A feeling of nausea overcomes me seemingly from out of nowhere, descends as if it were a falcon or, more accurately, some other, slower and larger bird more interested in carrion than anything else. The night sky is full of designs we are compelled to decipher by the thing inside us that recoils at all random conglomerations, whether of words or facts or numbers, but I have set out deliberately, at least for an hour or two, to destroy that part of myself, to fill it in with the rational equivalent of concrete so as not to have to spend the rest of my life arguing for the reinstatement of sophistry as a legitimate legal profession, the wringing of one’s hands in the face of decisions that might otherwise seem on the face of them mundane. When to fill the dirt bikes with gasoline, when to stand at the window and, out of a sense of helplessness I suppose, do deep knee bends or whatever we call deep knee bends now that we have become much more sophisticated in our knowledge of the body and what it can endure before giving out, what it can be expected to accomplish. The chemist who lives across the street with the wife who whispered something once in my ear that I could not make out but which has ever since kept me up at night as I try, naturally enough, to piece those incomprehensible sounds together into a comprehensible whole, looks the contraption over, runs his fingers along the more elegant lines that just happen to have emerged during the haphazard fashioning of it over the course of weeks and months and years and says he has heard there are islands out there where the people are no longer human in the strictest sense of the term, where they have evolved or devolved one into the basest replicas, into ideas with flesh and blood covering and little else. His monologue reminds me of the time when I was stuck on an elevator by myself and the hours ticked by and before I knew what had happened, the elevator had turned into a cathedral whose endless stained glass windows depicted its bearded and taciturn saints standing perfectly still for some reason in tide pools, among brilliant yellow anemones and the occasional octopus, its tentacles wrapped lasciviously around an ankle and its eye peering out at you with something like impertinence and something like love. Not that love which joins one being to another, however briefly, but that which endeavors to annihilate all distinctions, all boundaries between beings and make of them a single indefinable entity like light or what some people refer to as universal gravitational pull when what they really mean is that thing that encourages them to keel over lifeless in the streets.
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Returning with his bloodied pitchfork, Reinhardt set to work almost immediately. The book had to remind one of the color gold and its spine would be eight inches across, so the afternoon began with reflections accompanied by obscure arias on the radio and tea sweetened with the agave nectar Reinhardt himself had collected. That was in the spring and the sun was high overhead but it didn’t heat the ground beneath it properly and the toes on Reinhardt’s left foot turned an off-white within twenty minutes. His determination was matched only by his cowardice and visions passed through his head of mules on winding mountain paths and their riders tossing cigarette butts into the scrub chaparral on either side. In the evenings, the black background seemed to those who stared at it long enough to divide itself up finally into separate spheres and territories, the most impressive of which (in terms of gross square footage and the occupants conceivable if not entirely visible yet due to the way the thing was hung, the impossible angles one had to adopt with the body to a get a closer look) was in the upper corner where a single metal eyelet spoiled the homogeneity of the fabric and where, through the orifice of the eyelet itself, you could glimpse the other side. Reinhardt expected blue jays, those arrow-headed assassins that have gone missing in this part of the country. The trick was to be able to maneuver one’s self high enough in the air to be able to look through and see them, to call to them using the high-pitched squawk they utilized when attempting to mob a chicken. Step ladders were no good because they tilted a little and so altered the reality of what you would see by about six degrees on average, and photographs taken ostensibly by someone who had been here before you wouldn’t work because they inevitably told their stories without movement. They eliminated more than half of the pertinent information simply by being what they were. Reinhardt had no choice but to write the book then so as to be able to place it under the feet of the ladder when he was finished and thereby stabilize the ladder and keep it from leaning. This required, of course, he spend more time composing and striking through some parts of the book rather than others, skipping, say, the portions of childhood where nothing out of the ordinary happened save for maybe someone’s falling in a pond and someone else jumping into rescue her and never coming up again, not even on the end of a hook. No, all of that could be glossed over in favor of the lengthy explorations at the other end of the timeline, of fugitive mental states we run across only when we have become dehydrated or when the blood has grown stale within the veins because there has been no bloodletting for an extended period of time, no spilling it on the concrete in manageable amounts due to a fistfight or the doctor’s anachronistic practice. And poverty, that too could be examined at length because it was poverty, it was the genuine article. The sort of thing one might expect to find in the center of Calcutta when it was still called Calcutta instead of whatever it is called today.
Monday, March 18, 2013
Light breaks through the barrier and begins speaking, its insistence on finding fault so grating as to make you wish you had jumped out of the way at the last minute and landed in the ocean. Or among the pines. Anywhere that allowed you to reformulate the ideas that had been circulating in your brain at that moment and so distracted you, kept you from recognizing the peril that threatened to fall on you from above. My recollection of these events goes in a jar containing the recollections of others, all written down on slender pieces of paper, and the jar is passed around at the close of the evening when the man in the auburn blazer with the outsized, Frankish nose finds it terribly difficult to stand up straight, though whether this is due to drunkenness (he has been at the absinthe since at least six o’clock in the afternoon and he waved away the sugar cube on more than one occasion) or something gone awry inside, in the interior where we keep our organs and our oddly-shaped and worse-named organelles, is a matter of opinion. My companions suggest it is situations such as these and the interminable questions they encourage that most properly belong in that peculiar construction people once called the book but which now goes by so many names there is no point in trying to keep up with them. To catalogue them, as they say at JC Penneys, or Yale. I recognize the jibe as one directed toward my erstwhile companion and muse and make to defend her endeavors, but no words come, as usual, and I am left to explain myself later to no one in particular, just as if ordinary shadows and the occasional pitcher plant sloshing half-digested beetles around inside it can be expected do the work of ten men. The only reason we are not already floating face down in a pond on the edge of the premises ourselves is because there is no pond to be found there, just a lot of lightweight medical waste blown about on the breeze. Maybe its time to just give in, to recognize that not every utterance is worthy of the toad that sits at the end of it. And not every toad secretes the substance the toad is known the world over for secreting, which, once placed on the tongue, produces hallucination and eventually, should you ingest enough of it, death. But death in name only, for I have it on good authority that should you take it upon yourself to journey in that direction (and not accidentally the way the neighborhood cur does when he molests the lesser beings around him out of boredom or a genuine lack of what we would call focus), you’ll continue to enjoy vistas such as you might get through a window that hasn’t been cleaned in several decades. It is possible to make out certain shapes and movements – the waves cresting a mile away, say, the roosters scratching up millipedes in the dirt. And anything not readily apparent may be fleshed out then with the aid of the imagination, which is diminished, certainly, on the other side of that portal, but not altogether extinguished, despite what we might have been led to believe by the teachings of the Dominicans, say, or the nursery rhymes we insist on tormenting our children with. That faculty may last an hour or a day or, who knows? maybe even several weeks, depending on the original condition it was in and how frequently we were forced to rely on it beforehand because our own surroundings weren’t exactly pristine then, or full of the sorts of birds who dazzle with their intricate plumage.
Sunday, March 17, 2013
News of the hurricane’s approach reached Cortez’s ears like something sprung from the grass blades, its antennae failing to register yet again objects of significant bulk standing in its path or its mind failing to make adequate sense of the signals it received in time to make a difference. In time to order a change in trajectory, say, or a full-on retreat such as one might have witnessed when Antony attempted to meet the Parthians on their own soil. I wonder if the dreams we have just prior to such events get in the way or if they contain messages written on the flesh of anyone or anything who happens to inhabit them, who swings in on a chandelier, say, and you glimpse something, briefly, at the elbow. A pictogram in ink, smudged from usage, from the perspiration inevitably produced when the body is put through its paces. Cortez maneuvered her back up against the brick wall and shuffled the length of it so quickly you might have mistaken her for a shadow or a sea creature such as those that routinely find their purchase on solid ground and scurry about looking for something to eat or at least something to keep them entertained. A puppet show produced by a youth pastor with a poor grasp of the faith, the dialogue ripe with synecdoche and questions that have answers, certainly, but those answers take a lifetime of patient study to discern, and when you do succeed in discerning them, you can’t help but wonder if the original questions might not have altered themselves some in the meantime, out of necessity, even ceased to exist as questions if by questions you mean those utterances we create by inflecting certain syllables the wrong way. By treating them as traffic signals or turning our backs on them the way you turn and face the other direction when someone who has insulted you comes into view. And how ridiculous you look, your comb sticking out of your pants pocket, your hands fluttering nervously at your sides as if they have just ingested large quantities of a certain well-known psychotropic substance! Cortez got it into her head somehow that the safest place to weather the storm was aboard a frigate and so she walked aboard on the arm of a man she had never seen before and, once she managed to give him the slip, spent hours and days below decks re-reading the comic book she had picked up on her way over to the wharf. Its pages were yellow and some of them were missing and the story centered around a man who preferred the after-images that populated his eyelids when he closed his eyes to the real thing which was entirely too colorful and bright and the objects in it were apt to move from one place to another before you could get a reliable sense of what they were, of what distinguished them from all those other objects very close to them in appearance that occupied the same general space and that, if you weren’t careful, could put you in mind of the market where they bartered slaughtered flesh right alongside the cucumbers and the candles as if there were no qualitative differences between them, as if all of it naturally ran together into, if not one, then the closest prime number to one that wasn’t also at the same time seven.
Thursday, March 14, 2013
Down the stairwell, out of sight, someone trills after the manner of a bird. At regular intervals, adopting a pitch guaranteed to grate on one’s nerves. Eulalie descends so as to determine her next move and does not reappear again until the following Tuesday. Her voice has all but disintegrated and to make herself understood she blinks her eyes and raps her knuckles on the table in what seems at first like some sort of code, but the more attention I give to deciphering it, the less sense it makes. The patterns that emerged initially turn out to be specters, remnants of whatever organizational storms swept over the gray surface plains of my mind after a night drinking the tequila with the skeletons on the bottle. And brandishing the swords we discovered in the basement. They are heavier than I would have expected and tarnished by water or wind or soil, gorgeous antique things just as likely, I suspect, to break in half as sever a limb and the sound they make when you strike them one against the other puts me in mind of the north rim of a crater I visited once overseas. The macaws nested there so as to receive direct sunlight in the morning and they moved about in the sky in twos and threes without ever really seeming to flap their wings. People came from all corners to have a look at them and they went away invariably disappointed. I don’t know what we expected but the evenings were free for revelry and a certain staring away into space that was extremely popular. You couldn’t go a hundred yards down the avenue in either direction without it seeping into you, without it hijacking your face for its own nefarious purposes. What does it matter? Eulalie exclaims when she has gotten her voice back, or at least that portion of it that belongs solely to her, that portion you could never find in the admixture of anyone else’s voice, with its polished under-surface like garnets and its distinctive scent that does not assault the nostrils, doesn’t even so much as enter them, but you pick it up nonetheless much as you might pick up the words in a beautiful woman’s eyes, or a trumpet when someone else, someone in your family, has left it on the floor in disgust because it is much more difficult to make whole tones with only your lips and the movement of your fingers than that person might have supposed. It’s at moments such as these that we come face to face with what used to be called destiny back when such enormous words did not yet have the power to embarrass us. Now we keep them concealed in other words that don’t have any power whatsoever, that don’t even manage to mean what they were intended to mean but instead just manage to lie there, inert and fundamentally pointless, like constellations.
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Making out faces in the shadows thrown by the porch light or the torches gave Cortez a moment’s pain similar to that one gets in the tooth due to abscess or injury, something she addressed habitually with poultices and plasters and riddles she recalled from a youth spent in the caverns close by. The riddles she composed and told to herself so as to ward off loneliness and the fear of annihilation promised by long hours spent in near total darkness, the one concept playing off the other and informing it at precisely the same time it was denying and counteracting it the way antimatter is said to cause devastating explosions when it comes into contact with its opposite – but then, when have we ever witnessed that? When have we seen with our own eyes the consequences, good or bad, of any of the ethereal theories we have also seen with our own eyes? In the newspaper mostly, though occasionally we run across them in notebooks left behind when their authors had to flee suddenly and for no apparent reason. The toast is still in the toaster, the blinds opened wide onto a view of enormous ferns and the ocean in the distance looking a little like the waistband of someone’s designer underwear. Cortez lifted her pan up from the cold stream and searched the sentiment for gold but she knew whatever mineral wealth had occupied this stretch of river at one time was now washed further west through the mountains named after obscure birds of prey or it was already in the possession of the indigenous peoples of the region, those she had glimpsed from a distance in the valley once and had attempted to communicate with through the use of hand mirrors and an aria she had been working on since she stepped off the plane. She was forced to render it, of course, a cappella because she carried with her no instrument large enough to make a noise audible from that distance and she didn’t know how to play any instruments at any rate, other than the zither which she considered crude and potentially insulting to whoever happened to hear it. It was the type of instrument people constructed and then learned how to play (learned how to bang on, really, in a semi-rhythmic pattern) when they didn’t actually believe in the harmony of the cosmos around them. When they simply paid lip service to the concept and argued with themselves at night when they thought they were alone. About the implications of their beliefs, or the lack thereof, and how they were supposed to reconcile it all with the sound of the water forever plummeting over the edge of a cliff a thousand and more feet tall just up the road, the mist and the consequent rainbows and that feeling you get sometimes when you look down into ravines and valleys, into what passes for an abyss this side of the Milky Way. Not a longing, exactly, not a desire for annihilation made manifest in your leaning precariously forward, mere millimeters away from immediate and irreversible descent. But rather a strangely painful recall of such longing, a conjuring it up from a past immersed in it, intoxicated by it, and then bringing it, rashly, into a present where it no longer exists, where it no longer belongs. It has been banished by decree like a grubby gunslinger or (perhaps more to the point) your run-of-the-mill income tax cheat.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Mounted trout of suspicious hue hung on the walls where the remnants of pencil scrawl surrounded them and bled outward. Reinhardt got up close in a half-hearted attempt to decipher what was said there, but his eyes functioned at half capacity since the fire and even before that when the beams of the sun found a haphazardly-hung mirror once and bore themselves in a point no bigger around, he imagined, than a mosquito, onto the bare red flesh of his retina. The proprietor discouraged close examination anyway because he thought the secrets of something enormous rested there on the plaster of the walls of the building he had purchased three years previous and he wanted to be the first to unleash it, to staple his name forever to events such as no one had been able to imagine since the days when the Titans (or something like them) roamed the earth and challenged one another to contests of strength and realistic storytelling and the people in the villages and the metropolises close by fled in every direction because they were afraid of what they would hear. Old-fashioned tedium sits on the fence row like a cat and when you attempt to chase it away, your limbs are stiff and uncooperative and you realize you only have about twenty more truly viable years left, if that, and you ought to get busy constructing the arbors someone you love or tolerate has requested, or get busy studying the black arts before it is too late, before those who know you by sight and reputation begin to rethink their position on encroachment, on taking to the skies with cardboard wings. Cortez whispered in Reinhardt’s ear when he was sleeping and what she said sounded so much like the howling of a pack of wolves that he thought for a moment, as he rose slowly from the underworld he inhabited when he did not inhabit this one, that he was somewhere on the vast steppes and the ice that helped define that part of the world was in his eyes and on his moustache, and his fingers had turned black from the cold, which was not a presence or a state exactly, so much as it was an idea of the sort you think up when you have nothing better to keep yourself occupied. No pressing engagements with your accountant, no wayward strolls along the lip of the canyon where once, when you were a child, you saw a man jump to his death with a smile on his face, and you were never as traumatized by what you had seen that day as everyone seemed to think you ought to be – their every question, their every gesture communicating this to you as loudly as if they had been holding a megaphone. But why must it be trauma exactly? Why unravel the fabric at the center of your abdomen given the fact that what one witnesses at any given moment is hopelessly outnumbered and undone by what one witnesses at all other times and in all other places? And this was precisely the message Cortez was attempting to deliver, her lips on the rim of Reinhardt’s ear, her breath heavy with the intoxication of this all-inclusiveness, with this immersion that swamps and swallows the significant, that submerges it in the everyday enormity of breath itself, and whatever is not breath, is living between one breath and another like a stonefish lying in wait between stones, only twice as patient.
Monday, March 4, 2013
Lately we see machines returned to objects of utility. They have wandered off the list of accepted tropes. Eulalie invents a name for the phenomenon but questions its validity almost immediately, answering her as yet non-existent critics with a kind of nodding and shuffling that takes its cue primarily from deep-water crabs washed up on distant black sand beaches every January. Out of sight, though, late at night when the moon is scratching at the windows, she sticks pins into figures she has fashioned with bits of canvas left over from the outfitting of enormous airships and strewn mysteriously along the roadside for about twenty miles. She says words over them that she knows mean nothing whatsoever, that don’t have so much as the mathematical threat of influenza associated with them. But she continues for at least half an hour until I threaten to leave. It’s at moments like this that I begin to wonder what the point of our interaction, if you can call it that, is. I mean, where are her earlobes and how does one delay the overwhelming desire to perform in civic rituals and masques without consequently destroying the part of one’s self that believes rituals and masques are so similar they ought not to have separate appellations? Eulalie tampers with the edge of each page until it is no longer recognizable as an edge; it looks more like a portal of some sort, a subtly graded demarcation that you don’t know you are entering until it is too late, and I think this is intentional on her part because no sooner has she finished than she is inviting me again to read to her out loud from what is written there, the fairy tales and the lengthy annotations hand-written in indigo ink, the reports from the neighboring portions of the continent where they are preparing for yet another conflict by sharpening their hand axes and their very long sticks and they are practicing their military drills which consist mostly, as near as I can tell, of walking around in circles with their hand axes and their very long sticks displayed prominently at their sides or held up proudly and provocatively in the air so that the entire mob begins to look like the glistening surface of an enormous passing porcupine. Of course, this being a marshal occasion of some standing, it is imperative that their favorite anthems be on their lips for the duration, and the difficulty arises when it turns out each individual in the procession has his own particular favorite when it comes to things like anthems, a favorite which he adheres to and has spent countless hours memorizing. The resulting cacophony reminds you of those nightmares in which you are sliding down an icy mountain slope toward certain annihilation and the geese are flying by overhead. In your nightmare, the geese know the language, though they speak it with a marked accent, and their commentary is much too wry for most of the other people in your dream to accept. They label it out-and-out cruelty and have such a hard time forgiving the birds for what they’ve said about you (long since you have crashed to earth and are either dead or resurrected), they refuse to speak of the incident even with their closest friends or spouses. They spit on the floor instead as shorthand. They try desperately to keep their head and shoulders, their entire bodies really, from spasming uncontrollably with the memory of it, but they fail. You suspect the entire population will turn, eventually, to medication and they will hold you partially or even wholly to blame. They will have forgotten all about the role of the geese in the situation by then. Some of them will even have taken their children to the pond located in the cemetery where you have been buried (if, in fact, you were not resurrected, something most in your entourage secretly believed would be the case) in order to feed the geese wadded up pieces of bread.