Saturday, July 12, 2008

An open letter to the Universe last night / An open letter to the two girls in the park last night

Dear Universe last night,

Although I have no absolutely certain regrets about my constant attempts to rearrange any number of your aspects, I do nevertheless feel that I should offer some sort of apology -- in order, perhaps, just to keep things moving smoothly between us and to keep up appearances in front of the watchful eyes of the vigilant and the casual observers alike. In other words, I feel that I should offer an apology as a sort of political move.

There is a black, tar-like substance all over my hands, this morning, like the grease of the wheels of time. I made decisions, and it does not matter good nor bad. I attempted to make alterations to the flow of things and in so attempting, I did, in fact, make alterations. The comedic aspects; the overwhelming sense of love for my fellow human beings of fine and clumsy form; the pleasant exchange with the police in the park; the slap on the wrist; the questioning glances that I did not see; the deft moves, the charitable moves, the expedient moves; running into an acquaintance of times past with the grease of the wheels of time, reeking, all over my hands and my fly down -- these things were all just manifest aspects of the decisions that I made in order to alter your course, to rearrange and somehow order you in a way that I saw fit. People must do these things. I am a gallerist of improvised thrills. I am an improviser of wagers and assigned meanings. I saw lightning to the north as I fell asleep with the women shouting and running in their billowy summer dresses on the wide sidewalks below my window. I certainly did not (nor do I ever) intend to insult you by insinuating that the state that you had been in up until the moment that I began my attempts to alter it was somehow inadequate or inferior to some hypothetical mutation of said state. Who do I think I am to keep pushing, pushing, pushing and jamming my hands into the gears of time and activity, forcing auspices, and sloshing around the materials of occurence like finger paints? I am so sorry that I tried to talk to you when I could not speak.


Dear girls in the park last night,

It is really no significant problem that while we were sitting together, you seemed only to erratically notice my existence. I really do not care that much. I barely even remember your faces. Or rather, I should say, I only actually remember one of your faces. But you could have thanked me for deftly cleaning the gears of time for you with an improvised tool made of a notebook spine, and for trying to convince you to sit in the grass, rather than on the basketball court. If it were not for me, you two would have only thought about your activities the way that you were bound to think of them and you would have had no idea what I was thinking if I had not sat there, speaking in the wild manner in which I was speaking. I should not have to ask "Is it alright with you if I sit here?" The real problem is that you actually offered me nothing and you ran like the wind when the police came. The real problem is that you aroused some sort of strange, whimsical anger in me and that I now feel the need to write you an open letter. Why did the two of you have to accost me like that when the DJ was playing West African guitar band music and orbit me like troublesome cosmic objects, massively looming, and rotating, pushing and pulling me to that park where you would then attempt to challenge my very existence by looking only at each other or the sky or your devices. I am trying not to do anything, trying to avoid action altogether; why did you have to go and challenge my existence and act like planets and grease time and make me run into an acquaintance of times past? Now I have had to spend the morning speaking like this and trying to recall all of the details of the lightning that I saw in the north as I fell asleep, wondering how badly I startled my roommate when I woke him on the couch and if it is of any consequence whether or not I intended to be your theodicean or your jester or your shill. You should have stabbed me and stolen my money and we should have set ourselves on fire together. Your equanimity was not the type that actually works. Go home. Stay there.

So many crossing places all there, together


Friday, March 28, 2008

Remnants, abstractions -- garlands of skulls (Part II)

But I do not think that I am talking symbols when I say that everything gets down to its most essential. It is when we participate in a recognition of this everything-contains-its-essential-remnants formulation that we begin to engage in the play of symbols. And as to how this symbol-play itself relates to the essential remnants understanding of the world, much can be said.
A symbol is, after all, an abridged, essentialized version of something else. A symbol refers to something more complex than its own relatively simple combination of aspects. The remnant and the symbol share this in common. Perhaps the dome is not the best example, but it might be adequate (as a symbol). If only the dome is left, what do we know about the structure, if the rest of the structure is gone without a trace? Do we know more about the structure if its foundation remains? Of course we can know the structure’s location, its size, we may even be able to determine its height based on the depth of the foundation. We can derive, from the foundation, how many this and how many that. The foundation is the more essential because it contains, in its own relatively simple structuring, references to information that is not present. This, then, is what constitutes the essential quality of something.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Remnants, abstractions -- garlands of skulls (Part I)

When I say that everything contains its own ruin, that everything, by its very design, accounts for its eventual decay, that every thing is made up of, among other components, its own eventual remnants, how is it that I know this? That is to say, is this something intuited or inherited through some sort of inherent self-knowledge? Is it because we, as humans, are made up of, among other components, our eventual remnants? And is this even the case?

We hear that, cellularly, the human body completely regenerates its own makeup every seven years. Of course this is a gradual, phasic process. That is to say, of course, that we do not simply “change over” every seven years, turning in our old skin for a new one. So we at least, at any given moment, contain our potential remnants, or some form of it. Formally, perhaps we even contain at every given moment, a complete type of our own remnants. This is, in a way, simply to say that everything exists in passing, that everything is bound for its own unique ruin and that, of course, everything as it is at any moment, is related to the particular way in which it will cease to be that which it is at present. But when I casually – flippantly, even – say that everything contains within its very design, its own ruin, do I understand this primarily through myself? Is it my own preoccupation with abstraction of form that leads me to claim this, to believe this idea of ruin and design?

Remnant can be taken to mean “something left over; remainder” or “a surviving form or vestige”. Abstract can describe something having “an artistic content that depends on intrinsic form rather than on pictorial representation” but can also be taken to mean “a summary or condensation” (as in an abstract). To condense can be taken to mean: “to abridge”. To abridge, “to cut short; curtail”. To survive can be taken to mean: “to remain alive or in existence; endure”. A remnant, then, is both an endurance and an announcement of endurance spent. An abstraction is both a shortened form and a more intrinsic form. And intrinsic, of course, can be taken to mean “relating to the essential nature of a thing; inherent”. The abstracted form of myself is, in this formulation, the essential, the inherent form. The implication, here, is that the more inherent is the more abstracted and that the more abstracted is the more intrinsic.

In which direction, one might wonder, can this concept move? In both directions? That is to say, is the form that is shortened to its remainder, to its surviving, utmost abstracted version, the most essential? Can we say that the skeletal remains of a monument were the most essential all along and that the dome, for example, has somehow all along been the least essential?

And of myself? Am I at my most essential when I am at my most abbreviated? If the answer is yes, this implies that time itself engages in no arbitrary abstraction, and that the effects of the course of the planets around the sun are inclined only to making, over and again, the most essential distinctions.
In a way, this puts us all in pretty good standing, wherever we are standing, certainly facing, while standing, each our own unique and inevitable utmost abstraction and most essential. One might conjecture that the global effect of this would be that the world has been and is gradually, over great epochal churnings, bringing itself closer and closer to its most essential forms, abridging all of the more inessential content, getting down, day by day, to the real skeleton of the matter. Helping it along, in this case, may well be a matter of aiding everything in moving toward its most skeletal at every opportunity. But if this seems to present an inconvenient challenge to the general trend of modern living, as it almost certainly does, are we threatened with the possibility that we are not in such good standing as it may have seemed just a moment ago?
Where are those wonderful people wearing garlands of skulls and anointing themselves with the ashes of the dead, to remind us of our (somehow now struggling) natural tendency toward each our own unique and inevitable utmost abstraction? Given the state of things, where can we even begin to invite that spirit in / back in to our lives? Get rid of your television? Smash your rice cooker? Fewer gears for your bicycle? Ride a unicycle? No cycle? Walk? Abstain from political elections? These all seem like trivial moves, given the scope of the question. But can the same not be said for wearing a garland of skulls? I am, personally, privately, drawn to the symbolic severity of this action. But as it is ultimately symbolic, could we not suppose that the entire enterprise is a game made of the systems of symbols in which we have become (or have always been) embedded?

Friday, March 14, 2008

New fighting spirit

I had, somewhat previously unknown to me, a particular type of “fighting spirit” which would take on a somnolently philosophical quality in the interim between wakefulness and slow, heaving sleeping. In visual finesses, there was made an incredible case for throwing a punch at any stranger who happened to drop a cigarette butt on any beautiful arrangement of stones comprising any beautiful, twisted, narrow street down which I traveled or upon which I stood, wistful and idle. In a convincing rebuttal of all ideas of Christian morality, the case was made by way of a new formulation of thought that follows a movement throughout a network of inspiration and liberation. If I were to let some stranger have it, if I were to throw a punch for a seemingly trivial reason, but one that amounted to a lot for me, I might pass along some substantial amount of inspiration. That is to say, it was made clear to me that such action would be passed on in the form of the stranger awakening to a life of fighting, that he would then throw a punch at the next stranger he witnessed doing something that violated one of his own ethical considerations. That stranger would in turn do the same and then so on until the universe were passing not in fits and starts but in one ecstatic brawl, punches being the chosen methods of propulsion and communication for most people in most places – freedom.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A seasonal post / re-post

The first is from the beginning of the winter, the second is from almost exactly one year ago to the day.

Cities are not like people

It will start with something somewhere in between apology, in the classic and / or literal sense of the term, and improvised communication. Apology for what? Apology perhaps for the improvised communication, and perhaps then, if that, apology in both the classic and / or literal sense of the term and the more modern, common, colloquial understanding.

The sight of street after street or street day after day rises with a hypnotic quality. The casually effective character of Chicago is that it believes it must prove itself at all moments, having been, over time, relegated to the position of “Second City”, although it is, of course, the Third City and although it has nothing to prove at the moment. This is a charming quality in a city, a sort of neurosis of self- image, “something to prove.” Charming in a city if not in a person. Anyone that has ever written or uttered the sentiment that cities are “like people,” that a city is “like a person” did so because he was possessed by an anxiety upon realizing that he had run out of things to write or say. This “cities are like people” is just the kind of thing that is written or uttered when one has really nothing worthwhile to write or utter. It means nothing. Cities are not like people because they are, for example, more attractive for their neuroses. Perhaps this could be said of certain people, it is true, but the neurosis of a particular city more categorically assigns genuine character. Action is multiplied by X number of people in the case of a city. Response is preemptive. Communication is painful and easy.

The early urban winter city air is heavy with cognitive looping and hideous progress. In the cold, the exhaust is more visible at its first entry into the atmosphere, but less visible eventually as it seems to entirely vanish into the flat, shimmering cold. Chicago attempts to prove itself at every turn, for so long thought of as the flat, characterless city of the Midwestern prairies. The artists are emboldened by the working class history -- and not only in a Tony Fitzpatrick kind of way, but also in a reactionary way: “This city has something else; art!” while at the same time claiming the depth of legitimacy and authenticity lent by the working class history. And I say all of this with a sincere and intense respect because, of course, I am not outside of the orbit that is comprised by these gravitous tensions. Gravity is chains, chained weight is the chain gang gathered ‘round the artist-by-tradition-bar which sells beer for cheap enough, chain gang. I would never venture a guess as to how many paintings have been rendered of A. Finkl & Son in the waxing or the waning of daylight. I have never rendered such a painting, but have breathed the queer, soapy smell blossoming there on Cortland in both waxing and waning daylight, sometimes twice in a day, on opposite ends. Down along Ashland south of there, the low factory monuments brimming with windowpane skeletons and shallow history, grayed, faded and by now appreciated only by those in the chain gang saying: “. . . something else; art!” There are various gravities.

Stripping loop from loop around.


Don't say I never gave you anything, cosmos

Just before Lake Street
on the 54 / Cermak Pink Line
off to the left
a small plastic dinosaur
maybe six inches long
laying on its left side
on top of an awning
outside of an apartment
looks like the last of
the dinosaurs
in the March thaw
ice age passing
revealing secrets of
dog shit
and the preserved bodies
of prehistoric
lost religious medallions
plummetted into snow
on drunken nights
forgotten letters
notes un-passed
in so many 4th grade
cigarette butts by the
thousands, each
with its own
complex history

artifacts of a temporarily
forgotten cosmology
carrots leading us forth
back / forth

We watched a Russian war
scored live, orchestra
in the park
drank Bell's
rain falling on our heads
head home

Some child will wake today
and make a red-letter
archaeological discovery
scientific journals

The wind sweeps my
cigarette butt from the
park bench, beside me
into the mud

I am the shepherd
of universal

Don't say I never
gave you anything,

Friday, March 07, 2008

Coping with a disaster of forms

As I meditate on / stare at these Rajput “painted poems,” I ask by what means can I find the epic, the ecstatic, that has its roots, its generative element planted and springing from something free of the material. That is to ask, even, not how I might find a generative element radically free of the material, but rather, simply, somehow free of the material. A righteous man should be in the world, killing, even, if that is what his world demands, but always with his fruits, his intentions, offered to God; but how does one know if one should kill? And how to feel right about killing?

The impossible is the demand; the duty is the meeting of. The joke is on the human. The structuring that demands faith in classes is a construction and a dysfunction but the demands made therein are worth pulling from the flames of the Sati pyre. Perhaps my caste is widow, previously unnamed, but righteously most righteous. I create my utmost emotional and aesthetic universe out of burning things, things burning. Better yet, smoldering things – the “smolder” is the fire that is seems never to go out although, of course, it is out. The smoldering thing burns with little smoke and no flame. The smoldering thing burns nearly undetected. The smoldering flame makes great advancements with no leaps – it can be epic in scope and course without drawing the attention that the epic normally entails. It is in this way the entire course of all things, the truly and certainly cosmic, is smoldering. The advance is passings and trappings slipping and burning away. Why it most makes sense in the most non-material, senseless, “chaotic” moments is for the true mystic to understand and not adequately explain, painful as it may be for the rest of us to have to come to terms with. My own personal epic was executed painfully out of tune by loving friends, smoldering as it was, is, and will always be.

It is a disaster of forms that leaves us all grabbing at ourselves, trying to sense and make sense. As it all smolders around us, we attempt and attempt and construct attempts. Our only recourse is to secrets. That has been and always will be the way. From our youth, it is constructed as such, and from the very history of those that dwelt in caves, intoning and smoldering, that has been the way. The only real question at this point in history is whether or not those in the caves felt any sense of remorse – or shame – for having and keeping secrets from the rest of the walking universe. My bet is that those very people got considerably off on the danger of the secret itself. The secret is the smoldering, and there is no anything worthwhile without that very sense. God is the picture clandestinely handed over, beneath the very nose of the one who does not want you to hold it, to regard it. She is the “I didn’t smoke” “I didn’t touch myself” “I didn’t snicker”; but not simply that. That, then, is the generative moment. Beyond that, there is the truth of the situation. Beyond that, then, is the knowledge of the truth of the situation. It is, then, the apprehension of the knowledge of the truth of the situation. Somewhere within all of that resides the object of this particular inquiry. Or rather, and more precisely, somewhere within all of that resides the method of attaining the object of this particular inquiry. Do well by the world, while it is yours, and recognize the faces of those who are somehow more than entirely lost within it, those who cannot but rest in that pyre. If I am anything, it is a widow of forms, as my lazy eyes, steeped in shame, graze those particular devices to which I have consistently laid waste in my unfortunate tendency towards neglect. There is no freedom but through the very things which will most demand our bondage.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Nantes 6: Three Short Poems of Varying Relevance

Le Café Porquois Pas?

The woman who, with her husband, owns this café
Sets up the chairs and tables
Out in front;
It is 36 degrees.

For Sebald

Where the hell are you buried?

Le Cathedrale de St. Pierre et St. Paul

Nantes Cathedrale is actually called Le Cathedrale de St. Pierre et St. Paul,
But secularism is the religion of the French
And they are remarkably devoted.
And so Le Cathedrale de St. Pierre et St. Paul is called Nantes Cathedrale,
Which is fine, I suppose,
Unless you are St. Pierre or St. Paul.