Page 1

Lesser A S t r a n g e r

Iliya Ansky


A Lesser Stranger Iliya Ansky

2


A Lesser Stranger Š 2016 Iliya Ansky 3


A Lesser Stranger ............................................................................................................................. 8 Nonplussed Ultra ............................................................................................................................. 9 Nothing’s the Matter ..................................................................................................................... 10 huggin & munnin ........................................................................................................................... 11 Grandma and The Villains .......................................................................................................... 12 Remains ........................................................................................................................................... 13 Medea to her Husband ............................................................................................................... 14 A Gentlemen’s Club ..................................................................................................................... 14 Out of Means .................................................................................................................................. 15 Dimensions of Convo ................................................................................................................... 17 Thirteen............................................................................................................................................. 18 Third Date ........................................................................................................................................ 19 From a Rag’s Column .................................................................................................................. 20 La Bocca della Verita .................................................................................................................. 21 Aerial ................................................................................................................................................ 22 Retort................................................................................................................................................. 23 Ugh .................................................................................................................................................... 24 Mode d’Emploi .............................................................................................................................. 25 The Annealed ................................................................................................................................. 26 The Breaking of the Vessel ......................................................................................................... 27 Compromise ................................................................................................................................... 28 The Trail ............................................................................................................................................ 29 Waking Blanks................................................................................................................................ 30 Lifeguards ........................................................................................................................................ 31 Football ............................................................................................................................................ 33 Pebbly .............................................................................................................................................. 34 Labrys ............................................................................................................................................... 35 Utopia ............................................................................................................................................... 36 ICBM ................................................................................................................................................. 37 Absence .......................................................................................................................................... 38 Teachings ........................................................................................................................................ 39 Thimbleness .................................................................................................................................... 40 4


The End of History .......................................................................................................................... 42 Rex Ex Nihilo ................................................................................................................................... 43 Anything .......................................................................................................................................... 44 slew ................................................................................................................................................... 45 delft blue ......................................................................................................................................... 46 The Blueprints ................................................................................................................................. 47 Form of Age .................................................................................................................................... 48 After They Cancelled the 9 O'clock ........................................................................................ 49 The Maenad ................................................................................................................................... 50 Case by Case ................................................................................................................................ 51 Body Language ............................................................................................................................. 52 Sleep, Inner Eyes ........................................................................................................................... 53 Faithfulness...................................................................................................................................... 54 abroad ............................................................................................................................................. 55 Stability ............................................................................................................................................. 56 L4 ........................................................................................................................................................ 57 The Fig-Leaf Edition ....................................................................................................................... 58 Agoraphobic's Almanac ............................................................................................................ 59 Leviathan ......................................................................................................................................... 60 Guarding Happiness Like a Wolf .............................................................................................. 61 Saphina ............................................................................................................................................ 62 The Enduring Myth ........................................................................................................................ 63 The Cumbersome Humours ....................................................................................................... 64 Vegetative ...................................................................................................................................... 65 Premonitions of Madness ............................................................................................................ 66 A Poem for All Times..................................................................................................................... 67 Pioneers and Voyagers ............................................................................................................... 68 Facelift .............................................................................................................................................. 69 A Note of Consideration ............................................................................................................. 70 Widow ............................................................................................................................................... 71 Nearness .......................................................................................................................................... 72 Lucifer’s First Interview ................................................................................................................. 73 Etymology ....................................................................................................................................... 74 The Axis Women ............................................................................................................................ 75 After While ....................................................................................................................................... 77 Zahrada ........................................................................................................................................... 78 5


The Hard Bargain........................................................................................................................... 79 Chuppah ......................................................................................................................................... 80 The Importance of Removing Toxins from Our Lives ........................................................... 81 Whoever it Was .............................................................................................................................. 82 Exeunt ............................................................................................................................................... 83 The Switch And .............................................................................................................................. 84 The Sphinx ....................................................................................................................................... 85 The Poplars of Bohnice ................................................................................................................ 86 Taking Notes ................................................................................................................................... 87 What Happens Next ..................................................................................................................... 88 The Occupation............................................................................................................................. 89 The Scruples of the Prince .......................................................................................................... 90 Half So .............................................................................................................................................. 91 The Wandering Act ....................................................................................................................... 92 Marat ................................................................................................................................................ 93 Man, too late .................................................................................................................................. 94 Going Back ..................................................................................................................................... 95 The Great Work .............................................................................................................................. 96 Relative Key .................................................................................................................................... 97 Prometheus ..................................................................................................................................... 98 The Berlin Method ......................................................................................................................... 99 After School .................................................................................................................................. 100 The Reassurer ............................................................................................................................... 101 The Exercise .................................................................................................................................. 102 Pearls and Roses ......................................................................................................................... 103 Cameo Appearance ................................................................................................................. 104 At Least .......................................................................................................................................... 105 The Trick ......................................................................................................................................... 106 Sprung in Completeness ........................................................................................................... 107 Old Motif ........................................................................................................................................ 108 humming. Humming .................................................................................................................. 109 Apocryphal Clay......................................................................................................................... 110 Chiron ............................................................................................................................................. 111 Ariadne .......................................................................................................................................... 112 Raising the Bar ............................................................................................................................. 113 Plain Sight ...................................................................................................................................... 114 6


Though he can't recall the rest, he is the same ................................................................. 115 Preludes ......................................................................................................................................... 116 The Entity ........................................................................................................................................ 117 Choice of Format ........................................................................................................................ 118 Physical .......................................................................................................................................... 119 The Program ................................................................................................................................. 120 The Dowry ...................................................................................................................................... 121 Near Kirkenes ............................................................................................................................... 122 The Liberation Bearers ............................................................................................................... 123 A Friend of Virtue ......................................................................................................................... 124 The Elephant in the Room ......................................................................................................... 125 Convention ................................................................................................................................... 126 Naked Foreknowledge ............................................................................................................. 127 Noir .................................................................................................................................................. 128 Choosing a Period ...................................................................................................................... 129 Catch As Catch Can.................................................................................................................. 130 Prank ............................................................................................................................................... 131 The Frontier Guard ...................................................................................................................... 132 Untitled ........................................................................................................................................... 133 The Shoeshine .............................................................................................................................. 134 Now that we have thus established them ........................................................................... 135 Whereabouts ................................................................................................................................ 136 Compartment Syndrome .......................................................................................................... 137 After You The Land ...................................................................................................................... 138 Fake it Till You Make It ............................................................................................................... 139 Untitled ........................................................................................................................................... 140

7


A Lesser Stranger Tireless and haggard, with a blink of an eye she eludes her own precautions and lets her craving do the rest of the work in her. She is alone in this as in many other choices that came before. The past at the tips of her fingers had never served its purpose, though something recovered had always been doused in the intuitive, before it went against her in the same old way. Something in her ready to snap again an inner mug shot no one would notice, if not for blank movement, movement that is otherwise supposed to bolster one‘s face with understanding. She is talking her way out of his conversation, more strained and rugged in his mouth than in hers this time. He is tracing runes of conviction on a serviette, certain that tomorrow can be born that way – the oldest trick in the book which doesn‘t stop her from listening. He is orchestrating a tiny future for them, and she tireless and haggard, listens. What would it be, what would it be this time? A lesser stranger takes their order.

8


Nonplussed Ultra They have evacuated something, a good few weeks ago, from a number of heads. Somewhere, a muse lends herself indefatigably to a whole new notion of puppeteering; and an obscure band of brothers, a good enough tally for a start, goes knuckle-clicking in another part of the world, bull-necked with confused rumours in their nostrils, before taking sneak peeks at conviction donors, so that regulated savagery can reinstate itself as everyone‘s extended family member on the airwaves. Meanwhile, I‘ll get myself a clean shave, thinks the protector of causality behind thick walls that correspond with one another in a gingerly wainscot manner, after a peaceful night of deep slumber in his Phrygian cap. One day I‘ll carefully close that door and that door and swallow that key without making too much noise, so that only I can hear myself swallowing it. A good deed for a pleasant day to remember with cymbals. Presuming that I‘m caught off-guard, like a pike in the languid trawl of seasoned mongrels almost too ripe for headlines. But, not now, not now, when there are so many endearing calls to make.

9


Nothing’s the Matter Despite him being glassy in the eyes he was clued up on certain affiliations and their experimental sides. Nothing‘s the matter, nothing‘s the matter at all, he would half mutter to himself when observing them in their scaffolding phase. The town had commissioned a new master of architecture from overseas to build the tallest edifice around. He who can command stone and metal to find so many points to agree on. But shouldn‘t the tallest edifice be that of a house of god? Surely a heathen rumination that takes shape in the heart and in the mind and lastly in the formless rock cannot be but doomed if it aspired to such magnitudes without the word of god finding its way into a man with the right sort of heart first. Oh, the tortuousness of it. And here comes a man, known only by the kind of faithless reputation that is born in rags and almanacs, a man that knows how to build fast by the shortcuts of theory and money. Surely that man cannot expect anything but a grave toppling of this so called reputation on the innocent heads that do not know their shelter. His throat was dry and he had a violent urge for some form of elegance on the tip of his tongue, with a little drop of spirit perhaps. An addition to the recited catechisms of the day but something with his name on it, something that would have its own occasion. There passed a season and another, and syllables were minced and put together again, into words, into sentences, while the scaffolds were still there, and when they were shed as autumn leaves, revealing a bare monument that no eyes in the town have seen before. Bare as a clean slate, bare as the sounds that were coming out of his mouth by then, no bait of heaven or hell, just there, in one solid piece, in what seemed as an agreement, a compromise for what rages below and keeps silent above.

10


huggin & munnin when it‘s time to go for the hill to go green birds will carry us in our own words take us up on them but will they be convincing enough in a strange land when it‘s time to go for the hill to go green birds

11


Grandma and The Villains There goes another scoundrel's face congested into the affable beside a headline. He grins to try his luck with whomever is going to read the latest piece about him. The more certain public scoundrels or men with something fishy going on - get older, the more strangely they look like my grandma, who was the kindest person I have known. Grandma was born in Amerika a village in the Urals. She grew up humble and helped others through life, raised two children, cleaned rooms and was a cashier in a Soviet supermarket. She had nothing in common with that grinning bunch, promising reparations in different tongues. As these men get older and turn gray and white, remote from the things that furnished her memories, maybe now and again they get a second chance from grandma while one shoe still fits them and they can find the other.

12


Remains The robots, like everything else in our culture, had been derived from instinctive courtship. When they started singing, it was a cue for us to safely continue winking at the world, to remain vastly opinionated in our dear little towns.

13


Medea to her Husband Everything that comes out of your mouth these days is an arid pearl, predestined for the walls in which you embrace addiction, no last time or next, only living in the present where your covetous backbone borrows its shape. Are you cold? I will edge out of my loathing for a blanket, for the benefit of your dreams that still nestle under your skin. Do you remember the mythical ship which set sail without you? You said you did that for me. As if its going with anyone but you was a trick, a trick that only I could not fail to see. And indeed there was a time when you were an unsung conjurer in my eyes whom other continents could not have. And I watched you slowly getting eaten by the dreams of others which you had buried in your fertile bosom, until they sent their sprouts, fresh, impersonal, intended to repeat the fate of being torn in fitful haste, of being torn out of you by anyone, anyone but me.

14


A Gentlemen’s Club I know the end, I‘m in the habit of reading it first. That‘s a lucky outfit for life, efficient too, not delaying the future, better than extracting some kind of virtue from someone to imprison them in. Now is that a crime? The well dressed gentlemen were gnawing on conversation to its pit, secretly waiting for the first one to break a tooth on it. The systematic ones among them were only there to admire the convulsions, but admit it they would certainly not. The erudite of the tumbrel were a nightmare to them in broad daylight. No, these gentlemen‘s kind could only be avenged by the plausible giddiness of determination in a wide breadth of words. Dusk was gathering on their brows, and their admiration for everything and nothing was soaring under the ebb of seriousness, that mucky typical seriousness where no true admiration can burgeon. These were fine gentlemen, not ready at all to be lost again, fine indeed, who had taken so much trouble to learn to uncork happiness.

15


Out of Means They ran out of means to shoot a vision about the end of the world in the declamatory scenery, pupils of hunger and other shores. A plaque of history advised climbing on tombs can result in fall, giving birth to motives. It‘s the end that makes the beginning so precious, such a palimpsest, really. Constantly rewritten when the end draws near. Never so uneasy, a victim of perfect adjustment. And in their sketch for an end to everyone far there in the future, they feared that they were too quick or too decisive with making the right sort of adjustments in themselves. The abruptness that they wanted to bring to light terrified them, the abruptness of not being able to pull themselves together in character from a past that would disappear when probed, a past that would digress to lack of purpose, a lack of purpose that they wanted to depict, a lack of purpose that would swallow their own efforts. The abruptness of yesterday. This is how they ran out of means, the little means they had, to cajole an entire world to take part in their vision, a declamatory vision, which included many being so full of, which included themselves.

16


Dimensions of Convo He was dressed for something that just wasn‘t going to come on. White eyes stared from the black of coal shiny with perspiration, straw mats hemming the waist down and not much else besides. His relatives and friends spent most of their time in museums and walked in Academy frock coats, monocle-squinting at the wife and the thing on their plate with equal neoclassicism, corresponding with colleagues from abroad in apotropaic German. And there he was, avidly out of place in remote Oceania. Determined to reject the prudence of social polish on the brink of a new discovery, while surveying the frontier and the feral group of men at point-blank range. There was something suspiciously flat about him and them, despite signs of offering, a crack between, between them and the coral sea. He felt moved, then a little shaken, he saw them too, a little unhinged, wide-eyed and petrified by the growing chasm in a children‘s pop-up book about old seafarers.

17


Thirteen The sun descends to plot again. And you cast him in your purview from the stuff of thorned heroes. You are to choose him as the one to curdle the humanity in him to animate the animal from which he is to wrest it back. Your scruples favour his new function, and how you want a new language for him, which shall without a doubt, come. The red earth in which he is to wallow, the red earth in which he is to be decided again. The gods have bred in you a compass, by it you want him free. Never before there was such a way for you with flesh. Your birthday present. But what of love, a love betrothed, can it be reaped from the promised fierceness of tomorrow, can it be wrested from the animal or from this chosen one? Can it be carried in a heart as dowry, for when father finds youth or stature in a man to take you? Caged he stands on your thirteenth year in front of you, who casts him lustfully into the tempered animal, the animal of tomorrow, on the day of your birth.

18


Third Date They put them, him and her, in a green room situation, a tiring room situation. They were put there after being told that the green room is not how the others will see them, him and her. The green made the room monotone, made him and her less monotone, not as monotone as the others, who saw him and her, playing a part, or playing devotion to a part, but did not see the green room, which was then swapped for a forest, a city, a space station by the rings of Saturn, sensual dead nature in the thousandth degree of plain storytelling, hurling somata to form firing squads of dopamine in the embroiled heads of the others, while he and she had their crowfeet to picture it, their own economic excitement. Parched sentiments will be still born in throats, evoking a classless myth, a twisted lip. He and she, they will have their moment to explain, to argue, to agree, over a glass of wine or something else from the green room, who played which part better, to part better.

19


From a Rag’s Column After the shot, he carried on with the invention of his body. He recalled how before his birth – a frantic haunt – he was temporarily shelved twice by his parents, who told him of this. He was rehearsed with no dice. Then one day, his mother submitted herself to science, and he was discovered. The day of his birth was pierced with quarter tones that memory made terse and vague as a hum. His parents wanted him translated into a different language, not the unripe split tongue of the desert. After the shot, the lapping multitude spoke to him of what he could not understand. It occurred to him that death has a language barrier too, it occurred to him before the steadying of surprised limbs cavernously trying, quickly and cavernously, to repeat another womb.

20


La Bocca della Verita The man who came to sit down and be glib was on a mission to throat his one big problem in life to a paid receptacle of woes. ‗A penny for your sorrows‘ was the motto on the receptacle‘s forehead. The creases spelled it. The creases that he did not want to spell anything remotely close to insensitivity, were piqued in languor to near-savage impatience. The receptacle has been suffering from having to, at long last, face the realisation that he was living in a world of fog-bank diagnosis, bereft of solutions, and all of this with the acuteness of hands nonchalantly lifting a glass to one‘s lips. The receptacle was an avid follower of robotics, and was in dire need of an automaton solution to his current state. The man who had to be glib was now turning amorously and with a pinch of ventriloquism to childhood, letting it in by the book, all the while the receptacle was fiercely overcoming the red tape of professional training in his head, the red tape which had made an entanglement, a snare, of past years. He refused to live in the past. The spearhead of observation demanded something else, demanded a world of doing, a world that was taxing him beyond subdued apathy. The man who had come to be glib was now as glib as logorrhoea‘s muse, had his best years slowly but surely gathering like clouds into the scowl of what was ahead, that man qualified to draft a continent. The receptacle had his bills to pay and mouths to feed. He was desperately interested in robotics, and the salvaging ways of the future.

21


Aerial He was good with making everyone fit into the picture. Never had much doubt about the frame, despite a few fugitive assumptions that someone might find a part of himself or herself missing and be disappointed. But even that disappointment of missing a visible part of one‘s self in the shrines of permanence which are family albums occasionally played into his hands when ties of the heart were severed and people drifted apart. He was hired through a clipping from a newspaper. Somebody wanted a good eye and a good hand with some fieldwork. A knack of fitting a group of reluctant people into a shot. People who didn‘t want to find themselves missing a part after the picture was taken. People so reluctant that they would crawl in mud and grow the scruff of the land that would conceal them and their intentions, to avoid the snap. People with a dogged conscience that let them fabricate their own reality as a silkworm weaves a cocoon after the death principle asserts itself. A simple people, really, derailed by grief into the ravines of vengeance. People that may not know that a group picture is germinating in the blur of a tightened grip around their own world, about to be blown up by the hands of a master of amateur photography.

22


Retort A myth can be distilled from an impression in many ways but reality can be distilled from a myth only by way of death

23


Ugh The guest was going to pit humanity against a handful of geological allegories from the bible, against the grain of the guest who wanted to stitch long sentences to make a more evolved, yet grassroots, case. Both articulated to come forth with a solution to the little man‘s insanity. To the obfuscated runt of the land and the charismatic Flâneur with the venereal makeup of a sailor, and to everything in between the two. Ugh but always that turn of phrase which betrays the lenient thinker as a gruff busybody. The original question had long been forgotten. The first and second expert agreed on the naked terror of falling out of the world and the minimal effort that was required. The reassembling of such a world, roving for the faintest signal from the musculature of the bigger picture, for the rafters of this world's miniature. Both dreaded the thought peering at them from beyond the cut and dry abstraction of the little man. Stet birth stet death. An entire theme of existence spiraling into a commercial nebula. The host smiling, efficiently masking the brief outburst of pity for his daughter, trying to fall asleep alone in her flat, cramped by invisible blisters. A fuzzy feeling nibbled at the frugally messianic guests during the break, that the bar of damnation may have risen a notch.

24


Mode d’Emploi A tramp, gullible from all the cut-throat admiration of old for the heavenly spheres, born triumphantly from life‘s minutiae, tries a crown of what he believes to be tumbleweed in prenatal gust. The trustiest conspirator of daylight, drunk on rag time. A bastard of too many scripted modes d‘emploi; rubber necker to man‘s becoming earth‘s teeth in stony fields, to the rattles of mercy near town welcome signs, to the breath of grass swayed to contemplation, to the license to talk like this. So that‘s that, and that‘s that, and the blood thumping in his ears at night ensconces an unheard sea of curious painfulness on curbed mornings. When he roughly tunes out of timeless nothings, he tastes crowd words such as ‗biodegradable‘ and smacks them with gullied laughter from his hunger pit, the white of his eyes a little yellow. On Busy Street, faces artificially fish for organic wrongs to be absolved in the grand narrative.

25


The Annealed Let us not dress to the nines and talk as though possessed to beat the band; let us not cast up eyes mnemonically to stultify our companion with a single blow of erudition; let us not do that when going to meet others who are going to do just that one of those evenings, at one of those receptions, where they will be showing photographs of dead photojournalists taking their last shot while getting shot at all in the spirit of beautifully horrid accidents and their exquisite genre. A genre that has been all the rage in places where one could only live off resistance. Some of the authors were ready to go to the wall in all the seven kingdoms for a frame, others could have built a shrine to ignorance before they knew what was coming. Strangely, the ignorant ones had the better stills. Pursuers of shared meaning with a drink in hand would rack their brains for the wholeness of composition in the momentum of demise, in the doubt blurred to the gestalt truth of the group. There was always an overbearing speed smudge, or a sharp incentive somewhere in the picture to finally document chaos as it would be seen by a specific person, as it should be seen perhaps. Strangely, the ignorant ones usually managed to catch this sliver of chaos in their web of detachment, while those devoted to what they were trying to capture could not, as if the latter had a field of vision that was more ripe and prone to premature splashing in the grip of good will. Such accidents were framed to pass largely unnoticed by guests flushed from debate. One such guest spat out hawkishly, climbing an octave above the rest in a single hurl of tongue, an alternative title for the show: indifference as the mother of credibility.

26


The Breaking of the Vessel A bleak tricolour jumped on her face with a tick. She was being severed, missing a phantom limb. He said to her. No, he didn‘t say anything to her. Gulf, gap, snuggery. He said to her: we‘re done. Done, bravely and cowardly, done. Shivering and chopping one another with cold vacancy in their eyes. She said, he said, one more chance, nothing. Chopping chirpy silence. Fattened bottom lip glistening. Funny changes. Discovering the old merge points in their together continuum as if it was an offshoot of the Philadelphia experiment, when man meets ship, stays that way in perfect congruence, afore he is yanked back into the lordly real of hard compromises, if at all, where man or ship cannot be man-ship. The man burps his last breath from all the metal in his gut, or wood or what have you, the ship obediently sails on, dead in the sea. Exeunt continuum perk. Look, he and she, they consider the self-indulgent, selfimmolating possibility that it may end this way. Tearing the blip out of what used to be them. Something only they know, something only they couldn‘t live without, something vetted by years. Or so she says, or so he doesn‘t. They cannot gad-goad each other through time that flies, accelerates in rut splicing. His face melts into her face, man-ship gets another chance. He always does, and he doesn‘t.

27


Compromise Smudge me a life out of these trees at night. Grow me in a veritable vessel. Decide what's to be mine, and then leave me some room for yourself. I have often wondered about your space, telling me it's possible, how you once served a careless brocade to the envy of another. Neither you nor I seem to recall how I entered our plans. It was at first vaguely about the quiet corners I was bereft of, and how you whittled me to a low whistle in your mouth. You have told yourself that in the event of your passing, I'd look just about right.

28


The Trail The master of progress could not admire the scenery before figuring out some eschatological number in a streak of inner calculation. No companion (perhaps an act of nature) could wean him off this habit; and when a long silence would heretically replace the evident gusto of appreciation for this green and mountainous corner of the world, the companion would suspect some foul play (but probably for the better of mankind) in the hoary head. ‗See those precipitous sheep,‘ the hoary head would grumble with an accent of foreign geology (if no number showed itself) to the patient nod of the companion, ‗See the dog,‘ the hoary head would grumble again, ‗See the shepherd,‘ ‗There is always an affinity between the dog and the shepherd. Do you know what that is? A joke.‘ And then the hoary head would roar and then the hoary head would rumble out such a pagan rumble of mirth and spite, as though intending to dislodge the snow of the caps in view down there on the sheep.

29


Waking Blanks On a limb or on the lam. A conscience looks high and low for the redemptive powers of association. But the hierarchical man has been seen denouncing lineups of archangels in the old chemical stomping ground of the brain. Through a wound hardly remembered, postponed, all of history once dissolved in the name he tried to give to his dog. All past associations, so simply broken with a lick of a palm. From being pregnant with boredom, his side aches. It shoots a mythical flash into a wince. Nothing serious, and he feels guilty, to be thrown off like this from a fearful peak of childhood, daunted by living again in the reverberations of others. The tattered maws of his slippers, destined for his feet. Don‘t hedge, he prays to himself, when stooping to kiss the feet of those unworthy. In a morning crossword that he takes with his coffee, six blank squares jump at him, questioning: ‗Mass producer?‘, he scribbles ‗priest‘, and it fits.

30


Lifeguards The water was lull and lilt. It was just before opening hours. The sky still mustering light. They tried to go easy on the chlorine, and use salt water pumped from the sea, behind the arable field and the wall of cypresses. He was sure that the man was giving him a swarthy look, less polished under the blue reflector shades. That swarthiness held a grin at bay. ‗On this job, it is very easy to drown in reverie, think that you are somewhere else. It‘s hard not to close one‘s eyes while on such thoughts when they come to visit, and believe me, they will, when the turnout is low, granted that this job will be yours. By the way, how many languages do you know? If you ask me, the more languages you know, the lonelier you are. Mind you, know, not speak. We get all kinds of people, that‘s why I‘m asking, but your vocabulary should be limited to a gamut of warnings that children understand, because children will be your main concern, granted that this job will be yours. You can bring a book, read it, when you have a confident swimmer, one or two, and only then. My father, he was a trumpeter. Not in that sense of the word, more like an arbitrary conjurer of phrases that could blow your mind if you cared to listen. The point being — he never read a goddamn book in his life, had it in him all along, just waiting for that meandering vociferousness that besets a meek soul now and then, and he wasn‘t even bourbon-clairvoyant! But excuse me, that‘s beside the point. How fast do you swim? What‘s your lap? You should keep your eyes on those who paddle, paddling is why we are in this line of work. For those of us on shore with the waves, well, paddle or be a confident swimmer, the same risk latches onto both. But for us at the rectangular home front, ha-ha, it‘s just the paddlers. Don‘t try to make eye contact with the flanks of fresh moms in the kidney-shaped puddle. Stay focused on your grid, and watch out for them really young and old paddlers, it‘s because of them I‘m talking to you right now, as if there‘s nothing better to do. I‘m kidding.‘

31


It was clear that the man, angular and pockmarked by primal bursts, was fighting the urge not to speak straight, kept going for over an hour, buying time for more attempts to defect from the interview into a beautiful one-sidedness, as though the job was secondary, and talking, talking was the aim, the outpour of loose observations from the inertness of a situational stretch, until he said, ‘You‘re young. You‘ll get used to it. It‘s yours.‘

32


Football Every time the grey Anna Karina would utter je ne sais pas in his head, his enamoured wart would itch, and his callous lip would feel too dry to pass on another swig. The battered chin, once cleft, then forked, would beseech him for a jitter, his vision would go blurry and his nose would tickle. He'd feel a poke in his side and hear the score. Two-nil. Very cushy to berate that at his age. The grimace would briefly be his face. He would have no pavement to choose on the way back, but the usual with a handful of witnesses, perpetuated by what remains to be seen. The same old man would lament an uproar by that shop window over there, while secretly favouring the scaly undercurrent, rummaging the blue above for peccadillos. He would look as combustible as a set prop, being so attached to the glare, yet hoping to escape from all the rumours.

33


Pebbly There is no reason to get all totemic just yet, despite certain matters being in tatters. The crisp seaside with its Punch and Judy show basking whimsically in its own shadow, faithfully remote. Laced with a cough or a groan, the scant thick and mild accents evaporating into the leisurely occipital silence, long before the day is gone. There is time at last. That time that never decides what should or should not be done about it. That does not define it out of the blue.

34


Labrys The clouds, spurred to graze the mountains aslant. Dirt slopes losing it to pines invisibly deafening with grasshoppers, to white-maned blue. Is it enough to shepherd winds? A man and a donkey filigree the crags in an old advance. The land has given them igneous faces with flogging in the eyes. I spelled the name of whom I had loved backwards.

35


Utopia We have observed several of the palisaded animals. Her hand faintly meshed in mine. I ask about her musical fingers, and whether they have known how to make it, because of the few encounters we've had, because I have seen them as coping mechanisms. She mirthfully untangles them to brush a lock of hair, and recalls the fallboard's bite, sicked by the piano teacher, who stepped into the room and found her out. They slip down into what is already familiar to me, amidst the primitive isolation staring back at us.

36


ICBM1 Of course, I dislike being cooped up in this long cold shaft, cranky, metallic, old and occasionally galvanised in place by the realisation of rust, waiting for spring that never comes, unless a good serviceman opens the hatch, and I can let the tip of my head bask in the sun a little while, before a morose cloud drifts into view, and the hatch grinds shut again. I'd like to imagine that my brothers and sisters from across the pond, burrowed someplace like me, still get to hear The Little Engine That Could, read to them soothingly by a good serviceman of the other side. I have learned a handful of the local fairy tales by heart, and have had enough time to make a few of my own. I heard that in the past, people were scared, busy making lots and lots of fairy tales about me, tales to make life more bearable and more interesting. Now I like to think of myself as an old bottle of red in a damp cellar. And perhaps one day somebody will say what a good year that was, after all.

1

Intercontinental Ballistic Missile

37


Absence He was tempted to be beaten by waves each day he missed the world of work and its class bitterly engaged to hurdles that were called upon to be gravely put in place as responsibilities on occasions of slacking and not only. The possibility of disease was making an ascetic of him, or rather a man too bereft of wonder and cast into torpor, loose and left to the flukes of the shapeless battering of the sea. He needed a very dear whore to resurrect the mojo of private saintliness in him. The best unprovable fate for any man, if illness weighs in. The one from before had been turning the wrong tricks. Now that the old game was up, in his brain, restless from inaction, he was tamping down a few thoughts for the future. He couldn‘t sell anything before and selling after seemed monstrously ridiculous. One requires a lot of health to sell well, especially when finding one‘s self luxuriantly in the doldrums. Sticking to the habits of making a living from what he had experienced was akin to No, something else had to be forged. Sometimes he wished he had been lied to about his birthday, to do away with chip-tossing for alignment in the cosmos.

38


Teachings The prophet sat obsolete on the face of a rock curiously nuzzled by the beasts of the plain, against his better judgement in his unrooted eyes. If no one will plague you with questions, what now? Make pilgrimage for an anathema residing timidly in the brood of days? The garrulous secret in a decision, waiting unspent for a stranger. Make an abyss pregnant in an unknown mouth under a disquieting star? The prophet sat frightened by the desire to lay his head and skulk into a dream where the nuzzling beasts would become men.

39


Thimbleness He sat at his desk alone with the ―Perfect Executive Toy‖, Newton‘s cradle, Newton‘s balls, or a ticking time bomb. Ah, the view, egotistically calling for an imaginary leap of faith during the moping phase of the day. It was that phase of the day, when he liked to watch people turning into thimbles from his lofty air-conditioned perch. He thought that he is reduced to one of them too by his colleagues, when he gets out of the building, not as much as when he gets in, but out, and tried to keep his thimbleness to an absolute minimum, before hailing a cab and disappearing. He had never given a definite thought to how he would appear to those with whom he wasn‘t working, his peers in other, similar high rises. He was an avid admirer of the idea that one ought to pay equally for good and bad things, as both incurred a burden. Karmic stickiness wasn‘t very much for him though. He knew that he had got his break from blaming humanity for his origins but liked to think that he had a mild masochistic need for life to throw curveballs at him and relished in inflicting the phrase on others during conversation, until somebody would actually believe it was true. It was his life‘s enterprise to punt these beliefs up the hierarchy. His props in this pious effort were slobbered-over tennis balls, darkened by endless canine chewing in parks. But the dog, not the owner, had to decide when it was time to be rid of the old round friend. This way he thought it was fair. And in the afterhours skulking, he would maybe have a catch of one, as it was much more difficult to come by than your regular orphaned tennis ball, which didn‘t match the real deal, the real curve ball.

40


What he collected he kept in a special drawer at work, and drew his manna from ogling the rugged set on lunch breaks, when no one could see him. He thought it was a nice and fair way to put an end to thimbleness, and every time he took special pride in it, he would leave a quarter of an hour earlier than usual.

41


The End of History A man Finds a coin Old Covered in dirt Peat so old And cracked dry Must be He thinks Of examples of overseas Digging Hands trembling For a name For a reward 200 BC It says and quite clearly he falls Over

42


Rex Ex Nihilo The king looked at his hands, steeped in misunderstanding. The common folk do not know the inherited intricacy of a king‘s gestures. Light and flowers attended on him, complicit with the silent morning. Nobody else was there to comprehend the budding of a thought through the hand in the chamber. A regal hand. No wonder kings fancied themselves mages, or capable of moving mountains without qualms about their godly descent in olden times, unripe for history, but fruitful for the choicest myths. If all goes well, I will be able to bring down the great one in the sky in the blink of an eye with what I intend to build for him. Like lightning he shall dart upon the earth (and I am not against him bringing his extended family), and there he will be a guest, or a prisoner, of my servants‘ invocations, joyous or betrothed to sorrow. My one hand shall inaugurate a new struggle and the other shall promise. Promise what? O, that which is promised to anybody afflicted with colluding hardships. I will build a house to honour the victory over undying thirst and hunger, to which the great one in the sky simply could not refuse the invitation. But how reluctant my hands have been lately. Enfeebled by the treacherous weights of law scrolls. So much is remembered nowadays as it really was. Not as it should have been. And where a king‘s gesture means one thing, my servants take it for another. But I must confess that I am sometimes blessed by this duplicity, for it is not always known to me what I speak of or ordain with a motion. And sometimes at night I pray to whom none of those entitled to serve me have any inkling of knowing, or so I hope, to guide me and that is void. Yes, the enduring, trustworthy void, silence and absolute lack of sight, touch, smell, or taste, governed and ungoverned by my own visions, which makes anything possible. And while it was morning, the king thought that nothing better has ever occurred to him.

43


Anything The park hill, glistening a little with crewcut dew and improvising something megalithic, hosts a coven of asana escapists. Some already taking it easy and some to be suspected of nourishing an instinct to kill their close ones, before and/or after the meditative stretch of the once-a-week group if mindfulness is encroached upon. Me, I‘d do anything to relax on a swish-sigh, too short of breath for the returns of the ageless om or the creator‘s work, what have you. It gives me heartburn in the evening or barely outhums an empty stomach in front of others. I keep repeating to myself that I will not wait for disintegration into gregarious particles. The instructor grabs this one and that one by their stray looks and tells them what they‘re doing wrong. I‘m one of them. His secret could be naming a price so that everyone could focus.

44


slew a day not very anno domini the hot perpetuated magic of nostrils aquiver on the verge of reassurance from beyond the grave of scales and scales and scales and heart green patina of dying to take you away by then the one left to slowly starve on a hunch or rearranged passions of scholarly tempers might have guessed frame by frame as it was that st sir george had been a valiant knight who screwed the local dragon

45


delft blue the rampant confusion after the previous calm has taken again to visceral destinations some could be once more possessed by noblesse oblige rumours of things about to split open were stifled in the turn of a phrase or the refinements of the age some were so refined that they were seething with barbarism and some were so easy going that they could settle for dreams in parks children whose sacred thoughts are the symptoms of vital deficiencies strewn over a bearable landscape who of them will carry the investigative burden here on the grass they will be different in autumn

46


The Blueprints She did not reach charity in her blueprints, when they censored her, an old woman, broken by coughs, gathered to sedimentary calm. These people wanted to live in their degraded bodies with saints in their hearts, shut in one another. After the apartheid, she sank to dispel the mediator in her. She saw the birth of teeth, springing in the vaginal palaver of the oppressed. She saw to that, full of research which excluded pity, excluded grief, but wasn‘t divorced from the unequivocal daub of pain as a benign cumulus aeolically feeding on dust.

47


Form of Age She, vaccinated for the rest of the year, was beguiled by him for a moment of theory, of him, theoretically, who could live more and more, who could have. She made him her husband in her head again, the same and not a day older than the one on the picture before letting go of her hand to pick the chanterelles. If that form of age ever came, no doubt, the familiar would be reason enough to abandon everything.

48


After They Cancelled the 9 O'clock Program, we don't consider for a moment to talk about her. Instead, we end up talking about some unmistakable cruise of getting involved, something that doesn't concern us, a foreign abstraction to keep an eye on. She doesn't enter our conversation, and I tell her about a friend, one of those, and his current landscape, until she finds a gap in my words to fit herself into, and begin to talk about her.

49


The Maenad That day when you took your first shot, your very own first stab at it, you gravitated through the morning to monosyllables. Your back burned from a while before when you caught me superstitiously stoking a few formalities with something as rudimentary as hope of what both of us meant. The promise of not betraying years grown revealingly stagnant while embracing a certain gesture of contentment seemed an odd pinch. That day, after taking a few drags, you hummed yourself to a split and left to worship the signs of your will.

50


Case by Case The moment she saw him in the hallway, she knew he was full of institutional desire for opening doors and cementing opportunities. But what could she do with this sentence? He was an unremarkable fellow otherwise, obtusely clairvoyant, as he brushed roughly against the hem of her dress, to read the little accident in her eyes. She would watch his thin black briefcase swish succinctly through the air of the courtroom and start ripping his shirt in her head. She saw that being done in a courtroom-drama Xmas special, she saw him do that in a TV commercial, locked in on her on that gray couch between the weather and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. And all she wanted at that moment for herself was a notched lapel and one button closure.

51


Body Language I received a postcard from long ago but not very far away. The one who sent it had been prescribed the automatic method, and let her thoughts unhinge themselves flat onto the rectangular space, to live in it next to my smudgy address. The lines endured the cramps of micrographia and bewitchingly spoke with the help of a magnifying glass of a curious leg incident, a leg whose owner was rescued (and resuscitated by all kinds of strange beliefs of others) from a tribe that had kept the leg and let the owner go. The owner of the leg did not know if they ate it or not (because he could not previously surmise if they ate such things) and so he did not know what had become of the leg, restlessly out there, and to what purpose was it severed so cleanly with such an unequivocal swoop. Since then the stump (which had not known any infections but uncertainty) or the owner must have tried on quite a few phantoms for an explanation and she PSed a sincere hope that a friend, a colleague or a busybody, had not blatantly advised or reminded the owner or the stump of that razor in the simplest assumption and how it never gets rusty.

52


Sleep, Inner Eyes Getting a little stiff in his cab, he was a member of a haunted profession. Quite a few who took fares in those streets had a life that was not their own. A handful of words taken by the gauge of the hour to mirthful decay on a green field between goals, about three and a half thousand miles away, would flash between stoplights, then his soiled exit papers with the illegible scrawl that decides the fate of a man with a buttoned lip. He couldn't take a break from turning this in his head, the shifting weight of a stranger who was going to wake him.

53


Faithfulness She, a possible apparition. The beauty of not learning in her. He gets out a stub of paper, summarising forgiveness, that it‘s all his fault. Why a man would say that, can he carry all his fault, all that fault, burden? No, he cannot. No, this is not admitting anything. Not with his elegiac bone structure. But he sets out enamoured with a vague sentiment of never to return, so why not. There is a war, not to be seen, but later he and the war, loins and the mud. So why not, the mistrust.

54


abroad saw a guy in the street had a t-shirt saying I dug it and loved it with some inner effort I went to him and asked where did he get it he said abroad

55


Stability attitudes and platitudes between the eschatological and the scatological chirping buzzing sunshine over manure man made mud mud made man man wipes sweat from brow over manure in the field man thinks religion priest says man‘s mom is in everything man wipes sweat from brow over manure in the field man thinks religion priest says man‘s pop is in the sky man wipes sweat from brow over manure in the field man thinks science scientist proves man cloned from another man‘s fecal matter matters most the most stable specimen stable in everything chirping buzzing sunshine

56


L4 The lens is set to capture more of the same. A decade more, forensically gone. The map, a new map, may be a matter of soon, demarcated through the grapevine. There is a disorder of the pelvis, lower back aches, testimonies of the spinal column wrenched to the side for relevance with all the meat cushion in a diplomatic effort on a Loriot sofa. The secretary of the same winces live. A live wince gets immediately taken for a wink. Surely, a wink to the foreign envoy, absorbed back into the craft. One clipboard in the room is screaming silently for a different future eviscerated by the pen of a press agent. The secretary of the same has found a niche for his facial complexion. The upper back is trying to accept the resolution of its lower counterpart and all the archipelago nerves on L4 are branching out to essential friends.

57


The Fig-Leaf Edition Any truly important institution should aspire to such a name that would make any curious passerby - be it a physical busybody or reader - resign with sheer boredom from looking further into its operations.

58


Agoraphobic's Almanac I see a planet and suddenly I have a craving for marbles, to play them right, undisputed, in hand. Replace the planet on the wall with a fact of life. The planet on the wall, scavenged to give whitewash a hard time, nothing to run a finger on but dusty print, flat and terrestrially rearranged for a sensory wink in an old number beaten to pulp. There is also the story of a sky trying a face and another, clouded with indecision, a sea that rears its head aspray through the parapet onto the deck and a knot of women with lifepreservers shrieking like a chorus of the damned, now oblivious to the sophisticated way of taking or putting down a glass.

59


Leviathan "I used to have a fiery friend and not a word of what he said I understood, but with him I played tricks on the bitter wine and helped him make it disappear." - A variation on an old folk song A crepuscular assent of conscience or the senses nudges me to kill some time on a memoir of orifices. I mean, what it truly comes down to. But then, settling for the roundness excuse in that rapacious impulse of geometry seems apprehensive, and soon I find myself trying other outfits for the same words, shrinking from a bad start in rough measures. How about a hackneyed phrase beginning with: your lips are too sober even for an awful word like parsimony; although when distilled through a series of nuances, they get incredibly rejuvenated by cadaverous gossip, which brings me again to that eternal theme of my memoir, and yet out of having to keep that breed of abstinence intact, I resign from the conversation and so do you. It‘s more easily said than said. You‘d wring shame from me for the sake of your paramour at home, knowing I‘d do the same if I didn‘t happen to change the topic, but after a few shots in the dark we both suddenly admit that we are manacled by contempt for one or two races on the surface of this planet, and how incredible it is that it never fails to stop us dead in anything we do, as a leviathan, unfathomable until it rises out of its depth to rot, and you see that you don‘t have to nod and I don‘t have to speak anymore of orifices, where hate again is going to be churned into love big enough for this coastal town with low lights.

60


Guarding Happiness Like a Wolf After seeing your endearments morbidly setting out of your person for the past several weeks, and the archeological missions that the eyes can perform on another‘s face, I circled out a few classifieds, knowing that they are the hasty writs of the crooked motives of others, and went to harvest impressions from those adventurous types that in earnest try to make a living with their conmanship. They‘d meet me in a suit and at times an office to go with it. From being humble, I‘d see my own reflection in the black shine of their loafers, thinking how could they wear anything but black — so suggestively festive, a funeral to the old you, inducting new beginnings, in the plural. They‘d offer you coffee the likes of which you‘d never get at home, at work or in a cafe. It has nothing to do with the coffee itself, however, though it does, I admit, occasionally happen that what you get is far superior to the acceptable substandard. There is nothing like a cup of it served by a crook, or their secretary, when you finally let the haphazard you play that part of the tenacity of will which you‘re lacking. Ah, you should see them, really, so full of visions for you and them, something to do with the temporal lobes. But then I‘d think of you, taking pictures, the good ones, some of them of me, and how I‘d rather see myself, and say I have got what I asked for.

61


Saphina The bumpy cicatrice was a bridle path above the place where they wanted her most, for her not to want them. She was ploughed for conclusiveness, for the staunching of an archaic misunderstanding. Some came to revisit in her the scenes of adventure, and time and again would lose it to the same haze. A conflagration of nerves dreaded to persist as a speck of dust. This was not going to change. No one was going to settle the differences in herself for her. Not when they roared with weight and substance above her, worse than the old thunderous gods summoning the skies for retribution; or when meekly composing entire scenes of household normality to a grinding halt, entire worlds of it, resting on the pillars of just the right kind of excuses; those not too long or too short, but convincing ones, those that stick around within the confines of faith. After that, sometimes, soothing words would escape them as exhausted birds. After that, sometimes, acting on her inner symbols, she would wish she were a ship, for all of it to make more sense.

62


The Enduring Myth You bring your arguments to the table. The china gets a little touched on the Richter scale. Sometimes I imagine you mute with your hands conducting the danse macabre, and that one black hair terrorising from your left nostril. The neighbours must love us. You pick any end of any sentence and that‘s enough these days. We storm in and out of the lit frame, the window, for anybody who cares to watch as we phonetically reproduce, perhaps too far from hearing or being heard. You are spent and I promise myself that your days are numbered. You let me get my Sisyphean grip on the situation, and if you have that fiery glare I peck your side good night.

63


The Cumbersome Humours Getting a leg up while knuckling under is a feat reserved for no other animal but man. The blood of a lost man yearns to leave. Careworn and deficient he wriggles out with predictions on a public square. Gives a certain tilt to his face, flailed by a dreadful obligation of certainty. He used to be a man preoccupied with others according to a plan. The plan failed, or he failed the plan, and he was no longer a part of it and he found himself in the street. There could be a wife and a daughter in that plan, there could be incomprehensible simplicity, going on and on. Disaster is displacement into another. Now he had a weathered sign to hold for others. The capital letters of damnation. What is given to us runs its course. What is not given to us runs its course. What is forbidden runs its course. He spat on the lofty platitudes copied into the marble of institutions of this place and that place. Of course, this is not how you smoke out shady affiliations, but he did it anyways. He had to do it three times, for good luck, until he felt the grip of the mildest of enforcers. Eccentrics had betrayed him with observation. And wasn‘t he one of them? The scrawny arm of the law, unreconciled with its owner over what to transmit as the world of tomorrow, had tremors. The man lowered his dirty sign. Careworn and deficient in everything that still could be coped with.

64


Vegetative Talking to other people started to make me doubt my sanity. That happened shortly after I tried to dissuade myself from being myself. Makes you awkward going through life like this (I have spent several). Taking more of the same, with every desperate possibility that childishly ignites birth in statsis. So many have let their hearts go out to. I‘m not even sure I‘m sending you the right signals. A tree, branching dead against a wall.

65


Premonitions of Madness "We generally find it hard to understand that some of us must go mad" — Emil Cioran In loins, millions of possibilities ready to burst, in loins, abandoned to loophole delirium. Shadows collide in the head, degraded by seasonal ideas. Tricked into a cataclysm, human life begins to adorn itself with the arms of the state. A little girl gets charmed by an abominable mirror. She will return obsessed with being herself. A little boy straddles the kind of lap that pokes invisibly. He will return, rescued by an obscure error. They may become nothing of the kind or they may become specialists in the question of death, falsified by a movement thick with plots. They may be young and in their youth, as mandrakes — grotesquely desperate to grow — stay feverish against the loneliness of each possibility, each one for itself, against the anatomy of subsistence in a provisionally rejected tongue.

66


A Poem for All Times The universe is, what, almost 14 billion years old? It has stayed about the same age-wise since I first heard about its age. I get older and the universe, well, it kind of doesn‘t. Should I treat it as someone who refuses to grow up? Should I treat it as a 14-year-old? And if so, how can I trust it and what it tells me? How can I trust its people who talk, make up stories and theories about what the universe is trying to say, people who refuse to talk about much else, as if they themselves were refusing to grow up or at least grow tired of talking about what the universe is trying to say, making a case for early puberty that will never end in their own lifetime?

67


Pioneers and Voyagers "The decision to omit a very short line in this diagram was made partly because conventional representation in Greek statuary omits it" — Carl Sagan He waves to nobody in particular, naked, axised, on a golden plate. She, naked too, has seemingly nothing to offer besides a contrapposto and a decimal-eight symbol next to her mound of Venus. Both are outdated, with a strange responsibility about carrying a message to where it‘s cold and grainy-dark. Both are skewered on a fine line of human geometry that goes off as a sparkler illustration — the sun‘s position relative to fourteen pulsars, overseen by a hyperfine transition of neutral hydrogen that looks like a blueprint of God‘s nutsack. Both of them bring earth sounds on a golden record that perhaps no one knows how to play.

68


Facelift The nervousness of the unperturbed, lubricated workings of a far future lends an expression of cruelty to the current face that has been known to stay human. Replicated imagery, entomological in its excess, puts everything on hold. There is a healthy obsession with money in the air and being bored to very accomplished dreams. The exact dates of the last officially gruesome war blur into an advanced age. There is no more exposure by foreign light. There are no more burning wrecks edging faintly from the death site. Over there, you are so well understood, interpreted, as in a swarm of locust. But there is a pervasive calm, a calm that beseeches you to take an entirely different hint. There is enough order to let you know that sanctuaries are not needed anymore, that something out there must be extinct.

69


A Note of Consideration When I am in you I would sometimes remember or make up some horrible nightmare, just for myself alone, because I love you and want you to have it first. For your eyes to roll aflutter and for you to cry out as an animal, then the nightmare would happen to end, it would vanish and I would begin to think I am almost there too.

70


Widow Somebody‘s voice announced that the roads were littered. Abandoned cars, overturned buses. We had a knack for getting on like a house on fire. Only in song, one could say that we were watched going by. Somebody‘s headlights have found us. Somebody‘s saved breath. Spit. In a diary you kept, you confessed about telling everything to the dog, drooling reflexively. You didn‘t want more lies to breed in your absence. I‘ve been told that you were such an intricate mess to deal with when they scraped you off from your human thresholds, that you were in so many places, as if double checking who of us wasn‘t telling the truth, as if going for all the facts at once.

71


Nearness There is a lonely place in our child. It is in your line of sight, it is in my line of sight. It is simple and he is that way. I had to be cutthroat to be simple again, to have it simple in my time. Some people floated through, you remained faithful to subtle changes. The child picks an imitation of something, an imitation you can trust. It bruises comically unnoticed from a fold in the sofa if he forgets it. Now I have this thing in my head. You and I know what it is. There is a lonely look in our child.

72


Lucifer’s First Interview We need someone we could trust with our lies. What we do is quite simple, it‘s what comes after which is the tricky part, the cover up, the displacement of passage, your work. See, you don‘t have to know what it is. Makes you better at what you are supposed to do. It‘s not spinning yarns, it‘s mainlining details. Expect everything you say to be acted on. Pops your cherry that way. Makes you sober, responsible. This is not some convincing exercise in futility, not as it goes for the rest of them (meandering finger). They let out a hedonistic sigh as though shooting a blank spell at the world, diluting reason with spit and a bit more than that, believe me. Some change that will bring. Well, change, yes. This is where you come in. You and I, we won‘t be here forever. Simply recognise something that doesn‘t exist, then you can negotiate with it, do business with it. You don‘t want to live your life and find a wall of wishes, or their solidification here (finger goes to heart) or here (finger goes to head). It‘s hard to explain, but it can‘t be quicker.

73


Etymology From the mountain he descends like a bird of prey, summoning the land to his clutch. A healthy specimen that has no place in existence anymore. A subject of archives. You knead your head at the temples. He is on horseback, fierce with untold distances. His foreign eyes circumscribe the valley of tongues that do not have a word for him yet. Your head is about to split. You turn a new page. A habit is forming in you.

74


The Axis Women The axis women, if they wanted to, could conceive demons beyond the good intentions of close ones. Each had a husband, a father, a brother, whose worlds could crumble sublimely or not at all. They were taught to believe so. They sat in lit and unlit corners, precluding the barren coves from happening to whom they loved, to the ticking of an old family clock, other music. Half the time they kissed was to prevent something bad, but they couldn‘t tell anyone because it was more of a secret than what their fathers, husbands or brothers were after, with their clean ideas about race and duty, which make room for the creation of demons along the axis of expansion. The women have been promised a much closer world in the end. A soothing continuation of what they have known, a soothing continuation to pride upon. They would find motes of sunlight dancing on their faces and the faces

75


of their children. And if you looked hard enough, you could see their eyes, shimmering with all that their fathers, husbands, brothers could do, abiding to tell what they were capable of.

76


After While They sizzle in the stagnant water, all thick with scales and hardly any memory but teeth. They have been here for millions of years before stumbling on backyards. You don‘t have to hold their snout too tight to avoid being devoured. Now, if the jaws are already open in a classy angle of sustenance and ripe light that‘s another story, unless you are a very small, specific bird, a bird that fits to tell it differently.

77


Zahrada My eyes dig into the frieze in the park. I take off my glasses, to see if there is fruition in this myopic effort. An effortless sort of effort on an unusually warm day when April begins. The effort of playing a detached traveler, unspecific about history. A couple, robbed of distinction by time, embrace in what seems like a hopeless negation of some annulment, tragic from the shedding of sanity in this hope, as time has shed and effaced their limbs, nearly anything from the waist up, in fact. All of it happens under the fronds of an ancient palm tree, not from around here, under which they embrace mangled in their own relief of stone. A rigid fluidity is born in a sliver of light that falls on what remains of their heads. Stays there with the cartography below, where they penetrate and negate one another. They cannot be told apart. The calves of their chiseled legs made tense to tread with less effort.

78


The Hard Bargain I want to sell my right to grieve. I want to sell the narrative of having to be buried to someone who is tired of their less and less imaginative reassembling in the crude beliefs of a village, a town, a country. I want to sell these because giving them for free would be too suspicious. I, too, am entrenched in a variegated mother lode, I shall say to them (although I have forgotten how to see it.) There is all the renewal you want here. You don‘t have to attempt it, it will attempt you when you least expect it. They would listen incredulously and ponder the attributes of their own rebirth, the constancy of it, born out of gloating tradition, out of habitual fears. The furrows on their foreheads would gather into a scowl, an inhuman one, like clouds, for they would not believe their place could be traded with anyone like myself, and their furrows would become clouds or ruts in the earth and they – nowhere to be found.

79


Chuppah I wanted to give you a ring, the eager cameras eating at the view up there, I bet, a few nestling into the picture for a quick toast of champagne. I hoped for a quiet moment that descended on me with the expanding mesh of iron girders until I was looking into your eyes again. A homeless man was trying to lock himself in a small toilet cabin as a plastic sarcophagus on the Field of Mars. We approached the queue, flanked by two men in fatigues with a casual hold of automatic rifles and an idle stare, motioning you to take off your jacket, to take off my jacket at the metal detector, the tiny box obliviously crammed in my jeans pocket, misplaced and forgotten earlier. It rang, and it rang.

80


The Importance of Removing Toxins from Our Lives Terms I'm tired of: displacement, exile. My girlfriend has a foundation. And on the level of that foundation, she has a double, with riflery at the tip of her tongue and a beginner's mind. Nearly a planetary-alignment double, if you are into that kind of stuff. I could be with both of them, if the double wasn't very far away, where it's too warm and where she's losing it to the trappings of self-searching through elegant debasement and travel like nobody's business (I recall an island and being startled out of a nonexistent labyrinth by an unsent postcard to her). If I could find the double, whom my girlfriend knows too well because of what we have done to her in her absence, I would not have to leave a message with you.

81


Whoever it Was Then give me all the ferocious clarity, she said, oracular under her breath. It was a nice day outside. The pool lapped around her ankles. She smelled the chlorine off her fingers and clung to getting pregnant. When she talked to herself about ferocious clarity, it was because she wanted to place him, desperately place him anywhere so that her binge of fears would finally come to rest, and so far she couldn't. She had him in her about twice a week and would stroke his hair maternally every time he was left with barely anything to prove. The landscape of him and his day resumed with the alarm clock, the washing, the smoothing of dream dents. There was something of Agave in her when she imagined dedicated herself to imagining how she would love her child to bits, and not once did she register that with a smirk of irony in yet another exhumed mental note. A smirk she reserved for the prism of him. He had good prospects with a mining company, looking for precious metals and jet lag. Whenever he made excessive claims to the fruits of his labour over a bottle of Guigal La La‘s, she would half jokingly cast him a hundred years back, bedevilled by chthonic sootiness and yearning for light. She had a name for whoever it was - his hand firmly surrendering to the small of her back - for whoever it was, not yet in her.

82


Exeunt There is miraculous stuff in your driest fibre, he repeats in front of a mirror, to be less lonely, to say it less to himself, to be sure. The white of his face smeared on three fingers. He is used to pouring applauses from a decanter. He got here by a famous mistake. There was once a utopian scrap he had a small part in as a young person. Delectable in those times and on those terms, even when it was an acute flapper who opened her mouth to introduce him to his new life and locked the door upon herself as an apparatchik years ago. She said to him: ‗it is important at least once to find and govern yourself out of the most ancient of human conditions, to shed it as a bastard creature.‘ War had been again understood as something close, and the atom held unwavering promises in its tiniest sanctuaries. The watchman or usherer hadn‘t a wink of sleep. He too had impeccable visions of decay for himself. So many variations of him he could enact, all the possible and impossible endings were his. Now his left eye stared with no prognosis on cue, brutally retouched for a scene, whose writer had read too much into humanity. He poured another drop, as his heart began to show signs of vacancy. He had the gall for a few more, for everything to turn less impersonal.

83


The Switch And The coagulated light of the room has its own stories to tell. Today the evening comes to divide us. Our matter is your mother whom you mutter about in between injections. I imagine how I take the raw end of your sentence and present it to one of the orderlies as though: see, there is nothing wrong with her, here is the truth, and she said that, you heard it, let her go. But then in the clarity of your stare, I glimpse the dark lump of your thoughts, the lapis of your stay behind these walls, imbued with errant renewal. I imagine how you whisper to me that the wind carried you in its belly that your nurse was the earth, if only the person I had met in you could overhear it.

84


The Sphinx He is the epitome of dust. He could buy anything about dust and the origin of man wholesale in the state he is. Is he wearing a rag, or is it wearing him? He has been plumbing the depths of this trash for an inarticulate fade-out. A woman comes to him, she is wearing a uniform. She points at the unfurled heap of trash, then at him, then at the heap again. She tells him she is from the city, her index finger briefly wanders in a circle, from the polis. But she doesn‘t say anything, and it‘s a riddle what does she say. He got his warning about the people who know their song too well with his milk. She stabs the fusty air next to the man‘s rag with her finger. Women all talk in riddles, he thinks and lets his hand dart autonomously into that matted spot on his head, greedy for a scratch. She pulls a soiled report form for biblical outings.

85


The Poplars of Bohnice You are here because you do not realise it. There is nothing I can tell you that resembles telling. You learn to clap with one hand, you learn to lie to yourself. tantalised by the effort to believe in the decency of closed doors. The good and the bad are full of peregrinations in a field of vision which is slightly skewed from a private convocation. You tie the years with laughs, snaps and fits, saying that you will never go there again, your mouth a stifled echo, tired of pretending it isn‘t there to cover the same ground, fallow from the double flowers of faith.

86


Taking Notes And so you are in uncanny valley. There is nothing here you recognize but estrangement. The faces surely look familiar, surely, you have seen them before, or held them. Too bad, because what you were about to do, when you first had those plans with her, has to be put aside, and you find yourself not knowing for how long. From wondering where did everybody go, you internalize abduction and hide the startled look. Then the out of place occurrence of a thought such as two birds with one stone, or lightning would not strike this here twice. Taking notes is suddenly necessary, taking notes might bring her back.

87


What Happens Next The chain groaned in its birth on the anvil when people spoke more decidedly of absolutes. An animal could beget you, and it explained whatever you did after that. Men and women formed out of islands of curiosity. Out of raging breakers and stones warming up to creation. Or proclaimed themselves or were proclaimed notmen and notwomen. And if it was repeated long enough, it sank in. Now man and woman sit and stare. The chain doesn‘t groan anymore, it twinkles. Man and woman sit and stare at a creature from another dimension. It is tired of trying on their faces. It has refused to get to them as a mere possibility and now it wishes it had never assumed that sort of attitude in the first place. They dissect it with the stare of the hour. It, who was of their lineage in former days, had spent its childhood on these two orphans, was full of consents for whatever future they had in front of them. It tries and tries on their faces as a desolate jumping jack, just as they, devoted to the very last subtlety of unrecognition in their measure of it, try to break free from the macabre impatience of what happens next.

88


The Occupation "All colours will agree in the dark" — Francis Bacon He hardly had to carve a niche in the proverbial space of the town with his awkward art. A subject in a primitively attached state, he neglected the sums of his surroundings. They floated in dreamily as the numbers that quivered in the ink heat of the equations which had changed the world he read about. They engendered forgetfulness in these dog days of proofs and sepulchres for wishes. He remembered them from the mechanical mouths of his youth, making observations for him. It was somebody‘s life passing as a reflection in the clear Lethe they drank from one uneventful day. The teachers and a few others were convinced he had only twisted shanties at the end of his moral compass. They weren‘t very far from the truth. He knew the hilly path of the park outside the cafe, how it wove and wearied itself into the past in the visiting eye of the first-timer — anyone who was no stranger to the sentiment, devising a way to stay. The plants had no memory of the matinal dust, the thin eruptions of lichen. There was thirst in the air carcass. A couple bickering to preserve each other‘s evening occupation.

89


The Scruples of the Prince After the hedonistic reckoning about empty displacement, I wanted to be colonised. There was no one to colonise me. I was alone. No one devoted enough to the idea of leaving my old self in shambles. I had pictures on the wall of the kind of people that could do it, but they had been dead for too long. Traditions they had, and their names were old and good. But they were dead. Those that were not dead have been brutalised by inward curiosity out of any courting with the hard-boiled facts of expansion, having fitfully disposed of their passage money, and turned incorrigible in their to-and-fro as houseflies. They could only have souvenir feelings toward strangers, unlike their ancestors on my wall, who were more about the visceral principles of making a language stick. Their judgements unsold and full of wrath, the wrath they kept for the yet unfettered foreign lands. I stare very hard at the water. She comes full of faraway ointments in my heaving nostrils. The porcelain ware at hand gives a clanky rattle. She tells me it's late.

90


Half So “No-one half so breezy as, Half so free and easy as Old Tiresias” The ladies must not have the heart, must not have the heart, the blind magician trembled with the vociferousness reserved only for him, that only he could hear, the vociferousness of the uninitiated. He could never bear to see a lady cut in two, not even if she were cut by the unrestrained imaginings of the crowd, x-raying his Box of Perils with unblinking eyes. And he knew that he could do it because he was blind, and blind men could be capable of great, often indescribable things. This time, however, too many of them were impertinently eager to be cut all at once by his masterful stroke which he has broadcast to them on too many occasions. They were tempting providence. Their husbands‘ money was his, they were faceless in his ears with their shrieks of excitement, melting into one under the opaque vigil he kept. How he wished to disappear and be one of them. He could be the only one who would refuse to be cut in two, the only one to go back to her husband and tell him how none of her friends wanted to be whole again.

91


The Wandering Act "Do you think that bothers me? Besides, I like that little man; what kind of salesman do you think I would be if I couldn't deal with a situation like that?" — Lowenthal/Heinz Rühmann, Ship of Fools An actor who has gone white in the hair as far back as he could be remembered, arrived in the picturesque resort town. A -bad town. Everyone congratulated everyone upon the actor‘s arrival. I said to a man on the street: Don‘t neglect that preamble. If it‘s already happening to you. He looked his fill into what I could not see and treated himself to a colossal amplitude of two very distinct nods. Ah, fate, you allow us to brush against the passions of others. Luckily, there wasn‘t a war going on, despite the shared presentiment. Only a casual spike in the endorphins of slavery. The actor was bashing his head incognito against a fluke of meaningless lines. Industrial barons wanted a piece of him to quell tubercular panic and increase birthrates in their provinces. They wanted him to spread their faith. But many an outing betrayed a stooping engraver of morals, a pleader who doesn‘t stain. An average man, but perhaps one who could still have his sublime exit wounds. Four wheels of fortune carried his palanquin by the scenery which he cut loosely with a laugh, cast the inhabitants into that laugh, perhaps to save them from themselves. He was bringing them a covenant ark to brush against and have the finest tremors in years.

92


Marat "Never is a woman so savage as when her hatred is goaded on by shame" — Juvenal With starry eyes, another heir to all of this, cuts. To see the lode well with premonition. To invite the uninvited. The lukewarm parallax of his thoughts, as sifted through the other one‘s mind. Undoubtedly, corroboration by the spasming ascent or a pried vessel, its prurient convention of skin. Before, things seemed to be breaking down in him. Schoolboy ideas that get their second chance in the cawing of a crow. But here, they flowed and couldn‘t break anymore. A tepid red constellation, repeating ‗La plume de matin‘ with its calm inky shape in the bathtub, with the shape of her lips and their Aeolian confinement, his heart in her sleeve, the stone cleft of the barren root of the courtyard tree. The length of days.

93


Man, too late Man, too late for anything but the unfledged, is suddenly the animal that has always remained final, as it erupts, goaded by the unwanted, after the sacred book he had put as a foothold between the rational and the phantasmagorical imperative of the psychic underworld in the state it once was, when found against the manifold first door of flesh. The only door man has been given and has been trying ever since, to relish in its less honest replicas bearing the austere facets of his dreams; and man's body, admitted for the purpose by unannounced contradictions seeking a ruling exit, the contradictions wrecked into a strangers' race, or those annihilating the poverty of symbols of things to come.

94


Going Back He dug in the earth with a stick. Stabbed it morosely until it was raked with his silence — his attempt at it — which grew louder with every dishevelling, incoherent dint from the stick. It‘s been the years of forging her in him, they prickled from within, a little below the chest, siding with the liver. He wanted there to be a bluff of headland behind the grove. It could have made his words weigh down on her less with such a perspective in mind — she would have glanced her fill at the steep end with its raw edge and regained her composure from mutely brushing against what she was capable of doing to herself in his eyes, instead of accepting what he had to say. The steepness at least would have given her a few dim contours of consolation. But behind the grove was a plain, fertile with its own groping warmth, and the wager of home.

95


The Great Work She worked and he worked, crunching numbers, words, numberwords, and wordnumbers unto themselves. Days, nights, people they had enough around, to call by their different names and functions, and to be alone and nobody. He and she, they had myths, those taciturn masters of civilisation, in their heads. She had her vital part in him, not in her work. And he, he thought how great it would be to make his work his vital part, when he could no longer be with her. The vital part is a far stretch on its own, unless it is shortened by a myth. He once had his weekend faction of malcontents to drink with to nothing in particular with flagging ambition or a horned capacity. The sullied sources of the inspired. Her vital part was now decisively lending itself to a psychiatrist and the mild fresh air of visiting hours. There was little doubt that the city wasn‘t free of its intriguers.

96


Relative Key The ear had been inaugurating a relative key, blameless in the pure squalor of a bedsit. The ear that once so naturally brushed against the origin of the world, was caught in the chapel peals from the window, furniture music at night and a tattered mandala on the wall, yearnings eased into a narrow street corner, the foreign, insensible hugging of a dim sidewalk curve. A tongue waxen with fool‘s gold suspects nothing of its later burning in the small hours. The ear steadily inaugurates a relative key.

97


Prometheus He recalls the places. The whereabouts, his reluctance to put it down in writing, and the profusion of telling it like it had been, when a little lubricated. The third world, the mantras, the sutras, and the surahs. The bridges he has helped to build on trestles of primitive faith that catch fire easily, that children, his students in the main, were supposed to reconcile with. He taught them dignity and foreign remembrance. He gets up to a bad day, it is raining in the mountains, in this machine-tamers country, his heating refuses to start, and he has no idea who could fix it.

98


The Berlin Method In the waiting room, a woman compellingly remembers she forgot something, her hand in her bag. Her eyes set on the coral frags in the aquarium. There's a terrapin exception to the rule of pencil fish, gobies, and rainbow darters. That must require a more elaborate method of filtration, the woman thinks to herself, revived by the brisk to-and-fro of the fish, which only adds to their aimlessness. Her father lived and died with the old statesman's saying in his bosom that those who do not know their past, have no future. He dreamed of having an aviary, but took pride in his monk parrot. Waiting, she stared at the turtle, slower than the rest of the less aware inhabitants of the cubical realm. There was something more elaborate, more compelling, in the tiny significance of its claws.

99


After School Her dad was plugged to war come evening. Legless, he would watch fighter jets take off from a carrier, lowering the volume to accept a glass of water from her. He mumbled to himself in a dialect he could barely bring to mind when he saw the oil fields burning black. From her room upstairs, we heard the muffled blast of scrambled news, after which she sometimes whispered the arboreal constellations of one early summer they had seen together.

100


The Reassurer I work with those who are whisked weak and frail into a shiny black car. I tell them the kind of stories they want to hear about themselves. I cast them in good light and nothing ever bothers them when they cross my doorstep on their way out to their day to day, since I get enough to make it believable in my humble dimension. I inoculate them with stolen and borrowed integrity against the hecklers, the grieving mothers, husbands, the ones with a missing limb and an evil eye, down there in the crowd they have to face so often, utterly convinced every once in a while that they have been cursed or marked for a later occasion. I tell them what they need to hear, that hardly anything is indelible. That they are doing fine, that it's not their fault, that they can finish the job.

101


The Exercise Husband and wife, and a child between the two, still prostrate with the incredible and blessed powers of misunderstanding vested in such little creatures as itself. Husband and wife, who have passively accrued a refusal to own a television in their living room, bend tortuously and thus by accident reenact some favourite paintings seen over a year ago on their honeymoon trip. Within themselves, they entreat for finer lineaments and inner peace to divert the onset of stiffness — so natural for their age — with a questionably scrupulous regimen of eclectic bending practices, which are also supposed to shut off the traffic, the macabre construction, out the window, and at times the pulpy cries of their offspring. Robbed of her calm, the mother slowly comes to terms with not possessing the tantric secrets in lieu of certain house duties her husband could never be trusted with. The husband is groaning from a prescribed stretch and mentally reconciles his solemn oath with his matrimonial signature. And for both, the sheer vastness of wanting to be this and to do that narrowed down to an exercise routine. While the child, still behind the childish bars of its crib, is in awe of daddy and mommy, sweating out that very unlikely and unwieldy headover-heels thing, which has never been seen before.

102


Pearls and Roses The girl who spoke with snakes and toads out of her mouth — was she a proof of her own contradictions or the contradictions of others? Had she to keep that far-away sibilance and croaking to herself? Her eyes had wearied beyond the pale in their little span of last and first times entwined. Was there a traveler? No, mother, she answered once, and hid the man in her glance to carve him later from her innocence. Mother had to work, do different smalltown work. She had to help. She helped her bespoke mother. She had carved her too while in mother's womb. At night, the instrumental parts of her prayers told her to leave. And what a world it was to learn to die in from one‘s own imagination or its lack.

103


Cameo Appearance In the beginning, he was bushhard and she bushsoft, and not a word was uttered to plead for anything but the grunt of preserving the species. No divination to contort the lips prophetically. No arrangement for the tomb. No revolt of rogue cells. Sight yet unlost in its dilation of purpose. Not a single breath wasted on what was ahead of the loins game. Things clear as the green thicket, with everything inside. No walls to scare within. No voyages and no wrecks, only a plot of land.

104


At Least An anniversary and a turn of phrase from the closest person. She says: "To me, you are the best." Now, obviously, the way it stands, you're not. The best, that is. Far from it, but to her you are, at least that is what she tells you. "To me" — an implicit testament to your faults, the huffily adoring acceptance from her. And besides, she took you on board because you were a bit of a mess, and she needed that in her life. Although now she admits that she appreciates your passive hobby of collecting old postcards. It doesn't take too much space. Only a small stack of undecipherable handwritings from the first half of the previous century to go with. She adores how you pore over them, at least that what she tells you. She knows your weakness for old junk. It's breakfast, and she tells you that she could just eat you up, and she probably could. She informs you that, to her, you haven‘t failed in anything (and why should you — after all, anybody could find those close calls within themselves). She tells you that, and more, in that vague and old handwriting of hers.

105


The Trick Man gets beaten up. Slips into the unconscious. Wherein one minute begets another. Is rendered awake when he feels the probing boot of a stranger gentleman. He longs for an unlocked briefcase full of important papers ready for inspection to have lain beside him on the ground, for the all too evident purposes of a different introduction to his state. Despite this, he is a little placated that the blood has entered his cheek rather than having left his body. Full of muttering on his unsteady legs, he pines for a mirror, as the light doesn't fall right on the shop windows. You and I, we've had a lot of hoax and expectation.

106


Sprung in Completeness Cat Stevens plays in her rumpled lap. Cat Stevens from before he has changed his name. She informs me that a lot has changed since early morning. She has stayed in bed. And now, it's Cat Stevens on the rumpled blanket. She tells me she's hungry. She wants me to get her some maki rolls. She says she has never heard Cat Stevens sing those songs. She is a wee bit convinced that, for all she knows, I may be Cat Stevens (I have a big nose and some beard). That this and that person we both know are not who they are. That they are the same person, in fact. There is faint wailing and strumming in her earphones, with probably a few other voices. She's been having a Bed-In since yesterday. I'm thinking of excuses, for others, for work, how none of it is going to work.

107


Old Motif Love is the streetwalker‘s occupational hazard. I wonder if your silence has ever been pregnant with it. The adhesive men who kept you afloat. Vivified by accumulation. Their slack jawlines incidental to the austere, fleeting pleasure. Then, salvaged from that onerous lingering, the quiet forms of ordered existence some of them told you about, offered to you. New in their mouths despite what you've read or gained by painful insight. Some have worn their faces with a birdlike pinch, after the plague doctors of the past. You have never taken them for granted. The city is the one you're with. The ego laboratories you've worked in, circles of mentality. Man-covered entrances. An old motif and its timeless fruition.

108


humming. Humming (After Miroslav Holub) The learned woman, in whom certain world opinions have come to terms, consistent in the sacredness of her profession, and in what it goes to profess says between drags we can only live in two countries at most — the limbic system and the cerebrum. How do you get by if your cingulate gyrus's too thin — that border police between the two? Well, you get too much of that ancient infiltration from the lower depths and your decisions become too much for you, suddenly needing to be taught the overman and pining over the lack of that kind of instruction, ready to appoint places of sepulture. But have it too thick, and all your life is living in the moment, but more on the snappy, instinctive side of it, armed to the teeth with the oldest and surest amorous chants.

109


Apocryphal Clay Every time our bodies softly collided, it was at the expense of the future, afterwards forgotten. You led me into this moist, modern Europe by a herding instinct you said I couldn't shake off. The tip of your tongue unselfishly forced itself into increasing, found vividness. The hazel of your eyes pointed out where the old masters had their right to confer, where they had to convince you that this was such and such, and so and so, where the extent of their morals prevailed in you with every thrust and every stroke, and where your pupils had to gallop up in a flutter of undertones from your womb against your will. You were once ready to ensconce their prayer slur and their gruffness as useful. The day of their faraway anchors still fresh in your memory, the suddenly invented pearls and red gashes, before they brought you to me, between the devil and the deep blue sea, to understand where and who I was.

110


Chiron I wear an ulster to conceal my hoofed complexion. Altered by knowledge, I no longer cavort like a silly goose or dodo in forsaken bewilderment. I retire to the palaces of the unnatural and preposterous loves of my time, but cannot escape custom, the ruler of my world, among many. A ringed father polices my habits. I'm indebted to the gimmals on his pap. He has suffered through the greater errors of his and my upbringing. The myth of our family is not without its own incestuous conjunctions, without its own victims of the crudest aspects of nature, without its timeless imposters. All that fused seed. I'm well-read and well-bred, despite. With my capacities housed in confrontations, I've become the butt of abject pardons and numbing efforts from the pursed lips of my parents for the sake of others. My mother, disgusted from her lack of influence in shaping me, abrasively eyes the words that are about to come out of my father's mouth. My father, with consummate lifelong guilt, dotes, for refuge, on the higher aspects of his erstwhile convictions, which have devoured his and her years, asking an invisible so-and-so "And what are your intentions?" Intentions for none other than himself. We are about to enter an age when she will become a drop in the ocean of too many cares; he, only remembered for his ringed madness; I, for my hooves and future disciples, those dead hares. Not as a hypothetical moon at all.

111


Ariadne The lichen walls subdued to cold hankering spoke with drops in corners. The circuit of desire was expanded by its builder. You had to wait longer to get off by an unexpected turn of the thread. The late things here suffered only as signs. Outside in the state they lived, were many with one arm or one leg, surviving in parochial quiet after the pact and the arithmetic of loss. Here the durations were different, veiled and halfsouled, the evasive rustling languidly taking shape in the dark. An abandoned, labyrinthine shape with two kinds of hunger, taking him by the hand with a calm look, letting his past trickle into her ear.

112


Raising the Bar So they'd pour molten lead into you until you were brimming with innocence — wheat among tares, wanting to burn nobody's temples. And then you would be the apple of their eye, retaining all the ungainly edifices of morality they've erected in your favour. Could you procure a better fortune for yourself in these spasms of will we call life? No, you couldn't, and I have the evidence, believe you me. Today, things may happen to you on a flight of stairs because it is a long way from the place where you are usually cross-examined, and worse, because they may not even be fully aware of how to get there. And hearing your key grating in your lock wouldn't stop them either, wouldn't make them reconsider. A matter of practice, but I prefer the old arrangements. What's the purpose of being so informed and spilling the beans only under a secret oath or coercion? I say, come right with it, and let them decide for themselves. But, otherwise, all this knowledge (surveying the dim room) — to what purpose? I can sit here all day and talk my head off about any old thing under the sun. Yet it would be nothing I'd regret later, telling it to you while you quaff away your keep. I'd fancy wedging myself in the ranks of possible treason and really care for what I know, fear what I know, be about to burst with it. And give you all the signs. What stops me, you ask? The fear that what I know may actually have any value. I'm sordidly nostalgic for running the risk of being punished for my opinions. I want to have my very own possibility of a death camp. Ah, but I fear it's too late.

113


Plain Sight In plain sight she carves of him an effigy to fare better. From his inclinations she whips something he can swallow and stomach. Her husbandry is strewn with approvals that effortlessly pass for affection, where they subsist and acquire a life of their own. She knows that her curves are the abstractions of his responsibilities. With servile authority, he catches her in mid-sentence about what he does and follows the phrase as it enters their companion. A piece of gristle on the verge of staying insignificant in the mouth from her latest dish tautens his face, only to add to his part by her side. She lays her hand on his and squeezes it with an encouraging smile for him to be more engaged in the conversation. When they are abroad and he loses sight of her, he lingers in that absence before he starts looking around.

114


Though he can't recall the rest, he is the same Shipwrecked in joy, the last jarring improbable note of the vestibule quartet, he now lets the mountain interpret him on its foothills, the hunger gorges. The inkhorn terms of travel, all the seditious gambol against the present moment cannot change its mind about him; the debris of yesterday's comfort strewn on the shore of primordial welcomes. A bed of shingle ignited by the glistening lull of the stream. The broken watch on his hand, when he is made of morning. A jest of obedience hurls him to pick his instincts off the nascent ground. Dawn-strapped, heaving for forgiveness, he waits to be told. He waits for his organs, for at least one of them, to deliver him unto one of those lives he could still recognise, from the leaden foaming depths, mother and father to those he never believed in, mother and father to him.

115


Preludes She sought a ghostly father, for her own had left to act further to increase his life on the ends of certain proverbs, props to the frail happiness of the average wag. "What's a man without a fad?" he used to say. The mother there was mashed one day or tricked into rearrangement and buried, as the sole evidence of what was to come about, and that who came, replacing her, loved her own hound with every turn of fate, above all else. "Fear no more, child, for my deeds are doors, and my tongue is your father's," the newmother crooned by the cradle. "A sheaf of snakes may crest a family tree even in penitent years‌ So much of the old world stemmed from the matchmaking of court astrologers." Newmother read to daughter. The father — absent more and more to make a living from entering the lives of others in an abrasive town. Until he left, in spring.

116


The Entity You down your drink to be spoken to. Laughter hasn't paid a visit since. Not the mechanical smile, not again. The strain of not being, at least in parts, an automaton, for special occasions. A dash of conversation — the briskly disowned child of an absentminded tic and awkward silence. Too many pins presupposed as dropped way before their chimes. A very old futurologist said there's nothing for us to do in space, that only as cyborgs we could. He is now dead. I convey none of this because the corners are cluttered with rendezvous. We, in the room — cranking up our prefab charms, — a near-midnight entity more than just us, shedding its linguaphobic skin here and there. Short-lived and irrationally promising, then us again in its teeth, the irrevocable slinking of small hours.

117


Choice of Format When fascism was a gut feeling, talkies were born. A face powdered to otherworldliness, the otherworldliness of what could and couldn't be done, suddenly obtained a voice, its master's. In the air, there was delicate schooling, a lie worn like an amulet in the heart, like the Cape of Good Hope cusping False Bay. Someone called Darling laboured on an eponymous machine gun in a secret room for the echoes of conviction. What if there was no sound to transmit a soul torn in half and only an overwrought stare? Talking — a healing scar of liberation and loss. Soon, the sonorous bob of Adam's apple was to belong to a thing called presenter.

118


Physical To sit down with a person so physical that it requires an almost imitative nature to bear it. Not physical in the menacing sense, only physical. Only a recognised man can live in the present, and if not live in it, then approach it. My uncle worked as a coroner. At fifteen, he showed me the wonder that we are. I asked him for it. He hesitated, lit a cigarette and tilted his head in the direction of the colder part of the establishment. I went on a date in another country. She, too, was science-strapped. We ordered two shots, and struggled to keep the inner signs to ourselves.

119


The Program I'd like to start by saying ‗suspended above a blue dot.' But we're not that far yet. I left home yesterday at six hundred hours. Had breakfast, coffee, normal trembling in her voice. Because she'd soon see me in that livingroom box. The kids slept. We are only beginning to discover how we can bring gifts and souvenirs from up there to our loved ones, friends, and acquaintances. 'Daddy's swathed in so much darkness,‘ she blurted one evening to the kids at table over a glass of red, while I was away. She later whispered this into my ear, giving me her own version of post-landing recovery. She didn't know that we have been instructed to engage in the same when lighter than a feather. We received a grant for it. To log our observations. She didn't know it was going to be only the two of us out there. You‘d think we were asked to come up with an imaginary third crew member. Not quite. We had to study him by heart. Stick to his story. A man, because most of us had wives. A man who has been there all along, since the first days of the program. A man for all seasons. Somebody told me there is a law that justifies his presence in our lives. But those who make laws vanish, and we are left with what we have.

120


The Dowry The fire of the hearth crackled and nursed her motives for tomorrow. That was her before school the following day, at her parents‘. Now she had an archipelago of words, myths for aspiring pragmatics in self-help manuals. The laundry soaked cold in a recess of night. She had to get up. Feed him. She pictured having to do that. Although she did need to get up, go pee, take out and hang the laundry, face the solitary light of the fridge and change her mind. Several weeks ago, she was told by a colleague she looked younger. She has recently come to terms with his plunderous eye. Everybody else said he had an eye for detail. But she knew better. He was the boss. Still, the years have been easy on that favour of appearances. Occasionally, she put herself to sleep with the thought of him tight between her legs. Then, during a work briefing, a thought of him with a fistful of her hair. Cold calls from her subconscious that were getting warmer. She had to commit to one of them. After all, she'd expect that to be the case on the other end of the line, if it was her call. He gave her a book to read. 'Mimetic Chains and the Uncertainty Principle'. Said it helped him keep his ego in check and made him more professional, calmer through his period of the inevitable realisation that everybody was imitating everybody. What myth has he been aspiring to and who was he imitating? He couldn't be so trusting as to hint, no, reveal it to her, not in his position. Then they sent him to the overseas branch for training, to pick the brains of a renowned instructor. His plane crashed on the way back. Every part mimicking every other part. The book was hers and she married the following year.

121


Near Kirkenes (On the refugee trail) There goes one dogged hoop, hazarding the foothills with a command of grievances. Untiring from the nothing in his clasp, though the dusk appears to further his plans. His lot is the inheritance of others‘ choicest palaver concerning him and his kind. By now, nobody who lives to see him so, knows by what arrangement of fate he has been borne thus far, and neither of the elements which bolster his base configurations of existence betrays, nay, hints at it. Did he arrive to it through loss, or was it a wrong turn in some forgotten womb that made his mind so perplexed and perplexing to the passerby? One eye dispossessed by his wretched wit. His skin darkened in another land. We, that are here, are too scarce to understand, to witness him in a revealing permutation. He speaks the language of the beasts, and chirps and chirrups to two invisible bird companions on both his hunched shoulders with claws of hoarfrost, and what he remembers no one can tell, and what he knows of tomorrow is as good as telling anyone of us that we partake in his true colours.

122


The Liberation Bearers What better setting for the man with a distilled sense of greed than a desert. Thirst and wilderness. Better yet, double the miser. Let one tread after the other. Ragtag and coveting. Each brimming with delirious plots of how to get hold of the other half. The unseen under rocks and sand makes no mistake about how soon these two will merge with the landscape. And had these two not been misers, dreaming of a lusting thud on the other's head, if these two had their means about them, they would have watched animal programs, world news, and a few science shows, when under the weather, maybe have somebody to watch it with them. And yet here they are with grit in their teeth, and much in common, much behind, but still in step with the times.

123


A Friend of Virtue A small town. Abandoned steel mill, warehouses. Sunset and a boy, about seventeen, plying his roller on a poster. The wall of a Romanesque church. A candidate from the far right. She smiles at him and he carries her home. One day after school, he glimpses the muscular calves on the airwaves, their slight tan, pressed outward with skinshine, crossing the knee of the other leg. The anthem plays in his head, the sudden, common burn of a wooden ruler. She talks hoarsely of independence, a new dawn in the living room. Hot jism overflows his quaking grip in the dark. The neighbour widow wants him to try her late husband‘s uniform. Tomorrow, when his mother doesn‘t see, tomorrow he‘ll try it on. A thin, cold film between his forefinger and thumb.

124


The Elephant in the Room Now that he found a new organ, based on a true story, to operate, he could start afresh. Now that he had proof and a statement to go with it, a statement that was off to circulate in the press, he gladly stalked every bit of street his bay window — the largest in the flat — allowed him for those who hurried to lay siege to his practice for want of cure, but also for want of whetting the anathemas, so dear to their lives, against his new form of altruism. It baffled him to be so easily predisposed to carry on in this vein with such a discovery. An entirely new organ. Today. This can't be. But it is quite the case. Not a mutation, not a neglected and forgotten rudiment, but a common thing. An organ of conscience. Not anywhere science or proverbs would look. No, quite an unforeseen aetiology, but a predictable one for operations, nonetheless. "Get thee behind me" gains a more practical side. "I'll sleep on it", on the other hand, less so — sleep (and where it occurs) is no province of logic, and, incidentally, not of scruples either, not any more. His knuckles were buried in his cheek. He sat on it, with not a care in the world.

125


Convention I had no clue what to get them for Christmas. Their wedlock still fresh and without any expiry date on the horizon. I bought them a Trust Kit: a crossbow, two arrows, and a sponge apple. Sold on discount that couldn't wait for Valentine's. I bought them that and a platter, for he was into painting and enjoyed a daub of nature morte. His good eye, like that of Polyphemus, was a hoarder of promises. I had flowers sent to her with a card. The card was for both of them.

126


Naked Foreknowledge Torn from the tall grass with a sudden rustle and snap, two figures shuffling down the pale gravel-blind path, headed toward solitary redbrick, breaking the view with the persistence of a hovel. A hurrying gust retires in the clefts of the ear with a thousand little plans. Their call is dull and thick, but severed from fading. They tread landlocked by baleful forgiveness, the corners of their mouths barbed with the spittle of song.

127


Noir A seasoned, hard-nosed, hard-boiled, youname-it detective: a mug of filtered coffee at the crack of dawn, black to the blackest dregs no scum. Piles of work. Had a steamy piss in a dark alley, adding to the calcified buttress of the wrong institution. Piles of work, dress shirt, braces, pants, dead with clods of earth. He loved all that suspense, his headstone said.

128


Choosing a Period The ones to my right — well-fermented. Those to my left — well-fermented. So how come nobody's waltzing? Instead, the lamentable need to invent ghost tales, to knit brows and mouth Os in their proper persons, ghost tales in their garden variety. The bothersome comfort of choosing to live in a certain period. There are no real ghosts in their tales, but rather the tales themselves are ghostly, or rather tidbits of gossip told through a mysterious aspect in someone's face begin to fill the room. Somebody opens the window before this or that tale gets too thick for its own sake, somebody after sitting as a fixture, flushed wise from the punch or the wine. A shade glides across the transom light of the entrance door. They realise they may get bored to death, and many a chair creak as a wooden chair would creak before it is dark-adapted.

129


Catch As Catch Can The mahogany suited back fixed its hat above with a motion subordinate to the hour. She was stepping out of the metro, her usual work self interrupted by a young man greeting the occasional stranger, picked at random, with what resembled a white, prepossessing carnation, to which he could lay no natural claim. There was nothing in the young man's face to account for these small but overt transactions with the salt of the earth by the obelisk of the square. A small flower could tell it like it is. A sky decidedly blue couldn't. A small flower could bring her through it. She yanked the planner out of her bag onto her knee, and jotted down a nonexistent appointment, in case he doesn't show up, and cleared her throat.

130


Prank Her stare smeared, face had already assumed a meandering twinge, doubled on her handbag hunkering down behind the end of an underground escalator. An ocular swim, a careful breath through the concertina wire of her ribcage and a smile forcing itself out in hiding. As a tight spring, she leaps uncoiling into a surprise hug from the corner, shedding the dull warm throb in her side with arms around him as a spectral divergence that offers little to no time to study his face, to tame her absence in him six months from now. A different ache off the cuff she decides on, one she could exaggerate, bumping hastily against a glaring bollard that only a moment ago had nothing to do with her.

131


The Frontier Guard I'll make tea. Boil the water. Send a fumbling hand into the rustling foil of a few biscuits — chocolate, orange marmalade — in rustling foil. The kettle will boil, prescribe respite and a close choice to crumble unhurriedly in a muttering mouth, something about a silk shawl as thin as the wings of a dragonfly bartered for a horse until the whistle, the boiling whistle and the phantom limbs of former love to call you.

132


Untitled Up to a certain age, stretching in bed is the most natural irrepressible thing in the world from the slightly arching back to the legs the hands the fingers. Then, the calf-cramp gnome comes to watch you do it, and you know full well he can have you folded in no time, stuff you in his trinket pocket, scurry away.

133


The Shoeshine Whenever somebody plays the piano, whenever it's recorded, somewhere between larghissimo and lento, if you listen carefully, you hear the shoeshine at it. Not the sputter of an old record, but the quiet, lengthy bristles of a shoe brush in a pause. Of course, it's only the player's creasing suit, but we are here to circumvent reality for one another, between world-weary nothings.

134


Now that we have thus established them She looked at the pale spheres and cones on her desk, the milky haze of the gulf. The abstract iconography of the future in miniature that had its finish in the grandiose bareness outside her window. She knew that she could never be proverbial again. The gleaning of one report led her to it. Clues were a scarce commodity, oddly numbered, because they had no more purpose in her understanding of herself or the person next to her in any given situation. The situations were known too, built-in. There was no such thing as a typeless detail. The old archives spoke of wills stringed with hangups and long-term predictions constantly reduced to relentless falsities. The keepers of the old archives got by this way. Full of rapacious waiting for the nucleus of life, and prescribed with special breathing exercises in the meantime. But it's been two years since the blood left her face and that of her partner back into the grid of the gaffers. They had to continue living in none of the obscurity that resembled both of them, for better or worse, when they were told that their replicas were ready to receive the best of each.

135


Whereabouts The restless nooks and crannies of pillows, spread as the unavoidable habitats of those parts of the body more estranged to itself in the glare of a stray hour. Her sister's hand on the sticky forehead between dives, just as it had been, in blooming ambush at the back garden, the intuitive soft berths of falling and the cryptic language of their return opposite their parents years ago. Other perpendicular figures, waking visitations, daubed with the occasional bedside blurs, condemned to appear and disappear meritlessly, one of them effaced by a few utensils. A faint earful given in the other room. Night falls again to pick up the children into the distance of its cold fires.

136


Compartment Syndrome It was missing the no, the sky that had lost its common vague to persuasions. You could see it when it rained, or parted onto a sequinned dark rift, prescribing what was next, as cogs and gears would do later. And down below, two brothers played, haggled, cursed, and danced. Eager to confine most of it to their hands, dreaming of more hands and what these would do and be capable of in a snag of eyes and lips and everything else rising as a tide that would carry them, rid them of this place.

137


After You The Land His magnified eye doggedly leaps from one sore spot to the next and back again in bounding overwatch. He ascribes hoarse greatness to my people after asking me where I‘m from, still candidly hesitant over the occasional red patina on the family jewels, telling me: ―beware of the bit of fluff.‖ I assure him it‘s hardly the case but can see in his other, normal-sized eye that he has already mustered a soft verdict and wince at such a prospect. ―But what are you doing here? Why aren‘t you with the rest of your kin, with all that has been promised them or at least what they have promised themselves?‖ he recuperates from his clinical gaze, adding: ―pull it up just a wee bit more‖ before I can venture an answer in the nick of time. ―I mean, there had to be something of great importance‖, he goes on, ―during those two thousand years of assimilated wandering, of all that shooting the breeze, chin music variations on the theme of being actively idle from what had to be done‖.

138


Fake it Till You Make It There were a few necessary subjects and objects that made him the king of awkward. They were simply too detailed in the first world. Father dangled, mother dangled (more elegantly) — both not very aware — and he, dangled and dangled, all in one place and in one piece, and decided that perhaps he could find himself in some developing country, one blighted by or blessed with necessary evils, where he would hardly run out of lofty concerns, where he could juggle more than a handful of these and still not go out of fashion or out of his depth, even though deep down he suspected his redeeming qualities were those of a scavenger anywhere he'd go. But how could that be any worse than: "Well, what do you think of it?" — "Oh, that's lovely." Wouldn't it be lovely to pack up for some narrow anthropological tract and not have to worry about repeating all those clever things you've heard. He still had to learn how to stick out his hand in a studied gesture for greetings and goodbyes and it went without saying that in his soliloquies he was already there for a good number of years.

139


Untitled Two men on a dusty hot porch, politely stuck in an explanatory gap. The wind chimes give them the cue to start talking shop about their ailments that would again render them knowledgeable in each other‘s eyes before they face their wives who have grown clairvoyant with the years and immune to these pursuits in the ancient light.

140

A Lesser Stranger  

(c) Iliya Ansky

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you