I remember from my days in university–doI recall my days t in university? What do I remember from my days in university if anything at all?
I do wish I had something trenchant to say about the idea that vanity is not truth–I cannot tell you why I wish so. I do have the sense that Truth is bound up with the Beautiful–Beauty, Keats reminds us, after Schiller, that is, when the latter similarly and correctly asserts in his Aesthetic Education of Man, almost exactly what the former says at the close of his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” that Beauty is truth, truth beauty. What more do we need to say? We do not need to say more. You do see the compound Keats creates, truth beauty, yes, Keats moves from a subject complement construction to one where the two are together joined without predication, Beauty is truth is not enough to say as Keats has said. We know this from constructions like Cognac is brandy, right? We cannot say that brandy is cognac is the same because there is brandy that is not cognac, so it might not follow that truth is beauty. However, Keats lets us know that there is a mutually and reciprocally valid predication, although he abandons the predication. He opts for a deeper connection, a stronger contingency, by saying truth beauty, which he says without a comma. You know that if he had said “Beauty is truth, truth, beauty” we could conclude that that comma between “truth” and “beauty” at the close would be to indicate that the verb “is” has been left out, but that the construction is similar to the previously stated one. It could be written, “Beauty is truth; truth is beauty,” but that is not what he is going for there. He concludes “truth beauty,” no “be,” no comma, just the two words successive in the syntax without mediation and thereby a stronger connection as if they could not be separated. He did not go for the hyphen. If he had, there would be no ambiguity, and thus be more restrictive. All options are opened, including the one where truth beauty is a link that does not any predicate mediation. I remember this from a friend who spoke in a flash about this one day, an afternoon, a Saturday or a Friday, in a bistro, one on Saint Mark’s Place, the East Village, what were we having . . . then O think I can recollect drinking Sancerre in the afternoons–I love Loire whites, especially with shellfish, which I have an affinity for from my father, who has it from his ancestors, Southern Italians from the Amalfi Coast in Campania. Is this, that . . . are these and those things I say herein, at least so far, herein . . . true––meaning? What is this notion of trueness in the world when so much of reality TV has skewered anyone’s notion of what is true, what are truths, yes, minot ‘t’ truths . . . ; or, what is Truth, and that iOS something, a thing in itself a notion, an idea, what are these things that are objects of pure thought that Kant had been talking about nearly two and half centuries ago . . . noumena, yes; Truth bears veracity, validity, valence as an object of pure thought, no less than those mathematical objects of pure thinking that have no tactility as do stones, rocks, other hard places and persons.
We could not say more than we have said, and that is we, you and I, and we that is I, I am we I have said before, after Milton, understanding the many selves Self–should that be hyphenated? How much more do we need to articulate for this to be understood–everything we need to know is based on the rudiments of architecture–no? All understanding is post to lintel. Yes, I am we, for sure, as I have said before, and before that, whenever that before was . . . I do repeat myself, unto redundancy? I would hope not at first take; however, should I say that one woman’s redundancy is another motif? Woman, man, person . . . one . . . ; yes, one’s redundancy is another’s motif? The tropes we live by should point the way toward creating them for ourselves in each diction of ours. The choice of words; the way of expression; the forms used . . . the unique way I speak met ;language . . . my diction determining my idiolect.
I sat in a chair with a notebook. I had begun using it recently. Not one of those regular composition notebooks I used to use, the ones you find in any ordinary stationary store, or in any pharmacy, especially in early September, around the time school begins. No. It was another kind of notebook. I had come across it in a papery. It was a leather-bound notebook bought at Kate’s down the block from The Quad Cinema. It was rather expensive. It was a leather-bound book. With paper to last the ages. Not cheap pulp that deteriorates rapidly with time. I am writing in it at present. I am writing this, in fact—what facts? Facts and more facts. What is there to say about anything. Where is this line between fiction and fact? Facts themselves are things made. Just like fiction. Every fiction is simply that, a thing made. Every thing made, fictio.
I loved all things about writing. Where to write? When to write? Why and how to write? The pens I used, the ones I would buy; times I would spend pawing pens I might buy. I would feel them. I would judging their weight, their balance. There were times I bought nibs to use with pen holders . . . the tips of these nibs as they made their way across the pages. I scratched, scratched, scratched . . . I loved all things related to writing. I loved the size and the shape of the letters. I loved hearing the scraping. A nib pen making its way across a sheet of cotton rag paper.
Letters, cursive writing, again, the scratch scratch scratch a nib pen makes across a page—nib pens, I have seven in a jar on my desk—scraping, scribbling, scratching, scribing. The feel of the pens in my hand dipped into inkwells. The blots on the page when first pressed to the page. Moving my hand across the page. I felt the texture of the cotton rag against my hand as it moved the pen from left to right in cursive loops.
One book, I recall, a rather large 9 x 12 book with blank pages, unlined, that is, on my computer table, another rather large corner angled table with four tiers from floor to desk height and the shelves above, the ink in the bottles I would keep in a a box in the top left drawer in the desk I had in my living room by the window that looked out on the wide expanse of lawn, walls that made the corner opposite perpendicularly to the computer table—the outside lawn with an elm tree in the middle how many years old I could not say, as thick as its trunk was . it must have been a couple of hundred years old, I had said, I recalled while writing a poem in my notebook about the ocean and the sand and the sky and the sun and the gulls in Montauk summer afternoons or mornings or evenings or nights by the shore surf sounds enveloping me surrounding me engulfing me enclosing my ears in the muffle of near deafening roar and thunder of the waves.
To write or not to write is certainly every writer’s to be or not as it was surely mine, never really away from writing, being there inside of me all the time everywhere I went writing, writing, writing, always a binge writer, I could say, would say, have said, as I have said recently that I miss it, I do, the writing, not only the physicality of the writing, holding the nib pens and moving them across paper and dipping them into the ink bottles. I used to use nibs with ink bottles all the time at my desk again by the window that looked out on the courtyard bordered by lawns and trees and bushes and as I recall one morning a blanket of dandelions, I think I can see that I recall having seen them as if in surprise; and I hear the nib pens scratching their way across the pages like chicken feet, my handwriting better than chicken scratch, but big, always big letters, got into the habit in college, taking exams in long hand, wanting professors to be able to read what I had written, big letters, a big sweeping hand across the pages, filling so many exam booklets, everyone else in the room thinking I was writing a dissertation . . .
The pages on the blotter on my desk where I would set up the well and the pen and the paper, or the journal, the journals, once again let me say with pages made from quality paper, no wood pulp in my notebooks, paper made to stand the test of time, I used to say, have already said, remembering this standing the test of time line after one of the sellers at the papery had said the same, word for word the same. I had said I needed to write; it was necessary for my sanity, for my health, to write, that I could not be whole if I did not write, and I would insist that I had to be true to my writing and that to be true to that was being true to myself, my soul, I believe in a thing called soul, yes, a transcendental soul, entity, a transmigratory soul essence, what soul is, my essential nature, is this what the Chinese call the original self, is there an original, what is original, ab origine, I image meeting my original self—imagine meeting your original self and not recognizing him, or he not recognizing you . . .
My existence, my survival, my what have you, have we in words to say what I am trying to mean, always other questions, to say or not to say what needs to be said, words never mean what they say at, right, Addie? Addie, my friend, all of this is hyperbole, willful exaggeration everywhere I had to write I needed to write, of course, I needed to write because f I did not write, I would die, surely die . . . the notebooks of happenings, of events, of incidents, of whatever else I have (I had) in the way of saying my experiences to others. I used to put them down on paper . . . pages and pages of words said, written, expressed, intended, meanings also unintentional . . . everyone has something to say, no? I always have something to say about anything everything something nothing . . . why? Because everyone has had something happen to him and nothing happen to him . . . each is connected to all that happens to him . . . and all alone at the same time of interest to others who might read what has been said by writing on paper . . . to read or not to read, to be able to at a level that would free you, help you break the bonds of our shackled nature . . . not the alphabetization that enslaves you, him, myself . . . us. No one I knew could come close to writing as I was able to write––true or not is irrelevant here. I do have at least five hundred words to say on anything anytime anywhere to anyone else from anywhere, everywhere else . . . recognition is just what it says it is, cognition again, to think again, to allow what is recognized to be thought of once more.
Even if they are only a fictive readership, who is your audience nothing is too small to write about; nothing is too insignificant as long as it is true and we must expand our sense of what is true, fictional truth within the parameters of Truth, yes, with a capital ‘T,” capital ‘T’ Truth exists, it contains worlds within other worlds . . . the smallness or the largeness of the things or the events the worlds of ideas are deceptive in the mind on the page I used to say I needed to write to know what I think I used to think on the page I liked the phrase, used to. Used to is the imperativo in Spanish I remember my Spanish 1 teacher in college, Senora Bunuel, who said that the phrase used to must be translated with the imperfect tense, for example, I used to speak is translated Yo hablaba and I thought that it was humorous that my professor’s name was Bunuel, and when I used to talk with Senora Bunuel about Bunuel the film maker from Spain who could not persuade Garcia Lorca to come with him to Mexico–what then should I say. Garcia Lorca was later shot by los Franquistas, who I later came face to face with at Plaza de Torres in Madrid last year, Que feos, I said, when I left the plaza. But they are here too, to the left of me and to the right of me, stormed at with one volley of words after another–Bunuel my favorite director, perhaps one of the ten greatest of the 20th century, I used to say Bunuel the Auteur, Bunuel the Surrealist, Bunuel the Communist, Bunuel the director, Bunuel the film editor, Bunuel the screen writer, Bunuel the friend, Bunuel the husband, Bunuel the Spaniard, Bunuel the Mexican, Bunuel the man, Bunuel the Bunuel . . . what then must I say, Bunuel the Atheist,thank God, as he would say, how easily we forget–yes, we.
Venga conmigo, mi amigo, Federico . . . I adore Garcia Lorca.
Bunuel begged him to leave Spain. Lorca stayed. The fascists shot him. The fascists did what fascists do, what they were expected to do, what they were committed to doing, what they could not not do, being Franquistas as they were. I cannot tell you what his drama had meant to me when I was a young man in Bill Packard’s workshops at HB Studio, I am not going to go back in memory now to then, specifying then is a useless endeavor . . . they shot him in a field in Granada, the fucking fascists . . . Granada, the last hold of the Moors in Spain–expulsion and all, very symbolic for the author of the Gypsy Ballads.
The writing, my writing, the boxes and boxes of notebooks I have kept for years; notebook after notebook, how many did I have, ten thousand or more pages I speculate thinking that I must have in excess of twelve thousand pages; yes, notebook entries being themselves in the form of poems, essay drafts, story drafts, story and essay rewrites, journal entries, lists of all kinds, aphorisms, jottings, commentary of one kind or form or another from reading, what else have we in words to say what kinds of genres we keep, the editing in our journals, our notebooks, what is the difference in what we call the book, a notebook or a journal, daily, daily, daily I used to write all the time, carrying with me everywhere a notebook for every kind of writing, how many notebooks I have in boxes in my closets at home I have–he has–no idea who would need so many to count them would be absurd I think not knowing why I would ever stop putting pen to page, the pens I used to use I have he has in a can on a desk I hardly write at ever. I must–yes, I or he must again; he needs to once more carry pen and paper with me all the time. I, you, he . . . the only discipline a writer needs, an old Beat poet had said to me, is to carry pen and paper with him everywhere. I did, really, all the time everywhere carry pen and paper–why did I stop? I have not asked in a long time. I used to see Corso eating in this restaurant on Bleeker near Hudson, chicken fried steak with cream gravy, mashed potatoes and collards, didn’t they have Lone Star Beer? I think I remember from when I was at HB, Fridays.
I think for an instant that maybe I should ask, but then decide no, why bother, what would it settle, prove, solve there are many more words to add, but what would adding them solve; to solve is to become solvent. Here for sure more is less, I said. I could go on asking the same question in variation to get at enough possible answers, from enough possible angles, there are always many angles, many points of view—I won’t. This I know. Reviews, I used to write reviews in my journals for the films I saw, the plays I went to, the opera and ballet too; commentary and reviews; reviews for the books I’ve read.
I had been writing poetry for a long time when I came to see the Holy Gost in the form of pigeon on the window sill outside my mother’s hospital room she was sent to to die; almost as long as I can remember holding pencil and paper. I used to write haiku and I also used to write straight journals, diaries, logs, like a ship’s captain, life like a sea, an ocean, everything human is like the ocean. I like being at the ocean. I like finding ways to repeat what I have said before, what I have seen, what I have experienced felt touched tasted loved embraced been pierced by, the statues of Sebastian around Madrid. Poem words spontaneous, I said. Motif and tropes, human life is a trope by God?
I spend time at the ocean at Land’s End every summer. I bring my umbrella, my chair, my notebook I have a fountain pen to use when I am outside; I use nib pens with bottles of ink when I am at my desk or a table . consciousness is like an ocean. I’ve said this before; I would have wanted my to repeat it to write fiction, used to write nonfiction; I used to write in the first person; I used to write in the third person. I even wrote sometimes in the second person even used to write in the first person plural my fiction pieces were a lot like extended haiku and I sometimes began with a haiku and either opened up the lines internally, so to speak, or I extended them like in renga, only without syllabic lines when I would take a haiku series and transcribe it as prose. I wrote in my journals with the terseness of haiku when Haiku is absent of poetic devises.It did not matter, but it could not help but matter, the material of my journals, the forms my entries took, what I was doing with them.
My journals contained everything possible in the way of writing that I used to think I needed to use to express what I imagined I needed to express. Expression is not everything. It might seem enough, but it is not. I had to train myself not to use poetic devices in my haiku. There is a suppression of these, and hen there were times when I would write lyric verse, other times narrative verse, to express, impress, depress, compress, address, redress, suggest, congest, and digest, and so on and so to think or not to think; therefore, what ‘what’ is for things; things are not people, unless we succeed in dehumanizing them; how many degrees of separation are there for that.
I still wonder who I am, from time to time imagining me someone for whom this is important–other times I know it is not,who I am is who I am whatever it is I think I am–I am still who I am, in many, many ways, in many, many places in me, even under the watchful eye of amnesia . . . imagining thinking about who I have been would help me to know who I am . . . I do not try to say, as incredulous as it seems now to think.
Hamlet does not ask, to be me or not to be me, no. I’ve read Hamlet six, no seven times, I say. I forget the last time I picked it up to read after having come across the last syllabus I had on file for a Freshman Composition class I was teaching at a Community college here in New York. Hamlet was on the reading list. Hamlet needs to be on everyone’s reading list. He’s not more relevant to me because I am Caucasian than he is to an African-American because the latter is not. I had many students complain that it was too hard for them–maybe it was, but not the way I taught it.
His to be or not frames the Self for all of us, I used to think, I say he says–he says as I say when I am not only who I am in the world, or who I am as a writer, and who I could become as a narrator or an expositor. How is Hamlet not relevant to anyone anywhere–I remember Kurosawa, and what he thought of Shakespeare, and how he adapted Shakespeare, and Orson Welles who produced an all black MacBeth in the 30s for the stage and set the scene in Haiti. I know, I know the arguments that Shakespeare is not relevant to young black men and women living in inner-city neighborhoods, and I cannot listen to such semi-literate drivel. (What happens in the world of your life, my reader; and what happens in the world of me the narrator, are not the same thing, are they? So then what objections do you have, really?)
I still might have yet other things to say about Hamlet, the play, and Hamlet, the character. I have not considered it for a while rereading it the last time . . . I am and I am not, but what is I not, who is I not are not questions that should arise from this line of questioning, and I do as I have for as long as I can recollect in my adult life and before that, how far back into childhood. I think, therefore I come to be, I am and I become; to become the not to be in Hamlet’s to be or not to be. When I am becoming, I am not, right? I ask. But I have a very clear idea what I mean, what I intend, what I infer, what I am assuming here.
I remember, I do not remember. What can I recollect; I used to like collecting sea shells at the seashore when I was out at Land’s End, the south fork, Long Island, Montauk beach.
Who to be or not is not in itself a question of suicide, although there is present the question of suicide, the primary philosophical question, I recall having read . . . not to be is clearly what happens to me when I am becoming; to become or not to become is the complement of to be or not, I recall having said to my class, the last Freshman Composition class I taught . . . who I become and with whom to be me, to be my, to be anything, what I have to become, and in my coming to be what it is I will be, I have periods of not being anything at all . . . to be any one of the many I am, what does that mean? I am we, I have read, I have heard, I have adopted for myself, written a hundred times in journals. Whatever the determinations of those around me, of the things around me, the ideas surrounding my words and more words, what languages do I speak? I ask. Six thousand words–I have six thousand words to say on just about anything anyone cold say anything about . . . ending lines with prepositions; fore positioned words that orient us as to time or place or other relationships among the nouns and pronouns we use, we eak, we write. I speak I, I speak we, I speak my, I speak him, me, and yes, it. I am it. ‘It’ is Id in Latin. Americans use the Latin pronoun for Freud’s Es, the German for it. Ich und Es. His Philosophy of Mind was very fundamental; I and It. It the entire world, we remember. What then must I say?
The stage we perform on, the ones I have, who have I been there, strutting and fretting we don’t become someone else when we stop thinking of ourselves, when we stop pondering the might, the maybe, every perhaps. I would ask me rhetorically, who is I? I don’t know, I said. I am, I said. It does not matter if you have amnesia–you are still you, you are who you have been independent of the life and its trappings you have forgotten.
No one loses a life until he is dead, and perhaps not even then. But no one wants to face who he might be under other than perfect circumstances; I said I thought I thought that’s what I’m talking about; no one is ever not himself. You are always you no matter what it is you do, with whomever you do it with or to or for; you are you wherever you go, whatever language you speak if you speak more than one language.
The mistake people make is thinking they are not themselves. Even the schizophrenic is himself. Who else is he? He is himself no matter who it is he is when he is where he is for however long he is this supposedly other person; yet, he is another person in the way only he could be this other person. Take the cliché, all the crazy people who have imagined themselves Napoleon Bonaparte. Now we know that none of them was the historical Bonaparte, but each of them is another Bonaparte in only way each of them could be Bonaparte. Separate, self-contained. Sanity is often a form of sanitizing, all of them part of a greater societal sanitation, taking away what society deems to be garbage. How much of our identity do we throw away, have sanitized because we are infected by microbes of individuality that cannot be integrated into the body politic, the social body . . . what redemption is: accepting that this once perceived other self is you, is yourself too, is there inside of you, what do we say, waiting to come out, waiting to be let out? There must always be free-will otherwise there is no redemption, eroding free-will . . . our thinking becomes one determinism after another. This is a great weight, a great stress. This is what breaks us, so many of us crushed by one determinism in the mind after another . I once heard that the measure of a man is not, never falling. The same must be true for a woman. To think about is to ponder; to think over, to contemplate. I am how many angles I see my from?
I notice me from afar, not always so far away; I see my close up, I see my in macro focus. How I see me; the I . . . I am the inside of a flower. What is it we focus on with that macro selection . . . I had a Minolta, how long ago, that had a macro focus feature, yes, two decades ago.
I see us together in the dark with my eyes closed, clearly, definitely, line by line every angle, again, possible. I like to watch my I like to take note of my entering . . . in a mirror, in a window, a shop window . . . I can pretend to be window shopping through. I take notice of the things I do, how I do them, when, where, with whom, for whom, many, many things in many places . . . every lover enters a precipice with his paramour . . . himself, myself, herself, as well, holding on for dear life, hanging from a cliff . . . when writing. How I watch me when I write tells me what?. I have asked many to read my poems standing in the kitchen in the morning making my coffee . . . in mind, at least. I thought about my having my coffee, sipping my coffee from a cup that I had bought in a store in Manhattan years ago . . . I thought of my standing naked in the floodlight through my bedroom window from the wall across the courtyard outside with the London Plane tree that cast shadows of its branches in the winter from the rising sun . . . against the wall opposite the window in my bedroom. I see a porcelain coffee cup––I see the porcelain limoge coffee cup I bought from a antique shop . . . here in. Brooklyn or there in the east Village. The I has––what does it have––I have, he has, she has, we have––it was my favorite cup, this Limoge cup I bought at an antique dealer in the East Village I now think I know for sure. Yes, I thought about the way I would hold the cup, bring it to my lips, and form my lips over the rim. I thought about the sounds that I would make sipping slowly my hot coffee.
I think about me and how I hold a cup, a spoon, a fork, how I brings the latter to my mouth, how I eat . . . he takes food into the mouth, he closes my lips around the fork, pulls the fork gently out of my mouth. Who is he, this other one, who I am, the many I am, all the selves in the Self, each one I, each one he . . . me and him, what about us? I thinks of my mouth on my my breath, the heat of my mouth and the heat of my skin, off my skin, on my skin, along my skin, touch, I touch my lips on my over my her . . . tip of tongue ever so slightly out of mouth between teeth hovering, ready to bite, not to blood, but nibbling, the teeth, scraping as I used to scrape the nib pens over the paper I had bought at the papery I liked spending time in looking, gazing . . . sometimes with her, she . . . , I used to say you watched paper and notebooks, the pages blank had to be watched in order to see what was to be written on them; about how I could not help but think of who does not believe at least sometimes that the dead can speak to us, or that Michelangelo purchased blocks of marble for the state he saw trapped inside . . . only a matter of chipping away the extraneous stone.
The dead do speak to us in our dreams. It’s easier for the dead to get in touch with us through our dreams than it is through our waking selves; the writers I really loved were the ones who made me wish I wrote what they had written; in the mirror, when I ask this question .about writers, about authors, about narrators, about expositors, about poets, about playwrights . . . I look in the mirror. The mirror on the wall. How do we hold the mirror up to nature, or nature up to ourselves. . . inside ourselves . . . this Self . . . the many selves each one of us has inside himself, herself; sometimes I am what I am in myself, and at other times I am what I am who I am in itself for itself . . . how so itself is myself? I am what I am and who I am and always what and who when and where I am . . . to be or to become . . . what am I becoming here in the writing?
I used to talk with me about these things, these ideas, what notions, my feelings . . . I hated the word feelings, but the things in themselves we called feelings . . . what about them? I loved feeling and mostly loved having felt. I talked with myself about our passions, our emotions–emotion and passion are not the same thing, I used to say. I said that we had to remember we call it The Passion of Christ, not The Emotion of Christ I used to say, women were only permitted to be emotional, but not permitted to be passionate. I thought about me whenever I would sit alone at home, I imagined; whenever I was anywhere I would be alone and sometimes with others, I said one time with my I forget when or where, only the words I spoke, You think of my all the time, I know it.
I told her I would think of me when I was home alone, in the living room. I thought about me. in the living room, on the couch or in my favorite chair. I thought about him in the bedroom, in bed or on it . I am me I am him I am you and I am I he and him and them and they and we and and us . . .
I thought about him in the bathroom, yes, on the toilette or in the shower. I remembered when we used to take showers together, she and I; he myself and I myself as well. I remembered when I used to tell her that I liked sex in the kitchen, at the table with tea or coffee, or pen and paper, sometimes in the afternoon, in the morning, or in the evening. I thought about my same way in the same places.Sex is supposed to take you out of yourself; it is supposed to allow you to the shatter the bondage of ego?
The bedroom and the kitchen have been more my living room than any room to live in I have ever had. Only in America can a living room and what we do in it be called a living room. Even the bathroom is more a living room than the living room . I thought about . in the garden, tending to the hedges, as I liked to do on Saturdays with the manual hedge cutters I had for how many years–who would count? When I was in other rooms or in other places, I would think of me as I would think of me, the ways we think of ourselves, how do we think, imagine, fantasize, recollect, remember, recall, the latter three all distinct in their connotations, how could they all be the same, our sense of sameness is debased, has been corrupted by the ways we have been thought to think–or not-think, I say.
They were old and the handles worn smooth through the paint kneeling in the grass by the flowers along the beds in the front of the house; we had a well-kept garden in front. We had flowers as well on the side, the length of the house . cutting the lawn with the manual walk-behind lawn mower I had gotten from my father, how long ago now I cannot recall . I thought he was gentle in the way he used the cutters . hedges in the front of the house. I liked watching him do what he did with them. I liked the way he handled them, thought about other people watching him and saying the same things I said to myself about him . did want to ruminate over the length in itself length, the way one has of considering how long without the minutia of numerals and counting, adding, subtracting, the things we do when we are convinced mistakenly that we are getting at something real, tangible, tactile, even, all of us terrible bureaucrats of our lives, bookkeepers really, I said. That is the only book we adore. No more literature; no more Bible, only ledger books, ledger books, everywhere for everyone a ledger book.
Lists, lists and more lists; that’s all we seem capable of with our literacy as degraded as it has become; what have we come to be; this is not an opportunity to engage another soliloquy on being or becoming, as much as what Hamlet is talking about in his most famous soliloquy as he is talking about suicide, the most pressing philosophical question, as Camus assumed. But I do not think he is talking directly about suicide, no matter how many allusions he makes to ending it. Literacy–or is it alphabetics–has returned to its beginning. The alphabet and writing with the alphabet was initially used to catalogue warehouse of goods stored.
Our culture has returned to the dawn of literacy because we no longer read, and we no longer think we should or should be able to, which we can’t, the latter at a higher level of enactment. I remember reading about the Phoenicians and their alphabet and how their writing was first enlisted in the making of lists, catalogues, keeping inventory we do have to participate in literature, engage it as we do other people. Literacy is an enactment, a representation and a presentation and the difference between these two related concepts is enormous, I said.
We must not forget that it was several centuries before writing was used for literature that we know of, that we have a record of . . . the alphabet was a technology the way a computer is a technology, the way the internet is also a technology. How long will it be before we gain the dexterity necessary to let this technology help us make a great step forward? I still do not think history is progressive; I am not talking about progress but an historical step forward. Every step forward is a ward against a step backward. Civilization is that simple, simply put, simply applied, simply conceived I thought about how he had said he imagined how the years have piled up like bones in an elephant’s graveyard––there were dialogues to have with my selves, between two selves, among many selves. I used to imagine Shakespeare having this luxury, not dilemma . . . what would be a dilemma in having these kinds of dialogues.
I imagined she would have said, perhaps did say . . . I am sure I can remember the ways she must have said what I am suspecting . . . “I never liked his sense of humor. I never needed to, I thought. I responded inappropriately most of the time, he thought. I over reacted; some of my girlfriends thought, did not say, you could just tell by their faces, faces I never look at, I do not, I close my eyes even when they are opened. I notice so very little around my; I get lost too easily, only through dogged repetition do I remember anything, any place, location, the where of things escapes me too often, especially when I am with him . . . it’s almost as if he wants to shake loose my responsibility to myself . . . otherwise he feels captive, held in manacles .”
No one I have ever known has ever been more enslaved by her mind, her thoughts, her thinking (if you can call what she does with what passes in the mind for thinking) than she is, was, has been, will be . . . “I am sweet, I am gentle, I am kind, I am thoughtful, I am sensitive, I am intelligent, I am anything but a peasant,” she surely says to herself, I am certain, I have also not actually heard her say. Anyone than I have heard her say what I think she should be saying: “I am nasty, I am mean, I am thoughtless, I am vulgar, I am a hypocrite, I am narrow minded, I am crass, I am materialistic”
I thought about how long ago my father had gotten the lawn mower. It did not matter. It does not matter. It could not matter. How much time do we spend on things that do not matter, thinking about things that could never matter? What is the matter; matter is everything is everywhere; most of matter is made up of empty space on the atomic level. No one sees anything on any level but the level of one’s thoughts, how one thinks, what one thinks, more than passing images randomly in the mind as many Americans assume is enough; by the looks of its TV, its literature, its films, I said.
I do not see anything any better coming from anywhere in the world anyone in America comes from, certainly not the former Republics of the Soviet Union or China or the Arab Muslim world, or Pakistan, or India, or Africa, or Mexico or anywhere else in South America or South East Asia or Eastern Europe or France or England or Germany or Israel, I said. You can’t imagine their cultures have any solutions for our problems, I said; and you cannot allow yourself to imagine that it is not the fact that we entertain their cultural perspectives far too much for far too long that is not presenting a set of problems for America that acts corrosively on civil rights, labor rights, minority rights, women’s rights, our economy and our ecology, our problems with street pollution, and I thought about how long we had had the house, this house, our house, our fine house, I would say, and it was, I used to think and have thought for a long time, deciding together on this house when they were looking for a house, falling in love together with this house.
I thought about when they moved to Florida, thought when we moved to Florida . . . who has moved to Florida, she and I, he and she . . . when did they move to Florida . . . we . . . and how were there people who imagined Florida was a place to escape to? The south of Florida. Miami only having been built up starting in the twenties with air travel for the rich to Rio, an air strip started it, hopping from New York to Miami, hugging the coast, on the way like an air rabbit to Rio, the mangrove swamp that was Miami, the whole fucking place was a swamp . . . to be in Florida or not to be in Florida, that might be the question if you were from Brooklyn and passed through the fifties and the sixties and entered the seventies and afterwards you were probably of the kind who thought it was a good thing to be in South Florida.
I have thought about the banana tree that grew outside our house how long ago I cannot tell really how long it has been, to be a has-been is a terrible thing to be, person as thing, we do thing ourselves many many times over and over making things out of people, dehumanizing us them who else is there, the selves in the Self, let us not talk of soul now, the spirit of the world–how many cliches about the human spirit do I have to endure by the semi-literate apes from Hollywood . . . again no counting, I can’t count on being able to count how it was planted. To plant or not to plant . . . the banana tree is very pretty. I look at it every morning another man said to another man passing the house with the banana tree that has grown very tall from when it was first planted how long ago now does it matter, how many years ago?
I remember the story of how it was planted––who was it that had planted it? As I had said, planted by an old Seminole who lived on the keys, his grandfather on his mother’s side had been a former slave who made it to the Keys from Georgia . . . why? No one knew why. Should anyone know or want to know? No one should want to know, as so much else that many of you will insist is important, is really irrelevant. It could be relevant if that were what this exposition were about, but it is not . . . so then what is it? Is it life in the details? What means this notion of life in the details, only in the details, or something if it in the details, what do the details tell you, how do they do this . . . please don’t berate me with your convictions that I cannot hold will not hold do not want to further discuss why I do not want to hold.. Inhuman is as inhuman does, no?
There are no fucking details. Make them up, for Christ’s sake!
Christ? What does the Incarnation of the Son of God begotten not made before time and creation–what does the word become flesh have to do with a fucking old banana tree, as it had been told, the story, it was a sapling, a seedling, above ground in a significant way, but not so tall that it could not be stamped out by a goat or a dog even, uprooted easily, if the dog had the mind to dig and dig. Someone had said to the old Seminole’s grandfather that the tree had been brought across the ocean from Africa where they grow millions and millions of bananas. The old Seminole said to himself, and millions and millions of slaves and millions of bananas in Africa, perhaps more than just millions, how many could not be determined exactly, could it? Slaves eat bananas . . . Africa still breeds slaves (–America breeds slaves? Serfs? The difference would be clear to anyone who knew anything about history, but what the fuck do we teach, except the ability to delude ourselves that semi-literate is literate enough . . .) and thanks to the Arabs–European whites were able to capitalize on them. Fuck us, fuck them, fuck everybody, no? [find the piece written on how we are no better than slaves . . .]
I thought about the banana tree that still bore fruit. Saudi Arabia had slavery until 1963 and we wonder what the fuck is going on there now—let’s not delude ourselves that they are going to be ready for our kind of democracy anytime soon. The middle east is fucked, including Israel. The banana tree that was still bearing fruit, right there in the front of the house. I remembered how I had wanted to get a monkey so it could climb up the tree to fetch bananas. I look up the tree which is tall, tall, high, you would say, and the bananas that are there. All our efforts in the middle east are for naught, if any of our efforts could be said to be for progress, or for freedom, or for democracy, or for any altruistic impulse–no government is the friend of its people, how could it be the friend of any other people?
If I had a monkey, the monkey could go up the tree and fetch bananas for me. I want a banana now. I want a monkey. The thing is, I want a monkey, not a person I can make into a monkey. I have a craving for a banana, to get the bananas–I would have to pay someone to get them for me. I can’t go buy a banana when I have so many good bananas growing on my very own banana tree. The banana tree is about all that I have left that is of any value, except the ten thousand or more pages of journals I have in box after box in storage in New York.
There has never been a life more non-utilitarian than mine. I am, of course, convinced that the world would be a much better place if more people in it were like me. Yes, I am certain. How so could I be, you do want to ask, I suspect, I think, I then imagine to be true, hearing you say what comes from me through you . . . I do hear you speaking in my mind.
He blended a banana with the strawberries and blueberries and the kefir and the pineapple juice and the teaspoon of cocao powder to drink for breakfast.