Thursday, September 17, 2009
The rest of life consists of two long days
In the end we all gather on the great beach
But the road there is a long slope down through the nocturnal landscape
Pine groves and lawns but nowhere water
A young black man walks beside me and he kisses me
Then unfortunately I have to ask myself about my own gender
I look like a bad girl in page hairstyle with a handbag and large earrings
But I am assembled of several layers, several linings
They are all of foam rubber with a fruit for the journey in each
Like thin slices of meat dusty from flour
I am full of extra pockets look I open my particular zipper
Pulling forth a sandwich package a banana an eggwatch
The rest of life consists of two ridiculously long days which one might get through
First one has to pave way through the crowd on this square
The overcrowded square in this medieval city
A fleamarket where everybody is selling out their last belongings
Poor old people each with a heart-rending story to tell
I will not find my way through all these people
The night comes and now it is only the guards who keep bumping into me
They who walk around and shout out the time to keep the ghosts away
No one keeps me away barefoot in the dirt
For when I will awake the first day
I will ask myself what lies on my chest between rustling layers
Between one and the other layer of plastic film and danish pastry dough
It is not a heart it is elliptical stonehard fruit-tasting
But also such a bloodstone may surprise when it unfolds antennae and legs
It is a cockroach in this overall which is the only thing that keeps me alive
I am rustling as dry leaves as bark as cave paintings
When I finally will reach the beach
It lies in the middle of the village and no water is in sight
I will lay down and friendly hands will take off my clothes
Almost a whole crowd of diggers, bathing ladies and children
Amused by my sex and my hairy chest and they cover me with sand
Around the contours of my body they put down trees and watchtowers
Giraffes wander there grazing, martens hunt in the trees
Is this what our grand business idea has come to
When all the prostitutes of the city were to be hired as winter hiking guides
Fooling people along on extremely dangerous polar walks along the rocks
But we knew nothing about their regular prices
Why had we made these vain plans for reforming the city in the first place
There seems to be no way of even getting from the square to the beach
Exhausted I lay down in a sleeping alcove around the corner from the square spring
Seeing this little cockroach come alive
Rise from the street dust whip with its antennae and take to the wings
Straight towards me and I see it so clearly and I can wave it away with my hand
And it returns towards me in exactly the same trajectory and I can smash it away
And it returns towards me in exactly the same trajectory and it becomes an endless pingpong game
I am upset how mechanically it is determined by key stimuli
That it can neither give up nor vary its onslaught
If the source of smell remains still and the light remains the same the road should remain the same
And the sun has not moved in the sky
We can play this absurd pingpong for the rest of the day
I get fed up and quit and see the cockroach coming ever closer
It cannot be seen and it cannot be felt
It must have landed in my face why is it so light
I dig in my eyes and in all corners of my face it cannot be felt
I do not dare rise up anymore not unfold my wings
In the beginning of these two days I awake and everything is silent
At the edge of the amphitheater stand two female shapes of light
Glowing outlines of white, no surface, no structure
They look like fencers and they are not my siblings
They do not have red hair and they do not carry weapons
When asked they say they are the two scraps from the hearth
Now what do they mean the core melt has it all gone under
No no they giggle they are just carrying the last glowing embers from the old world
Which will be embedded in sand will be told a goodnight story and then devoured as icecream
Hundreds of threatful birds roosting on this ledge,
overlooking that small space where again just something might happen
as in a waterfall (that kind of dynamic isomorphism)
and as if that space was really small (and simultaneously much larger)
So the birds, which were once carefully stuffed,
in accordance with all secrets of the trade,
still move, flapping their wings, pointing their beaks,
providing ambiguous but distinct oracle messages
It is a very warm day
with droplets like beads on the underside
This bed is a railway bridge
This clump of trees is the nearctic region
Someone strangely beautiful is walking down the stairs
It will not get dark
That longhorn beetle on that milkweed plant
That heap of sharpedged stones those piles of bones
Someone robed in the noise of the waterfall will not show up on surveillance cameras
And I might gently push some of these birds aside to collect the beetles thriving in their dirty background
This island is a snapper turtle
This armadillo shape is this particular summer heat
A staircase which does not lead anywhere
Sand dunes threatening to intrude
Nothing will happen on this particular sidewalk
It is after all a mere waterfall
And will thus retain its shape
Failing, upon awakening, to recall name, place, occupation, relations etc
a stain of new geometry with new epistemological problems grew as mercury,
a privileged position to start asking questions
(An amoeba is nothing but a morphology, the particular morphology of not having a determined bodyshape, and of walking and eating by throwing out pseudopodia, constantly changing)
But here it seems we are walking like battleships through ontological layers
tearing them to fleshy pieces, or more likely not, as we pass,
layered much like danish pastry but most of them not immediately accessible
if not by stretching out as a ghost
and then the very boundaries between layers may facilitate such fast transportation
reducing friction to almost nothing
(If history is perpetually bifurcating, geometry might be too)
So that is why I have to invent such an elaborated character gallery
love's labor in a straitjacket
employ as help sciences dream geography, general methodology, pansexual phenomenology and poetic epistemology,
rejuvenate art and the death star
to reinvent friction and reinvent awakening-
Hundreds of threatful birds roosting on this ledge
remaining calm while I gently push some aside to collect the beetles thriving in their dirty laundry
But everybody knows that the natural history exhibits come alive at night
secret dawns of the museums
Most have seen at least some time vaguely their dancing their anthropomorphic gestures their suspicious dialogues
the embers of their reawakening like clouds in the long dark blue shadows of museum nights
that indoors sky of stars and its glaciers
naked feet of sparkling wine and cold marble
Many but far from all have seen their great pain
their glass panes shutter their dry throats cough and scream
whirls of bloody threads in sawdust jerking fish
But this pain might not be due to their obvious material bondage
because they might have a large freedom of motion in an adjacent dimension
and their geometrical or natural-like posing may be a rather irrelevant geometrical joke,
not like a round of battleships but rather like an arranged chess problem
a handful of minute forests radially growing
tentacles of unknown fungi the comfort of horror knowledge spilt on the floor
There might be dozens of other reasons for this pain
such as being chased and tormented by small demons human embryos
It might not even be pain at all
threads strengthening the gauze of the skin
she’s floating on air
silently carefully tightly
white strands of hair against a bed
so time leans
against a floor
the mere shadows we are
from a dream
in a wind towards a meadow
reflected by the window
glass against a tree
running over naked bed
she is slowly singing
for your mouth
wonder how silently a fur can fall
bite the feet in place
and the group stood ready
to stumble through the shadows
wedge those eyes in place
wait while gravel
is rushing forth
It all begins with this vague chorus, a happy pop song heard at a distance when falling asleep or waking up, a happy pop song with perhaps some weird discordant intervals and phrasings, a creepingly madly happy pop song. It appears to try to compel me to do things. Mostly I resist, not because of mental strength but simply because I’m busy anyway. It seems not to be in the lyrics. If I work hard to hear the words, they don’t make sense. It’s not english or swedish, and it doesn’t seem to be played backwards either, the sounds aren’t right. It sounds more slavic, it could be russian, or polish, but it doesn’t seem to have the right structure. It could be polish played backwards.
I have been looking into the geography of the places you seem to keep returning to in dreams, which very often produce an instant feeling of recognition and belonging together with a sense of déjà vu, so that you know you have kept returning there even if there is no earlier accounts of the fact. Quite the opposite then is the type of places which only vague external evidence link you to, they bring about no memories and only the vaguest most uncanny sensations of recognition, it seems like you have been there a lot and had very good reasons to deny it completely, all too completely.
There is a particular file of bibliographical raw data that I keep leafing through on a regular basis to look for some references or just to get some casual suggestions or advanced chance ideas. Occasionally, in that file, a sheet of paper turns up, in my own handwriting, in polish. I know no polish. So I don’t know what it says. I look up and hope the paper will not be there when I look down again, but it’s not that easy. The sheet remains. It has no heading, appears to be a paper snatched by chance from a long report, a long abstract, or a long set of excerpts. And it remains there. I don’t think it is the same sheet every time, probably not, but I can’t know that. It has occurred to me I should show it to someone who knows polish (a lot of people do that, at least if they are from Poland), but I can never find the sheet again. Something came inbetween. It only disappears when your mind isn’t set on it
Vague inner voices keep scolding me. Haha, you’re not supposed to remember that! It’s all from your time in Poland of course! It’s all from the history of the polish office, which doesn’t exist! No one is allowed to talk about the polish office. We thought that all had been finally arranged. Some erased years here, some erased years there.
I can’t really tell whether these voices came out of that vague chorus, or if they were just the instant rhetoric shape of the banal conspiration fantasies triggered.
Obviously there are forgotten identities, forgotten periods in life. That’s not very controversial, is it? It’s just difficult to prove. It’s kind of epistemologically paradoxical. I seem to remember, for example, my short life as a writer, my short life as a boyfriend, my short life as an american, but of course I can’t list the ones I can’t remember.
If I work really hard to imagine a polish office, it usually starts with something from a 60s or early 70s film, with the bright colors, sorrowless disorientation and compulsory clumsiness appropriate to it. But that’s just a cliché. There is some kind of popular image of a perpetual 70s going on in large parts of eastern Europe. Doubting this image, it turns out that this office is just the secret pathway to the real office, behind the coats in the cloakroom. The real office is in black and white, very strict. Young men in strict suits, smoking pipes; serious women who never look up. Rather silent, but the sound of running water can be discerned. Perhaps it is the potted plants singing. It doesn’t seem to be a purely bureaucratic business going on, there are numerous references to production and there seems to be scientific and technological expertise around. Chemical-technical? Again the banal conspiration fantasies take over, and I am violently thrown out into the street.
Under assault by scolding voices again. No, it’s not a pun about “polish orifices”. What would polish orifices be? According to some absurd racist jokes which were popular in the 60s, it’s probably the armpits. I must ask some ethnologist if those polish jokes were translations of american polish jokes, or just superficially tidied jew jokes, or both. But the armpits are not orifices! And if another saying comes to mind, the classic swedish homophobic “Bättre en rövare i Polen än en polare i röven” (Better a robber in Poland than a pal in the ass), this actually associates Poland to the anus only by contrast and not by identification. Yes it would seem that the notion of Poland would rest on polarity. Something about the polarity switch in the major branch of organisms we belong to, the deuterostomes, where the primeval mouth switched to anus and vice versa? So, have I managed to escape any difficult insights yet?
The polish branch was set up by emissaries from several nearby countries, including Sweden, repeatedly over the last decades but always only working for three years in succession before getting closed down and all traces wiped away. But after a while this business was getting rationalised, and all of the furniture and equipment was just stowed away inbetween. Papers were starting to vanish. Something had to be done. No, I’m just making this up, but perhaps this is one method of reconstructing the truth in the absence of others?
In fact, I always wanted to be the polish nation banner. The lower half of the body covered in blood, the upper half entirely blank.
And I did learn a few words in polish in secondary school, when I was in love with a polish girl, who knew almost no swedish. I wrote her long love letters in swedish anyway, I thought throwing in one or two polish words on each page might help keeping her interest up enough to glance through the whole letters. In school, I always offered her Donald Duck fruit drops. For her sake, I did hang out a lot with the polish gang in the school. But the others were all much more talkative. But no one ever tried to talk me out of this absurd courtship. At least not that I remember.
The polish words I sometimes got from someone else in the polish gang, but even more often from my little german-polish dictionary, small, cubic, bright red. One of my favorite books. Remarkably similar, in fact, to the world’s most comprehensive anthology of surrealist poetry, the german surrealist anthology Das surrealistische Gedicht. I tried and tried, but mysteriously failed for twenty years to order this book from the publishers. Probably I already had the width of surrealist poetry in the german-polish dictionary. But now that I recently succeeded in ordering the book, perhaps I killed that myth? So then I have to write this story to tie up the sack?
No, I got specific instructions that I had to write this story, and that it had to be in english, I think it was the only instruction from that vague chorus that I couldn’t resist obeying.
Waking up entirely, the chorus is twisted into something recognisable. It is an Olivia Tremor Control song, suggesting “Where we are – in the blink of an eye, you get several meanings” (“A peculiar noise called ‘train director’”). What? Hey! No! I didn’t get any meaning out of this!
When the gas giants turn opaque, the tree happens to be cleft by a tree
When the dusk illuminates that which has been invisible, the clothes awake on the clothes-line humming
When Nicholas Flamel came to the Israeli court, then the story ended too.
When the mole meets Paracelsus, the fox rubs its skin off in the sand
When the folkfield lies freely before our eyes, old coins are found in the chrysalis
When Nicholas Flamel came to the Israeli court, they were baptized after the seven dwarves.
When instinct differentiates itself, one sees how blue it is
When the amoeba pulls itself in the wrong direction, Jupiter's ring becomes its cap
When Nicholas Flamel came to the Israeli court, the penguins came out of the water.
Mattias Forshage, Emma Lundenmark, Niklas Nenzén
(contributing to an international game, we chose to develop a collective poem answer to the dreamt question posed whatever happened when Nicolas Flamel came to the Israeli court)
count the wolf dens and the fire dams
for in such a den the evidence is amassing
where skeleton parts are twitched humans steaming sandy beaches visited by forgotten icefloes
of lost feet ghost paths swan cadavers in the rotting wrackbeds
nightscripture winnowing snipes in the air
(may night at the tank shooting range of the archipelago island Utö, 1994)
1. A DRINK AND A LAUGH
28 March 2009
Yesterday evening, rather late, I was working over the messageboard with the international editors, significantly joining a general cry for the need of a drink and a laugh, after haven ridden out a conflict in the editorial group. I had also been referring to that book about belgian surrealism, and one of the last things I did before leaving work, late, was to desperately look for Xavier Canonne's email address, in order to ask him about several things in his book, including about the apparently longstanding connections between Hainaut surrealism and wallonian nationalism, which he acknowledges but does not discuss critically. I couldn't find a personal email address to Canonne, only an info address for his work at the wallonian museum of photography.
Still thinking about that "drink and a laugh", I decided to at least have a beer on my own at the central station on my way home (I never do that). When I was paying for it, a guy behind the counter was asking "So what the hell is a walloon?". He wasn't asking me but I couldn't resist answering. "It's a person from Wallonia, the francophone part of Belgium" The guy got a strange look on his face, surprised and somehow guilty, stammering "Excuse me, I didn't know, I assure you, I really didn't know".
It took me some time to remember that it vaguely related to that "octopus novella" which was building up a couple of months before.
2. WAYS TO FIND BELGIAN SURREALISTS
- a dreamt recipe
7 nov 2008
Belgian surrealists are not easy to spot. Their preference for the
shadows necessitates very particular preparations. Strangely enough,
it all is, or should be, connected with sexual arousal. But not in a
causal way, but rather in accordance with some vaguely leibnizian
scheme of predestinated harmony, the same historical factors which
will manifest the belgian surrealists will also cause sexual arousal
in those looking for them, without the two actually having any real
It is of crucial importance to have a decent lab. As the process takes
a couple of days, it is crucial to find a lab where people would be
religious or lazy so they won't come in to work over the weekend. Then
it is just a matter of staying behind when everybody leaves friday
afternoon. Search through the women's toilets and collect all used
tampons that could possibly be found. Empty them into an aquarium and
allow their free development. It is, or will become, a bit smelly, but
it is necessary to endure this, since this is the only thing which
will create seahorses from spontaneous generation. It will also create
the rest of the environment of the aquarium, the water, the plants
etc. The seahorses will peacefully swim around in there. By this they
will attract the attention of a secret octopus, who will sneak into
the lab, eat the hippocampi and then assume some elaborate disguise
and await monday morning, since the feast will have made it fat and
clumsy enough to be unable to sneak out in the same serpentinous way
it came in. This disguised octopus is the erotic very ideal for the
belgian surrealists, who will soon converge in the city and find ways
to enter the lab.
3. As a response to my communicating that dream, Jonas Enander immediately sent me a photograph of a beautiful octopus picture hanging outside his room at McMurdo base, Antarctica, which indeed looks like an illustration of the scene where the octopus has entered the tampon-seahorse aquarium.
4. A second response to my communicating that dream, Eric Bragg shared this news clip:
Otto the octopus wreaks havoc
(from the UK's Daily Telegraph - 30/10/08)
An octopus has caused havoc in his aquarium by performing juggling tricks using his fellow occupants, smashing rocks against the glass and turning off the power by shortcircuiting a lamp.
Staff believe that the octopus called Otto had been annoyed by the bright light shining into his aquarium and had discovered he could extinguish it by climbing onto the rim of his tank and squirting a jet of water in its direction.
The short-circuit had baffled electricians as well as staff at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, who decided to take shifts sleeping on the floor to find out what caused the mysterious blackouts.
A spokesman said: "It was a serious matter because it shorted the electricity supply to the whole aquarium that threatened the lives of the other animals when water pumps ceased to work.
"It was on the third night that we found out that the octopus Otto was responsible for the chaos.
"We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out a the 2000 Watt spot light above him with a carefully directed jet of water."
Director Elfriede Kummer who witnessed the act said: "We've put the light a bit higher now so he shouldn't be able to reach it. But Otto is constantly craving for attention and always comes up with new stunts so we have realised we will have to keep more careful eye on him - and also perhaps give him a few more toys to play with.
"Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants."