How to Map the World with the Life of a Woman

Her husband only loves her when she is sad and depressed, which she is enough of the times for many others to think that she is a sad and depressed woman.

When she is not sad and depressed she does not notice her husband, herself looking to everything or everyone other than he for her diversions.

She only needs him, she would say (as you might hear her say, as others would hear her say, whenever someone could catch her talking aloud to herself, which she does not do often enough for this catching her to be more than just a possibility, a remote one at that [so why then the aside, the insertion in parentheses?]), if she were to think about this, which she is never going to do, when I am sad.

To be sad or not to be sad has not become her to be or not moment. She is and that is enough for her—she does not question her sadness, except she does blame others around her for her sadness, her unhappiness. It has always been quite simple for her: the origin of her unhappiness is only a moment away, seizing the idea that others want nothing more than to see her unhappy, that others close to her conspire to make her unhappy, or keep her unhappy, the latter being as close to self-knowledge as she comes.

She only wants him around to berate or belittle as she does every day without her being aware enough or strong enough or secure enough to admit that that is exactly what she does every day; yes, day in and day in again and again and again, over and over ten times at least every day or more, sometimes ten times in an hour, for sure he is, out of her mouth, asshole, piece of shit, idiot, disgusting, everything her mother said, has said and sometimes continues to say to her; a martyr she becomes in a self-aggrandized image of herself, what she needs as antidote to the poison .. . something contrary to the polarized image she carries with her into the pit, the hole, the abyss of her soul. Everything in there is black. No one would want to be her; no one she has ever known has ever envied her.

He does not mind her diversionary tactics at times; she has had a special dispensation for denial. He really can’t stand that she can’t stand when she is happy;it makes her uncomfortable, like being in strange surroundings. He only likes her enough to tolerate her when she is sad and depressed. He can only show love for the woman she is when she is happy, but sad and depressed what she is most comfortable with, most familiar with, her mother being nothing she has ever imagined her to be, or says to others, only wonderful . . . like the parent who tells everyone he meets how brilliant his idiot son is, never the word idiot passing his lips, no longer in his head, this imaginary parent of a kind that has to lie to himself because every one like him he surrounds himself with has this penchant for lying, lying, lying; that’s all they ever do, wear masks on masks, the masks every human wears by nature . . .yes, human nature . . . but then masks on masks, which is why everyone who has ever dealt with people like this has determined that people like this are two-faced.

This way she has of turning every opportunity to be happy into misery is the only way she is happy. Really, she is . . . this is already too much for a person that most people who know now will forget in time.

He too is happy, you could say, he would say at the end of his life with her that we are not going to get to, no. Why should you imagine that you need anymore than what you have been given, when, as others too have said, another me and another me and another me, each of us coming to the last syllable of his recorded speech . . . yes, when the author too has said many times: There is nothing outside the text. Of course, Beyond this point, there be dragons.

Post Script: Happy people aren’t worth the trouble to write about them.

Post-post Script: I have always loved maps and the idea of map-making, charting the world. So did he when he was a boy; many atlases and maps on his bedroom walls; he used to love running his tongue all over her body, her flesh, that skin he used to say he loved the taste of, a full mouth of her cunt too in the morning, who does not prefer sex in the morning to the night, how every day he used to imagine guiding his tongue, tracing her skin, a new kind of topography?

 

Advertisements

The Statues in the Museum All Lying Dead [ Fiction]

Loomings

What should you call me? How should you refer to me? There are masks to wear everywhere in a text. The text is an ocean. The text is fluid. The text has boundaries. The universe is bound yet infinitely expanding. Eternity in an hour? If possible, then eternity in a text is also possible. Every text is a cosmos; cosmos is ordered world. What is the order  of things in the text.

Prologue

. . . technique in the service of an idea . . .

—Anonymous 

[The above is a fragment from the early 16th century, or so it was purported; the only words on a piece of paper torn from a larger sheet with evident blots from a quill having been dipped in an ink well. I saw it in a case at The Athenaeum Library in Providence Rhode Island, or so I think I remember.]

The above (both the italics and the bracketed entry afterwards; obviously typed by a person who had sight of the artifact; herein presented as an inscription, copied, as I did, from the typescript the someone-author must have lost on the subway where I found it) are the only words on an 81/2 by 11 inch sheet of computer paper, printed in Ariel at 11pt. that, as I have parenthetically mentioned above, I found on the subway, the #6 train uptown, as I transferred from the D at Broadway-Lafayette Station which connects now with the northbound #6 trains, as it did not only a few years ago.

The Main Body

[Text, text, context, pretext, subtext, what about the text I have in my hand? The text I see on the screen? The text I write as a writer? The one I have written as the author? I give no one authority over my text, any text I have written, have authored, all my texts, all my pretty ones . . .]

He said that he had a dream where in the dream I had had a dream and said as much. I had a dream last night of Luis Bunel’s scorpions. He also had a dream where in the dream a beautiful statue had come to life in the Greek and Roman galleries at the Met. This living woman formerly a statue and I then fucked in the galleries, standing up, me holding her with her legs wrapped around the small of my back, and it was good as I recall from the dream more than good, for her as well as for me, for me more so because it was so for her, and the memory this morning of the sex in the dream was almost as satisfying in recollection as the recollection of sex I have actually had that was good, more than good, of course having to be so for her if so for me. Or so he likes to think he thinks, as well as does think, he recalls, or so he adds in words on the page with pen in his journal. I really do feel as I have inferred I do here in orby the words I have composed arranged put in lines, keeping things in form, what form do the words take? There is a false sense of linearity imposed by the lines of text we read, how we read, following lines as we do, skimming page after page, line by line.

I did wonder for a time what this could mean to me, for me, for you, for anyone herein reading this page, this entry, this paragraph inserted here at the close of what you–I do not know what you could assume or would or might or will. It does not matter though for the purposes of what has been accomplished–everything written is one or another kind of accomplishment. But in the dream he had where I was remembering a dream I had had, I see the statues in the museum all lying dead, but not as dead people do when they lie dead, but as they would be lying if they had all of them come to life, but as statues, only dead statues, statues sculpted of the dead, the dead as the subject of sculpture, itself a paradox? Or is it a conundrum because we have to speak about the living stone if we want to speak in traditional conventions about sculpture, so then what was conveyed in the dream inside the dream if it were successful as traditional sculpture was a series of living stones conveying thus a living death, death as a subject come to life in stone.

To be stone or not to be stone; what would it mean to be stone, not stoned, let you who are without sin cast the first . . . stone alive; stone, dead. I knew a man who knew a man who had taught the Hasidim in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and told the story, the teacher did, of one of his students who had admitted to him that stoning is still part of Jewish Law, but due to concessions to laws in America, they do not stone anyone to death, which is comforting to know.

What more is there to be or not? What more could there be if what we have here is a departure from contemporary notions of being? The naked stone becomes statue; is the statue the cover of the naked stone, or is it that the stone is not naked and only covers the statue that resides inside, what is trapped inside, what Micheangelo had said about the blocks of stone he sculpted, that he was only chipping away the extraneous pieces covering what was locked inside the marble block. Breaking away the sepulchre that entombs the statue?

After Words

[Here find the author’s afterword?]

How could I not be a lover of Mannerism, living in an age as devoid of cultured understanding as this one is, I have said, I have believed, with fluctuating intensity and variegated conviction? I recall hearing myself say, I think I remember.

More is less, I remember a professor saying (which is what I say because I cannot remember specifically which professor, knowing, as I do, that many said so, a mantra in writing classes I had taken at university, in literature classes too, where writing was expected, several essays for each, at least two per class per semester, along with two essays on a final exam for each, if not in lieu of this, another essay, a final essay, as long as the other two essays during the semester combined, if it wasn’t three shorter essays. I had a professor who had us write three five hundred word essays during the semester and then a fifteen-hundred word essay for the end . . .).

Anonymity, She Said [A Short Story]

Anonymity, she said, He says (something he wishes he understood better than he can, better than he suspects he cannot).

He says, I wish I understood you better.

She says, No you don’t. You say you do, but you don’t, not really, not ever, only words you know I might want to hear.

He says, Why do you say that? 

And yet another lame account amounting to nothing in, and you or I will say the same tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, every day after day in the petty paces kept, just as it was true yesterday and the day before yesterday all of them till the arrival at our beginning? How does anything begin, let alone this story.

“You make my skin crawl when you speak as you do about me, about wanting to understand me,” she said . . . “about what you think I want to hear, syllable after syllable, and I wish I were deaf,” she says, “snuffing everything out in me as if I were a candle.”

We pause.

“Thinking about something, about its meaning, what it means, what does it intend to convey, to indicate, or to refer to (a particular thing or notion); to signify,” she says. “What then is it to be mean or not to be mean, all meaning therefore in the meaning, its intention, although intentionality should no more restrict meaning than etymology should, which does not mean we should ignore what the parameters of intention were in what a word means, or what a word’s etymology is that could then help us to understand its meaning.” She said, “What an author intends should not preclude interpretation; author intention is still a proscription of sorts.”

We paused.

“To define is to set limits; here the limits of understanding meet the limits of knowing? To know her or not to know her, that might be question to ask, I could ask, would ask if–I am genuinely asking if semantics is governed by epistemology in an absolute way? More questions,” she says.

She examines what she knows, what she thinks–in fact she has said that she does not know what she thinks unless she writes, puts it on paper–she has said enough times in the past that the way she was taught writing was a way in which thinking gets taught–yes, she would insist, “there is a way to think, a how to think. I know that there are too many people who believe otherwise, but then listen to them talk. Yes, listen to them thinking–read what some people write,” she says, has said, will say again as she did just the other day, where was it, were we?

“It is frightening,” she would say in other words. But this notion of anonymity, what it is , how it can be understood, what its significance “has been for women historically,” as she would say, “is important to flesh out,” give it something it has been denied . . . is that what she is doing here, has done here, in these pages of word after word after . . . all of this is and so on and so on.

What is it that she has done here can only be answered by reading what she has written here and elsewhere, put in words for you to understand . . . but mostly for her to know what she thinks and how she thinks because it is impossible for her to know exactly what she thinks she believes without having written, a dialectic of selfhood . . . the dialectical Self? She would say something of the sort, and she has written she has said almost similarly, just the other day, in fact–I do not record her, although I am a very, very close friend and confidant, whatever that means, who is she? I do not need to ask, or maybe I should.

What she says she says the way she says, and she and her words remain completely inimitable.

As for a woman’s anonymity–that is, what it is, how it is, when and where it is or has been . . . what? It seems as if it will be . . . more and so much less at the same time, the same way is said, has been said, needs to be said all over again, the repetition of nothing new under the sun is a lot subtler than imagined, but not nearly as difficult to see as some others imagine.

The questions she raises she does so without equivocation. She is not apologizing for her opinions which are more than mere opinions–the mereness of any opinion is not in the opining but in the opinion of those prejudiced against opinions in themselves. I am not apologizing for her opinions by pointing out she is not apologizing.

“How many methods of discovery do we employ in our self examinations?” She used to ask often. “To discover is the opposite of cover, but is it to uncover what is as is? How much woman is she when she is, woman?” She used to ask; the used to does not mean she no longer does so because she does and will do so, I know. I remember her asking quite clearly: “What methods of discovery do I use in my methods of self examination?” These words, other words, we cannot go to the audio or the video tape.

“Virginia said so,” she said, “that a woman is anonymous, or that the history of anonymous in literature was the history of woman’s literature or that the history of woman’s literature was the history of anonymous, but then there has always been a kind of anonymity for women of women in all societies, some more than in others for longer.”

Can you say without offending anyone “that black Americans have suffered only what women have suffered here or there longer or shorter, greater or lesser,” no? “Woman has ben the prime nigger of the world, and continues to be in many, many places still,” she said.

“If everyone is money’s nigger, what then are African Americans? And if it is true that everyone is Money’s nigger, then what is a woman in this world if the above is also true. And if all of these are true, what then is an African American woman?” She asked.

“I repeat myself, I know, when I say that a woman is and in this is everything is. Yes, she is; this woman or that woman, firstly and lastly, is. What she is is another endeavor; who, when, where, why and how are all of them together subtraction,” she said, and so far how can you disagree? I do not. You should not if you wish to keep your mind opened–and yes, if you disagree with her ad hoc then you are close minded–if you disagree with her on principles that are apart from her saying what she is saying being what she is who she is then this too might be closed minded, I mean what is there to disagree with in her words herein phrased as they have been?

“I am, I say,” she said and would say and has said often, in one or another context, but mostly in her talks about being and existence and the differences there between the two. “I am not this or that when my being is concerned,” she said. “I am; I exist, although I know that to exist and to be are not exactly the same thing.”

To be without the complement not to be. Whether named or unnamed, this woman is, she is. Hamlet’s soliloquy herein referenced is also every woman’s soliloquy. She is not further removed from Hamlet’s Cartesian inquiry than I am because she is a woman.

“How is Hamlet not relevant to me?”

[You should pause here briefly. Take a breath.]

“Now, the history of anonymous is the history of woman; or is it that the history of woman is the history of anonymity?” She asked. I have asked as well. You should have asked. She believes and has believed for a long time that this is an investigation worthy of pursuit. Nonetheless, as she has said, has asked, “Woman is anonymous? She is in anonymity? Anonymity is a place history has reserved for woman? The history herein is one and the same whether it is written or unwritten, irrespective of whether or not there is a historiography to support it in the way all historiography has a way of aping Moses descending from Sinai,” she wrote.

“How much is left unknown at the end of a relationship?” she has asked in this and in other contexts; it has appeared in many pieces written by her. “What is a relationship where the woman or the man or both are perpetually becoming other than each is. How much do the happiest spouses really know about one another, or the unhappiest (we do imagine misery is wiser which might explain the propensity for misery we all have). A lover dies, a spouse is put in her tomb and who was she?

No one was; the one who is is not who she will be when she becomes who she was. But traditionally woman has remained a modified man in the collective unconscious of men. In this, they are part not a whole, except of course in the homophonic, hole.

Women then are–to be or not . . . what? What is for things I have read before (Jay Ruvolo, before)? What are they? What is she? [Who is more important than what?] No, I demand as she has said I should demand that they are not what, but who. So then, Who are they? ‘They’ is too big to manage? Are they? As I am we, woman is they? Does this make any sense. I imagine it does, but then this I I am is macrososmic to the many that make up the subject complement we in I am we.

I know the arguments for I am we are rooted in understanding a selfhood that is plural, a many selves Self, I recall my father having said Milton had said. Every person should be able to say this with conviction, I am we. It is true for each of us, but then that is not exactly what I am saying when I say, A woman is they. This woman here, this woman now, the one in front of me with a world of inquiry and response between us, potentially, is what, is who, is when or where, these are the dimensions of this they she is when we know, like I am we, she is they . . .” to continue with what she has written (what she wrote) might be fruitful, but space here is a consideration and quotes handled correctly–or should I say appropriately–will suffice to reveal something more than just a bit of what she thinks.

“Place and time as much as the things we are or the persons we are, become the dimensions of our world projected outwardly toward the world, into the world; this world, we know, is a stage. Yes, each of us to its many parts. But the selves of the Self are microcosmic to the greater Self we are in its singular totality. These are thrust outward and take place around us in the effect of details, she wrote. “The I, I am is I am; the I am is macrocosmic to all details of our world or any world or all the worlds together in the one larger greater all encompassing world we mistakenly think is larger than us because the physical dimensions are so much greater than each of us is,” she has written.

 

“The [fore mentioned] ‘they’ inside her is encompassed by the she we use for her, this one and only woman who is herself and every woman as well, both, yet sometimes neither, sometimes someone else. All the time she is who she is whenever she is anyone she is, all the masks she wears inside or outside dependent on the ones worn inside . . .[,]”she wrote.  “[A]ll the parts she plays, the players she becomes–in the sense Shakespeare asserts–they are, she is; women and woman are. That’s it. She is. I am. They, them, those people, women. We know no one, not really–who do we know? I ask. Do we know the people whose minds we cannot know completely, whose lives have been lived independently of ours, whose eyes we do not see the world through, whose shoes we do not wear, whose ears we do not hear with, listen with?I ask; I am really asking. Examine this . . . [,]” she said.  “What?” She asked.  “Who do we know? How many of our selves in the Self remain hidden? How can we know anyone? So how could we know any woman?” She had written before she wrote again what you have herein.

“Who is she, again, the question gets asked and if asked . . . I contend that asking is not always to look for an answer, and not every response is an answer as we should know from their etymologies, although I do not want to enforce meaning through etymology. And oftentimes asked without the intention of waiting for an answer, a particularly annoying contemporary trait we have all acquired. But how many of us avoid asking any question like this at all?

Responses are not answers; I’ve asserted this above and before in other essays. There are plenty of responses we give, we feign attachment to or connection with, but the answers we seek–do not answer a question with a question she used to say, a woman I once knew. No question is an answer, yet we offer questions as answers, responding as we do not with the rhetorical questions that answer, but the questions in responses that avoid answering. Everything to avoid answering. Irrespective of any answer to any question, She is. To respond is not to answer but to put again, to place once more. To put once more is a placement nonetheless, it is a choice of arrangement,” she has written. “A woman is” should be the first line of discussion when any thought of her right to choose anything arises. In her is, there is no longer any subtracting devices such as who, what, when, where, how or even why. None of these questions are pertinent or relevant to her inalienable right to choose. There should be no equivocation for anyone sane enough to want to save a woman from the unnecessary horrors that existed before Roe versus Wade. I’ve said this in essays before, and I will reiterate it again and again in essays to come.

There were horrors before the law got behind a woman’s right tomchoose safe medical procedures rather than the rock or the hard place in back alleys, and yes, there were back alleys; curtain rods and all that sort of letting the air in. I’ll never forget the end of Goddard’s Masculin et Femminin, or Hemmingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” where the word abortion is never mentioned. What am I saying? How can I say anything for her? How can I not? How can I afford to disallow myself the ability to speak rationally for woman. Defending a woman’s rights is an obligation I take seriously, which sometimes sounds as if the one asserting the severity of the responsibility misses the point. I assure you I do not, but then who am I to you or for you? I do have an obligation to defend a woman’s rights as I do anyone’s rights because I exist as a moral being. Not to defend human rights in any way anywhere is to reduce one’s self in one’s moral stature. Even if it is at a dinner table in face of indifference or diffidence or ignorance or prejudice,” she has written, we are reading.

“There will always be dilemmas for her, even if aborting an embryo is legally sanctioned. This is not to say that legally sanctioning abortion is a fool’s errand. To each woman her own personhood, her own psychology rooted in her biology, her physiology and her experiences? She has reason; she is capable of reasoning, of being rational or irrational; capable of being passionate or dispassionate. She will have different levels of education, different jobs or careers; her income will vary, as will her home situation, her relationship status, her religion, and so on and so on. But the roller coaster she rides will be hers to ride when and where she chooses. To decide or not to decide should be her question and hers alone. I have shifted gears quickly, but we cannot see any effort to control abortion or the availability of safe nedical procedures for induced miscarriage as anything other than controlling a woman;s body, her right to reproduce or not, which when centered in the opinions of men might be nothing lese other than Uterus envy. It was through the womb of a woman that in Christian Theology, God becomes man; the Son of God, begotten not made before time and creation is gestated as the incarnation through the uterus of Mary,” she has written, has said in other words some of what has been put down here, words, words and more words she has formed reformed, shaped—what was it our friend Addie used to say about words? Shapes to fill a lack. 

“Now, if Roe versus Wade were a complete fabrication, if it were a docudrama, would that mean that the majority ruling was somehow made weaker, argumentatively? Would the truth of it, whether true or not in the most pedantic sense of trueness become other than true? Roe versus Wade is just as strong in support of pro-choice whether or not the trial was justified on its factual merits. A trial is just that, an essay on a thesis, and whether it was factually justified does not undermine the results of the debate. The text could have been fabricated entirely by a novelist and placed in a novel. Would that make the argument irrelevant, invalid, sociologically? The argument would maintian ethical, moral and socilogical veracity throuhg–even in spite of–its verisimilitude Fictional truths have as much valency as actual. I should say that veracity in fiction is deeper than verisimilitude; it carries metaphysical weight; it has epistemological density.

But this is not solely the point. Hypotheses are presented all the time in politics and law; the sacred law of our land delivered by Divine Providence, itself a holiness above every insipid conception made by illiterate minds twisted in their bleak deserted imaginings of a God whose baseness as a Lord can only muster an angry call to human intelligence to submit humanity and all humane being to a fearful jealousy, born of barbaric cruelty, fueling a misogyny greater than all traditional hatreds of woman, coupled everywhere it has spread like a virulent venereal disease of the mind, all vicious, all violent, all consumed by  hatred, severed forever from any connection to the One True Transcendental Holiness, a Wisdom of Love, Compassion, Redemption and Forgiveness, way beyond the lame and guttural recitations of a most contemptible and corrupted  re-connection with God . . . and all of the United States when subject to ratification was a hypothesis subject to the most critical examinations. It took a great deal of intellectual effort to get The Constitution ratified.

The majority ruling in the Roe versus Wade does not become invalid for us epistemologically or ethically, no; it remains valid in its thesis. Nonetheless, the prime thesis here in any discussion of a woman’s right to choose is a Woman is.

There must be a first and last step in all reasoning about human beings (human being, being humane), and for human beings, that asserts loudly and clearly He is; she is; thus, I am which would be the primary and teleological determination for all ethical considerations of each and every one of us, and there has to be an us. Why does a woman deserve respect for her person, for her choices, for the integrity of her selfhood?” She asked, she wrote, has written in these exact words, although rearranged now and then for reasons other than just avoiding redundancy.Or . . . there are always ors? In others the same nevertheless . .. what? If you were her, one thing known or understood; if you were I, what then?

“Because she is, she exists should be First Feminology; her to be following is all of her metaphysics and physics,” she has said time in and time out, the same and not the same. I wish she were the kind of woman . . . what? What do I wish specifically? I could or I could not imagine her; I might or I might not speak her into being, an existence existing like a tree exists in its existence—but a tree is not as a woman is. She has being; the tree does not. If no one is present to hear a woman falling, does her having fallen make a sound?

We understand this is often too much for any one person to handle, all that he is, that he has been, is being, will be, will have been, might have been, could be, should be, would be if or when; what has happened to should have been? I should have been what, could have been . . . I will have been; I would have been–then what?

Who is she? You ask. Who is the narrator? You ask. Who am I? I would not ask; you might. Who are you? I should ask. I could, whether I am who I am at the moment writing this, or whatever I become thus am as I speak this to you; the you who hears it or reads and the you you are every day, I assume, but these assumptions are often in error. There is a real world you and a you who reads the text not as a real you you but a you you become in the text. You could spend some time sorting all of this out; but I do not us spect that you would want to, so leave what you have read as it is and do not consider this author me wearing a mask of authorship for you wearing a mask of readership. It’s all about the world and all of it a stage and all of us merely players, many players, a player playing many parts, parts together equalling what whole, an entirety rhyming with hole, the great abyss we all fall into?

Finding a Pay Phone that Works [A Short Story]

Power knows without doubt that it can always get

half of the poor to beat the shit out of the rest of the poor.

I

Now that street thugs have cell phones, they are not going to destroy the new terminals for charging cell phones.

What!? They did not have quarters when the cost of a pay phone was twenty-five cents? Destroying cell phone terminals will become a right of passage in cities. We have had the kind of rhetoric in our discourse on poverty that has lead us to rationalize and even justify certain behavior to the point where the behavior becomes a mandate. It’s almost proof positive of poverty. Of course any fear of the dregs of our city destroying community property is not to deter the city from offering this service to communities across town, but I am sure that most of the ones that will continue to work will not be in poor neighborhoods. I’m sorry.

I know you do not like the word ‘dregs,’ but I suit word to action and action to word, word to state of being and state of being to word . . . diction is always something I consider carefully when I write when I speak when I say what I say when I am telling anything that needs to be told . . . word after word on lines in notebooks I keep with me wherever I go time in and time out. I now have over twelve to fifteen thousand pages of journals and blog entries that comprise a good deal of the story drafts, the poetry drafts and the essay drafts, along with simple daily or weekly entries we used to call journal entries, but now most of us keep a blog, that is, a web log, blog, blog, blog the new blah, blah, blah. Surfing the net inferring a kind of oceanic experience, no, some metaphoric oceanic experience blogging is not. The blog, like the log of a ship’s captain? I put pen to paper–I want to keep a journal at home in one of those rather oversized books that I can keep with my pen and nib and ink wells dipped to write in them the way Shelley and Keats would have written in a journal, some oversized bound book of pages either blank or lined, who needs lines, we need them the way we do upper and lower case letters but the Romans did not who were literate in their language all capital and no spacing as we have between words and sentences because anyone who was literate knew where words began and ended . . . does anyone remember trying to find a pay phone in New York, especially in poorer neighborhoods? It was nearly impossible with how many were broken or trashed. I am not maligning poor people, but saying simply that community property suffers greater damage from the public in poor neighborhoods than community property does in more affluent neighborhoods. People with greater livelihoods feel more invested in their community, it seems; but then this is not news, is it? Are we really only about money? It might seem this way. This is one way to understand this conundrum in our society. But then I am still a little puzzled by the disregard for the convenience of other people like themselves that poor people seem to indulge, even if it is only some poor people in poor neighborhoods, and I do know that it is not all or most or even many–

Do poor people in poor neighborhoods have less respect for what is communal? It does seem so, doesn’t it? At least to an outside eye–but then eyes outside do not see inside? They do, though, have a savage, nearly reptilian response to any affront to their own property, personal belongings . . . more materialistic than people with money? People with money know they can replace what they are about to lose? I really do not know where this is going, so let’s just follow the course.

What are we saying half the time about poor people, how we have to understand their reality–and how many times do you here some stupid trash talking asshole on the subway shouting his convictions to a friend who has to sit six seats away from him about how people don’t know reality or how other people, meaning people with intelligence and/or education or some semblance of civility or civilization, don’t understand him and his, do not know the special knowledge he has about what human nature is–or is it homo-sapiens nature because human is a choice if and only if humane.

Of course, no one has reality or knows reality or experiences reality but this dumb mother fucker who can only beat his girlfriend because his manhood is caught somewhere between the mind of a seven year old and that of thirteen year old, and I’m talking abuse by abuse by and for abuse.

I just don’t get poor people trashing their neighborhoods the way some of them do–and it’s true . . . they do trash their neighborhoods, some of them, not all of them, but enough of them to make shitty for everybody. They do shit where they eat and sleep. They are jackals, some of them. If you were to examine the amount of waste and refuse left in the gutter, on the sidewalks, in the halls and vestibules of their apartment buildings–what? It can’t just be the few that some poor people want you to think it is, as if it were only a handful.

You do not see that poor people litter their neighborhoods not only with paper but refuse that leads to more rats and roaches. Look at the buses and the trains that move though these neighborhoods. What gives with poor people taking privilege with what they can do to community property and public spaces? Poor people do piss in the streets more often than rich people, but let’s say that rich people always have access to bathrooms that poor people do not except by the grudging kindness of fast food managers who are just a little less poor than the people who would fuck up his bathroom as a right of urban passage.

And it is a sense of privilege–unless they feel so inferior to rich people that this is the only license they can come up with indulging in the matter of their liberty. It is a privilege they take when they think they can leave their food refuse on the busses and the trains and in the hallways of their buildings and rationalize it with poverty, or because the motherfucker is so poor he now has a special space for him to indulge his stupid ass resentment on the public spaces he shares with other poor people.

And you do understand that privileges are reserved for the repressed, not the elite–you are getting it wrong.

I have members of the poorer communities moving into my rent stabilized building and I am seeing chicken bones in the vestibule, sneaker boxes in front of the door, coffee cups half full on the stairs–the front door lock is repeatedly broken. There isn’t even the good sense enough to understand that they make themselves and their loved ones less secure by breaking the door lock when they insist on remaining too stupid to remember to take their key or too cheap to spend the dollar seventy-five to make a copy of the key to take along or give to someone–no! Let’s break the lock so I can spend my dollar seventy-five on what, I would like to know, maybe pooling it with his other moron friends so they can spit a forty while they split a spliff. Unless they do it to vent steam as I have heard since the seventies, but fuck that shit because most poor people do not do it, except there are enough poor people who do to make their neighborhoods shit holes. No, let’s stop making excuses for the too many asholes who live in shit and heap more shit on top of the shit so everyone else can be buried by the shit.

You can’t imagine I would not want to beat any one of these dregs of humanity with a stick–maybe a bat–I have used bats before–but then wanting in imagination is not the wanting that transcribes itself as will. What I write and what I do are often not the same; what I allow myself for instance in my journals . . . I do not expect too many to understand what I say when I do, or how it is said, but then Satyrs we are not . . . nonetheless, we cannot use poverty as an excuse or a rationalization or justification for trashing a neighborhood. I’m sure, for instance, that there are too many people in America like myself who do not want to hear how poverty is the reason why some places in inner city neighborhoods are trashed. No fucking excuse. Poverty may be a variable, but poverty is not the reason.

It is the same everywhere. It is the same in London, in Naples, in Berlin, in Tokyo, in Shanghai, in Bogota, in Santiago, in Cairo, in Beirut, in Paris, in Moscow, in Kiev, in Tashkent, in Bombay . . . no? Where is it different? It isn’t different anywhere, Jakarta, Hanoi, Bangkok; Chicago, Miami, Toronto; it does not matter the city. If there is not a universal human nature, there is a universal poor nature–and fuck you if you don’t live with these assholes and imagine you have some sociological explanation for why they do what they do–and I say you do not understand what you are talking about . . . power is power is power, money is money is money, and poverty is poverty is crime–and the fucking poor are just as snobbish as the rich. I had a friend who had told me about an alleged friend who had an African-American classmate once tell this friend  that the one thing black people repeatedly fail to get about niggers is just how snobbish about being poor and stupid niggers really are . . . I suspected one or the other—either my friend or the alleged friend of my friend—was full of shit.

Violence, vice, trash, litter, garbage, waste, everywhere there are people who are poor, poor white people, poor black people, poor Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Chinese, Russians, Africans, Latinos, Chicanos, Canadians, atheists, illiterates and people who stick their thumbs up their ass because they have too much time on their hands waiting for a Social Security check because being poor is now a mental illness . . . I wish it were different. Where poor people in America are only white, there is nothing but trash everywhere to be seen. Human depression knows no bottom. What else is it, though, among poor people, that raises the issue of refuse? What then must we do? You know what the elite say. You know what the fascists are going to say–and the next revolution in America is going to be a fascist one, one where we will get half the poor to beat the fuck out of the other half of the poor.

II

What now about Jim. Who is Jim? What is Jim? Why is Jim, Jim, is Jim poor? Jim is poor. Jim is violent. Jim is stupid. Jim is stupid because everyone in his life is stupid. Jim is also uneducated, which probably would not make him intelligent, but might give him some way of mediating his stupidity.

There must be a genetic predisposition to his stupidity, I would love to think. He can only be stupid; he will never be anything else but stupid. He can only breed stupid children. He should have a state forced vasectomy to keep him from breeding, but we won’t do that because we cannot do that and maintain the illusion we are a free and democratic society which we know we are not. We have to believe he has certain unalienable rights otherwise we could not believe that we do–but then there is something to this about him having unalienable rights. I mean, if I am we the people–and you have to understand this is true–then he has to be we the people too. Liberty, democracy and civil rights are a big pain in the ass, though, aren’t they? Looking around everywhere I go, travel . . . I know what I have seen. I do not know if poor people should have the same rights as I do being as fucked up as they are more often than most others who are not poor.

We have to offer him, though, what he could never understand and will denigrate and abuse left and right because it makes us feel superior to do this, although I understand that we do have to love Jim as I recall the nuns in Catechism class teaching us before First Holy Communion and then Confirmation into the One True Holy Roman Apostolic Church. Even at the moment when his simian mind conceives that I deserve to be the recipient of one of his violent outbursts because he has the reading level at 25 of a second grader and he lives with a night light on in his head, although I too have no fear of violence and would use any blunt object in my grasp to defend myself and split his fucking troglodytic head open like a cantaloupe–where was I?

No question coming from here, someone who would not hesitate in putting some piece of poor white trash shit in the sewer where he belongs. Kill the mother fucker if he wants to do violence to me . . . I do not know if I can get to the point where I say exterminate all pieces of shit like this. Reactionary power will here will not have to kill all of the poor–they will kill enough of themselves, and in the final analysis, you can always get half of the poor to beat the other half of the poor with truncheons.

Jesus I will never be; Saint Francis I can never become. Mea Culpa, mea culpa . . .there is no more to say. I know you want more to be said. I cannot say anymore. I will not try, no essaying the topic. Let it rest where it is. It is what it is, how it is. No more; no less. I wish it were different. It will not be. I know I am often less than I should be, less than I am sometimes, more than just some, the times I am more than myself, more than my nature–nature has nothing to do with civilization. Civilization and nature are separate realities. We always have to be careful when we try to make our lives more natural–me splitting Jim’s fucking head open is nature, is natural; is that what we really want?

Jim has no tools to build a humane character. The role he plays on the stage of our world is the one determined by his nature, wholly and exclusively. He is Homo-sapiens at best and always at worst. Human humane is not a question in his to be or not. As I know I should beat him with a stick, the only thing he will ever understand, I do know I have to have compassion, that I have to patience, that I have to have tolerance, that I have to extend respect, that I have to protect his rights as I want mine protected too. So, what now Jim? What then must the rest of us do about you, for you, to you? I am in a quandary about what to do with Jim, to Jim.

Jim will never have a clue and anyone like Jim who does have a clue won’t help him, does not want to help him, wants Jim never to have clue, hopes Jim will always be as he is what he is wherever and whenever he is. And the world turns.

Caravaggio and I [A Short Story]

I

There have been many paintings I could not take my eyes off of, but this one, not simply large, no, it was . . . what was it? It was tremendous, the height, the width . . .  I recall having said nothing as I walked into the gallery where it was hanging, Caravaggio’s La Deposizione, Christ being placed in his tomb, the two Mary(s) behind with their hands raised in epiphany–dead Jesus, the man, the glowing Christ, still, chiaroscuro, a circumambient dark fading to black. I first went with a friend. I then went with family; then went by myself.

How long ago was it? I should be able to answer, but cannot. I do not wonder or worry why I cannot. I simply do not. I can check, but I won’t. It was the visiting Vatican Collection. I went more than once. I went more than one time each time I made my way to this portrait, this painting, this most magnificent example of Italian baroque. Was this the only reason I went back to the collection? How many people who went to see Dead Jesus Still Vibrant Christ, I would like to know. You now what I am talking about, if you’re Catholic, anyway. Do you need to be Catholic to understand this?

I do not know what I never knew, what I will never know, what I might have forgotten I had forgotten. It is not a matter of having forgotten something I have remembered. The sense of one writer infecting another is one thing . . . how many do I owe a small debt of gratitude, perhaps also to every asshole I have ever had a conflict with in my life, the opportunity to have made one mistake after another, the impossible to fathom anymore need to repeat mistakes as if doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result each time is not a form of insanity. No anxiety of influences here? I am only remembering having felt that one sensibility and my sensibility were parallel—what am I talking about with this other sensibility? Whose? Where these parallel lines would come to converge, I could not say, you know that that is not an illusion, not really. The illusion is the flatness of the ground and parallelity of the lines; when you see railroad tracks converge on the horizon, what that reveals is the curvature of the earth to the eye.

I do not visit galleries the way others do—I have a wife who resents that I must think myself so special that I do not do what the other cattle do, as I say; but then she is from the Soviet Union, so joining one cattle drive here and another there is the only way to do things publicly, I guess. I am being too hard and unfair. I can be horribly unfair, but then so be it. I am quite capable of forgiving myself; it helps me to forgive others which I find better than what others do, which is to forget without forgiving. To give or to get; what is the difference there? You know. It should help you to understand the distinction between forgiving someone or forgetting what they have done instead off forgiving.

Whatever, however, anyway nonetheless . . . I can see me flipping through the catalogue of the Vatican’s art collection in the book store, the book I bought and brought home to show my father. I still have it on my book shelves having reacquired it after my father’s death, having left it with my father when I removed from home. What does this say? I am not sure what it is supposed to say. I am here to talk about Caravaggio and his painting of the dead Jesus being placed in his tomb after the cross while the two Mary(s) hover his body with their hands raised in a typical iconographic gesture of epiphany, as I have already said.

Mary called Magdalene and Mary, Mother of God. I could not take my eyes off of them, off of the corner of the slab of stone; this painting, my eyes not off of Him when they moved onto him, his figure, the lines of his form painted by Signore Merisi. And then other figures, the women’s hands, theor fingers, revelation of the Godhead? In the scene on the canvas, Magdalene, the first witness of the resurrection, the first Christian–what it really means to be a Christian? What does it really mean to be a Christian (and I can do without the mocking jibes I used to hear from non-Christians in New York when I was a boy and some did not realize I was around to hear them say what they actually said and would deny they ever have said or have believed, do believe, do say among themselves, just as black people and white people are sure the other is privy to things said by people they like, love even respect that neither wants anyone other-else to hear . . .). My Aunt Anna had a heavy, thick, carved wooden Crucifix above the upstairs bed where I slept in the summers in the Berkshires, Pittsfield, where Melville had written one-third of Moby Dick, in the hills, on a farm not far from where Hawthorne lived, not far from where Norman Rockwell painted his Saturday Evening Post covers. The Crucifix was draped in rosaries. I once had a dream, I imagine was a dream and not an actuality, perhaps that half sleep before waking, but Jesus took a high dive off of his cross into my eyes . . .

It was huge, the painting by Signore Merisi; but its hugeness alone was not the reason for my fixation. Yes, there it was–yes, it; a larger than life painting, in a gallery, how far into the cattle drive I cannot recollect. I doubt I will ever recall. Yes, it–it–Caravaggio’s La Deposizione, it. The depositing of the dead Christ–no, not dead Christ, but dead Jesus? Of course. Christos cannot die, I remember a Greek Orthodox friend had insisted over coffee at the Greek diner just off Brooklyn College Campus on Hillel Road sometime in the early nineties. So, what was it beside it being there as large as it was–Caravaggio’s naturalism? What does that mean–also the vibrancy he lends to Christ . . . the living Christ. Life indestructible. Zoe, the Greeks would have understood, might even say, I don’t know. Yes, I am not alone in this sense. What sense? I have come across this idea in a great work on mythology on the subject of Dionysos by Kerenyi (I used to avoid the trite spiritualism and mythologizing that became popular when I was a teenager . . . I used to only read Mircea Eliade, but this is not for here, not for now).

Anyway, and it should not trouble you that I take divergent paths to get to where I intend we go, and it is we, not I, that are traveling here; the journey, not the destination. All by way of indirection, I could say. How to tell a story straight, I have no idea, nor do I have any understanding of why. The Greeks had two words for life, the one, bios, as in biology, was for life destructible, life that had an end; the other, zoe, was for life indestructible, life everlasting, life eternal . . . Jesus is not Dionysos–I hate stupid conflations that arise from an intellect too weak–or is it will? The will is weak in matters of learning by those who are attracted by simplistic answers and responses and conclusions where real intellect persists to the truth, yes there are many truths as well as Truth . . . don’t get me started on the Transcendental. Yes, capital ‘T.’ Capital Truth, the compass heading. Set your sites; mark your heading and go in that direction. Readjust every day.

Dead Jesus–the living Christ–Christ everlastingly alive shines through the body of Jesus being deposited into his tomb . . . and tomb is from the French tomber, to fall. Everyone’s tomb, his final fall. The finality here is the end of bios, the continuation of zoe. In fact, the resurrection is the reanimation through the everlastingness of Christos for the human person Jesus. The natural course has been reversed; the Divine has put a hold on Nature.

Jesus was he, no, Jesus is He, capital ‘H’ He. Do I need to examine the pronoun references for God–God Is He, the Holy Ghost is It. Can God be He, She and It? Too many will shout No!. I disagree–God is He, She and It . . . and I am not using these pronouns here in a one-to-one correspondence with the Persons of God, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost (you want to say spirit–say spirit). Is not was–Jesus is, Jesus remains, Jesus persists, Jesus is forever present tense; Jesus is, if I want to borrow from Aquinas. Deus Est; Iesus Est.

The Jesus I saw was different from the Jesus that is, the Jesus painted by Caravaggio being one and the same and completely other than every Jesus seen in painting by whomever whenever–the Mass Card my father had received from my mother’s cousin Barbara after my paternal grandmother died, Jesus on the cross being removed from the cross. The Descent from the cross not The Depositing in the tomb . . . you do know what I am talking about, right? No? Yes? Maybe?

I saw–no, I say I watched–yes, I watched Jesus being placed into his tomb in Caravaggio’s painting. How can anyone watch a painting? Understand what the baroque represented. Understand that the baroque did use what could be called exaggerated motion coupled with clear details and that these were employed for dramatic effect in painting, a theatricality absent in other ages? There was tension, what might be called tenebrismo . . . the use of  chiarascuro . . . there was an exuberance in the paintings; there was grandeur as well in sculpture . . . see Bernini. The baroque was an age, was an aesthetic, was an entire metaphysics of art . . . of painting, of architecture, of dance, of theater, of music, of literature. This depositing of Jesus after his descent from the cross. It was enormous, again, the painting, and in it, the body of Jesus, also enormous, also it, the body–but Corpus Christi, It or He–We?

Larger than life, of course, it would be larger than life on the canvas. Body of Christ; Body of Jesus–not exactly the same thing. With Communion we enter into Mystical Union in the Body of Christ. We chant the words themselves, Body of Christ . . . speak but the Word and my soul shall be healed . . . ; and so, the light from Christ in Signore Merisi’s La Deposizione was–what was it? Questions beget questions I have said before, will say again. Was it intense? The light in the painting. Light from a non specified source–the kind of light Merisi borrows from Tintoretto, for sure. It was supposed to be intense, mysterious, something evocative of the sacred–should I capitalize the word ‘sacred?’ Of the divine–the presense of Divinity, thus the gesture recognized in the two Marys’ upraised hands; epiphany, as in the Feast of Epiphany, The Revelation to the Gentiles on January 6th on the Catholic Calendar. Yes, Mary Magdalene and Mary, the Holy Mother, are gesturing their recognition of divinity, it is a Revelation to them, and how Jesus is illuminated on that canvas, in that scene, and how He seems to be illuminated from within–He shines.

You have to take notice whether you are Catholic or not. You do not need to be devout or practicing to understand what is happening on that canvas, within that frame, what scene is set, that place a stage—yes, all the world is a stage, in the baroque mind. It is the baroque mind that plays on the consonance and the assonance of ‘State” and ‘Stage.” Statecraft is stage craft. In and on are mutually reciprocal, a dynamism itself. I could not imagine an Atheist, a Muslim or a Jew not being impressed; a Hindu, a Buddhist or one or another Animist would have to be impressed if he had the slightest appreciation for what we still liked calling at the time I saw this painting, artistic genius. I have no idea what that means now. I do not pretend that I did then. But you do not need to be Catholic as Signore Merisi understood in himself. Impression of this sort is what I call universal, if the person is opened, not full of prejudices and preconceived notions . . .

First empty your cup otherwise no more will go in.

I do understand from experience here in New York City, in Public School, in my college days, in my personal life, in my professional occupations over time; in my travels to other cities and regions across America–and what it is that I do understand is that most Americans, Protestant Americans, will expend great energy to understand and respect Oceanic Spirituality, for example, but preclude themselves from doing the like with Catholic spirituality, and allow themselves most often condescension and mocking. I could say, Fuck them, but why should I? I know that I imagine that I would even like to say this, at least to myself, in my mind another stage. I have never had an aversion at least to having the inclination to say fuck you to someone or others in most places, whether I actually do or not is another thing. The good ones, I remember from Plato, are those who are content to dream what the evil actually practice.

Caravaggio now matters more, and will matter in spite of being dead. Caravaggio and I are the focus. Let’s not get lost on a tangent–I do not really know how one could get lost on a tangent. A tangent is a theoretical straight line intersecting a point on the circumference of a circle and one that extends for infinity . . . is it the infinity part that leads to the assumption of lostness? How much has Caravaggio had an affect on me as a person, as a man, as a thinker, as a poet, as a writer, as an editor, as aesthetician? Immeasurable?

I had already known about this other Michelangelo–Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio–before my visit to the Met for the Vatican Collection, my Dad spent a great deal of my childhood schooling me in the life and the art of Michelangelo Buonarroti. What was it, though, about this painting on the depositing of the dead Jesus in his tomb, the slab, the corner of the stone illuminated by a light you could not trace the source of; the two Mary(s), Mother Mary and Mary called Magdalene–what was it about them, about the iconography, the alterations of light and dark that faded to black in places along the perimeter and in the back ground? I remember writing a paper on the light in Tintoretto having an affect on Caravaggio’s use of light.

I do not continue to ask what, what, what–I ask only for you, a convention of the form. I cannot say exactly what it was. Every time I think about this I imagine it must lead to another essay, yes, another trial of ideas, of memory, of images randomly passing in the mind, of what I think. But thinking is not randomly passing images in the mind. How many times do I have to say this? Back in the early 80s, the visiting Vatican Collection was certainly one of the big deals in New York’s museum going world; there were only representative pieces from the ages brought to New York. The whole of the collection would have been impossible to let loose. The numbers, the size was prohibitive. Yea, the fucking disgusting greedy inhumane Reagan eighties. You have no idea how much more Obama is like Reagan than his idiot supporters refuse to see and ironically that his detractors at Reaganite-Media-Central Fox News miss entirely. Nevertheless, never mind.

How to say it–say it again, the same way, repetition once more over again: Michelangelo Merisi’s Dead Jesus was tremendous, both in size and impact. The painting was taller than I was, wide enough to hide two of me or more.Yes, as I have already said herein, and heard others related to me in mind say, I watched the painting–yes, the figures vibrated, they were . . . Christ in it was also tremendous, not just in size, but in Caravaggio’s representation, a vitality he gave to the forms, the overall theatricality of the scene, the tenebrious movement of the elements in their places, the vibrating contrasts between light and dark . . . the age of the baroque should be especially known for the vitality it gives to the representation of flesh; the age of the Baroque champions the naturalism of flesh, the sensuality of flesh . . . one giant leap for mankind, have you ever noticed how Rubens handled flesh with his brush strokes, his use of light and shadow to gain effect?

I watched this painting by M; I said this above. I did not just look at it. I could see the influence something like this could have had on later painters, perhaps where Reubens had gotten some of his notions of how to represent flesh–as I have said herein, the painting was larger than life-sized, as is, of course, the figure of Jesus, who as the Christ, must be represented as larger than life, even when represented dead. This was not a problem, though, for Merisi’s naturalism; there are various naturalisms, of course, and this one is effective. Baroque painting must be watched, not merely looked at, if you understand what I am saying here? Do we recall Michelangelo’s Mary in his Pieta? What was it he said about Mary? I forget. She in the statue, if she were to stand, would be about eight feet tall . . . the was-then and the is-now are perpetually contingent. But this enlargement of a figure in representation found in Michelangelo Buonaroti’s Pieta, where Mary, if she were stand, would be about 8 feet tall—this, though, is only an if she were to stand—she does not stand in the marble; get it? That fact is only implicit, not explicit as some like to say. But there is something about this woman in her extreme pity and piety that enlarges form, ourselves we feel being aggrandized by emotion, by love, by affection, by tenderness or sorrow. Mary holding her dead son in her arms there in Michelangelo’s marble becomes the effective representation of a sorrow that transcends sorrow; it becomes a larger, grander sorrow, perhaps a universal sorrow. Hers is the sorrow of all mothers. Mary is gorged by it. The Mother of Sorrow is swollen beyond any normal or humanly possible sorrow, for hers is not only the sorrow of a mother for her son, but of the Queen of Heaven for the Incarnation of the Son of God. Looking at Caravaggio’s painting must have given to viewers the imagined possibility of representing motion, of actually capturing it–it impresses you that way. La Madonna Dolorosa. I know about La Via Dolorosa; all Christians are supposed to walk the path, la via dolorosa, no?

Caravaggio invests his Jesus with a strange vibrancy although the figure is obviously of a dead man–let us allow this persistence in repetition to become motif–the stirring of the living Christ that the human Jesus can barely house. Even in death, Christ remains vibrant. His executioners could kill the man Jesus, the human Jesus, but as the Incarnation of the Son of God, that agency of divinity housed by the flesh of Jesus–this could not be extinguished. The Christ shines through the form of Jesus; the dead Jesus is illuminated by this divinity. Caravaggio is dealing with both the humanity of Jesus and his followers and the divinity of the Son of God, Incarnate in Jesus. The naturalism of the figures was astounding, and nothing like it had ever been achieved in painting before him, Caravaggio. In statuary, perhaps–but then statues were three-d. There is a profound depth of the figures; there is a thick representation on the two dimensional canvas, a kind of statuary in the painting.

The spiritualism–what could this mean to the age of the Baroque, not ours, where the term means nothing and too many other things, some of them beside the point. We have no handle on our words, or on our use of language in general. Speaking and writing have become a lot like throwing dice, haven’t they? The mood of the painting–what could mood mean other than mode, from which it comes? There are declarative moods and moods of doubt we call subjunctive; but then these are linguistic references, overly determined. Chiaroscuro painting meant what–light and dark, opposing forces, oppositional placement?

Contrapuntal arrangement, as in Vivaldi and Bach are each associative in meaning with chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro has everything to do with point counterpoint composition in music. Goethe had once said that architecture is music frozen in stone; this could be said of statuary, no? Have a look at Rodin, or Bernini, or Michelangelo, or any of the representative Greek and Roman statues at the Met. Among the Vatican Collection was the Porta Augustus statue of the young Octavius just before he becomes the August ruler of Rome. As I walked into the gallery I caught it centrally placed and I can swear to this day, I saw it breathe.

The dead Christ–the light, the use of shadows, a circumambient perimeter, black–all fades to black as in German Expressionist cinema, as in Gothic horror novels–there is a lot of blacking out in Gothic horror from the 18th century. Caravaggio uses black in his paintings in a way reminiscent of the dark, or the areas of black, used by De La Tour in his “Penitent Magdalenes”–there are more than one–and later by Fritz Lang, particularly in his film M. Notice Lang’s use of the extremes of the monochromatic scale to set psychological tones. You do know that Caravaggio as we call him signed his paintings, when he did, M. I am not herein trying to confuse ages or cultural or artistic currents; I am merely drawing analogies for the purposes of understanding. The Baroque is the Baroque; German Expressionism in film is German Expressionism in film, and for the most part, never the two together as one. Have you been to the Prado and seen the Goyas they call his Blacks. Lang was obliquely paying homage to Caravaggio; you can’t see Lang’s films and not see something of what Caravaggio was doing.

In this vein of thinking or imagining, I should say, can we ask if there is something Gothic about the crucifixion–about any crucifixion–any representation of the central moment in Christianity–the horror. Is it that different representations of the cricifixion are all of them in one way or another Gothic? Of course not. But I do understand how the confusion can be made–we can see something of the elements of what we call Gothic in many representations of the Crucifixion–the event of any crucifixion possessing what could evoke Gothic feeling in the age that produces it–do we say that currents of Gothic run through Romanticism? Yes, we do. Am I stretching things here? No, I am not.

But then, we are talking about the depositing of Jesus in his tomb–in Crucifixion we are talking about unimaginable suffering–and for Jesus this suffering was as a man nailed to the beams of wood that make the Cross–slow suffocation is the means of dying, it is slow torture. The effect of horror, of how it strikes a Gothic eye would be–how do we convey this? Is there a parallax on the horizon in the mind where all senses of horror converge as one?

Is there then a close relationship between the Baroque aesthetics and the Gothic aesthetics? I imagine there is, although not completely and never in any one to one correspondent way.

There is definitely something Gothic (as we understand the word from the fiction of the late 18th century; the style, the form, the genre-determined delineations that we find in works such as The Castle of Otranto, Vathek, Manfred, The Cenci, Frankenstein, even large swaths of Wuthering Heights) present in German Expressionist films of the silent 20s, recurring in American films of the 30s, particularly horror films such as The Mummy or Dracula, the novel itself from the Late Victorian Gothic revival which was a manipulation of the aesthetics of the High Middle Ages, as seen in architecture, particularly. This, of course, was in another and earlier animation, present in the cult of sensibility of the 18th century, a kind of medievalism present in what was later called Gothic fiction.

Of course, this medievalism was a contrived sense of what seemed to be medieval, or a contrived use of medieval motifs, a number of them remaining and persisting throughout what we call Romanticism. But then, just what would evoke this idea of an age long gone where the ruins of that age then formed an image the grotesque? The idea of ruination of the past lingering in the present became part of the aesthetic; this is not present in what we might call Baroque sensibilities. Ruination becomes a theme explored in Romanticism.

Dracula finds itself firmly in fin-de-siecle Victorian English/Irish literature as it also does in a continuum of Gothic fiction, perhaps even as a precursor to all horror stories as we understand the genre of horror today, or over the last century? Moreover, there are discernible lines that overlap among these artistic currents: there is significant mutability among the movements herein discussed; or, as aforementioned, the negotiated agreements among the artists of the particular times and places where these movements do overlap, do share something found in one another.

Yes, Gothic Horror of the 18th century, 17th century Baroque painting and German Expressionist silent era films of the 20s all share certain features that are alike; their motifs, their metaphors, their signs and their symbols do have currency exchange values. I insist on we when I want you to consider opinions I conceive in a posed omniscience; of course, I do not want you to side step my intellectual manias; I want you and I together in the more comfortable, and perhaps the more usefully rhetorically editorial we–yes, you and I see these overlaps among the movements (?) I have herein listed. We understand they have points of contact, even if you have never before considered them or even imagined them.

Of course, I am not referring to the complete diapason of Baroque tragic emotion–although the two Mary(s) in Caravaggio’s entombment, both in the effective expression of epiphany, are representative of a particularly Baroque emotional register; each in a moment captured with hands raised in epiphany, as we also see in Minoan figurines nearly two thousand years earlier–the revelation of God-head is beheld. Yes, it is the vibrancy of Caravaggio’s dead Jesus that reveals the divinity of Christos, Son of God incarnate in the person of Jesus. There is a complex of contrary forces and emotions, passions more precisely exhibited together in the figure and the light used to illuminate the figure of Jesus and the emanation of Christos. I am repeating.

The use of light in Caravaggio, his unique chiaroscuro is what I am focussing on in any allusions to German Expressionist films or any mine-en-scene in Gothic horror fiction or Romantic poetry in parallel alongside Gothic horror. This light has its effective beginning, it could be said, in the tenebrismo of Tintoretto, and yes, you should examine prints of Tintoretto’s most prominent works to understand just how baroque artists such as Caravaggio came to use light the way they did.

I am not herein going to continue a discussion of Gothic fiction, whether in its 18th century varieties or in its appropriation by Romanticism and just how much Romanticism was informed by the Gothic, particularly in how the Gothic was also informed by the Cult of Feeling, of Sturm und Drang and the literary Cult of Sensibility. But back to the central point, experience, idea herein presented: Caravaggio’s La Deposizione is more than one of my favorite paintings–it is one on the list that never comes off the list. If Singore Merisi had only painted this, we would still be talking about him; I would still be writing about him. I am also writing about me . . . today we have a degraded cult of feeling—no thinking allowed.

II

I am writing about me in everything I write–writers never write but their autobiographies, all of a writers writing episodes in the epic that is anyone’s autobiography, no? You imagine otherwise? Respond, if you will, with letter, essay, diatribe or tirade. I am still a bit undecided on the differences, numbered and explained, as well as the general difference between the two articulated. Everything is autobiography, no? What then is a novel like Moll Flanders?

So then, your questions should be, Who am I? What am I doing? What have I said and how have I said it? What does it mean to say these things as I have said them? What kind of person says what I have said? What if you were a man or a woman who has said the things I have herein said, how would you get on a bus, how would you order a slice of pizza at Lenny’s on 86th Street in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Please, let there be no snide remarks from anyone, whether they be Protestants, Asians, Jews or African-Americans who might not be as intelligent or as enlightened as they assume they are out of arrogance, hubris or ignorance–the latter more likely–and already imagine they know all that they needto know about Catholics and Catholicism. But why do I imagine I need to say what I have said? Because I know how tribal we are in America, and how endemically anti-Catholic America and many Americans are. And please do not clamor about in one reflexive denial or another; it will only sicken me. And I do know how machiavellian print, broadcast and social media manipulation have become . . . Power and Money protected. You might also consider, and if you will, you might want to separate the expositor from the author, unless your critical skills are at minimum, right alongside your stunted imagination. And I am not being insulting, only cognizant of how mocking our entertainment and even most of our pedagogy has become concerning anything nearing erudite, intelligent, knowing. In this culture, doubt is the highest wisdom.

Nonetheless, the fore mentioned persons I am really talking about are certainly not as intelligent or enlightened as I have found many from any of the four fore mentioned groups to be, none of which I belong to demographically, and I say demographically alone because all of us belong to one human family, if you can abide the cliche and anything else trite that goes along with many of the received ideas we have about ethnicity and race in America. Americans are horribly narrow and narrowing in the patterns of free association they confuse for thinking, as if randomly passing images in the mind or playing hop-scotch with words has ever equalled thinking . . . and of course having been educated these last twenty-five years or so in this here post Reagan, Bush I and Bush II (and let’s not forget the changeling Obama), you have assumed that you are educated enough, literate enough, and I do not want to, nor will I ever condescend to, anyone who is semi-literate, only to those of you in pedagogy, in private and civic administrative positions, in places of power and great influence who are really far stupider and a lot less literate than you should be permitted to be. I can’t get a nearly literate anything written from far too many people I engage on a daily or weekly basis. It is horrifying to realize how fucking semi-literate most people I talk to really are. It’s frightening.

This, of course, includes America’s liberals and not just her conservative troglodytes. Happy voting, suckers.

P.T. Barnum is the father of everything we engage, indulge and endure, socio-politically, socio-economically, in, through and by the media. You do know that, don’t you?

ALGERIAN FLOWERS

Algerian Flowers

[A Short Story]

For Marguerite Duras

PART ONE

“Monochrome”

I

“Black and White Low Light”

I see scenes in monochrome. There are many scenes in the world that are not to be recorded in monochrome; there just isn’t the contrast for them. There are sets that should only be shot in black and white. What makes a beautiful photo in color can be the dullest and palest in contrast of all in black and white photos. After shooting with black and white film long enough, you get accustomed to seeing the world in monochrome.

All black and white photography is the world in monochrome . . .

I won’t be able to wait for the film to go away, fade out–I am not able to talk the truth of monochrome without one or another allusions or references to the film being made. There are always illusions we keep for however brief a time, a moment we have. Did you ever notice that black people are white in photographic negatives and that white people are black, and the blacker you are, the whiter, you are and vice-versa. Albino caucasians are jet black.

I was once told that neither extreme on the monochromatic scale is actually present in a film–but that can’t be, can it? This is not a point of contention for me when I shoot with black and white film; is there true white and true black in what I have shot. I have gone into the extremes of low-light photography and let me tell you I have recorded on film, black and white. I have hundreds and hundreds of photos in black and white stored in boxes in a closet in my apartment. . . a closet photographer, no? Interesting, this idea about being in a closet anything, or about being closeted . . . how it is not only about sexual orientation and sexuality, being in the closet. Every human soul experiences this closet of his own, this closet of his desires, his feelings, his ideas, whatever have you that’s locked up in you.

How long ago now–everything falling below the horizon in memory. There are many things I become surprised by–surprised how old they are in my life, how long ago they happened. I can say that the last time I was there with my dad, I bought film at HB and burgers at the cheyenne Diner. We did go and get burgers at the Cheyenne. How long before he died–he died in the morning with the sun breaking through the clouds after having snowed a few inches the night before. It’s four years ago that my dad died as the sun broke through the gloom. I would have liked to have taken shots of the sun that morning, both in color and in monochrome.

Everything from one end of the monochromatic scale of black to that of white, though, I am able to imagine when taking photos–I can see color arrangement easily; I can also see the many shades of gray with the eye in the mind. How many shades of gray make up a black and white film? I am genuinely asking. The black and white film I buy at B & H on 9th Avenue across from the Cheyenne Diner I have used for decades now–is it that long already, really? The last time I was there was with my Dad–no, it wasn’t the last time I was there, the time I am remembering. I was there getting some 8mm movie film processed–color–when? My last time there . . . the last time I was there with my dad we did go to the Cheyenne Diner.

I have been told that in any black and white movie there is no black and there is no white–for sure. There are how many shades of gray in our optics? What is it that I do see on the borders of the film in Fritz Lnag’s M? Everything dissolves in the black perimeter, no? Circumambient dark–yes, it is the same circumambient dark I see in De La Tour’s Penitent Magdalene at the Met, Magdalene surrounded in her room by the dark, pitch black perimeter, a mirror reflecting the black and the lone candle on her vanity table, the sole illumination as she contemplates the skull in her lap. I am reminded of Hamlet overtime I look to the penitent Mary Magdalene. Yes, Alas! Poor Yorick. I knew him Horatio. Hamlet is the King of Shadows.

I do impose my preferences on my judgements of the world. But snow would make the graying of the day less intense, less grayed. Night photos with snow around are always clearer than when there is not snow and thus no intensifying of whatever light is around. I remember having learned how long ago I cannot tell that black and white photography is an arrangement of shades of gray–yes, we will to be able to escape the movie for a while–but this monochrome scale does and does not have everything to do with the film by the title, Is there no real black and no real white? I’m asking. Waiting for a response; En Attendant Pour Une Response; yes, waiting for an answer might not be exactly what Didi and Gogo experience when waiting for Godot . . . and Godot is not God. He might as well be a weather report as much as he is God. Becket said as much–if he had wanted Godot to be God, he would have put it in the play.

What I ask about snow and rain I ask rhetorically, secure in the notion that snow must be universally preferable to rain any time in the winter. I know it is for me any December. I prefer 28 degrees Fahrenheit with snow to 38 degrees Fahrenheit with rain. Yes, I would prefer 30F with snow to 34F with rain. Who would not? Everyone would, no? Preferences for weather are often determined by mood, mood determined sometimes by weather; there are times when these are not mutual, nor reciprocal. There are times when it is exactly this, a mood determined by weather and the preference for weather in my mood. Weather reflects my mood, my mood reflects the weather–why the need to repeat? I used to be sure and oftentimes said, my mood, the weather. Yet, it is another thing entirely to say that I am the storm that blows, or the sun that shines, or the rain that falls, or the night that comes–night is n to a condition of weather, I know. All of the former references to weather could be continued into tother references so on and so on. Yes, there is very, very little in life and the world that is not and so on; but what this has to do with the world in monochrome . . . it does not, does it? Rain and snow have a lot to do with shades of gray, which does not suggest that rain or snow hold the day and the sunshine in bondage–they may be holding a nice day hostage. Are they the same, this holding in bondage and this holding hostage. I am certain that shooting the human body naked or nude in color is more pornographic than if it were done in black and white, in monochrome.

I could go on and on about Romanticism, about there being a fire and a motion in the soul that cannot be contained by the narrow sphere of being, but I will stop here. No, I won’t. I am a reflection of the force and violence of nature . . . yet we must remember that nature is not red in tooth and claw for the Romantics the way it became for the Victorians, but then the Romantics did not have the prisms of Lyell and Darwin, did they? Moreover, who wouldn’t prefer snow to rain? I mean–you just do not get as wet, and I’m not referring to the occasional desire to stand in a thunder storm–of course, not in an opened field, but perhaps near or next to one’s home–in the summer, as we used to do in the Berkshires, sometimes putting on our bathing suits to take a shower in a thunder storm.

Would I prefer snow to the drizzle that seems terminally expressed by the color of the weather these last several days, a mood evoked by the grayness of today and yesterday and the day before that? I recall our last visit to Paris and how terminally gray it seemed, every day gray, gray and more gray until the last day when she puked a half block from our hotel before we got ready to leave and take a cab to De Gaulle–who goes to Paris in February? What questions do I have at the ready to ask about weather and myself, who I am in face of what weather we face? My soul is romantic, I imagine, but then that is romantic in the sense of the word when it is applied to Byron, Shelley, Keats, Wordsworth, or Coleridge–there are others, but let these suffice to tell and infer a showing through familiarity. But I am expecting too much from my readers, am I not? Do I assume most have read what I have read, as much as I have read, for as long and as often as I have . . . and frequently re-reading as I do? I will reiterate one of my older undergraduate mantras: all good reading is re-reading.

II

Light, Camera, Shadow, Gaze

I gaze at shadows. I look at shadows. I watch the shadows of the winter bare tree outside shake on the wall opposite the window, the street light blaring a lot like a charging Rhino if Rhinoceroses were swaths of light. I look for the line between light and dark, what I see, what I imagine I do, where one begins and the other ends, chiaroscuro. I recall the photos I have taken over the years, my preference for low light photography, hand-held at 1/15th of a second, aperture sometimes opened at f 1.4, a fifty millimeter fixed lens, sometimes veiling the lens with anklet-stockings of different degrees of opacity, one shot I remember of the Jefferson Market Library from the second floor window looking out on 8th Street and 6th Avenue through a thunderstorm, an 8 x 10 blow-up framed and hung on the wall in my living room, opacity. I have taken so many photographs in black and white, preferring monochrome to color, the shades of gray, shadows again on the wall moving in time with the breeze that blows. I like low light photography. I push exposure, hand held, the camera steady at one-fifteenth of second, sometimes the shutter opened less than f/1.4, an old AE-1; what is repetition for a writer but motif. The rain was filter enough.

The Jefferson Market Library Tower in shades of gray through a thunderstorm through a window . . . it is a gorgeous shot almost a charcoal sketch, something of Fritz Lang and Greg Toland’s use of black in the margins of the frames of the shots they used in some of the former’s more significant films. I watched a lot of Dreyer and Murnau when I was walking around with three SLRs and three different speed films for New York, Manhattan, sometimes as gray as Paris in the winter, one February, terminally gray, the sky, the buildings, the Seine, a statue of Joan of Arc . . . I watched a lot of John Ford and Toland’s work here in the states, and the work of Orson Welles when in Black and White, what films did he do in color I cannot recall. Expressionism in film, particularly the German variety, if there was any other kind, is so much in debt to the baroque . . . baroque light, baroque space . . .

I have hundreds of photos with no more than two votive candles for light or other such low lumen sources. I have a shot of my wife’s hand by votive light just having picked a piece of crust from the bread in the basket on the table in the corner at the banquet. Most of my film photography has been in shades of gray, black and white, again, low light most preferable within my greatest preference in photography, monochrome . . . I remember the use of the candlelight effect in certain northern baroque paintings. I recall Georges de la Tour used this effect to great purpose. I remember his “Penitent Magdalene” at the Met, the candle flame before her mirror, my mirror tonight, the mirrors at Jule’s, I’ve used the votives and the mirrors to great effect in my photography, her hand, the delicacy of her hand above the bread, a glaring burst from the candle to the side . . . very few shades of gray, as close to true black and white as is possible while still holding interest, there are areas of the most intense black, the white softened by the diffusion of light, wavering flames shedding light more diffusely than penetrating incandescent light.

“What’s the Point?” I cannot imagine the point. I have forgotten the point. The use of chiaroscuro or veiling the lens to gain what Da Vinci called sfumato, not identically but in a way associated, or so I think I can say, thus should say. The sharper contrasts of light and dark . . . I see the world in monochrome. I recall ignoring suggestions for photos from friends or family because what they were looking at they were seeing in color, and what I had in my camera was black and white film, and sometimes, even if the monochromatic scale was good for black and white, the speed of th film O had might have been all wrong for the scene, perhaps the exposure as impossible for me to hold without a tripod, which is why I had a couple of portable tripods–not that my big and tall tripod was not portable, just not as portable as the smaller ones I bought.

Oh, light and shadow, the shadow world I thought I could reveal, what shadows do veil, what they do reveal; yet there is also how light blinds and creates another kind of darkness, what is eclipsed, as the aureole of light around an eclipse of the sun can block out portions of the shadow of the moon passing in front of the sun. Penetrating the shades in the shadow, sitting in the shade of a tree or a building or under an umbrella in the heat of the afternoon in the summer, at the beach, much, much cooler.

 

PART TWO

“The Rose Seller; or, Algerian Flowers?”

I

“Good White Burgundy with Duck Breast, Medium, never Well”

I order the Meursault with the duck breasts, Parisienne, that is, medium, never well. I will not put the white burgundy in the bucket with ice and water, letting it come up because white burgundy like flowers remains closed if it is too cold. Who I am is not relevant to who writes this, who writes this not relevant to the teller of the tale, the essayer in the text; the essayer in the text not relevant to you the reader, to what the text is or means apart from me, from me the writer, the writer as essayer in the text, the culmination of the text apart from all of these.

Our waitress comes to take away the plate of oyster shells and empty glasses of Sancerre . . . I have been to Jule’s I could not count how many times. I should have said, I used to go to Jule’s a lot, how many times I cannot count. I no longer go to Jule’s; so much of what I remember about New York from when I did–when we did, regularly go to Jule’s–has changed; some has not. Some has for the better; a lot has for the worse.

I have never been in the market of explaining inferences or allusions in my writing, although everything about my writing has been pointed toward showing, revealing, yes, do I dare to embrace hyperbole . . . epiphanies, social and spiritual. These are important to me. Who am I here? There is someone behind me and behind that him behind me . . .

II

“If God Can Be Father, Son and Holy Ghost, why Can’t God be He, She and It?

Sancerre aperitifs they finish; they order another dozen oysters before the Sancerre is gone. A piece of crust, the bread in the basket by the votive; the butter here is fantastic. He saw her arrive, her legs long, gorgeous, in a short skirt, her eyes, the world full, enough sorrow, he readied his camera for her unsuspecting. He takes another photo of her legs and feet and the floor at the bar at Jule’s, another day, another evening, another Friday into Saturday, the cab home over the Brooklyn Bridge.

What any of this means to anyone else I could not say. What it means even to me I have yet to decide. The inferences or the implications or allusions or all of them should be clear. If they are not, then this is not for you. How could anything written be for anyone who does not decide that it is for them. The only authority in reading is the reader; the reader is then a kind of author, no?

He thinks he can recall having ordered them the night in question, If he were another man or perhaps myself, if the latter were at all possible, I could say that I was waiting for the one who says she loves me more than anybody could, or so she thinks I think she must believe. He looked to the votives lit on the table in the corner they always took . . . they flicker, they do, the flames of the votives. Shadows waver.

His eyes open other eyes, in the dim he watches her right hand hovering the basket of bread on the table, another photo . . . he takes, he took, how many times I conceive of me in the third person has never been counted. I am me, I am I, I am we, I am he. Why would he be me? The dove, you know, Picasso’s dove is Noah’s dove, is the dove of peace, or is it Peace.

III

“I Will Throw the First Stone Without Considering My Sins”

There is an adolescent prejudice we hold about living, or what we call living, often times confusing surviving for the more vibrant being alive. There are some people from some places who imagine they understand reality more deeply than others not like them do; they imagine that what they live is reality and what others live is not reality, is an illusion, some layers of veils put before their eyes.

Yes, Americans cling to one or another adolescently framed opinion about life as it is lived, one formed out of vanity, one rooted in a set of delusions we eagerly perpetuate, each of them based on our gross or grotesque sense of individuality, the latter mostly helped by a media assault on the senses, driving home the message that the best way to announce, pronounce or manifest your individuality is to act as irresponsibly as possible for as long as possible, prolonging this adolescent way of being as far as one can because adolescent perceptions and visions and interpretations and wants and desires and inabilities to step out of the cocoon that teenage years are, have been the guiding marketing strategy in America for about six decades, that is, since the end of World War 2.

It is the most effective strategy meant to feed our over-indulgent consumerism. This helps manipulate us by our emotions the way adolescents are ruled by their emotions–passion is not emotion–compassion not equal to commotion, no. Do not confuse emotion for passion. They are not the same except for the degraded of heart or mind.

I wish there were some way for me to convince you of what I am convinced of, what I know, what I have faith for, what I believe–and I do believe much–I just do not get to a place where I have to kill someone for not believing as I do. There are no crimes of violence or retribution I rationalize and justify with the words, Blessed Be His Name.

IV

“Vanitas Non Est Veritas”

Why do you make me look like a gargoyle? his wife asked him once. He did not have an answer, not one he would stand behind as an expression of a truth, that is, if called upon to defend it later, at some future hour, perhaps when all feelings and hopes of progressing further in their relationship . . . what progress is there, was there, could there have been, questions begetting questions, I repeat myself once more about the questions we face making more questions, one string after another.

We are in love with asking questions in perpetuity; we have deluded ourselves that we must keep on asking if we ever really want to know. But asking question after question after question, on and on and on, becomes the most effective method of avoiding learning, of avoiding having to listen for an answer, of preventing anyone from answering the questions never asked for the purpose most of us would assume from the interrogative construction. We question so as not to have to listen. We are always thinking of our next question which disallows us from having to listen to what anyone is saying.

This man whose wife had asked him why he made her look like a gargoyle in his photgraphs responded to her with the more caustic, Why do you have to reveal your soul in my camera? A question begetting further denials and recriminations from her . . . I have a feeling that most souls are a lot darker than anyone is able to imagine, and that each of us is not as adroit at hiding. This soul within us is seen irrespective of how much we try to hide it. What depth markers do we have for the soul that could gage the darkness at our bottom.

The man whose wife is beset by her own fears and self-loathing as much as by her husbands truth bearing camera eye, responds, though, as he has before, hoping to find in words what has been lost in place. She hates most of the photos he takes of her, having taken so many he can no longer count. Her eyes, a kingdom of photographs for her eyes, unfurling petal by petal, the heavens of her eyes, he would like to have written in a journal he keeps collateral with roll after roll of photos he takes of everywhere he goes.
V

“Algerian Flowers”

A rose he buys for her from the Algerian Berber man selling roses at Jule’s . . . candles, reflections, the mirrors all around them–how many Fridays have they spent the night until midnight or later with Jazz and duck and a Puligny Montrachet?

He was sitting in Jule’s at their favorite table, the spot in the corner on the banquet beneath a poster of Jean Gabin in his film, La Bete Humaine when he saw her enter, coming to him from the front door, late as usual, she was always late, this night more so because he had moved to the banquet and did not remain at the bar as usual.

There was going to be a bottle of Meursault with the duck he was sure they would order, but at the moment, he had the bottle of Sancerre for aperitif coming up on the table, out of the bucket. He had caught the waitress as he caught site of her and ordered the oysters they were going to have with the Sancerre. But questions set to respond to other questions are meant to avoid answering while the masquerade of being inquisitive is maintained.

I wish I spoke French much better than I do.

Truth is Beauty [A Short Story]

Prologue

She and I. Subject compounded, not the objective.

He and she. Myself removed as I am sometimes with a pen. The mirror is another subject; you and I, plurality and singularity, in the mirror is on the glass.

Who am I, who are you? Questions I ask in the mirror.

Similar is not the same, you understand this well enough. Who am I with you? With her? Now the objective is clear.

Names? What’s in a name? Hers or mine, yours in the mirror. My name is whatever I choose it to be when I need a name other than the one I was given–Call me who I am today; I am not my new name tomorrow.

A load of dog shit by the name rose still smells like shit.

I

Do you think she is beautiful? I asked.

Who? She asked.

The Mona Lisa, I said.

I guess, she added.

Do you, really? I asked.

I imagine she must be beautiful to someone, she said.

Who? I asked.

Does it matter? She asked.

Who do you imagine imagining her beautiful? I added.

I imagine that she must be to many, many people. She is to me, she said.

To you? I asked. I didn’t think you thought so.

Maybe you have to be Italian or more largely, Mediterranean. I don’t know. What did we know? What is that supposed to mean? I have always been able to find someone ofsome people attractive, beautiful, handsome, pretty, sexy, what else have we in the primary way we are able to perpetuate the species as we imagine perpetuating our people–how fucking lame. I just know that she is not ugly, she is not hideous, she has something someone might find cute, might even think is pretty, but what’s the problem? She asked. Who is really interested in whether she is beautiful or not?

II

That’s true for everyone, he said. He–not I, said every one of the other farm animals when the little red hen asked for help . . .

Attraction has little to do with aesthetics, she said.

If aesthetics has anything to do with attraction, he said.

Pause.

I’m not talking about having sex with the Mona Lisa, he said.

Actually, you are. Sex is love, sex is attraction; this attraction is then reciprocated, it is love, and this love is in turn expressed through sex, she said.

He remained silent.

I just know that you cannot only be attracted, even very attracted, to someone who fits what you think is the standard or the acceptable or the appropriate aesthetic representation of Beauty here on earth in another person, she said.

I thought aesthetics and attraction do not have anything to do with one another? He asked. They’re not contingent.

Contingent? She asked.

That does not mean there is not some standard of beauty you yourself adhere to, he said.

So then attraction and aethetics do have everything to do with one another, she wondered.

Just because a person has not formulated an aesthetic philosophy or articulated his aesthetics within a standard philosophical view we could call or recognize as aesthetics does not mean the person does not have an aesthetics, at least on the level of response to stimuli, which aesthetics must entertain because this would be true if one were looking at statuary.

III

I was silent.

There is a lot more in the heaven and earth of human beauty and human attraction and human sexual relations, good, healthy sexual relations than could be handled by anyone’s aesthetics, she said.

What we have in the way of an understanding of Beauty is too weak to do anything with but hide when we confront how articulate Romance cultures are in aesthetics, I said.

She said nothing.

In the Roman mind, as in the Greek, beauty was always in form, only in form could beauty exist, I said.

IV

Yes, form is Beauty, Beauty form; if this, then Truth is also Beauty because Truth is in form. To inform would then be a way of bearing of Truth—to inform would then be about all the little ‘t’ truths in our lives. It would be to carry minor fragments of the Truth . . . by the Truth and for the Truth itself the Truth absolute.

There are transcendental realities, but then I still believe metaphysics has something to teach us, something to show us in how to approach reality, understand reality, and represent reality in how many different possible and appropriate ways.

You can’t imagine that biggest problem in dealing with Muslims comes from the fact that we no longer know how to talk metaphysically about anything, nor do we know how to talk about metaphysics, nor do we believe that metaphysics has any veracity, exactly in the same way we have abandoned a commitment to Truth and to Beauty.

To bear the Truth is to carry Beauty; to bear Beauty would be to carry Truth. They are mutual and reciprocal, contingent in ways we are unable to understand, again because we cannot talk metaphysics. Is it any wonder that we have continued to uglify the world, continue to lie our way through our lives as if there were no consequences for our conscience—except for those without any conscience, there is no consequence to their lying and their lying and their lying in every petty way creeping along through their lives until the last syllable of their final lie. We no longer believe in Truth, how could we not fumble Beauty?

To inform in our education has become entirely about indoctrination, itself having a unique form. Information would be a way to put in form, a formation of some kind has an aesthetic value, I imagine. I don’t want to know exactly what military leaders around the world consider beautiful, or how battles can be fought beautifully. Aesthetic considerations cannot be excluded from any talk of form. This, however, is not what we have in the matter of our infotainment whereby news is made to match standards of entertaining and amassing the largest audience irrespective of aesthetic or epistemological or ethical concerns.

Information is handled without respect or integrity; they are used as our caveman fore bearers used rocks. I have betrayed my preferences and my beliefs. Beauty and Truth do require belief, a faith of a kind; they are always in form just as anything in form has matters of Truth and Beauty at its core.

V

There is too much exchange of information today, a thing a little less than kind. There is too much permeation from institutions wanting information about us, on us—always on top of us. How can we think that media in America is not a Capitalist oligarchic flip side of the Soviet Communist Pravda. I’m not so certain today we even know what exchanging information means. Anything kin to a philosophy of beauty would be lost on us. You think we articulate Beauty, we admire Beauty, we know what is and is not Beautiful? And I’m not talking about the women or men you might be attracted to–how we conduct our lives and manage our information should be offensive to us, as offensive as what passes for informing people through most of our media outlets.

Aesthetics has long lost its influence in the academies of learning in America, somewhere now in an intellectual graveyard with philology. We have given up on ever perfecting this special acumen, I said. We have lost the feel for beauty; we may never again have it for truth–they should be Beauty and Truth, but I have succumbed to my culture’s desire to denigrate Beauty and Truth in our minds.

Now, the exchange of our personal facts is too free and too easy. The kind of information exchanged today is the kind we kept close or offered only to our kin. We will spend more time discussing the aesthetics of how the leaking of sensitive State information about us through NSA spying than the degraded sense of Truth we have through our grotesque understanding of Beauty and Form, and how this has led to an ethical relativism that is dangerous and serves only to make power more powerful, the moneyed elite more moneyed and further elite. Do you imagine Zuckerberg serves anyone other than power?

We have made this possible and have allowed this to happen, making acceptable unacceptable negotiations of information and intimacy–they are practically in our beds–no, they are in our beds if you are stupid enough to leave the camera on in your open laptop. Close the lid.

VI

To be bourgeois is to be capitalist, even if you are a worker, and this is one of the hallmarks of American Civilization, the making of bourgeois clones from the organic material of the proletariat.

To be bourgeois capitalist is to be western, even if you are Asian in Asia. In fact, to be western is also to be American, in a way; the American transfiguration of Western Civilization has been ongoing, if not in assault, for a hundred years or more, she said. And yes, there is a Western Civilization, one that precedes 18th century Oxford Professors and British revisions in the name of their hegemony.

The material of our civilization is not a complete fabrication, a mirroring of the emperor’s new clothes, but a wonderful and true fabric of many intricately woven threads—that is so fucking cliché. But you do get the point.

The world is fast becoming one kind. Even if we have yet to raise our ethical consciousness to the level where we can see clearly the oneness of our human kinship. One world–the dream of every fascist, Nazis, Islamic terrorist and communist

The scariest thing I noted in Paris the last time I was there was how much like everywhere else even Paris is becoming. Every city in the world is an island in the American Bourgeois Capitalist Archipelago, a chain of Post-post-Modernist American Islands in a sea of everywhere else.

VII

Do you believe in God? She asked.

In God? I asked.

Yes, in God? God. Do you believe in Him?

Him?

Yes, Him.

Not Her?

Her?

Yes, Her.

How is God Her?

So, God is He but God is not She?

No, God is not Her.

Not Her?

No, not Her. God is He.

He?

Yes, He.

Only He?

Yes, He and only He.

Not She?

Got is not She.

Never She?

Never She. God is He.

I know that God is he, but what is the Holy Ghost?

The Holy Ghost?

Yes, the Holy Ghost; the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit?

I don’t know. What is the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is It, isn’t It?

It?

Yes, It. Not He. Not She, just It.

It?

Yes, It.

The Holy Ghost is It?

Yes, It.

So, God is then He and It?

At least He and It.

At least?

Yes, at least.

I don’t see how I am supposed to come to God is She because the Holy Ghost is It.
So, God can be Father Son and Holy Ghost but God cannot be He, She and It?

Father, Son and Holy Ghost is one thing; this He, She and It is another.

I’m not saying they are the same thing. It’s just, if one, why not the possibility of the other?

I don’t know. All I know is that God is he and that now you say God is it.

Why is it I say? The Holy Ghost is it whether I say so or not.

I guess.

You guess?

I don’t know.

You do not know?

He and She and It?

Yes, He, She and It. You have no problem with Father, Son and Holy Ghost. So, why the problem with He, She and It?

He, She and It?

You know what I am talking about, so stop playing fucking hop-scotch. You are always hopping around the truth.

Oh, so now it is the truth.

Yes, capital fucking T, Truth.

 

Epilogue

If you want to understand gravity, you must first understand an ice cube in a glass of water. Space is the water; bodies in space are like the ice cube, they displace space the water, the water outer space. Space is warped by bodies in it. As water in a glass is warped by the ice cube. You can look up the rest.