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.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Here’s to the cheap miracle of the cornea, of the light gotten in and rattling about inside it like quarters in a rusty can. At what point do you learn to embrace the image of yourself you have carried around for thirty years but never really believed, just as you can’t believe in the existence of clouded leopards or people who live their long lives experiencing little or no shame? Who wander around with their gaze aimed straight into the gazes of other people they have never had the opportunity of being properly introduced to. They seem to feel no genuine obligation to lower their eyes to the ground, to sidestep ominous or vaguely threatening strangers in what might pass for an alley in this melodramatic sketch of ours concerning (anachronistically) how one should prefer to be treated, but failing of course to touch on precisely how one should treat others. A sketch with no known origin and no hope (if we are being honest with ourselves) of providing any sort of relief for its readers’ suffering. Someone who owns a sword and has a nearly insatiable craving for licorice promises to teach Kia a number of foolproof techniques for getting what she wants, for fulfilling her least desires. Techniques that involve her mostly in stealing small items of clothing, especially gloves, from those she wishes to affect at a distance. With this purpose in mind, she suddenly begins to try to wrangle a night time invitation to the monk’s bare rooms, to get him to maneuver her safely past whatever security and sophisticated electronic observation has been put into place. But it is obvious the monk has long since turned a corner, and that corner, oddly enough, has another corner just like it within walking distance. She must make do instead with a book of matches she finds in the pocket of his coat, something with a garish red crown reproduced on it and words underneath so miniscule as to cause her to nearly go blind in their deciphering. Someday she will re-live all this in its futility and horror and she will wonder what it was she was hoping to accomplish. She will switch components of the tale around much the way you or I will take the significant portions of our own past lives (most of these moments, I’m willing to wager, lasted, at best, twenty or thirty minutes apiece) and shuffle them, place them where they are needed most – in those otherwise barren stretches that look a great deal like stagnant bodies of water when you see them up close. Because you are forced to. Because there is precious little else to lay your eyes on. A cotton candy machine left over from a time when people in the vicinity apparently consumed cotton candy in much larger quantities than they do today. A wooden bridge with several planks missing from its ancient road bed. If you look up from beneath, from the shallow streambed, you will think for a moment that you are witness to the pulling of the sun itself through a passage narrow as a garter snake. You will thrill momentarily to the knowledge that you are going to go blind. It is inevitable. But then the boulder you are standing on shifts beneath your feet ever so slightly, and, in the process of regaining your balance, of keeping yourself from pitching headlong into one of the countless moss-strewn islands of water standing patient as a calendar between the rocks that surround you, you see the sunlight retreating back up through those warped and splintered boards and farther, to the edges of the sky itself where it can be expected to join up with others of its kind and then fall back again to the Earth where we will be waiting. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Her gestures resemble instinctual responses, or to be blunt, they are intended to resemble such, carefully practiced and perfected, the way someone learns judo. All the same, they limp along behind the group, concealed in shadow, and we respond to them graciously, holding out our hands, offering cash or contracts, referring to a shared past that in all likelihood never existed. It was fleshed out by those with an interest in the outcome, the corners rounded and the everyday objects picked from a list of such they keep on hand for just such emergencies. Enormous stands of sugarcane. Helicopters hovering overhead in the middle of the night. Eulalie introduces an element of the occult that may or may not have been part of the original. She says it will help her sleep at night beside Immanuel who emits unspeakable noises now that he nears death. The shame, she says, resides in the tissues and not the situation. It is something that can be alleviated with song. If I turn the composition of the tale over to her entirely, though, there is the question of ownership, of who will be forced to respond when those in the audience (a theoretical / speculative group, to be sure, whose composition is much like that of the so-called antimatter or the committees relegated to the study of antimatter at the various institutions where such research is still deemed profitable) raise their hands and begin snarky comment. The wind picks up and makes a noise very much like an infant mammal suckling in the narrow place between us, the fire located on the sand a few yards away redoubling its efforts to consume itself, and I recall out loud something in the original having to do with the god of wisdom also somehow being associated with what we might refer to as a god of vengeance, not having anything comparable ourselves and so being forced to approximate. This might just be my memory failing as it has been doing routinely now for thirty-seven days. Eulalie promises to get to the bottom of all that once she returns to the city, or finds a city in the opposite direction the existence of which we have yet to confirm but rumors of which keep falling on our ears while we are sleeping. In the meantime, she makes Kia’s eyes glow with something like fury and something very much like dread (if by dread you mean that which understands at a subconscious level the future and its material consequences) each time the monk makes his excuses where, in the not too distant past, he had been making his declarations. Now a relative is ill or the head of the monastery has called a meeting to discuss fiscal realities more properly suited to a school board or a law firm specializing in divorce and illegal search and seizure. Now the limbs are sluggish and the mind is overcompensating, running away at several hundred kilometers a day, dragging along with it through the mesquite bushes and the dried stream beds the monk’s soul which is, as it happens, perfectly round and so puts up very little resistance.      

Friday, September 7, 2012

Up high, on a rock, say, a promontory, storms look like altogether different entities than those you might remember from when you lived on the plains, with their wildly undulating tentacles and their rain slashing sideways at everything that moves. When you look down on them from above, there is a sense that they are not serious in their designs, that the course they have taken is random and indicative of nothing so much as the mood, the dire assumptions, of those who happen to be observing. After a certain interval, as is to be expected, the monk decides his reasoning has been compromised somewhere along the way, that the devil or something very like the devil has set up operations in the center of his skull and it will take a great deal of effort to evict it, to open the earth up at a nearby seam and cast everything unclean and bespectacled and poorly-shod into it the way you might toss worn blankets and broken tea pots into the dumpster that sits perpetually at the end of your street. Best to be circumspect, he decides, as concerns Kia, who, he knows from close observation is apt to let the irrational part of herself – that part affixed with twine and stone buttons and looking like a close replica of the woman herself, but two thirds the scale and lacking the gaze that tends to hold you where you stand passive and helpless, that all but convinces you that you don’t at that moment exist – feed on its own substance and expand. He knows it will be all he can do to utter his own name backwards, to cast spells that relieve him of the obligation to speak clearly, to lay out once and for all his reasons for why he no longer stops by to see her at work, why he no longer orders the crepes and lingers over them with his mouth full of words she has never heard before, his mind racing ahead of them both very nearly at the speed of light to a place where no light as yet exists, unless you wish to count what bare light bulbs give off as light. Or, for that matter, what the sun gives off when we are facing away from it, when the world and everything in it has turned for a moment toward the unspeakable emptiness of space as if it expects to find there the answer to a question, to an old-fashioned riddle delivered in rhyme, that has been plaguing it from the moment of its inception.            

Monday, September 3, 2012

Some evenings, the moon changing colors rapidly as if possessing human moods and aesthetic sense, as if it has a message to send and is anxious to send it, Eulalie throws her arms out serpentine-fashion in front of her body, her back arched at an angle to make one cringe, and the effect is one perhaps you have witnessed before. In the service, say, far from home, your mind occupied with miniature glass bottles and what can be transported from one place to another in them. Your eyes mere shadows of their former selves, though these shadows seem somehow more expressive than their originals if only because what isn’t there of necessity makes comment upon what is. Eulalie conjectures the monk has replaced one form of worship for another, exchanged a less relevant deity for one that occupies a body and so walks around on two feet and glows a certain way when harried, another when aroused. And the two are not as far apart as one might assume. To the monk’s delight and  surprise, he finds Kia returns everything directed toward her sevenfold like a the disc at the heart of a laser, the birds that mimic human speech, as well as any other sound in the environment. The clicks and flurry from the shutter of a camera, foghorns on the barges coming in. Eulalie loves the rehearsing, the hashing out of what occurs in Kia’s bedroom where the mirror captures the lines in his face in such immediate detail, the monk is startled almost into silence upon first turning toward it, the simulacra there witness to some other man who shares his name and habits, whose desires now are so mighty they show in the flesh and the lips, the angle at which the mouth attempts to escape itself, but that is where the similarity ends. Imagine if you were to stumble upon a scrap of information, a paragraph journal entry, say, penned by someone you didn’t know, found it torn, isolated from the book within which it was originally set down, and now it has come to rest on the pavement of the alley between the building where you live and the building where other people live but they don’t seem to have any windows. Or if they do, these windows are on the other side of the building where you can not see them. Your first reaction, of course, is to scan the text briefly, to try to find some sense of whether or not it will be worth your while to have at it more thoroughly, to draw from it an idea of who might have written these things down and why. The careful delineation and naming of past geological epochs. The oblique references to placing one’s hands on the body of another. The countdowns and the secret codes composed of letters and strange symbols and entirely unfamiliar pictograms. After a few moments of studying all of this, you are likely to become convinced that what you have discovered is the key to unraveling a great many mysteries pertaining to your own existence, but you don’t know yet what these mysteries consist of nor exactly how the key functions. Best to take care of it, then, until such time as you can decipher it. Best to place it in a glass frame and that frame in a trunk hidden away in the closet where no one can get his hands on it and ruin everything by crumpling it up in his fingers, say. By asking you over and over again what certain of the words on it – multisyllabic words mostly, scrawled on the paper in a child’s, or maybe a lunatic’s, unsteady hand -- mean.