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.