Fortunio Liceti’s De Monstris (1665)

De Monstris

Click image to see more ‘monsters’.

Found lurking in my RSS reader, courtesy of the always fantastic Public Domain Review.

Full-text of De Monstris available at Internet Archive.

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.

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.

scatterings

i like to see chaos subsumed into order. long grass growing tangled then trimmed. but only in certain places, like next to sidewalks, not in parks where i am walking. no, not there. not when i am sitting facing a field and the man comes on his mower, chasing me away, following me through the park, more and more mower men, an onslaught of men joined in mechanised noise and motion. that is what i don’t like. i like to see spread-out papers form themselves into a neat pile or disappear into the recycle bin. bare surfaces. something emptied and discarded. this is not a manifesto, by the way. this is just a monday morning [note: it’s actually now wednesday—ed.]. a morning i rode in rain. traffic altered my route and i passed the central police station, a thriving death star hive, battered tie fighters buzzing in and out from the flight deck, looking to crush, to destroy, to subjugate the populace, meting out their brutal mutilated form of “justice” with truncheons and guns.

last friday was a special day for i heard my first wood thrush of the year. o, how i love the ethereal songs of the thrushes! there is no sweeter music in the forest for me. i used to wake to their flute music every spring and early summer morning, but no more, no more. now, if lucky, it is the much lesser song of another thrush, the ubiquitous robin. not to disparage the robin, but his song is nowhere near as transcendent as the wood thrush, the hermit thrush, the swainson’s thrush…

yesterday i went to a class that was like jungian personality types but with colors and a few more bells and whistles. i am blue-green and my conflict sequence moves from green to blue to red. there are all these diagrams that look like someone made them with a spirograph. they are quite pretty but i don’t know how i feel about being plotted on a triangular graph. there i am…a black dot straddling the line between two types, far off from my fellows (in the group report, i am a clear outlier, there are no other dots near me). there i am…moving across the color scheme as conflict escalates, crossing axes with impunity. look at me go…

indicators and implications

Water main break sends me scurrying yesterday from the building. I tried to stay but the fire alarm went off. I think they were trying to flush us out. Begone, you office trolls! It seems there are water mains breaking everywhere in this city. Our aging infrastructure simply cannot handle a violent shift from warm to below freezing to warm again. Get home, pull up the shade to a turkey vulture gliding overhead. I resent the implication this bird is making toward my general state of liveliness. I am not dead. It’s simply not true. Maybe the vultures should go feed on all the dead water mains instead. Crunch, crunch.

This may sound familiar to long-suffering regular readers, but how one reacts from inside an elevator to the sight of another person walking (hurrying, even) toward said elevator, defines at a base level the kind of human being one is. Most other indicators are largely irrelevant to me; they require too much interaction, too much time to reach a satisfactory conclusion. If I want to know in an instant, a blinding flash, what kind of person a certain human is I will hurry toward the elevator in which she or he stands, looking out at me with either compassion or disgust, and I, at her or him in return with either gratitude or disappointment. What transpires in that brief moment shall inform me of what stuff they [sic] are made. I am reminded of my experience at the revolving door the other day. The simplicity, the stripped-down bareness, of this moment, two humans moving in opposing directions, yet united in one shared motion to move themselves, and each other, forward to where they needed to be. To ignore the sublimity of these moments would be tragic.

the musicality of everyday life

Day two of rain on my face. Harder rain, colder rain. Less enthused about it. Wednesday’s unraveling of the week’s semblance of sanity. Sameness shakes through the bones. What is today from yesterday and next week. Listen to epic chanting bands as blood pools in useless sitting legs. Message light on phone appears without phone ringing. It’s a mystery I don’t want to solve. Remember to stand and walk around. Vacate vocation. Evoke smoke. Dream a little longer in the morning, don’t let time thieves tear it away. Afternoons of fast guitar picking on taut strings of sudden tendons stretched and longing. I wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t hear it. There is nothing here anymore.

light | dark

Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark Light Dark

Light Light Light Light Light Light Light

Dark Dark Dark Dark Dark Dark Dark

LIGHT

DARK

DARK

LIGHT

[narrator leaves house, unpacks moon-viewing instrument]

LIGHT LIGHT  LIGHT LIGHT

[the ‘light’ from the moon is false — it is a reflection of the sun]

DARK DARK DARK DARK

[narrator adjusts focus, lets in more light]

LIGHT dark light

LIGHt dark lighT

LIGht dark ligHT

LIght dark liGHT

Light dark lIGHT

light dark LIGHT

[narrator goes inside, observes black ring around eye, laughs bitterly]

DARK light DARK

[narrator watches solar eclipse on television, loses vision in one eye]

one eye: DARK DARK DARK DARK

other eye: LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT

[other eye compensates, dilation lets in more light]

LIght DARk LIGht DArk LIGHt Dark = dark | LIGHT

[narrator freaks out at giant pupil peering back out of mirror]

LIGHt dARK

LIGht daRK

LIGHt dARK

LIGHT DARK

[narrator takes sedative, falls asleep]

D-A-R-K

[narrator sleeps for days, dreams about moon]

D–A–R–K     l-i-g-h-t

[narrator stands on moon in dream, looks at sun, falls asleep in crater]

D_A_R_K

[narrator feels hot, wakes up on sun, quickly returns to sleep, wakes up on earth]

L_I_G_H_T

[narrator applies eye shadow, begins collecting shiny objects]

light light light light

[narrator sprouts bushy tail, gathers nesting material]

dark light dark light

[narrator curls up in ball, falls asleep in nest]

DARK DARK DARK DARK DARK DARK DARK

[narrator dreams about the sea]

LIGHT | DARK

[narrator wakes in forest, burrows deeper in nest, falls asleep again]

DARK | DARK

[narrator dreams of monks self-immolating, twitches in sleep]

L__I__G__H__T | dark

[narrator wakes, crawls out of nest, forages on forest floor]

L–I–G–H–T

[narrator lies on a rock, soaks up sunlight]

LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT LIGHT

[narrator leaves dark, enters light]

L____I____G____H____T

yes, wednesday night is movie night

When you watch a film it’s full of so many intense moments and none of them are real because life is not really made of those moments. It’s full of different ones, many blanking moments between a handful of sparking others that brighten and never wane in your mind, only in your heart. And it’s not the moon. It is ever the sinking sun. On the rocks, the desert floor, the pink and orange and blue, like that trip so many years ago. A film is a distillation of all these things, it is a prickly intensity of which we are not so used to in our daily lives, at least not in later years. In youth life can be like a film, though we lack the perspective required to appreciate it. And I imagine the people who make the sorts of films I have been watching make them because they want to see their lives like a film when they are young, but with the perspective that allows them to see it for what it was.

Tonight I was excited to go walk in the warm night air, even though it is October and it should not be so warm. The crickets yet fiddle and when I touch the inside this night it does not feel so tender. And yet when I talk to someone about his plans to leave this place, even though he’s been around awhile, he’s still a decade behind my next curve in the road. So maybe you can grasp the urgency I feel snaking around me. And if you can grasp it perhaps you could do me the favor of wrenching it off me so I can breathe lighter and freer.

Everything is profound in the late hour. It bears down upon you with a ferocity daylight would never allow. You start thinking about the beginnings of endings and the ending of beginnings and the brutal flatness of middles. You think about contours on a map and start seeing your life through a cartographer’s squinted eye, with those squiggly lines circling around you and they’re all the places you’ve been, the walks you’ve chosen to take, the daily ribbons of flayed flesh stripped from your shrunken sides.

This is not to say…anything, really. When I start typing nothing is ever as it seems. Words touch other words like hot wires and who am I to pull them apart. This hovers before me like a psychiatric tinderbox into which to dump the fantastic and the absurd and what torn shreds are left of the real. The box is metal to minimize the explosive risk? Not that any match will strike and catch this fire.

There is never a conclusion to reach and that appears to be the point. Which is fine, I guess. But can a person reverse evolve? I think I’m becoming a mollusk. Or a bioluminescent dinoflagellate. Foxfire! That’s it. I want to be foxfire. I want to be the green glow you see hovering in your woodpile as you gaze out upon it one evening through the icy windowpane.

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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