Ordinary Noise

The role of contrasting elements.

In art, dreams are realized––and the worst, not to be measured or weighted, but lived. Counting may follow, anguished measurements in the unflinching face of midday, when anyone with living ties to memory is susceptible to affliction by the pretense that all is well and as it seems, amid the noise of countless machines, distracting from a vast hum in the background.

This is why mornings and evenings are so much kinder, because the dominant noises are more obviously birds, revelers, and other wild sounds, none of which pretend any allegiance to standardized notions of good sense, which routinely kill without making any noise beyond those that have become so ordinary and expected, they may easily go unheard.

Interested Party

Notes on the hero artist.

We who knew him called him friend, and we did this with relief, in celebration. Look, we were saying, there are still some who make their own rules. It is still possible to live a dream.

No, he would say, it is not possible. Only necessary. As he saw it, this was the point.

Why would he spend so long, some wondered, in certain conversations? We could not pull him away, and all he had to say for himself was, it was all so interesting.

***

Adapted from comments made by Betsy Sussler in celebration of the life of Michael Goldberg, appearing in BOMB’s Summer 2008 feature, In Memoriam: Michael Goldberg.

Out of Sight

With Italo Calvino.

The cities were born a little at a time––not unlike poems, you said––of various inspirations. You had a habit of collecting odd strangers and mythical heroes, and notes on places that you had been, might be, would tend to imagine. What happened was not a book exactly, but a geography to move in. You mapped cities of memory, cities of desire, cities and signs. There were continuous cities and hidden cities. These cities were braided: cobweb cities across an abyss, a microscopic city, spreading. 

Watch that one, you said, and as it grew, it revealed concentric cities like tree rings. Sometimes, you said, you would come across a city that would write itself.

Into what? We wondered, and you said yes.

***

Inspired by Calvino’s Invisible Cities, in honor of his birthday.

Dead Teachers

First lessons in deep time.

Look at you, powerful danger, witness to our end and our continuance. Cipher of memory, speak into the borders of this condition.

The first body––of nature, will vanish soon. But the second goes slowly. A creature of culture does not exit so quickly from its binding web. There are decisions to make about the coming journey, and in these we find fiber enough to weave the net. 

We ease them gently from us and continue to invite them back. We live with them, and they know us. Gone is too easy a word; if it were complete, wouldn’t the loss have less weight? 

This is something else, a presence without assurance, a radical rupture, reminding what the soil takes back. No, we have never been clean.

But if not gone, then where? Here is the beginning of hope, thirteen ways of looking at a moldering body. What else could it be, these first lessons in seeing the invisible?

***

I was considering the presence of deep time in the work of artist Alfredo Arreguin when I came across a Social Research article by Thomas W. Laqueur called “The Deep Time of The Dead,” which inspired this post.

The Dreamers

On myth and memory.

Unless the sky falls to the earth, unless the forest up and moves, unless the seas should empty themselves of all depths, would you clip the lawless wings of imagination’s first flight, to sacrifice its range and its wild for the sake of having its reliable presence near the dinner table and along these streets?

We loved mystery before beauty and the unseen lurkers terrified us to ecstasies with their tickling whispers. 

It’s hard not to miss the irresponsible charm of the old gods, who in their airy innocence seemed only to care about getting what they wanted, whose flaming passions lit the sunset skies, who would rear a starling from scratch and teach her to speak, so that she might announce our secreted dreams back to us, exposing our still-feral hopes, the directionless expanse of their vicious hunger, creeping where we could not dare to look.

Old Man at the Twilight Hour

For the artist.

Listen. The invisible harp plays

on the west side of the Isle of

the Dead

Eat. Here is a fried egg on a 

plate without the plate, served

at a coffee house scene in Madrid.

Wait. I knew I knew you when 

you cared to emphasize that 

honey is sweeter than blood.

Rest. Soft monster, rest.

***

On this day in 1989, Salvador Dali died. He was eighty-four. 

Remembering Forward and Back

A cannibal galaxy has such gravity that it may eat other galaxies. Some moments in time are like that.

There are moments when you are inside something, noticing what you will remember when it’s done. Or there are exploding moments and you can’t help but notice the blast of certain solid-seeming ideas. It’s a protected site: caution tape, guards. You can’t go around taking things from it, so you look, gathering images for later when you’re no longer at the site, for when the site itself no longer exists except perhaps as a memorial, for when you are considering, in memorial, what remains.

A cannibal galaxy has such gravity that it may eat other galaxies. Some moments in time are like that, eating any memory of what happened before or after. You try to recover, but can do no better than metaphor.

It was like being inside a Dali painting, melted face propped on a stick. It was like being stuck on top of the monkey bars or like one of those dreams where you are trying to scream and the words won’t come out. The problem with trying to tell some stories is that the origin point was consumed by other origin points, cannibal moments.

It was like another dream, also: driving a car up a ramp. The ramp is so steep that it’s practically vertical. The road is narrow and it is over a bridge and the bridge is over sky and space and water and whatever you might be about to fall into is on both sides, close, and there is no way to reverse, but you see that the road ahead of you will very soon drop off into sky. You head up anyway, accepting a certain lack of choice. Or choosing to accept that the original decision was already made when you got into the car and started driving. That moment never shows up in the dream, not once.

Or it was like being underwater, in the quiet susurration of it, trying to resist the temptation to surface for air.

Or it was like flight/not flight, as in jumping up, bouncing off, or being thrown, that moment in midair when the breath catches.

And while you’re catching your breath you know that it was indeed like all of these things, but none exactly, and for the time being you are all out of words. Sometimes all you want to do is hang on to some scrap of fallen silence at your feet and close your eyes, as if doing so could make it possible to return to some moment just before.