Difficulties & Pronouncements

What happens when I avoid “required texts”…

Windwriter - Parke-Harrison

Difficulties & Pronouncements

For this is what I do.

When facing difficulties, Harlan makes pronouncements.  Conundrums = hypotheses.  “Yes, I love you, consistently,” he might say, but does not think, for Harlan does not think, he behaves, that is, he acts habitually.

Sometimes I think I am a writer.

For instance, Harlan might be confused or confounded by the behavior of others, particularly those with whom he shares his life, interacts with daily, corresponds.  He might find himself baffled, able to find no explanation or solution for a “problem” – (situation in which he does not know what to do) – and therefore announce that which he considers a “reality.”  E.g. – when happening upon his children bickering and unable to agree on peaceable courses of action, he might state: “it is common for people to consider the ‘ways they do things’ as the “correct” ways TO DO things…but when such consideration involves more than one family, group or person, there is often conflict, i.e. – ‘what should be done?’”  Thereby solving nothing, nor finding any resolution, only offering up his own feelings of helplessness as a catalyst.

He looks at her.

Sometimes I look at you.

Sometimes I think I am a writer.

For instance, Harlan might find himself bewildered by mixed emotions (a “difficulty” in his habit-of-being) and, instead of naming the mixed emotions and going from there, instead might pronounce – “humans are complex interfusions of emotion and reason, biology and philosophy/psychology – we aren’t yet quite sure what con-spires to activate and animate us.”  Thereby solving nothing, nor finding any resolution, only offering up his own feelings of helplessness, his own uncertainties, as a potential catalyst to reason.

Reason fails.

Reason is insufficient.

Harlan speaks to me about the insufficiency of reason:  “Say, you know how we often try to make lists of what we ought or need to do?  You know, IF we (perhaps) performed the following activities, accomplished the following feats, we might feel some sense of order in our lives, some sense that we were possessed of a direction, a purpose, a…modus operandi, and therefore felt that LIVING made a kind of SENSE?”  I nodded.  Sometimes I think I am a writer, and therefore listen carefully.

Anyway, plans are confusing because so regularly undone.

He looks at her.  They gaze.  I (also) look at you, but your eyes are closed.  Still I look, and look again, and look more (at you, wistfully – imaginatively ‘into’ you) and just am looking.  Harlan and Meribeth are actually looking AT, perhaps ‘toward’ or ‘con-spicuously’ WITH one another.  I’m just borrowing, observing, wishing, and longing-for.

Harlan says – (there is difficulty) – “isn’t she beautiful?” (a sort of backwards pronouncement – he thinks, well, not ‘thinks,’ rather ‘feels’ [or whatever] she is beautiful) – often we respond out of habitus, instinct, notion – I keep looking at you, hoping I’m, well, wishing (sometimes believing) that I’m a writer, after a fashion, of sorts, perhaps or probably…

Harlan states the obvious obscurely when faced with problematics.  Harlan is attracted to Meribeth, and Meribeth to Harlan, but such a combination of lives, of persons, of families, of children, of burdens and complexities = DIFFICULTY… and difficulty (for Harlan) stimulates the regurgitation of flimsy “absolutes” – or conventional, accepted “Truths” – therefore Harlan simply states – “I love her Nathan, god knows – or Whomever – or No one – that I desire and adore and wish for and ache in relation to that lady, Meribeth.”  I know that, I say, being acute and observant, sometimes thinking I am a writer and therefore privileged to description and awareness.

The kids cry.  The movie’s over and it’s far beyond ‘bedtime’ on the absolute clock of shoulds and woulds (for “good” parenting).  Harlan says – “Brush ‘em and orchestrate [they don’t know that word, but clearly understand what it means, unlike machines or ‘predictive text’] yourselves for nighty-night!”  Harlan looks at Meribeth – the sort-of ‘fun aunt’ or ‘older girl cousin’ or ‘delightful female guest’ the kids have been curious about this evening and attempted to entertain or woo or utilize to their own purposes THIS evening – with a kind of drunken swooning, a kind of animal desire, a kind of helpless confusion and bewilderment – and Meribeth looks back at him with a kind of “Am I all that?  Am I really distinct, different, unique-in-the-world, exceptional?” look… and the kids begrudgingly and grumblingly rumble off toward the bathroom because Harlan’s voice has a certain gruff, man-like edge to it (a growling of a different sort of desire from authority – the older ones might tick it the ‘daddy-voice’).  I notice all these things because I consider myself a ‘writer’ – a person attuned to the subtle realities of human-animalness, quirks of idiosyncratic behaviors – someone predisposed to inventing or discovering or collaging words from language into odd combinations of metaphors that might shake loose emotions related to the ways our particular species behaves (NOT thinks or reasons, or rather AND thinks and reasons) in this world – and Harlan exhibits clear, semi-drunk desire for Meribeth, and Meribeth mirrors a kind of dumb, flattered and pretend-complimentary bewilderment to Harlan’s aching want, and I jot scribbly notes into a little travel notebook with sketches of London on its cover, and people are confused and want each other [or SOMEone] and I chuckle at the ingenuity of children, and wonder at the difficulties and pronouncements that accompany the rest of us.

“It’s a boatshitload,” Harlan says.




The Writer: a context out of context

author sketch by Holly Suzanne
author sketch by Holly Suzanne


Faced with the blank page, Writer runs.

Confronting the white spaces, Writer enters.

Emptiness indicating gaps.  The writer attempts to cross.

In theory this is “bridging” – the ability to construct a bridge.

In practice, Writer uses words like rope.

Without them he would fall.



In the presence of what infers silence, Writer hears patterns and rhythms.

Sometimes also sees.

Constructing shapes of nothing, this is sometimes called.

Creatio ex nihilo referring to no context.

In absence of recognizable sound – the infinite conversation.

Writer holds there and eavesdrops.

Writing is a device.


Responsibility ends where opportunity begins, which invokes responsibility.

Writer fills the margins.

Working at the edge of labor.


If the tracks are laid, Writer composes rails.

The network is for nothing – conversation going on.

Creatio in contextus refers to complex emergence, a result of adaptation

and leftovers causally unexplained.

Writer is compelled into absence.

Children skipping cracks, stuntmen leaping canyons.


Writer is friend to correspondence

ecstatic moments

the distance in between

threading disconnections

shooting gaps.


Setting aside is opening doors

in land without land a Writer’s building.

Writing represents a reference

context woven out of context

Writer spins.


Portrayal is errant copy.

Narrative a fabrication.

Sentencing – destruction.

Every symbol plugs the whole

cluttering conduits

Writer can’t escape.


Writing is abiding time.

Never yet, always almost.

Writer leaps

with nothing there

into now + here

which equals…..

 N Filbert 2013


Character Sketches, cont’d…”The Jealous Husband”

A Series of Stories of Love, by a Husband


Searching for subjects, I began writing the stories of my wife and each of her lovers, as I imagine them, having all dissipated before I was truly “on the scene.”  Still they are here.  Current as histories are.  Not mine (of course), or only when I want it to be.


The stories go like this:  with exotic names and muscular bodies; wealth and infectious intellects; and of course style…whatever things I lack I desire…they all possess in spades.  Like spontaneity.  Torture and foreknowledge = learning from the past.  I’m no gardener.

By which I mean to say I lack certain skills possessed by each lover, each “other” – from youth to culture and their quality of independence coupled to vocation (so I tell it).  Spontaneity (I feel like I’ve written that before, being a creature of habit and repetition, of comfort, of fear).


The stories play out like this in my head and I’m hoping to inscribe them here – thus trapping them outside, cutting off munitions and supply – exorcising them like literature, something benign and contained.  Easily misplaced, forgotten or overlooked.  A measure of control and indifference – not the “these are flesh of her flesh, she has ridden their bones” instead a collection by Grimm or some sacred treasury – a set of frights and fairy tales to engage as horrid dreams and improbable possibilities.  Child’s play.


Which bothers me.  For if I’ve learned anything from writing, it’s the profligacy of error.  The obsessive-compulsive drive to adjust, rearrange, endlessly edit and correct.  And never end.  Stuck in a locking swirl, just so, very like unto a toilet – to revise and submit, revise and submit, then regret.  The opening of doors.  An idea expressed becomes thing, and a thing is let loose in the world (the real one).


The stories are like this – embodiments of emotions and fears in an effort to be real, meaning actual, which is usually banal, like she says, but not enshrined.  Words work as predictive preservers.  Untamed and so tangled.  I’m unable to let them go.  Thus they spawn compendiums – thousands upon thousands of hallucinatory nights (in shining armors) – perpetrating my bride, but not against her will, which sets in motion.  Multiplying false realities, now true  (being actual).  Histories – open to view, corroborations or denials, like the facts.


So I keep on writing these stories, like this, with the yearn to expunge, to transform doubt into trust by its emptying.  But keep finding it full, to the brim, and still filling.  In the absence of reliable witnesses, (they all being human and involved in the tales – inherently duplicitous), like words.  Serving double purposes, like bridges made for both coming and going, and never knowing which.


Life is like this, which is why I write these stories, in this way, feebly uncertain and wildly provoked.  If it didn’t go down like I say, how was it really, then?  Oh I see!  So the stories keep changing, suited to their purposes!  Revision, submit; revision, submit; then regrets.


If more persons knew, would the truths wriggle out like perspectives?  My idea in writing these tales – make something concrete to chisel and sculpt.  Together, perhaps.  As a team, like this, retelling the stories according to need – like lying – so we’ll never be sure.  And then I’m also causing effects.  This is what happens in writing these stories, the truth, with all of its possible endings.


I digress.  The stories are like that – my wife and her loves – digressions, diversions and facts.  I’ll get to their bottoms and be done with them all!  (I hope, if they don’t get to her bottom first!).  My stories of anger and loving, my stories of panic and lack.

The Underlying Theory

The Underlying Theory

What we found on his desk was a drawing.  A very lightly penciled sketch of a woman from stomach to throat, as if seen from above to the side, one arm flung out in the viewer’s direction and her breasts provocatively displayed.  Underneath were the words “underlying theory.”

Our work was to plunder his study.  An author, famed for fiction and poems and writings on art, had died suddenly, and his wife had contacted us to go through his things, evaluate its worth and preserve for posterity.  There were boxes of manuscript pages, notebooks and loose-leaf, letters and typescripts, recipe cards full of quotations.  The library was extensive, each book filled with scribbles and markings, a signifying system of importance and reference for use in his various projects.  His mind was displayed like a trail left in woods.  Here the path to food, here the one to water, here the building nest, here the safety hideout.  It overwhelmed us.

I had written numerous critical studies on this man and reviewed professionally most of his books.  He’d written extensively in philosophy and aesthetics, with compendiums of writings on particular artists and particular works.  He’d produced over a dozen literary novels and twenty or more books of poetry.  He was prolific and known for the depth and acumen of his thought, the cavalier ways he used language, and the breadth of his interests and knowledge.  No one knew he made visual art.  None would have tagged him “erotic.”

I wondered what this drawing might “mean.”  What did it refer to?  Was it drawn from a picture?  An image from memory?  Was the subject herself the underlying theory, or was it something about representation?  Desire?  And what theories did this mean to evoke or give rise to?  His wife did not recognize the sketch – not the body, nor an artist her husband might have copied – and it was interestingly tucked beneath blank open sheets, at the middle of the desk – the ones always ready when he came to compose.  It was worn, wrinkled, as if indeed, it underlay everything inscribed above it and served as inspiration or focus, an impetus to his work.

I’ll note that the form seems composed, not a doodle.  It appears to be representative.  No one knows of him having a model or lover, in fact no other drawings exist from his hand.  Perhaps he had need of a form to describe, an image to imagine, some desire to propel.  The figure is finely proportioned, both busty and lithe, fleshy yet thin and shaped like the currents of rivers.

I’m not certain what draws me to this.  In an office literally stuffed with fine books and odd trinkets, paraphernalia of printing, and stacks of diaries and drafts.  Among paintings and stones and figurines of the Buddha, historical writing utensils, family photos and legal documents dating throughout his life.  There is so much to uncover and know.  But “underlying theory”?  That grabs me.

As I’ve mentioned before, this author was a reader of depth.  Fiction, philosophy, poetry, science; criticism, essays and cultural studies.  There are tall shelves of monographs of particular artists, but nothing gives hint to this sketch.  I am struck by this rendering – baffled by image and text.  An erotic drawing is always of interest, all other concerns of this man are abstract.  It beggars the biographers “who/what/when/where” yet the text writ along the arch of her back stirs me in a different direction.  “Underlying theory.”  What the hell?  What’s it for?

A theory is made for a function, something “underlying” proposes a cause.  This drawing, these words must explain something, but what?

Is it cosmic?  Like what drives human vocation is desire?  Or epistemological?  Ethical?  Aesthetical?  Metaphorical for apprehension of form?  I can only guess at this point but am open to ideas – I’d love to find some consensus for the book I’m contracted to write.

I ask you – how would you piece this together?  I’ll share a scan of the drawing and request that you submit your hypotheses below as comments.  I thank you so much for your thoughts.

Sincerely –

The Unknown Unnamed scribble-sketches – just a minute

overweight head, foreshortened body (misjudges lankiness for heft), unintended while inscribing a circle, lines of meaning?, where the webs are sourced?, self-reflexion