excerpt from alejandra pizarnik’s diary

June 1, 1965 Buenos Aires

The open walls, the walls have been beaten, the cracks, the fissures, the holes who will close them up? This question, easy to formulate, is impossible to answer. The self in the form of the open slated shutters of a house in children’s stories. Those same shutters, closed, would form a green heart with small hearts which are crevices through which the air passes. But they cannot be closed. Or if they are closed, then something happens to the crevices, since the air doesn’t pass through them and the dwellers of the little house in the forest die asphyxiated. No. No one suffocates since they can’t be closed. Rather they’re injured, injured but not dead, although they would very much like to be dead; they are injured by the sharp wind. I don’t know if it’s because of the wind or because bandits have entered and injured them, stripped them of everything, and abandoned them to their bad luck. They dream of the green heart and of small hearts through which the air was coming. At the beginning it had to be like this. They were not going to be spared sorrows but those sorrows were going to be different from this one, so poor and so humiliating. It is not terrible to suffer but only to suffer for humiliating causes, since this robs all the beauty from the ceremony of suffering which, at first, didn’t differ from the other ceremonies.

the return of gil orlovitz

Rick Schober at Tough Poets Press continues his admirable efforts to introduce the work of Gil Orlovitz to a new contemporary audience. He previously raised funds via Kickstarter to publish a collection of Orlovitz’s stories, poems, and essays. With this latest campaign, he hopes to raise enough capital to reprint Orlovitz’s long out-of-print novel Ice Never F. As of this writing the project is over a third of the way funded, but it still needs support. [Update: Now fully backed and then some!] This book is virtually impossible to find on the used market, so Tough Poets Press is doing a valuable service to the many readers who in recent years have become interested in Orlovitz’s contributions to avant-garde writing in the 1960s. Now is your chance to be part of experimental literary history! Help fund the book’s publication and your name will appear in the Acknowledgments. More important than that, though, you will be assisting in the resurrection of a true American original writer.

the phantasmagoria of the mist

Unconsciously, but still of free will, he had preferred the splendour and the gloom of a malignant vision before his corporal pains, before the hard reality of his own impotence. It was better to dwell in vague melancholy, to stray in the forsaken streets of a city doomed from ages, to wander amidst forlorn and desperate rocks than to awake to a gnawing and ignoble torment, to confess that a house of business would have been more suitable and more practical, that he had promised what he could never perform. Even as he struggled to beat back the phantasmagoria of the mist, and resolved that he would no longer make all the streets a stage of apparitions; he hardly realised what he had done, or that the ghosts he had called might depart and return again.

Arthur Machen, The Hill of Dreams

thoughtworm in the library of congress

I recently discovered that an issue of my old zine Thoughtworm is now held by the Library of Congress. Apparently, artist and writer Matt Dembicki, whose comics I dimly remember writing a review of long ago, donated his collection to the library in 2016, and Thoughtworm #11 was included in it. This issue has particular significance to me, as it was the first one I created a linocut for in order to print the covers. Linocut would become my cover design method of choice for the remaining issues of the zine. I also later had the linocut design, which depicts my favorite tree, the American Sycamore, tattooed on my left arm. I made a few extra prints of this one, too, and distributed them to friends. While Thoughtworm has made it into quite a number of public and university libraries over the years, I never thought it would end up in the Library of Congress. Pretty cool.

bob sloth’s inter-dimensional crisis

Whilst traveling between two dimensions, vinyl siding salesman Bob Sloth noticed a loose thread in the fabric of space-time and, without even remotely considering the implications of his actions, idly began pulling on it. It happens to the best of us: one moment you’re just trying to get from point A to point B and the next you’re trapped in a state of inter-dimensional liminality with no one to blame but yourself.

In his defense Bob had been going through a recent rough patchhe’d come in below quota on his sales figures from the previous month and his boss Phil Hesher wasn’t too pleased. Then there was the dismal economic state of his town Largesse. Ever since construction of the inter-dimensional bypass, Largesse has been in a slump of epic proportions. Finally, his one-man show ‘My Life Feels Like a One-Man Show’ was flailing at the box office due to his understudy Bob the Sloth’s bombed performance.

Now here in this nowhere place in nowhere time Bob contemplates the vast wasteland of his life up until this point. It has always seemed to him to be one long sequence of continuity errorssome committed with great intention, others on a whim, but none, so far as he could tell, had been accidental. No, he alone was to blame for each and every one of these disruptions in the status quo, these deviations from the norm, from the general forward movement in the name of progress. ‘Two steps forward, three steps back’ has always been his unofficial motto (as assigned by astute observers and unbeknownst to himself, that is). On the contrary, his official motto, that is the one he assigned to himself, has always been ‘To what end, Bob, to what end’, with the second repetition enunciated at a slower, measured cadence in his head, eventually dropping off to the point of an almost-whisper, though still coming to a firm, audible full stop after the second ‘end’.

There could not be more appropriate circumstances for this contemplation. It is as if his life has been paused and he is hovering in a void, neither losing nor gaining momentum. A chance to catch up has been granted, perhapsto take stock, as they say. Thoughts of how to escape, to transcend this space between dimensions, have not even begun to coalesce. Will they ever or will Bob remain entombed in his interstitial hidey-hole indefintely (forever?). Only time will tell…or will it, seeing as it has no bearing on events transpiring in Bob’s current locale….

solid space – a darkness in my soul

 

[Remastered for vinyl release 35 years later]

prelude to nothing (let there be light)

Go to a strange place to take a long test. Everything is unfamiliar but signals an escape. Recall the repellent damp stench of the locker room. Trees waving from the roadside. Airing tires at the gas station. Old men clean the windshields, their starched white coveralls blistered in full noon sun. Now the strange sounds of Fiat Lux wash over the bed. Now a breeze enters the room. On the phone a voice to capture an ache. A head still full of numbers. Names to speak in a rush. Understand little / experience less / imagine all instead. Growing wake of books trails behind. Later too late. Later written to the page. Later loss of lettersloss of historyloss of self. Self walks awaynever in pursuit. Transport black bile across state lines. But no: too soon. Return, retrace. Head strikes blacktop, skin inflames summers. Cover with this overcoat before a surge at year’s end. Holy songs and rituals halo material desires. Now far offnow beyondnow tinny at the end of this dead line.

[w. 2015 / rev. 2017-2019]

the saboteur

The saboteur slips through the night wreaking a panoply of sabotage. No one sees it, though, for it is a discreet form of intangible sabotage in which this particular saboteur specializes. To cause hidden sabotage is harder than one might think, considers the saboteur as he packs up his equipment in the early morning hours. Crawling in and out of dreams, sidling through grey matter, traversing axons and creeping around dendrites: all of it grueling work. And for what, he mused. Freelancing is tough. It’s nice not having a boss, but you feel you’re on perpetual call. Don’t want to turn down any clients with the potential for lucrative return business. This madness results in very little down time, no chance of relationships beyond the superficial. It begs the question, he thinks, of why do it at all. Surely there is more rewarding work to be done. He thinks back to when it all began. Minor acts at first: messing with people’s heads without actually getting inside them via the back doors he later learned to use. Then a slow transformation of increasing technical subtlety, eventually ascending to the point of fully cloaked missions. Looking on it now he is mystified as to the actual steps leading to his present position. It is mostly a blur. What prompted his entrance into such an unusual vocation? He had no mentor; neither did the few others in his field utilize one. It was frowned upon. Not so much a badge of honor to go it alone as a matter of practicality. A highly competitive field it was, but also one where most saboteurs located an unfilled need and grew to fill it. They focused their efforts on what in effect became their own personal niche. Of course there were a few generalists around, but it was his understanding that they did not fare as well in terms of compensation. When it came to this type of work, clients wanted the best tool for the job, so to speak. For that is all he was, after all: a highly specialized tool. Outside of his narrow range of skills he was nothing. And when he retired or passed on someone else would take his place. Certainly the clients would not miss him. There was never any direct contact; the entire transaction was completed through a digital third party. They did not even know he existed as an individual, only an anonymous resource to be ordered for a specific task. As for his fellow saboteurs, well, it’s not like there was a professional association. Nor did anyone meet down at the pub after hours. For one thing, after hours usually meant early morning, a time when sleep’s siren song called louder and sweeter than the raucous hoots of the bar. And that sweet song was what he heard in his head at this very moment. Time to sweep away the dark existential thoughts now and embrace the daily death of sleep, one he hopes will be free of sabotage, particularly of the self-inflicted varietya type in which even the least experienced saboteurs among us excel.

our younger, sharper scythes

An unending quilt of rounded clouds sewed itself through the sky, thus establishing a ceiling to the fear. The fear yawned in silent fury as the sun turned its yellow back on us and sank. Now here we were arrested in our development. Now there we are fleeing from the dissipated shadows of our better selves. Treading the same trails carved by our younger, sharper scythes through the afternoon’s tall grass. O, how our mind’s eye roves, restless in its intention to better its station someday in the vague mist drifting across the field ahead. Notwithstanding this intention the inky puddle of fear creeps forward in the absence of light. O, how many times has the sun abandoned us. O, why bother continuing to take it personally. Will it one day never return, will we one day form coherent shapes out of the approaching mist. Will we ever refuse the pound’s worth of worry dispensed by our deranged psyches across the grey counters of our frontal lobes. How gently now we accept it, how close we hold it to our fractured frames.

it’s rather dry this time of year, isn’t it

Gagging on small talk was a common pastime we could not help but engage in, having never learned as small children how to talk to other people. Choking on dry word-chunks about the weather and idle chitchat regarding weekend plans was the norm. In the awkward silences mushrooming between ill-formed non sequiturs one would contemplate one’s fingernails with intensity. Perhaps the geometrically pleasing pattern in the kitchen tile would draw one’s eye and immediately become the single most important focal point in the room. Anything to prevent dwelling on the brainless statement that just dribbled out of one’s mouth 10 seconds earlier, now still hovering with impunity in the air, each second since feeling like an hour complete with all the attendant mental self-talk that typically fills such a length of time, only compressed into a single second, so like, really rapid-fire, and as a result significantly more debilitating. Maybe I will just stand here feigning rapt attention as I read every single package label in this entire snack machine, one of us considered, hoping against hope that during that excruciating length of time the room would empty itself of other humans. Another clung to a particularly adept small talker in the room, desperately hanging on each of the talker’s meaningless words, the line of thinking being that this human life preserver could certainly keep one afloat if one seemed really interested in the inane prattle issuing forth from its word-hole. Who would dare turn away from such a loyal audience at the risk of being outdone by some other babbler in the room. Who, indeed, I whispered to no one in particular as I slunk silently out the door, avoiding all eye contact throughout my quick and surreptitious departure, my soundless footfalls rapidly and confidently transporting me closer to solitudinous freedom.

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