foot.” She takes stock of her surroundings but they are so drab suddenly and dark and anonymous, she begins to wonder if maybe she has wandered by accident into someone else’s consciousness, has taken it over and is now strangely compelled to light a flame. Our flesh is re-constituted as a matter of course. It finds its likeness and shadow in everything it passes, everything it rubs up against even if it tears. The necklace on the neck of a passing stranger, the onyx in it gulping light. The flagpole standing erect and bare in the middle of a park otherwise overrun with skunks. The man’s sister is lying apparently naked in bed, the entire overwrought mass of her, though the bitterest sections are walled off by a blanket and the presence of three or four parrots each big as a small child and bobbing its head about in an aggressive manner. Prizefighters in scarlet. None of them speak. Eulalie has told me before she thinks the day divides up rationally into twelve zones or arenas and she labels them according to the way they make her feel, but she doesn’t bother sharing the results with me because she thinks I am stupid. She says so out loud and counts to three. I am expected to respond in kind but whenever I try – whenever I quote Wordsworth from memory or staple blank pieces of paper to other blank piece of paper, step back and shout voila! -- she breaks into long, exasperated sobs. She pulls her favorite old blanket over her shoulders, pin hold cigarette burns all over it like lesions of the skin, the smell of it something to remind you of other places even if you weren’t there -- you hadn’t been so much as imagined or daydreamed or limned -- when the blanket (younger then and entirely intact) picked them up, when it made their scent and aura the building blocks, the disembodied originals of its own.
Monday, December 10, 2012
The effect is of holes on parchment, material interrupted in its attempt to go without borders, to go without purpose. We attempt to align the holes through the liberal application of ink and hypnosis and the subsequent vertigo catches us off guard. We suppose the voices we hear then belong to those on the other side, but when we turn it over, we see little more than a window and beyond that a hillside covered in scrub. The sun beats down on it uninterruptedly for several minutes at a time and then layers of sound replace the sun gleefully. It is as if they had been waiting in nearby passageways, in the pockets of discarded coats. I try for a while to live without placing my feet on any convenient surface – the rocks like axioms strewn about in such a way as to impede the progress of others, the baby grand piano given as a gift. But my every effort is thwarted by that part of my mind that doesn’t believe the other parts exist. That insists it is the sole occupant and as such deserving of respect like that given the royalty of the Sandwich Islands when they were still called that and not something else. An hour later, someone is lying in the street, bleeding from a wound that doesn’t appear serious, and yet, he will not answer any questions. He seems to believe that the wound corresponds to the holes in the parchment we started with in some deep and meaningful way, but by that time we have sent the parchment away to be examined by experts and have little faith that it will be returned. Maybe our only option is to create a similar object ourselves and pass it around until the second object becomes as enigmatic, and ultimately threadbare, as the first. You can imagine the outcry, the jumping up and down on boxes that are rumored to contain explosives but are probably just empty. They have that appearance. And besides, when was the last time we discovered gold coins buried in the soil? Or buried them ourselves and returned to find that they had not been dug up? I like to think the legend placed underneath the object, the parchment, when they eventually hang it on a wall will reference those of us who spent so much of our lives attempting to decode it, attempting to fit it into conceptions we already hold. I like to think too the legend will be a mild peach in color, reminding one of childhood at precisely that point when childhood is furthest away, when it is covered over in something very like concrete and very like vines.
Friday, November 30, 2012
One channel bluer than the rest, with less resistance, less water volume and fewer cattails, crops up in the narrative repeatedly. This is a trap. Don’t get caught in it. Don’t try to locate the channel on a map of the region because, first, there are no maps of the region short of those kept in the head and these are notoriously unreliable. Second, the landmarks will shift on you until you are completely lost, until you are convinced someone has been manipulating the real-world equivalent of a game board, and you will be right. To a certain extent. But that doesn’t lessen the suffering or even make it meaningful. What it does is turn the picture we have in our minds of the soffits, of planetary drift, into caricatures to be pawned off on whoever is the next to happen by. Whoever has a fifty-cent piece in his pocket. I liken the process to that which allows air-breathing insects to dive a short distance beneath the surface of the water by trapping bubbles against their legs. Obviously, I’m not shooting for one hundred percent accuracy here, but the comparison is apt enough to get me invited back again and again until eventually I become so comfortable the hostess has to ask me, none too politely, to leave when everyone else has already made an exit. The moon is high and crooked, leaning to the right, and the air is so cold you can feel the skin on your face and on your fingers begin to change shape, to morph and complain. I walk for maybe half an hour before I realize I am making an enormous circle and turn back, but it’s too late. Already the sounds in the street, the barking dogs and the oboes on the radio muted behind closed windows announce the return of something that had only recently been lost, and you couldn’t say mourned exactly, so much as dissected – turned into little more than a list that contains maybe twenty items of greater or lesser complexity. But if that’s not the right channel to follow, which one is? Which one has the mark of authenticity (a glimmer to it, I suppose, like that you glimpse on actual bodies of water)? The answer invites something close to fury when it is delivered. It makes us feel about a thousand years old. But you have to continue despite all sense of impending obsolescence, of diminishment and release, because if you don’t, if you abandon the pursuit at precisely the moment you realize it is a pursuit and not something else, something passive and therefore obscene, you run the risk of being labeled a dunce, or even a minor traitor. And, believe me, some of these labels can remain in place for more than a few days.
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
Please forgive me, she says, if I don’t know your name. This is the point where cheese comes into the picture. It is government issue (of course) and covered in mold. Maybe we are expecting a flugelhorn solo, something tidy, trimmed up around the edges. My patience wears to a point too miniscule to observe, sharp as the end of a pencil and twice as lethal. I don’t wield it with anything like precision but the time will come when half the dollar bills in your pocket begin to resemble the other half and bus fare increases to a point where no one is riding anymore. They stand on the sidewalk and wave or make obscene gestures, which is just another form of waving. The kitchen smells faintly of raspberries and Comet, of ink stains on the fingers and Eulalie sits uncomfortably at a chair with her name engraved on the back of it as if the man and whoever else is in the house (she can sense someone else’s presence the way you can sense midges flitting about behind your head) have been expecting her, as if they have planned this encounter down to the millimeter. When I stumble up mountain paths, I am hoping to find someone at the end, someone seated with his legs crossed in a makeshift temple, candles burning and meaningless syllables hanging in the cold air. I picture a conversation that has no real center, that spins around on itself in ever widening circles like the trajectory of a hungry bat and a moment of clarity that remains still pretty murky by the accepted standards of such moments, those that have been handed down to us by seers and drinkers and the hopelessly insane in books and films with titles that don’t seem very promising at first. That suggest ordinary afternoons in Connecticut. A love affair between two people who don’t really care what love is. But who seem suddenly likable because the camera is angled low and so looks up at them and their faces are creased and sunken in in places like ours, and smooth and idealized in others, like those faces belonging to religious icons painted in the thirteenth century by artists who never quite knew when to stop, when to put the brushes down and take a break and watch the children throw rocks at one another or pull the wings off any birds they happened to catch in their improvised nets.
Saturday, November 24, 2012
The change in temperature coincides with a change in pitch, a dropping of the voice sufficient to cause those in the vicinity to pause in their conversations and glance around nervously, to look over their shoulders. Primarily in the direction of the entrance where the voice seems to originate, though it is always difficult to determine these things, isn’t it? It’s like burning paper and repeating nonsense syllables over and over again in an effort to glimpse the authentic self as opposed to the inauthentic one who shows up in shop windows and other people’s memories, their vivid dreams. The man says he has a sister inside who is partial to women like Eulalie though she enjoys the company of men and boys as well when nothing better is available. He says he knows Eulalie can use the cash just by looking at the condition of her canvas shoes and the comb sticking out of her coat pocket like one of the discolored antennae of an outsized mechanical insect. He opens the gate to the backyard and she follows as if in a trance, though she knows trances belong more properly in religious memoirs and fiction and so she makes a note to herself to invent a compelling version of these events when she gets home, a version having as its catalyst not the events in question -- and of course those occurring immediately previous to them -- but the overwhelming sense that her life is supposed to mean something even when it is completely devoid of the strange set of integers that keep popping up or the elements of myth (the timely lightning flashes, the earth goddesses carved from stone) that might make someone, a complete stranger, sit up and take notice. Might make him whistle through his fingers in an attempt to catch her attention before she slips away forever on that sea we call anonymity when we feel like we should call it something so that others will know what the devil we are talking about. Not that it matters. They too are headed in the same direction and the only thing that promises to redeem us is an empty basket hanging in the corner of the room or a bottle tossing about on rough ocean waves, a bottle that we of course imagine contains a handwritten message from someone marooned on an island these past seventy years and more, someone who had enough time on his hands to examine our most crucial concerns seriously – how the subject and the object interact with one another now that we know it is not the pineal gland’s job to effect such an introduction. Why desire causes suffering when it ought, logically speaking, to cause nothing more serious than a headache, or a sore throat, while an occasional bird silhouetted in the morning sun trills from its palm branches in triumph.
Thursday, November 22, 2012
Our peculiar distrust of isinglass comes up so frequently in conversation you might almost say it filters the view. It takes its place on the list of items to receive thorough exegesis once the business of everyday survival is no longer paramount, no longer takes its cue from the enormous beasts that used to frequent this place. My wrist still aches but it has stopped speaking its own language, it has stopped talking to me at night the way people in dreams talk to you without always moving their lips appropriately. They occupy some ethereal midrange place the rest of us are excluded from if only because we haven’t yet figured out how to read minds. Still, we are trying to learn. In fact, you can make the case that everyone is engaged in very little but the attempt to learn and master this skill from the time they become aware that other people seem to be possessed of minds that can do trigonometry when called upon and can remember the principal players at Austerlitz this many centuries after the fact. I consent to x-rays and wait the interminable wait and then a woman is standing beside me in a blue smock. Her breath smells of gin, of elderberries, and it throws me back to a time when the world itself was as timid and dull as a healthy neck joint, was designed to turn in but a few directions and when you asked it to move beyond these, to behave in ways that it was not intended to, a gloom settled over the mountains and made them seem distant and artificial. I don’t particularly want to return to that place but I am forced to by the fact that the entity we call a memory has its own itinerary. The journey doesn’t last long, though. Praise heaven! the woman’s breasts under the blue smock are beckoning. They sway in familiar ways. She stands to the right and operates the machinery and I wonder what actually happens when electrons and positrons enter the memory where they do not belong. Do they alter only other subatomic particles like themselves or do they enter the world created and stored by such and bounce around in there as happily as butterflies? Do they build nests high up in the cypress trees in the cypress swamps and stare stupidly at the ascendant moon? As usual, the woman knows what is on my mind and finishes quickly, writing something no doubt caustic on the chart and mumbling a farewell before disappearing behind a curtain I hadn’t noticed before. When I picture tendons they almost always come in a dull gray color and flex and spin and seem on the verge of snapping at any moment. I have no idea how accurate this image is, but the more I think about it, the less it seems to matter. Everything is a model, an approximation, of everything else and when you begin to insist on precision, on an accuracy relying on nothing but itself, you are just a step or two away from a particular form of madness, from an isolation so complete as to suggest volcanic islands, or worse – stagnant ponds on those volcanic islands full of turtles and bones.
Tuesday, November 20, 2012
I stop, stand in place and light a cigar once the trail reveals itself as a trail, as something determined to go backward in time and space and take me with it even when I think I am going forward. What I am hoping for some day is a simple room, with or without windows, it doesn’t matter. Maybe a table for writing, a place to lay my head when it grows so heavy the neck seems obsolete. Something to preserve in a museum. Maybe someone on the other side of the wall to rap out a code we determine for ourselves after a month or two of trying. Of course, I can never be sure if the rules and structure I settle upon are the same as those settled on by my invisible companion and so I can never consequently be sure that the idea or statement or threat or filthy joke he is tapping is the same finally as what I manage to decode, but still, coincidence can only explain, at most, every third occurrence of any such it is enlisted to explain and I envision hours spent in this fashion that would otherwise be spent pouring over Ahkmatova and reliving a past that is better left to molder in the shadows out of view. Eulalie considers the topography misleading, says the going up is always preceded by a sliding sideways and wonders if maybe this isn’t a message sent from above by someone who wants us to pay more attention to the everyday, to be grateful for it the way we are grateful for the proper admixture of oxygen and nitrogen without even realizing it, without once mentioning it to those who stand next to us at the counter and place their orders and wait. They seem distracted by something, anxious to get away. Eulalie recalls the time she was walking beside a line of orange trees, deep in the sort of metaphysical speculation that is very nearly always brought on by the smell of raw citrus, when an elderly man, well-dressed and proper, called out to her from his back yard where he was a digging an enormous hole in the ground with a spade. His inquiry concerned money and she knew what that meant, but he waved her initial outrage off as if it were composed primarily of gnats and the sounds that emerge from musical instruments when played by someone who has no training, who has never even seen their like before except for maybe in a movie set in post-war Vienna. Funny how our recollections start out as tangible reality and would stay that way but for our bad habit of allowing the world and everything in it to slip by, to alter its appearance and timbre until there is no way to recognize it anymore, no means of determining who we are and where we fit in short of withdrawing forever into the memory itself, where we can float at the surface like otters and drift off into something like sleep eventually, lapped at by the warm and familiar waters, by the darkness that is not darkness absolute but only a simulacra -- the memory of darkness – which we can then alter at will to suit our needs the way we alter the genetic make up of the tomatoes we eat, or the course of entire rivers.
Sunday, November 18, 2012
We rehearse using bamboo sticks and faces painted on paper plates, strands of barbed wire wrapped loosely around the trunk of these effigies some two hours before the procession is to begin, before the trumpet fanfare erupts from somewhere in the back of the crowd and threatens to overwhelm the entire production. Special attention gets paid to the way the letters look, what color they are and in what order they appear, just as if we are afraid they will begin to organize themselves into ever more complex patterns and leave us behind to attempt to sort through our experience using little more than beads. And a memory of something called the cosmos dissolving around its own edges like a copper coin soaking in bleach. I know the plane is going down, I know we have no hope of staying aloft as soon as I set my eyes on the fuselage, before I ever even step on board. It’s the same as we saw previously covered in vines. Not the same type, the same one. And we are, of course, the skeletons strapped in the seats. The realization doesn’t horrify, doesn’t send a shudder through my body like an eel as it is supposed to, but beckons strangely. Coos from wherever it originated in the voice of Eulalie which is deep and melodic and possessed of scent, of almond and ozone, even when it is disembodied. All these days and months later, it has forgone the use of words, turns them into empty shells for the purpose of striking them, of letting the echoes resonate within each one separately and then releasing them to combine with and magnify all the others through some manner of catastrophe, of violence like that you remember from a time when you had just begun to discover the parameters of your own body. The demarcations and that odd concept space, and you felt the need to solidify both the one and the other forever in your mind by caressing them with your hand and, later, your tongue. By making a kind of primitive love to them as one might make love to another person simply because that other person is present, because he or she has turned up in the bed or in the alleyway unbidden except maybe in subconscious response to that part of yourself that rails against nothing, that abhors the darkness and the all-encompassing silence (that silence that seems to peak, oddly enough, when other people are speaking) and doesn’t care finally that any apparition it succeeds in forging, any voice and any flesh, is bound to be frozen at its center the way your own flesh is when you attempt to touch it in the mirror. When you try and fail to peel it away with your fingers, to detach and pull out of you whatever pristine object has been cowering inside by tugging at the gore that keeps it anchored. The bleeding strings and ligaments you tear loose eventually in your senseless spasming hands.
* end ore / begin appendix
Friday, November 16, 2012
You reach one number measuring chronologically, something else altogether using emotion or sex – when determining her age by memories faint now as a billboard forgotten and overgrown on a gravel road. Leaves pile up in the low places and water congregates as if afraid of the cold. I harbor sentiments there are no names for anymore, pithy black edifices at the center of my chest that reconfigure their outlines every hour on the hour, that mimic the shadows cast by skyscrapers and those cast by nothing whatsoever, that just appear out of nowhere and slide along the forest floor as if in search of a meal. Maybe someday I’ll jot down a few of these impressions and flesh them out with the assistance of someone else’s nightmares. The rickety stairs, the bits of raw goat flesh left lying around on a table. The difficulty arises in the fact that so few people are willing to expound upon where they have been at night and with whom. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Whole neighborhoods (not posh exactly, but not run down either, with streets named after indigenous tribes) are threatened by what we call a mindset because we have to call it something. Otherwise, no one will realize what we are up to, that we are analyzing a particular object or situation. We are not simply speaking to ourselves like those lost souls who have ingested exotic hallucinogens and are walking around aimlessly by the pier or those who manage others and tell them how to sell things, who make decisions that seem, on the outside at any rate, of the utmost importance. When you throw it all up onto a screen afterward, when you give life to it by putting wise and belligerent phrases into the mouths of characters who otherwise wouldn’t say anything because there would be no motivation and no larynx, the proceeds are apt to hit the seven figures, before they return again to two or three like the population cycles of the monarch butterfly. Eulalie too occupied a place without a center, spent her evenings documenting that place by speaking of it to those who had never been and had no hope of getting there. Who saw the place as somehow equivalent to the taiga with its cold vistas and its clouds of mosquitoes. Eulalie patterned all this after the visions she had once in the afternoon, a series of such involving nebulae and the sun and the whole numbers in their totality, visions that altered her voice forever, that pitched it so low as to remind one of the humming of the furnace just before it engages, or the interminable turning of empty belts in a sawmill when there is no timber on hand. Turns out no commercial flights depart from here, only military transport of a haphazard nature, reminding one of recurring dreams that recur only rarely, and that when you’ve consumed too many raw vegetables or you’ve been on your feet all day. Exhaustion is the name we give a whole galaxy of ailments because we no longer have, by definition, the energy to create or commit to memory a thorough taxonomy, for driving a wedge between one concept and another and letting the moisture in to do its dirty work. Eulalie taunts me from some location I can’t quite identify, a place of solid palms and people whispering conspiratorially in the background. She says the idea of climax is almost as good as the climax itself and brings up past episodes in which the eyes rolled back in the head, and the feet curled up like stamens deprived of light. Wouldn’t we rather have this conversation over the telephone? Or in the back of a tavern where someone is playing the mandolin? Wouldn’t we come to appreciate labels for each body part and each movement the body makes before it comes to a complete stop? We could affix them at night when the owner of that body is sleeping and when questioned about it later, we could lie and dissemble and eventually admit our mistakes, our jealousies and failures of will that, when stacked up together in this accusatory fashion, begin to resemble a tower, an actual stone and mortar tower of the sort that people used to spend their entire lives in, especially when they had been deceived and double crossed by powerful family members with a noticeable lisp or fungus on their toenails. I strap myself in close by the cargo, the containers of ammunition and the broken-down vehicles, mostly jeeps I gather by the shape of them, covered in tarps, and I watch the others, seated close behind the cockpit, get up a game of chess with a board and pieces left behind by previous passengers, I suppose, by those who have been deposited in the far flung mountains and jungles to meet their fates with whatever dignity they could muster. And jars of mayonnaise. Eulalie retreats then into a permanent obscurity, into the glare of sunlight on glass, and I have difficulty retaining my composure as the forest stretches out beneath us in all directions like a net or a sentence. But I know the others are watching carefully for any sign that I might turn against them, that I might abandon whatever measure of self I still possess in exchange for a single one of her fingers traced slowly along my temple. For a hymn done up in what they used to call a minor key.
Monday, November 12, 2012
Leaving the branches to their own devices, their own peculiar way of filtering the essence from the air, she lets her shadow stretch across the highway for a moment, or a window through which one can glimpse – just barely – half empty bookshelves. A plastic crate for transporting milk. Afterward, I follow the rumors that persist in this part of the world for days and weeks, use them as the lines on a map. There is violence at the core of them like molten rock and an air of credibility if only because they are muttered under the breath, and in the native tongue. They all resemble one another in key areas – the stripping of flesh from the hands with an instrument originally intended to polish the inside of copper kettles. The jumping up and down in place, the stammering incoherently at the moon as if placed in a trance by someone or something that operates without motive. That wouldn’t understand the concept should you take the time to explain it, using ready-made diagrams you find online and Schumann lieder playing in the background. Each thread leads to another and just when you become convinced that you have journeyed over them all twice over, a new one emerges from under a rock or from the purse carried by the woman who informs me she knows where the infant is being raised. I am dumbstruck by the brute audacity of it all. The generation and regeneration from little more than organelles. And a look in the eye that says the eye is not registering anything that stands before it. By the time I track it down, the child has stopped its incessant caterwauling and it bumps into the furniture as if trying to escape vicious entities the rest of us can not detect. If I look closely for some manner of resemblance (not just to me, but any of us, to any of the trio of unwilling protagonists) -- some kind of answer to a question I hadn’t yet been intelligent enough to formulate -- I find exactly what it is I wish to find. And then it goes away. It fades into non-existence as effortlessly as might a properly-adapted viper into the desert sands. This, in effect, blocks my way, my desired course once and for all, and I have to change destination. An hour later, I am at the airport, or something that looks like an airport, booking passage for home. The woman behind the counter fails to see the urgency in my predicament, though. The more forcefully I try to explain by drawing straight lines up and down on a piece of paper and pointing to one of them, the more she insists longitude doesn’t matter. We no longer take measure of it since they started floating satellites in the sky. We have exiled it the way Ovid was exiled for insulting someone important and he had nothing then to do with the rest of his days but reflect with a quill and ink on something as mundane as love or transformation. Besides, why hanker after something that never existed in the first place? she says. Why spend all that money, shed all those tears, only to have a stranger in the shampoo aisle say he saw you once in a dream? The dream is lengthy and intricate but it ends in an enormous field with the two of you staring at each other and wondering which one will make the decision that has to be made? Which one will pull out the critical object secreted away in his coat and hold it in his hand for the other to examine, for the other to fall down on his knees before because there is nothing comparable in his coat, nothing of similar importance to discover or reveal, no matter how deeply into it he reaches?
Friday, November 9, 2012
The forms mention vertigo casually, almost as an afterthought, and you are left to supply your own definition, your own way of separating out the pieces and recombining them again in a plausible or meaningful manner. It is a job the size of an otter and when you’ve had enough, when you believe your eyes will turn to powder in their sockets by virtue of the alkali lingering still in the air, the blatant insults, you turn your attention to the wall where a handful of near masterpieces hang in small, bronze frames. Certainly they have been overlooked by the rest of the world because they are easy to overlook here in a backwater with its single railway station and the mourning doves all gathered together on the roofs of the houses in twos and threes, waiting, it seems, for something inevitable to happen. Something that will render the thirty minutes prior to its arrival all but irrelevant. I like to trace the outlines of objects and images that don’t exist, that materialize at the ends of my fingertips and then de-materialize again just as quickly, the whole merely suggested by the movement of my hand and fingers and the memory which fires and goes black repeatedly, so that whatever we retain in our memories is etched there by a wilting sort of flame, by something that refuses to endure simply because it is expected to. The payoff? More time to do the same. An afternoon at least. Maybe twenty years. In the crawlspace, I drop my flashlight and surrender for a moment to the claustrophobia that engulfs me, that scurries around on feet that don’t really sound like feet but tentacles. Why not stay here indefinitely? Why not put the mind at ease by offering it up as some kind of sacrifice? To whom or what does not matter. Of course, one’s instincts kick in --for self-preservation and the creation of entities that are not exactly the same as their creator (though the resemblance should be sufficient to eliminate any lingering doubt by all parties involved). From there it’s just a matter of finding your way to the surface again, of following shafts of light to the places where they enter, of listening for the sound of other people speaking no matter how distant. The chances you will be misled dwindle with each passing centimeter, with each long day ticked off on the damp patch of plaster that passes for a calendar until you are right back where you started again, and yet everything is different. The files in the filing cabinet have turned a dead yellow and when you examine them closely, they are written in a code or language you can not decipher. The sidewalks all have cracks in them through which weeds begin to sprout and flower and you hold off poisoning them because they remind you of something but you can’t remember what. It would be a shame to do them in, to turn their petals black, before the connection is made, before they have their chance to pluck you from the present like a man drowning in a low but relentless surf.
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
By January I’m thinking the space between us too enormous to traverse, a wilderness with nothing at the center, not so much as a handful of fig trees. There is no point in coming up with a name because the name too would be swallowed up, would disappear forever on the blank synapse and the collapsed brick wall. But who can help himself when faced with something that needs to be referred to? Needs to be distinguished from others of its kind? I become convinced Eulalie has set out in the direction from which we originally came, and as soon as I can figure out which direction that is, as soon as I can find my bearings amid the overgrowth and the obelisks and the vines, I’ll follow suit. In the meantime, I have recklessly at the steel drum, I run my hands through torn netting in hopes of finding bits of real silver among the minnow scales and the trailing strands of algae. The others get drunk in the shadows of the corral. They tell stories of their sexual prowess and the sexual prowess of the peculiar, five-legged forest sprites said to inhabit this corner of the world by people who don’t really believe what they’re saying. They still get their hair cut by professionals. They still listen to the radio with something like awe as if it had been invented by extraterrestrials or those saints depicted as travelling from one place to another on the back of a mule. When you ask them a direct question, they look away, but you see immediately what they are looking at. The sun. And if you attempt to hold your gaze there the way they do, the way they are known the world over for, even being singled out by a Scandinavian publication of some repute for a feature article written by a man who otherwise spent his days entirely in basement establishments downing absinthe, the pain will become so intense you will have no choice but to look away. And the moment you do, the moment you turn your eyes away from that which is destroying them, is melting them from without, you are overcome with remorse. With a palpable longing to gaze at that merciless fiery object again. But you know to do so would be tantamount to admitting you have committed a crime. And not just any crime, but one in the category of crimes against humanity because you will have committed it against yourself. And you are human. You will have treated yourself (and, by extension, everyone else, especially those who have never heard of you, who couldn’t even conceive of your having been born and having grown up among ordinary wicker furniture and clocks on the walls with Roman numerals on them) as a mere object to overcome, as that which stands between you and a bloodless apotheosis in light.
Monday, November 5, 2012
His appearances hinge on barometric pressure, on whether or not the crickets are singing. Circumstances we can neither predict nor alter without also altering the way we view the outside world. Permanently. And for the worse. I peel the backs off the labels I find in my coat pocket and affix them haphazardly to fence boards and abandoned refrigerators. I sketch on those left over at night, in pen, creating intricate cross-hatch visages that have no right to exist because they are too nearly perfect, too symmetrical and reveal next to nothing that hides behind them. When we are out in the open, miles away from the nearest gas station or pastry chef, when our arms begin to twitch and shudder under no other impetus than the sight of the moon, who will soothe the panic that rises to the surface then like a family of cephalopods? Who will write each distinct and necessary number down for future consultation without also insisting on a surcharge, on a means of keeping his family alive? Immanuel stumbles over physical entities in the road like rocks and cobras and when he coughs, I detect (precisely because I am looking for it) actual vapor droplets coming from his mouth. All of which suggest he’s not entirely of the other, unknown plane yet and there might be time to get a hook into his flesh -- or what manifests itself in the guise of flesh -- and pull him back into this fretfully mundane plane of our own. He seems to know what I am contemplating, though, and whenever I maneuver myself to within arms’ length, he pulls away. He issues a brief, inhuman shriek and then utters a series of uncanny words and phrases. Usually an impromptu commentary on books and atlases the rest of us have no access to, entire libraries (if I were to guess) existing as shadows of that destroyed in Alexandria or suffering funding cuts up the road in Illinois. If my wits could be with me instead of elsewhere, instead of scampering up pine trees like small, anxiety-prone mammals, I would cease creation of the perfect cross-hatch human faces and gather some of what is presented from the unknowable by this visitor who, when still here in his totality, had no more use of the previously undocumented bits of Anachreon he is spouting at me than he did an intimate knowledge of the behind-the-scenes workings of his microwave oven. How lukewarm we’ve become to the things we can see with our eyes, but not our minds! As if our minds had come to cultivate blindness. As if they had spent too much time on ladders leading always up and leaning perilously to one side when you place your foot upon the bottom rung. Ten years from now, I will look back at the present moment and glimpse maybe one eight thousandth of what surrounds and overwhelms me today – the light inundating everything in waves, the mountain still four days or a week away by foot but glinting in the sun like the unearthed corner of a diamond, and, along a ridge near the top, a dozen or so enormous radio telescopes all pointed in the same general direction, listening intently for waves and communication from the deepest parts of outer space, where everything, apparently, is sound, is abiding and undifferentiated noise masquerading for some reason no one can quite put his finger on as impenetrable silence.
Friday, November 2, 2012
The purpose in tunneling is to reach some destination that isn’t marked on your globe, that doesn’t show up when you close your eyes and repeat certain words over and over again until you fall into something very like a trance -- except it lacks the mental wallpaper with eyeballs on it and the sound of oboes. Every third turn brings me to a dead end and I consider giving up entirely but I remember what the nurse said to me in the middle of the night when she thought I was in a coma. I am inspired to continue. There is no question what I remember is not the same thing as what occurred and that I am deriving my inspiration from something that does not exist. And yet, how is this any different, finally, from how other people operate? They get on their hands and knees and they shuffle from one spot to another (all of it in the mud or on cherry wood floors under overhead track lighting, it doesn’t matter) and the sky alters its appearance. It moves visibly like a seaman’s compass. And we are to believe that the one caused the other, that it is our will, once put into appropriate costume, that floats the stars and the comets, that summons the clouds with the rain inside them and the imperial thunder. I meet up with the others after an interminable separation, after the flies have come and gone in waves that resemble complex musical notation, and I try to keep silent but the sentences pour from my throat until there are no more unique combinations available and I am reduced to a kind of bleating that puts everyone on edge. In the canopy overhead, the macaws heighten the tension through an off-tempo serenade and when I drift off, my sleep is full of feathers. And mites. When I wake again, the others have pushed on without me, have left me a note of apology that begins with a quote by Thomas Jefferson. I suspect they have invented the quote, the way they have invented all the other parts of the letter, and I am preparing to light myself on fire as an act of protest and unyielding despair. But I am out of matches, and besides, whoever heard of this part of the world anyway? Who would believe the myths that emerge from its forests like tusked deer? Our entreaties, our laments, are not acts of desperation, though they are viewed that way, I’m sure, when they gather together overhead, when they push and shove in the moonlight for position and wander off in twos and threes for company into the far corners of the cosmos, never to be heard from again. We ought, then, to label them and sort them, or turn them into pamphlets that nobody reads. That way, eventually, we’ll have extra time on our hands to accomplish what we promised ourselves we’d accomplish when we got around to it. Like erect fences. Or learn to play plaintive airs on the hammer dulcimer so as to woo the kind of lover that must remain, until such airs are mastered, entirely theoretical.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
One learns to continue by continuing, by pushing through the ankle-deep water and the moccasins, the high decibel ringing that brings others to their knees. The ploy is stolen directly from Horace, from some ode or another with a rustic backdrop and learning worn like a knit cap, but it is possible to personalize even this, to shape it between your fingers until something unique emerges, with corners and indentations, with a voice like that of someone not yet fully grown. No sooner do we have him in the ground than Immanuel turns up again, not corporeal anymore but not entirely without shape or substance either. He hangs around in the evening when I am trying to sleep and he doesn’t really seem to recognize me at first, occupying himself instead with wandering about in the mists and mosquitoes like an afterthought broken free of its moorings in the mind where the initial thought first emerged as a result of very careful deliberation and effort. Our rote obsessions owe their existence to rotten luck, to an accident on the caliber of melting ice when you leave the freezer door ajar or when the sun finds its zenith over a pond where the turtles have buried themselves in the mud. Wouldn’t it be something if we had access to a repository and we were no longer expected to generate either fine or lunatic ideas on our own? We had merely to operate the accompanying codex properly to find what we want and, of course, pay a small fee, something perhaps even in barter. Like a bushel of corn or a gilt frame we previously removed the painting from because it depicted an elderly man with a sunflower in his hands and we found the depiction objectionable for reasons we couldn’t quite put into words. Maybe it reminded us of a time when we too were expected to stand still so that someone we barely knew could try to capture our likeness in oils or charcoal or dust, and our trust was violated. Maybe we have grown sick of words the way one person grows sick of another. Over time, and with little effort. Like looking in a mirror. It just happens. It just occurs like the generation of oxygen. When Immanuel first returns, I run as fast as I can, leaping tree roots and culverts in the dark, anxious to tell Eulalie the impossible news, but she has gone, has packed up and fled in the middle of the night following the trauma of internment and, before that, disease, the only traces of her left in the ruins she shared with Immanuel a pile of broken spectacles and a glove with the fingertips cut out so as to allow whoever wears it to work with dexterity, to sort and master the fine gradients of every object that exists on the surface of the planet, or at least those of a size graspable by the ordinary human hand.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Circles rise to the surface, exhibit themselves wantonly, and then descend again once they have caught the attention of those who respond at a visceral level. In the light bouncing then off the unseen oceans, the red sands and mountain peaks twenty miles away, I discovered circles everywhere, unearthed them from substances not made of earth with the persistence of a feral cat stalking chameleons in the treetops or a Geiger counter sniffing out particular isotopes. A mode of transport yellow in body and long as an end table, it had wheels of course because how else was it going to get anywhere? And these I’d turn with my hands and watch turn and see inside the movement something that is as yet missing from my vision today. Something mathematical certainly and of the genus of law, but without name or substance and apt to disintegrate when I looked too closely, hoping to pin it down on the surface of the retinas and keep it there for future consultation. But what need have we of that which is beyond the tongue, beyond the capabilities of the tongue to morph objects that never come in contact with it, as if effect at a distance is not the purview finally of alchemists dead and gone but a day to day reality for anyone who can speak? Who can muster enough words to regenerate that which was swallowed up by time and sunlight and generate that which has still to solidify around its own marrow, still to take its first heady steps? Some of the obsessive appeal originated not in the tactile, not in the rough plastic passing more and more quickly beneath the fingers, but the sound, a rattling just this side of order-less, without music. I could alter it, make it sing, generate a primitive phrasing, if I struck it just so, and the perfecting of this technique accounts for hours during which I was completely unaware of the concern on the faces of the male presence and the female presence watching from a window or the front door. The unlocking of patterns, of mysteries buried deep within the soil by someone secretive and all-reaching trumps the ordinate kindness to others, the empathy one ought otherwise to foster as one fosters an appreciation for Hyden or dry wine. And it is especially so when such circles, such infinite and unwieldy treasures reveal themselves in earliest childhood and promise to abandon us again in something clearer than words or phrases. We can see it in the orbit itself, hear it in the cotter pin and washer beginning to freeze up on the axle from overuse. We can hear it in the lunatic fury of the birds.
The post-simian figures occupy space without -- it seems from this distance, at any rate -- moving, without lifting a leg and then placing it down again somewhere close by or operating their lips in such a way that words escape them, or at least the facsimile of words. I stop no higher than the knees of some of these perpetual shadows and feel at ease for perhaps the one and only time in my life precisely because they have no faces to decode, no agenda hidden away like gold bullion in subterranean passageways. All is still within the jurisdiction of my will, a blueprint I will mislay for many years afterward, only to pick it up again in middle age. Our systems creak and mutter when placed in operation and we can almost imagine the steam and smoke rising off them in the morning, the smell like that of turnips gone bad, but we cling just the same because without the systems of our own devising, without these grand schemes and philosophical edifices, our bones are no more than scaffolding and our dreams pile up against the doorstop like laundry. Many of our dreams look back on a past spent among dervishes and beaded lizards, our bodies prone on the dry soil and racked with pains we no longer even have names for. One of the frozen human totems gives his name to my brother, stands almost directly beneath the sun and if I can flesh out the countenance at this distance, it is only with the assistance of tales told between that place and this one, and not the memory which is full of holes the size of universes. This is a pattern that will persist, will seem at first to grow weaker over time as if it can’t keep track of its own comings and goings, but the illusion reveals itself as illusion when I sit down to compose the melody for a dirge -- something meant to evoke a particular time and place and the people who occupied that place beside me – and I find myself staring instead at my socks. Outside the wind arrives from the place where wind originates and the screens in the windows complain that they too are expected to make do with next to nothing. Our lives, despite all evidence to the contrary, evidence we would spend twenty times that one lifetime and a fortune acquiring if it were possible, belong to empty rooms, and everywhere you turn there are books with familiar names on the spine and titles and the occasional picture of someone’s eighteenth century face starting out at you, just as vivid and haughty as a king’s. And you know that the face will be there every evening until you turn the book around backwards or upside down so as to assert the primacy of your own existence, your vision. So as to prove once and for all to any Hobbes or Rousseau who has the audacity to gaze out at you like that in spite of the grave that it is you who will be calling the shots now. It is you who will decide what solidifies and what dribbles away to nothing on the Earth’s innumerable white hot sands.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
No continuity, no incidents bleeding into one another with all the ease of open wounds. No wounds manufactured, but we will allow a blurring of effect, a moving from one space to another without announcing the move. What reputable mind, what disembodied nerve fiber even is going to follow our lead? Which mountaintop will leave open space to place one’s shoes? A presence enters, discolored from rage, her eyes rolling in her head the way thunder is said to roll by those who do not stand directly beneath it. You can determine a great deal by examining wavelength when nothing visible will suffice, by a kind of echo location, but my experience determining what is real and what merely the workings of some unseen mind not altogether separate from my own is limited to that which can be gleaned without trying, without examining each element in the room separately – the wood slats vertical and obscuring my line of sight when I sit for any length of time. The walls opposite like egg shell in their fragility. What I wouldn’t do now to populate the corners, to stuff them full of artificial beasts with startled looks upon their faces, if beasts and non-human creatures can truly be said to have faces. Perhaps that entity belongs to us alone because it is, finally, a concept. It carries with it expectations not just anyone, or anything, can meet. The enraged presence smears excrement on my legs and my first order of business is to determine not why (this question has yet to formulate itself even as concerns the passing of sunlight across and behind closed curtains, or the purpose of the words bubbling up on my lips lately in meager twos and threes like semi-sociable beetles or flies) but whose excrement it is. The possibilities number, so far as I can determine, no more than the number of the inhabitants of what I will later learn to term the home when I am encouraged to explore it. Certainly, indignation is called for and mine seems natural as flames or fungus on wood. It is that which does not follow from what precedes it -- as if the two had no prior relation -- but which emerges from the substance itself, is born of its various prior elements reshuffled and reconstituted for purposes no one can determine. Perhaps they were written out ahead of time, set down on something like paper so that whoever has need of them in the future will have access. Assuming, of course, he doesn’t forget where they have been stored in the meantime. In which cupboard. In the maw of which paired sock in which drawer. Or perhaps they just happened. They just appeared like light and we are stuck with them the same way we are stuck with light in the morning when we’d rather have (for a time, at any rate) the darkness, the impenetrable desolation of the cave.
Sparks demand attention from those of us composed only partially of flame. We glance and stare and chortle at our foolishness and then stare again until the retina no longer registers the thing we are staring at as other. It becomes accustomed to the intensity of light and treats light, at least until it can be taught to resume its initial naiveté, as that which is ordinary. That which is expected the way rows of corn are expected in the field. As are moles and lacewings. A locomotive green and bulky as a quantity of copper drags behind it cars, one loaded with faux, undifferentiated coal, and throws ozone onto the basement air where the hairs inside my nose take hold of it and (or so I conceive it now) fold it over, prepare to place it permanently in some drab recess of the brain where it will stay forever, dormant and piecemeal, something set to rise again, say, twenty years later in consequence of passing storms. We are reminded of those around us by the accident of objects placed in our way and then recovered, or stumbled upon in likeness. Rarely in words. Two balding men stand close within the circle cast by the bare bulb overhead, the one progenitor of the other and as alien to me as are the river byways of China, the reed beds and the fumbling geese overhead. Their rapport, obvious even to someone still stumbling on coherence, as it were, in his pockets, sentences strung high on light posts and out of reach, bears no resemblance to any I might have with the one I see most days and will later interrogate on occasion concerning the lesions I spy in heaven and the people apt to reside there and why water stops its movement at the boundaries of my skin. The train, barreling repeatedly sideways off the tracks when it has found finally the speed I desire, builds a hydraulic something inside my chest until I can no longer breathe. I race for the stairs and the blinding light outside where everything runs as it is intended. The sun consistent as the minute hand on your watch. The sidewalk motionless and white as bone. The air there is full of its own as yet undivided essence and I stand in one place and pull it in and endeavor to break it. To redistribute the pieces through the infinite concourse of my body. Light and air and body as one. This lasts maybe a minute, the time it takes to pull a fishhook from your flesh if it is imbedded more deeply than you might have anticipated. The time it takes to reorient yourself when you wake from a shallow sleep because someone knocks on your door or the radio plays music composed of little but abject familiar phrases repeated over the barest hint of someone striking a tympani.
Friday, October 19, 2012
Tear at the thatch, set it on fire! Call the rings of Saturn down through incantation and despair. The sound is grating, a long low wail like that you’d expect of an animal caught in a snare, the intervals between utterance lessening until there is no interval at all but infinite continuation. I attempt to capture the visual equivalent with charcoal on paper bags I carted here from the dump specifically for this purpose, each attempt rounded at the top and exhibiting tendencies to splinter at the edges, just as if I had modeled them on multi-cellular organisms at the dawn of complexity, the very beginning of what we would come to recognize as the blueprint for our own devious make up. Eulalie is striking a bell or a bottle or something solid that rings as if it were hollow, calling to the heavens to witness her grief. There is an enormous gulf between what we see and what we allow ourselves to keep, what we store away in the memory like grains. Trying to break through this habit, to untie it and roll it down the hill, just makes us more susceptible and creates, in the end, the distinct feeling that we have accomplished nothing whatsoever. We have simply been standing in place before a mirror and gazing at the odd, isolated strands of hair that jut out from the temple, that catch whatever draft is in the room and amplify it. Mimic it the way the waves mimic the beach on which they will shortly be extinguishing themselves. For my part, I never realized that others thought it possible to make yourself somehow less than human by studying navigation, by sharpening quills when you have a typewriter at hand. It was balmy times, but venomous, the actual sun so far away as to seem like failed conjecture, a promise made on two hands, only one of which, though, was lacerated purposefully to produce the blood necessary for the ritual. Now the bugle is packed up tight and Eulalie throws every other object she comes across through what would have been a window in previous decades or millennia but is now simply an orifice, a blank place in a wall that has crumbled some in the rain and which you might want to write poems about if you were in the habit of writing poems. If you were encouraged in your youth by those who didn’t understand the potentially devastating consequences of what it was they were fobbing off on you. The nights spent picking scabs on your arms. The prizes with names that make one think of prairie flowers, of dens full of buzzing rattlesnakes.
Monday, October 15, 2012
Inside the sphere we are constantly bumping into one another, turning our palms skyward as if to suggest there are alternatives every time. As if to suggest the boundaries are not as well-defined as we have been led to believe by those whose job it is to determine the boundaries and make sure they don’t shift. There’s precious little we can do to prevent movement, though, and the lights remind us of this when we try. They alternate patterns, they refuse to illuminate certain portions of the room and my skin reacts by tightening and growing brittle over stretches around the elbow, below the knee. It reminds me of boutique leather and I am proud for a while, even taking pictures of it to show other people should my skin decide to heal itself. No one would believe me then. They would object in the strongest possible terms. Or else they would simply nod their heads and continue their conversations about Borneo, about the cheapest ways to get there. Our days fill up suddenly with voluminous miniature objects like sand, with rumors having nothing whatsoever to do with sand. We run from these as we might from a swarm of stinging insects. There is only so far you can go, though, when the light behind the clouds is not the light you would otherwise expect to escape from those clouds should they break or should there be no clouds in the first place. All of which suggests our feet were not designed for running or even walking very far. They were designed, I’m sure, for some other less daunting activity, and when I study them on other people, as opposed to when I study my own, I come to the same conclusion pretty much every time – our feet were meant to hang limp beneath us when we fly. If this conjures fairy tales and myths with griffins in them, so be it. I can’t be held responsible for what other people believed before I got on the scene. Their attempts at making the eye the arbiter, the mind the axis of the cosmos, were entirely successful, I’m sure, and deserving of the same sort of grudging respect we offer qualified umpires. But with success comes the equivalent of legal documentation, wills and subpoenas, and a tendency to say things in a way that no longer appeals to those you are speaking to. As a consequence, they lower their eyes if they are polite, thumb their noses at you or spit in your direction if they are not, and resume whatever it was they were doing before you arrived. Cultivating certain questionable grains. Holding hands or throwing dice against a dried mud wall where a handful of hungry curs look on, sharing apparently in the ancient understanding of their race that dice mean bone and bone is lucky as any number you choose to carve into the face of it. Bone is the future promising you something bold, something of consequence like transformation, like finally getting what you’re owed, all by way of an otherwise truly merciless past.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
An ice giant finds its visage under the noisy blade of a chain saw, its creator meticulous and clothed only in burlap and cured hides. Spectators arrive, some of them by bus, but mostly on foot on unseen trails through the forest thick on either side of the highway here like insulation. Their eyes are wide and their faces drawn, the wind whipping through them like rumors, and the Styrofoam containers, crushed and angular, tumble past their feet in threes and fours. All along the highway I kick the cairns over when I find them, scatter the bits and pieces with the toe of my boot. Vengeance, I’m sure, for something I can’t remember, an insult delivered via pigeon, a deep recess in the center of my person filled almost entirely now by shadows and bone spurs, by the physical remnants of whoever else I was supposed to be. Later, at taverns with names lifted wholesale from some earlier century and some other continent, I’ll explain it with my finger cocked sideways, nearly dislocated, and the froth on my lips redoubling itself every tenth syllable as if it had been given directives. As if it were the portion of the soul that insists on visibility despite a very long tradition to the contrary. I recall a time when everyone was attempting to compose an epic with giants at the center, when they compared notes and studied at the trade school library which was the best in the vicinity then and allowed you to smoke inside provided you kept your distance from those who registered their displeasure with an audible clearing of the throat or a glance cast in your direction so full of menace there could be no mistaking it. There was a great deal of debate then concerning how much pride was too much pride as represented in these figures with their molars like mahogany tables and their eyes squinted shut, and there was a great deal of debate concerning what was the best way to depict all this without succumbing yourself to the vice in question. Immanuel was lucid then, a man with a nose like a rivet and a deep and abiding love for the female form in all its manifestations -- even the stone columns at the edge of town referred to as the sisters and featured in more than one young adult novel of the time in which someone disappears and then reappears again but is not the same person. We would scale the sisters come midnight, Immanuel reciting verses of his own invention or those of Auden having to do with the impenetrability of time. I’ve looked for them since, tried to unearth them so as to bring him back with their recitation, at least for a moment, to make him hear and acknowledge them (and me) from the other side, but I can’t find them. Perhaps they were never by Auden in the first place, or Stevens or Ahkmatova in translation. Maybe they were bits and fragments of a recipe he was trying to memorize for reasons of his own or directions to the post office the next town over and his saying them out loud settled in my head as verse simply because everything then was verse, because the world itself had yet to solidify, and it still hasn’t; it still squirms around beneath my feet like nominative accusatives or squid.
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Twice the vacuum stalls and leaves its contents dropping unceremoniously toward earth and twice those within earshot hear the accompanying groan, the rattling of metal utensils and the mild cursing under the breath as if the more virulent kind might be expected to call from the cupboards vaguely menacing supernatural entities of the sort perfected in Japanese cinema. My watch follows the same pattern the universe does, as near as I can tell, with the second hand getting caught on occasion on the cusp of the five. Not because that structure juts out, but because the interior gears are defective. They have been rubbed smooth in places by overwork. They are the victims of a shoddy design. When the urchin requests possession of my watch, I am startled for a moment, then properly outraged and only later admiring of the spirit that allowed him to approach. That said in his ear, “All things are possible. You are a Titan among canaries.” Clearly, by this line of reasoning, the urchin’s word is law. I follow along behind him for a while because I have nothing else to do and I suffer sometimes from the delusion that people can’t see me. Or if they can see me, what they see is not the same thing as who I am. This undoubtedly leads to further troubling symptoms and explains for instance that period of time (already touched upon) when I thought I was an egg. To be honest, I still think that but only because I recognize that my body is the perfect host for the incubation of both disease and that which cures disease, the pestilence and the unguent. Reason is a part of the mind no bigger than your thumb and rests on the longitudinal axis, leery of raising itself much like the turtles you see at the zoo. When it is forced into action, it pollutes the area all around it out of spite, casts its garbage and its detailed notes taken on the equivalent of paper all over the ground and leaves them there for others to pick up. I know this is difficult to follow, to condone, but If you believed at some point that you were an egg, and then you stopped believing it, for whatever reason, there would still be a part of you reluctant to embrace the new image, the one that corresponds to what you see in the mirror or the water of the pond past which you happen to be strolling. The question is which part is the more truthful one and why? Which part represents the functional self and which the soul, a term wildly out of favor at the moment but destined to make its return? I don’t know the answer to that question and I’m pretty sure the question itself has been borrowed or stolen numerous times from someone who knew the answer but refused to share it with us because he recognized that the answer was liable to distract him from the real task at hand. Namely, the completion of his symphony or his colossal philosophical system (which amounts to the same thing) – that overwhelming entity that seems to us now, if we are aware of it at all, bloated and of passing interest only to the occasional scholar who studies it in youth before stumbling upon her true passion, a perhaps more modest work created by someone else truly deserving of her time.
Monday, October 8, 2012
Later, the pieces of flesh have been put back where they started. The centering gives way to shifting from one foot to another and then the sky recedes like memory. I stand at the other end of the table, certain the objects laid out between us are meant to suggest something in the aggregate, to add up to a message like that one finds sometimes in a book pulled from the shelves at random in the library. Something scribbled in the margins, a statement or a question that addresses a need one has without ever before realizing it. That conjures it out of mid-air simply by stating that need in sentences half Gaelic and half English. Or fragments, it doesn’t matter. A high-toned whistling continues somewhere far off and makes us think of the inner workings of machines that haven’t been invented yet, that divide the air from the particles in the air and separates them out into a hundred different varieties, all for the purpose of reassembling them again at a later date and placing them in bottles with hand-written labels. I, for one, am sick at heart and ready to follow the game trail through the forest until it comes to a clearing and then see for myself what sort of structures have been built there, examine them carefully by the light of a torch. Most of these will have crumbled, ravaged by time and picked over by those in need of supplies. I imagine rooms one must climb by hand to reach and in the corners of these (assuming there are corners still) a child’s drawing of the family on yellowed paper. It looks strangely familiar, as if generated from my own past, but I know the past is something that doesn’t generate, that doesn’t so much as twitch the skin under its eyes. We have an hour to make it to the next destination and her panting suggests we will need that much and more, but still, I linger. I address people who are no longer among us, who have stepped off the platform and plunged down toward whatever lies beneath the platform without making much of a sound. Sometimes you could hear a whimpering, or a noise very like whimpering without the excess fear attached. I mistook it usually for commentary made by the wild creatures that occupied the adjacent hillside. The hares and the goats and the marmots mostly, those diminutive things that glanced disdainfully at us out of the corners of their eyes.
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
The phrase suggests a process contemplated beforehand, taken up and twisted in the hands and made to look finally like some sort of animal. A giraffe, say, without the ungainly spots. It follows the speaker around like his shadow so that people he has never met before comment on it in uncomfortably loud voices and the echoes return from up the street where they have been lingering with others of their kind on the front stoop of an antiques store that will be going out of business within the month. Our personalities congeal around a central axis – a core belief or something traumatic witnessed in youth – and add layers at regular intervals until you can’t see anymore what the edifice stands on, how it keeps from disintegrating in the breeze. This causes those without personalities to chuckle under their breath but they forget almost immediately what they thought what so amusing and revert back to an innocence frequently written about by classical Chinese authors but rarely documented. Before I turned the corner, I didn’t believe anyone could live like that, with their eyeglasses, cracked and filmy, perpetually in their hands, and their minds always turned forward, scanning the horizon in hopes of discovering there some type of illumination you’d otherwise have to pay top dollar to acquire. In books with Latin titles. In seminars where the director is promising to swim to the bottom of the sea on a single breath or climb a ladder using only his left hand (and, of course, both feet). Eulalie makes a great show of her patience, of choosing to behave in ways that would ruin a lesser being, would put them in the hospital because they don’t know where else to go. They can’t imagine a home with actual paintings on the wall, with a furnace that gives off sufficient heat. When I’ve had enough, when the very sight of her reminds me of black and white newsreel footage of American soldiers using flamethrowers on unnamed Pacific islands, I head out into the night with its low and unfamiliar bird calls and its single filament spider webs flung across the road at eye level and I walk until the road turns into another road and the only way you can tell this has happened is by listening to the sound the gravel makes beneath your shoes, taking careful note of the shift in timbre, the telltale rise or drop in tone that announces to anyone in the vicinity who is prepared to listen -- who knows what exactly to listen for -- that you are walking now due south.
Thursday, September 27, 2012
Some day, I know, she will taste like medicine, the kind you take for various ailments of the joints and skin. Until that time I will lobby for extended hours and bring with me cocktails pre-made and sold on the corner for whatever currency you might have in your pockets. German marks. Palm oil in bottles. We act as if the sun has only recently been invented, something provided us in exchange for fifteen minutes on one knee, or ten on both. Our fingers seem to grow longer before they retreat in on themselves again in barely perceptible fashion. If you are not paying strict attention, you will miss it. You will speak to others of things that are no longer of interest to them because they have been paying attention and they know what’s at stake. Nothing short of the re-invention of the human. The talking it down from middling heights. Eulalie is thoroughly childlike in her grief, prone to wander about the grounds (such as they are) for hours at a time, sucking on her thumb and whimpering. Occasionally she will let loose with a guttural wail, followed closely by a tune that lodged itself in her brain during her formative years. In, I don’t know, Idaho. Or Saigon. Or the back lot of some Hollywood studio that has long since gone bankrupt, its oft-seen assets parsed out like wrapped candy. I try to memorize the tune so as to be able later to join her in at least this much of her grief -- a stone path at the border, a membrane only as wide as my feet -- but the tune is complicated and after a day or two of trying, I begin to suspect that she is re-inventing it each time through, or, worse yet, creating it on the spot in a deliberate attempt to throw me off, to make me look foolish. Funny how we become convinced of things that can not be proven but remain forever skeptical of that which may be demonstrated in no uncertain terms, can be traced from its origins to its conclusion and fleshed out in between by someone with little more than a paintbrush and a tray of acrylics. Or a background in cosmetology, so long as that background included a smattering of rhetoric and metaphysics just in case you found yourself coiffing the unruly head of a scholar. I try to brush the insult off as best I can primarily because I am not entirely sure it is an insult and I envision the future with Eulalie in it even though I know there is no future, as such, and envisioning it only succeeds in reducing its parameters from nothing to less than nothing – a figment of an imagination that was obviously poverty-stricken to begin with. Or a negative sum taken to the fourth decimal place. Because the third is too close to the second and so smacks of something as darkly anti-Pythagorean as compromise.
Friday, September 21, 2012
Sunlight pours into one corner of the room through an aperture where, at some point, there must have been a window, or the equivalent of a window, but where now birds make their nests and enormous blue spiders patrol when the birds are not present. In the other corner lies Immanuel, mostly bones now, huddled up in a blanket and narrating adventures that no one will ever be able to decipher, though Eulalie has spent hours and days taking down his babbling in shorthand, and then trying to coax out and unravel any thread of coherence afterward when he has lost all consciousness again and grows silent. For my part, I understand the urge, sympathize with it more than I let on and gather bits and pieces of what I’ve heard to keep me occupied later. To serve as a kind of seed, I suppose, as a means of getting started. We listen to the utterance of others with barely concealed disdain, speak to them as if they had never yet said a word to anyone, and when similar treatment is given us we have the nerve to act mortified! We say the sky is falling in. Or we imply it by the way we look at the sky, the way we arch our necks backward and point our chins in the general direction we’d like those we are standing before to look. Another possibility, something else to be communicated in that moment because something must be communicated, is that the floodwaters are on the move and they will swallow us up within the hour, but the pantomime necessary to convey such information is so complicated, is rife with undulations of both hands, fingers together, and a strange cackling sound originating in the back of the throat, we give up before we have even started. Eulalie says this would be a bad thing, catastrophic even, if what we had predicted indeed came true. But nothing comes true. Everything lingers in the background, half-formed and poorly realized, just so many abstract patterns sketched with the non-primary hand. The one you hold at your side mostly when the other one is accomplishing what needs to get accomplished. Brushing the hair. Saluting those who you imagine outrank you on a scale of your own devising. That they are not familiar with this scale, that they can’t even conceive of someone’s inventing a scale when one is not necessary, goes without saying, though once you do say it, everyone looks at you as if you were in the habit of walking octopi on a leash. There can be little doubt that this scale and the lack of knowledge by others of its existence is responsible for the bewildered reactions on the part of those who have been saluted. Best just to explain yourself later, in the bathroom mirror, when no one is looking. When you have gone there by yourself and left the conversation at the bar behind, and the songs in the speakers overhead -- made louder now by the new proximity of these overhead speakers and the sudden diminishment of the sounds of the conversation at the bar created by the swinging shut of the bathroom door behind you -- are reminiscent of a time and place you’ve read about previously, and most certainly seen in the movies or on tv, but which for all that remains as alien to you finally as does the inside of someone else’s luggage.
Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Concealing yourself inside the barrel is preferable to tottering down the mountain pass in hushpuppies, your vision altered permanently for the worse by the angle of the sunlight and your tendency to rub your knuckles into your eyelids before they are completely closed. My jacket, in the meantime, makes claims across the back, sports letters placed there in complete sentences with a steady hand and a warm iron or a great deal of gold thread, but I can’t remember who might have alerted me to this fact initially. It could have been the man who used to live above me and who was forever sailing paper airplanes down onto the heads of passersby and whistling bits of Iolanthe in such a way you got the distinct feeling he believed he had somehow invented them, he had pulled the tunes out of the convoluted matter inside his skull. When I would quiz him on the particulars, he stated that he didn’t believe in free will. In fact he didn’t believe in will at all, but rather a force very like it with the difference being this force (for which he was still hoping to find a suitable moniker) affected nothing but itself. It inflated itself and sketched itself in a mirror on a regular basis and every now and then it would transform as if by magic and proper planning both into its exact opposite, much the way certain microscopic life forms can, when necessary, turn themselves completely inside out. So as to escape predators, I suppose. Or demonstrate their superior flexibility to those other life forms that just happen to occupy the water column next to them and that can’t really see what’s going on because they haven’t developed rudimentary eyes yet. This means the entire enterprise is wasted on them, but not on us. Maybe -- I used to say to him when I wished to cause a scene or simply to exercise the tendons in my jaw because my jaw was sore at the time and prone to lock up on me and cause unbearable pain, something which I, of course, wished to avoid through these preventive calisthenics -- maybe the movements we witness are random, while at the same time they are intended somehow to illustrate and confirm that all random movements are not the same. Some of them carry with them a definitive meaning, a theme, much the way horsemen tend to carry blankets around with them even when they are not riding a horse. This is especially true in those desert communities you can find just south of here where travelling by foot is seen as a badge of great honor because the distances to be covered are so enormous, and the time for covering them has all but come and gone.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Somewhere in the thicket empty bottles sing in the wind. We barter for necessities with iron goods and villanelles composed on the spot, expecting a response somewhere between awe and condescension. We get nothing of the sort. Just more lists with items on them we do not recognize. Actions requiring little investment of time and no resources whatsoever. I begin to suspect a conspiracy and elbow those closest to me in the ribs so as to catch their attention, but none of them is interested in what I have to say. The replica triremes are anchored in the harbor and the wait is already closing in on half a day to tour them. Time is of the essence. Kia, duly transformed and enormous now, breathing fire, crawls her way up the outside of the belfry where the monk has hidden himself beneath the bell, thinking, no doubt, that whatever he has seen previously in his dreams he has seen for some reason, that his dreams are harbingers of good fortune and ought therefore to be paid strict attention to, at least until something better comes your way. Something involving innocuous flying insects, butterflies, say, in the meadow, and narcotics. The additional weight brings the structure down and there is a conflagration sufficient to melt flesh, human or otherwise. Imagine the panic inside that bell! The realization of something too late and the white hot dome. For years afterward, the story makes its rounds, serves as warning and edification in spite of its own very different aesthetic aspirations. Eulalie says to me once we have finished, once we have found our way satisfactorily to a conclusion, Your tendons are showing, Bucket! Your malleability seems to have reached its tensile limits! What I wouldn’t do for an hour straight of that laughter, the genuine good humor originating in the oft-beleaguered spleen! The skies close in overhead, become a carp belly replica of themselves and remind us both that the time for recitation is over and the time for invention has yet to begin. In the meantime we might as well chew our leaves. Those with medicinal properties, those possessing compounds sufficient to make the mind transport itself elsewhere for the remainder of the evening and which Eulalie keeps wadded up in the front pocket of her overalls whenever she chooses to wear overalls, as opposed to something elegant like that strapless blue number that causes my flesh to stand on end the second I lay eyes on it, but makes for enormously slow going – so she informs me later -- whenever she is traipsing through the forest that permanently separates the place where she lives from the place where I do. Or at least that place where I tend, for now, a fire and, down the hill, a patch of wild thyme and blackberries.
Thursday, September 13, 2012
When he makes his final decision and disappears, Kia follows him across the river. Some say in the guise of a serpent, others by way of the bridge. Eulalie wonders if perhaps these are two different ways of saying the same thing, of following your words to the edge of the verbal or cognitive equivalent of a sinkhole, say, and then purposefully separating them out according to weight and age and abiding by those most likely to repel the advances of their peers. Those most likely to stand erect and dignified while the rest sniff at each other’s tails and bound off together through the thickets and the underbrush until you can’t see or hear them any longer and their very existence becomes, in very short order, the stuff of legend. That night, what the monk sees is colored no doubt by what he has read, the tracts and commentary running thousands of pages and offering when all is said and done next to nothing by way of insight or practical application. Just a vain sort of listing like that birds, I’m sure, are capable of if you were to give them objects and simple commands in a laboratory setting. I like to believe he thought he was dreaming, that the diamond eyes and flames emerging from (forgive me) scaly nostrils might have seemed to him perfectly reasonable in the kingdom that flourishes under the ceiling of sleep, but out here, among the fences and the abandoned refrigerators, among the shadows cast by people strolling past, sometimes hand-in-hand on the sidewalk, the light posts leering behind them, the night sky above littered with divine semicolons, we are constantly overrun by horror and so must learn eventually to take it in stride. To take it with skepticism even of the sort that those who make their living writing stories for the newspaper or the legitimate cinema wish would dry up, would blow away on the wind and disintegrate in the rain. Eulalie likes the idea of placing the bell on the grounds themselves, in an ornate belfry where the monk can run and conceal himself. This will cause us to have to go back and alter the beginning, I argue -- apparently unpersuasively -- convinced that a certain unity of effect is still the best approach and worried about what we might have claimed at the outset. But really, we ought just to be satisfied with remembering there was an enormous bronze prop in there somewhere and just do as we will. This has been Eulalie’s approach to the endeavor from the beginning, indeed to the whole of her existence, one which she has tried for decades now to instill in me, and maybe, finally, for once, it is starting to take root. It is binding obstinate soils together decisively and thus allowing whatever runoff happens to inundate the vicinity -- think crackpot ideas, think those depressingly familiar get rich schemes and the conspiracy theories I can rattle off in their hundreds -- to pass right through rather than gathering those loose soils and transporting them, dispersing them over enormous (and, almost by definition, anonymous) alluvial plains.