remora as object lesson

At 3 PM each day a digest of quarantined spam arrives. Fred Pryor continues to implore me to register for one year of unlimited training. Only $199. Also I continue to spam myself, which is always vaguely unsettling to see.

Listening to trigger music when of course the pin strikes the primer and sets off the charge. On the back side of today what builds upwhere does it gothis effluvia of life. Not dissolving like powdered lemonade. Sitting herebeing hereand not going there. A simple concept in theory.

Eschew the habits of the remora and be free of suffering. Enjoy without attachment. Sit.

These moments continue to pass by regardless of our presence in them.

‘to reduce the fever of feeling’

Outside the wind howls. Inside a trio of snowmen converse in the vicinity of a conference of paper birds. Last night the ‘artsy’ neighbors continued their grand tradition of slamming doors and other unidentifiable objects against floors and walls for several hours between approximately midnight and the archetypal 3 AM hour. Result: current state of apathetic grogginess. Desire for absence of shared walls swells with each passing night of lost sleep.

Days less measureless than before. Crystalline structure of incipient routines inches out beyond the borders of a now worn and tarnished impersonation of L.B. in Rear Window. Except there never was anything even vaguely menacing to observe, only a sea of moment-waves rocking gently against the fragile hull of this origami sailboat.

Return to Pessoa’s words: no novelty in the universal, no comprehensibility in the individual. The old ruse of intentional obfuscation falls flat. But still the urge to fit words together roils inside. Maybe to do it, like Pessoa says, ‘to reduce the fever of feeling.’ Yet if all is unimportant (which it is), why bother describing any version of it. Unless perhaps to merely locate and handle the words themselves. To dive to the bottom, seeking words buried deep in a consciousness whose mirrored surface rests fathoms above undisturbed layers of sediment. Yes, perhaps it is for that reason: to extract anything worth contemplating from the granular level, to slip some small truth from the interstices and examine it from all sides, even if only to then return it unseen.

the passing of time

You know two months have passed when it’s time to buy dog food. You know six months have passed when it’s time to visit the dentist. And speaking of the dentist, against your will you have now endured another session with the aggressively chatty hygienist. What happened is that the dentist’s office called you up while you were out birding on an (extended) lunch break, looking for an elusive Sora to be precise, and so you were distracted and had trouble understanding the person on the phone but managed to grasp that there was a cancellation and did you want to come in tomorrow. You weren’t sure, not particularly liking to make such decisions in a rushed manner (or at all), but also not particularly wanting to continue the conversation, so you said sure, okay, tomorrow is fine. You hung up and another birder pointed out the Sora which was good but then you went to the dentist the next day and it was the chatty hygienist instead of the one you prefer who has a Polish accent and does not barrage you with personal questions while probing between your teeth for plaque, but with whom you did have an enjoyable (short) conversation with six months earlier regarding the hospital seen through the window that as you were sitting there was being torn down, literally at that moment, and you both laughed about how you hadn’t even noticed when you sat down that it was now mostly gone, but after which you were made aware of it provided plenty of visual entertainment during your cleaning while a worker repeatedly employed a wrecking ball with vigorous effort in the demolition process. So now six months later there you are in the chair again and the chatty hygienist immediately begins her assault of questions, growing quite sassy in no time at all, perhaps a new record even for her, necessitating an accompanying increase in sass on your part, for one must maintain a similar tone in this type of repartee or else it swiftly fails, making the situation rather awkward and, let’s face it, if this person is going to have her hands in your mouth for the next 30 minutes it’s best you go along with the banter even though its personal nature is now increasing at a furious pace, as if she is now testing her ability to raise your ire, but your ire will in fact not be raised, it will actually refuse raising altogether because your ire is not easily raised and she is beginning to sense this and clearly it intrigues her, leading her to make verbal note of it, and so she keeps upping the ante, as they say, to the point where it does begin to grow rather tiresome leading you to hope very much for the appointment to end soon so that you can exit the building, get on your bike, and ride in the late afternoon mist the four miles uphill through the gathering traffic to your house where you must walk your dog, prepare dinner, eat dinner, brush your teeth, read a few pages in whatever book you’re currently reading, and go to sleep. And finally it does end, this intense scraping session with accompanying interrogation into your flossing habits coupled with theorizing on topics such as whether you are perhaps a mouth-breather at night because that tends to harden the plaque on the back of your lower front teeth and did you say you do use an electric toothbrushyes, you are eventually freed from this verbal bondage, but not before a certain amount of psychological damage is incurred, though nothing permanent, just enough to make you wish that the stealthy Sora had not distracted you in the first place leading to a split-second decision without full consideration of the possible ramifications, namely that you may, in fact, by taking someone else’s appointment other than your own, be unwittingly sabotaging yourself, directing yourself onto an alternate course whereby you are now penciled in for the duration of time with the overly chatty hygienist, after having just extricated yourself from somehow getting onto her schedule and having subsequently returned yourself to your proper place on the reticent Polish hygienist’s schedule where you in fact had long been penciled in, literally for years beforehand, and still can’t understand how you had suddenly been removed from in the first place. But alas, you won’t know your fate in this matter until another six months have passed, during which time you will have purchased another two, possibly three, bags of dog food, depending on how the calendar asserts itself.

‘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.

a knoblike process

Creeping crepuscule, descrescent light, harbinger of dreaded return to EST, where darkness dampens day’s early end. Decumbent drone diminishes daily, drowsy in the drawing room. Sip long from murky melodies, muddy froth spilling forth in rivulets, dirgeful delights diverging in drone’s ear canals. Mellifluous miasma of musical melancholia!

Dismantling of outdoor seating commences! Desperate attempts to affect staring at nothing continues. Doctor Chumply the Mouth Breather appears, Mickey D’s in hand, heart-attack-in-waiting, following with tiny aggrieved steps the trail of nitroglycerin tablets strewn across the decking. Take the elevator, not the stairs, for they are locked, despite the sign in the kitchen encouraging good health through stairs-taking. O, Dr. Chumply, what will become of you, will you follow those tablets to the Haunted Wood™ where the witch stokes her stove as she awaits your fleshly delights.

[But Christine, what of loneliness, standing there behind the invisibility cloak, always working, always writing, what did engagement mean for you, O Invisible Author, did you drape yourself in a duvet woven with words…]

Glossary

lumpfish: Any of various fishes of the family Cyclopteridae, especially Cyclopterus lumpus of North Atlantic waters, having pelvic fins united to form a suction disk and a body bearing prominent tubercles.

tubercle: A small, rounded prominence or process, such as a wartlike excrescence on the roots of some leguminous plants or a knoblike process in the skin or on a bone.

Quick now! Homophone challenge question: would you rather your words resonate or resinate. Think about it while staring into the clouds.

so are you in or are you out

For a long time nothing happens and then something happens. The something can be good, bad, or neutral. The something can also be large, small, or medium. Furthermore, the space between somethings can be short, long, or in-between. Infinite permutations of this scheme occur and reoccur over a finite expanse of time. Tornadoes of frenetic activity tempered by vast plains of incremental movement. Hurried descents down spiral shadow staircases. Careful crawling across gleaming parquet floors. Hoarse screaming from the tops of turrets. Nothing is happening. Everything is happening. Synchronicity! Coincidence! Randomness! Chance! Snowflakes! Mollusks! Drifting sand dunes! Pointlessness. Pointilism. Your face as a series of points inside a frame on the wall. Don’t move, there are a few more points to fill in. Early morning purity dissolves into a sooty smudge of horror hours. I’m pulling up mandrake roots and delivering ornate twig bundles to your front porch by the light of a blue moon. You’ll thank me later, I’m sure. Tractor beams. (We’re veering off-course.) [You’re steering, of course.] The Periodic Table is, what, sometimes a chair… Electron clouds swarming with blue-gray gnatcatchers. Mechanical ants marching toward your workplace. Abort mission, stat.

Nothing is just nothing. Something is always happening. But is it happening again. Has it already occurred. How does it compare to, say, nothing. Can we try it on for size. The universe is a dressing room with no doors. No recording is allowed. Over-sized objects make us laugh. Tiny things make us weep with joy, crinkle our faces and speak in strange nonsensical babbling tones. It’s why so many of us collect miniatures. The pleasures of total control, the power to rearrange the tableau at will. Meanwhile, think about a giant foam cowboy hat. Why does it exist. What purpose does it serve. Who wears these things, anyway. It doesn’t matter because it’s hilarious. Its mere existence inspires drollery. Put the hat on and caper around a bit. See, don’t you feel better. You’re in the center of the vortex now. Look out, you’re pulsing with radioactive humor. But wait. Now you’re a homunculus in a jar, placed on a shelf, with the late afternoon sun hitting the embalming fluid just right. You could be an actor. The range of emotions you have mastered is simply stunning. They wrote this role just for you, and they so rarely do that these days. Have your lines tattooed onto your body and report to the set at half-past the chimney swift’s flight pattern on the sixth Thornsday of our evasive thirteenth month. We may need to trephine, though rest assured that we only ever use Stan and he’s the best. Check the clause in the contract due to arrive soon at your doorstep, tucked inside the front pouch of a wallaby. It will be a grand play, like no other, replicating the many permutations of the earlier scheme. Each act will be called something or nothing. Intermission will be long, short, or in-between. The entire thing will last until the end. So are you in or are you out.

late rain world

The world was late today. I don’t know. I was late. But I wasn’t expecting the world to also be late. I had hoped for a leisurely ride in on mi bicicleta. Instead there were cars everywhere. An automotive horror show. Maybe it was the rain. Rain slows the world to a crawl. Like slow motion, creeping and crawling. Not me, though. I was pedaling quite rapidly, in fact. Bike commuting reminds me I am alive. Otherwise I might think I was a walking corpse. Or a dancing one. I’m skipping a meeting this morning. I don’t care. It empowers me. Robert Walser would skip it. Walser wouldn’t still be here seven years later, though. Walser wouldn’t have made it seven months. Seven weeks, maybe. More likely seven days. He’d be in his attic room writing his soul out on shreds of borrowed paper with a stolen pen. Oh, where is the rain crow. He migrated long ago. Now who will tell us when it is about to rain. I felt the cold rain on my face and knew I was alive. No more alive than last month or last week or yesterday, but alive nonetheless. 2013 dreams have been vivid so far. It’s like there is an arthouse revival series going on in my dream life. I’m liking it. There’s nothing else to report, I’m afraid. Raining, check. Biking, check. Reading Walser, check. No more rain crow, check. Not a corpse, check. Alive, check.

the tricky truth of time

I have not been to work in 11 days. I will not return for another two. I love this time. I have been taking this break at the end of the year for at least five years running. It has become important to me, this shucking off of the past 12 months in preparation for the new rack of days about to be set.

What happens is a curious thing. The coccoon of time unravels and I am released into a nebulous world of days and hours unmarked by the usual frames of reference. On occasion, I find myself searching my mind for what day it is. Recall is often laborious. When it does occur, I laugh quietly. I lose track of what days the recycling is picked up, when certain shows air on the radio, who among my circle might be working at any given moment.

I know it is morning when the yellow light pours into the sunroom from the east. It warms me over my shoulder as it falls across the pages of my book.

I know it is midday when Farley starts angling for a walk.

I know it is evening when the last light fades, leaving a gloom to settle in the house.

But the weekdays tend to blur into the weekend. Morning hours are in general distinguishable, one from the other, but the afternoon hours caper gleefully, spinning in circles around the maypole, daisy-chaining their elastic selves around my helpless body, freeing me from the snare of routine. They tempt me into running for the hills. Crouching in the thickets, they whisper to me snatches of their secrets, of ‘p time’ and ‘m time,’ with the laughability of it all unconcealed in their twinkling eyes. We are not binding straps, they say; rather we are possibility, we are discovery, we are whatever happens between the beginning and the end.

Soon, though, Colonel Responsibility will beckon with his truncheon for me to trudge down from the hills. Under the hard Colonel’s watchful eye, I will refasten the familiar leghold trap, grinding my teeth as the steel fangs puncture my skin, reopening barely-healed wounds. The yellow light will disappear behind windowless walls. The afternoon hours will sheepishly turn their backs on me, showing me their ugly sides. And I will wonder again about their truth they never fully share.

Soundtrack:  EarthHex: or Printing in the Infernal Method (Thanks, Taidgh!)

of dic·tion·ar·ies & den·tists

© 2012 S. D. Stewart

This row of dictionaries looms over me as I work, though I don’t have occasion to consult them as much these days. I used to do a lot more translation work as I cataloged. But my job has changed over the years, perhaps for the worse…it’s hard to say. I leave the dictionaries there to comfort me. I do still use the English one a lot (favored escapist technique). Sometimes the French and Spanish, rarely the Portuguese, and never the Swahili.

From the edge of the deep green sea, we open our arms, raise them high and trust, even when apart. Cut to end. Many nights, many years ago, I fell asleep to that. I like to think it informed my dreams. These days it’s everything.

It is Monday and I have a dentist appointment. Every time this happens I am unsettled by the bracketing of my life into six-month periods between dental appointments. I look back and wonder at the flatness of it all. Is this the right way to be going about it. Is it. Isn’t there some wormhole I could squeeze into instead. Some squirrely nautilus-shaped thing?

People are always leaving. And I miss them in a slow aching way. It’s been some time since I was the one leaving. A long time, actually, when you consider how often I used to leave before. It is doing something to the typewriter ribbon of time, I think. The dental appointments, the ink fading with each tap of the keys. The things we do at the changing of each season. Subtle adjustments absorbed, tarnishing the new, loss of notice to the details.

I like my dental hygienist. She is Eastern European—Polish, I think. I went to Poland once and in the short time I was there I found it to be a sad and beautiful country. That may have been due to my choice of activities while I was there. I like my hygienist because she’s quiet. I come in, we exchange cursory greetings, and then we get right down to work. Or rather she does; I just lie there and stare at the painting on the ceiling of a rowboat floating in the clear blue shallows. There is no banter. I hear the other hygienist and patient nearby chatting up a storm and I wonder how they can carry on such steady conversation while one of them has both hands in the other’s mouth. I wonder about my hygienist sometimes. Does she have a family, what does she do in her free time, that sort of thing. I often find myself wondering in this fashion about people with whom I have a narrow single-faceted relationship like this. But I would never dare ask her these things. And besides, most people’s lives are less exciting in real life than in imagined life. I hope they don’t take my hygienist away. At my last dentist they were always switching hygienists on me and it irritated me to no end. Then one time I totally spaced on my appointment because I always count on those reminder calls and they didn’t call this time. I realized about two weeks later or so that I’d missed it and that they’d never followed up. So I figured if they didn’t care that much about me as a patient that I’d find a new dentist. So far I’m pleased.

If I left, I’d have to get a new dentist and therefore, a new hygienist (I care less about the actual dentist because one rarely sees much of one’s dentist unless one’s teeth are terrible). If I left, someone else would claim my stack of dictionaries. If I left, these particular mosquitoes and their vile descendants would find someone else to bite. If I left, I’d be somewhere else, like I often think and dream about, but it wouldn’t be somewhere else for long. It would be like here, except there, because that is always what happens.

to me, it’s not better than the weather

Waning, waxing, waning, waxing: the rush and the push of mood from hour to hour to day to day to week’s end and to the moon. Reading F. K.’s diary night by night…sinking fast in the horror bog of familiarity. A morass of similarities. [Will I also get TB. Where’s my Swiss sanatorium.] Writing, not writing, writhing, writing, not writing, the endless breakers rising and crashing against this battered cranial jetty. The crushing repetition of my own inspiration. Heat’s ebb and flow, the dying summer exhales rank and humid rattle-breaths as it’s painstakingly strangled by the coming fall. An ugly death, for sure. The work not done around here could fill a hundred empty trucks, on standby, prepared to haul off a life’s accumulated evidence of avoidance. I, the weather-crazed architect, survey an empty expanse of years, so carefully orchestrated, so carelessly implemented, and on every day I rested. And on every day I rested. And on every day I…clamp down on the cause of defeat with mighty waxen jaws, summer’s flame licking holes in their false walls. Caving in on itself, everything is. Last night again was epic dreams I failed to describe accurately in my journal. Just weak fluid flowing from my pen, sketching a toothpick framework for what is becoming dangerously close to more exciting than what I describe here. That is, intricate nothingness. That is, blank walls of clear shellac taped off and rollered with exquisite care, attention paid to the most glaring lack of any details…a veritable Sistine Chapel ceiling of nonexistence. So proud I am for the big unveiling. [Sound of emergency exit door slamming shut.]

Now I drink yerba mate out of a wooden gourd. Now I reflect on how cigar-smoking guy had a lady friend with him today. Not a loner for long. They sat in those weird half-chairs that have no legs. Just a seat and a back and nothing else, maybe arms. What will they think of next. Cigar-smoking guy was not smoking a cigar. His bike was there, but his lady friend must have walked. I sat on the other side of the locust trees flipping through some literary journals I’m supposed to review. The air felt drained of moisture. This pleased me. All around, bands of men in monkey suits capered about in the grasping thralls of machismo, no doubt bandying their latest conquests in the spheres of sex and business. Strip off their power suits and we would all laugh. Or would we cheer. Or arrest. Recall the Naked Rambler. Corporate embrace of full nudity: I’d like to see it. Level the playing field. No more power coursing through expensive Italian fabric. I’m nude, you’re nude, let’s close this deal and go get drinks. High fives all around. See you at the bar.

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