An Assembly

An opening behind closed doors.

Some of the patients were irritated. Some were tired of being told––what was a mind problem, a body problem––when experience suggested nothing less than a revolution of mindbodyflesh. Some began to reject various boundaries, and when invited in, walked out; when expelled, remained. 

And what is the subject here? one asked. 

Obviously, the object, said another. 

A third objected.

It is somewhat of an exercise, one of these continued, this habit of trying to observe myself with my own eyes while my own eyes are unwell, and yet. If disease is a theory to explain illness, and illness is unchecked growth, the attempt certainly raised interesting questions, didn’t it? About the assumed hierarchy of growth over––say, loss.

Of course it did! Many agreed, and it was confirmed by official decree that the bulk of the assembled were unwell. This was old news. The patients gave a collective shrug.

Looking out the window one night, one had some additional questions. To no one in particular, they inquired: Can you read this hand? How about those skies, or that owl over there, for anything but weather? Without making any one of us a specimen? 

It was not immediately clear if anyone heard. The night continued. Later, the owl made a sound. It was like cooing and not unlike song.

Animal Vegetable

Faces seen and unseen.

Was it Kafka who said that we are most human when admittedly animals? I can’t remember. The elephant would.  We give each other pet names and share our own names, homes, and fashion motifs with pets.  We are much less willing to engage with our vegetable sides. 

The snap pea is probably great company, and no doubt leeks have dimension. When it comes to tubers, I can only imagine. Perhaps we have a hard time opening conversations with the ones whose faces are not––well, faces; whose beings are arranged in ways we can less readily recognize from mirrors and photo albums.

Maybe it intimidates us to interact on a conversational level with living forms that will not run, fly, or swim from us, who can’t make us heroes for luring them to our realms. Maybe we don’t know how to open conversations that don’t begin with a chase. These vegetables, they just show up––or don’t, allowing or resisting growth, harvest, cultivation. We can’t always find the narrative line of their movements, and it perplexes us. 

Or maybe we don’t like to entertain the possibility of admitting when we are only seeds or going out of season; ripe for harvest or willing to be met by moles. The cat offers an easy meme and endless punchlines, and most of her jokes are on me. If this is any model, it’s likely the vegetables are doing something similar. From a plastic bag on the counter, the armed potatoes wave. 

Fly Notes

From a wall in a room with cosmologists.

It was an enviable position, according to some. To be what I was, a fly on the walls in which they met. I was hoping to get out, but made the best of my lot, listening. If I did escape, I was hoping to at least be able to share an uncommon view of the cosmos, but my findings were inconclusive. 

Surely you must have heard something.

Well. They know it’s big.

There’s a start. 

When it comes to origins, they can speculate as to when, but have no idea what, except hot. In recent decades, they have at least become aware that they are only seeing what’s observable to them. One thing that’s really got some of them worked up is about how the further away a galaxy is, the faster it is moving. Away. From what they can see. 

Hmm, and they don’t find this discouraging?

Nope. They are very persistent. It’s adorable, really. And they have all these little naming games and such and can’t help characterizing all the forces with various personalities. Like, they have this one saying they love to repeat. Let me see if I can get it. It goes: Space meeting Matter says, “Move like this!” and Matter, meeting Space, says, “No, curve!”

So now what are they onto?

Mostly a sense that they are missing something. That it’s right there, on the horizon.

In the part that’s moving away fast, or the slower part?

I don’t know. That’s when they finally opened a window. 

***

Inspired by this article. And by the work of  Georgi Gospodinov, which often features sentient flies.

Space to Dance

After the sorting.

The mirror world seems dangerous, you observed. You went in anyway. Some creatures are carried by feeling. Later you made decisions. Such as, breathe when needed. Later, you thought, something needs to be done. About these masks and their attendant griefs. You began to sort through them. It became clear in the sorting, which of these you could leave behind. 

Someone asked what you were doing. You said, making room. To see something new, you would need more space. To dance fully inside it, you would need to put down what you carried. Of the dance, you said, it feels a lot like falling.

***

Inspired by the art of Pace Taylor. Italicized phrases are adapted from titles of the artist’s work.

Art and Theory

The poet and the philosopher.

Are you making an argument or a metaphor? Is this poetry or philosophy?

Neither and both. Are you saying I have to choose? I thought this was a creative writing class.

I call it creative reading.

Do poets read theory differently than theorists read poetry?

Our purposes are different.

Do you read theory?

Of course, but to no theoretical end.

How?

I am not looking to figure anything out.

Why then?

Why else? For material. For art making.

***

Adapted from a portion of “Poetry, Community, Movement: A Conversation” between Charles Bernstein, Ann Lauterbach, Jonathan Monroe and Bob Perelman, which appeared in Diacritics vol. 26, no. 3/ 4 (Fall/ Winter 1996), accessed on JSTOR.

Fielding Notes

The un-artist presents.

What are you doing now?

Not doing. Noticing. That silence, for example, between those trees.

What about it?

It appears to be speeding up.

Um. Is this an exercise in magical thinking?

With an emphasis on ritual. Here, drink this.

Now what?

Sometimes I notice the sounds of birds. And it feels like they are coming out of me.

I know what you mean!

Do you?

So, you’re an artist?

Un-artist. I teach in the free pop-up art school. It has no walls.

Hm. Do they have podiums, or is it more like round tables?

Hollow altars. With headphones.

What are you teaching now?

It’s like this. Here is an arm, and here is a map of Antilles. Now combine them.

How?

On a large-scale print, like this. Big as the front wall of a mansion. Then you drape it over the façade, in front of the door.

I’m not sure I follow.

You might say it doesn’t make any sense––

No, it’s just––

But you have to see it. 

Yeah, probably then it would.

Not exactly. It will make the kind of sense you can’t say.

***

Inspired by the playful seriousness of manuel arturo abreu, profiled in the Fall issue of BOMB. This conversation is an extension of that play, and while it borrows some phrases of abreu’s as featured in the article, it is not intended to be an accurate rendering of their sensibilities.

Hide and Seek

Morning notes, on looking.

Come out, out––wherever you are is called here and here you are again, strange stranger, at first light––which, in this room, at this hour, is always the lamp by this bed.

Most of us remember the heartbreak of knowing we had finally found the best hiding spot, the one sure to win us widespread acclaim and shouts of amazement, only to notice that the voices of the seekers we’d been counting on had grown faint and then gone, with night coming and then lights on in the windows and kitchen sounds, the whole world indoors, and us outside

––[but all alone, not yet us because we could not know until much later that others had endured such betrayal, also alone; each had carried the shame in silence until one afternoon, laughing over ice cream with friends we were fairly sure would not leave us, a confession came, and the solidarity of finding other left-behinds was so sweet, however fleeting, that we did it again, years later over drinks with other friends we were by now fairly sure we would lose over time, not by decisive acts of Leaving but gone anyway––to distance, illness, marriages and breakups, children and the grinding gears that wore us down to our creaking bones until we began to suspect that perhaps it was ourselves who had grown tired, who had gone inside at the third call for dinner, gone to eat, leaving another waiting to be found and no one coming].

We’ve been at this for how long now, and what do I have to show for myself? I think you must be chasing me, running into the last place I’ve looked after I’ve left it, only to leave when I eventually return, wearing the baffled look of someone trying to remember why they walked into a room. 

I’ve given up my reasons now, old friend. Same for certainty in all things but this resolve: to look and look again; to keep calling by the light of this lamp. Come out.

Nobody Here

First lessons in suspension.

We hardly knew it­––or ourselves––when we flooded the spaces we entered with memory so completely that to move was to be removed from our weight in invented immersion. What carried us was luminous and dense and had no word we knew. If someone were to ask us what it was, we would say Nothing, but no such questions came, because when we removed ourselves from our weight, we became no one.

In Passing

Overheard between dreamers.

You look cold. Here’s a bonfire. I’ve been carrying in around in my chest all this time. 

You sure?

Take it. Really, I have no use for it but this.

Thanks. I keep falling into wells.

But you always climb out, yes?

Yes, but wet and cold.

I am trying to be more of a tree, really. But the fire keeps getting in the way.

Hmmm. How?

I mean to put down roots and draw some order from––everything, which is too much.

That is a lot.

But at the top, see, there’s the crown. The leaves. If I get it right, I could be a sort of mediator between the soil and the leaves.

Huh.

Here. Check this out. It’s my first clear vision of reality.

Um. It looks different. Not like any reality I’ve seen. 

That’s kind of the point. 

***

Inspired by this feature in Daedalus: Statements and Documents: Artists on Art and Reality, on Their Work, and on Values (Winter 1960).