(The cover of my constitution has nothing to do with this entry. I just needed an image to accompany the text.)
My sweetheart and I started our day by talking about tearing up our kitchen. We decided to rent a power steamer and remove the cheap vinyl floor that's been damaged since we moved here.
Then the fun started. We rode our bikes to the park. There was a free bench directly in the shade by the shore of the lake, so we sat there and read from our stack of books. We could barely see the water, as there were tall rich dark-green weeds blocking our view; but I heard splashing nearby, which I think was caused by either beavers or muskrats.
A strange theme followed me throughout the day – that is: dead fish. First, the poem by Geoffrey Hill called "To Lucien Richard: On Suffering" had these lines:
Sea-bass are plentiful. Although the smallest
get thrown back—legal—they mostly die,
float for a short while, scales catching the sun.
I had never heard this fact before, about the likelihood of caught-and-released fish dying, but I always suspected it: that's why I don't like fishing. Or that's one of the many reasons. How could you hope to survive, after getting your lip, throat, or belly punctured by a metal hook, which before long is carelessly yanked out by some air-breathing being who then whips you back in the water? Even if you lived on, you'd be in terrible pain; wouldn't you? It's not like all fishers are veterinarians who perform surgery on wildlife properly with the use of anesthetics and who avoid poisoning their aquatic patients with land-germs. If I were a fish, I, too, would want to convert all fishermen to fishers of men.
Then later in the day, I heard this idea again. Above was the first I'd ever heard it, and now I was hearing it for the second time that day. It was a radio program whose host was interviewing a cable-news opinionator. When the former asked the latter what the latter does with her free time, the latter said that she loves to go fishing, and the former remarked that he can't enjoy this sport because he feels sorry for the fish; then the latter, to disclaim any barbarism, added that she throws back whatever she catches, but the former explained that the whole catch-and-release thing doesn't work: it's only good for making sensitive fishers feel better about the cruelty of their pastime: for the fish end up dying anyway from, among other things, exposure to foreign (human) oils.
Here's my idea. They should make fake fish for fish-friendly fishers, à la skeet shooting. It's worth a try. They could be robotic, even.
A little later, we went for a walk on the path that runs behind some expensive suburban houses; and at a certain point on the wayside was an eyeless dead fish. I assume some animals or insects ate its eyes. There were just holes where the eyes should have been.
Finally, when I was reading Suttree in the evening (I return to Cormac McCarthy's early novel every so often, usually to kill the time while I'm waiting for other titles that I've requested from some faraway library to be transferred to my local branch for pickup) (and I've read Suttree already, but I still feel curious about it; although I far prefer Blood Meridian), the very first page of the place where my bookmark was resting contained this narration:
When he ran his lines some of the fish were dead. He cut the droppers and watched them slide and sink.
This, admittedly, isn't necessarily describing an instance of catch-and-release, but it does contain dead fish, so I say it counts; thus my scientific conclusion is that God is definitely trying to rattle me. Also, here's a pair of sentences from the paragraph that follows the above:
Ab's cat came and perched like an owl and watched him. He handed it a fish head and it bared a razorous yawn of teeth and took the head delicately and went back along the rail.
This leads me think how cats are known to hunt both fish and birds. An earthly creature has enemies below and above, in the sea and in the sky.
Also today I watched a how-to video about stripping door jambs away from drywall ("Unscrew the locks from the doors! / Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!" —"Song of Myself" §24) because I might have to do that tomorrow as part of our kitchen demolition. So when I read the next few words in Suttree, after the cat passage above, it reminded me how the bodies of once-living creatures can be deconstructed not unlike man-made items (doors and jambs).
Suttree skinned two catfish and wrapped them in newsprint...
Now I need to remark on this notion of catfish. I just got done saying how fine it is that the cat, which is an earth-dwelling being, maintains adversaries in both heaven and hell. That is admirable. But with the advent of this so-called catfish, at least linguistically an entire pair of the trinity of foemen have been conjoined: the cat and the fish. What's the deal? If a cat can be melded with a fish, why not an avian feline as well?
I swear I did not plan to do this – the thought just came to me: My storybook La Man not only contains but centers upon the notion of feline avians. So I can end this post by sharing too many excerpts. This first is from "More," the section that comes right after La Man's "Introduction":
The purpose of conveying instruction is to imitate so as to urge others to act imitative, and plainly this indicates a double purpose in the world of truth, which is the office of scribes and their hypothetical cat-falcons.
That last hyphenated word is the reason I shared this sentence. Now here's a longer passage, also from "More":
At about this time the statue Car-Car War Tar was conceived, along with his thing Silk Milk. Both statue and thing were employed by La Man to exist. In a great discharge of virtue the bestiary spawned perhaps an arrangement of worlds, likely an oligarchy. At one time La Man is found in Eden, which is to say Onan, endeavoring, by the narration of some of his statues, to tally his mind with the physical form of his soul, known variously as Gryphon or Pussybird. Underwater, in Tarsus, was the statue of La Man’s demise; having been sent to consciousness by the prophet with a suitcase of gold for distribution amongst the reptiles, La Man was so provoked by covetousness that he refused to divide himself, and gave Silk Milk Mammon instead. Enraged at this treatment, the members of the bestiary accused him of being a divine impostor. In spite of his statue, Silk Milk performed a sacred criminal act. The cruel death of La Man was not noticed at that moment, because the dolphins of Silk Milk were visiting a carriage of catamites (any cherub in those days was at least thirty-three years of age). Then the crime was made public. The blood of La Man stood up, and called its soul, who was rapt in Corinth. Posthumous Pussybird bore a countersign to the statue, and did wrong deeds with the witnesses. The wrongs went unpunished, because neither the fabulists nor their fire belonged to La Man. For Car-Car War Tar attacked young Pussybird and subdued him under a snuffer. The work of the lips is one of the loveliest works. To this day, a gryphon remains in stone memorializing the event.
The name Pussybird, by the way, is short for Pussycat Whirlybird. Not whirlybird in the sense of helicopter, but like an eagle deity who lives inside a tornado; see The Book of Job (38:1): "Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind..."
So those last two quotes, one short and one long, are from the opening sections of La Man. I love quoting my own writing; it makes me feel official. Yet, before copying the final two passages, I need to share a picture of the backside of my pocket-sized constitution:
The book La Man, I should probably explain, is divided into three parts: (1) a few intros; (2) the huge main parable; and (3) an interpretation of the foregoing. Since I copied out some words from the first of those divisions, I'll try to find an avian feline reference from the other two parts. Here's one from "La Man: A True Story" being the principal part of the scripture:
And La Man, a creature blind from his birth, said to his maker: “I am sure that I can see my soul is drowning!” In the desire to prove to his maker that this was the case, La Man fixed a tailored skin upon the statue. And Car-Car War Tar asked, “What is this thing?” And the maker exclaimed: “Tis Pussybird, my very sinful soul!” But La Man corrected his maker, and said: “My son, I am afraid that you are not only blinder than me, but you have lost your soundest sense instead.”
For there were twin gryphons covering it, and it was secretly sinless.
And the sense of smell crowed loudly and left the maker. But the plumage remained content to stay with the maker. So the sense of smell put an end to the dispute by saying: “This is Pussybird indeed! His sins are as the feathers of my suckfish, his scent is unpluckable.”
Lastly, here's a paragraph from "The Moral of the Story" (that story being La Man) which was written to serve as an untrustworthy commentary on the text that precedes it in its own book; sort of like how, in the King James Bible, after reading through the so-called Old Testament, which comes first in order, you reach the so-called New Testament, whose behindhand writings often purport to tell the reader what the poetic tales of the Hebrew Bible ("Old Testament") mean.
Now, when the gargoyle’s head exploded and the leopards flew out, the war that ensued was declared by Pantywaist Pussybird; the author intended this to teach you that a leaderless army can never go to battle. And Silk Milk is our leader – that is the implication. Thus we are to engage in warfare with those who love pleasure. But did not pleasure enter the world though La Man? Let me explain. The Pussybirds that plague the story are shadows of Silk Milk – they’re like shards from the archetypal mirror. The author (anticipating that her story could be used to justify the heresy that claims “La Man is the cause of all pleasure”) knew that if there were sundry Pussybirds committing unpleasant acts, the reader would most likely look to the mother of those creatures as the source of hardship; and since in some sense Silk Milk is our own mother, we see how pleasure is only an offshoot or perversion of stasis, a type of pseudo-pain, and is in no way blamable on La Man (who is wholly statuesque) – Silk Milk thus increases our reverence for La Man by deflecting the sin of manufacturing flux, which Silk Milk only inadvertently magnified: for pure and sacred discomfort comes from La Man by way of Silk Milk; and the Pussybirds that intermittently appear are echoes of the original unpleasantness, which, God willing, we will soon apprehend.