Saturday, July 12, 2014

Song Brocade

There is a song of silk called Song Brocade. Brocade during China’s Song Dynasty put its emphasis on liveliness and color. Eye candy. Brilliant colors, exquisite patterns, a supple and resistant texture. Expensive and heavy, it wasn’t suitable for clothing, but had about it the bulk of sunlight. Its patterns dreamed in the woof and warp of graceful dexterity. It created a geometry of flowers and animals, clouds and dragons. Colors were divided into three categories: harmonic colors based on yellow, harmonic colors based on grey, contrasting colors based on red, green and orange. One imagines the sound of the looms as a clatter and a fabulous sincerity of effort, as if a kind of surgery were being performed, or consciousness loomed from wood.  

Evergreens swayed by the Yangtze. Rain puddled in the hollows of flagstone. Sandalwood incense brocaded the quiet air in the Temple of the Loom Spirit.  

Jîn is Chinese for ‘brocade.’ As in: 水中的涟漪在阳光的照射下似锦缎布匹一样光滑油亮。
“The ripples on the water are as smooth and bright as a brocade under the sunshine.”  

English brocade comes from Italian broccato, meaning “embossed cloth,” panno in rilievo, and has the same root as the word “broccoli.” In Italian, the verb broccare means “to stud, to set with nails,” which comes from brocco, small nail, which in turn comes from Latin broccus, “projecting, or pointed.” These words put my mind in relation with sharp things that poke, that are meant to penetrate cloth, and raise threads to a condition of legibility, in the same way that a pen might measle paper with the needlepoint of life, transcendence, transformation, the private soliloquys that whistle us into tumults of elaborated thought.  

Brocade occurs in writing when the intent is to make of language a tool of precision, a spigot of points, needles, gold, silver, silk, nebulous desires, communion, incarnations of text and texture, the energy of signs, of prophecies and fables, roots and origins, buffalo and pearls, ecstasies and convulsions, fabulous voyages, marriage propositions, death in the family, epiphanies, exotic wildlife, savage ruminations, mythological creatures, worms and Turkish harems.  

Themes are never truly singular but a matter of warps and woofs, a cross-weaving of contraries, an attempt to bring meaning and pattern to the arbitrariness of signs and experience. Mocassins and prayers mix with picks and ribbons, dragons and glowworms, glissandos of conscioussness resonant as Zhejiang gongs. The impulsion of blood the refinement of orchids. Time and gravity are cross-weavings of woof and warp in the loom of space. The semantic froth of allegory floats the creak and groan of speculative wood. The delicacy of sand reveals ripples of wind. There is a weaving of everything that stretches as far as the grandeur of time in infinity’s phantasmal silk.  




Steven Fama said...

This is very persuasive. By which I mean I definitely think you are right.

Especially the next-to-last paragraph, the whole thing but especially "buffalo and pearls." My O my. That phrase contains multitudes!

My googling suggests that phrase has appeared in writing but once elsewhere, in a 2007 non-fiction book La Junta de los Rios: The life, death, and resurrection of an ancient desert community in the Big Bend region of Texas. The writer says that certain Spanish visitors to that region, like every other visitor before them, "had found little to make them linger; they were more interested in pursuing rumors of kingdoms, buffalo and pearls."

I also find on-line (on Pinterest) a photo of a woman wearing a buffalo check (i.e., a bold, wide plaid) shirt with pearls. It's a striking image and a compelling visual representation of the poetry of "buffalo and pearls."

Thanks John!

John Olson said...

Wow, that's amazing. I had no idea when I wrote that. It just sounded right. Thanks, Steve, for that additional research.

Steven Fama said...

I was surprised to find another "buffalo and pearls" too. It's such a far-out, beautiful phrase, especially as used in your post / poem / mini-essay.

(By the way, it looks like my attempt to embed links in the comment above was an abject failure -- sorry about that!)

Delia Psyche said...

Doesn't it come from Dylan, too?

"Till she finally sees that she's like all the rest
With her fog, her buffalo, and her pearls"