Too frequently we start from a location that has already been created, has been forged of something like iron but without the secondary qualities and the increased chances of rust. I attempt to identify through cross-reference my own particular origins using an appendix in a hefty textbook from a past course of study I pursued in accounting, and then, when that doesn’t work, I file it under a heading I promptly forget, but it doesn’t matter. Everywhere you turn there are like substances and like phenomena and trying to differentiate between them will only lead you to something very similar to mental collapse. Or away from it should you already be in the vicinity. Eulalie takes the cup proffered and encourages me to do the same but I am leery and I’m not precisely sure why. Certainly poison crops up in my thoughts more frequently than it ought, and my attempts to rid myself of it just increase the instances until I spend at least twelve to eighteen of the finite hours in a week obsessing over who has had access to what I put in my body and who has had access to my body itself and what the overlap suggests. The man pulls a framed photograph down from the shelf and we pass it around as if it contained a psychotropic substance of the sort that causes benevolent hallucination involving forest creatures, say, not yet altered through the taste of blood, sailing vessels approaching on a bay that stretches eighty miles in either direction and reminds us that it’s not possible to see beyond the curvature of the earth without the use of specialized equipment and an imagination such as Dante possessed when he was first learning to speak but hadn’t yet met his Beatrice. When he didn’t yet view the world the way we do when we have suffered a lesion on the prefrontal cortex due to a skiing accident, perhaps, or just an ordinary mutation in the genes that help configure that particular portion of the gray matter. The woman in the photograph attempts a smile, but her head is tilted toward the earth and her eyes are averted and you can tell she has been told previously one or two very brutal things by this man who has presented us with the picture as if nothing were out of the ordinary, things that would alter the very texture of your skin should you hear them. Would turn your skin, in fact, into just the sort of pale imitation it appears to be in this or any photograph. A facsimile, a poor, reverse-engineered replica that, if you were possessed of it instead of the skin you were actually born in, you would suffer to the very end of your days from tremors and phantom pains and a sense that whatever is outside is painstakingly trying to make its way in.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Adrift again under a zodiac like no other, one uncharted by those who had gone before because they lacked the basic tools necessary -- the implements for making circles on paper and stabbing your friends with playfully and not so playfully, the protractor with its conspicuous voids at the center -- we began to realize the false world itself was a mere construct, a mechanism through which we attempted to escape enslavement by an entity that contoured information into the semblance of a world so as to keep us in one place, subservient and satisfied, content. The waves battered the craft at irregular intervals and threatened to swamp the whole mess now and then, the sound they made like the sound of nothing turning inevitably into something, transforming itself through the assistance of whole numbers and footnotes, the treble clef. By the time sleep came, it was no longer a relief, but a second burden and a form of decay, a means of being in two places at the same time without the benefit of experiencing either one. Odd, how our patterns are not really patterns at all when viewed from above, through eyes inhuman in that they do not and can not belong to us; they’re not really even eyes when you get right down to it, not cellular or reflective in any way. What we call patterns are, rather, random shapes and inclinations like those that afflict the song birds in the fields across the street, causing them to change locations innumerable times throughout the day, to flit from one dead strand of vegetation to another without purpose or benefit made obvious to the observer. My heels ache with the loss of practice, the surface of the earth like broken pottery and the distances covered similar to those you’d expect of languages or migratory waterfowl so long as they aren’t arriving from Ethiopia, a location chosen simply to illustrate an outlying logical possibility and not to forge a political statement of questionable taste. The man is at the door before we are, his forearms banded with muscle and wound tight upon themselves as if he had distilled them down from another essence, a novel concept governing anatomy discovered in the pages of a magazine that otherwise includes commentary on the niceties of theosophist thinking and the proper seeds to plant come spring. He will not look me in the eye and I know before either one of us is given the chance to speak that he holds me accountable, that he believes I have somehow turned this particular pestilence loose upon the land and even if I am here to rectify the situation, his forgiveness is not forthcoming. It is locked away in the cellar of the organ that rubs occasionally against the bones in his chest and it will perish there unlit and unseen, a mere rumor, really, failing, as all rumors must, by definition, to transcend its hopeless situation and stand upon the semantic equivalent of a ridge overlooking both the named and the unnamed valleys that are laid out below it, orderly and inviting in the dishonest light originating with what at one time were stars but are now (now that we have seen them up close with our own eyes and have suffered the unpleasant consequences) merely conglomerations of methane and hydrogen gas morphed, for our convenience, into unquenchable flame.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
The heads carved from stone appeared at first glance the handiwork of their ancestors, totemic reminders of human agency from the very beginning of habitation, but we were assured this was not the case, that their cosmos was a self-governing entity or field and there was no causation as we normally understand it, no first this and then something else, but an entity forever unfolding within itself on the vertical axis. It took two weeks to communicate this properly, though, and during most of that time we made the forgivable mistake of praising the ingenuity of their forebears, the vision that allowed them to rework misery, the iron-choked cisterns and the innumerable broken toes, into something that changed the subject, that denied all subjects but the one deemed most worthy of discussion by their effeminate elders and thus, by definition, that which was to be frowned upon by the visiting archeologists or the occasional minister washed ashore and all but insane, his hair grown unruly in the wind and the skin on his forehead peeling with disease. Who are we, though, to count backwards, to suggest that the numbers we have used to this point successfully no longer function the way they were intended? That they belong to an order of existence three furlongs further east where the residents are terrified of the sound of a passing locomotive and they attempt to mask their fear with actual masks, with noncommittal faces worked in alabaster and holes where the eyes go, crow’s feathers hung (for a time anyway) from the sides with ordinary white glue. The house is like any other in the region, but for what looks like sod on the roof and the doors here and there leading into underground caverns. Eulalie waves her arms and the man sees us from the kitchen window, nods in our direction as if he has had a premonition of our approach and wishes to acknowledge that we are welcome even though he doesn’t believe in premonitions. Somewhere, out of sight, hounds bay with a fury that bespeaks their acquaintance with, if not evil exactly, the closest thing to it that doesn’t pulse in the light of the moon, doesn’t throw its own light around as if it were constructed of almost nothing but light, and so has extra sums to do with as it pleases. Eulalie mocks the bitter wailing with a brand of her own and I wish for about the thousandth time that I had never met Eulalie, that our paths had wandered close enough to one another to occupy the same mountain, say, but had veered sharply at the point of contact, had recognized the impending catastrophe and had taken it upon themselves to avert that catastrophe by hurrying off into the vegetation on opposite ends of the mountain where they would simply peter out and disappear from underuse like metaphysics, or the harpsichord.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
The transmutation of one mineral into another, or into something completely un-mineral like, take your pick, was exactly as advertised by those who had told me about it upon my arrival -- with lightning flashes fifty miles distant and regular updates on the airwaves by anyone who had access to the airwaves, who had paid their money up front and were delivered of equipment eighty years out of date. You turned the knobs one way and you received information from as far away as Spain; you turned it another and the information you received was no longer really information at all. It was a bland re-working of stage dramas with names that suggested they took place in the Ural mountains and examined the everyday lives of everyday people but delivered nothing of the sort. I pitched my tent close to the outcropping the locals had named for a legendary pair of lovers who would meet up there nights when the moon was full and sometimes when it was crescent-shaped, or, as the locals frequently expressed it,” mimicking the uterus”, until they were discovered by a great, lumbering aunt of one or the other of them. She (it was said) wagged her finger in their faces and, when no one paid attention to the warnings she doled out from that evening forward with such regularity even her own siblings (at any rate, those who were still living) believed she had gone insane, she cast a spell that no one was able to break because they didn’t fully understand how it worked or how exactly it had managed to change the lives of those it had been cast on. The only difference in the victims was a certain ruddiness of the cheeks that appeared now and then inexplicably and a tendency to dream about snow leopards when before they wouldn’t have known what the animals looked like. When not pouring over old atlases or boning up on my trigonometry, I spent my evenings there reliving the experience, jotting some of it down in a notebook that I subsequently misplaced, but the trumpeting like bereaved swans and the sulfurous aftertaste stay with me to this day due to their novelty and what I’ve come since to understand was their association with that thing we term the Ground of Being when we need some entity or some place from which to begin. Someplace other than our own remembered origins which have the feel to them at this remove of something invented, something paltry and a little unconvincing like the plot of a novel, say, or almost any spoken sentence accompanied by tears.
Monday, May 6, 2013
The string technique arose in response to mandates against narrative set down by sovereigns with little or no patience for any entity that was not themselves. They frequently railed at the shooting stars and shook their fists in the direction of the walking sticks that livened up (barely) the arbor, but these sovereigns are long since passed into something like history now except that nothing of that time has actually been recorded and everything we say about them is based solely on speculation or analogy. Or just an overwhelming desire to string trite phrases together so that whatever silence exists in the vicinity and is tempted to drop down on us like a filthy bird of carrion realizes that its particular wishes, like all wishes, will not be granted without a little push back, without some difficulty attached, and even what we would call mortal danger if we were speaking of living beings, beings with detectable heartbeats and flesh covering the less easily verifiable parts of them, such as the spirit or the thing that replaces the spirit when it is no longer capable of fulfilling its many responsibilities. The procedure is as follows: You wrap the string (or the twine if you have it; even the flat end of cattails will do) around each of the fingers on your left hand, one at a time, all the while reciting any tale that appears before your eyes or on your tongue as a result, I suppose, of the change in circulation of the blood, no matter how miniscule. Or perhaps the trance the introductory ceremony has placed you under because you are unusually susceptible to trances. When you are on your own, for instance, walking in the street, you keep your head down, eyes on the pavement so that no one passing by with a pocket watch left intentionally dangling and spinning out where the whole world can see it will be able to place you under his control and demand that you perform actions that, no doubt, your closest friends and associates would consider demeaning or obscene should they find out about them later. Should they read about them in your diary, say, while snooping through the upper shelves in your walk-in closet with the assistance of a stepladder. Or should they be in that initial audience that forms spontaneously in the street, that circles up and therefore obscures the view of anyone who might have been able to bring this catastrophe to a halt, just as soon as they realize something out of the ordinary is going to happen. Your every precaution results only in your own ultimate isolation, though, and -- when the weather is foul and the market nearly unreachable by foot -- a certain malnutrition that makes you look a little like a hand-painted sign. And then, when you find yourself under someone else’s control anyway, find yourself a marionette prancing about on stage with your feet only occasionally touching the ground, who will come to your rescue then with a bottle of schnapps, will slice the air with his invisible scissors and wrap a blanket around your shoulders? Who will lead you to safety in the unfinished basement of his home?
Sunday, May 5, 2013
The legend we are left with is equal parts hyperbole and carbon, numbers manipulated in such a way as to suggest living beings with auras dancing around their heads in every color of the rainbow plus some, wavelengths as yet undiscovered because they are not really waves. The uses we put that legend to, though, remain remarkably consistent from one generation to the next. We believe each time that we have unearthed it through our own industriousness and we refuse to give credit to those who’ve come before, with, say, bear skins thrown over their shoulders and the syllables tripping from the end of their swollen tongues in torrents that transform themselves eventually into rivulets and then dry up entirely. But not before we have been given a glimpse into a world very similar to ours, with its plaintive insistence on mortality and the ordinary aging process. If you look closely enough, you will discover a few differences and you might even be able to forge a career for yourself penning lengthy exegeses on those differences, enormous formidable things that your nearest relatives won’t read because they suspect they are somehow sacrilegious. Dismissive of a logic that has haunted the family since the time it first discovered there was such an entity as logic, that you could map it and keep track of it the way you can keep track of how many goats have been lost to the wolves and how many have simply wandered over a cliff at night because they didn’t know it was there. The episodes themselves last between forty minutes and two days and when they are finished I feel as if I have been beaten around the head with a tennis racket, but you wouldn’t know it to look at me because no one is allowed to be a witness. I can feel each episode coming on ahead of time and I am careful to absent myself from all human company (and most subhuman) in anticipation. If offered a cure, I don’t think I’d take it if only because that would mean starting over from a position I don’t recall ever having occupied to begin with and the anxiety the thought causes me is enough to send me to the attic where there are boxes full of old shoes and photographs. Of course, I recognize very few of the people in them. They are dressed in clothing typical of the nineteen forties, I suppose, though one or two of them are decked out in what appears to be a futuristic suit of armor, with a cobalt visor and titanium plates placed about the torso in a pattern reminiscent of flying insects. You get the feeling that none of this is to be taken lightly. The others are trying desperately not to look in the direction of those so attired, you can tell, but the children can’t help themselves. The horror in their eyes is such that it can’t be replicated, I’m sure, no matter how hard you try and that suggests they are seeing these apparitions for the very first time in their lives. They have not been prepared ahead of time in any way for the nightmare that awaits the moment the shutters on those cameras open and then close.