Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Part Faif - Love at First Sight

Love at First Sight

They’re both convinced
that a sudden passion joined them.
Such certainty is beautiful,
but uncertainty is more beautiful still.

Since they’d never met before, they’re sure
that there’d been nothing between them.
But what’s the word from the streets, staircases, hallways -
perhaps they’ve passed by each other a million times?

I want to ask them
if they don’t remember -
a moment face to face
in some revolving door?
perhaps a “sorry” muttered in a crowd?
a curt “wrong number” caught in the receiver?
but I know the answer.
No, they don’t remember.

They’d be amazed to hear
that Chance has been toying with them
now for years.

Not quite ready yet
to become their Destiny,
it pushed them close, drove them apart,
it barred their path,
stifling a laugh,
and then leaped aside.

There were signs and signals,
even if they couldn’t read them yet.
Perhaps three years ago
or just last Tuesday

a certain leaf fluttered
from one shoulder to another?
Something was dropped and then picked up.
Who knows, maybe the ball that vanished
into childhood’s thicket?

There were doorknobs and doorbells
where one touch had covered another

Suitcases checked and standing side by side.
One night, perhaps, the same dream
grown hazy by morning.

Every beginning
is only a sequel, after all,
and the book of events
is always open halfway through.

- Wislawa Szymborska

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Part Fore - The Meaning Of

Life is to strongly desire to swing from the pole on the rear footplate of a bus.
Life is the ancient art of being able to balance the hot and cold shower taps.
Life is that kind of facial expression which is impossible to achieve except when having a passport photograph taken.
Life is a fitted elasticated bottom sheet which turns your mattress banana shaped.
Life is the sudden access to panic experienced by one who realises that he is being drawn inexorably into a conversation from which one has no hope of enjoying, benefiting from or understanding.
Life is the moment of realization that the train you have just patiently watched pulling out of the station was the one you were meant to be on.
Life is the entry in a diary (such as a date or a set of initials) or a name and address in your address book, which you haven't the faintest idea what it's doing there.
Life is the topmost tread of a staircase which disappears when you climb the stairs in the darkness.
Life is the tapping of an index finger on glass made by a person futilely attempting to communicate with either a tropical fish or a post office clerk.
Life is the look directed at you in a theatre bar in the interval by people who've already got their drinks.

Life is funny.

(based on 'The Meaning of Liff' by Douglas Adams)

Friday, December 04, 2009

Part Tree -stirred something, somewhere.-

After years of deafening silence and an almost unbearable waiting, I woke up one morning with a small but undeniable feeling of pressure on my left shoulder. I dismissed it as some sort of ache at first, but during the day I occasionally felt a short squeeze in my shoulder and by nightfall I knew he had returned. The Phantom Ape had come back to me. That night, when I was alone in my room, after making sure there were no cats around and I couldn’t hear dogs barking in the distance, I looked in the mirror. In the dark I could just see the outline of my reflection and to my delight, the clear glowing transparent form of the tarsier I held so dear.

I saw something in your eyes, I’m sure.
What was it, my friend?
You were lost. You hung up your coat in the closet and stopped thinking about it. You were in the fields all the time, always trying to get to the end of the field where he would be waiting by the road.
But there was no end, I couldn’t find the road.
You kept going in circles.
Where were you? Why didn’t you stop me?
You destroyed the house, I had to rebuild it.
A pioneering few concentrated their awareness on the still, sweet sound that lay across the chasm of sensory awareness, stirred something, somewhere, within the recesses of the glandular system and, in a transcendent moment, opened their third eye.
That’s right, go on.
The old Persian of the Achaemenian empire was an Indo-European tongue with close affinities with Sanskrit and Avestan, the language of the Zoroastrian sacred texts.
Don’t stop, please don’t stop.
Recidite plebes, the king’s men are on a mission! Search the farthest corners of the land with the prince with the golden eyes!
Yes, you remember now. Do you remember the valediction, the forbidden mourning?
If they be two, they are two so as stiff twin compasses are two. Thy soul, the fixed foot, makes no show to move, but doth if the other do.
You haven’t forgotten. You are ready now. Take your coat, we’re going out.

I look out the window and see it’s raining. Just like it was before, so many years ago. I walk over to my closet and all the way hiding in the back I find my old coat. It looks worn and battered but I smile when I put it on. I search its pockets and slowly I put everything I left there before me on the kitchen table. An empty wallet, a bottle of rum, a get-out-of-jail-free card, a folded picture of Madame Blavatsky, a pack of disposable razors, a Raageshwari album and finally one set of keys. The keys to the house I once saw in my dreams, then visited and ultimately destroyed.

When we visit, I hope you like the changes I made. They’re all there, they’re all there waiting for you. Yes, they’re all waiting.
I take a sip of rum and start putting everything back in my coat pockets.
Leave out the Raageswhari and put some money in your wallet. You might want to buy him a present.
Buy a present for whom?
You’ll see.

I do as he says, like I always do. I step out my front door and through the distorted street in front of me I can already make out the house he made for me. It’s only a short walk away. It used to be so hard to find, I walked the streets for hours and hours until I would finally fall on my knees, soaking wet and exhausted. And now, I can already see the lights burning on the first floor from my own front door.

Remember, you walk alone. The midnight street will spin itself from under your feet. When your eyes shut, my dreaming houses will all snuff out. You make houses shrink and trees diminish. Your look’s leash will dangle the puppet-people. If you choose to blink, they die. In good humour, you give grass its green, blazon the sky blue and you endow the sun with gold. In your wintriest mood, you hold absolute power to boycott any colour and forbid any flower to be.

Slowly, trying not to blink, I make my way towards the house.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Part Toe

I am not fond of uttering platitudes
in stained-glass attitudes.

If you're anxious for to shine
in the high aesthetic line
as a man of culture rare,
you must get up all the germs
of the transcendental terms,
and plant them everywhere.

You must lie upon the daisies
and discourse in novel phrases
of your complicated state of mind,
the meaning doesn't matter
if it's only idle chatter
of a transcendental kind.
And everyone will say,
as you walk your mystic way;

"If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me,
why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be."

Monday, October 26, 2009

Part Won

Still the world pursues, “Jug Jug” to dirty ears. And other withered stumps of time were told upon the walls; staring forms leaned out, leaning, hushing the room enclosed. Footsteps shuffled on the stair. Under the firelight, under the brush, his hair spread out in fiery points. Glowed into words, then would be savagely still.

My nerves are bad tonight. Yes, bad. Stay with me. Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak. What are you thinking of? What thinking? What? I never know what you are thinking. Think.

I think we are in rats’ alley where the dead men lost their bones.

What is that noise?

The wind under the door.

What is that noise now? What is the wind doing?

Nothing, again nothing.

Do you know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember nothing?

I remember. Those are pearls that were his eyes.

Is there nothing in your head?

Oh that Shakespearian rag – it’s so elegant, so intelligent.

What shall I do now? What shall I do? I shall rush out as I am, and walk the street. With my hair down, so. What shall we do tomorrow? What shall we ever do?

If it rains play a game of chess, pressing lidless eyes and waiting for a knock upon the door.

So rudely forced; yet there the nightingale filled all the desert with inviolable voice. And still he cried, and still the world pursues, “Jug Jug” to dirty ears.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Part Toe-Zewo

Chris Von Steiner

Monday, June 08, 2009

Part Won-Nain

A critical look at American ideology regarding war photography.

Photographs objectify.

They turn an event or a person into something that can be possessed. Often something looks, or is felt to look, 'better' in a photograph. Indeed, it is one of the functions of photography to improve the normal appearance of things. (Hence, one is always disappointed by a photograph that is not flattering.) Beautifying is one classic operation of the camera and it tends to bleach out a moral response to what is shown. Uglifying, showing something at its worst, is a more modern function: didactic, it invites an active response. For photographs to accuse, and possibly to alter conduct, they must shock.

Pictures of horribly disfigured First World War veterans who survived the inferno of the trenches, faces melted and thickened with scar tissue of survivors of the American atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima, faces cleft by machete blows of Tutsi survivors of the genocidal rampage launched by the Hutus in Rwanda - they will always testify to a great iniquity survived.

The familiarity of certain photographs builds our sense of the present and the immediate past. Photographs lay down routes of reference, and serve as totems of causes: sentiment is more likely to crystallize around a photograph than around a verbal slogan. And photographs help construct - and revise - our sense of a more distant past, with the posthumous shocks engineered by the circulation of hitherto unknown photographs. Photographs that everyone recognizes are now a constituent part of what a society chooses to think about, or declares that it has chosen to think about. It calls these ideas 'memories', and that is, over the long run, a fiction.

Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as collective memory - part of the same family of spurious notions as collective guilt. But there is collective instruction.

All memory is individual, unreproducible - it dies with each person. What is called collective memory is not remembering but a stipulating: that this is important, and this is the story about how it happened, with the pictures that lock the story in our minds. Ideologies create substantiating archives of representative images, which encapsulate common ideas of significance and trigger predictable thoughts, feelings. Poster-ready photographs - the mushroom cloud of an A-bomb test, Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the Lincoln Memorial, the astronaut walking on the moon - are the visual equivalent of sound bites. They commemorate, in no less blunt fashion than postage stamps, Important Historical Moments: indeed, the triumphalist ones (the picture of the A-bomb excepted) become postage-stamps. Fortunately, there is no one signature picture of the Nazi death camps.

As art has been redefined during a century of modernism as 'whatever is destined to be enshrined in some kind of museum', so it is now the destiny of many photographic troves to be exhibited and preserved in museum-like institutions. Among such archives of horror, the photographs of the Holocaust have undergone the greatest institutional development. The point of creating public repositories for these and other relics is to ensure that the crimes they depict will continue to figure in people's consciousness. This is called remembering, but in fact it is a good deal more than that. The memory museum in its current proliferation is a product of a way of thinking about, and mourning, the destruction of European Jewry in the 1930s and 1940s, which for the United States of America came to institutional fruition in the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Photographs and other memorabilia of the Shoah have been committed to a perpetual recirculation, to ensure that what they show will be remembered. Photographs of the suffering and martyrdom of a people are more than reminders of death, of failure, of victimization. They invoke the miracle of survival. To aim at the perpetuation of memories means, inevitably, that one has undertaken the task of continually renewing, of creating, memories - aided, above all, by the impress of iconic photographs.

Even in the era of cybermodels, what the mind feels like is still, as the ancients imagined it, an inner space - like a theatre - in which we picture, and it is these pictures that allow us to remember. The problem is not that people remember through photographs, but that they remember only the photographs. This remembering through photographs eclipses other forms of understanding, and remembering.

Probably, if you are American, you would think that it would be morbid to go out of your way to look at pictures of burnt victims of atomic bombing or the napalmed flesh of the civilian victims of the American war on Vietnam, but that you have a duty to look at the Holocaust pictures. Yet, the Holocaust Memorial Museum is about what didn't happen in America, so all that memory work doesn't risk arousing an embittered domestic population against authority. Americans prefer to picture the evil was there, and from which the United States - an unique nation, one without any certifiably wicked leaders throughout its entire history - is exempt. That the United States of America, like any other country, has its tragic past does not sit well with the founding, and still all-powerful, belief in American exceptionalism. The acknowledgment of the American use of disproportionate firepower in war is very much not a national project. A museum devoted to the history of America's wars that included the vicious war the United States fought against guerillas in the Philippines from 1899 to 1902, and that fairly presented the arguments for and against using the atomic bomb in 1945 on Hiroshima, with photographic evidence that showed what those weapons did, would be regarded as a most unpatriotic endeavor.

However, now there exists a vast repository of images that make it harder to maintain this kind of American moral defectiveness. None of us can afford it anymore. The images say: "This is what human beings are capable of doing - may volunteer to do, enthusiastically, self-righteously. Don't forget." Remembering is an ethical act, has ethical value in and of itself. But history gives contradictory signals about the value of remembering in the much longer span of a collective history. There is simply too much injustice in the world. And too much remembering. To make peace is to forget. To reconcile, it is necessary that memory be faulty and limited. That is it only a photograph.

If the goal is having some space in which to live one's own life, then it is desirable that the account of specific injustices dissolve into a more general understanding; that human beings everywhere do terrible things to one another.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Part Won-Eyth

Ah Sahib, after that it is turtles all the way down.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Part Won-Toe

He knew he was faltering, trying to keep his footing. Everything in his life was temporary, ungrounded. Language itself had lost its solidity; it had become thin, contingent, slippery, a viscid film on which he was sliding around like an eyeball on a plate. An eyeball that could still see, however. That was the trouble.

He remembered himself as carefree, earlier, in his youth. Carefree, thick-skinned, skipping light-footed over the surfaces, whistling in the dark, able to get through anything. Turning a blind eye. Now he found himself wincing away. The smallest setbacks were major - a lost sock, a jammed electric toothbrush. Even the sunrise was blinding. He was being rubbed all over with sandpaper. "Get a grip," he told himself. "Get a handle on it. Put it behind you. Move forward. Make a new you."

Such positive slogans. Such bland inspirational promotions vomit. What he really wanted was revenge. But against whom, and for what? Even if he had the energy for it, even if he could focus and aim, such a thing would be less than useless.

Then he'd stay up too late, and once in bed he'd stare at the ceiling, telling over his lists of obsolete words for the comfort that was in them. But there was no longer any comfort in the words. There was nothing in them. It no longer delighted him to possess these small collections of letters that other people had forgotten about. It was like having his own baby teeth in a box.

At the edge of sleep a procession would appear behind his eyes, moving out of the shadows to the left, crossing his field of vision. Young slender girls with small hands, ribbons in their hair, bearing garlands of many-coloured flowers. The field would be green, but it wasn't a pastoral scene: these were girls in danger, in need of rescue. There was something - a threatening presence - behind the trees.

Or perhaps the danger was in him. Perhaps he was the danger, a fanged animal gazing out from the shadowy cave of the space inside his own skull.

Or it might be the girls themselves that were dangerous. There was always that possibility. They could be a bait, a trap. He knew they were much older than they appeared to be, and much more powerful as well. Unlike himself they had a ruthless wisdom. The girls were calm, they were grave and ceremonious. They'd look at him, they would recognize and accept him, accept his darkness. Then they would smile.
Oh honey, I know you. I see you. I know what you want.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Part Tree

It doesn't mean you won't get any sleep, actually you'll sleep more. Fall asleep in the couch, sleep until noon, feel tired even when you're washing dishes or when you're talking on the phone. You will feel numb. Flat. When something doesn't go your way, you'll just shrug and think that was the way it was supposed to go, that you deserved it. Determined fatalism. You will start losing time, get used to it. There will be hours in the day unaccounted for. You won't remember what you did or where you were, they are just blank spaces of time. When people ask you how you are, you'll respond only with 'fine', 'much better, thank you' and 'I'm doing alright.' A soft, yet distant smile will accompany these answers. It won't stop people thinking you're weak and pitiful, but it will stop them asking questions. You don't have the energy to get into that. You will stop having dreams, making plans, enjoying a good time. You will lose interest and soon enough you will be alone.

Filling space, everything on repeat. You'll probably develop habits such as peeing in the shower, brushing your teeth everyday precisely at nine, writing letters to yourself, buying a cage-held pet, alphabetising your books, ... These are just examples, you're sure to develop your own. Odd details will grow in significance, holidays and important national events will be your guideline to order your life, put everything in place and perspective. You will find ways to justify your existence if you focus on little things. Television will be your window to the world of which you are a spectator. You'll be nothing more. You might try phoning in to one of their games which is on late at night or in the early afternoon, but they will never put you on. People will never meet your eyes or smile at you at the supermarket or in the post office. They will expect you to pay and leave. Any attempts to better yourself will fail. You know you'll never dye your hair, lose weight, buy new colourful clothes. Why bother thinking about it. If you live this way long enough, they will come to you.

At first a haunting silence. The refrigerator will stop making noise, the clocks will stop ticking and no more cars will drive by. Then at night, the voices will come. You won't understand them at first, but give it time. You should understand that they have chosen you. They waited for you to be ready. They want you to be quiet and to stay away from other people. They need you to be detached. Mentally blank. No needs or desires.

If you're ready, they will start showing you things.