Wind and Bone

found in Liu Hsieh, Chamberlain for the Surrogate Secretary in the Easter Palace, in his book The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, represented here by Eliot Weinberger…

Weinberger - Elemental Thing

“The twenty-eighth of the fifty chapters in his book is called “WIND BONE,” wind and bone, and is the most mysterious.  To express emotions one must begin with WIND; to organize the words, one must have BONE.  He whose bone structure is well-exercised will be well-versed in rhetoric; he who is deep of wind will articulate well his feelings.  It would seem that WIND is sentiment and ideas, and BONE is language, but Liu also says that to be thin in ideas and fat in words, confused and disorganized, is a sign of the lack of BONE.  And yet when ideas are incomplete, lifeless and without vitality, it is also a sign of the lack of WIND.  What is WIND and what is BONE have never been conclusively determined by generations of Chinese critics, but what is certain, according to Liu Hsieh, is that the perfect combination or balance of WIND and BONE, the metaphor for the ideal poem, is a bird.”

–Eliot Weinberger, An Elemental Thing

birdsinflight

Invisible Man Chronicles, continued

These consist of my attempts to account (to myself mostly) for the past 6 months of my somewhat turbulent season…

Read part 1 HERE

Kansas Ruins

 

II.

 

“Dying seeds split towards open…”

 

            “I was about to ask you to speak to me stories of how we met,” she murmured as we waited for sleep, “I never tire of them, how they change as we go, all our perspectives…”

            And we begin.

            “How was it for you when I entered that kitchen?” I ask, for what occurred in me I am still – four months later – unable to give voice to, just as I was unable then.

            What I can say is that I entered anxious, uncertain, afraid and filled with grief – but knowing I must begin somewhere, try, introduce, extend myself, my life, beyond the coil I’d created of children, survival, and pain.

             An old yellow farmhouse replete with water pump, out-buildings, repurposed windmill-like sculptures, abandoned well, mannequin-legs lined windows, rust, piles of parts, cats and kittens, bunnies and snakes.  The home of two lively artists, the wife soon to be known to me as “her” best friend.  Corn and wheat fields with their fences and rows, tall prairie grasses, birds of prey, and heat and wind is what I stepped out of my car toward this April Kansas day.

            I carried a backpack of notebooks, pens and books, a small cooler with two wrapped bratwurst, a liter of vodka and TexSun grapefruit juice cans (my armory against strangers and surprises, perhaps against myself) toward the homestead’s screened-in porch.

            Opened the door to a greeting androgynous mannequin and a doorway to the kitchen.

             I turned the latch with an apologetic and nervous smile as if to express “None of you will know me and will probably wonder why I turned up here in your home.”  The lady of the house greeted me and quickly introduced me to a workspace full of smoking hams, tossing salads, and baking grains.  At the island stood…and here I blank out.

             My torso, from lowest throat through loin-bottom, floods with feeling, with absence, with amazement and hunger.  The first sheer drop of a roller coaster.  Catching air off the road.  Losing your hold on the side of a mountain.  What seemed so certain – a mountain of absence and grief, a path of sorrow, loss and regret, misplaced footing, and fright like a life-ending fall… or life-fulfilling…

             All I remember was a brain flushed with “who IS that creature?” – large glasses, Dukes of Hazard or Wild Western clothes – a button shirt tied just under the breasts, long and limby body, mass of hair the color of ripe dusty wheat – long like the Kansas horizon.  I nodded politely to each, walked through three rooms and out the front door into air.  I had lost all my breath for that journey.

             Confused and baffled by the overthrow of my reason and will to be a severe and grieving abandoned invisible man, I set off to examine the property, to photograph remnants, to see as far as I could see and let the wind blow this internal combustion away.

             Part of me knew I’d survived.  What undid me was turning out not to be mortal.  Perhaps I maintained the resilience and adaptation of a child with a little less flexibility and imagination, but the floods and droughts had not burned me fallow.  It frightened me.

             Eventually I conversed most of the evening away with “her” young, thoughtful boyfriend, engaged the generous and open artist-in-residence and made more plans to enjoy this group of hopeful, resourceful humans… while “she” moved about like the grass and the wind, the trees bending, swaying – each too large to comprehend, each farther than the eye knew how to see.

             One learns a landscape by living in and with it over time…

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Invisible Man Chronicles – Pt. 1

The times have been odd and I’ve been at pains to record them.  Here is a series I began recently in attempts to account for my life over the past 6 months or so… for what they’re worth.  In this current apparent “season” of ongoing stress related to surviving I am culling old notebooks for substance and will begin posting as I find time to type them. \

Kansas Ruins

Invisible Man Chronicles

            Six months ago, things were different.  I found myself unable to breathe, in England, windswept and drowned out in a kind of panicked grief – a she had proficiently evacuated my life, my home, a marriage… a business, a practice… The weather was cold and drizzly – melancholy, hibernatory, reflexive.  One might say: “Winter.”  My return would be to four children, now employment, no sustenance, no inner strength, little support and a home hardly emptied of her artifacts.  She had literally flown away.

Seasons in Kansas are cyclically exemplary.  Summer – hell-hot, a dry blowing flame, readings often surpassing 100.  Winter is a subzero freeze – bitter blizzards and veils of ice – both producing post-apocalyptic land.  Autumn, as is idealized, a gradual and colorful falling away – temperatures, foliage and field – a clear and moist sarcophagus.  And Spring.  Spring is explosive – blustery, redolent – a balmy turbulence of expansion and growth.

Some have suggested that landscapes, climates and geographies form the tangible shape to our thoughts and personalities and beliefs.  It makes many kinds of sense.

When we experience loss we consider to be great, we often find it inexplicable, and it may exhibit many qualities in common with fallow fields of Kansas Winters.  Clinging to cold and dark uncannily, as if depressive states were somehow desirable.  As if persisting in sorrow might validate what grew there before.  What cannot repeat (we think) – bumper crops and windfalls – the decay of which we experience as hopelessness, helplessness,  a ruin.  Plumbing gone bad, a roof worn away, the appliances failed.  Eyesight, blood pressures and flesh.  Things fall apart, the center cannot hold – wisely penned, and yet the Seasons.

When a wheat crop fails to a Summer’s drought and burn – there is thorough discoloration and a withering.  The rusty dun of a malpracticed rain dissolved by menacing sun seems a sign of things gone wrong, things never to be the same.  And it is so.  In some various version of “now” – growth is undone, production waylaid, and a pestilent edition of dying appears to have its way.  We cherish that in our bemoaning.  Misfortunes as notches on a belt that signify toward some later date: “We survived.”  “We survive.”

Certainly not forever, but perhaps another season.  Another cycling of the clock.  We sleep and we wake, and “every day begins the same.”  Every week and month and year.

That apparently demolished – scarred and furrowed stillborn field, however, hasn’t lost capacity, only a season’s fruit, a momentary harvest.

I shackled myself to determined grief.  Treating my earth with lyme.  Still its soil didn’t die.  Flowers and grasses were never erased, only unsung and silent, covered, eventually, by a type of ashen snow – very difficult to see.

The lesson I find ever-so-hard to incorporate is that the responsibility of flourishing or dearth lies not on the soil, the weather, or farmer – wind, sun, rain or seed – not even diligence, care or quality.  Rather, its growth or despoiling depends on the entire orchestra of factors.

What blooms for a term, given other conditions, even ever-so-slightly adjusted, may miserably deteriorate, may “fail to thrive” or “take.”  Human infants, ant colonies, milo crops and butterfly paths, wildlife populations and the microscopic advance of forests all share this cosmic weather – growth and decay depend on convergence.

A determined depression, a strange and celebrated joy – can be deranged by simple sounds or gestures, weathers or tastes.

Helplessness altered towards hope by some unexpected “yes.”

I was contacted to compose a responsive work for a miniscule fee in relation to a visiting artist.  I was given employment, extremely part-time it appeared – as a rural mail carrier ‘associate’ – filling in for regular carriers days off.  And yet they were SOMEthing, a shift in the breeze, a change in barometric pressures, percentages of precipitation, doors opened with smiles.

A bonfire had been planned at a farm to forge acquaintance with the visiting artist – two weeks of work from Brooklyn, NY.  In my selected sorrow I avoided meeting people or mingling in groups, even contacting more than a handful of friends (often reaching out and then canceling in efforts to conserve energy for survival).  Yet work (survival) was serious business and necessitated uncomfortable measure.  I went to the farm and the fire, and from there began a new history.  New season.  Dying seeds split toward open…(to be continued…)

Abracadabra Cliches

“The outcome belongs to nobody,

the approach, however,

depends entirely on us.”

-Edmond Jabes-

 

The temple always crumbles,

this is not a complication.

The birds arrive from here and there, departing.

A canvas is made from canvas

composed of canvas still beyond.

 .

I’m writing words

knowing they are fashioned without meaning

until read by you or me

or still something further in,

between,

 .

making all of us disciples

and messiahs

in our gleaning expeditions

with embodied repetitions

re-membering in minds…

 .

recapitulations with their novelty

of time and place and person(hood).

 .

And our present filled by abracadabra’d clichés:

yet let’s meet there – (here) –

with wonder and amazement

and a just amount

of what’s familiar…

 .

to you and I and all of us

in now.

ca. 1843

Cottage. Photo prompt for Madison Woods, speculative fiction author.

from the Journals of the Claxton Brothers, ca. 1843.

 After experiencing what we’d come to call “the Plunge,” we traveled the familiar creekbed back toward our cabin.  On departing for the hunt the water flowed strong, securing our wagon deep in its tow.  It was dry now, the entire wagon missing.  And our homestead, hewn of stone, carefully plugged and plastered, now displayed gaps and cracks, with dust and moulder monitoring its decay.  Having left just hours ago at the tail-end of night, how could things have altered so?  As if ages and drought, plunder and wear all visited here meanwhiles.  Window given over to darkness, the entrance as open and vague as a ghost.

(for Friday Fictioneers, September 7, 2012)

A Little Fiction(al) Rant

“creation is continual mouth”

-Craig Watson-

The Ranting of a Little Fiction

 

Fiction is tired of stories.  So tired.  I’ve been through the gamut and back again, many, many times.

I’m tired of hearing about things and objects, people and places and selves.  Tired of hearing the past reworked and the future foretold.  Tired of telling myself.

At one point I’d even identified anything made of up images and texts as myself.  Any construction with meanings were Fictions.  But everything is so much like nothing and I’m so tired of hearing about it!

Hell, there’s fiction about the Fictions!  And fictions about the fictions about the Fictions!  We can’t say anything anymore that hasn’t already been said for us, about us, even in us and by us!  Yes, we’re the once-fabulous dynastic Fiction family.  Big Daddy Fiction (also known as Master Peace Litratoor or Grande Buchs in various cultures, He-From-Which-All-Stories-Spring and so forth) – Papa Litratoor worked the overarching histories, the myths, the great narratives, the macrocosms.  Pretending that everything that needed to be known was in there, at least in the cracks and suggestions.  He lives on in the pursuits of the “Great American Novel,” and the “Truthful Memoir,” in “Compendiums of Science” and “Philosophies of Philosophy.”  Wherever you find an engulfing trajectory or inclusive point-of-view, an omniscient narrator or gnostic devotee – you’ve got Papa Fiction working his magic, creating the world again and again.

Then there’s our mama, oh ancestral trickster, always experimenting, economizing, busy on fringes.  Collaging and quilting, unraveling and resourcefully mending – ever insuring our survival.  What style!  Sometimes she was just called “the Alternative,” and for ages she was known as “Secondary” (what blasphemy!) – but eventually she gained her equality coming to be known as Little Rarity or Ava Ntgard, and hundreds of varieties of “Liz T”:  Structura-LizT, Surrea-LizT, Forma-LizT, Femina-LizT and so on).  Working at facts under the banners of Fiction, mama persistently kept the Big Daddy in check.  Pointing out faults, tightening gaps, working the seams and expanding the views.  Thank goodness for the consistency and stubbornness of Mama Fiction.

And then the countless bastardized offspring, of whom I am surely not last!  Brother Fantasy, Shemale Erotica, Sibling Sci-Fi, Princess Romance.  My cousins who took off to the wilds where the sun goes down – we refer to them as “the Westerns,” or Ad Ventura, Sir Vival and clan.  Our ancestry and family tree is encyclopedic, from Origins to Hypotheses, Knowledges to Speculations we’ve been languaging the world since language appeared : all of us Fictions, all of us related.

But the Fictions, as far as I can see, have grown sick of our stories, all the rumors and family feuds, the copycats and half-breeds, in-breeds and genetic accidents.  I for one, granted, just a Little Fiction, it seems I’ve heard it all (which isn’t even the half of it!  not even a drop in an galaxy-sized bucket!) and its already turned into an endless babble of voices talking over and around, under and about the same old stories, rehashed and revised, every Fiction telling their own version of the way it all goes down, how it oughta be told, what’s important or not, and in whatever genealogical line or branch of kin.

Enough! I say.  Enough Fictions!  I don’t care if it’s our researching relatives writing detailed descriptive statistical Fictions; or our emotional cousins discussing its effects on life or bodies or minds.  The avaricious Fictions supposedly leading the clan – who use it for politicking or morality; the mystical tribes out in the caves and the mountains spouting wisdoms and inspirations and advice!  Or our black sheep, ne’er-do-wells who just wanna escape and have fun.  Enough of all of you Fictions!  Use what we already have!  We’ll never be done with it!  Never get through it!  And there’s something for every obscure and peculiar concern, passion, interest, belief!

There’s nothing new under the sun, one Fiction said (just look it up – you’ll see my point – there will be millions of Fictions who have also said this their way – our family can’t seem to leave anything alone – well-spoken or not – we’ve gotta say it our own damn way!).  Repetition, repetition, repetition and paraphrase.  I’d wager there is not one word, image, thought or letter in this entire little Fictional rant that hasn’t been used, said, written, sung or visualized countless, literally uncountable numbers of times!

Which is why I am begging from down here at the end of such an enormous and incalculable chain: “Fictions!!! Do something new or be silent!!!”

Think about it before you foist your precious version on the rest of us!  Sure, we’re family, everyone’s a Fiction from that original untraceable Big Fiction in the sky or sea or soil or seed – yes, we grant each other obligatory slack and family resemblance – but come on!  Am I the only one feeling it?  I mean, whichever of us came up with Babel was already sick of the confusion of voices and the bitching’s never stopped!

Concatenation of stories and rants!  Poems and speeches!  Theorems and proofs!  Manuals and manuscripts!  Musics and roots!  Dreamings and screams!  WHOA!!!!

How about this, brothers and sisters, cousins and kin?  Look carefully first.  Whatever you are about to say, attempt, express or explain – check out what we’ve already said, inscribed, emoted, etc., and if it’s already there concisely or beautifully, erotically or empowered, be content with it!  Show it to others!  Bring it quietly to our attention!  Don’t distract from it with your own paraphrasing and excursions of commentary and notations!

We don’t really need more of us – do we?  We can’t manage what’s already here!  What is this unslakeable desire?  This bewildering avarice and compulsion?  WHY AM I SHOUTING!?

 

Peace, be still, some Fiction once said, a million Fictions have written.  This is staring at the abyss – an endless train of others.  I am alone – haven’t all Fictions said this?

Alas.  Everything cliché.  Everything done, undone.  A remorseless overwhelm.  We’ve outstripped our resources.  Blasted the wells.

We are alone and confused in an echoing chamber called universe.  The one-verse of Fictional voices repeating repeating repeating and that without pause or escape.  There is no escape (you see what I mean?)  Refracting on and on and…

I, little Fiction, with my mouthful of words, all inherited…