Fragment: Brief Conversation

“How come language (or drinking) makes the pain of language (or drinking, or relationships) go away, recede, soothe…and then becomes language (drinking, relation) and its pain…again?” he asks.

I smoke.  I look at him.  He is examining (with obvious pretend furtivity) my pale, smoothe legs, coming out of my singular light dress.  At my arms, my skin, my cheek and throat, my hair.  Lasciviously thoughtful, he.  Almost curious.  Almost authentic in his desire.

He is trying to daydream.

I am trying to be.

We are drinking now.

I am young, he less so.

Or neither.  We do not know.  Anyone can be so near their end.

So the story goes…

“The world smells good,” he says, and the delectability to the nostrils clearly depended on death: burning wood, smoking pig, a nostalgia of forests…

I knew not what I felt.  Mixtures.  Pleasures and sorrow.  Excitement and fear.  Doubt.  I did not respond, just masked placidly.  Pleasantly, I hoped.  Ambiguous.  And what does he sense?

Laramie begs “OFF,” or, what happens is parting

What happens is parting…

The incommensurable does not lie outside of language.  It is language.

– Werner Hamacher, Minima Philologica –

“Off” bothered Alias.  It aggravates Alias that Laramie only and simply, states and declares the term “off.”

Strikes him as unfair.  Short-shrift.   Foregone.  An easy conclusion.  A self-imposed or autocratic EXIT.  Cheap escape.

Conversation (that day) silenced (muted) and dulled.  It soured.  When participants elect not to speak their minds or piece, peace or conflict, new tensions are introduced.  Silence [chosen, selected, fought for (or against), willed] intentional silence effects scenarios like speech.  Withdrawal.

Alias tells him; ‘Refusal to speak equals a sort of speaking.  We are both ‘in it.’”

“Off.” Laramie repeated, simply, only, just “off.”  And, “the switch can be binary, non-complex, Alias, simply a choice – ‘I love you,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘I would prefer not to,’ – ‘no,’ – OFF – please allow me that.  I am tired.  You are my friend.  All is well.  It is good.  Life is hard.  Love is pain…OFF.”

The large, long, horizony cosmic swath of atmosphere containing and surrounding human interaction (in this case, in any case) snaps.  It fractures.  The environment (in this case, with the pronunciation of ‘OFF’) simply breaks.

There is quiet (as in) silent (as in) absence of sound, stillness of action, stasis of communion, of commerce, connection –

VACUUM.  REFUSAL.  A plea and a begging to STOP.  QUIT.  CEASE.  To not continue, to NOT go on.  A demanding request for an end.

Laramie states, speaks, invokes, complains, retorts, confesses, professes, declares and pleads and laments, quite simply, to his dearest, nearest and closest confidante, companion, friend and interlocutor – “OFF.”

Laramie chooses.

Alias wants to honor…

grieves, requests, rescinds,

carries on…

evoking ambiguity, anonymity, fiction and untruth.

The calf.

The finch and bluejay and weasel.

Deer, cow, pasture, thistle.

Friends and morning-glories.

The sun, the air; clouds and mid-day.




Laramie & Alias


Laramie and Alias play ball.  Laramie or Alias.  Alias, Laramie.  What game are we playing?

Riven, desiccated, they lag.  Every day there is more to it.  More and less to them.  Laramie, Alias, friends as long as they can remember, or markers of memory and experience for one another that initiated chronos, now an aeon, now all of what they know.

Laramie falls behind.  Laramie, a little hoarse from laughing, spits out a “hold back!”

“C’mon you little horse,” Alias decries.

What are they playing at?

Long enough that when Laramie commands “Alias Harlequin!,” at this age,  the same mixture of guilt and fear, defensiveness and shame, defiance and harshly judged helplessness Alias feels when seriously called out by parents or lovers shivers his body.  Occupies his mind.  Why?  Why are these things in me, Alias looks down and away.

There is no ball.  It wasn’t a game.  Laramie and Alias walk and wander.  In woods, on paths, through fields.  They try to think together.  Alias has always wondered who he was, or is, or might be.  Laramie never knew, but did it anyway.  Somehow together they were themselves, or felt that way, felt like nothing at all, just present and curious and comforted.  Like learning, Alias thought.  I feel like I’m learning with Laramie.  Always learning something neither of us know.  They talk together.  They call this thinking.  Many refer to it as a game.

Laramie’s butt is on a bench.  He is smoking.  He doesn’t smoke.  His wife doesn’t like it.  His kids don’t like it.  His body, even, has begun to finally recoil.  Alias takes a drink.  Leans against the bench, still guilty, still staring into the trees.  He doesn’t want Laramie to die.  He doesn’t like death much.  It scares him, and it seems simple and true – unavoidable – simply ruinous.

Alias Harlequin sighs.

And Laramie asks what he is thinking.  Or feeling.  Or what is going on, at that moment, for him.

Alias is silent.  How could he know?  If he reaches in, or pays attention to any part – a limb, his gut, the sithering language slithering in what seems like his head – he’ll be inaccurate.  He can only tend to fragments.  Figments of experiencing.  But he doesn’t want the game to be like that.  He’d always hoped someone might know.  Like maybe Laramie knows and is just waiting to see what aspect Alias would select.  Might know something else about Alias’s present that comes from outside of him, that can observe him as a whole, that looks in another direction.

“What do you think?” Alias says.

“Nostalgic,” Laramie reports.  “Some sort of melancholy in lots of places at once.”  “A wend, a bundle, an amorphous pool of forms.”  “This is how it comes and goes at our age,” he breathes.

Nothing.  No response.  Not now.  But it’s an infinite conversation.

Laramie and Alias

Left to Say


What she said was.

And there was so much – too much – movement in the still place.

What she said was


To piece together, pull apart was far too much, was overbearing.

Even I’d be overwhelmed.  Why with the even?

What she said was

It is too much.


But I could neither find, nor could I follow, there the thread.

Of what she was saying, is saying, which was…

I cannot.


Think of where that leads!

She said

She cannot think of where it goes, where it comes from.

I cannot.

Is what she said.

She says.

I listen like a camera.

I record.

Her stillness moves too much.

Is unbearable, she says, to be unable, to I cannot.

I don’t believe her, though I see it with my ears.


She says it is too much, I will not try.

But I am trying.

Which does not change.

Birds are caught in all their movement – silent blur.

She can’t decipher.

What it is.

She will not say.  Says I cannot.

I, pressing buttons, click the shutter, press record.

(Depress, record).

She will not can.

I take a picture.

It does not hear.


And what she says is

There’s too much for me to wager on a word

Even in flocks

Even in dialogue, or forms of living movement,

Even in swarms.

I blink.

I snap the shutters.

She has said nothing

She will not say

I hold the stillness, how it flutters.

Silence seems.

Seems only.

But what she says is

She cannot.


The birds swoop past

And there is nothing

Left to say.

As relates to…



I have wanted to share (for years) the significance and import of Mikhail Bakhtin‘s manner of thinking, writing in the formation of my own worldview and understanding of the confounding irritations of working in language and the interactional miracles of the medium.  C.S. Peirce and Bakhtin strike me as two composers with whom I do not encounter a brilliantly organized thought or true-ringing arrangement of letters that they are not echoed in.  I discover re-presentations and simulacra of their models, but rarely extensions, corrections, or improvements.

With that in mind, I have been poring through a multi-authored volume entitled Bakhtinian perspectives on language and culture: meaning in language, art, and new media edited by Bostad, Brandist, Evensen and Faber.  Note-taking, underlining, cross-referencing, formulating, and it has occurred to me that these texts are SO mesh-marked with mnemonic traces for me, that I should simply provide interested readers access to all I can link.  Setting out to locate a Pdf of the introduction and chapter 2: “Rhetoric, the Dialogical Principle and the Fantastic in Bakhtin’s Thought” I came across the entire collection available online – and so I offer it here.  If you begin, and the perspective captivates you – read on – to the chapters that carry concepts you are passionate about.  If not, never ye mind!  I am happy that texts like this can be available – not easily “stumbled upon” in contemporary bookstores and libraries (unfortunately).

To life:

Bakhtinian Perspectives


par example:  “Language is to be experienced as an interaction of signs neither neutral nor innocent: the word bears the burden of the contexts through which it has passed.  And every speaker or listener bears the consequences of signs put into circulation, of signs he perceives and answers, of signs he picks up and makes use of for his own ends.  One cannot stifle the traces stored in them.  One has to face the cultural experience a whole language underwent in its history.  Speaking this language and listening to it one unwittingly responds to this experience – the ‘word that lies on the border between one’s own and the other,’ the ‘word that is actually half someone else’s.’  The one meaning cannot maintain itself in the face of the many meanings.  B’s concept irritatingly links the atomizing intrusion of the many meanings into the one (an act that atomises this meaning) with the idea that meaning ‘explodes’ in the contact of two different meanings.  In other words: splitting up and differentiation, accumulation and trace must be thought of as occuring in the word simultaneously…Because meaning is always a recourse to another meaning and a project for creating new meaning, it doesn not achieve a decisive, definite presence.”

And so forth….!!!!

Writing it out : writing in

Into (and out of) the labyrinth of language

“there can be no fully articulated thought without symbolic embodiment…

language is the very stuff of which ‘ideas’ are made…

to separate thought from its symbolic manifestation would be as futile

as to try separating a mind from its embodiment in a human organism”

-Max Black, The Labyrinth of Language

“words are part of action and they are equivalents to actions”

-Bronislaw Malinowski-

            Sometimes silenced.  Pressured in channels.  A void creates a vacuum.  Fettered speech – often necessary but variant to “open” or “expressive” on a relative continuum.  To a purpose.  Carrying a message.  Responsive.  Reducing uncertainty.  Extrinsic.  Sometimes.

As if a balance of scales.  A fluid diagram – flow chart.  Internal at the individual end, external at the communicative social.  Between are many pages, many possible sounds.

If days go by.  When days go by.  After days without a feeling of spillage, a “seems” – the experience, for this writer, of unexpurgated, unconventional intrinsic release – that is, writer’s personal experience (a complexity of interactions – organism with environment and others) there ensues a kind of illness, like constipation, like perpetrated violence or censorship, like oppression – that, unless a leakage is allowed, some systemic crack, a private valve – writer risks implosion.  (Say – depression, frustration, resentment, anger).  Holding a forest beast under the lake.

Slipping out and away, writer beast finds a crevice or hollow, cavern or plain in which, from whence, he or she can reduce uncertainty, verbalizing observations and ideas.  As if life is the laboratory that would go unmarked and unnoticed without jotting tallies on a page.

Writing it out – writing in – a labyrinth.

Taking up the ball-point pen, dragging it along the surface of clean paper, is like turning the tap.

Hiss and sputter – tubes finding matter or substance, inciting energy – then flow.


I write about heaven and hell, the monsters here to there.  Of inscribing itself, the requirements of entity and imagined self or other.  The many, the few, and the plants and the beasts.  What air.  In the woods and the desert, the mind.  The heart with its loves and its rage.  Perpetual fears and the virus of mayhem.  I write about her and the children, of friendships and evil and time.  About death, about life, about learning.  In senses, in theories, in words.

It’s not difficult, I’ve just done it.  And you have provided the meaning, already.  Each term stimulating your “abouts,” descriptions and definitions, the semantics.  I craft words your eyes and ears compose commentaries to.  Little point to my telling.

Yet some of you read differently, perhaps listening.  Maybe wonder the about.  How it comes to be, what is signified for me, and why just so?


Creates conversation.  Your doctor can doll out the pills you receive and absorb, internalizing into your existent system.  Your god may tell you what you should do.  Your boss indicates how you should do it and when, friends and family surround you to be.

Not I.  I don’t want it to work quite like that.  I am spinning no story for you to follow along, no pattern upheld to your measure.  Writing it out in the labyrinth of language, I mean for exchange, for a wander – we enter, we leave the deposits we find, discover and fashion with so many hands, so many eyes, ubiquitous ears.

Write it out writing in, in the reading together, again, wending our way trading secrets and gems, co-constructing meanings and moods all to the tunes of language.


I step out of the water and dry.

The Labyrinth of Language
by Max Black

N Filbert 2012

This has been one of those weeks…children home sick from school, an art show to hang (see here!), school studies, and all the sundries of necessity leaving very little time for nourishing reading and composition.  Needed to set aside some time beginning this day.

Qualia…an introduction of sorts


“Most of each lobe is employed in the grand human saga of making associations among events, ideas, personal experiences, strategies and people.  It seems absurd to lump all that tempest together, but we do: thought.  The word even sounds like a thick knot.  Endless raveling and unraveling, thought combines colorful yarns to clothe each moment”

-Diane Ackerman-

“This is why we create: to keep our demons down without banishing them entirely”

-Marie Palermo-

“It is hard to seize what is”

-Laurie Scheck-

“Raw feel, a name for the peculiar quale of experience”

-E.C. Tolman-

“It is possible to hold that certain properties of certain mental states, namely those I’ve called qualia, are such that their possession or absence makes no difference to the physical world”

-Philosophical Quarterly 32/133-

“an unfamiliar term for something that could not be more familiar to each of us: the ways things seem to us”
-Daniel Dennett-

“[Qualia are] the whole ensemble of consciousness or experiences”

-Gerald Edelman-

“When I do not know the ‘quid’ of anything how can I know the ‘quale’?”

-Plato, The Dialogues-

“The quale is directly intuited, given, and is not the subject of any possible error because it is purely subjective”

-C.I. Lewis-

“’what kind,’ ‘that sort,’ unobservable in others and unquantifiable in us”


“…a proposition flaunts every logical scratch that follows from it…

Then I saw you were trying to lean against the weight of missing words, a wall at the end of the world”

-Rosmarie Waldrop-

Inescapable Intersubjectivity

Ineffaceable Tentativeness

“No self is thus separate from the total venture of language”

(Wikipedia entry – “Qualia”)

“Inside the workings of language clear vision is impossible”

-Rosmarie Waldrop-

“The brain is embodied and the body is embedded” (Gerald Edelman, 2006).  A phrase like that implies mysteries.  As if something might be explained or described.  At least.  Scribbling maps at random: entailment, entangled.

She said, “memory – a mirror with ambition,” I questioned the memory and the mirror both.  A quail quickly turns tail, coveys away, Blanchot’s ever-ultimate (as in final), question: questioning itself.

That is, what is unquestionable?

Or, everything unfinished.


I’ve introduced this all before, and now I’m building with logical scratches.  Sketching plans.

I meant to address this before, but someone’s former second grade teacher (actually only a substitute), assigned his class a writing as a way to pass the time.  “Write about the process of choosing.”

Entailment, entanglement, words with activity in me, like haunting.  The concept of selection.  What must be going on.

I must be moving on.


Earlier and consistently, the lusting of language toward the intrinsic, the ineffable.  What is private and immediate.  What cancels out in signs or symbols.  Gordian knot of tricker, Ouroborous.  So much so as to seem identified.  Inherent.

What is not possible.


My wife’s eyes swell large in a blue as yet reproduced.  This elicits in me what science designates “raw feels.”  By the time I’ve gazed enough to start cooking them, they’re a meal in themselves.  Or, “knowledge as illusion (delusion).”  At any instant, process.

Accepting awards from strangers one strangely respects.  Not profound enough for tears, significant enough to change.

I can’t explain it.

(Meaning: it doesn’t accord my theories, or, “what’s wired together, fires…”)

Entanglement.  Arbitrary associations.  Blips and bits.  Intention.

You (can’t) get the picture.

What we mean is like this.


When I first stood in the grandeur of Il Duomo, Milan.  First naked body different from mine own.  Learning differance.  Similarity.  Metaphor versus analogue.  Random maps of light and entropy.

In ambiguity lies possibilities.

Where we’ve doubted.

Those final questions.


All those books I’ve written, published under others’ names.


N Filbert 2012