Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Tongue is a Strange Machine


Enigmatic Corot that a chicken thickens if a cut thrills. I strain a spoon to hit the moon. The singing sidewalk is my blossoming and bile. I smell incense below the float and start the car. I will push this idea until it crackles below the bean bang.
The performance glows and we feel its heavy steam. We assembled the stomach during the fall and luxuriated in winter feeling it work itself into rhetoric. I bald into honesty like paint. The dusty soliciting of spring became my cause and controversy. I stood there in the orchard including sense in my art and absorption.
We can maneuver the fence if the court so deems it necessary for our escape into the wilderness. Jerk a swim through the pool. If you lose yourself during the elevation you will find resurrection in the consonants strewn throughout the sentence. The proposal attends your punches. One must endure one’s secretions as they become implicit in perception.
Mark this, my friend, the bowl will quicken as it fills with ice. Scribbles toss themselves into circulation. I feel the pulse of an indentation brush a babble with an admonition. Plump my draw to a collar stud. I can only answer the wonder of myriad structures since I branch into many coconuts and burn the deformation with laughing up there.
We play the trapeze and tap the wall with autonomy. We pull our excuses out of a perception of ratio and make proverbs out of silk. Our assembled logic accommodates gravity, crustaceans it to vermilion, and we go ahead and pull the rest, fastening our spoons as we go. There is cement for exploration and glass for decipherment. We clothe our echoes beneath knowledge and see what green Apollinaire wore when he flowed toward the mysteries of secretion.
It’s in the streams that our reflections pin themselves to the water disturbing the graces of the heart. We linger to collect ourselves and travel into the beyond weeping over the compliments of apples. Conceit is a form of coherence. It is the mind we hope to press against when we write something. The tea is cluttered with subtleties, too many to describe as sidewalks or cloth, which have their own distinctions, and inflate with the nutmeg of desire.
We fill our anthologies with aesthetic persuasions that never quite gel into paradise. Confusion explains the larynx. We flail what we can with our theories and tumble vowels on our lips. I can’t quit altitude. There is the spring to the blade of my knife and age is a palette whose colors can never adjust to the brass of trouble. Cream by violin, and use binoculars for the rest.
My feelings fight for the rub of the wave. I can do nothing without teeming. I feed my insistence the clang of the sleeve and wash the greenery with meditation. The tongue is a strange machine, though some might call it a muscle. I call it a convocation of cells and let it shape the song as it will.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Radical Tapioca


“All philosophy,” observed Paul Valéry, “is born knowingly from illusions which are illusions of language.” Words are signs for things and not the things themselves. Words are illusions. Their relation with things is uncertain, inconstant, and indeterminate. But here is a paradox: since words are untethered to the concrete world, their representation of experience is infinite, and because it is infinite, it is real. There is no limit to the variety of phenomena and sensations already in existence or in which there is a probability or possibility of bringing them into existence. The words themselves might serve as their own experience. This is a situation in which illusion assumes the audible ineffability of inconceivable harmonies. The patterns that make Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik a tour de force of transcendent beauty, that give it its enery and clarity, its buoyancy and depth of emotion, are stunningly real. But in the truer sense of the real, the reality of stone and water, the reality of bone and refrigerator, the music belongs to the higher abstractions of time and wave.
When one is conscious of, or knows, an object, it is an error to say that the object in itself and our knowledge of the object are two distinct facts. Hyper-objects, such as government, are particularly interesting: government has no reality, there is nothing tangible about government, government is a concept; and yet government is quite real. We pay taxes to it, elect officials to it, expect it to provide us with streets and libraries. Government is a product of language. Language creates laws, breaks laws, tells stories of outlaws. Language is the ultimate outlaw.
Taken in this sense, unicorns, dragons, and brigadier generals all lay equal claim to being, and having, a reality. What gives them that reality is the way in which we experience them. Imagine them. A single word, such as the pronoun “I,” can serve as the nucleus for a range of experience including peacocks, obsequies and clover. Tapioca, doors, and pumpkins. In the realm of illusion, I is an other: its reality is called into being by the simple act of writing. Of talking. There is an otherness to it because as soon as an identity is proposed as a symbolic entity, its reality changes. It enters into an arena of magic, of profound sorcery. Whenever someone says “I,” we  -  another  pronoun with the weight of a helium balloon  -  know that the stream of verbiage issuing from that personhood of “I” is an eye into the storm of their being. We also know that the word “I” and the person claiming that “I” as a locus of intimate experience, has just entered into the vast ocean that is language, has diffused into its boundless horizon.
In other words, “I,” “We,” “They,” and “You” are all propositions, all shades and inclinations of personhood in relation to oneself or other people. But in what sense do any of them have reality? The word “you” cannot be eaten, tasted, squeezed, pressed, ironed, nailed, packed or crushed. But it can be spoken. It can be written.
You are reading an essay when along comes a dragon and invites you to go on a journey to a realm of illusion. Are you real? Or not real? Is the dragon real, or not real? The dragon is, in fact, a yearning fleshed out in wing and claw. It has a thyroid, lungs, and mild case of bursitis.
My eyes, ears, skin and hair are all real. But when I convert them into words they blaze into deputation. Their dilations are sleeves of sensual being. I must speak in metaphor because words are sites of resistance, combustions of internal fire.
“Language is a reality,” Valéry further observed, “a usage of indeterminate coefficients.” A coefficient is a multiplicative factor in any term of a polynomial, a series or any expression. As soon as two or more words are brought into combination they multiply their associative power. Syntax is fundamentally a probability. A spoon is a prelude of refractory light. Each sentence is as structural as a lobster and sculptural as a rib. Call it a tapestry. Call it a comprehension. A consolidation. If it is a living sense it is because the mind has given it life.
The poet works at the frontier of nonsense. There is no incompatibility of words that some poet can bridge. The power to create new contextual significations is limitless. What initially appears to be nonsense can begin to make sense as soon as the mind discovers new relations among things. This is a rare ability, but one which can be developed. There will come a time when it will be impossible to exhaust the connotative resource of words. The greater the semantic distance among a group of words, the brighter the illumination.
If language had not been invented, what sound would you make to indicate the sun? How would you describe the sun? Nothing in life is predictable, except death and taxes. Everything else is up for grabs. Words inspire me to be a better addict. I agree with Baudelaire: one should always be drunk. Drunk on words, drunk on wine, drunk on virtue, drunk on poetry. However you choose.
 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Holding Pattern


Hold this poem and rub it with space. Ingest it with your eyes. Enkindle it with needs. Drip abstraction. It just happens. Abstraction happens. You feel alive and blaze in the snow of Iceland, a carnival of thought and emotion with a head like a sack of helium. Piercing sounds of creosote serve the fertility of experience. The map amplifies the disconnect between reality and an implied geography whose mountains and rivers exhibit the gum of time as it occupies a schematized space. Incidents of rubber absorb the shock of monotony. The repetitive rhythm of walking. Headlights shining through words of granite. The human mind is smeared with sexual metaphor, the teased agreements of audacity and steep relation, the incentive to suck and sparkle, the courage to pin a passion to a fold of fingers. The light is swollen. It indulges the walls. A sharp wind hangs from a highway sign. The grease at the center of the world allows everything to turn without squeaking, its axle is wet as veins. And so useful it is to consult consciousness that consciousness strains to find meaning in hockey. Words, thumbs, glances, glass, glans, baptisms and powwows. And sometimes we taste the heat of thought in a balloon of dizzying lucidity, rising into the sky like a cabana with a checkered past. Possession can also mean inglenook. Or mulberry. It takes a friend, naturally, to confirm the thickening thoughts on a piece of paper, each word clear as an ice cube and each sentence a wading pool for the eyes. Symbolism is nothing more than a bag of groceries, items arranged by weight and density. The lettuce goes on top, and symbolizes courage. The jelly is upside down but if the cap is on tight it should remain true to the image of kings. We feel the full impact of reality at the checkstand. Here is where being water gets a little messy and hanging words upside-down doesn’t help the situation. It’s better to stand there being quiet and dream of returning to the sea as an albatross on a long glide of delectation over dinner.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Pythagorean Toolbox Teats


Experience is what happens when blood circulates, the heart pumps, and life pops out of the box. Everything goes Technicolor. The room glows. Pronouns assume the private pain of impulse. Various dimensions simmer in space sweetening the nerves with saffron and juxtaposition. Is there anything prettier than a jackknife? Escalators percolate in my skin causing action and growth. I ride up. I ride down. I move sideways to let people pass. I’m polite, a courteous person. This is my attempt to hold the society together. Poetry is my way to blow culture up. Smash capitalism to smithereens. This is misleading. You can’t smash capitalism, but it will certainly smash you. You’ve got to find an antidote. Poetry is that antidote. It’s useless as tits on a hammer. I love that image. A hammer with tits on it. Wrenches and screwdrivers suckling at its underside in the toolbox of life.
Movement deepens my comprehension of soup. Sparrows are brusque but powerfully themselves. I feel incidental and ghostly, but also a little like asphalt, as if I cried on the inside to be a highway joining Nevada to Arizona and poured distance and velocity into the long Nevada night. Here comes Walt Whitman driving a Nissan Stanza. He’s got gravy in his beard and a twinkle in his eye. The stars awaken the thrill of a palpable yearning. It takes some time for the imagination to slide into another form of being, but once that happens, one can excel at adhesion and act like a flap in the flag at the borders of noumenal being. Punches flicker beside the anthology of contemporary poetry. The nightclub bursts into streams of consciousness. Leopold Bloom admires the cutlery. Feeling feels wintery as a paper airport for paper airplanes. Swimming is incongruous and therefore delightful. The mind is but a shadow. Speed bumps are annotations. All of my memories have been cooked in reminiscence. Baby you can drive my car. And maybe I love you. Beep beep yeah.
It’s hard to build a house when the lumber is alive. But you can bungle it like comedy and find something much fuller than a house. You can take all the silence of out of a poem and put it to use as something blonde and geographic. Sprinkle adjectives on it. Jingle it. Put it in the freezer until it turns hard and pragmatic. Cold to the fingers. Like a tool.
Painting is instinctive and reckless. A pile of rags flirt with a harmonica. The plywood conveys vividness. The oak screams in the ban saw. I savor the gumption of construction. Even my nerves bubble their opinions in a slow simmer of being. Sunlight slices through the air like a knife of singing light.
I slide cinnamon into my intestine and digest the world. I accommodate seclusion well. Fingernails rely on time to grow into themselves. The black cord of the hair dryer curls in the humidity.
Sometimes I work late at night juggling giant handshakes. This is what I experience when experience turns experimental. Any language will do, but English is particularly supple. Not enough has been said about that. A mind draws parables out of life. The sound of it is sweet and seditious. Ocher is a friendly color. But yellow, well yellow is yellow. It shouts joy from the bathroom wall. I think of myself as an occurrence of meat. This feeling widens and rivals Wisconsin. A wild energy crashes through the symmetries of science resulting in the experience of birds. Dirt. Obsidian shining out of a mountain.
Is there life on Mars? André Breton arrives in a flying saucer. His eyes murmur oranges. Why is there something rather than nothing? We all wonder that. But André seems especially obsessed. His premonitions seep through the words murdering distance and chattering fictions that are actual whales. Wheels. Weather. Bakeries and postulation. A patisserie filled with maps. Lips. Promontories of frosting. Pythagorean sensations serving the fertility of experience abstractions of invisible empires, the sublime appeal of concertinas and chaos and string theory.
I like words in strings. And when the strings run out there is still a trace of Paris, kitchen lights edged with gold. And down below a kangaroo leaps over a turnstile and catches the M4 to Versaille. Daylight marries the vowels of night and the wedding is twilight and the twilight is a delicate thing. Twilight is what happens when I feel open to everything. Even meaning.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Each and Every Way


Each and every way that I position my regard provides a plurality of relations and samplings from a mass of pure sensation. Each perspective insinuates its own incendiary geometry. Expectation acquires a piquant lucidity. The light penetrates the basement window. A chisel gleams. A ban saw screams like a banshee. Sawdust accumulates on the floor. It smells of pine and oak. A nearby gravel road articulates the convulsions of impeccable clouds. A furious awakening flashes on the horizon. The weight of the sky thrills the bones and unpacks its provisions in a dialogue of thunder. The light is perforated with silver. If I choose to read the world like a book it puzzles me with snow. It dazzles me with pearls. It threads the mind with correlation.
The desk emphasizes its existence in a determination of wood. I sit down and open Ulysses to page 305: “A monkey puzzle rocket burst, spluttering in darting crackles. Zrads and zrads, zrads, zrads, zrads. And Cissy and Tommy and Jacky ran out to see and Edy after with the pushcar and then Gerty beyond the curve of the rocks. Will she? Watch! Watch! See! Looked round. She smelt an onion. Darling, I saw, your. I saw all. Lord!”
Even the rain dripping from the black rungs and curls of the wrought-iron patio furniture in front of Molena’s Taco Shop bear some relation to the rest of the universe. Rain collects in a river which powers the turbines of Grand Coulee Dam which feeds electricity to the arc welder welding the patio furniture. The shell on display in the window was made from proteins and minerals that were created when the planet formed and life first appeared out of a jelly-like glop of lipids and carbohydrates. The rain dripping from the patio furniture was once a wave in the ocean that made the shell that housed the snail that crawled ashore and died on a rock molded by the gusts and pounding surf of a windy shore.
Sit, Jessica. Look how the floor of heaven / Is thick inlaid with patens of bright gold. / There’s not the smallest orb which thou behold’st / But in his motion like an angel sings, / Still choiring to the young-eyed cherubins. / Such harmony is in immortal souls, / But whilst this muddy vesture of decay / Doth grossly close it in, we cannot hear it. 

Declares Lorenzo in The Merchant of Venice. That harmony that is in immortal souls is consciousness of the unity of interrelation that is the juice and savor of pure experience. But this would be an experience without the adornment of words. Words are a filtering membrane through which experience percolates before it dances on the nerves.  

The urge to arrive at a pure experience is a journey of bone and skin, muscle and blood. It comes down to the body. Toes, hands, hair, eyes, knees, everything in this envelope of flesh that connects my being in the world with that world as immediate as possible. Sensation is a product of nerves. It gets to the brain in electrical impulse where it’s translated into lettuce, a woman’s touch, a man’s voice, a slice of bread popping up in the toaster, the electric smell of the air in Kansas before a tornado droops from the clouds and begins spinning debris in a whirl of radical energy.  

William James coined the phrase “radical empiricism” to describe his notion of pure experience:
I give the name of 'radical empiricism' to my Weltanschauung. Empiricism is known as the opposite of rationalism. Rationalism tends to emphasize universals and to make wholes prior to parts in the order of logic as well as in that of being. Empiricism, on the contrary, lays the explanatory stress upon the part, the element, the individual, and treats the whole as a collection and the universal as an abstraction. My description of things, accordingly, starts with the parts and makes of the whole a being of the second order. It is essentially a mosaic philosophy, a philosophy of plural facts, like that of Hume and his descendants, who refer these facts neither to Substances in which they inhere nor to an Absolute Mind that creates them as its objects. But it differs from the Humian type of empiricism in one particular which makes me add the epithet radical.
To be radical, an empiricism must neither admit into its constructions any element that is not directly experienced, nor exclude from them any element that is directly experienced. For such a philosophy, the relations that connect experiences must themselves be experienced relations, and any kind of relation experienced must be accounted as 'real' as any thing else in the system. Elements may indeed be redistributed, the original placing of things getting corrected, but a real place must be found for every kind of thing experienced, whether term or relation, in the final philosophic arrangement.
Now, ordinary empiricism, in spite of the fact that conjunctive and disjunctive relations present themselves as being fully co-ordinate parts of experience, has always shown a tendency to do away with the connections of things, and to insist most on the disjunctions. Berkeley's nominalism, Hume's statement that whatever things we distinguish are as 'loose and separate' as if they had 'no manner of connection.' James Mill's denial that similars have anything 'really' in common, the resolution of the causal tie into habitual sequence, John Mill's account of both physical things and selves as composed of discontinuous possibilities, and the general pulverization of all Experience by association and the mind-dust theory, are examples of what I mean.
-           from A World of Pure Experience, 1904 

The pulverization of experience occurs as soon as we begin to classify, label, identify, analyze and organize our experience according to a model that we cultivate over time to give meaning to our perceptions. What we lose in pure experience we gain in cognition. All the sensations that comprised that experience lose their acuity but it would be wrong to say they’re lost. The process is similar to the refinement of ore. A mass of unrecognizable dirt and rock becomes a dinner set or a bridge, a car or an Eiffel Tower, a surgical instrument or French horn. It’s a process of metamorphosis. Of transformation. A sequence of events that never culminate in a single definitive end but keep metamorphosing in a network of balances and instabilities, attractions and repulsions. 

A simple example will serve: I have a cut on the inside of my right middle finger. I got it from playing with Toby, our cat. He likes to chase a piece of ribbon, particularly that type of narrow ribbon with the little grooves in it so that you can run it over a sharp edge to make it curl. I swing it over his head, run it over the floor, hide it behind my back as he attempts to catch it with his mouth or claw. He leaps, pivots, lunges. He loves to play with this thing. He got me on the inside of my middle finger with a claw. This isn’t unusual. My right hand is generally constellated with little cuts where he has bit me or nabbed me with a set of claws. They usually don’t hurt. I’m often surprised to find myself bleeding. But the one on the inside of my middle finger really hurts. It feels like a paper cut. Maybe it’s because the skin has greater sensitivity in this area. It also seems slower to heal. The pain has a purity that resists artful assassination by analysis. It persists in exquisite particularity. It resists the attentions of intellect. There’s no meaning to it, no lesson in it, no symbolism or parable. It just hurts. 
 
Meanwhile I use my index finger to tap the surface of the tablet that brings up the rue du Fauborg-Montmartre, no 7, Paris, France, where it is said that Isidore Ducasse, the author of Les Chants du Maldoror, passed away at the age of twenty-four, November 24th, 1870. I get a street view: the buildings appear to date from the nineteenth century and may be the ones in existence when he lived there. There’s a restaurant at street level called La Rose de Tunis serving Pizza, Panini, Crêpes, and Grilades. Next to it, on the corner, is a shop called Minelli which features shoes and women’s accessories. How much has changed since Isidore Ducasse, a.k.a. Le comte de Lautréamont, lived there and labored at his strange, magnificent book?  

I tap Pandora and get an instrumental song by Johann Johannsson titled, in Icelandic, “Ég Átti Erfiða Æsku,” which appears to mean something like “I struggled in my youth.” The music is simple, strings, bells, drum, a sad, wistful, languishing melody punctuated by the rhythms of bells and drums. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Word Surf


Let’s say that description is created by a bas relief climbing into itself on paper. This is a sample of thought but because its behavior is somewhat larger than a harmonica it might also serve as a version of exploration. We swim in the sounds below our life. Some of these sounds emerge to the surface and get written down as the wet sheen of an octopus crawling from one tank to another in an aquarium of the mind. For the mind is a house of water and consciousness spills on the table where it breaks into the foam of stupefaction. Life is erratic and conversational. A place like New Orleans occurs when space is concentrated near a river and brocades of smooth brown water indicate the contours of the bottom. The streets and sidewalks of Paris are in better condition. But if we ask ourselves, à la the Pixies, where the mind is the answer may appear at the edge of the night shining like the rails of the Kansas City Southern as they cross the border into Mexico. My existence on paper reaches for your eyes. I salute your blood. I’m familiar with the great gift of milk. But how can anyone know if they’re being ironic? Language is hallucinatory. It’s hard to be sincere with one large blood red eye and a white T-shirt that says “if you’ve been waiting longer than 15 minutes inform the receptionist.” Poetry is a form of resistance. I can smell its geography. We spin books into its shadows. Luminous emotions bathed in camaraderie inspire me to be a better addict. I’m addicted to words. I’ve attempted withdrawal on occasion but even my skin insists on participation, telling a story of labor and pain in a scripture of epidermal honesty. Sometimes you can’t escape the traffic. You can attack the duplicity of politicians or drink their elixirs while the rest of the world performs its fusions and expands in our eyes tart as the present tense of a martini olive. It’s your call. Me, I want to exercise my rights as a citizen of the sun. The sky leans over the horizon leaking light and water. Our only real duty is that of a moonlit puddle singing its silent lucidity to the indifferent stars. Wrap your pickles in incendiary nouns. Let your inner anarchy out of the proverbial bag. Whenever I feel my life hanging like a rag from the faucet of the kitchen sink I strain to excite a crisis of words plunged in their own diversions, teasing a thought or two like a single blue orchid asleep on the escritoire. Words incarnate the tangle of the mind. But once they get going even the parrots turn capricious and say things no one could’ve predicted. My sad green desires turn Pythagorean and yesterday’s muffins languish in Euclid. I hum algebra. I crackle. I cackle. I postulate mosses and dips and eat potato chips. Shadows gather in accommodations of mood and weather. The world turns. I ride a comet like a washing machine. Churning feels romantic and pleasantly awkward, but the rinse cycle is fully discursive. And then it happens. Language simmers in its unfolding like a fist unfolds in fingers or a seashore gushes onto the land.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Blatant Taffeta


You could say that a word is empty but if it cuts the air and rides on a tongue there is an incentive to say something abstract, something wet and automatic, like rain. Blood is awkward. But desire is French. Therefore, say something consummately sincere. Say it is snowing in Asia. Say the door is pushed open and the insects are scattering into the cracks and corners. Form is the beginning of structure. It is there that the shadow pinches the light and pharmacy hugs its drugs. Push forward despite the evident virtuosity of leather. You won’t regret it. Life is better than television but not as bathetic. One must learn to accept the heaviness of the traffic. Forget about the woman honking her horn behind you making you feel embarrassed because you were daydreaming when the light turned green. Engage the clutch slowly as you step on the gas. Language isn’t entirely a matter of traffic lights. The heart is a dark genius. Its accessories twinkle under the weight of a transcendent sympathy. I begin with the charm of flowers and end by sitting in an attic leafing through old National Geographics. By the end of the Cretaceous the continents had roughly taken their current position. But why dinosaurs? Well, why not dinosaurs? There’s a drug that offers miracles and if you pull it along a fire escape it will activate and talk about seeing things before you even swallow it. Next time you see me I may be wearing a necklace of little bronze hats. Before I became the philosopher king of my living room I pondered taking up plumbing. Some oil had formed on my chin and so I removed it and pasted it to the desk where it steamed and smoldered like a kerosene lamp on a humid night in Anchorage. What was it, I wondered. I figured it out later: an amalgam of words I’d forgotten about had assumed meaning and image and turned itself into a paragraph when I wasn’t looking. This happens a lot. Let a dime shine and a nickel will entrance you with a parable of value. It’s rather astounding. You should see the bulge in my pocket. I’m lazy about spending change. I just shove dollars at people, clerks and automobile salesmen, just to see what will happen. I now own twelve cars and a mountain in China. I feel foolish, but I’m also an authority on the symbolism of groceries, and that education wasn’t cheap, brother. My advice: tailor your success according to the ancient saws. A penny earned is a penny saved, that sort of thing. Explain swimming to an extraterrestrial. Grammar is a muscle. Meaning arrives later dragging its attitudes behind it. Some things beg to be expressed as imagery and straw. This is why we name our emotions Larry, Moe, and Gravy. But if a fly could talk we wouldn’t be able to understand its language. Until then I’m just energy, a pair of ears waiting to hear something from Mars, a sad sweet song about the winds blowing over the deserts, or a powwow in my pillow, scents and refinements expressing themselves in the streets of Paris. This happens every time I read Proust. I sit down and put words in a sentence in the next thing you know I’m lifting thoughts into blatant taffeta.