13 December 2017

Just a list of books I'm showing who's who

Dear diary,

This entry will be about finishing. A couple entries ago I wrote a sad post about how I can’t get thru any of the books that I’ve lately attempted to read – I get stuck halfway. Well that lamentation weighed on me; the act of articulating the problem caused me to register it deeply: I could now no longer brush it away; and this had a positive effect: it made me so ashamed of my inertia that I ended up making progress – in the last few days, I’ve made it to the end of most of the troublesome texts. (Tho, to be clear: I, the reader, was the problem; not they, the writings.)

First, we finished reading Ralph Waldo Emerson’s translation of Dante Alighieri’s La Vita Nuova (“New Life”) – by “we” I mean my sweetheart and me, for this is one of the books that we’re reading aloud daily – the Dante text was actually the last work in the collection: it comes after the “Manuscript Translations” section in the Library of America’s Collected Poems and Translations of Ralph Waldo Emerson – so after finishing R.W.E.’s version of Dante’s New Life, I immediately requested a copy of Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s translation of the same, which I’ve always wanted to read. The other English version of this that I own is Mark Musa’s. Goddamn I really need to learn Italian…

Wasn’t it Jorge Luis Borges? I thought it was Borges who said that he learned to read Dante’s Italian text by using a “literal” translation of the Divine Comedy which had an English prose rendition facing the Italian verse on every page: Borges simply read both the translation and then the original verse, and by doing so familiarized himself with Italian enough that, after navigating the Inferno and Purgatory, at the point in the poem where Virgil takes his leave of Dante the Pilgrim, Borges no longer needed the aid of the English – he was able to follow Dante through Paradise on his own. Am I remembering this wrong? It seems too painless to be true. Maybe Borges was lying.

Anyway, because I have nothing to do in this entry other than make a list of the books I’ve finished, I’ll try to give a quote from each, for the sake of theft. So here’s the very last section of La Vita Nuova, in Emerson’s translation; it interests me because, although it contains no verse, Dante offers an explanation of the impetus and intention of his upcoming work, the one that will follow his New Life, the Divine Comedy.

After this sonnet, appeared to me a wonderful vision, in which I saw things which made me determine to say no more of this Blessed one, until I could more worthily discourse of her; and to come at that, I study to the utmost, as she verily knows. So that, if it shall be the pleasure of Him to whom all things live, that my life should continue for some years, I hope to say of her that which was never said of any one; and then may it please him who is the Lord of courtesy, that my soul, if it be possible, may go to see the glory of Him who is blessed through all ages.

“I hope to say of her that which was never said of any one” – that’s my favorite line here.

Next I finished that book that, as I explained in that previous entry, my boss’s wife told me to read. I wish I could report some good news; I wish I could say that I learned a lot about what makes novels bestsellers, and about what makes them popular among the modern masses; but, I’m as confused as I always have been, about why MOST people apparently approve of this type of writing while despising all that I myself adore. (You will note that I have broken its spine in the obligatory image.)

The silver lining of that pop novel’s thundercloud was that it lured me to tackle a collection that I’d put down long ago. How did it do this? Well that highly recommended book reminded me of a grade-schooler’s story: amateurish, juvenile… so I said to myself, You’ll never be in a better state of mind to finish that collection called SLOW LEARNER: Early Stories by Thomas Pynchon, because your boss’s wife’s nameless bestseller felt like it was written by a kid in high school, and the three of five stories that you read from the Pynchon collection felt like college-kid exercises to you, so maybe the last two will seem brilliant, now that your expectations have been so drastically lowered. And I was correct: I zipped right thru the last two stores in the collection, with pleasure. So that’s another title to check off as finished. But the best part of Slow Learner is the author’s introduction, so I’ll give a quote from that. Pynchon is so guarded and hermetic in his personal life that it’s rare to get his own take on his own work. I chose this paragraph mainly because of my god-wrestling attitude towards Surrealism (see Genesis 32:22-32); I’m always eager to know what other poets think of the movement. But I also like what Pynchon says here, in general; and his quote from the son of Spike Jones also catches the interest of the part of my mind that fell in love with the sample-collage techniques of early rap music, which have a near-far relation not only to Jones but to certain members of the aforementioned artistic faction:

Another influence in “Under the Rose,” too recent for me then to abuse to the extent I have done since, is Surrealism. I had been taking one of those elective courses in Modern Art, and it was the Surrealists who’d really caught my attention. Having as yet virtually no access to my dream life, I missed the main point of the movement, and became fascinated instead with the simple idea that one could combine inside the same frame elements not normally found together to produce illogical and startling effects. What I had to learn later on was the necessity of managing this procedure with some degree of care and skill: any old combination of details will not do. Spike Jones, Jr., whose father’s orchestral recordings had a deep and indelible effect on me as a child, said once in an interview, “One of the things that people don’t realize about Dad’s kind of music is, when you replace a C-sharp with a gunshot, it has to be a C-sharp gunshot or it sounds awful.”

Also it’s interesting to me that, just as Dante’s New Life precedes his three-part masterpiece, The Divine Comedy, the early story that ends Pynchon’s collection (“The Secret Integration”) precedes what I consider the ramp of his own three masterpieces: The Crying of Lot 49. (The other two that I think are impossible to overpraise are Gravity’s Rainbow and my personal favorite Mason & Dixon.)

The next book that I finished was a collection of writings by André Breton, translated by Richard Seaver and Helen R. Lane, titled Manifestoes of Surrealism – although the book contains more texts than just the official manifestoes. I became interested in Surrealism when I was younger, just out of high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, so I began visiting the library and browsing. I thought I might find my calling in one of the books on the shelves. I was attracted to the art section – the oversized books, which contained illustrations of visual artists from the past and present. I had no method; I just grabbed whatever titles appealed to me and flipped thru their pages, and took them home if their pictures killed my inner suburbanite. This is how I discovered my favorite artists. I never was very interested in group labels, although I always wanted to know what they meant, what types of work they referred to, whenever I encountered them. Usually I would note a few well-loved artists among any list of any group’s members—Impressionism; Mannerism; Pop Art; etc.—but when I looked into what Surrealism encompassed, I was shocked to find that it held ALL my absolute favorites. Either the artists who appealed to me most were “official” Surrealists, or they were precursors to the movement, or somewhere just outside of the term’s borders. Breton then appeared on my radar, because people frequently referred to him as the ringmaster of Surrealism, its founder or pope. I don’t like the idea of authority, I don’t like gatekeepers; so this aspect of Breton didn’t appeal to me; but I learned to admire him for his daring (earlier) poetry, for his articulation of his ideas in the aforesaid manifestos, for his artistic taste, and for his disposition to never cease the mental fight. Compared to Breton’s, I’ve always found Tristan Tzara’s Dada Manifestos more thrilling, more rewarding in every way; just plain better; but, for some reason, Dada didn’t produce as many great artists or artworks; and there’s something DARK: a pitch black genius in Breton and in Surrealism which makes up for whatever it lacks of Tzara’s exuberance. …Anyway, here’s a quote from a lecture that Breton delivered in Prague, in March, on my birthday, in 1935, titled “Surrealist Situation of the Object”:

Perhaps the greatest danger threatening Surrealism today is the fact that because of its spread throughout the world, which was very sudden and rapid, the word found favor much faster than the idea and all sorts of more or less questionable creations tend to pin the Surrealist label on themselves […] To avoid such misunderstandings or render such vulgar abuses impossible in the future, it would be desirable for us to establish a very precise line of demarcation between what is Surrealist in its essence and what seeks to pass itself off as such for publicity or for other reasons. The ideal, obviously, would be for every authentic Surrealist object to have some distinctive outer sign so that it would be immediately recognizable; Man Ray thought it should be a sort of hallmark or seal. In the same way that, for example, the spectator can read on the screen the inscription “A Paramount Film” (leaving, in this case, the insufficient guarantee of quality that results from it out of the discussion), the amateur, who up to now has not been sufficiently forewarned, would discover on the poem, the book, the drawing, the canvas, the sculpture, the new construction before him a mark that would be inimitable and indelible, something like: “A Surrealist Object.”

I don’t think that this is a good idea, practically speaking. That’s why I love it. Also, on a side note, the artist that Breton refers to here, Man Ray, was born Emmanuel Radnitzky; I myself was born Bryan Ray, so whenever I use a pseudonym, I steal HIS last name cuz he stole MINE – I go by Tertius Radnitsky. The name Tertius comes from the biblical book of Romans (16:22) “I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you…” Now since my spiritual nemesis St. Paul dictated this book called Romans to his amanuensis, by using that same name Tertius I claim for myself the status of Holy Ghostwriter.

So, having finished two of the books in our stack of titles from which we daily read aloud, I got to choose two new titles to replace them. In place of Emerson’s collection, I chose The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake. I can never re-read William Blake enough. And in place of Breton, I chose a strange novel by Giorgio de Chirico, who is better known for his visual art, his paintings, but this text is sublime – it’s called Hebdomeros – I’ve read it once before and I loved it and wanted to get to know it better. The copy that I own has an excellent introduction by the poet John Ashbery – I’ll copy the first two paragraphs here, because, in light of what I’ve quoted above, it feels fitting.

Surrealism has probably been the most powerful single influence on the twentieth-century novel, yet it has produced few notable surrealist novels. André Breton’s Nadja, the official masterpiece, has aged badly and reads intermittently like a solemn put-on. Far better is the collection of short prose narratives called The Immaculate Conception, which he wrote with Paul Eluard. With this work and a few of Aragon’s pre-Communist novels, such as The Peasant of Paris and The Adventures of Telemachus, the list of major works of surrealist fiction is almost complete. The finest of them, however, is probably Hebdomeros, written by Giorgio de Chirico in 1929 and now at last available in English. It scarcely matters that de Chirico, both as a painter and a writer, was “not really” a surrealist. If this is true, then the term ought to be refined to include him and also to exclude a great deal of drivel that can qualify as surrealism under the famous “automatic writing” clause in Breton’s manifesto.
     Everyting about Hebdomeros is mysterious. De Chirico wrote it a decade after his genius as a painter had mysteriously evaporated. He wrote it in French, a language not his own, and he invented for the occasion a new style and a new kind of novel which he was not to use again, but which could be of great interest to writers today who are trying to extend the novel form. Yet except for a few short fragments, de Chirico wrote nothing else which can be called literature, and apparently he set little store by Hebdomeros. It remained unobtainable and all but unknown until 1964, when it was reissued in France.

It pains me to quote only from the introduction and not the work itself. There’s no excuse for this: it’s bad. But I must move on…

I didn’t tell you that, for months and months, off and on, whenever there’s time, we’ve also been reading The Complete Short Stories of D.H. Lawrence. We own a three-volume collection, which we found being sold DIRT CHEAP at a used book store. Lawrence, at his best, is one of my favorite writers – I love him as much as Whitman, Dickinson, Melville, Kafka, Emerson… Tho he’s written some lousy stuff, I don’t care about that – I only judge artists by their finest work; I ignore their failures. The best poems of Lawrence are my favorite poems; the best novels of Lawrence are my favorite novels (Sons and Lovers… The Rainbow… Women in Love…); he’s contributed to every form of text I know—personal letters; travel writing; even biblical criticism—and his short stories are amazing. More often than not, I end up in tears and must blubber my way thru the end of the piece (we read all these aloud too), on account of the way that he puts me inside of his characters: the reader truly becomes each individual... it is instant, automatic empathy... Lawrence possesses an uncanny ability to get right to the BEATING HEART of existence: the fire within… the passions of the soul… the DRIVES that make and break relationships… the inner workings of the human spirit… the holiest secrets of family and friendship. I cannot heap enough acclaim on these scriptures.

But I must skip giving a quote from Lawrence’s tales – the collection is far too rich; it’d take me forever to find the right excerpt for this entry; either that or I’d want to go on and on, quote quote quote, I’d never stop… So I thank you for letting me off the hook.

Lastly, I even managed to get through Gore Vidal’s Hollywood: A Novel of America in the 1920s. It arrived (again, for I re-requested it) at my local library a couple days ago, and I dedicated my weekend to the task and ended up finishing it in a few hours. I only had about the last fourth of the book to tackle, for I’d gotten thru most of it, the first time I checked it out, a few weeks ago, but then my time ran out and I had to return it. So now I can proceed with the series: I already ordered the next title in Vidal’s “Narratives of Empire,” which is the last of the volumes that I need to read, since I started with The Golden Age:, which is #7 of 7, and I liked it so much that I decided to begin at the beginning. Now the one I’m awaiting is Washington, D.C. – the first novel (of this particular group) that Vidal published, and chronologically (according to the overarching story of the books) it’s the sixth. I’m surprised I was attracted enough to undertake perusing the entire project. I like the first novel, Burr, the best. The “big picture” of the U.S.A. that I now hold in my mind is invaluable. The repetitions of deceptions by the rich against the poor, the shenanigans of politics in general, the always-corrupt press, the inescapable propaganda, money money money, the effective misuse of words like freedom, democracy, etc… wholesale corruption… the lies that our “leaders” broadcast repetitively, generation after generation, to get an inherently peaceful populace to accept war after war…

Everything that’s going on right this instant in politics has its twin moment somewhere in the near past – that’s what I gather. If only our nation had a memory. Elsewhere I’ve heard Vidal call us The United States of Amnesia. That famous line from Ecclesiastes is untrue for art but quite true for politics: There’s nothing new under the sun. ...Now here’s a brief excerpt from Hollywood – I purposely chose a part that’s NOT overtly about politics:

Ned was on a new regime which he called “English drinking.” This involved a first drink at about eleven in the morning and then, at regular intervals throughout the day, he would continue drinking. The result was, so far, satisfactory. Although he was never drunk he was also never sober, very much in the English manner…

Now, since Vidal’s book was something I was reading on my own (as opposed to aloud with my sweetheart), and since the next book in the series has yet to find its way to my local library branch, I needed a title to fill the time while I wait; so I chose to try, try again the novel Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. I first saw the 1984 film adaptation, directed by John Huston, which intrigued me enough to seek out the book it was based on. I got halfway thru the text before being halted in my progress and dragged away by reality (nothing too awful, but you know how life can distract you from the most important activities)… I’m starting over at the beginning, and I’m determined to stick with it this time. It won’t be hard: the text is topnotch. To contribute to the theme of that last Vidal quote above, here’s a quote from the very first chapter of Lowry’s masterwork:

Those boys were unprecedented, portentous walkers. They thought nothing of walking twenty-five or thirty miles in a day. But what seemed stranger still, considering none was above school age, they were also unprecedented, portentous drinkers. In a mere five-mile walk they would stop at as many “pubs” and drink a pint or two of powerful beer in each. Even the youngest, who had not turned fifteen, would get through his six pints in an afternoon. And if anyone was sick, so much the better for him. That made room for more. […] indeed the whole family drank inordinately. Old Taskerson, a kindly sharp man, had lost the only one of his sons who’d inherited any degree of literary talent; every night he sat brooding in his study with the door open, drinking hour after hour, his cats on his lap, his evening newspaper crackling distant disapproval of the other sons, who for their part sat drinking hour after hour in the dining room. Mrs. Taskerson, a different woman at home, where she perhaps felt less necessity of making a good impression, sat with her sons, her pretty face flushed, half disapproving too, but nevertheless cheerfully drinking everyone else under the table. It was true the boys usually had a head start.—Not that they were the sort ever to be seen staggering about outside in the street. It was a point of honour with them that, the drunker they became, the more sober they should appear. As a rule they walked fabulously upright, shoulders thrown back, eyes front, like guardsmen on duty, only, towards the end of the day, very very slowly, with that same “erect manly carriage” […] Even so it was by no means an unusual occurrence in the morning to discover the entire household sleeping on the dining-room floor. Yet no one seemed to feel any the worse for it...

*

So that’s the list of all my recent book-finishings. I feel like there were even more, but the specifics escape me… Oh wait, now I remember: We also finished the second of six Daybooks (titled Liber Illustrium Virorum) by the poet Geoffrey Hill. I forgot about that, because the text is published along with all the other books in the collection Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952–2012. The next title, which we’ll start tomorrow (that is, if it shall be the pleasure of Him to whom all things live, that my life should continue past this night), is called Oraclau | Oracles. That’s Daybook III. After we make it through IV, V, & VI, we’ll be done with Hill’s collection, which is a very thick book – more than 900 pages. And we will replenish that void with Elizabeth Bishop.

08 December 2017

Irk down

What to expect from the following entry:

I woke up a too early and thus had time to kill, so I decided to write in this weblog. Before writing, however, I looked over the last couple entries I posted this week. Two entries ago (Dec. 3) I wrote a post that I considered, even at the time I was writing it, to be boring and repetitive—it contains the same stuff that I’ve said elsewhere; so I was frustrated with my lack of creativity when I published it. This influenced the way that I wrote my next entry (Dec. 6) – I overcompensated: my attempt at appearing to be clever and flamboyant backfired, as it always does: the reader can tell when a blogger’s trying too hard. The best policy is always earnestness. So, this morning, when faced with the blank page, I knew that I wanted to write differently from my recent attempts, but I also knew that there’s no way I’d manage to achieve an honest style, let alone an earnest one, with two strikes against me already; so I let my over-soul advise my soul like so: “Just hop from thot to thot; let this entry embrace miscellany; & if you fall short, I’ll beset you with anxieties.” So I jotted down my musings for a while—specifically, to the point where I give the Wrong Cops quote below: all of that was composed quickly, according to my supervisor’s order, like a brain-bird flitting from branch to branch. Yet, then, when I opened up my royal purple laptop to key the entry (that is, to transfer my hand­written manuscript onto the screen), I noticed, in the folder where I store my indiscretions, that there was a recently saved file named “BAD END FROM PREV BLOG”; so I opened it and saw the (former) conclusion from yesterday’s post (Dec. 6) which got blotted from that entry because it felt dull. (I replaced it with the ending that is there now: the one where I lament that Edward Hopper never painted me on a ladder installing weatherstripping & illuminated by our local mail truck; for Hopper’s depictions of humans are usually a little off, if you know what I mean: thus maybe he could’ve improved my natural whatness.) So, after the movie quote, I inserted that old previously slain paragraph: it’s the one that starts “But we still haven’t finished replacing the border…” However, I didn’t really like it as an ending here, either. So I thot: Maybe I’ll just write a couple more text blobs and end this thing without method. Because, ever since last night, when our neighbors’ car was idling and revving and leaving and returning VERY LOUDLY, I’d been annoyed and wanted to address this public nuisance; and my state of being in need of a weblog sendoff provided a motive to voice my complaint. But, when I began trying to articulate my frustration, wholly unsummoned, my Genesis-tick kicked in: I couldn’t stop referring to that early story with Adam and Eve and Yahweh. As I think I eventually explained, it’s because the commotion from automobiles reminds me of the fact that people are hustling to make a U.S buck so as to support their families (such beautiful families), and that means not just parents but children and pets; thus Genesis comes to mind because that’s where all the trouble started: the first parents, the first child, the entire animal kingdom. I do believe I clarified all this below, in the place where I deal with these subjects; so I don’t know why I’m telling you this right now, up front, at the top; unless I am harboring a secret desire, unbeknownst even to myself, to heap words here till they outdo the Tower of Babel. (By the way, I hope, in giving all these sneak peaks and previews of today’s post before it begins, that I didn’t spoil anything.) To be clear, that last part, which conflates those early biblical passages with exasperation about working families and transport, starts with the sentence “Let me change the subject.” And now I have reached my final disclaimer: For the sake of variety, I was moved to start the following composition differently than by using the standard “Dear diary”; I wanted something more formal-sounding, maybe even a bit tyrannical; so I wrote “My dearly esteemed colleagues,” but that wasn’t enough: I needed something lengthier and borderline obnoxious; so I performed a search online and almost instantly saw a phrase that I liked, but it happened to come from Vladimir Putin’s speech to a committee presenting “the bid of Sochi to host the Olympic Winter Games in 2014,” and my writing has nothing to do with that topic – at least I don’t think it does. So I tried deleting the O-word, and messing with a couple permutations; but, in the end, I liked the original wording so much that I stole it outright: Who cares if it makes sense. OK, that’s all. Thank you for listening. Now, on to our feature presentation…


Esteemed colleagues and members of the international
Olympic Committee,

What the masses call sanity is simply insanity that’s unobtrusive. That was my awaking-thot this morning.

We’re all called to be Christ, aren’t we? I mean, to suffer ignominy in this world. But the difference is that Christ got some biographies written about him; he got some religions built up around him, some theological flora… What do WE get? A paycheck? Not even a paycheck.

I have all the answers, but I’m cursed with obscurity, so it doesn’t even matter if I can solve all the problems of our political moment: because nobody hears me. I mean, a happy few hear me; but the rest of the norms—especially the movers and the shakers—think I’m a candle in sunshine. Yet the key word here is “assume”; or now I see I wrote think; for I am NOT a candle-in-sunshine: I’m a new type of fire. You can tell because the sun is gold; and my flame is lime green.

Sure, you could call it toxic green as well. Radioactive green. Not that I’m for atomic weaponry: contrariwise, there’s no one more opposed to war than I am; all I want for Christmas is nuclear disarmament. But I’m green because I represent life: the continuum that looks at leaves of grass and says “I can be that” yet also sees a ruined world, contaminated by fallout from H-bombs, and says “I can be that.”

A haunting feeling of déjà vu imbues the above words, for me, like a spice. I’ve just spent the last few minutes lost in thot, trying to puzzle out its source; and now I think I’ve found it: A few years ago, I made peace with modernity’s noxiousness by channeling Whitman in one of my books. First, here’s Walt:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

You will hardly know who I am or what I mean,
But I shall be good health to you nevertheless...

That’s from near the end of “Song of Myself.” And this’s from near the end of my “Introduction to New America”:

. . . I want to augment an aspect of my former message—or maybe instead of ‘augment’ I should say ‘emphasize,’ because I don’t believe I’m exactly augmenting anything; I think that what I want to say is implied in the original wording—it’s just a minor concern: Not under your bootsoles but within the materials that comprise them is where you should look for me (or rather in both places)—to be clear, I mean to indicate the bootsoles’ ingredients (I am assuming that your soles are synthetic, that is, ‘unnatural’)—for, at present, I am toxic: I am nuclear waste. Yet, as the sauroids of yesteryear became you, you will in turn become your own monstrous successors. All the same, therefore, I will “remain good health to you.”

So now that this poison is out of my system, I wonder: Did I have any other awaking-thots this morning? Yes I did. Here’s the next thot that stood up and sang, after the above...

Think of the ocean: What is behind it? There is no “backstage” to the ocean, because it’s not a sheet of paper that you can lift with your hands and flip over. I find myself wondering: What’s behind me – what’s going on, on the far side of self, of mere being? And then I remember that my soul is like the ocean: it’s all around, every which way; all obverse, no reverse; there’s nothing behind it.

Yet why do I want to go backstage in physicality? It’s because WHAT IS is too far gone. The things that are shouldn’t be the way they are; other things should have happened; and I’m trying to get to the bottom of the problem. I assume the Real Me knows the answer. I’m thinking about some more lines from Song of Myself:

(From here on, I’ll avoid stopping to tell you when a new thot comes. I’ll just let the thots flow from one to the next, without warning.)

The conflicts between countries can be solved the same way as the conflicts between people. That’s not because countries ARE people, but they consist of people, and therefore they contain all sorts of echoes and refractions of people’s ways of being.

I always wonder: What fixes one to one’s molecules? What locks one to precisely this consciousness? Because I assume that we all feel as I do, that we have one single mind, when we think, as opposed to many minds to choose from. But if the mind is a blossom of the body, and the body is an admixture of atoms, then why cannot our mind retrieve memories of its prior atomic adventures? Perhaps it can. Perhaps that’s what imagination IS. But I’d like to go beyond that, even. I’d like to be able to select which mind I’m going to think from this morning. I’d like to perceive the world from the brain of the President.

But if I were to successfully “hack into” this other man’s mind, what would be left of myself, of this “I” that’s now enthroned within the Prez Head? If we imagine me as a teenage girl sitting in front of my desktop monitor, we can answer that the Royal Palace’s computer is still in the billiards room, with the President sitting before it, and the essence that has undergone the actual infiltration is the electron. Or I should say electrons, plural; because it takes more than one single electron to repossess the President. It takes a village. Also maybe I’m using the wrong word: Should it be photon? Who does all the work, on the subatomic level, when it comes to consciousness? (And when I say work I mean dirty work.) All I know is that we are all offspring of lightning.

You see? I can’t get too far into the scientific side of this issue – it bogs me down. I need to remember the wisdom of Officer Duke, from the film Wrong Cops (2013), which we memorized in Sunday School:

Don’t piss around with all your technical crap, just play the song.

But we still haven’t finished replacing the border line of our small bedroom. We tore off the gypsum panels (which term I was told is a fair substitute for sheet rock – I just mean we destroyed the interior portion of our outside-facing wall), leaving the bare cinder blocks exposed, which leak water when it rains so it appears that the wall is weeping. This is not a miracle, so I am not worried that Christ shall soon return to cause mass mayhem. But I AM worried that, since, at all hours, we keep the entrance to this construction zone closed and its vents blocked up (to prevent its air, which I assume is befouled with mold and rot, from circulating into the rest of the house) (& if the gentle reader is wondering where we sleep while our bedroom is suffering such a “repair,” the answer is: upstairs, on the light-gray klik-klak), this room will grow so cold during the winter that its pipes will burst. In short, the note that I found in last evening’s fortune cookie speaks the truth: “You will soon be living the dream!” For by “dream” it means nightmare.

Let me change the subject. That last paragraph is the point in this composition where inspiration abandons me. I’m only kidding, of course, for this entry was uninspired from its inception, but there’s a feeling of luckiness having left. Yet I’m determined to continue. So now I will harp on modern families:

I don’t know a thing about modern families, but I have to live near them; so the perspective that you’ll get from my harping is one of an outsider. But it’s good to receive criticism and feedback from aliens, especially unsympathetic arbitrators, because otherwise you might get too close to the masterpiece you’re building and accidentally seal yourself inside. That’s why the LORD was careful to remain strictly on the outskirts of his mud man, while fashioning him; and only when the form was finished did the LORD deign to breathe himself in thru the statue’s nostrils—yet not the whole of himself; only a part. For as it is written (in Shelley’s Epipsychidion), “True Love in this differs from gold and clay, / That to divide is not to take away”; and God is much more like gold and clay than love.

The LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. [Genesis 2:7]

And we all know, for Duchamp taught us well, that art is just an addiction like any other; so after God sketches his first study, he begins again, fleshing out his ideas on a subsequent piece, which he derives from elements of the first, making amendments toward perfection.

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Man, and he slept: and he took one of his curves, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; and the curve, which the LORD God had taken from Man, made he a Woman, and brought her unto the man. [2:21-22]

I fancy how one artwork titles another:

Man said, This is now flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. [2:23]

But I’ve fallen into my old obsession again – I only meant to comment on the wild and woolly child-rearing that I’m forced to witness daily in my neighborhood. Lamenting children leads me to bewail parents; and considering their acts as problematic made me wonder where the problem began, so I traced the entire human experiment back to its first couple. They were childless at the starting line. The kids appear only after the fall. Original sin. The initial transgression. Set the precedent. (“Any assault on the borders of perception is going to seem rash at first.” —That’s from DeLillo’s Cosmopolis.) But I do not call it a “fall” or “sin” or “transgression” – in fact, I don’t even know what we’re talking about: is it an act that we’re trying to label, like when a traveler aiming to visit Tahiti ends up in Tehran; OR is it like an event, which has no known individual culprit, like a volcano eruption that inundates the globe?

The last verse of chapter three says:

So the LORD God drove out Man; and he placed at the east of paradise Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to block the way of the Tree of Life.

Then the very first verse of the next chapter says:

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said: I have gotten a man from Yahweh [the LORD].

I’m staying on track, don’t worry; my intent is not to quote the whole rest of the book of Genesis, chapter by chapter and verse by verse. My focus is children: Where do they come from? (Not “How are they made”—I explained that in yesterday’s entry, which my sweetheart tells me I should have given the title Stripped and Screwed, but rather “What was their origin?”) God kicks out the original humans from his Heaven-on-Earth, and the first thing these humans do is copulate. Eve bares Cain, the first-ever infant borne via humans. Or maybe I should say: borne via human, singular, as the scripture hints at the possibility that Cain is a hybrid. For what’s his mother’s take on the event: does she declare “I have brought forth a beautiful baby boy from my own husband Adam”?—NO! instead, Eve shrieks: “I have gotten a man from Yahweh.”

Does this mean that Eve was impregnated back in paradise, by the Almighty himself? (Then Jesus wasn’t the very first “virgin birth”!) The timeline works out—Cain was born roughly 8½ months after the land-LORD personally evicted our ancestors…

But now I really am getting off-track. We don’t need to re-litigate our Heavenly Father’s paternity suit. What we need to do today is examine the parenting techniques of Minnesota residents. Here is what we find. Genesis 2:24. A child leaves its parents, and cleaves unto the nearest spouse it can find: and they become one flesh. A new Cain is born unto them. The first Cain was male; so what. This new Cain is female. Now our married couple buys a house in Eagan, Minnesota, where they live with their child.

Soon—give it two years, say—this couple “knows” each other again, and Cain 2 is produced. It’s like a vending machine: after inserting your coin, you pull the plunger mechanism, and a babe is dispensed. Simply reach in and retrieve it with your arm—that metal delivery door swings open, giving you access to the take-out port. Do not bother trying to hunt about upward in the display chamber: future treasures are off-limits. Remember the angel thugs and their ever-turning sword? They’ve installed a security baffle.

Cain 1 and Cain 2: both girls. What can you do to raise your kids right? You have to work. Get a job. Become gainfully employed. Join the ranks of the labor force. Sell yourself: offer for sale your time, your body, your talents.

If your wages are low, you’ll note that your family is hungry, because you have not purchased them food. Why not grow your own food, in a garden? Food comes from the dirt, and dirt is free. But good dirt is not free. Your soil is contaminated. Don’t you remember where I said above that I am the toxic flame, the green one to take the place of the sun that was once yellow and is now orange? That’s cuz the big U.S. corporations poured their industrial waste all over your land. You wouldn’t think a relatively affluent place like Eagan, Minnesota would fall victim to this type of misbehavior. But the free market spurs innovations.

I don’t want this to be too depressing, so let’s say that Cain 1 & 2 avoid getting any debilitating illnesses. I mean, they steer clear of these things when they’re young. For doom will catch up to us all, sooner or later; but it’s too much, it should be against the rules for children to suffer cancer. But that’s the world we live in. Yahweh made it. Jesus tried to stop him, but he got demoted. That’s how he got the nickname Lucifer. Then Lucifer followed in the steps of his brother Prometheus (or was it the other way round?) and earned the title Satan; then eventually ended up…

We all know how that story goes. The point is that Man is working two jobs while Woman cares for the Cain girls (I’m not advocating this setup as the ideal—I’m only reporting on what I see my neighbors doing), and the double-job situation requires a lot of driving around; and by “driving” I don’t mean horse-and-buggy, the charming wooden wheels, the satisfying clip-clop of the hooves, and the eye-blinders that save the horse from perceiving the constant peril that he’s in—that his employer puts him in (for the coachman is his LORD and those blinders are the awesome “Thou Shalt Not!”) …I say, with regard to my neighbors, when I speak of “driving,” I mean a gasoline-powered vehicle, a chariot with a combustion engine, NOT a donkey. This is an important clarification, because only the former possesses an exhaust manifold.

Now you drive on the Minnesota roads all winter, which are heavily salted (this process supposedly melts the snow from the pavement, thus making travel safer). The salt infests the slush that flings up onto your exhaust manifold during travel, causing rust to form. Soon the rust eats a hole in your tailpipe and muffler.

But what is a muffler? Many non-US English speaking countries call it a silencer. But I think of a silencer as an accessory device that is attached to the muzzle of a firearm to reduce the noise signature. On an automobile, a muffler is a device for decreasing the amount of noise emitted by the exhaust of an internal combustion engine. The point is the same, in either case: DAMPEN THE CLAMOR. Now if you’re working three or more jobs, you’re driving incessantly; thus you’re on the salty Minnesota roads enough to assure that your vehicle’s silencer will corrode. And when we multiply this effect by the number of fellow earthlings who share the neighborhood, what’s the result? Everyone who is struggling to put food on the table, so as to raise their Cains, is going to be driving longer hours in very noisy vehicles. If you place a sound-recording device next to a beehive, and then play back the noise at a greatly reduced rate, so that the audio sample of the buzzing is slowed down yet still deafening, you’ll get an accurate notion of how my neighborhood sounds at all hours. Because nobody can afford to fix their muffler.

The only moments of peace that I am allotted are between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. – never has any racket disgraced that interval. I wonder why. Perhaps there’s something intrinsic to nature, from which not even my neighbors can escape: a bent that transcends taxonomy and makes siblings of disparates, which moves all humans to observe the traditional naptime of tree sparrows. It’s my understanding that not even Science Himself knows exactly when that species sleeps, if ever.

P.S.

Don’t forget to ogle all my rap cassettes at Bandcamp and YouTube.

06 December 2017

Standard report on a muffed repair

Dear diary,

We knew that yesterday was going to be the last warm day here for a while. By “warm” I mean above the point where water freezes. (I live in MN.) So we decided to go outside, to enjoy one final look at the things that exist. But the problem was that the forecast said it might rain. By “it” I mean the welkin. This meant that we could not ride our bikes. (It’s bad to ride a bike in the rain, because the chain gets rusty.) (The bike’s chain, not the rain’s. The rain’s chain never rusts.) So we fired up our motor-coach and drove to a faraway park that we’d never seen before. The place was gorgeous.

That’s all I have to say about our morning. It was uneventful, which means it was good.

There was only one other human at the vast, beautiful park. He was roller-blading around the car lot in circles. He didn’t acknowledge us. He was wearing sunshades. He kept his hands bolt forward as he coasted, as if he were in a warehouse where the electricity just got cut, so the lights went out, and nobody can see where they’re skating, so there’s a pileup at the roller derby. And at one point I saw the fellow jut both arms up in the air, as if he’d won the race. So who knows what was going on in that guy’s mind.

Then we got home and ate lunch. We had our standard: we eat the same meal every single day: boiled potatoes and a salad made from spinach leaves.

After lunch, the weather was still very nice. By “very nice” I mean passable. It was raining, but the temp was still warm. Yet to go on another walk did not appeal to us. Then I saw, out of the corner of my eye, in a newspaper ad, a photo of a huge stack of ugly supplies for home repairs, which reminded me of one of our many unfinished projects. So I said to my sweetheart:

“Why don’t we install that weather flashing, or whatever it’s called—those strips of vinyl that flap around the sides of the garage door? For winter is coming, and this way we can keep the mice out in the cold where they belong; I’m tired of them nesting on our property, they’re like Wall-Street protesters who think they actually deserve to share the same planet with us one-percenters; in fact, those rodents don’t even possess a soul: they’re like fish or cows or chickens, created by GOD for the purpose of being ruled by corporate lobbyists. Moreover, the weather forecast says it’ll freeze tomorrow; so it’ll be pleasanter to do that job this afternoon.”

And I was both right and wrong, regarding that last sentence: it’ll freeze tomorrow; so it’ll be pleasanter, etc. I was right, in that the welkin did indeed freeze. (For I am writing this on the morning after the described event. Therefore, spoiler alert, I did not die.) But I was wrong, in that the job was not very pleasant.

Everything about installing garage door weatherstripping is easy, except the part where your sweetheart purchases the wrong screws. That’s my thesis statement. Now I’ll provide some definitions and background, and then I’ll flesh out the argument:

First, why even embark upon a journey into the unknown? Because weatherstripping will keep your garage’s contents safe from the elements by providing a tight seal around its threshold: as any pamphleteer will tell you, it is “designed specifically for preventing dust, debris, and pests from getting in. Or human protestors, if you’re a billionaire living in an Age of Inequality… ancient Egypt; Belle Époque France; modern Earth… By the way, on eastern Long Island’s South Fork there is a string of seaside communities known as the Hamptons. I suggest you move there. For there are only two types of people in this life: those who move to the Hamptons, or those who storm it with pitchforks. It is the perfect destination for affluent New York City residents. And by ‘New York City residents’ I mean any corporate oligarch, domestic or foreign; especially the brutal dictators of the free world, known as ‘democratically elected leaders’.”

So, being sold on the idea of replacing our old, worn, frayed, ragged, tatty stripping with fresh stuff, I asked my sweetheart to stop and pick up supplies on her way home from music teaching: We needed one strip for the top of the garage and two for the sides; and plus some sort of fasteners so as to fasten them. My true love came home with three long strips of white vinyl, and a box of screws. I looked over the purchase and said, “The strips look great; but these screws are for inside jobs, we need exterior fasteners (maybe nails?); plus there’s not enough—there’s only 33 and we need 41.” (Coincidentally the same words uttered by our Heavenly Father in preparation for the crucifixion, yet with those last two numbers referring to years of life.) But my sweetheart assured me that the guy at the store, let’s call him Peter—better yet, Saint Peter—assured her that these were the very best fasteners for the task. So I said OK, and we began:

First we measured the old wooden boards that were there already; and we transferred these measurements to the new vinyl, marking its precious white surface with our greasy pencil. Then we cut into the flesh of the vinyl with our utility knife, following the markings we had made. Next we pried away from the garage frame all the old wooden boards that had elastic rubbery flaps nailed onto them: this ugly amalgamation would be replaced by our single vinyl mold. Finally we hoisted the first long plank of new stripping over the top of the frame, and fed the first screw halfway…

But the screw became stripped.

Now here is why I usually try to avoid recounting the true episodes of my day and prefer to stick to philosophizing, daydreaming, offering metaphysical speculations, introspective analyses — I’d rather share the THOGHTS that I’m enjoying than explain the actual FIASCOES that I endure: Because I’m in control of my…

No, I only derailed here because I’m annoyed at having to articulate the difference between the two types of stripping: weather stripping and screw stripping (there are no other forms). The “strip” aspect of the vinyl planks that I’m talking about refers to their long, slender quality: like a strip of birch bark or flannel fabric, or a strip of flesh ripped from Christ’s bare back by the whip of the Father. Whereas the “strip” aspect of a screw refers to it losing its grooves: At birth, a screw possesses something like a plus sign (“+”) on top of its head, like the Tau (or “mark”) from Ezekiel 9:4 “And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof,” or like the sign of the cross, which is a torture device that the Heavenly Father employed to murder his Son (the aforementioned Christ); now this plus sign (“+”) is branded upon the brain-case of the screw, so that a driver with the same shape to its blade (the opposite side of the shank from the handle) may fit inside of the grooves. The tool’s male end fills the void of the female plus, and torque is applied. This act is called screwing.

But if the tip of the tool moves too fast with not enough pressure, it can slip from out of the socket and scrape the walls of the void while it spins, thus eating away at its border until the plus (“+”) becomes an oh (“o”): now there is nothing for the screwdriver to grip.

So here we are, standing outside our garage, and all our neighbors are staring and laughing at us, because there’s this long white strip of vinyl hanging down from the top corner of our entryway, and it’s held by one thin screw—an interior screw, mind you: petite and eminently strippable—the first we tried to fasten. Our predicament resembles that fun parlor game for children called “Pin the Tail on the Donkey,” with our long white dangling vinyl strip as the tail, and our garage as the ass.

Your childhood friend throws a birthday party at his house. On the wall is pasted a picture of a tail-less donkey, also known as a burro, or (in the King James Bible’s nomenclature) an ass. (I used this latter term above, to avoid saying donkey twice in a row: “a domesticated hoofed mammal of the horse family with long ears and a braying call, used as a beast of burden”: jackass, jenny; mule, hinny… Also “a stupid or foolish person”—but that’s alternative, informal…) Each individual attendee, in turn, is handed a shock of hair with a pin at one end, and informed that “Your only purpose in life is to try to fasten this tail to the rump of the beast in the picture.” Then the adult of the house, who is serving as the party’s impresario—in this case, the birthday boy’s mother—blindfolds the contestant and spins him around in a circle, so as to disorient her victim. While stumbling drunkenly about with tail-pin extended, the challenge for this newly sightless vagrant is to avoid stabbing the eyes of…

Long joke. Wrong move. Keep focused: You were telling about your difficulty in unscrewing the stripped screw from the stripping. Remember? The very first fastener that you tried to affix malfunctioned halfway. Just like all those books that you keep trying to read: you listed them in your last entry: you said that you can’t manage to get to the end of any of them, for your spirits have fallen; books no longer appeal to you now as they did in your youth – back then, you could rip through a 9,000-page novel in just an evening: you would read for sixty hours at a stretch… but now it feels like: “What’s the point?” —& YET: When did I start caring about life having a point? This is a pataphysician’s true nadir: to look for a POINT in existence. Recall those lines from Stevens: The bird sings. Its feathers shine...

But the thing that bothered me so much about this impasse (I mean the part of the storybook that depicts my sweetheart and me posing like dopes in front of our garage with this comically long, conspicuously bright white vinyl strip flopping roof-to-ground from our non-removable screw) is that it was not my fault, but the whole thing LOOKED like it was my fault. Additionally, just minutes after the error occurred, our neighbor’s garage, which is so near to ours that it shares the same fascia, lifted mechanically, as its automatic opener had been triggered by remote control, and our neighbor soon rolled forth in his silver truck and pulled in and parked; then he got out and said, “What’s up!” and we cast our troubles at his feet, weeping; and he said, “I’ll be right back.” —Now, what struck my ear is that our neighbor delivered that last phrase exactly as Officer Duke says it in the film Wrong Cops (2013) after Officer Rough plays his new track and Duke pans it and Rough disagrees and says he’ll seek a second opinion. The humor of this scene, when you watch it for the hundred thousandth time, is that you realize, after Duke labors himself up off the sofa and tells Rough to expect his return, that he intends to fetch from his police car’s trunk the dying man whom earlier he “shot by accident”—for Duke’s notion of an adequate appraiser for Rough’s new song is this half-conscious fellow, who, when Duke popped his trunk earlier that day intending to “throw the body in the river,” instead of proving dead, proved still alive, and this breathing-yet-terminally-injured citizen asserted sincerely, upon beholding Officer Duke when the car’s trunk opened, that he not only heard but really liked the music that Duke was playing on the radio of his police vehicle. (The insinuation is that therefore this dying man must have pretty good taste.)

Now my neighbor (not the dying man from Wrong Cops but the guy who lives next-door to me) returns and offers me this fantastic metal contraption, which he explains is some sort of portable vice clamp. I didn’t know how to use it, so I fumbled with it when he handed it to me; but my neighbor kindly and patiently gave me instructions, and I caught on quick; but in my nervousness, after clamping the vice to the head of the bald-stripped screw, I turned it the wrong way; so my neighbor had to remind me “Righty tighty, lefty loosey.” This has nothing to do with our political leanings, left-wing right-wing. Tho, on second thot, it could illuminate all the secrets of the Class War as well. But it’s gist is: if gazing down on a screw from Jehovah’s perspective—that is, from on high—so that you are looking at the screw’s head and not at its side, if you turn it RIGHT it gets TIGHT (meaning clockwise, as opposed to counterclockwise) whereas turning left will make it loose. As it is written:

Damn, braces: Bless relaxes.

That’s from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake. But this last proverb has little to do with physical tool-work; it’s more about how we screw each other by being religious bigots.

So the vice clamp did the trick. And we decided to drill holes before trying to affix the new screws. I call these screws “new” because we set aside the interior dainty ones that didn’t work: we decided to use exterior screws made specially for outdoor applications. Sturdy, galvanized, rust-proof.

So by the time we got back from making an emergency screw-run at the old Mega Mall (which is what we native Minnesotans call the Mall of America, which is the largest shopping center in the northern universe), it was dark out. The welkin had closed. Or rather the sun had said fuck this. So we had a dilemma: Do we finish the installation now, when it’s pitch black outside, amid the murderers thieves pimps zombies & rapists who lurk all night outside our abode? OR should we wait until morning to finish the job, when it’ll be bright, as the sun will have once again shouted its gut-felt farewell to the other side of the earth...

“However,” my neighbor was still standing outside while we were deliberating about this, so he offered his council, “it’s sixty degrees right now—practically balmy for this region—and tomorrow will be freezing: I heard low teens.”

Low teens: he was right. It’s twelve degrees now, as I compose this. It’s the morning after. All these measurements are Fahrenheit, by the way (I hope you didn’t think I meant sixty Montague, or twelve degrees Capulet). But now I realize that twelve is not a low teen: it’s one step below THAT: it’s even sub-low teen: for thirteen’s the lowest teen possible. There’s only seven teens, total: nineteen’s the last. So twelve no more belongs to the teens than twenty.

Anyway, we kept on working into the night: we finished the job, and we didn’t get killed. But our neighbors—not the wise handyman above, but the family that lives on the other side of us: to our right, if we’re standing and facing our garage’s new stripping—I say, our other neighbors have more children than Father Abraham, so they get tons of Christmas gifts delivered to their house via different delivery services, all day long—they even left a big sign out in their yard: “Leave all packages inside the gate, thank you!”—so while we were toiling in the murky dark attaching the vinyl to our garage, the mailman pulls up in his familiar boxy white government mail truck, and parks right in front of us, in our driveway, because our neighbors’ cars were blocking their part of the drive, and the mail truck’s headlights blasted us like floodlights: like a spotlight on two criminals escaping from jail. At that instant, I was poised on a wooden ladder, which was designed for use by painters NOT weatherstripping installers, so I’m sure I appeared suspicious; and the cordless drill that I was using as a power-screwdriver looked just like a pistol in my hand.

I wish Edward Hopper could’ve painted us, in that precise moment. But I suppose our tableau contained too much Action and Suspense! to fit among his customary subjects... I live an exciting life.

03 December 2017

How not to go on, & some reactions to a foeblog

(Image: John H. Sammis wrote the Christian hymn Trust and Obey, and goods can be exchanged for U.S. dollars.)

Dear diary,

We just got back from biking around 1.3 parks. Why the fraction? Because the atmosphere at the first park smelled like rotten fish, pig manure and burning plastic. So we aborted our trip when only three tenths of the way thru; then rode to a different park where the air smelled normal. And by normal I mean car exhaust and burning frankfurters.

But enough about my day. I aim to write something here that proceeds along the thought-lines from my last couple entries: the ones that I posted surrounding the holiday...

Yet, now that I have looked back and re-read those entries, I don’t know how to continue. At the time I was composing them, I remember thinking that I’d keep traveling in the same direction the next time I add to this diary; yet now here I am, confused. I can’t grasp what I was doing in those prior writings – my intention was to unveil more of my soul, to tell about my inner self, to make my private self more public… but I guess I’m too scared to do this clearly and directly; because the resultant entries read like…

My self-exploration is not simple and straightforward as I want it to be. I hope to return, and to keep returning, to the same idea – soul-bearing – because I think it’s worth it; but, for now, I’ll let my exhausted self write a plain entry about nothing in particular...

Where should I begin?

Books are a large part of my life, so it’s always easy to start with what I’m reading. But I’m not even reading any books right now. I mean, I got halfway thru Gore Vidal’s Hollywood and had to return it to the library; so I need to request it again and finish it. (It’s an interlibrary loan, so the process takes longer. Why do they not carry Vidal’s “Narratives of Empire” in any of my local library branches?) And, even tho I own a copy of Against the Day by Thomas Pynchon, I’m still stuck halfway thru it. And Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano – I’m stuck there too. Only Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov is allowing me passage, but that’s because I’m reading it aloud daily with my sweetheart. And, for the same reason, we’re coasting through the The Daybooks of Geoffrey Hill, at the very end of his collection Broken Hierarchies: Poems 1952-2012. And the small collection of Breton’s writings, as well as Emerson’s translation of Dante’s New Life. All these I’ve listed recently, but I have to give them again because I’m so slow. I wasn’t always this slow. But my ambition wanes and progress is halting because I’m sad at midlife. The world of books seems inconsequential. I know that it is of highest consequence truly, but at this time in my life it SEEMS inconsequential. And an additional obstacle is that my boss’s wife handed me a copy of a novel by one of our era’s most popular, best-selling authors and said: “Read this.” Even tho his works are lauded by the multitudes and have been adapted into countless movies and TV shows, I’ve never read this guy before. (The reason I’m neglecting to name him is that he doesn’t deserve to be remembered alongside the others I’ve mentioned, when futurity canonizes every last jot of my quill.) But I’m undertaking the challenge, not just because I was ordered to do so by Missus D.; I also see it as a perfect opportunity for me to learn about the attraction of this type of thing. And I wish I could report my findings, beyond being predictably underwhelmed, but the truth is that, again, I’m stuck halfway.

But a casual-yet-scholarly weblog that I happened on thirteen weeks ago, which also shall remain nameless, keeps capturing my interest: it is written by a professional book-reviewer whose opinions differ from mine on almost all artists. This is good. It’s healthy for me to realize that intelligent, learned, well-read, eloquent individuals can gainsay my divine judgment regarding aesthetics. I seriously assumed, before looking into this fellow’s online offerings, that everyone would agree with my stance if they only were informed. I mean: if anyone would deign to open her heart to the writing of, for instance, William Blake, it would be impossible for her not to apprehend that the farthest-reaching wisdom is contained therein. But I guess that it takes genius to recognize genius. For this pro reviewer labels Blake “a nutcase.” This is an easy attitude that I find harmful:

When faced with strangeness, one has at least a couple choices. One can slow down to wander with one’s concentration, to discern what treasures might be found in this new domain; OR one can give in to one’s impatience and just dismiss anything alien with the label insane. In one post, the aforesaid reviewer quotes another reviewer’s review (Eric Ormsby, “Songs of Innocence and Experience”; New York Sun, 28 Nov 2007) – after mentioning Wordsworth’s…

[Just now, my sweetheart walked in the door after returning from dining with friends at a restaurant, and she brought me my favorite sandwich from the local sandwich shop—a magic sandwich with magic ingredients—so this improved my mood tenfold!]

What I’m trying to relay here is that this blogger, whose posts I’ve come to follow on account of his hatred of my favorites, quoted the above-mentioned newspaper article, where William Wordsworth in turn is said to have said that Blake’s “insanity” is more interesting than the “sanity” of other bigshot poets (whoa, had to fix a typo: “bigshit poets” – ha, Freudian slip); then the reviewer himself later adds his own opinion: “perhaps the most impressive aspect of Blake’s greatness is that, for all his newfound respectability, he still seems as crazy as ever.”

So all this moves me to underscore yet again, for the seven and seventy-seventh time, Blake’s words from the introduction to his “Proverbs of Hell” section in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell:

…I was walking among the fires of hell, delighted with the enjoyments of Genius; which to Angels look like torment and insanity…

And, one last thing: On clicking thru the link that the blogger’s post provided to the newspaper review, I found the following sentence directly after the one that the first reviewer quoted:

Of course, only “thin partitions” separate the madman from the visionary, the crackpot from the prophet.

THIS moves me to retort that NOTHING separates the madman from the visionary, the crackpot from the prophet: ALL are ONE. Or rather, any difference is in the quality of their creations; but their essence is the same. So: we call someone a crackpot-madman instead of a poet-visionary, for the same reason that we differentiate between “good” poets and “bad” poets (one who writes a lousy poem is still a poet: we do not say that a failed effort, or even multiple failed efforts, render a soul no longer a poet but a scientist). Recall again Oscar Wilde’s famous aphorism:

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

...& there’s no partition separating one type of soul from another, causing one to end up a madman and another a visionary: there’s rather one soul expending its energy either effectively or defectively. Occasionally Jeremiah prophesies well, that is to say exuberantly, in a way that bolsters all of the human form divine, in which case he’s a prophet; and other times he prophesies selfishly, and then he’s a crackpot (and is rightfully parodied by a fellow biblical author in the funny Book of Jonah – I take this observation from Harold Bloom). And the same can be said of Joseph Smith, and of St. Paul (tho the latter is almost 100% crackpot), etc. This is another reason that I love Paul Thomas Anderson’s film The Master (2012): it presents Lancaster Dodd, the titular character, as being neither exactly one thing nor the other, a crackpot or a visionary, but fully capable of either state, willy-nilly. Like Emerson said Christ said:

I am divine. Through me, God acts; through me, speaks. Would you see God, see me; or, see thee, when thou also thinkest as I now think.

I emphasize that last clause: whenever anyone thinks the thots of a prophet (one thru whom God speaks or acts), that soul IS a prophet. Or else we’re ALL mad. I’ll give Blake the last word:

Some will say, Is not God alone the Prolific? I answer, God only Acts & Is. in existing beings or Men.

*

You can tell that I’m on a muddy part of life’s path because this entry was just a repeat of things I’ve said better elsewhere (the desire to be more candid about my inner self; what books I’m reading; and points that I’ve made again & again about Blake); but I’ll share it anyway, in hopes that it’ll trigger... something different next time.

P.S.

I finished uploading my latest rap demo onto the Internet. I don’t know if people prefer to ignore the album as one full file on YouTube, or ignore it track-by-track via Bandcamp, so I’ll put both here below. Also I’ll copy the full lyrics, since it makes me proud to scroll thru all those words…

Lyrics:

1. Hose

MCB the gangster
Using a hanger to hang my banger
Selling my drugs on the block increasing my stock
Now I have high stock for cocaine rocks

2. Park

One time I grew up as high as the moon
After that I gave birth to a bloody baboon
I’m MCB and this is my band
And I’m much bigger than the country Japan
I’m dripping with blood my brain’s exploding
Calling my homies cuz now I am lonely
Then I drive my Fiero to the center of the earth
And had a transcendental vision of Mrs Butterworth
I like to throw metal Chinese stars
After telling some nursery rhymes at the park

3. Hand

Bang bang bang now I bang my banger
Loading my weapon and waiting for danger
I sniff cocaine crystals
I just whistle and somebody hands me a pistol
And just for no reason I shoot somebody
That’s why my carpet looks all ruddy
That’s why I own a massive freezer
I use bangers to bang crack geekers
Of all citizens of New Jersey
Crack geekers are the least trustworthy
I’m giving birth to a battering ram
That damages the delivering doctor’s hand

4. Path

I am a big rapper totally mean
Standing right in your path and wearing Guess Jeans
I’m stealing all your lunch money plugging up your plumbing
Now I’m going hunting and I’m killing some guppies
I give credit cards out at Christmas
You’ll never guess how enormous my fist is
It is like bigger than a box of tofu
Red lights are the only kind I go thru

I receive severed fingers as gifts
And my favorite deejay is DJ Quik

5. Master Rapper

Let’s get down to business
MCB is raping Christmas
Throwing meatloaf at my mistress
Faster than some flying discs
I’m a flannel wearing mammal
Teaching Daniel from the Bible jazz piano
With a rifle
At the wrong banjo recital
While I’m tweaking both your ears
My brain is leaking into gear
Tho I’m speaking what you hear
I’m freaking cuz I need crack rock
Baby gimme crack rock
All I want is crack rock
Gimme shiny crack rock
I’m teaching using lazy baby bearings
MCB I’m wearing
Something very sheen sheener than a laser beam
Laser beaming ballerina and I’m wearing Danger Jeans
I’m the preteen Stratocaster
Proto-plastic master rapper

6. Tanker

MCB keeping it real
Staying true to the streets packing steel
This aint no joke this is life for me
I always pack steel and rap on beat
Yeah gangster rap waving my banger
Rest in peace to Kris Parker my trainer
I go bang bang at rival gangs
Then I do cocaine then I steal a plane
I got rifles with real long stems
And loose-fitting clothes in which to hide them
You can tell that I’m thugging cuz I’m waving my banger
That is shooting with the bang force thrust of a tanker

7. Untitled (Geese)

I have two guns that shoot out bombs
And a faceless clock with invisible arms
My name is Bryan I rap the beat
And geese make good goose-flavored ice cream
My name’s Bryan I’m a serial rappist
I got drowned by some maniac Baptists
I rock the mike with kissably fresh breath
And my stage name is Billy Crystal Meth
I drive a tank with a sunroof
Either or an edible horse with bun hooves
I wear parachute pants that help me dance
And a super sharp lance for sweet romance
My pigtails are eight miles long
Why did you break my fake trial bong

8. Untitled (Ma)

I slam the track with an awesome rap
That’s really my hair it’s not no hat
I’m the big dope rapper Daddy Mack B
With a gold chain with a fur coat with fleas
I’m dazzling wack rappers I’m battling
Getting help from dead rappers I’m channeling
And you know that cuz I’m juicy
Bigger than a big blackberry-filled fruit tree
I’m like that crazy drunken lady
Who kept paging me in 1980
Or I’m like half He-Man half Skeletor
Half Battle Cat Roosevelt Eleanor
Flashdance can smasher
I’m afflicting the MC Hammer dancers with pant cancer
Crawling out the gutter eating butter
Retroactively aborting my mother

9. Untitled (Peace)

MCB now I’m back in town
Mobbing with the dog pound bow wow wow
I like to ride my bike to the mall
And shoot all people at random y’all
Now I’m back with a cracked head laying in bed
Bleeding on everything, everything’s red
I like blood because it drips and flows
And it makes really good french blood toast
I’m Blood Man taking a bloodbath
Eating a blood snack smoking some blood crack
Baking a blood cake waiting till it coagulates
Then I’m eating my blood cake make no mistake
I’m chilling in the ghetto wearing army fatigues
Chilling in the street hiding under some leaves
Shooting at some people as they walk by me
It’s war in the streets word up peace

10. Untitled (Tooth)

MCB I’m smooth as silk
Or I’m rapping like butter cuz I’m like buttermilk
Cuz I’m smooth and relaxed kicking back on the track
When I rap I always wear a nice hat
Either that or my hair is combed really nice
I only roll dice and my favorite food is rice
Now I’m back on the track with a rap for you
Now I’m back with my posse that’s wack for you
My posse is the best cuz we pass every test
Even if you ask my neighbors they always say yes
When you ask anybody if my posse is cool
There is no way they’ll ever say no to you
I’m gonna slam this track to death
Cuz I got all high on crystal meth
Now I’m MCB the growing boy
That’s how you know I eat my soy
MCB and you know I’m smooth
I’m back on the groove with a tube of lube
I’m back and I’m wack and I’m smooth like that
And I’m always on the track with a rap that’s bad
Cuz I rap so smooth and I’m totally nude
Which is why I’m so smooth I lost my tooth

*

More rap demo tapes available at https://demorap.bandcamp.com/

25 November 2017

Flop writ post T-minus-zero day

Countdown: a sequence of backward tallying to mark the tension remaining before a letdown is scheduled to occur.

(The titles to my blogs are usually throwaway; this one led me to research its hyphenated term and copy the first paragraph from its encyclopedia entry.)

NASA commonly employs the terms “L-minus” and “T-minus” during the anticipation of a rocket launch, and even “E-minus” for events that involve spacecraft that are already in orbit, where the “T” could stand for “test” or “time,” and the “E” stands for “encounter,” as with a comet or some other space object.

(By the way, the “T” in my title stands for “turkey.”)

Obligatory image

Clippings from the newspaper placed atop the cover of a book.

Dear diary,

Yesterday’s entry was written before the holiday, so I was filled with angst and needing to channel this energy; writing was compulsive and necessary then. I am typing the present post on the morning after the holiday: now writing feels like a chore; but I must do it, in order to record my feelings faithfully – that’s what I tell myself. If I wait too long, my memories will fade; whereas right now they’re fresh and vivid – even obnoxious because I cannot escape them.

You know what? I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to talk about the holiday. The feeling of being under the whip of a taskmaster is due to…

It’s cuz I compel myself to follow a PLAN: instead of letting my thots wander freely, I must record and playback the holiday.

Yet who is doing the telling, when I say “that’s what I tell myself”? Which self is talking, which listening? & why is neither quite mine?

I mentioned Freud afore; now here he is again: What I gather from his terms, which have been unfairly Latin’d when English’d as ego, superego, id (I think of these as “I”; “over-I”; and “it”) is that my superego is doing the talking, and my poor ego listens.

Trust and obey,
For there’s no other way.

That hymn haunts me. I hate it, but I love it. It’s a perfect nightmare.

Why is the individual single, but inside each individual is a division so strong that it constitutes a duality, a plurality, even multitudes? Self of selves. Ego with superego; and might one’s superego possess, say, a super-duper ego? Where does it end?

And fathers. They’re outside of the mind, are they not? What does it mean to have God “put on” human form and say “Eat my flesh and drink my blood, and become me”?

It’s no secret that I did not like my own earthly father. And he would claim otherwise but the truth is that he did not like me either. It’s OK: there was no fistfight or blowout argument between us (tho I regret that we didn’t let it come to this: for THRU the climax of our conflict we might have achieved some sort of camaraderie; whereas we maintained our decorum and thus he’s dead and I shrug)…

But who would I choose to be my replacement father? (I think about this all the time.) Orson Welles… William Blake… Harold Bloom… Anyone with two syllables in their first name and one in their last. Bryan Ray. To father oneself. Jesus Christ.

The soul and the over-soul. To be inspired by the Holy Ghost.

André Breton mentions Freud in a lecture that he (Breton) gave in 1935, “Political Position of Today’s Art”:

The question “How does something become conscious?” may be advantageously replaced, Freud says, by this question: “How does something become preconscious?”

This way of thinking is exactly where I want to be. Now I’m moved to see what the lexicographers have established about that adjective CONSCIOUS: aware of and responding to one’s surroundings; awake. So is Freud suggesting that we ask not “How does something become awake” but “How does something become pre-awake”? And is pre-awake the same as saying asleep? How does something find that it has been sleeping? When I use these alternate words, I’m lured to think of the phenomenon of consciousness as a part of an ongoing wave whose crests and troughs go: sleep, wake, sleep, wake. But if I stick with “conscious” and “preconscious,” and I ask, as is natural for me, what preceded the state that we’re calling pre-conscious, I don’t think to answer yet again “the conscious” but rather something like the infra-pre-consciousness; as above when I mentioned the super-duper ego. These “conscious” terms feel to me like they could blast back and inwards forever. So instead of a mere wave, up-down-up-down, which is unchanging in a sense like a circle (imagine a circle trying to draw itself upon a moving timeline), the potential for augmentation is added, and we’re into the infinite: a spiral, ever increasing. In one direction it travels onward and outward, and the other is the opposite. And that’s if it’s binary. (My guess is that it’s far more complex than binary.)

Orson Welles was on my mind because we’re re-watching The Master (2012) for the nine millionth time, because you get a greater reward with each new screening—my own reward has now spiraled galactically beyond multidimensional—and the character of Lancaster Dodd is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman with a good dose of Welles.

But let me copy a little more from Breton’s lecture, because I like how he recruits his heroes to bolster his theories—this excerpt starts with another quote of Freud answering his own damn question:

“How can we bring repressed elements into (pre)consciousness?—by reestablishing through the work of analysis those intermediate preconscious members, verbal memories.”
     Now these verbal representations, which Freud tells us are “mnemonic traces stemming principally from acoustic perceptions” are precisely what constitutes the raw material of poetry. “Poetic rubbish,” Rimbaud reveals, “had a great part in my alchemy of the word.” Surrealism’s whole effort in particular for the last fifteen years had been to obtain from the poet the instantaneous revelation of these verbal traces whose psychic charges are capable of being communicated to the perception-consciousness system…

The more I learn of Breton’s Surrealism, the more ambivalent I feel about it. There’s something that pulls me in, hook line and sinker—that’s the splendor that results when the surrealist technique works—and yet I don’t place high value on speed itself or chronological primacy, because I don’t care what is FACTUAL about the workings of the mind; I thrill only to the potential that a creation opens to spiral the future idward.

I dwell in Possibility –
A fairer House than Prose…

I believe that Breton joins me in siding with Emily Dickinson’s poem 657. Yet I side with the ideas of the poet John Ashbery against the “rules” of Breton’s so-called automatic writing: Breton would have us compose so rapidly that the truth of the preconscious is revealed; I follow Ashbery in favoring the act of revision, that is to say: use the speedy technique of automatic writing as a first step; then stand back and look at what you’ve got, and let the conscious toy with it: in short, let’s save the strongest elements of the preconscious’ doings along with the strongest revisions performed by our conscious mind. To merely unveil the preconscious, we’re left with a truth about the past; whereas to forge a new provocation, we allow the preconscious to join its truths to those of the conscious so as to invent futurity’s (post)conscious: call it what you will (the id suggests GOD).

Of Visitors – the fairest –
For Occupation – This –
The spreading wide my narrow Hands
To gather Paradise –

I should stop here, but I feel guilty using the conclusions of others’ works to end my own (I’m all for theft, but a true Promethean evinces not an abandonment but an apotheosis of principles); plus I have a rap track to share in the postscript, and I fear that it will not appear in the best light if I force it to follow the actual sublime.

Another remark I made in yesterday’s entry touches on the clash of innocence and experience. I said:

I got fazed attempting to break from my Cocoon of I., and I’ve not yet managed to permeate the Realm of E.

When I wrote this, I was thinking of The Book of Thel. But let me first back up and say six words of introduction. Nobody reads my heavenly father’s other works, like the title aforesaid, but everyone knows that Blake made a collection of poems that he called Songs of Innocence and of Experience. There is no writer, except maybe Shakespeare, who seems to me to be so far ahead, waiting for the rest of us to catch up to him on the pathway of eternity. Blake’s Songs of I. and of E. are justly popular. My favorite of his books is The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, because that’s where I’m at in my development. I suspect that his brief epics Milton and Jerusalem are his best work, but they also stop somewhere waiting for me: I have yet to reach them. In the meantime, I discover myself in Blake’s other writings. Recently I re-read The Book of Thel, because I want to understand why it’s so hard for me, at this point in my life when I MUST do so, to make the change from innocence to experience; and it’s my understanding of the poem that Thel cannot quite manage to make the leap either. I own a volume called The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake, edited by David V. Erdman and which contains commentary by Harold Bloom. The commentary is printed at the back of the book, unobtrusively, and I find it gratifying. Here’s a bit of what Bloom says about Blake’s Thel:

The poem’s most pungent irony comes in the lament that rises from the grave plot, for it first protests the strength of four senses, and then the weakness of the fifth sense, of touch and sexuality. Even in experience, Thel would have found no fulfillment. Yet her flight home heralds a darker fate; dwelt in too long, the vales of Har reduce their inhabitants to the state of the Har and Heva of Tiriel.

This made me want to re-read Tiriel. I’ve read it before, as I have all of Blake’s works; but Blake is a poet not only to read but to RE-READ. No amount of times is enough – I mean this literally: his wisdom is endless. It only saddens me when I hear people call Blake mad, insane, a crazy mystic: he was none of those things. Blake was TOO sane in a world that has no…

I will quote another small piece of commentary as a teaser, because I’m just writing this Blake stuff as a buffer between #657 above and the rap that I wanna share. I hope I’ll be moved to say more about Blake’s poem later, and to quote the actual words and not just analysis:

This harsh and compelling poem is the first by Blake to use his characteristic line, the septenarius or fourteener. This seven-beat line may have been suggested to Blake by ballads in Percy, or Elizabethan poetry, or possibly even by certain passages in the King James Bible.

I gotta break in here to paste another definition, which I arrived at only because I was trying to make sure that I spelled the word “septenarius” correctly – I find it interesting, in light of Bloom describing Blake’s poem as “harsh and compelling” that the form employed by Blake is defined as “a Latin verse line of seven feet, especially a trochaic or iambic tetrameter catalectic, used only in comedy.” (My emphasis.) Now Bloom continues:

Tiriel’s name has been traced to a source in the occult writer Cornelius Agrippa, but this is very remote and contributes nothing to a reading of the poem. I suspect that the name plays upon the first syllable of “tyrant” and compounds this with the Hebrew name for the Almighty [“El” as in the prophets Ezekiel, Daniel…]. Tiriel’s struggle is to maintain himself as an almighty tyrant despite his bodily decay, and his failure to learn until too late the limitation of his self-proclaimed holiness is as much a failure in a conception of divinity as it is in one of political authority.

I ask this about myself, and my country (the U.S.A.), as well as the whole planet Earth: Will we ever advance beyond the Tiriel period? This stage has continued for a very long time, it seems…

P.S.

Now here’s another fake gangster rap demo from the album where my bother played his guitar at the end of each track. More info here.

https://bryanray444.tumblr.com/post/167887031776/an-uninspired-track-from-my-2005-demo-album-slow

24 November 2017

Trying to figure out who is this one

Dear diary,

It reveals something about the soul of the writer: the decision to title an entry “Trying to figure out who I am,” rather than, say, “…who is this one.” I’m agitated, awake in the middle of the night, it’s half past three; and I’m trying to put my anxiety to good use. But is this good use?—penning these thoughts, in hopes of eventually sharing them as a blog post? Maybe introspective writing is a bigger waste of time than simply remaining abed and staring into darkness.

About eight hours from now, during the next full noon, my family will gather for the controversial holiday, which, in my youth, I was told to call “Thanksgiving”; then in my middle age, when I got fazed attempting to break from my Cocoon of Innocence (I’ve not yet managed to permeate the Realm of Experience), I was re-taught to call the day “Fourth Thursday of November,” because certain celebrators awoke and realized that there’s nothing to be thankful for, in the past or the present, and I concur. Plus, you gotta admit, “Fourth Thurs of Nov” does have a catchy ring to it.

But, in this entry, I wanted to try to figure out who I am; not appraise the holiday that occasioned such a dodge. So who am I? What is my purpose? These are questions that nag me, when I begin to worry about having to visit with family. What have I done with my life? Where have I been, and where am I going?

Is it necessary to travel right back to birth, or to early childhood? I’ve met more people who despise Sigmund Freud than who can tolerate him, so I fear a backlash if I admit that I love him; nevertheless, this is MY public-private diary, and I permit myself to speak about what seems important to me. Freud, in my misreading of his pataphysics, places great emphasis upon a person’s infancy—what I gather is that my life as a baby determined practically everything that followed. In short: I was doomed from the get-go. But what exactly happened, which caused me to become this nervous wreck? I do not believe that I was abused; I think that I’m just more sensitive than a normal soul, so treatment that would feel acceptable to another feels callous to me. But this leads to that old crux: Nature vs. Nurture: Was I simply born hypersensitive (I mean: is my fearfulness due to the makeup of my nervous system itself: the balance of chemicals, etc., which were the work of Luck), OR did womb-life and early childhood make me like this (in other words: May I blame my parents)?

All this hemming and hawing to say that I don’t remember the key parts of the story which fix my plot. If there’s a guardian daemon or over-soul who’s been monitoring my travesty supra birth-death, THAT fellow will be able point out the culprit; all we can say is it’s either God or my folks.

Perhaps is it telling, that, at this point in writing, my instinct before continuing was to research the definition of the word “trailer trash.” Noun; U.S.; informal, derogatory. “Poor lower-class white people typified as living in trailers.” I even like the fragment showing the term in action: “…their parenting style has moved the family from upper-middle-class suburban to trailer trash in one generation.” Why does a trailer have this negative connotation? And what’s the opposite of trash?—is there such a thing as trailer gemsassets? Trailer treasure?

I was not born in a trailer park. But neither was I born in an “upper-middle-class suburb.” So where the heck was I born? I guess I’d call it a plain middle-class suburb – nothing upper about it.

But why do I immediately pounce on the notion of trailer trash when I want to begin to unearth my long-buried life-bone? It’s because I relate to this class of people. The author Cormac McCarthy set his early novel Child of God in Sevier County, Tennessee. If there truly are souls who live in the Appalachian Mountains, I’m sure they’re not much like the way that I myself imagine them; but I relate to my own idea of mountain-folk, the same way that I relate to the concept of trailer treasure. Those people are my true ancestors – somehow they’re in my blood. And when I read William Faulkner’s masterpiece As I Lay Dying, I recognize a slant of my own family’s essence. My family IS the Bundrens. And I am Darl. ...I am also the “bitter, isolated, unnamed narrator” of Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground. (I’m always ashamed how much I relate to that guy.) And, although I venture this next assertion while still only partway through reading its source (so take it with a wink), my kinfolk are true Karamazovs. I’m referring to Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s chief work, which coincidentally was also (I’ve heard) my pal Freud’s favorite novel: The Brothers Karamazov.

Listing literature. No, I’m not getting sidetracked from the search for myself: it’s insightful to note the depths that I must plumb to set the mood… to find a soil to produce a life like mine.

I’ve never researched my genealogy, family tree, ancestral bloodline or history – I’m half afraid what I will find, and I also like to guess what might’ve been; whereas, if I ever discover the facts, I’ll lose the freedom to wonder with such abandon. As it is, I imagine that I hail from the monsters of the deep. Yet I don’t envision my lineage this way because I favor vulgarity: on the contrary, transcendence is my goal, and not even the sky’s the limit; but my aspirations are so beyond the beyond that it’s vitally necessary for me to offset my superego’s demands with self-congratulations, and to make even a passable flower appears the highest triumph if one has stemmed from ignoble roots.

But what is my flower? And is it passable? These aspects of my life I can address without conjecture, because I rough-hewed them. (Probably I did not rough-hew them in actual fact but only felt as though I was rough-hewing them.) For a while, I assumed my life’s flower-work was two blossoms: the audio works that I made, and the text works that I made. But now I am not sure that I have managed to flower at all. I don’t mean this in a sulky way; I don’t say this to be self-deprecatory, in hopes of receiving a compliment, like if I were to murmur “I’m ugly,” and you reply, “No, Bryan, you’re pretty.” I know that I’m pretty. I mean, I’m physically unattractive (permit me this truth), but my spirit is gorgeous.

But that’s only the case if WILLPOWER is beautiful. (I love but disbelieve the quote from Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”: Beauty is truth, truth beauty; and now I puzzle over whether power might be beautiful, or beauty powerful.) Because I’m strong in will, no doubt, yet my spirit lacks grace. It wants the charm that comes from an upper-class upbringing. Devoid of all “up-” words, I’m intrinsically DOWN. I have a trailer-trash soul. I am the spirit of the Appalachian Mountains... a real mountain-man... a mountaineer. Is all this true? No, for my soul is not the low thing that my body was doomed to be. (I wish I were better at distinguishing “soul” from “spirit”—I need to work on keeping those terms separate and more clearly defined; I should not use them as synonyms: I like the idea that the soul is mortal and was fashioned by the demiurge Ialdabaoth, the bungling creator of our broken world who is also known as Jehovah; and this soul is a flawed copy of the true immortal pearl or spark of the Ineffable, known as Endlessness, the alien deity who encompasses the entirety and of whose “mind” Jehovah is but an erroneous thot.) But it rings true to me when I say that I’m DOWN. Anyone who’s known me since preschool can vouch for my negative bent. Why does everything seem such a washout to me? Maybe this bad attitude is proof of my infancy having been very good. TOO good to last. Yes, how else would the whole farce that follows acquire such a gloomy hue?

Or maybe I just miss the womb. Why wouldn’t we? It’s like hovering in a soft, warm spaceship with red-draped interior and bronze decor. (I stole that last phrase from my favorite poem, Wallace Stevens’ “Of Mere Being”; umpteen sleepless nights and a nonstop knocking from my floorboards forced me to admit this.) You’ve got a plug plugged into your stomach which supplies all your nourishment: you’ve got no responsibilities but to pretend to press buttons, pull levers, and turn the knobs of your ship’s control panel, with your eyes closed, dreaming the phantasmagoric dreams of the fetus. And some fetuses even get cocaine or alcohol, free of charge. But I wasn’t so lucky: My owner fed me well. And when I got born I cried.

What’s being born like? Is it like crash-landing your rocket? I don’t think so: for what would the ruined casing be, the placenta? I think a vehicle demolition in outer space is too jagged and rigid to represent live birth. No, being born is like nothing so much as dying. Enduring the shock of expiry when you least expect it: THAT’s like birth. It’s not even close to waking from a dreamless sleep: that’s more like imagining; for fancies enter and leave the imagination effortlessly, they appear and disappear without consequence; and no pain, no gain: which is why it only counts if you bring your thoughts to term, that is: get them out into the world, lure others to entertain them in their own mind – an uncommunicated thought is a dead thought; tho thoughts cannot ever be truly communicated: one can only, as it were, coax other woodlanders to play in a comparable grotto; provoke them to decree the building of a similar pleasure-dome. Yes, being born is unlike waking from dreamless sleep; but it is a bit like interrupting a bout of somnambulism: for, in that case, you’re terrified; suddenly everything’s changed, everything’s inexplicable and you must immediately LEARN FAST how to nurse or be nursed.

Joys impregnate. Sorrows bring forth.

That’s another of William Blake’s “Proverbs of Hell”; it came to mind because I’m talking about womb-life and live-birth. But the act of impregnation precedes even the womb. Conception. To conceive. I’m brainstorming backwards now – I intended to give a hard look to my life after adolescence, because that’s what worries me so much when the holy days strike; but fear of the task at hand is manifest in the way I’m retreating from earliest childhood back through birth before the time of impregnation. Back to the days when I was dead. Is that the right way to put it? How would it be more accurate to say that I was NOT dead? If I wasn’t dead, what was I? Surely not alive, because… Well, maybe alive, but not in control. And yet, am I in control at present? Am I as aware of myself now, as I was aware of myself when I was King Josiah? An asshole I was then: forgive me, for I knew not what I was doing. (II Kings 22-23) And yet, in a sense, at present, I am not aware that I was King Josiah; but neither will I be aware that I was once Bryan Ray, when I have become the Beast out of the Sea (Revelation 13:1).

P.S.

I got torn away from this entry after writing the last sentence above. The holiday attacked. (Again, I wish my writing had ended in mid-word, rather than after a full stop, so as to emphasize that it’s unfinished.) I have now returned only to add this postscript with the following decade-old pseudo-gangster rap-demo (from an album whose base positions, theses, & arguments I articulated elsewhere).

https://bryanray444.tumblr.com/post/167837550601/an-uninspired-track-from-my-2005-demo-album-slow

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