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.

lungfish – hallucinatorium

 

My wife has a head of smoke
My wife has a leg of flame
My wife has a hand of bone
My wife has a silent name
My husband walks upon the walls
My husband is ten miles tall
My husband is the atmosphere
My husband is a living prayer
My daughter sleeps up in the trees
My daughter is a complex creed
My daughter keeps a shaft of light
My daughter moves in degrees of might
My son has invisible eyes
My son laughs as though he cries
My son maintains a perpetual stride
My son wanders in dreams at night

My sister waits behind the moon
My sister binds her mind in books
My sister’s voice must crush the sun
My sister snaps the shepherd’s crook
My brother’s face is a hexagon
My brother revolves at increasing speed
My brother heals as he harms
My brother decries what he has decreed
My mother excretes a reality
My mother puts her torch to sleep
My mother spreads her ribcage wide
To guide the trumpet blast inside
My father is my mother’s bride
My father resides in rocks and stones
My father has fins and wings and claws
My father is my husband’s throne.

Fun fact about this song: It was originally recorded as an instrumental, but Dan Higgs decided he wanted to add vocals. Problem was the song as recorded was too short for what he had to say, so producer Ian MacKaye suggested slowing down the tape near the end to provide enough time for Higgs to fit in all the lyrics. So that is why the song sounds all trippy near the end.

weighing souls with sand: a response

Touched through by a white wing she stands defiant (or is it expectant) above the crashing waves. Orange storm sky rages above the rocky coastline. Thundering in her ears. Birds soar overheadtheir frantic cries pierce the heavy air. I don’t want to leave, I don’t want to leave. The darkening sky. The diminishing hour. A throat clogged with fear. The golden orb sinks toward a depthless chasm, loss radiating from its rim. There is only heavy sand belowsand to weigh a soul down. Perched on the rock, though, perhaps she will ascend, the feathers of the wing lessening her load, her arms open and her soul rough with sand, aching to be brushed clean.

the agent by russell edson

. . . Assigned to you when your flesh was separating from your
mother’s, this shadow, who seeing the opportunity at hand, joined your
presence in such a way as some say the soul is given.

You have always caricatured me in my travels. I have seen you on
mountains, and in dim cafes. I have seen you hold your head, your elbows
on your knees, and while I was sad you were serene!

I seek a mastery over fate, of which you are, in objective witness, the
agent of . . . I run away one night as you sleep, the trusting wife, whose
borders have opened in the universal dark.

She feels in the morning among the sheets for the easy habit of her
husband’s shape – Now arc the earth, sweet dark, the law of umbra give
you panic to search me out with your cunning speed of light!

~from The Clam Theater (1973)

a brief interview with gabriel josipovici

Reposting this link from Jeff Bursey on Goodreads to a brief but excellent interview with Gabriel Josipovici, not so much for its questions, which are fairly pedestrian, but for his responses, which are as always gracefully eloquent in their pithiness and demonstrative of a far-ranging reading mind. A writer who is woefully underappreciated, in my opinion.

Gabriel Josipovici: “I abhor art of any kind that follows agendas”

My favorite responses:

Would it be fair to say that one of the central distinctions for you between works of modernism and books you consider less interesting is not only a sensibility but also the kind of things it can do without, such as description?

Duchamp once said that it was demeaning to expect an artist to fill in the background – and it’s easy to see that once he understood that it was, for him, he was on his way to becoming the artist he was destined to be.

The Goldsmiths Prize was set up to reward fiction that “breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form”– what can an “innovative” approach offer the reader (and writer) that a more conventional novel might not? Do you think that books in this broad category are, for example, better-equipped to address questions of transcendence, mortality, and despair?

These are such difficult issues to pin down, aren’t they? My dear friend John Mepham, a biochemist turned philosopher turned literary critic, who died tragically young, put it as well as I’ve ever seen it put in a beautiful essay he wrote in 1976 on To The Lighthouse. “The orderliness of fiction,” he says, “involves not only an internal orderliness but also an orderliness of its telling. For a story to be told there must be, implicitly or explicitly, a teller of it, a narrator or a narrative voice, the voice of one who knows… But what if we lack this sense of epistemological security? What if our experience seems fragmented, partial, incomplete, disordered? Then writing might be a way not of representing but of creating order.” That, he sees, was always Virginia Woolf’s dilemma and the way of her art. And what he says about her I can identify with totally.

hatred of writing update

Hatred of Writing is now available at both Atomic Books in Baltimore and Quimby’s Bookstore in Chicago. Copies are also still available direct from me through PayPal on the order page. Many thanks to those who’ve already ordered! Your support means a lot.

From the depths of the salt mine comes…Hatred of Writing.

.

sentence death notice

The sentence died at 1:03 PM (EST). It was not an easy death. Tremors rippled across the subject area and into the predicate. Wheezing soon led to coughing up of apostrophes and commas. The sentence then clenched in pain and began hemorrhaging superfluous adjectives. It was all over in a matter of minutes. By the time the doctor arrived there was nothing left to do but carefully scoop up a jumbled pile of letters into a body bag. It was impossible to obtain a diagram for the records office.

The sentence is survived by the immediate members of its paragraph. There will be no funeral; instead, the paragraph invites all interested parties to attend a brief ceremony and reading from Strunk & White’s Elements of Style. Thank you.

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