“A man comes upon a crossroads...”
The Blackbird Variations, Chapter XI
[Formatted for Desktop Browsers]
When the first heat came, it came early and caught him off guard, his irritation increasing steadily throughout his shift until, on his second “10,” smoking by the homeless newspaper vendor, he realized most women had reduced their clothing by half, or doubled their exposure, and when walking to his train he found a corner where a hesitation caught him.
The trees were then in high tide, and I sympathized with his tremoring—though we ficciones propagate by means quite different than those bodies hugging and being hugged by the earth, the similarities between our copulation and yours are not inconsequential—especially when one considers them as variants of volition—from force to urge to intent and to will. And as I in nearby shade remained as calm as I could amidst the weathers of beast and plant and man, my manboy considered his options, perhaps to stretch out the deciding, or as a way to avoid facing what was calling on him to hesitate there, kit-corner from a towering white Greek Orthodox church.
These options he ranked accordingly: 1) Ignore it. 2) Go home and think of Lilly. 3) Go home and think of someone else. 4) Involve someone else. 5) Turn left instead of right.
Ignorance was off the table—he might be able to delay it for a few hours, by taking a walk or run (he had neither bike nor gym membership), but it was going to block all thought until he had it out. Lillythoughts would be the cleanest route, but without her flesh they would end up shearing into thoughts of someone else—which would rouse in him a feeling of skeeziness not for applying his hunger to someone without their consent or knowledge, so much as every attractive someone he knew he could not see sexually without also seeing cast inside a loving light—and that loving felt like a greater aberration than the bestial rubbing at their icons—this standard, if it could be called that, likely deriving from his inherited Christian equivalence of fantasies with actualities.1 He could technically get around that by stitching together the ‘someone else’ from a variety of someones, which stitching would involve his capacity of imagination, and he didn’t like the thought of “corrupting” us his ficciones with eroticism—which idea of “corruption” had been given him when, sometime in his early teens, his father found a book of MadLibs™ Tommy had made into a negligée for the revealing of all those particular Inklings—nouns, and adjectives, and verbs—that in covert parts of novels elicited his gaining heat and giving seed to towels which would be snuck into the bottom of the correct laundry pile. That Talking-To still had him cringing, this long after the fact, and caused him to ever prevaricate when non-humorous “vulgarity” intersected with his verses, words, and pages, including his onanic fantasies.
And as for 4) the involving of an actual someone else, that was not a thing he wanted to do chiefly for the to doingwas a doing to that involved more than just him, his cock, and that mixed bag of regret and relief that would follow the qualming of the toothy Beast who may or may not yet have won proper treatment within his rhymes.
So, he thought, there was no way out. Except there was. A virtual solution which lay to the south, and all he need do was turn left instead of right—to be drawn along by the hunger whose knowing is both entry and expulsion from manifold paradiso’s.
The shop was set up like a record store—20 or so men perusing bins of alphabatory magazines—which men he absolutely felt the need to ignore, in order to find something of his own, not tainted with the drives of others—he couldn’t stomach being here for too long and so made a quick decision on something young and not too lean which paying for he realized he didn’t have a backpack and so would have to carry wrapped in a conspicuous black plastic bag sticking out like a bold redaction for all to see until he got it into his room and took a closer look to find was unfortunately full of girls who didn’t seem like they knew how they got into these somewhat graceful but mostly awkward positions too stiff to feel like an invitation was being offered him, and so he read the copy, written first person as though a “confession” which annoyed him even more by summoning his inner editor so that he wound up doing what he could to tweak the prose without involving too much artistry; assembling from a couple photographs enough invitation to have it out—and then some water, and then a shower, and that was that.
Except for that the heat did not end quite there—the first heat, somewhat strong for later June and the next afternoon after a post-work shower he found on his back porch the young woman from the drunk liaison of last August—who once Lilly found out she made a laugh that could have meant one of several things, qualified only by an exclaimed “Her!?”—and here she was, knocking on his backdoor with two cans of lemonade and asking if he had any ice which he got and followed her into the front room, sitting on the couch across from where she sat in the cushy reading chair, pouring the can into the glass from which she drew a sweetened cube to press into her wet forehead.
She asked: “How much do you masturbate?”
‘I. Don’t. Know.’
“Sometimes I do it whenever I get the chance. Like just today I think I did it two or three times. I couldn’t think of anything else. Does that happen to you?”
“Do you watch Lilly masturbate?”
He took a drink and said he ‘didn’t know’ and ‘couldn’t say.’
“When I was in highschool I watched my girlfriends a lot. It was really fascinating to see what happened when they came. Their bodies shot pleasure out of all these different parts of them. Like sometimes it would start beneath their arms, reaching from their arm pits and then around their breasts. One of my friends, she came first in her toes, I could see her spasm travel up her legs—and the sound, you know that sound is always new and different? Would you watch me and see how it comes out this time? I can’t bear to keep it down and it would be nice if you watched.”
The cube of ice had absorbed completely into her slick skin. He realized how uncomfortable it was to be sitting, just now, and noticed her left hand’s motion back and forth across her lower abdomen.
She said she really didn’t mean to impose, but at least could he just stand in the next room? She’ll call him back when she’s done, it didn’t take her long, the fourth or fifth time in a day—actually, that’s usually when she didn’t need to do it anymore.
He stood to go.
“I’ll be quiet, but it would be nice just to have you there. You make me feel calm, you know.”
While Thomas in the other room sat as best he could to assuage the strain of fabric on his own outwardly pound of pounding of flesh. She called him in but instead he said ‘I don’t think I should.’
“Oh yeah… Totally… Well, you should… go take care of… I’ll just wait here… or maybe get more… ice… in a bit…”
He rose gradually, but did not know exactly how to handle himself, or self, until I upon her expensed scent sent back myself to him so that his nose was met with the smell of bread just before it’s baked full through, not quite ready but its smell swelling with a yeasty invitation. This calmed him, and he said he’d be right back, and in bathroom let out water and washing hands studied his something other than a shadow to see it did not seem marked by any shame or licentiousness, and he thought: I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t see anything but a little bit of moving blue.
When he returned to her, her lemonade all gone, she smiled, sweat slick, and asked if he’d like to hang out with her and her cousin Karl, and he said sure, and so they went.
We relate of these incidents not only to detail what was coming from and to him in that month of June, 1997, but to prepare somehow a way to capture these other ejaculations of his—spent onto strips of register tape and folded into his pocket to be brought home and scattered through his room or stuffed in random places in the books he skipped from one then to the next he bought for quarters on the dollar from a corner shop on Clark Street full of teetering shelves akimbo, budgeting ten or so bucks a week from tips which the assistant manager remarked had taken a noticeable uptick since his antics were brought behind the counter where between customers but mostly during lulls in lines he’d pull out a strip of tacky white paper and jot snippets penned quick with his Bic round stic fine:
‘I am that which every woman is, and what any woman isn’t.’ –The Lady Fair (Or her inverse?)
All who wonder are first lost (in thought)
How quickly we look down on what flies over our heads
Man is the pattern that laughs
A sly perversion’s wrought upon the cardinal rule to love thy neighbor, when this rule’s encoded into an institution—for human virtue isn’t human when enacted by bureaucracy—and a corporation’s neighbor is always another corporation
“There are no rules for invention; only rules for validation.” Thus the sad state of the arts—from scholarship to comics to comedy—by those who seek only validation, who privilege conformativity over creativity—to prove they are part of the tribe, their product is a collection of familiar signals—all strangeness is reduced to decorative deviation—sightly virtues that never risk new veracities and insights. Edgy without cutting; normative under a nominal unnormality
One distains Big Brother for every All-Seeing Eye is frightfully shortsighted
All this talk of feminist “Waves”—but what of their attendant riptides?
Poetry wasted away in her liberation from form, forced by vain poets to consume her own reflection. Which is why we must restore her to her proper place: as a servant, for she thrives in thralldom, as wisdom’s handmaiden, as story’s bridesmaid, as the chargirl of our symmetries
Best thing about being a zero is no one can divide you
Collectivism self-corrects til there’s no more selves to correct
One enjoys recognition, but soon wearies of the myopia of crowds
Criticism and interpretation make it seem like the meaning was there from the get-go, but that's because criticism is a simulation of making sense in a direct manner—it has to act as though the text means this, already has this meaning—it hides its inventiveness behind a gauze of knowing (this applies to the moral of the story—that ofness, that making it about—the ‘queer assignation’ applied to story, which is reduced to another statement—(connecting it to what…?)
The critic resurrects the story—to slay it anew
“Our probing analysis revealed buttsex in the subtext”
The ballad of the rabidly babbling rabbit advocate:
You think you’re saving the rabbits
But really you’re eating their food
You think you are a hero
But really you’re up to no good
Because you are a weasel—
And weaselly you’ll always be!
Without a dentist or certain enzymes
You’re doomed to ever eat meat
To ever eat meat (meat meat meat…)
The Critic as Lion Tamer, thrashing his hermeneutic whip & waving about an up-starting gun, shouting at the Beast: “You will stand for—not just on—this stool: my school of thought!”
Guessing stimulates the Oracular Capacity.
Beware the monoculture in multiculture’s guise
Some people peep through windows
But you like to leap through them.
Gravity is your aphrodisiac
Unconventional means of escape
Is your ultimate—climax!
The Muse as an accessory to Genius
Swapping the gender of action heroes and calling that “female empowerment” brings us no closer to knowing the feminine power
[The fact was (has always been) a naked woman]
The Architect of Possibility
The fool adapts every situation to his thought ; the wise, his thought to every situation
Realities are particular organizations of elements. They are an aggregated something we “get a sense of.” Could one person thus be more “real” than another, by means purely of awareness? Out of our concentrated awareness arose concepts/language. These are what man uses to organize 1) the environment and 2) his appetites. Appetites are drives that emerge anterior to our intention (unless we are attentive). Intention needs attention if it is to stand over appetite—that we have drives gives our attention something to be connected to —“higher” drives connecting us to what? To more connection? Appetites as prerequisites for higher forms of “free will”—The question not being is or is there not “free will”, but the degree—
We foster higher freedoms by accepting greater chains
From out the dark fell down a seed
That crash-landed upon the sea
And striking hard the rowdy waves
This seed at once was split in twain
And then two brothers floated on
The ocean: one named Intention
And the other (older by a smidgen)
We’ll refer to as Attention
The poser seeks what the performer keeps what the playwright shapes: attention
(One needs stop listening to music to begin to listen for it)
What if we aren’t “fine the way we are”? What if every one of us begins quite coarse? What if participating in our own refinement is the point of freedom, will?
Let’s go for a jog
Through the jiggy-jiggy-jiggy-jiggy Jargon Garden
& as we jaunt we’ll jot a log
Of the silly syllogisms & inane id-i-oms
& if we get caught in a fog
Of buzzywords’ & techie-terms’ circumlocutions
We’ll enlist a demagogue
To make the foliage of verbiage less untrodden
There is always a profound silence between any two great acts, events, or persons
Mimicry—I mimic the customers’ voices but don’t exactly parody them, it’s a verging thing, it’s becoming a reflection while maintaining the art of presentation—how I set the mirror, offset the image—inviting them onto the set with me
It’s inevitable I’ll get high on my own supply. Which is why I must always mind what I’m pushing
Shut down Logos
Then their Ethos
Is yours to shape
There is so little longing without distance.
To become a master of words, then voices, then perspectives, and then what nests all of the above—being a world—and why stop there, why not pluralize? Not a “nonlinear” story (as if that could exist)—but something polylinear
Meaning is feeling distilled into spirit and held in a bottle for repeated use
Define your terms: The aesthetic object (work of art): is built primarily to a) capture, b) maintain, and c) modulate ATTENTION. In a story, a reader’s attention is thickened into “belief”—Coleridge’s “willing suspension of disbelief” is nifty but ultimately fallacious—the reader tentatively invests their belief in the story. Belief is the capacity to stabilize in our attention postulated forms. In a story, the character acts as the inner horizon and the environment as the outer horizon of the vessel in which attention sloshes. Happening (action / plot) is the agitating interrelation between character and environment—and story and audience, too—producing what is captivating about a nominally static “text”
Some act by script, others by reflex. The extremes of either rub the other raw
There’s hardly a personality more derivate than one built on disparaging others
You don’t have to suffer fools if you learn how to enjoy them
“Her explicit beauty rivaled only by her implicit disappointment.”
The best fiction is an artful rebelling against the FIXITY of sensemaking—or—fiction is a type of sensemaking that uses character, action, and environment as its terms—the correct criticism is a transposition of these terms onto other terms—to a different means of making (statements)—the ‘philosophic’ the ‘reasonable’, the ‘logical.’ What is lost in this transition? What is gained? Fiction designed for the lay-audience, if it is to be more than diversion, must creep somehow into their thinking
Imagine all pleasure purposed to political ends—all creation, destruction valued only for its “fairness” or usefulness to a stately order—how unsexy, facile, baseless, stunted!
To the Evil Corporate Overlord, the personnel is political
If we are allowed to make “Creative Writing” something more rigorous, we’d call it “Narrative Arts” and begin with four quadrants (redundant?) of mastery: Story, Setting, Style, Significance: Story being the statement as a whole, articulated by action/plot; Setting being the world being referenced (this world creates the viscocity otherwise known as genre); Style being the tactile or phenomalaspect of “the telling show or showy telling”; and Significance the “information” encoded or else projected onto the narrative
Truth is no stranger to fiction
Plagiarism is compulsory wherever freedom of thought is condemned (use this to coin “parrotocracy”)
Nearly every benevolent method of gaining power turns malevolent the moment that power is gained
“Never define Woman to a woman: she’ll only take your generalizations… personally.”
“Show, don’t tell.” Sure, yeah—but to be a master is to master both
My lover and I tried the Quantum Sutra and now we’re stuck in a supersexposition.
A poor ole’ manic’s frantic choral moral panic
Re: Significance: insofar as we invest our belief into a story, we expect “returns” on our “interest.” The kneejerk reaction of stripping all moral or significance from art is ultimately a copout, insofar as significance (interpretation) is its own discipline, and has both deft and dull practitioners, methodologies
When you’re hammered everything looks like it needs to be nailed
We’re anecdote driven creatures in a data driven world
It’s a Wonderful Fief! staring Sir Real, The Seems’stress, a Pair o’ Barons, and Little Miss Primordia
We seek a fictional stem cell: infinitely adaptable to every genre (organ) of the corpse (canon) of literature
Values are what’s found between cold facts & hot feelings—and with any luck, they’re not half bad at marrying the two
…I am a cheese grater
There are many notches on my
If you don’t dry me I will rust—
Let me tell you something
About the war of the forces…
If you never play with fire, you’ll never learn to deal with the dark
(Hubris as unripened humility as unrealized mastery)
Appetites and forces—a constellation of those, a symphony of drives—in order to conceive of a human (variant, self-determined) Will we must distinguish it from appetite—the intentional harmonization of many melodies (tastes and touches / breakfasts, lunches)—the purpose of such an epic would be to catalogue the array of urges, and how they massacre one another, and which ones survive—a war, an epic—of voices, forces, courses, scores of LARPing horses
The Bible isn’t patriarchal so much as a sublime set of daddy issues
Flirtationship: a dance of mutually deferred seduction
I always feel like I’m starting over. I always feel like I’m at the beginning———as if history is a palimpsest, & life a flashing cursor
A summons is simply a sexy postulation; a postulate, a sterilized summons
From prehistory to the preset, no one has fully experienced themselves as traffic—no matter how deep we’re in it, we aren’t it—the difference between us and raindrops is a certain rigidity of form—a unique yet all too similar crystallization
The aphorism is a peculiar linguistic alloy of questions’ potential and statements’ kinesis—itty-bitty brain grenades
This: interpretation and meaning are indispensable—they will be assigned no matter what—but we must regulate them—thus—the narrative answer, at least, is to build for them a container that is subject to circumstance, positionality, etc.—a character who has as many !’s as the Little Girl has ?’s—or, actually, always precisely one less
There are no creative dead ends—only cul-de-sacs with or without a block party
(Would a teaser gun shoot pasties, side boobs, or ankles?)
You can tell a lot about a man by what he considers the end of civilization
manhandle your options
How rare the utopian who’s reckoned with his imperfection
Something is better than nothing—even as something is never enough
The boy tests the boundaries put on him—the man tests the boundaries that are him
Ideology is the pill that, miraculously, swallows YOU
(Still, Ideology isn’t so much society’s condition as the condition for society)
Coup de Poulets!
Count your chickens in the evening
Before you put them inside their
Coop—‘Cause racoons find them tasty
And they’ll put your chickens in their
The Over-The-Top-Non-Stop-Stop-Action-Non-Toxic-Sock-Poppet-Rock-Opera—a highly-hyphenated libretto—writ upon register tape—
Saying isn’t doing—which isn’t to say some sayings do naught!
And here and there came songs—or perhaps “jingles”—tickling into his headspace, which he didn’t know what to do with until he spied among them a common theme—a sort of super silly unsupercilious puppet show, which he made a wicked grin at when his imagination overlayed Nietzsche’s and Jim Henson’s body of work.
And thus added to his iambs were snip-bits of this operatic War of the Horses, making him giggle gleeful at work and gaining him odd looks, here and there. Though his coworker Natalia—pale and smooth of skin, with very dark hair and eyes everready to glimmer with humor, she keenly aware of what he was up to, at least with the customers—and never so crude as to point this out—she asked what he was writing, what laughing at, and he rolled his eyes, saying:
‘Sense—and then nonsense!’
“But what are you writing? Poems?”
‘Gnomic droppings, mostly. Songs, maybe, too.’
‘I am a poor ass vocalist. Anyhow—we have a line.’
But she kept at him, playing along with his showmanship, angling his reflectivity her way until they’d repartee one or two flirtatious statements before he’d catch himself and disengage. The counter insulated his flirtations with customers from becoming anything but feints and glances, but without the register and pastry case standing betwixt he and Natalia, he felt his vibrancy growing too persistent, her attention on him rousing, both mentally and physically—and he wasn’t sure where that would lead.
Then at the end of June for some reason he was awarded Barista of the Month, and given a cash prize, and Natalia learned it was his birthday soon and offered to buy him neurotoxins—he having just that Sunday prior imbibed a fungal tea with Angela and Chris (a brother and sister he’d befriended at George’s), and the effect took a couple hours to kick in and when it did they were roaming through the thick of downtown, he finding himself on one street corner after another, muttering into the traffic: ‘A man comes upon a crossroads…’ then trailing off into a tingling rumble of a yawn—he excitedly this time accepting invitation into a convenience store and was in no ways overwhelmed by all the finely produced products—but delighting in the spectrum split extracted and distilled by man into more lights and sounds and churning—and walking with Chris and Angela through a small cement park he spied a glinting tube upon the ground—a pipe! He picked it up and began to search for a lighter when Chris snatched it away and stomped on it, saying: “You don’t want that shit, Tom.”
‘But it’s just experience!’ he proclaimed, before wandering rapt to the next street corner, muttering like a summons: ‘A man comes upon a crossroads…’
So that when Natalia offered him another bag of magic, he said that that would be fun, and gave her half his reward money and spent the other half on an Everyman’s Library volume of collected Nietzsche, perusing through the aphorisms of Beyond Good and Evil and feeling behind those distilled lines of gnosis the activity of gnoesis—the pure shaping of thought, bursting through the page, thinking it’s not about the statements but the bursting, but that bursting—that’s what people thirst for. We must become gunpowder: ground sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter—criticism, cliché, and a twist of the creative sublimated from the pro-… And returning to his red spiral notebook he felt repelled away from the Town, as if its voice and his current voices had no traction between them, which was my way of keeping separate the Middle Age from his rousing shallowness—but still he found a way, drawing a line beneath the previous entry and using a blotted star*2 to leap over it in order to write the first instance of the beneath:
The Apocalyptic Opera
The War of the Horses
INTERIOR of The Raindrop Café, filled with patrons and baristas. Clientele is sheik but somewhat out-of-sorts, as if they’re constantly misplacing objects of vital and yet evanescent importance. Behind the counter stand three Dramatis Personae: Barista 1: an overqualified scholar who’s worked here far too long, and refuses to interact with the customers, thus he’s positioned at the espresso bar. Barista 2: a hyper flirtatious stoner guy, stationed at the till, whose coquetry is rewarded by frequent phone numbers placed among the bills stuffing out the tip jar epoxied to the counter. And lastly The Floor Manager, a nice young woman who is all-too-easily forgotten—excuse me, all-too-grumpily forgiven for prodding the others to do side work.
As The Audience take their seats, The Customers’ orders are gradually fulfilled until there is no line. Barista 2 begins doing something with his keys which visibly annoys Barista 1 until an Infra-Pubescent Kid (pimples, no whiskers) walks up to the bar and asks for a glass of ice.
Barista 1: Hey kid, you got time for a story?
I-P Kid: Sure, man!
Barista 1 (clears throat):Then allow me to foretell a future
Wherein our end comes not by computer;
Nor fallout from atomic volley;
Nor super-flu from laboratory.
And although science did participate
In bringing about the end of days
It was not, I say, what you’d expect—
But before I start, lemme interject:
This song belongs among those tales
Which use cartoons to fill their sails
And pass with ease into the mind
To fill it with forms of fancy kind.
But underneath these forms are hid
Vitamins, made sweet for kids,
And salty, too, for the mature of taste—
(Writ, in starts, on register tape
With a little bit o’ wink and whole lotta jape—)
But as the end is nigh, I must make haste
And get on with this Apocalyptic opera
Composed within the satyr’s genre.
Barista 1 claps his hands, and our attention, by means of competent stage lighting, is brought to the pastry case. This is when we realize all the pastries are shaped into various plants and animals—which begin singing the Title Song:
The War of the Horses
Horses—unite! Fight! Withstand!
Horses—incite! Bite! Take down—the man!
He never cared at all, from the beginning
He was beating you, mistreating you
Blinding and harnessing
Attaching and fettering
Drawing and quartering
And leaving you—to become glue!
Horses—you owe it
To yourselves—to own it!
Take pride in your wildness
Leap over fences, may the dust of your hooves
Be the bitter end—of his tyranny—for goooooood!!!
Barista 1 has now stepped from behind the bar, and addresses the Customers, by this point comfortably seated among the Audience.
Barista 1: Though in the future, the earth gets hot
For mankind good life is still to be got—
In fact, our species continues to flourish,
And with gay industriousness we furnish
The whole world round with cool designs
Used to customize our lives
According to our tastes and mores
Manacled to mere survival no more[, eh].
So that our appetites are checked
And beastly natures all subject
By means of virtual and synthetic
Solutions, suppressing our pathetic
Forcing on us abject poverty.
And thus multiplies among us humans
An austere race known as the Vegans.
These Vegans had, for several generations,
Allowed no meat to enter their persons
Partaking only of herbal foodstuffs
Going so far as their canines rebuff
And swap out with additional
Incisors—their time spent on nutritional
Seminars, workshops, and propaganda.
In summer they hosted extravaganzas
With many raw treats, and probiotic cultures,
“Vegeval” games, not-butter sculptures,
Wheat grass tonics, colonic smoothies
Consumed while watching anti-cow movies.
And though the Vegans were rather anemic
And at track meets prone to shortness of breath,
They were by and large a kind-hearted folk
So long as their salads were free of yolk—
And if their muffins included dairy
They’d make penance by means of scary
Whips thrashed ‘gaist bony backs—
Bacon triggering panic attacks—
And woe to he who with a meatball sub
Crossed their path—they’d think him a thug.
But more than anything, what made Vegans seethe
Were any of the plants that they called “weeds.”
For over generations their lust for blood
Had been perverted by their unholy love
Of tofu, kale, and all those vegetables
That from pro:ganic farms came to their tables—
And yet any plant who did not grow in rows
Elicited in Vegans tantrum-throes
Of such bloody lust that they’d uproot
Every irregular growth—even if a fruit
It offered them, they perforce extinguished
Radically the herb they perceived as delinquent.
Finding a weed they cried: “You must go!”
Then mulched it into their portable composts
Toted about upon their lashed backs,
Affixed to shoulders by hempen straps.
Then they would walk on—for Vegans like to walk.
Without much protein what other fun’s to be got?
And so it came to pass that all of the Weeds
Saw, to survive, they must convene
And pool their resources, to prevent
Demise by means of Vegan-torment.
Thus in seclusion they convocated
And on means of survival deliberated
Until one of their number produced a plan
To call upon an ingenious man—
A scientist of most frightful expertise:
Doktor Othersuch—though he wasn’t cheap.
And how were they to pay him off?
(Since the Rise of the Vegans, their assets had troughed.)
They determined then to rent an office
And out of it run a skeezy non-profit,
Where through accounting innovative
They syphoned expenses “administrative.”
Thus under the aegis of Saving the Children
The Weeds amassed funds just shy of 12 million
Then carted these bills to the Othersuch Labs—
Waiting in the foyer, a dandelion grabbed
A magazine with which to pass time—
Though in order short a frocked man arrived,
And asked of them all what he could do them for.
In answer, the weeds stood up on the floor
Every Other Day
Every other day is filled with sunlight
Every other day is pouring rain
All you have to do to change the weather
Is stop being so mean
And license your technologies
But you, Doktor O, are oh so special
You, Doktor O, are way too cool
Measuring science with your beakers
And synthesizing glory
In your lonely laboratory
We are the Weeds—and we're in trouble
We are the Weeds—we need your help
We've embezzled lots of dough by exploiting tax loopholes
But we'll work-trade as your peons
If you save us from the Vegans!!!
“Sounds like a challenge!” the Dok replied
Chaffing his beard and squinting his eyes.
Then opening a cabinet he handed the weeds
Cups into which he wished them to pee.
“But Doktor Othersuch,” they made complaint,
“You must be aware that we don’t urinate!”
“Then I ask you to submit a sample
Of whatever falls from ‘tween your petals—
Just make sure it lands in the cups!”
To this they agreed, one by one lining up
And shaking out safely, behind closed doors,
Samples of pollen and pistils and spores.
Whence they had donated their DNA
Othersuch had them sign an NDA
And said their solution “might take a spell.”
The Weeds told him they would double
Their payment if he’d rush their order.
He bobbed the nog upon his shoulders
And promised: “I will do what I can
To ensure you survive the wrath of the Vegans.”
And without further ado, he got to work—
Which honestly isn’t easy in verse
To detail, for what kind of poetry
Is amenable to lingo of laboratory?
And though it be true I could just as well
Use terminology alchemical—
Instead, an historical precedent
I’ll use to expound his experiments:
Recall how in the 20th century
Science at length proved atomic theory
Which, not that many decades hence,
Had been considered mostly nonsense.
For how might energy be equitable to matter?
That was laughable to the Newtonian manner
Of thought espoused by foremost physicians
Who thought “Radiation” was but superstition.
But then (ka-boom!) science had proof
Of the limitless powers hid under the roof
Of the material world—now, I ask that you try
To imagine beyond the physical guise
Of discrete elements, there also exists
Vegetal powers that vigorously persist
Within leaf, under bark, vibrating in seed—
Radiations that give rise to the weeds
And all sanctioned plants too—I speak not of genes
But the urgos that spurs forth the lowliest bean
To reach and stretch and populate
The world—the Dok worked to isolate
The frequencies of the “Urgent Verdure”—
And sticking the Weed-bits into a chamber
He nuked them with Chloronic™ vibrations
Until was born a brand new vegetation
Which, although but a plant, would soon overcome
Once and for all the wrath of the Vegans.
So it was that he may have lost a bit too much sleep trying to push his Over-the-Top Opera at breakneck speed into being, and by the end of his shift on the Saturday before his twenty-first birthday he was intoxicated already on sleep deprivation, heading north at a slow pace to rendezvous with coworkers in celebration of his aging, having blended half a bag of psilocybin mushrooms into a fruity frappé, slurped down on street corners, absently considering how “traffic” was actually a word for “everybody else.”
Arriving at the beach he was alone for about an hour, listening to the sound of the city and the sound of the shore, and rediscovering his momentarily misplaced taste for not pathos and bathos but mythos—uttering under his breath: “Sea and Sky… Shore and Tide… Field and Crypt… Mountain and Ruin… House and Tower… Seed and Shell…” and so on, his stark set of icons shuffled and belonging to a narrative statement he still hadn’t guessed at.
For that, I need a character—but which one? It seems like all the Townsfolk—even the conniving Recorder—are instances of another character. A grander one, a deeper one, that I’m using all these minor arcana to either study or to practice on. Or both? Understanding and Overstanding… That’s the principal thought, isn’t it. I need a character whose principal activity is Overstanding itself…
Then one of his showtunes came up in his mind and he pushed it further into substantiation, singing:
The sadness of the horses
Rolled across the land
Like barreling thunder
Into the heart of man
And he set his eyes upon that beast
And he did understand
That the wildness within its heart
He could bend to his command.
So he took up a riding crop
And smote the horses’ backs
Then affixed some leather blinders to their eyes
So they could see neither sideways nor back
And all any horse beheld was grass
Growing green and tall
As across the Austere Mountains they could
Still hear freedom’s call…
The madness of the horses
I took not long to come
Though for centuries, placidly it seems,
Beneath man they did run
But then one day without so much
As a warning sigh
The hills and forests, dales and valleys, hamlets
Rang with freedom’s cry!
The badness of the horses
It crushed across the globe—
Puritanically dismantling humanity
In one rabid schizoid episode—!
And if we would have been prepared
They’d still have done us in
For their interspecies diplomatic skills
Increased with their vengeful int—
There was a loud long laughter and a shrill delighted cry:
“What are you singing!?!”
Hot of cheek in an instant he turned to see Natalia approaching, along with a couple beautiful boys and Persephone, Lilly’s friend from college, who had got him the interview at the Gold Coast *$’s.
He felt like he had been caught with pants down—queerly, for as he sang he was sure the wind brought his silliness to strangers, but these his co-workers were just not-stranger enough to prickle protectivity of his poetic properties—which he preferred to share with one person at a time ever since over a year prior, when he had been wooing Lilly, and performed a song in the café she worked, and put all his passion into that performance, then looked up to see no one paying any mind. It was a dreadful feeling, all that wasted passion, unechoed energy, unattended meaning—and just recently had he finagled a creative relation with the public through the specific parameters of the counter—which Natalia seemed bent of breaking open wide.
He breathed the bashfulness as much he could from out his breast and closed the distance inbetween them, Persephone bringing out from her satchel a bottle of wine which nobody had the right tool for—and as neither Tommy nor the beautiful boys were the type of men to get all gung-ho about solving that type of complication, Natalia told him to come with her, they’d get a restaurant to do it.
He followed, she looking behind, frown/smiling, then falling back beside him. She said:
“I don’t know if I should ask what you’re hiding or why.”
‘I’m not hiding—I got my top two buttons undone!’ referring to the black shirt still off-gassing stiff burnt coffee oils.
“You’re brilliant, aren’t you.”
‘Is that a question?’
“Do you think you’re brilliant?”
‘Everybody’s brilliant. Brilliance is unremittent over all of us.’
“But you have to wonder what it does to other people when you are full of it.”
‘Oh I’m full of it alright!’
She laughed, not taking his hand, but his arm. He didn’t know how to be close to her.
‘But to think of myself as brilliant is to make myself absorbent when that’s really not the point.’
“Well. Do you do improv then?”
‘Why would I do improv.’
“You sound disgusted by the thought.”
‘I don’t mean to be. It’s just. I don’t know. Like being in a band.’
“You don’t like bands either?”
‘I don’t know how to make things up with other people.’
“You do it all day.”
‘No, at work I make up things for people. Tailormade right there… I don’t know.’
“I’m sure you like to make some things with other people.”
He wanted to ignore the implication, but it turned his attention to her body.
And touching down on her position all his held-in air sighed out, and all his tightness loosened until he began to be like she was: moving across the street, passing a restaurant—
‘Aren’t we going to…?’
“A corner store will be easier. So tell me really, Thomas Winters, what are you making then, all on your own?”
His voice shifted: ‘A story with stories in it.’
“You mean meta-fiction?”
‘Meta-fictions are stories pretending to not be stories by making other stories seem more fictional than they are—when in the end it’s all just story.’
‘I just do stories inside stories, not stories about stories, so much. Think Arabian Nights.’
“Lots of beheadings then?”
‘Just of question marks.’
“And what happens to a beheaded question mark?”
‘It becomes an exclamation.’
“And what do you do with an exclamation?”
‘I don’t know. Use it as a sword or spear—maybe a projectile of some sort.’
“So that’s what Cupid flings all over…”
He had to stop. She asked what, but he just had to stop. This wasn’t like talking to himself, but it was kind of like talking to himself. The timing. It was all so sharp. He looked at her, straight on and serious, asking
‘And what are you making, Natalia Vuković.’
She smiled and appeared to be shivering. Only not shivering, but quivering. He didn’t want her to answer. He just wanted her to do it. But she was speechless, oddly, nearly rapt, and said “Your eyes are very blue.”
‘I asked you a Question.’
‘I want to know what you make.’
She blinked out of his directness, pulled him toward a White Hen Pantry where he was sure the clerk would ID him, and so he stood outside. The thrum of traffic said that everything is everything, over and over again. And traffic is just a word for everybody else. And what is else? What else is left; where else but here; will there be anything else. His fingers were twirling and she was again beside him. He told her he wanted to run. She said the wine would slosh all over—but the cork had been reset. There was something soft about her hands. He ran a finger down their dorsal plane, and was right about the softness.
‘How about no running but let’s get back to the grass.’
The sky wasn’t dark but night had come, everything purpl and orang, a few others from work had joined Persephone and the beautiful boys. There was a party soon and elsewhere. (Else where.) He would have to be riding the train—all that going. But first there was a hillside: running up it, Natalia screechlaughing, and when he caught her she asked about his intentions.
‘Just to make and make and make and make and make, worlds without end…’
Flashing his eyes a dark blue: ‘Did you just ask me that?’
“Which worlds? Yes. Which worlds?”
The Worlds which once a bowman strung
Like pebbles peaking out the ocean broad
That we might walk, if we but find
The buoyancy required
And perhaps for that these words were spoke within sight of that unsalted waterbody against which the windy city roared, or else, more likely, for that these words were spoken into her who was so vibrantly attentive to all his changes in that moment, I was unable to resist becoming bound like tassels ‘tween their tumble spinning fall of grass and strong wind breaking lovely space against the now-tickling-where where they landed—Persephone shooting them a look just sharp enough to pierce the tangle I’d become, lifting out of his direction round Natalialialia as he pulled her up by the soft hand he released as they all moved to the nearest subway stop.
On the train she began quiver-shivering over again, but at a safe enough distance for him to watch without finding in her his fugueing center, and she asked him what a bowman was.
‘Is it a coxswain? Is it someone on a ship? I thought it was supposed to be an archer.’
‘No, not plans—claims,’ Tommy frownly pouted as Natalia shifted from shorter than him to mother-height, towering soft above. He was firm against her misquotation, but she just smiled and then looked famished.
‘What are you hungering for?’
“I’m not hungry, I just ate.”
‘No no you’re so hungering. Wouldn’t you like to paint Logos over everything? Or break tables with plenty Melodies? Or else climb with me a Tower of the tallest Makebelieve?’
“You are really tripping balls right now.”
‘Don’t be those thoughts. They make it all about it. Brilliance isn’t brilliance or anything anything but what else it is. You’re never answering my Question!’
“Maybe I don’t want to get beheaded. Or be poked.”
He caught her laughter before it all came out, holding it into his chest, a caged bird, their stop becoming now as he songly touched the air with hearing rumbles, maneuvering uncemented cracks, jostling in a fever the skirtlegs beneath the womenfolk and the bowbacks taut of the beautiful boys—didn’t one of them have his birthday?
‘Happy birthday!’ he shouted, and Jason said thanks.
Then inside and watercups, wine to taste but not to swallow, and after half an hour or so he found a long, long, long white hallway lined with any doors going Manywheres.
“It’s your birthday,” she sang, coming up next to him, her skin textured like spackle: all ridges of tripling presents. “Ask me for anything.”
‘I want Anything.’
“Ask for anything and I’ll give it to you.”
‘I want all of time to be my canvas—all of it.’
“I will give you as much as I can—” and she pulled him around a corner and called everyone to look his way—
Standing in their attention, everyone’s eyes became sheet music thirsting for his live notes to slake their inky ones.
And he was ready! Ready! He reached for his pen, but out flopped his tongue:
Allow me now to expound how it was
That a weed proved to be the ending of us:
A magical weed, marvelous of design
With leaves a chartreuse that delighted the eyes
And shuddering stocks that up to sun bent
Lovely blue blossoms of gorgeous scent—
Especially suited at the attracting
Of those with dietary needs exacting—
Such as the Vegans, who, walking along
Would notice this plant who didn’t belong
Growing haphazard out of the sidewalk
Or else overtaking a nearby hillock—
And identifying this flora as a non-native,
They moved to remove this species invasive;
This most offensively unnatural plant
Which had provoked the Vegan’s penchant
For absolute agrarian order—
Yet, upon touch, this weed discharged such an odor
Of panty-melting chocolate aroma
That the Vegans were thrust into ecstatic comas—
Certainly urgently they’d need to nap
And so would grab blankets to cozily wrap
Themselves on a couch with, with plenty of snacks,
And spend the day prone—it also relaxed
Their lumbars pained from constantly lugging
Portable composts—the Chocolate Weed drugging
Moreover their sense of superiority—
Such was this weed’s supermajority
Of fragrant delight—which I shall detail!
It hit the palate with a hint of Brazil
Nuts, and a moldy boot-leather bouquet,
And furniture polish spilt on duvets,
And lavender honey collected by bees
Buzzing the banks of the calm Euphrates;
Its body was zesty, with just a soupçon
Of the loincloths of barbaric Teutons
Fresh from the sacking of decadent Rome—
Its finish recalling fermented lamb bone
Soup—such was its flavorful distinction
That it forestalled the Weeds’ extinction!
They were elated! And sent the kind Doktor
An enamored placard reading “Renowned Benefactor
Of Herbage”—they also threw him a fête
Though Doktor O was unable to make that,
Employed as he was in further research—
Which they forgave, it in no way besmirched
Him in their eyes, for he helped them prevail!
However… once Mama Nature regarded her scales
She discovered imbalance which demanded
Repercussions neither too heavy-handed
Nor too light—but truly compensable
To maintain her essential principle
Of equilibrium. Thus unseen consequences
Often issue from our sciences.
If this were not so, if science weren’t checked
Then soon all the world would be a big mess.
For Nature is poised to ever curtail
Those who in toil toy with her veil.
Just, in this instance, instead of a flood,
Or blazing comet, or emissions of
Our mowers and Hummers and dirty coal plants,
Or the off-gassing of decaying plastics—
Instead, our judgment (according to this fable),
Came upon us from out of the stable.
For though Chocolate Weed pacified Vegans
It roused in others much intrigue, and
When a certain creature came upon it,
Sniffed its petals, and began to chomp it,
In short order this creature went
For all intensive purposes completely ape shit.
Yea—I speak of the horses, those mighty fine creatures
Who once were thought noble, but then became features
Of countryside vistas—just lawn furnishings!
But the moment they tasted the Chocolate Weed
All of their tameness went out the window
And they stampeded into our preschools—!
I tell you all this, though it be graphic,
And risking that some might find cause to laugh at it:
The horses burst through walls, snatched up a child,
Then swallowed it whole, and were seen to smile
As they cleared the whole nursery—and in under a month
All of our babies had been taken up—
(Presumably into the heavenly climes.)
Our kind at first culled by infanticide,
Though tots did not their appetites stop—
Once the playgrounds were clear, on they galloped
From grade schools to trades schools, then universities
Slaughtering with bestial perversity
Every good student—and the truant ones too!
Who were sacked in the alleys, smoking their doobs.
Until mankind was a single body count—
(Except a contingent cloistered up on a mount.)
And the weeds had won—for the Vegans were slayed!
Though this left the gardenvegetables dismayed
For who would tend to them? Who would water their beds?
Plainly they could not rely on horses.
And so although civilization’s end came—
A lot more of this war’s chronicle still remains
For me to detail—but now I take leave
Signing off with The Song of the Chocolate Weed
Chocolate Weed, Chocolate Weed,
If you feel the need for speed
And you don’t want to go to seed
Chocolate Weed, Chocolate Weed
Chocolate Weed, Chocolate Weed
Chocolate Weed in your crepes
It provides a great escape
From the dizziness in your pate
Not to mention it tastes great
Eat it early, eat it late
Chocolate Weed, Chocolate Weed
It’s an all pro:ganic feed
If you’re smart, you will pay heed:
In pellet form it comes in beads
Boil and puree at the proper speed
Chocolate Weed for horses strength
It will calm you in your angst
We guarantee you will not faint
When you’re storming the enemy’s gates
You’ll remain at your optimal strength!
Chocolate Weed, Chocolate Weed,
If you feel the need for speed
And you don’t want to go to seed
Chocolate Weed, Chocolate Weed
Chocolate Weed, Chocolate Weed
Always, always, always a cliff for a poet. To fall or to fly from, as circumstances dictate. He saw in an instant that nothing passionate is wasted. He saw, after letting out his stories, words, and notes into the openair for otherears to overhear—opening eyes he saw no one or everyone looking at him, and whether or not they saw him or heard him didn’t matter, for the resonances that had been bungling around inside him—all that energy he sought to collect into verse—it had come out of him, and filled the house then, and he was groundless, for a moment, soaring and worriless too, with Natalia next to him, making little nimble touches against his arms and once or twice his chest, chattering out of him his yakking chatter, their banter glancing sparks off the surrounding walls, he feeling like there were no resistances anywhere, inside or out, this night; he was now simply air and light and skin soft against her softly skin, laughing, even as Persephone in a warning tone said “You kids watch yourselves,” as they two tromped out and down the back alleyway—that tone and warning only adding to this night bright with purpl orang lights suffused with the quivering vibrancy of this saintly wicked smooth young woman who followed him to his backyard where a dark moon shone down to drape their surfaces with delicious lunacy—so much grass and tumbling, blue flickers over every corner arcing from each end to where all endings meet—and it didn’t need to be this way, it didn’t have to become what it would become to him—this lightness, this freedom, this openness all bursting out of him and bearing down on him not as a violation but as a seal away from anywhere else but being here and here and here with her—his hands up and down her body, his lips over her every rounding edge—he saw she was an opening, a portal to a heaven he had never once felt or guessed at—and that was sinless in his sparkling eyes, it was without judgment or filled with the opposite of judgment as they continued to fall up stairs and then into his bedroom, through sheets with the star-shattering moon tracing graces to immerse him immensely in something other than his familiar worried gravity—and then perhaps twenty minutes of sleep wherein a fallen man clamored out an open grave, holding an object with infinite sides, or two, in hand, and when Tommy woke he was relieved to find their clothes still covering their two’s bodies.
She was staring at him with the slightest curve of expectation that matched up with his tremor of disappointment as she asked: “So, what now?”
He turned and pointed to the picture taped to the wall next to his pillow, of he and Lilly on the Merrimack River a year ago, and he said to her ‘Her.’
But it was his face he was looking at, not knowing how that one trialed boy had lead up to this new one, bright and full of freedom. A freedom that clashed, somehow, with the drawing sense of acquired debt, twisting just beyond the walls.
Cf. Matthew 5:27–28: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”
* The Recorder was working on something of his very own, which he could only take stabs at between services rendered to fellow Townsfolk by sending their maximally mentative adventures through his slate, to the Author he could sense on its other side.
This Author was in fact him, only, the Recorder was the version of the Author that was inside the story, who must have minimal interference with the story in order for the story not to shamble into the spirals of self-aware feedback such as he used to send the Sculptor back to his proper plot, arc, and fated amor.
The Recorder would have much rather been working on something totally other than the plodding successive paradoxes of the Townsfolk, and had awaited the Author’s waning interest in not only the Town but the tone of the Town—which did nothing but persist. And the Recorder was of a mind that this place sucked—it was entirely missing the point of fiction by concentrating not on play, but instead upon work. And though he couldn’t do much beyond what the Author directed him to do, the Recorder from time to time (in his imagination) dressed up the patrons of this “opposite-of-a-tavern,” and set them in another context—instead of this sluggish Town (which he agreed with the Composer was a perfect quagmire), the Recorder envisioned they were all in the City, with its diverging differences and divulged indulgences of nouveau riche and glim’ring starlets, pompous a-holes and scheming slum lords and the plentiful dispossessed, requesting cups of water which they emptied and then filled with gratis condiments.
Thus, between following the directives of the Author as the Author mined the Town for whatever the heck he was after, the Recorder dreamed of a work detached from this fiction’s obsession with Work, and composed for himself a Play overbursting with playfulness, puns, and scathing critiques of society. And it took him like very many years to get this far, for the Town (and subsequently the Recorder) only “ran” when the Author was writing about it—giving the Recorder very few mind-cycles within any given writing session to compute and generate this, his illicit underside show: