totalcontrivance

One ignorant and fallible account of heat and mind; one version of an infinitely possible truth.

Category: Uncategorized

making dew (Gabriola Island, BC; July 15 2013)

Island: looking at stars.

First shooting star, falling, leaves a streak of gratitude, and it trails.

To be reminded of her infinite smallness—of its infinity—only opens up a thousand avenues for thought and wonder. She imagines a cosmic puppeteer; a giant—perhaps divine—chess player. Somebody must be playing.

Tonight, before she falls asleep, she will see her body from above (out-of-body), and it will be electric with colour; each limb neon, dissonant, vibrant.

 

These days she rarely feels euphoric. She used to feel it, only to have it quickly replaced with devastation, despair, deepening sorrow and fear, but this year, what with all the changes and perhaps a dull depression, she’s felt euphoric but rarely. Tonight when she gazed up at that sky bespeckled and glistening

(like dew, like memory – just like Pepper’s story of how dew reminds him of sleeping out in the grass after a night of partying and waking to the sound of his father’s truck; jumping up only to leave a perfect imprint of his body in the grass, a telltale sign of grass-made bed that his father must have noted but ignored. Or just like Roberto Bolaño’s passage, the one about the drop of dew on the lawn by the quad as the Archimboldi scholar passes, that drops not only in slow motion but also in reverse, iridescent, ominous, so beautiful. Maybe that’s not how the dew dropped at all, but it doesn’t matter, because that’s how she remembers reading it)

she felt an old sense of euphoria, and an overwhelming sense of gratitude. She cried openly, letting the tears slide past temples and into her ears (as her face tilted up to the sky). How lucky am I to see such beauty, she wondered. There is no breath. And yet it is all breath, breath is all there is. A crystallized breath that sweeps past and takes with it all we have built, renders it all unnecessary, turns it all to dust, doesn’t it?

 

She’d like to write a love letter but she is afraid it would appear insincere. Don’t they all, in love letters? Or does her idealism win over: do the letters translate? Can they possibly do the thing justice? Can they possibly lay her bare on the page?

Well, if she were to write one, she might admit (in all honesty) that she never flossed her teeth until you were hers. Now she cannot sleep if she doesn’t floss them. Little white thread run between molars, run into gum. Gum and bone and thread and you. So you’re in her teeth now, up in the roots, whatever makes them strong is you. Strong teeth; you’ve kissed them. She’d make you a necklace of them, if she didn’t need them so very much. String them along that thread of floss for promise, for lasting.

She writes,

“Thank you (though I can never thank you)

for seeing me.

For ochi.

For dance and blink and

touch and pretending you never tried to kiss me.

It was raining when you left. We had been sitting on the couch – you sat on the couch, I sat on you – and the rain was beside us, on the other side of the wall. I covered your ears and told you to listen to the rain. You laughed and explained again that I shouldn’t try talking to you while covering your ears. I get that; it does seem counterproductive. The facts are: I love the feel of your ears, and I love talking to you, and so I do both quite often. Thus, it’s inevitable that the two should happen simultaneously once in a while. Once in a while. Once, while the other, both are done, rendering each meaningless, but just as sincere.”

What do you think? Do the words come through, though muted? She swears it’s all real, not contrived or theatrical. It’s just the everyday, after all. She struggles to express through the written word that which doesn’t require a narrative, that which needs no embellishment. She’ll try harder. She’ll make do. For the real is all she has. You know the real is you.

stalemate (East Vancouver; March 2013)

We are inside of a little white matchbox with great high ceilings

High enough for all your thoughts,

Room enough to grow

And I’ve got growing to do

With you

I look around

Half-filled room

Cold on concrete floors

Swimming with half-formed hopes

Try to look in eyes, not lock eyes,

No eyes to lock,

The only eyes are yours and

Right now they are behind me

Near the back of my head

Seeing what I see and seeing me

In front there is dark

Acid wash and children

With dirt on noses

Cigarette smoke clouds

Cloud vision

Make cloudy

Tired

Let’s go home

Return to bridged abyss

Where we don’t have to do this

Looking out

Over war

Anymore.

Transit Rants (Vancouver; December 5 2012)

Bus rode with and through muffled umbrella beat

hidden from view

half movements misunderstood but given up all the same.

It’s something you want to give over

to breach gaps and cure wonders

like if we could get into the same rhythm for a few

moments

everything might be okay.

Keep laughing.

And please, keep drumming

keep drawing us back to your primordial heartbeat

that we’ve been killing to keep out of sync.

And I’ll keep watching

take beat and crook

put beat to sheet

trying to keep it still

trying to transcribe sound and meaning—

ever elusive to this naïve and illusioned finger.

I’ll keep chasing.

Remember to turn for a

moment

without missing a beat

(to miss it would be death,

a great and divisive death)

and it’ll be me that you see:

hooded haunted and hammered

ducking behind corners

looking neat and tidy and

leaving wakes of chaos

sinking ferryboats

and lost lovers

stolen goods

multitudes of failures.

You might want to kill me

aim umbrella gun and consider

Reconsider!

Think fear

all the while never missing the beat

because

you are keeping the world alive,

just barely.

It doesn’t take much.

Breaking Fast in Ghost Town (Oregon; August 2011)

Driving with Sugar down south, leaving the city behind us in fits and starts. I didn’t really want it (the reprieve), but I needed it. There probably comes a time when one should leave the incarcerating grid, even if one only escapes to encounter another of a similar kind. Is freedom just another form of confinement, all relative?

Yeah, when I let it press down and in, on top of, compressing and compelling, suddenly I need to leave. I feel the lump in my throat expand, I’m afraid it might block the meager breath, the jagged inhale, altogether. Let’s get the fuck out of here.

So to breathe, we drive away south. OUTSIDE.

(Someone once told me that when he lived in the Yukon, the guys he worked with referred to anything south of the 60th parallel as OUTSIDE. It didn’t matter where you were going. Many of the carpenters, the ones he worked beside day in and out—minute days of winter and eternal days of summer—would fly to the Philippines to have psychic surgery performed. Now, this is a type of healing that originated in the Philippines and in Brazil mid-20th century. It is also known as “bare hand” or “fourth dimensional” surgery; it refers to a PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC procedure in which the body is operated upon in the absence of any medical instrument, only with the use of the bare hands. Pathological matter is removed from the body, after which the incision spontaneously heals. The healers would most often remove the eyeballs of these carpenters in order to clear out the sawdust that had accumulated underneath, and then neatly pop them back into newly polished sockets. The patients would return to the dark northern place feeling restored. It brings to mind Hamlet’s claim that

I AM BUT MAD NORTH-NORTH-WEST. WHEN THE WIND IS SOUTHERLY, I KNOW A HAWK FROM A HANDSAW.

My friend suspects the draw to the south also had something to do with sex tourism. Anyway, whatever the reason, wherever the destination, they went OUTSIDE all the same.)

Sugar and I went outside—anything south of the 49th parallel in this case—down to the country that sits beneath us in the south, that strange place that seems more neon, plastic, rubber colour, excess and fat, bloated gorged but lacking. We left at 3 am because she thought it would serve us better to avoid traffic. We avoided human contact altogether at that hour, let alone traffic. The highway was a deserted wasteland for the first few hours, and the border crossing had seemed more arbitrary than ever before. You’ve got something rare and special there when you can see the eerily filtered light as it strikes through silver clouds upon the water, but at 3 am, it was nowhere to be found; it leaves neither trace nor shadow in the night. WELCOME TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

I noticed a strange structure that in another world might have appeared to be an art piece (if it looks like it should be an art piece, why wouldn’t it be an art piece?). Made of a material reminiscent of chicken wire but more substantial, it formed a mass like a strange tree, and in the middle, a perfect cube cut out of it. Cube in absence, floating, and only ever in absence. It is out of place, a contrast to the imposing white classicality of the Arch, and casts a net of surreality about the place. I slept for long, flat stretches of the I5 as I usually do, leaving her feeling a little alone. We passed a sign that threatened: IF YOU LITTER, IT WILL HURT.

So time skips along, the road moving up in front of us and under us, we move forward and it moves back; it seems we and the road are never in the same place at the same moment. We are never really ON THE ROAD then, are we? We occupy each centimeter of it only for a fraction of a second, before we are moving away, forward or backward. It is only when we are parked immobile that we can really be said to be on the road… what say you?

We arrived in —– (the ghost town, which I will refrain from naming because it is tiny; my paranoia is so extensive that I actually had the thought that it might be simple enough to travel to said ghost town and identify the man I am about to tell you about. Thus, we must be content with a mere series of dashes as a substitution) at 7 am, making the 7 hour drive in 4. Good idea girl, the plan worked, only we aren’t expected at the hippie commune until 1 pm, and all the shops in —– are closed. The town is empty. The main strip is quaint, wide concrete, bare, tragic in its efforts to invoke the HISTORIC—a small opera house. I was hungry. We did the historical strip. The mall was just opening and we went in to check the food court. It was too sad, so we left. Strange small American town: 4 hours to feel like an alien, or more accurately, to feel like everyone else is an alien and I better watch myself lest they get inside my head with toxic thought and telepathy (more paranoia).

All the cafes were closed. Venga, café, venga. Finally we saw a small sign in the window of the building adjacent to the opera house that appeared to be a kind of strip mall; it read Gluten-free Waffles, with an arrow indicating descent. Okay. Potential human activity. We entered the building and headed down the stairs. It was like an indoor market, a bit of a maze, with carpeted floors and low ceilings, and in the corner a tiny waffle shop, with another sign corroborating the promise of alternative flours. There was a man in the back who sensed our presence despite the muffling effect of the dark green carpet. He emerged, awkward—everything about him was awkward, just a little off-kilter, the way he walked, the way he placed the menus ever so carefully on the table in front of us, only to pull them back crooked as he withdrew his hand. His eyes a little out of focus, his teeth too crowded, jaw on edge. Hair buzzed. But nice, a little too nice, a slow niceness. He spoke slowly, carefully forming the sounds of his words, trying to remember which flours they used to make the waffles. We decided—waffles with fresh fruit and maple syrup, and lattes. He went off to fix the food and drinks. We whispered to each other, feeling strange in the deep silence, broken only by the sounds in the nearby kitchen. How strange when public space is silent.

Sugar loves to talk to strangers. Normally, when she sees someone around, she will start a conversation with me, but loudly, loud enough to make clear that the conversation is meant more for the stranger; she hopes for a laugh, she hopes that the stranger will find something familiar in what she has said, something to close the distance. She raises her volume as a way of dropping bait. Talk to me! I want to hear your story. I want you to hear mine. Even she was subdued in the shop’s quiet, in the muted strip mall with its as yet unopened opera house, but when the waiter arrived with the food, she couldn’t resist. She complimented the food, and asked about the business. He only worked there, he told us, didn’t own it. The company also had food carts.

”the food cart is where I really want to be. out, free on the street, moving about, not stuck in this basement.”

“And why not?” she asks. Maybe she didn’t ask directly, but somehow her curiosity was communicated. This is the kind of question that a normal person might be weary of asking. The guy wants something, and he doesn’t have it. Of course we wonder what might be standing in the way; there has to be a factor, either internal or external, that inhibits. And our idealism demands: If you want something, why can’t you have it? It betrays our speaker’s naivety—or her optimism (maybe a little of both).

“well the thing is i was in jail for a while, see. didn’t do nothin’, not really. all a misunderstandin’ really. they found pills on me is all, but they wasn’t mine. they was my wife’s prescription. i just had ‘em for her. anyway, had to do some time and after that, it’s hard to get work ‘round here. boss hired me, nice guy, but i’m stuck to the basement for now. it’s too risky for them to let me work the cart on the street. who knows what I might get up to up there. there’s a whole world after all. we’re working on it, if things go good ‘round here it could happen, but right now this is it.”

Ah, Sugar’s face. Her big blue eyes getting just a little wider in well-veiled surprise, and the consciousness of the fact that we are eating waffles made and served by an ex-con in a deserted basement in a ghost-town.

Suddenly the imprinted grid-checked waffle pattern suggested incarceration. We were caught like pooling syrup in the stigma that follows the once incarcerated.

That was all over a year ago now. I wonder if he has been promoted to food cart operator, or if he found his wife’s pills again in transit.
Has he perfected the science, or the art, of making waffles? 

“Do You Despair?” (Kafka)

Biblioklept

(From a 1910 diary entry).

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the fall / #20 hastings (Barcelona; 28 de septiembre 2012)

Once, as Susan rode the bus home, she saw, looking out the window as the bus crept along Hastings, a woman’s body fall from above.
It fell so fast and resembled a giant bird shot mid-flight by hunters on the ground. Or it was like a bundle, a swaddled infant, though large. The weight of the bundle was unbearable; Susan had never seen a body fall before, and this weight that was so compliant with gravity, helpless against it, confused her. It was out of context. It seemed it would never stop falling, but of course it did, too soon, the ground too close, and the sound, the horrific sound could be heard from within the passing bus. A dull, empty thud, a thud that resonated only briefly, bouncing off the walls of Susan’s skull, vibrating and making her teeth chatter, a thud that reflected the life that had been lost within it. This life had been graced, now, with a weighty fall as its final earthly experience, a life departed in failed flight, flight only wished for.
An encounter between flesh and concrete, the ultimate urban experience.

We can only wonder about which window of which hotel she fell from, about whose fingers she slipped from, whose fingers had let her go. Nevermind wondering about how it could have happened at all. And why was she there in that room, that dirty room with bare bedframe lacking mattress but with cigarette butts to spare; and beer cans labelled Pabst Blue Ribbon, white red blue; and stained carpet that smelled like decomposition; and there was a fingerprint on the wall that might have been left in traces of blood.
But come on, they also may have been fingerpainting with oil based paints, practicing for kindergarten, practicing for when the time came to learn to read. So these fingerprints should have been all over the bundle—like rainbow dots that in the rapid spinning of the falling figure would meld optically to appear more linear. These fingerprints might have been proof of opposable thumbs and humanity. But there were neither flashes nor flurries of colour but rather a blur of grey that Susan thought should really have been white.

After that she couldn’t sleep for a week.
The bus had stopped; the driver had run out onto the sidewalk where a small crowd was gathering, bewildered but in all honesty not quite surprised. The bus driver had called the paramedics on his radio, but there hadn’t seemed to have been much hope left over for her, for this swaddled and failed angel, reclaimed by concrete clouds.

Read-ache (Barcelona; 26 de septiembre)

A bird just flew upon the window,
just now and flitted back and away.
The rain was brief but so damp and cool,
a rarity.
A rarity, too, that it gets inside the lungs, like it has now,
that it makes one feel like putting on a sweater and
reading, reading until
the warmth comes back, or until
the blood begins to flow again.
I could eat these words if I hadn’t
already eaten lunch.
I’m full, but I could also be empty.
There is room for this narrative inside me.
I can feel it being written on the
in-side of my skin,
the other side, the one
you can’t see,
unless you flayed me wide open
like Murakami’s Boris the Man Skinner might do,
or like the unfortunate demise of the satyr in that painting,
the Titian I think.
(Yes, the Titian, the Marsyas, who cried,
according to Dante,
“Why do you strip myself from me?”)
If you were to go so far, you might be able
to make out Bolaño’s words,
in English translation
(or maybe if I’m lucky they will be translated
back to Spanish in the process of being
digested),
tattooed upon the flip-side
of my skin.
Also a rarity,
and maybe only in a dream at that.

Words Happened Upon at the Bottom of a Well (Canet Plage; 8-14 de septiembre)

(8 de septiembre)
It is already 20 past 6 in the morning, but the sun has not yet begun to light the sky. I find it interesting that this worries me. Am I afraid that the day will not begin in Canet Plage? Why am I afraid of darkness? I think of Toru Okada’s deep dark well (of Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-up Bird Chronicle), the profundity of his “pale dark” and the things it reveals to him, the passages it allows him to make. Darkness is an equally important factor in our cosmic equation. Too much light would blind.

(11 de septiembre)
Walking around the surface of a dried well. Here and there I pass elderly ladies crawling along at slow and steady paces. Floral patterned dresses and walkers. I wonder if I should stop and offer to help them, but then I think maybe that would be offensive (the potential is always there), in addition to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to communicate sufficiently for such an awkward exchange. So instead I pass them, sending them pleasantries (telepathically), hopes for a rapid arrival. I wonder where she is headed, anyway.
When walking around the bottom of a dried well, it is important to pay attention to what surfaces out of the bottom of the mind. Today it is my father, and I think: hi daddy. So my father opens the door at the bottom of my mind, it must be a kind of trap door, only to lead in all those people who make me up. There is a reunion at the bottom of this dried well. And they are all laughing at how strange and silly I am to have organized a get-together down here; “there isn’t even any light and Astrid is pregnant”; “you can’t have a pregnant woman climbing down into a dark pit”; “the air pressure is different down here.. do you think that could harm the baby?”; don’t worry. this well is perfectly safe, insulated by my love for each of you.

(12 de septiembre)
It is 20 minutes past 3 in the morning. I sit wide awake at the little kitchen table. I just had a midnight snack of rice crackers. I finished The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. I suppose I am a little disappointed with the ending, but it can’t be helped, because I think I wanted it never to end. I would like to be part of a story like this, in which impossibilities are in fact possible.
Rain beats hard against the windows and I love its sounds. It makes me feel grateful to be indoors, grateful for this warmly lit little haven that has been housing me, acting as my well. I’ve not been entirely gracious about this town—I think because it reminds me a little of White Rock and I find it entirely ironic in almost every way (the old men I run past on the boardwalk, wearing tracksuits and riding their bicycles in slow motion; the tourist restaurants that line the promenade and advertise pizza as if it were native to Canet; the kitschy mini-golf course as a main attraction; the single internet cafe whose distance from the centre made a pilgrim out of me). But this evening, as a ran along the boardwalk, cutting through the misty humidity, I looked alternatively at the glowing street lamps and the strategically placed palm trees and felt a deep appreciation for the existence of this tiny corner with all its idiosyncrasies. I felt as if it existed, in that moment at least, for me. As if it knew some day I would come here for a week to be utterly alone for the first time in my life, and it prepared itself with everything I might need.
This is my time of doing nothing, and it is a privilege. And, ironically, in this time of doing nothing I have probably moved, and been moved, more than ever before. Isn’t it funny how life flows?

(14 de septiembre)
I was nearly swallowed up by the bottom of the well. One has to be careful of these things.
But I learned things down there, when I wasn’t running away but instead sitting still, letting the flow rush around me, ebbing, flowing, letting the water ripple outward, as if were in a great bath, dipping. Baths normally make me feel a little eerie, it is true, so perhaps the simile is more accurate than I initially perceived. There is nothing to do in the bath; it is so quiet, so contained. Maybe I should try again, maybe I like baths more now. It’s a little like winter in the mountains of the West Coast when you are alone and the silence goes deeper than you can logically comprehend, the snow soundproofs. It used to terrify me, to be so entirely alone in this sublimity we inhabit, to have nothing standing between me and—whatever it is that lies beneath, surrounding, penetrating.

But now I am emerging, and on the train no less! Perpignan-Port Bau; Port Bau-Barcelona. I like the train.
I float on through the South of France, and it is everything you might imagine—grapevines and sunshine on red roofs, rolling hills, long grass. But I’ve no interest in staying here any longer. I love this chance to roll on by, but I have something I would like to get back to, something I might want to commit to, a little seed burning to break through the surface of the soil.

(Just saw a slice of the sea!)

Almost made the earlier connecting train to Barcelona, which would have had me there around 4pm or just after, but I missed it in the end. So a cafe con leche in the funny station cafe (I think everything seems funny to me right now). It’s very calm in here. There aren’t many people on the run today. My running shoes look out of place tied to my backpack. In fact, I probably look out of place all together. Oh well. I am beginning to suspect that this will always be the case, and it’s okay.

Medium (Canet Plage; 8 de septiembre, 2012)

You called to me from out of the dark and the heat,
interrupting restless sleep,
a sleep begging to be interrupted.
I think I had been dreaming of your mother;
I approached her as I would a sage,
and her voice took on strange distortions which must have been due
to the distance she traveled to get into my dream.
She is beautiful and we might already know each other.
But between 3 and 4 in the morning, some say,
is the spirit hour; an hour in which the spirits are more active.
Seeing as you call to me from out of the dark
of this in-between hour,
from within the space between night and day—
are you my spirit calling?
are you calling my spirit?
what do you call my spirit?

Printing Press In-body (Barcelona-Perpignan; 7 de septiembre 2012)

He once put a slice of mango, juice dripping and all, into the crook of her arm and bent the arm like the handle on a printing press
(or like you might close a book.
The book, in fact, and the crumbs between its pages, were the basis of the metaphor.)
He pressed the mango flat (you know, like little girls might press flower petals between the pages of an atlas to preserve them. Or, on second thought, like you might press confetti that sweeps the ground outside a cathedral after a wedding has been hastily performed. If you cared enough to keep it, that is).
And to preserve it, no, he opens the book of her arm and eats that mango right up, juice dripping and all, making her laugh like all those other times.
Maybe now she’ll have the imprint of a mango slice on her inner upper forearm; maybe it’ll be like a fossil when she’s old and gone.
He has made a text of her. Their own printing press (del cuerpo).