Decapitation Parables

Tornado Survivor #1 by Larry Schwarm

Parables of the Headless Baby

How incredibly easy it is to “lose our heads,” amorphous ecstasy, “head in the clouds,” illusory daydreaming, belief. The “temptation to exist” it has been called, and has been endured by our best and our brightest, from Plato to Jesus, Descartes to Nagarjuna, Shakespeare through Kant, Derrida and Joyce, to name only a very few, known for their thinking or seeing.

Or is it our bodies we lose?

A lot is told in the answering.

I for one can identify with this beat-up baby doll head, imagining the oblivious calm that might occur in the absence of smoker lungs and knotted muscles, distracted striving loins and aging jalopy’d joints. Hunger and exhaustion, labor and waste production. That I might be left, more or less, to a self to blame for satisfactions or their lack. Serenity secreted in the mind rather than constructed contradistinctly from the limbs and necessities of action. This mouth seems happily stopped, placid skinned-over ears, a pleasantly plugged nose and the solitude of inner vision. “Nirvana” another camp might call it.

But is it? Or would it be? I mean where do “space” and “time” inhere? And how about worry, panic and fear? I gladly turn emotions over to the sensory systems, but the imagination that prods them toward anxiety – is that not in my brain? And what of the “wisdom” of Helen Keller-types – that openness and fecundity – that corpus callosum of skin?

Either instance obviously ends in despair. The body inherently “feels” and feels doomed – a lifetime of bloom to decay. The change purse or trinket-drawer of mind doesn’t last long on its own without morphing to a padded cell.

So is “decapitation” really what occurs? They say the gaffer will go on gabbing once removed, but the muscles twitch and gangle about no less, and we keep producing shit synchronic with our escaping lives.

Thus in our ecstasies and flights what is it we lose? Are we really moved “out of” “stasis,” really set a-soar? Freed of our boundaries and weight? Or are we fleeing to a smaller cave, compressing our “self” to a dark hollow like lint in a pocket?

After all, if freedom refers to space and time and opportunities of will – movement favors the body, miracles the mind.

I’m guessing de-headed bodies lie still, and unbodied faces exhibit calm because they’ve ceased to be alive. Perhaps the symbiosis is mutual torment, destructive dynamo.

In reality, they come apart quite easily.

How would one say “a head without a body is like a body without a head?” Or in other words, “we must cling to it like grim death” (Kafka)

Whatever that means, I feel caught in its clutches.

And freed to be.

N Filbert 2012

Happy Birthday Albert Goldbarth!

January 31

for Albert Goldbarth


Far, in the deep Spring of Winter,

a birthday

made kindly and moist in its breeze

how the trees say:

Be still.

Be at peace.

There’s a knowing

in richer soils

how signs grow

when needed.

They bud early this year

for you

a promising life

so filled up with bloom

and all its has-yet.

May it come,

as always,


it is the nature of things

to move

and become;

as regards relativity

disregarding our time

and place and whom

or why,

ever-readiness is all

of our conglomerate days.

N Filbert 2012

an aside

ran past a quote today that resonated, at first kind of hopelessly, conundrum-ly, as follows,

Susan Sontag on Rilke, Tsvetaeva & Pasternak:

“all three are agitated by seemingly incompatible needs:

for the most absolute solitude

and for the most intense communion with another like-minded spirit”

or Rilke’s

“signature two-step…flight from intimacy and a bid for unconditional sympathy and understanding”

at first it seemed dooming and unfortunate…warring desires in our bodies…

but then I thought:


A More Perfect Diagram

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A More Perfect Diagram That Is Not Even A Diagram

-on Untitled, by Holly Suzanne

mixed media on canvas, 2012-

      I have the enormous pleasure and extravagant gift (one that I come to understand, delinquently as is my way, ever more profoundly each day and night) of living with, being married to, and working creatively alongside a tremendously talented artist, Holly Suzanne.

     We work purposefully together in the rhetorical tradition of ekphrasis – that is, the representation of representation in various media. Usually I work in the medium of language and she in the visual arts. Sometimes we share or swap media in order to grow closer to one another, work to comprehend, and to challenge and progress our own capacities of creation and expression.

 Not a Case in Point that is Perhaps a Case in Point:

       Recently my wife invented this piece. It incorporates painting, collage and probably encaustic, containing metal “S” hooks, wire mesh, perhaps chain or other fabrics, perhaps wax, paints and probably unknown substances beyond. I can only say “who knows!” what makes its way through her avaricious mind and body onto these surfaces!

      This particular work strikes me so, as I pass it daily to enter my verbal den, having been stewing this new year on conceptualizing for myself an attempt at an accounting (to/with/for/in myself) or presentation of how I consider artistic production as a human activity.

      This morning I completed a re-reading of Wallace Stevens’ essay “Imagination as Value” from his book The Necessary Angel. A book I wholeheartedly recommend to any and everyone with creative bones in their bodies. I happened to copy out the following onto my 3”x5” notecards with which I fertilize my working-space:

the operation of the imagination in life is more significant than its operation in or in relation to works of art and letters…the chief problems of any artist, as of anyone, are the problems of the normal (daily realities – my insertion) and that he (or she) needs, in order to solve them, everything that the imagination has to give.”

Which put me in mind of my recent assays and theories re: “Art & Appearances” and A+A=AA.

which are kin to:

the intellect gobbles up everything around it, and as soon as it lays hold of feelings, it becomes spirit. Taking this step is the task of writers.” (Robert Musil)


In life what is important is the truth as it is, while in arts and letters what is important is the truth as we see it.” (Wallace Stevens)

Or that we humans are some bodymind processing plant ever infusing the unreal into the real, normalizing (for ourselves) the abnormal (each future moment and all of its inherent change) even by introducing abnormalities, concocting, fabricating ever onward…

grabbing “S”-hooks and netting and fabrics and wax, and paint cans and brushes and emotion and vision, hope and suffering, wounds and joy, and making

            and there are so many ways to see this

            but I digress. As I was saying,

            passing by this recent artifact of my wife’s making, it felt replete with myself – as if my strapping bandaged finitude were bound in the caging rectangle of chain, layered under the dark-hole gobbling gunshot wounds of my core fears and imagined (or real) belabored habits of mind and perception with innocent life-light, all filtered continuously through net-webbings of intellect, imagination and feeling which sometimes tear open or bursts or wing-themselves…resulting… producing…making objects, words, behaviors, actions or ideas into the elaborately variegated open of world…

as if, unbeknownst to me, or perhaps stimulating in me, or maybe inspired by me (likely all of the above) – a most accurate image of all I’ve been attempting to express these past days,

           a kind of intuitive ekphrasis?

           an appearance of art for damn sure

           a more perfect diagram that is not even a diagram

And that is what I’m talking about.

Thank you, my love.

Thank you thinkers and makers of art.

Thank you appearances and life.

N Filbert 2012

Nourishment, I mean

“In short, there are two realisms: the first deciphers the “real” (what is demonstrated but not seen); the second speaks “reality” (what is seen but not demonstrated): fiction, which can mix these two realisms, adds to the intelligible of the “real” the hallucinatory tail of “reality”…the onset of historical intelligibility and the persistence of the thing in being there.”

-Roland Barthes, The Pleasures of the Text-


“the author that I am can say:  I am not me.  That is all.”

-Helene Cixous-

“We are a sign without interpretation”

-Martin Heidegger-

“the irresistible compulsion to seek the tiny spark of accident – the here and now”

-Walter Benjamin-

“we always envision as we see…because all of us fictionalize our lives and the lives of others who have a part in our story…the frame excludes more than it includes…”

-Mary Price-

“I consider fiction the main reality-making art”

-Ronald Sukenick-

“the suffering of being: that is, the free play of every faculty”

-Samuel Beckett-

“language owes its existence and identity to what it can never be, to what it can only point at…the sound of language is the very embodiment of desire”

-Simon van Booy-