One begins to trust the overhead electric lights will not go out without reason in the middle of one’s speech on parsimony and the inflated value of friendship. And whatever reason is forthcoming may be filed away under a number of categories. Smoke and mirrors. Latex facsimiles of prominent organs. I try to back my way out of the situation by nodding politely and looking those closest to me directly in the eye, but everyone has his own favorite method. If I were to stop and consider each based solely on its merits, or those things that strike us as meritorious simply because they begin with the letter “D” and they have an aura about them like that which besets epileptics just before the fit, I would be here until next Tuesday and the animals wouldn’t get fed. They’d turn to bones and ligaments almost overnight, that’s how high their metabolism is! This suggests they are not animals in the ordinary sense of that term and so therefore can not be considered, at the very least, native to this continent (we will forego, for the moment, consideration of further outliers – planets and stars and galaxies). They must have been delivered from some other continent and whoever did the delivering thought they’d get one over on us by mimicking the body type and various temperaments of our favorite species so closely no one but an expert would be able to tell the difference. Of course, you don’t have to be an expert to recognize something is amiss when the hairs on the back of your arms stand straight up while those on the back of your neck remain in a fairly innocuous position. Which might suggest they are lying flat if you don’t think about it too closely. But you know better than to take such claims at face value because someone once told you claims are the life blood of all knowledge and therefore that which must be spilled before someone else can succeed in tampering with them, before someone manages to dress them up in the semantic equivalent of frills and a material very much like soap, say -- or a mixture equal parts resin and gravel, in its shape and texture -- and then sends them somewhere so far away your only hope of ever seeing them again would be to get in your car and just start driving and vow never to stop again until you had reached a place that hadn’t even been given a name yet. At least not one we’d recognize in the west as possessing the qualities one normally associates with a name. Like the ability to distinguish the person or object it is attached to from any other persons or objects it is not attached to. Or reminding us of a time in the past when we were so caught up in the existence of another, we had begun to believe there might not be any more room left inside for that entity we had, until very recently at any rate, referred to habitually as ourselves.
Saturday, January 28, 2012
On the cover of Hayman’s Proust, something miniscule has just moved. Something so small as to suggest it is not really there at all has diverted my attention away from where I had originally intended to aim it, namely in the general direction of the standing water out the window. Or maybe the stray piece of cardboard poised to turn circles beyond that. We can strain our senses to the breaking point and still not retrieve the information we desire or understand the information we do manage to retrieve, but this doesn’t mean we are fated to stay locked up inside our own minds forever like actors no one remembers the names of anymore wandering around inside black and white films. It does mean, however, that any attempt to break free, to escape our original bondage is likely to appear to others desperate and pathetic. Akin to trying on pants two sizes too small. Or walking down the middle of a side street, all but daring the occasional car or lumber truck (the driver of which is, no doubt, lost and in danger of receiving a citation) that happens by to continue in a straight line as if you weren’t walking there. As if you were in no danger. Even Eulalie counsels restraint and her throat is more supple than mine, her hearing so acute as to suggest she hasn’t aged a day in more than twenty years. She keeps a room at the very top of the tower now, or so I have been informed by those who claim to visit it at regular intervals. Their reports are not to be trusted. For one thing, they contradict each other, one recalling a thick sable blanket on the bed, another recalling no bed at all but a hammock fastened loosely at either end into the plaster of the wall. Sometimes (as is the case with Eulalie, now grown so mythical as to seem something that should be made of marble rather than flesh and blood or whatever it is she is actually made of) when anxiety finds us and we haven’t been looking for it, and we haven’t been trying to avoid it either, the sound it makes is very like someone regaling a crowd around a fire with tales that have no beginning and no end, that seem almost to spin themselves into being out of the very light itself and the surrounding darkness, and maybe too the soil underneath which is damp and full of rotting plant matter and millipedes. Eulalie explains that there are only two ways of ascending the ladder she sends down. Neither of them is obvious, neither lends itself to what we like to call intuition or common sense because we have no better term for the state in question. We don’t even have time to memorize the faulty terms, to put them to practical, if imprecise, use. When I am at the bottom rung looking up, the fear courses through my body like conger eels in the shallows around some uninhabited island. It makes me wish I had never set eyes on Eulalie all those years before, wandering alone on the desiccated plains of the llano Estacado. Or was it a courtroom? No matter. It’s time to start climbing, time to place one hand above the other and repeat the process until such time as it no longer seems like a conscious process at all but is rather something accomplished solely through instinct -- like breathing or perspiring or conjuring up the shadowy niches and seldom-seen corners of one’s old childhood home when one is deep in the act of dreaming.
Thursday, January 26, 2012
Expect to court disaster twelve times before you learn your lesson. At least that’s how it was explained to me. I don’t pay attention to advice unless it comes from someone with close-cropped auburn hair. This happens so rarely, though, you might almost say I have no real guidance at all. You might even claim I make things up as I go along. A real lone wolf. A sage without so much as a balcony to stand on, or under. But you’d be wrong. At any rate, I tried to follow this particular nugget of wisdom, even had it engraved on a pocket watch I carried around with me so as to be able to tell what time it was at a moment’s notice. But I failed, as I almost always do. Sometimes I wonder why I bother attempting anything at all. Fly fishing. Listening to music originally composed in China. Trying to decipher where each section ends and another begins. Maybe there are no sections, maybe everything is supposed to bleed into everything else and we are just supposed to absorb it in enormous, indigestible chunks. But even here the language gets in the way: you can’t have chunks without boundaries, without some way of distinguishing where each so-called chunk gives way to what is not-chunk, where the sky and the trees and the clouds insist on their own autonomy and therefore throw a wrench (or something very like a wrench) into the whole procedure. I find myself in a conversation with no ready means of extricating myself. We stand at the juncture of two important roadways so the traffic is fairly heavy and it makes a noise like outsized animals snoring. In between words, between my hesitant attempts to make sense of those words as they come my way one at a time, I think perhaps I shouldn’t always be wishing to escape conversations with other people, that I have been very lonely lately and maybe participating more actively in conversations such as this one might relieve some of that loneliness at least temporarily. Certainly that’s how it used to work, when I was younger and I hadn’t heard people say yet the things they will inevitably say to me now whenever they begin speaking. I hadn’t solidified at the center like a hunk of bauxite. But the harder I try to pay attention, to participate and even work up the courage to respond, the less anything my interlocutor says makes any sense. When I latch onto her sentences, when I attempt to turn them over appreciatively and take them in, they disintegrate. I feel a panic like that which sets in when the structure you are standing on begins to tilt to one side. At first, you think everything will be fine, that whatever is causing the structure to lean will rectify itself of its own accord, that the structure will find a place of equilibrium and everything will go back to the way it was before. With the sun just going down in the distance behind some trees and the other people standing on the structure with you discussing a little light politics and what goes into the making of the perfect Rob Roy. All the while they look one another up and down in wanton appraisal before the aforementioned leaning (which does not, incidentally, right itself, does not lessen its angle and acceleration in any way, but in fact quite the opposite) encourages them to start their screaming.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I have to take certain sounds back, have to retrieve them from whichever woman held me enchanted when I first heard them – the dull ring of a brass bell or the throb of propellers moving through the air like a flock of big-bodied and somewhat surly seabirds. This is something I have promised myself so as to avoid sinking someday beneath the weight of everything that belongs to other people, belongs to my interaction with them, particularly if that interaction had something to do with the flesh of the thigh or, more accurately, the renaming of the flesh of the thigh to something less clinical sounding, something more personal, even informal. Like “George.” Or “the tabula rasa.” We love complication so long as it functions like oregano and doesn’t make us wish we had spent the day in bed as we had originally intended. Thumbing through out-of-date newspapers, hoping to find in previously overlooked passages information about the other people who happen to live on our block, or the coming of the circus, which can not help but be of interest now that we are old enough to purchase tickets for ourselves and for whoever else wishes to accompany us (but which, in actual fact, somehow fails to be of interest after all). I think sometimes I will spend the rest of my life (and God grant, if it’s not lengthy, then it be amusing or at least chock full of leeks and brandy) longing to inhabit a moment that happened toward the very beginning, when everything was still in flux and nothing was certain. There was no way of determining which moments were of value because they all came and went so quickly. And let’s be honest – our judgment when we are younger is judgment, really, in name only. It actually more accurately resembles knee-jerk decision making of the most irresponsible sort. Tossing colored stones onto the ground and trying to discern a pattern. Saying the opposite of whatever has been uttered just moments before. This is why it’s probably best if I simply accept what has been given to me by fate as if fate were an actual thing. As if you could see its outlines in the mirror if you were standing in the other room and you just happened to glance in that direction. Of course, should you insist on examining the mirror more closely, on going into the room to search for yourself in the closet and behind the door for whatever it was that had been reflected, you would most likely be confronted with nothing. Why? Because there is something that finds bald curiosity of this sort anathema. It thwarts it at every corner. And who can blame it? Some things you just shouldn’t know, some things you just shouldn’t see. These are rules that have been established for our benefit and we violate them at our own peril. The moment we turn our backs on them, the moment we decide it’s better that they had never been formulated in the first place, we find we occupy a world so perilous and primeval and odd we have no way to even give it a name. We run entirely dry of appropriate designations.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
What we tell each other in moments of crisis, our heads huddled together under sheets with pictures of wild animals on them, comes flooding back two and three years later when the crisis has dried up, when the concept of time itself has abandoned us to our own devices. It shrinks to about half its size and so if you go looking for it, you must adjust your expectations accordingly. When I try to accomplish the same thing by looking cross-eyed through a magnifying glass, the pain is so severe, it reminds me of the time I fell down a flight of stairs and there was no one there to minister to my wounds. I was as alone as if I had been born at the south pole. Or close enough to it to make my way there without too much difficulty (aside from the fact that it would have been much too early for me to have mastered locomotion of any kind, and I would therefore have been reliant on those in my party – relatives certainly, and perhaps some friends of theirs – to transport me in the darkness and the cold; all of which, of course, suggests I would not have been alone after all and that the original image, as is often the case, is not apt). We like to think our trajectory is something that can be mapped. To prove the point we frequently pull out oversized pieces of paper from our briefcases, or in some instances, from our back pockets, and point to certain parts of them as if to signify that is where we are located at any given moment and that we will be located somewhere else shortly. But don’t bother to get out the instruments that link these places together. The rulers and the felt-tip pens. There is no time for that. And even if there were, you’d just come up with some random design that we wouldn’t recognize. A parabola, say, with its center of gravity disturbed by the fact that there is no gravity in that place where parabolas exist. That theoretical place full of dots and lines to connect them and a whole lot of nothing in between. But perhaps I am being too technical. I have this bad habit of explaining things I do not understand and ignoring those I do. I probably picked this up from my brother who was older than I, and so prone to ridiculing my every decision even when that decision was sound. When it might have resulted in my getting the girl, for instance, or at least impressing her with my ability to make a decision and stick to it, impressing sufficiently enough, I suppose, for her to hang around a while just to see what might happen. Of course, my brother was flesh and blood and held that against me as well, accusing me of adopting an outer oval covering of calcium – a shell, in other words -- just to try to embarrass him, to “one up him”, as it were, just when he was starting to come into his own. When he was starting to understand the difference between the carburetor and whatever other parts and structures you are liable to run across in an internal combustion engine as you are trying to take it apart or put it back together again. When he was just starting to think his life might not wind up being a nearly endless series of events after all, with no means of determining how they are related, how they are connected one to the other, outside of the perhaps entirely coincidental fact that he is present bodily whenever such events occur.
Saturday, January 21, 2012
Dull flashes illuminate the night sky about half a mile away, continue for at least five minutes and are then followed by a darkness so intense people begin to wonder out loud whether or not the planet has stopped moving. Whether it has dropped precipitously from its previous place into a void long suspected to rest just beneath the planet (if terms like “above” and “beneath” hold any meaning whatsoever in a place with no up and no down, a place without any quantifiable boundaries whatsoever) but never before confirmed due to a lack of imagination by those who send probes and other mechanical devices into orbit. Who see there what they want to see, which is usually some version of themselves, albeit without the glasses, without the barely perceptible gleam in the cornea of the eye. Eulalie dons her favorite feathered mask and makes her way from the portico to the land with no trees and draws on a cigarette long and slow as if trying to emphasize a point she has been too timid previously to state. This is the thing about Eulalie that makes me a little bit impatient, a little bit angry, but only the way you get angry at the weather sometimes when it doesn’t behave the way you think it should. You know it is irrational to do so, but attempting to withhold or repress that emotion will only succeed in creating greater difficulties – changing speech patterns, for instance. Intestinal distress. The lisping plays a factor in whatever happens next, and we often have to tell ourselves that whichever words get spoken are probably not the same words that mean anything, that actually tell us anything of value when it comes to things like who is in our corner and who is determined to avoid corners altogether because they leave you very few viable options for escape. When I cave in to the pressure, when I decide finally to set out in pursuit just as, of course, she desires me to – because why else all this over-the-top posing and tacky melodrama, why else the sound of cranes far away in the night sky like dreams? – Eulalie is choking. Not with emotion, certainly, and not as a result of her being exposed to noxious substances for perhaps the first and only time in her storied life, but because she has failed to take into account the size of certain food items relative to the size of the opening in her throat. Something must be done, and I do it, but I am not proud of myself afterward. I do not repeat the story over and over again as others are wont to do when they wish to make themselves the center of attention. When they wish those around them to take notice of how extraordinary they are even when they are (as, when it comes right down to it, all of us are in actual fact), as ordinary as a plain brown seed pod in a field full of seed pods. A field overflowing to the horizon and beyond with fully mature, and therefore by definition brightly-colored, poppies.
Thursday, January 19, 2012
The brochure makes mention of the lake as if it were something to bore others about on your death bed, something to paint or explore come Tuesday when you have nothing else to do. When the highways are emptying out and you can’t figure out why. We listen to the advice of the red-headed woman in the too-tight spandex pants but secretly, inside, we are telling her what we think. We are listing the reasons why the lines around her eyes remind us of home, why the scent she wears during the day ought to be forbidden. I like the idea of saving your best ideas for the boat trip over because that way you will have something other than French poetry to keep you occupied. You will have limits placed on you by the atmosphere itself, which is full of flying insects suddenly and has a tendency to aggressively refract sunlight even when it’s getting close to evening and the light is growing scarce. If no one else is going to acknowledge my presence, though, I am just as likely to start singing. The songs don’t have to defuse the situation, but it’s nice when they do. It makes everyone sleep better. In my back pockets, small grains of unidentifiable material vie for space with the air itself and when I stick my fingers in absently (when I am speaking to the red-headed woman for example and I don’t know what to do with my hands – I don’t want them flapping about in front of me like recently beached fish), this material sticks to the flesh on the ends of my fingers and refuses to disengage until I run my fingers under hot water in the sink. There is a lesson in there somewhere, a physics lesson, no doubt, concerning surface tension and how there doesn’t actually have to be a surface involved for you to experience the tension. But I am getting so sick of learning things without trying, I don’t insist on sharing this knowledge with those who otherwise might benefit from it. The people standing around in the hallways when I come and go, those smoking their miniature glass pipes and muttering invectives at me under their breath. The delivery drivers trying forever to turn left. We can’t imagine a more mundane existence than the one we have been blessed with at any given moment, and yet, just try to take it away, try to snatch it up like a coin from off the table and listen to the way we complain! Listen to the vehemence with which we insist we were only daydreaming for a moment. We are now going to turn our attention unfailingly to those things that matter -- that separate us once and for all from the monkeys and the marmosets who (I suppose as a result of this particular announcement, or one very similar to it made within the hour) are even now turning back flips in their cages.
Monday, January 16, 2012
Blank slates don’t exist. Only canvases with lots of contours, places where colors can hide, where bits of sand and grit and cast-off fragments of skin can accumulate and cause allergic reactions. Be careful, then, when examining why you do what you do, your hidden motives and hobbyhorses. They just might turn out to be treacherous, but not in the way steep hillsides are treacherous or the way wild servals are treacherous when you keep them in a cage. Instead they can cause respiratory distress months and even years after the event. They can bring you to your knees and leave you there as if they had struck you with a blunt object. Our capacity to endure pain is trebled in the process but this still leaves it far below the crucial threshold and causes a great deal of amusement among the other life forms that share our planet with us, the round worms and the amoeboids, in particular, who you wouldn’t ordinarily consider the sorts of beings capable of mirth. But here again, we have been undone by our own nearsightedness, our tendency to ask questions only after they have become obvious, after the answers to them become as crucial to our survival as does a canteen of water should we find ourselves afoot in the wastes east of Cathedral City. I admire the sharp edges, the desire to make everything within the work seem related to everything else if only by virtue of the fact that all parts of it are similar in appearance and possess angles of more than forty degrees. The work itself seems to float about three feet off the ground, but this, of course, is an illusion, something those charged with its installation had to figure out how to do for themselves because the work did not – so the rumor goes – come with any instructions. In fact, no one ordered it, no one had any idea it was on its way. Its arrival caught the entire staff off guard. As a consequence, its creator is not credited on the wall legend that accompanies the work, no one knowing who its creator might be. The museum’s curator doesn’t seem to have been comfortable with the designation of “anonymous” either for reasons that may have something to do with the curator’s scholarly background, the procedures he learned and adopted while studying overseas, or it may simply be a matter of not wishing to offend anyone by making assumptions about the creator of the work’s intentions, his or her desire to remain out of the picture, on the sidelines, as it were, when the whole world has decided in the meantime to come gawking, has decided the work is the very emblem of everything they have ever found wanting at the center of their barely tolerable existences, everything they have ever wanted so strongly they could taste that wanting, that longing, at the backs of their mouths like a sprig of parsley (or maybe spearmint, even cilantro) wedged between the teeth.
Sunday, January 15, 2012
Off in the distance, the mill wheel stands frozen. An emblem of something as yet to be determined. A reminder that all reminders are superfluous. The closer we get to it, the further we are from that state we refer to as euphoria because we don’t know what else to call it. We haven’t any experience in this part of the world and so we necessarily rely on descriptions we have brought with us from home much the same way we brought our livestock and our particular way of tying knots. Under the shelter of the rock overhang, tiny invertebrates scurry about in the moist soil and one can scoop them up by the dozens in one hand. It isn’t wise to do so, though, as they are perfectly capable of protecting themselves with venom. Of course, I enjoy the sound of screaming as much as the next guy so long as that sound is far away. But the plan seems to involve drawing a line nearby and then seeing who might be willing to cross it -- if, that is, anyone can be rustled up to serve in that role. Right now, we are completely alone and have no desire to play the part of adversary ourselves. Not that the part is mandatory or that we wouldn’t do a good job. It’s just that the ground rules seem to have been written up ahead of time, and in haste, so that violating them would no doubt bring about more than just simple forfeiture. Extinction is not too strong a word. Better to harken back to a time when the air was cold to the touch. It carried with it a promise of romance acceptable even to those who didn’t see themselves as susceptible to that particular set of emotions or circumstances, who didn’t believe they were suited, for instance, to walking hand-in-hand from one ordinary place to another in the company of someone else, who still envisioned a future sitting alone in a chair facing in the direction of the newly-risen sun and drinking from a decorative glass full of absinthe. They were, of course, mistaken, but not in the way you might imagine. They were destined, many of them, for positions of great responsibility on aircraft carriers or sitting atop towers made of glass and steel. For long and unbelievably fulfilling lives spent in the company of people who hadn’t even been born at the time of their original, desolate visions. People who would one day be engaged in delivering their eulogies, in filling those eulogies full of references to Meister Eckhart and those nineteenth-century theosophists who presided over séances where the furniture rose and rattled about the room on occasion like outsized crabs hoping to get themselves reunited with the surf.
Saturday, January 14, 2012
An alphabet demands little in the way of obedience. It treats us as if we have always been present and will always remain present, like light or what people call fear when they are searching desperately for some word to explain why they behaved the way they did. Tweaking the consonants more often than not results in a strange humming sound and then, unfortunately, we are back where we started, hoping for something enormous to jump out at us, to serve as a temporary decoy while the real culprits escape through a side exit. Eulalie has been patient, but that patience, you can tell, is beginning to evaporate, to ascend to the heavens where it will be broken up into parts and re-shuffled, distributed again on the breeze like microscopic bits of pollen. She knows the late nights are not spent among the gentry, the flute solos not meted out with anything resembling caution. Her back is turned, the forest in the background seems to swell to twice or even three times its normal size, and I know instinctively this is not an illusion. Eulalie is in charge of everything we see; she controls it somehow with her mind, the same way we do, and if you were identify the mechanism that allows it, what good would it possibly do you? How would you explain it again to others without feeling completely inadequate to the task like the child suddenly thrust before an audience and expected to play something he has not practiced on the piano? I stitch the requisite words together using something like thread, only I find, after much pulling at it with my fingers, it doesn’t have any real substance. It is generated out of itself, ex nihilo, and should you try to isolate it so as to be able to repeat this procedure, you would be left with little more than an eye that won’t stop twitching or a memory of a time when you were trying to say one thing and you ended up saying another. God knows, there are plenty of those. When pressed, Eulalie repeats her belief that jealousy is the thing that makes the sun come up in the morning. But by this, of course, she means that which, should you step off the side of a cliff or a balcony, will send you plummeting to earth where you will find, at best, all your bones have been broken. She is not happy at being pressed, and makes her feelings known. She does this, as near as I can tell, by disappearing altogether for weeks at a time, wandering off into the darkness of the forest and the canyons scattered about throughout the forest like discarded bus frames (only longer) -- all while managing somehow at the same time to stay seated on the couch beside you in the evenings, to brush her teeth methodically at the master bathroom sink.
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Who left her glove on the windowsill, and why is it black rather than a more becoming pearl? The inferences and conjecture pile up until morning is no longer an acceptable part of your day. It begins to look like a poor excuse for an oil painting, something tossed together by someone unsure of why he is doing what he is doing. Someone who was told at some point in the past that he had a great deal of talent, but who now recognizes any such declaration must, of necessity, originate with those who love us and so feel it necessary to dissemble as concerns what is real and what is merely a matter of convention. Maybe the menu should remain unchanged, then, through the following week, but we all know the inevitable is coming. It is flexing its muscles in the mirror even though it is fairly slight of build and therefore subject to ridicule by the adolescents who happen to being watching from the corner. I inventory the empty places in my bones, in my organs -- the multiplying cavities and voids where I should find nothing but body, or something so like the body as to be its twin and replica. I take the resulting list to an expert, someone who can tell me what I am supposed to do to remedy the situation. I am expecting sage advice, snippets and excerpts from Cicero, from the Popul Vuh, but there is something stale and unsatisfactory about treating the body as if it were a machine. Something to be tuned up and re-fitted on a regular schedule. Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait for the body to declare itself a simple auxiliary of the mind before we set about trying to make it whole again? Shouldn’t we at least give it credit for trying? If you stand at the edge of a precipice and look down, what you will see is most likely a mirror image of what you expected to see well before you ever reached the edge. And by mirror image I mean something turned around, backwards. It is the opposite of that which should be. Something so familiar and yet completely broken as to remind you (hopefully before it is too late, before you go plunging to your death without meaning to, simply because once we get close to the edge of anything, we are somehow required to determine for ourselves if, in fact, it is an edge rather than something else; some other, less lethal, and therefore less meaningful, structure) of nights when the rain was turning to snow and you could almost hear the transformation from where you were lying on your bed by yourself in the dark. It sounded like someone grinding his teeth, but in an adjacent room. It sounded like the tumblers in a lock turning over even though, as near as anyone can discern (in this particular instance at any rate and not any of those others nominally just like it), there is no one in the vicinity angry or inquisitive enough to go about acquiring the appropriate key. Or endeavoring to turn it.
Wednesday, January 11, 2012
Under the earth something stirs, follows its own inclinations to the surface where, I suppose, it finds enormous disappointment and so returns to where it came from. In the meantime, we look around, trying to find what has changed, what this visitation has done to alter our environment. Whatever we see we file away as just so much clutter. We pretend the desk is the desk where we paid our bills the day before. We strain to maintain some sort of consistency in the way we sign our names. Maybe, though, those lines in the soil were made by a tractor. And whoever was driving it had something particular in mind, some message he wished to send to the rest of us but he didn’t feel ordinary language was up to the task. He thought he’d sensed in it a separation from the everyday such as you find in the minds of schizophrenics and those who must care for them. Those who are infected with their wards’ particular way of discerning the universe and, once infected, abandon all desire for a cure. Afterward, Anda brushes the leaves from her body and gets dressed and I am left to figure out how to fold back up and conceal this new appendage, this sudden emblem of what I was not previously that still hangs obscenely from the broken portions of my shell, that has pushed its way through and shows no inclination, now that it has been utilized for its obvious purpose, of retreating. We discover important truths on the fly, divine them, as it were, through the simple prosaic refutation of the divine that manual labor represents. A working things over with the hands. A turning the mind into little more than an extension of that which houses it. That which is charged with getting us safely from one place to another, all the while engaging in whatever mischief it can get away with. Breaking off bits of wild sugarcane. Bringing them to the tongue. Anda can’t contain her mirth as she watches me fold it and bend it and attempt to conceal, and I would like to be angry, but the endorphins are still running amok -- flooding the plain -- and the sun is sinking somewhere behind us. Animals are moving about now in the underbrush not far from what is left of the coop and it is time for us to move on. Once under way, Anda utters the name of the city that awaits us at the end of the path, utters it with some intensity as if to make of it a talisman. I ask her to repeat the name several times, pretending not to be familiar with it, but I just like the sound of her voice, the sound of something tangible residing on her voice like a wooden box of the sort that usually contains something of value. A bracelet or one-hitter. An ardent, hand-written note from someone no one else in the family knows.
Monday, January 9, 2012
Affix support braces to the walls and still there is a rumbling sound, a vibration that seems to emanate directly from them, from inside rather than where you would expect it to, namely the ridges and fault lines that run for some distance along the horizon. We can’t always see the horizon but we know it is there because people refer to it constantly. It seems to be one of those things in the world without which we could not orient ourselves. We could not stand up straight for any length of time. In this we are very similar to the bean plants and other vegetation the elderly never tire of planting around their otherwise run down houses. Not that we need the comparison to make sense, to be coherent the way ordinary speech is coherent until you introduce narcotics or lesions on the brain. But still, we have certain verbal expectations and when these are violated, we feel as if we have steered, quite by accident, into a world nearly identical to our own, but with certain key differences as well. Long straight patches where nothing happens. The conspicuous absence of birds. Anda straddles me, takes the crooked emanation into herself as easily as if she had been created specifically for this moment. The sensation is not at all what I had come to expect given the descriptions of it one finds in periodicals or the loose talk of acquaintances when they don’t realize their every word is being memorized by someone with a vested interest in what is being said. It is a category of bliss, to be sure, one at the very top of that ladder, but the operations of the mind do not cease and the operations of the body follow a logic all too familiar to anyone who has stayed too long in bed in the morning and found himself rubbing absently against the bed sheets because there is nothing else available to rub against. Anda makes noises I try for a while to emulate, but there seems to be no reason for this and she shoots me a quizzical look out of the corner of her eye at one point which makes me feel self-conscious. So I begin instead to speak out loud the filthiest things that come to mind. That they come to mind at this moment with almost no prodding strikes me as something just shy of a miracle, the sort of thing that occurs, apparently, at regular intervals the further back you go in time. But which has now all but dried up (if one can, in fact, rely on a comparison using the organic concept of moisture or the lack thereof to capture the entirely inorganic concept of the miraculous). With the possible exception, now and then, of burn patterns on ordinary pieces of bread. Or someone snapping a bungee cord above a river and living to tell the tale. Even if she breaks a collarbone in the process. Even if she emerges covered in contusions. But make no mistake. There is no apparent structure to these contusions at all. They seem entirely random in their distribution, as if to call into question the concept of the guiding hand at precisely the same time the outcome of the event itself seems to verify it, seems indeed to insist on it in quite the haunting vox alto.
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Each letter stands so close to the next, we see a blending where there is none, a conglomeration that turns sentences into mere smudges of black and renders the message incoherent. When you add speed to the equation, a passing at velocity in whatever bus or boat or taxicab carries us, you can forget about deciphering invitations, determining context or adjusting your long-held expectations. Anda promises civilization within an hour’s march, but the humidity is high and I’m still feeling dizzy from the intoxication, so I have to sit down in what appears to be the remains of an ancient chicken coop, almost entirely taken over now by weeds. In the shade of the trees that tower above the structure, Anda caresses my shell and speaks to me of the far end of the universe where, she imagines, planets spin in endless, meaningless rotation and the stars extinguish themselves from sheer boredom. Her hands feel like the antidote to all poison and my mind is suddenly filled with images that have nothing to do with the world or anyone in it. They revolve upon themselves so that their underbellies become obscenely prominent and then there is a sound in the center of them like trumpets. It’s almost impossible to reach the stage one stage beyond where you currently find yourself, but struggle is expected and when the wind bangs at the window like a fist, you can be excused for taking this as a sign. Maybe we are built to love only ourselves and when we escape these original settings, when we find room inside for more than one, we are not so much transcending that original condition as re-stating it, turning it into its opposite by saying it out loud. You know, says Anda, her fingertips mapping seams absently, you are not really an egg. You have just convinced yourself of this at some point in the past for reasons that you probably don’t even remember, reasons that have ossified by now and sit somewhere far away, on the ground, like stones. If you were to stumble upon them again all these years later and pick them up and crack them open, you’d find inside an empty, black core. A core of nothing. By way of illustration, Anda pulls at the organ that has begun, thanks to her exertions, to crack its way through brittle shell for the first time in my memory -- something tangled and intricate and long, engorged now and throbbing, insistent against her skin. I fear for a moment she has let some sort of contaminant in, that the compromise is one-sided and I will suffer terribly and die a protracted death, but she seems to know what she’s doing, and besides! when one discovers something new about one’s self, something animated and bizarre and pointy, one has to stick around long enough to give that thing a name. To determine what it is capable of unleashing upon one’s unsuspecting public.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Outside, the moon is low and animals are making a racket in the hedges. The sound of it, the sound of anything really, is soothing now and reminds me of a time when sound itself was enchanting, something to cause wonder and awe. It was the ingredient most likely to be missing and when it showed up eventually, everyone in the area spoke of its appearance in whispers. They agreed with one another for the first time in weeks, setting aside differences that had haunted them for generations. Usually these originated in what to outsiders might have seemed inconsequential quarrels and barely noticeable differences in physiology. Eyes set a millimeter too far apart. Lips with indentions in them. I suggest we take the river again, but of course the johnboat is long since washed away or destroyed and, as Anda says, civilized human beings can not rely upon the whims of the river. It will turn them into beasts by and by, assuming it hasn’t already done so. I like the way she talks, the firm resolve she exhibits even in the face of hopeless situations or those situations with qualities one can’t exactly quantify or describe – situations that don’t really seem like situations at all because they come and go with almost no one else noticing. They adopt the timbre of old photographs, meaning they stand still for extended periods of time, and when they do decide to move – or to incorporate movement within themselves by sending their fundamental elements scurrying about from one place to another like arachnids – they almost always make it seem as if they haven’t decided anything at all but have merely been acted upon by exterior forces. What these forces could possibly consist of no one is sure because whenever someone tries to write up the paper that would identify them, he is poisoned mysteriously in his sleep or he loses his reason, sometimes precipitously, sometimes overnight. Anda beckons me to follow her into the woods and at first it seems as if she is making things up as she goes along, stumbling blindly through the thistle and the mulberry that is still surprisingly thick in the vicinity, surprising given what has been going on in the house at any rate, but who knows? Maybe the concept of quantity is one that is just destined to remain forever alien to me, something the pursuit of which I should abandon so as not to make myself look any more ridiculous than I already do, especially to those who watch my progress on occasion from the tops of nearby cliffs. Who signal to me, try to communicate some message to me I have as yet to decipher, by flashing sunlight in my direction, by reflecting it off hand mirrors or spectacles or pieces of broken bottle or whatever else they might have discovered along the way that is possessed of a highly polished surface.
Friday, January 6, 2012
Power originates in depth, or winds up there. One or the other, I forget. The principle is one that causes great misery wherever it crops up, yet still we hanker after it much the way we wish to eat pancakes every morning. Should we overcome this desire, another one very similar to it in appearance shows up immediately and we don’t so much start over again as pretend to have everything under control. Deep down inside, where the memes are hard at work like termites, where the brotherhood of rarely-intuited motives is forging bonds of the sort we normally associate with members of the high school track and field team, we know the best, the most rewarding parts of our existence have disintegrated more or less permanently. There will be no re-casting, no more solidifying around moisture. There will be nothing in the way of counter-clockwise motion. It is Beulah lying headless on the floor, the result Anda tells me of my own intoxication, of the paste spread so liberally across my lips. We have been planning this for months, she says as she leads me back up the stairs. We just had to have someone of sufficient size and emotional instability to get the job done. Nothing personal. From the shadowy back passages below, the tormented screams of Beulah’s idiot progeny rise up as the other former captives are having at them with implements I try hard not to imagine. Once you set yourself a goal involving the elimination of images, you are bound to fail. The mind has an agenda that is hard to fathom, but rest assured the primary item is one involving liberty even in the face of the inconsequential. Stubborn assertion of its own will before the will of he who claims to possess it. The same applies to the surface of the earth where you will find, should you go looking for them, organisms of every size and shape and configuration arrayed against the soil itself in a battle which has been raging since the very earliest days of the planet, but which we have only just recently begun to recognize as something more complex and meaningful than just scenes for our common edification. Perhaps what occurs does so simply because the alternative is unthinkable. Space turned vacuum inside another vacuum. Nihilism without some bizarre bearded Russian around to comment on it and turn it into something of interest when we all know such terms hold no inherent interest in themselves. They don’t even enlighten the situations they were coined to describe. They simply float about on the air for a while waiting for someone to snatch at them with his dirty fingernails, and then they disappear forever. They ride the currents north into some verbal or conceptual equivalent of the arctic and rise -- there being neither natural nor unnatural ceilings there to prevent their limitless ascent.
Thursday, January 5, 2012
Finally my hands are free and I can stand. This in itself is a revelation, the sort of thing that corresponds to doors opening and doves (or at least starlings) flying around outside the windows. When I approach Anda, I don’t know what I am expecting but afterwards I realize it probably looks and sounds a lot like a drum when you hit it with a mallet while placing the palm of your other hand directly on the head and drawing it taut so that you produce a muffled effect. Everyone in the room still recognizes that an instrument of some sort is being played. They re-direct their gazes for a moment, but then focus again on whatever held their attention previously. Part of the problem is our tendency to willfully scar our own pasts after the fact, as if we can’t stand the idea of our pasts existing back there without us, continuing on forever in exactly the same condition we left them in, which isn’t always as pristine as perhaps we might believe. The results are the spiritual and mental equivalent of wrinkles even when there are no wrinkles in our skin. Or very few. Just a handful around the eyes, and they only show up when we smile. Which happens rarely enough indeed under this scenario. I subscribe to the belief -- held now only by those who inhabit the forests at the very edge of civilization and beyond, those who look at us when we approach as if we had materialized directly out of their ancient myths and they must dispatch us, send us back to them post haste before we wind up changing their everyday lives forever -- that our aimless existence is every bit as important and sustaining as is our purposeful one. That when the two of them come into contact, when they do battle, as it were, on the open plain, we ought to just turn our backs and walk away. We ought to find the nearest marketplace and sit down with a good book and a cup of coffee and pretend none of it concerns us in the least. Not the outcome. Not the birds hopping about spastically through the branches of the trees or along the sidewalk where people have inevitably dropped crusts of bread and nickels. Not the people in the chairs close by actively questioning our use of basic level categories like bird and tree and chair when we could just as easily delve deeper into the subordinate categories of the specialist and the expert and find there examples of things that do not hold a universal place, a lowest-common denominator, in the human repertoire. We could make what we have to say or write so much more challenging then, so that those listening to us or reading us might walk away with the sense that they have been interacting with an accomplished individual all along, a human being in the fullest sense of that word, and not simply that which registers what is available to us at its most fundamental level, like a camera or a piece of paper on which a child has yet to sketch her bare outlines, her half-faces and primitive approximations of the things that occupy the room with her, whether visible or otherwise, with a cast-off nub of pencil.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
The pathways diverge in several different directions at once, and then several more after that, and so on, until when you split up in an attempt to follow each of them in turn you find that there are never enough members of your party to complete the job. Attrition is the official term for this phenomenon but it is lacking in color and makes one think of the pencils they used to hand out in school. The dull yellow paint on the outside, no doubt heavy with lead, and the irresistible taste of them on your tongue. The slight give beneath your teeth. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to find yourself in the old haunts again, shimmying up poles cold to the touch and with feathers tied to the tops of them like otherworldly war bonnets? Like decoys set out to distract the real thing? When I come to again, there is blood everywhere, the floor is slick with it and I slip in my instinctual attempts to get away, to place some distance between me and the offending liquid. There is a sound like screaming, only too shrill to qualify, more like an extended animal squawk -- so long as that animal is diminutive in stature and prone to flights of terror. I look around for a moment trying to figure out which direction it is coming from, confused by the fact that it seems to be coming from all directions at once, and it takes me another moment or two to realize what this means. The center of all phenomena is the place from which all phenomena seem to radiate and to which they return. If you were standing at precisely this point, I suspect you would experience a void. One composed of the incoming and the outgoing cancelling one another out. You would think perhaps you had stumbled into some other dimension and did not possess the perceptual or cognitive tools necessary to make any sense of it. In this, of course, as in most things, you would be mistaken. The sound, I realize, escapes my throat and at the moment of realization it stops, as if it has merely been trying to call attention to itself. Once this has been accomplished, there is no more need of its presence. It is free to continue its activities elsewhere. I see Anda standing in the corner of the room, partially lit now by a torch on the wall. She is standing over what looks at first glance to be a rumpled sack of some sort of grain or produce, the shape of it suggesting it has been dumped here unceremoniously and its contents have begun to spill out on the floor where they will certainly go to waste unless someone comes along shortly with a hose and a bucket and twenty minutes or more of spare time to see to a systematic clean up. A sanitation and cataloging. A transporting from one place to another and then another after that, all of it accompanied, one would imagine, by a continual and distracted muttering under the breath.
Tuesday, January 3, 2012
How frequently are we deluded when it comes to the capacity of our hearts to endure emotional overload and cruelty? Or the value of the surrounding pastureland? When will we be free of the tumult that follows even the simplest decision? Large portions of the time allotted get taken up with maintenance – typing out the proper forms in triplicate, re-reading and revising them to eliminate the sort of errors that might place us in the next county or make of us professional taxidermists when we can’t stand the sight of fur. I would have expected, given the carnage I wake up to, some premonition, some visual approximation of the violence that must have ensued during my intoxication. Some channeling of its actual horror into a poetic, transformative equivalent. The sort of thing that turns us into characters in a narrative rather than just blobs of grease and protoplasm bouncing from one place to another without any clear understanding of why. But there is nothing of the sort – just what seem like immeasurable expanses of cognitive prairieland populated by beasts with long shadows. Violin music piped in from somewhere in the clouds as if there were speakers there hung from dirigibles and a microphone and a single performer standing in the gondola with his bow working furiously and his mind occupied with the rigors of improvisation. Even so, the final product sounds as if it has been scored and re-scored again, laid out from beginning to end with the mathematical precision of an engineer’s blueprints for a bridge to span the Orinoco. Perhaps we protect ourselves unconsciously from the horrors that surround us at every moment of every day, and so when something extra-vigorous occurs -- when we are immersed in blood and the untoward facts of the body to an extent heretofore unimagined and unimaginable -- we have some resources to fall back on. Procedures made instinctive because of repetition, because of our ability to get in a rut and stay there. After all, the rut is comfortable. And, when viewed properly, a real lifesaver. It can lead the way reliably across an otherwise treacherous stretch of wilderness.