emma ruth rundle ‘medusa’

diminuendo*

One feels a certain compulsion to vanish into incomprehensibility. To pack up meaning into a suitcase and shove it under the bed. Nothing said or written can be understood. Therefore I understand nothing, and yet I am no longer concerned. The questioning strain withers on the vine. The inquiring train stops dead on the tracks. This concern of yours is no longer mine. Neither is mine yours. What concern is or ever was. Definition, please (irony!).

Concern (noun): (1) something that relates or belongs to one; (2) matter for consideration; (3) an uneasy state of blended interest, uncertainty, and apprehension (Source: Merriam-Webster [truncated from original]).

Imagine a life lived in this uneasy state: perpetual ‘concern’ over various undiminished ‘concerns’. Imagine this state existing inside a stopped train, or clinging to a dead vinedangling from said vine, about to fall but never indeed falling. Imagine inhabiting an indefinable state while trying to define it. For what purpose.

An enormous sense of loss yawns following a century of troubled sleep. I stick my finger in its cavernous mouth as a joke. It is not amused. Down my throat this finger crawls to oblivion, causing grave intestinal distress. The gut: canary in the coalmine for all imbalance in the bodya dark coiled mystery we prefer not to unravel (think about how long it is). When what happens in the gut stays in the gut we are in trouble. Serious trouble.

A portrait materializes of a mind in a state of atrophy. Stare upon it, cock one’s head to either side (it doesn’t matter which), place one’s chin upon one’s fist (your choice), and consider the mind’s half-life. When it fails to half warning signs erupt. At this point one must choose the route of optimist or pessimist. The half-life point. Mind semi-intact. From this point forward one can lead a life half-lived or not lived at all. Half-lived is better than not lived, right. Or what about living a life half-filled or empty. What is it like to live a half-filled life. Filled with what. Quality over quantity is preferred, is it not. Emptiness is not.

Welcome home to what’s no longer home (or welcome, for that matter). Adjust to institutionalized maladjustmentthese building blocks of lifeelements assembled from a dusty kit unknowingly on factory recall. Build a nest inside the trap. Line it with a soft layer of denial. Once comfortable forget what has never been remembered. Forgetting in advance lessens the pain, though it will still require tending. Pain always requires care and protection. Songs of the past frighten off intruders. Sing yourself to sleep. Ignore the ghosts wandering the halls. They want nothing from you.

*1987 LP recorded by Scottish band Lowlife

‘he walked arm in arm with his shadow’ (éric chevillard)

[note: cursory statistical analysis reveals this blog would receive heightened traffic if it contained more practical advice on ‘all weather bike commuting,’ but instead it chiefly contains impractical, infrequent, and largely unread text such as the following…]

aural darkness in june. a way to refuse the heat. alice. another merciful release. a spiral of silence. another five minutes in this chair. jabès with his name in his pain but his pain with no name. writing about the book and its hold over us. the power of the word. meanwhile duras is looking at the time. ‘it was ten o’clock. in the evening. it was summer.’ and what could maria call the time opening ahead of her…’this incandescence, this bursting of a love at last without object.’

been here too long. here early / leave late / write in boxes / move on wheels back uphill. two legs, four legs, crossing thresholds over and over. sidewalks of daily desolation. tedium in quin’s ‘city where every street declares its defeat.’ consider bernhard and his ‘born barricade fanatics’the shared ‘desire to barricade ourselves from the world.’

but then there is jabès in unwilling exile from his beloved desert. everyone in some form of exilemental, physical, spiritual—feeling incapable of return. like robin about whom the baron thinks ‘there was in her every movement a slight drag, as if the past were a web about her, as there is a web of time about a very old building.’ and yet nora saying ‘robin can go anywhere, do anything, because she forgets, and i nowhere because i remember.’ because what bliss it would be to forget, right, to not always be dragging that chain of keyless padlocks behind. two (mis?)interpretations of another’s experience. dangers of outside looking in. but what of robin. what of robin. on the floor barking like a dog. a shattered mirror. surrendered to expectations. a final transition to conditioned response. or the ultimate shedding of humanity’s heavy carapace.

disordered chronology of movement

I.

Failed recollections to begin with. Slow-creeping toward habit. A giant round metal head. Sudden velocity. Sudden inertia. Pavement merges with gravel. The emergence of a tentative consciousness, neither hard nor pebbly. Vexation of unidentified raptors. Vultures soar over open sore in ground. A blast. Winged assassins. New commonness of thrashers in the street. Feet to pedals. The river like a swollen artery choked with plaque. Ungroundedness. Slow mounting keen of a train not far off. Dream rivulets running off a dry and calloused cerebellum. The importance of a second floor. Eye contact with strangers. Avoid building awareness of a presence. A body imagined close, a body far off yet close, a body buried in dry soil, a body husking a soul. A dipping line, looming and drawing back, tangled in the hanging moss of a halting lifetime.

II.

The exultant dismissal of everything. A hitching-up of trouser legs above this rising level of foreign liquidity. A spreading out tempered by a wish to gather in. Weathering. Rusty rooftop with greenery. The futile accomplishment of deletion. Southern hospitality. Sensory overload. Sensory deprivation. Every atom split to populate a neverending shell game run by con artists connotating the building blocks of life. It’s so casual is what it feels like. An unseemly seeming accidental existence. And yet people fly planes. Against near-white skies. This is a reason not to listen to all the best songs in a row. This is the reason time means nothing. Look out, the fuse is lit. See how it sputters, this heat seen and heard, racing on its journey to a black-powder shattered shack. Every early morning blink of a first-opened eye, this fuse is lit. And wetted fingertips flutter to pinch it out quick.

III.

Bird on a wire, sing your song, lift your wing to the world. Swoop down and over this set of fleet footprints filled in long ago. Expectations of nothing can never be unfulfilled. It’s a something-nothing to believe in, at least. An anti-ideal to carry stuck beneath an idealist’s forever-sweating armpit. Relish the freedom of solitude in public places. Deny detours diverting detritus. Pick it up, handle it, determine meaning and value, discard when done. Don’t look back but for inspiration. Forward motion fuels freedom. Reminders come free.

peering out from dormancy

The recently sliced up confetti of old words sifts through my fingers as the primitive beats of old heavy music pulses in the other room. Winter is upon us, oh yes, with the wind and the snow and the sleet and the penetrating coldness. Every year the shock of how slowly real winter arrives here beats me about the head with a large stick come late December, early Januaryish. Cold fingers tapping on the keys, the chill of the glass in these windows, how reading in the sunroom suddenly means reading in the ice fishing shack. And how I become a grumbly old man, rug thrown across my lap, scarf encircling my neck, unwashed hair standing on end, burning words in my brain to stay warm somewhere, if not on the outer surfaces, then at least on the inner ones.

I still prefer it to the stifling madness of a city summer. I find it easier to get warmer than to get cooler. The lack of mosquitoes in winter thrills me. Sometimes I loiter in my front yard, teeth chattering, for the mere joy of not being eaten alive by those tiny flying demons.

The bitter cold purifies. Most living things die out there. Or go dormant. I go semi-dormant myself, though this state is not dissimilar from other times of year for me.

On cold days, humans appear on the street as rapid bundles of fabric. On hot days, humans appear on the street as languid loops of flesh. Take your pick.

I’m making good use of my vacation from the-place-that-shall-not-be-mentioned-by-name. In addition to copious reading, I’m indulging in a bit of paper management, something which I tend to ignore the necessity of for months at a time. This activity chiefly entails clearing off a desk I no longer use, famed dumping ground of mail that may or may not require saving and paper scraps scrawled with cryptic notations that I must now decipher in order to determine their value. But it also extends to shredding old writing: abandoned manuscripts, hard copies of blog entries, failed stories, and handwritten pieces that have since been either typed up or rejected. Destroying my own words gives me secret pleasure (well, it’s no secret anymore). So much of what I’ve written is dead to me, and I am merely finalizing that. The end of the year is a good time to do this. One desires a clean slate, at least on some levels. We are of course multi-slated individuals, and not all slates require erasing.

Yes, so here I am talking about the weather and my fascinating domestic life. It’s not what I wanted to write about, but I have not figured out yet how to write about what it is that I want to write about. Oddly enough this past summer was more fertile for that, so perhaps the heat is good for something after all.

Playlist for above activities and subsequent transposition into words:

Universal Order of Armageddon – Discography
Sleep – Volume One
Charles Mingus – Mingus Moves

inside a person another one

this life in parallel there’s always been, inside a person another one, what do others do, deny it i guess, or maybe it’s not there, for them it’s not there, and i see it all before me what will never come but what has happened, what is happening, inside a person another one, it’s been there all along, and it keeps growing, keeps expanding, so many layers, painstakingly detailed scenes, every time some spark strikes, the line of tinder crackles, the fuse is lit, i can’t put it out, i could never put it out, there are ways to try, and i know some other ways i’ve seen others try, each one ends the same way, we all know how it does, yes, we do, and do you know how when you’ve done things so often, day in and day out, and then one day you do something a little different and it throws you off, it pushes you off onto another track, but not enough to shift you into the parallel life, no, not that far, just enough to make you stop for a minute and think about it all, about that other life and where it’s going, the people in it, the way they’ve come into being, likely so different than how they are in this life, the way you act, the way they act, whatever happens, and what if the two converged even for a day or just an hour, what then, what then for the person inside the person, the two people now, who looms larger, a dried-out husk of aloofness wraps around the hot soldering iron trapped inside, look out, fire hazard, i smell smoke, i’ve seen the others burn themselves up, i know how it all ends, it’s near halfway and i see the hazy shapes down below resting on the sea floor, so many split halves, so many discarded broken parts, a graveyard of misshapen lives.

possibility of foam

If buried all but traceless in the dark in its energy sitting, drifting within your own is another body—Anne Carson, “Seated Figure With Red Angle (1988) by Betty Goodwin”

There is something about living in a city, and it has to do with the surroundings being artificial, constructed by humans. Here we sever ourselves from real nature. Here what nature there is persists under duressit may even seem to be a thriving minority, but it will always be the minority. The muted signs of seasonal change vagulate. The constant reminders of the hubris of so-called civilized people swarm in smothering tones. Callousness blankets us. The automobile serves as master and slave. I am concerned.

There is another body inside of my body.¹ And it is drifting. And it is all but traceless in the dark. Whose body is it. Is it mine. Or does it belong to someone quite different.

It is an unfortunate thing to recognize that you are not one who is meant to live in such close proximity to other humans. And yet here you are, aren’t you.

John Stabb from Government Issue sang:

In that comfortable rut again
Goals for the talking man
Outside lies a presence
But a lonely spirit’s walking rut

And he can’t get out
Man in a trap

Deeper things getting direct
Empty social life’s a wreck
Weather and insects tonight
Happiness in black and white

And he can’t get out

Sometimes we come to embody the lyrics we listen to in our youth. This is neither here nor there. It is life. I think we’re all a little bit surprised when we get there. Or here.

Let’s find more creative ways to fail. And write about those ways in more creative ways.

Anne Sexton wrote:

The silence is death.
It comes each day with its shock
to sit on my shoulder, a white bird,
and peck at the black eyes
and the vibrating red muscle
of my mouth.

Anne reminds us that silence can be as menacing and intrusive as noise. A reminder that we are all out here flailing about. And some of us don’t make it. Like Anne herself. Some of us sink beneath the surface, our lungs filled with shards of the little brittle things in life. The ones that drifted beyond our reach, slow or quick, only to be breathed back in with fatal heaving breaths.

Recently I spent a fair amount of time writing up a review of a show I went to the other night but I lost interest. It suddenly seemed unimportant. Literally as I was writing it, I felt the words spelling out into nothingness. The only point of interest remaining when I finished was a question: What do we want from our rock stars? And do we even want them to be stars? I don’t go to see live music much anymore and rock music even less so. But this question startled itself into my mind and would not leave. Music once loved can be tainted. And how a band presents itself to its audience can either win me over or leave me cold. These are the lessons I learned. Outside the womb can be harsh.

There is foam² spilling out here. As winter prepares to wrap us in its icy sharp arms, I am awash with foam. And it may never dry.

___________________________________________________

1. See also: this post

2. For more on foam, see Anne Carson’s essay “FOAM (Essay with Rhapsody): On the Sublime in Longinus and Antonioni,” originally published in Conjunctions 37 and reprinted in the book Decreation (2006).

we cut our visions with two eyes

I do get bored, I get bored
In the flat field
I get bored, I do get bored
In the flat field

Observe the subject with one hand covering the right eye. There is no movement. Not a flicker. Nothing. Whatever is inside leaks out, gurgling, gargling, a choked-up phlegmy mess. A valve would be…useful. Or would…it. There are many emails. Please refrain from using Reply All, people, for the love of Peter, Paul, & Mary (not my love, mind you, but still). So many pointless useless emails. A flood, if you will. And I delete them. But this is not what I am talking about with the leaking and the choked-up mess (though I can see cause for confusion there). No, that was just an aside. Let me tell you a story. A long, long time ago, it seems like maybe it never happened or it was someone else, I was lying on my bed and I was making discoveries that I knew were important. Altering the trajectory of a lifetime of troubled thinking, of inward pointing. It’s hard to say, yes, it’s hard to say what exactly altered the arc de développement. [Now I don’t really know much French, but I love words of all persuasions…I do not discriminate…I am not a word racist {internal note: that doesn’t even make sense given the meaning of these words (words are not classed by race, although they are classed by class, a different kind of class from that which is sometimes tied to race, though, with less political overtones, perhaps), but that’s okay…consider it a colloquial use…or something…and I see that I am falling into ellipses again]. Anyway, as the breeze blew my curtains around and my red carpet screamed up at me, why am I red, oh, why am I red, what sudden alarming effect am I having on the growth of this boy into a man-something, I wrapped my head in paper, poked holes in it near my ear-holes, and opened them to new exciting sounds. Inside of me often felt weird and funny and I knew, I knew there was something there. Something only I could touch.

And in the words of S.E. Hinton, whom we should all know and love, that was then, this is now. I am alone here. No one comes to visit. My superior is away and suddenly I realize she is one of few who visits. I’m not doing anything. I am lost. I don’t know what to do. This is not groundbreaking research, mind you. No one is selling this nonsense to the corporations and getting rich, I assure you. We’ve been through this before. I just wandered off into the weeds somewhere back there, maybe 20 years ago or so. Or was it 20 minutes. My years and minutes frolic together. What really happened in 20 years, or 20 minutes. Very little. A lot of touching the thing inside. That’s about it. And now it is spilling out, sort of like slippery entrails only people on the fringes savor. I cannot stop it. But you should know that nothing remains the same. I’m in here changing the words around. Everything is in flux. Parenthetically, flux is a good word. I like flux. Marty McFly reports the flux capacitor is fluxing. Marty, you bastard. I am old. Where is my red carpet.

I find it exhilarating to erase my own words. Huge swaths of thoughts I may have deliberated over for hours, gone just like that…I am giddy over this. Maybe there are too many words in the world. And taking them away is important somehow. Everywhere people are vomiting up words and few people are listening. They may listen for a bit here and a bit there, but they move on. The news cycle is like REM sleep. Eyelids flickering, your lips shuddering, no noise emitted, no recollections of what went down. I feel sick from it all, gagging on dry word chunks clogging my throat.

We are at large. That came into my head, just now. It’s like they say, the suspect is at large. But really, we are at large. We are out there in the world, large. We are bloated, like the giant helium balloons floating above a parade. There we are, large, waddling down the streets, a few feet off the ground, full of ourselves. Other smaller people, in other countries perhaps, are running with sticks below us, propping us up, praying that we don’t deflate.

At work the IT team eats in the lunchroom. Very few people eat in the lunchroom, I think. Well, they are in there being all rowdy, expressing their opinions loudly to each other. This is not how they are while embedded. Only amongst themselves do they feel free to expound on their theories about Kanye West, for example. In meetings, they are meek, quiet, often sullen. In the hallways they nod, perhaps say “Hey” but nothing more. None of the effusiveness displayed in the lunchroom. None of that. They save that only for each other. How nice it is to belong, isn’t it?

Yes, indeed. Now the time has come for me to hurl myself outdoors to forage for cookies. Please leave a message at the beep. [Psst…I’m back. It smelled like mulch outside.]

In my yearn for some cerebral fix
Transfer me to that solid plain
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
Moulding shapes no shame to waste
And drag me there with deafening haste

*Title from Misfits “Cough/Cool.” Prelude and postlude from Bauhaus “In The Flat Field.”

la palabra o la muerte

Cigar-smoking guy smoked a cigar yesterday and today, not that I’m counting. He was with his lady friend. They own that patch of grass between the black locusts. Someone had taken their other seat yesterday. Too sunny for that spot, anyway. My black socks heated up in the sun, creating hot bands around my ankles. It wasn’t pleasant. Yesterday cigar-smoking guy smoked his cigar while his lady friend was present. Today he waited for her to leave. Yesterday I was behind them as they walked to the grassy patch. Or rather he rode his bike extremely slowly next to her as she walked. From experience I know this is annoying, on both sides. I almost intervened because clearly I know best.

In his essay in the Spring issue of Zone 3, Don Lago relates a story about Aldo Leopold that I already knew. It’s about how as an eager young man Leopold partook in a hunting party that came upon a female wolf swimming across a stream to her overjoyed pups. The men in the hunting party, including Leopold, joyously opened fire on this happy reunion scene. When they approached the dying wolves, Leopold poked with his gun at the she-wolf, who snarled back, not surprisingly. Leopold related seeing a “fierce green fire” fading from her eyes. It was at this moment that Leopold began to understand the tenets of what would become known as ecology. See, when you kill all the natural predators in an ecosystem, you’ve got two problems: overpopulation of prey animals and the resulting carnage on the ecosystem. Hunters are only so eager to step in and blast away at the defenseless woodland creatures, but it’s too big a vacuum for them to fill. Besides, one could argue that there are also too many humans today, and so where are our predators. Perhaps they are still yet to come. The hunters become the hunted. Oh yes, one day…

So the gulls cried and the orbs ate their raucous lunches on the deck at McCormick & Schmick’s™. Many bees pollinated a flowering bush. They briefly paused over me but found I had no pollen to offer. The water taxi ferried three people somewhere. Someone nearby smoked a cigarette and disparaged someone else over the phone. He had big hair and used nasty words. I was happy for the protection of my bee-laden bush.

Director man’s leaving. Oh well. No shock to this crusty cynic. No one bought his crying act at the meeting. What is there to cry over when you found your dream job in the south of France? No one is buying what you’re selling, buddy. No one. So take your act elsewhere. That’s right. Take it. And now the feeding frenzy begins. Fight to the top. Power and money. The nonprofit world is no different. There are humans here, of course. And where there are humans there is corruption, lies, ruthlessness, greed, manipulation, spitefulness, exploitation for personal gain, false faces. Savor the flavor…of hufu.

Meanwhile, the first cases of Coca-Cola in over 60 years will soon be arriving in Myanmar. Thank goodness the madness has ended. Soothe those parched, ragged throats with America’s sweet nectar, high fructose corn syrup, the great symbol of liberty and freedom. Drink it down, Burma, and maybe one day you’ll be as fat as us. Coke executives everywhere should be proud. Now if they could just crack that North Korean market (not much hope for Cuba, as long as the Castros are around). I’m sure they’re salivating at the thought. Can you imagine the bonuses? The high-fives? The unabashed corporate nudity?

All axehandle hounds aside, though, I’m chopping down a tree. I’m a cat in a paper bag. I’m fighting nothing and nothing is fighting back. No one wants to be a cart on the track of an amusement park ride. The tunnel of love. The tunnel of death. The tunnel of life. Is it shrinking up ahead or widening. I can’t tell. Turning and turning in the widening gyre is what Yeats said. A waste of desert sand, he said, a shape moving its slow thighs, in the shadows of the indignant desert birds.  What rough beast, indeed.

corner seat upstairs

It was the way the trees spread out like outraged arms toward the sky. The grey in your eyes and everywhere else we looked. A dog barked and the mail slot clanged. Home again where visiting hours have begun. They never end and you never leave. Walking the streets late at night brings that yearning, the restless implants below your skin, bumping up at inconvenient times. The other ones make slow improvements when what you need is the now, your chest swelling with cold air, salty tears torn from your eyes, the pine needles to deliver something worth breathing in. No one asks for any of this. The cold flow of unattended life, the blank faces, the purchases and receipts.

It was the way rain fell across your face, eyes wide and shining. The cracked and swollen sidewalks, the screeching of your bicycle’s brakes. A leaking roof, a broken dryer, the things that need fixing when so much else is broken. We learn to survive through failure, leaving wreckage in our wake. We forge ahead out of desperation, armed with scraps of what we think worked before. Will the sky ever clear, or will the roof cave in on our heads. Does it even matter.

It can be the rubbing away of a greasy brand. The slipping off downstream. Evolution of the day-to-day, a smoothing out. The cracks, the breaks, the swells, the leaks, all of it stuffed in a burlap sack. Hurl it from the roof and watch it sink heavy in the rain. Watch it loosen the knot across your chest. This fraying will be our salvation, it will be our last rite.

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