To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
.......................................again
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mauricio Montiel Figueiras: excerpt from “The Man in Tweed: The City,” a Twitter-constructed Novel in Progress (with a follow-up note on the process)

Translated from the Spanish by Suzanne Jill Levine

On the other side of the street, as if it were on the other side of the ocean, there is a sign: “Café.” The man in tweed waits for the light to change.

While he crosses the street, the man in tweed remembers the first time he drank coffee. Another time, another world: a smell of jungle in the steam.

On the sidewalk in front of the café are two little tables. One of them is occupied by a vaguely familiar looking old man who stares at the man in tweed.

The old man smiles, a toothless gesture. The man in tweed swallows saliva and enters the place. A fan revolves on the ceiling like a wasp.

The only customer inside the establishment is sitting in front of a laptop. The man in tweed glimpses an internet page: Twitter.

The customer with the laptop writes at that moment something related to a man in tweed in a café. The man in tweed shivers.

“Good morning,” says the girl behind the counter, her dark hair tied at the back of her neck. The man in tweed takes a hesitant step toward her.

“I am lost and need directions,” mumbles the man in tweed. “We are all lost,” the girl says, “tomorrow is the first day of spring.”

“I know what you’re getting at,” says the man in tweed thinking of black pollen, “but right now I need to orient myself.” “You can’t find the north,” says the girl.

The idea of the north, the man in tweed remembers, and he agrees. “Will you help me?” “Yes,” the girl says, “but first you must buy something.”

Frantic, the man in tweed scrutinizes the chalkboard behind the counter. It’s filled with names that mean absolutely nothing to him: hieroglyphics.

An image emerges slowly from the memory of the man in tweed. A speeding train breaches the dark night like a bright zipper.

“Espresso,” whispers the man in tweed, and the express train vanishes into the tunnel in his mind. “See?” says the girl, smiling, “that wasn’t so hard.”

The smile that the man in tweed attempts to return ends up being an indescribable grimace. “You need a double,” the girl says, and turns around.

While the girl prepares the coffee, the man in tweed catches a glimpse of the back of her neck. There, among a few rebellious hairs, shines a ruby-colored butterfly.

***

The tattoo seems to flutter on the girl’s neck as if wanting to flee its prison of skin. The man in tweed imagines a milky sky.

In the midst of that whiteness, the man in tweed sees a trace of moving blood: butterflies. Beneath the whiteness, the gardens of the world boil.

The man in tweed observes thousands of chrysalises opening in the gardens. Nude girls emerge, their young bodies glowing like fire.

The girls rise up, throwing off the viscous threads that cling to them. The rite of spring, muses the man in tweed.

The blood butterflies come down from the sky to enmesh with the bodies of the girls. The man in tweed hears a voice: “Your coffee’s ready.”

The girl with the tattoo hands him the cup as if it were a chalice, from which arises fingers of steam. The man in tweed catches a crimson gleam in her eyes.

“You like butterflies?” the girl asks. “I don’t know. I don’t understand them,” says the man in tweed. “Soon you will,” says the girl.

The vanes of the fan cut the sudden silence. The man in tweed takes the coffee and turns around. The customer with the laptop has disappeared.

“Who was the man with the computer?” says the man in tweed. “I think he’s a writer. Strange guy. He often comes here,” the girl replies.

“And who is the man sitting out there?” the man in tweed points to the table on the sidewalk. “That’s not a man,” the girl answers.

Disturbed, the man in tweed looks at the girl. “Then what is he?” he says. “I don’t know, but he comes everyday,” says the girl. “He’s the old man.”

“You haven’t wanted to find out who he is?” the man in tweed says. “The name doesn’t matter,” says the girl. “He’s the old man and he’s one hundred years old. Or a thousand.”

The girl’s voice has begun to creak like papyrus paper. The man in tweed notices that her skin is getting whiter and whiter as if her blood were escaping.

“I’m sure the old man can give you the directions you need,” says the girl. “He seems familiar to me,” admits the man in tweed.

“Maybe you’ve seen him in a distant dream,” murmurs the girl. “I don’t usually dream,” says the man in tweed, and he thinks he hears the fluttering of the tattoo on her neck.

. . . . . . .

A Note on the Preceding

A Man of Tweets

I saw him on Monday, March 7, 2011, at midday. I noticed him because he was dressed in a manner more suited to winter than to spring, which was already proclaiming its sultry languor in bloom amid the jacarandas that were spreading their purple fire along the streets of Mexico City. He was about to cross an avenue near the apartment I rent in a neighborhood downtown, but for some inexplicable reason he had stopped in his tracks. It was as if someone—an inner voice rather than from the outside—had ordered him to stand perfectly still on the sidewalk, his eyes staring at an ambiguous zone in the distance. I paused next to him because I thought the traffic light was preventing us from moving, but that wasn’t it—and at that moment I was able to register his tweed jacket, the slightly disproportionate size of his eyeglasses, the fact that he wasn’t sweating despite the excess of his overcoat in the (almost) springtime heat, and especially the curious milky opalescence of his skin which made him look like a stranger in town, a man who was not where he belonged. I crossed the avenue and when I got to the other side I turned around: he was still standing in the same position or at his post, his eyes drawn by some unfathomable magnet. I continued walking home, thinking of two of my all-time favorite stories (“The Man of the Crowd” and “Bartleby”), the shadowy creatures of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett, and a quotation from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, the great novel by Haruki Murakami: “You turn a corner and find a world you had never seen before.”
            Once in my apartment I connected to the Internet and got on Twitter, that virtual aviary where birds try to find their own voice amid a deafening hue and cry. I remembered the individual I had just bumped into and wrote: “A man with enormous eyeglasses and a tweed jacket stares engrossed at the horizon on a busy corner. The sun lends him an otherworldly glow.” And a little later: “I think I notice that the man in the enormous eyeglasses and the tweed jacket moves his lips. I think I hear him mutter: ‘Look at me carefully. I could be your character.’”
            I hadn’t suspected that this would be the beginning of a serial novelette or noveletweet that would claim my attention for over a month—I finished it on Thursday, April 14, 2011—and that it would generate what would be for me an unanticipated interest in a group of readers—I like to speak of readers and not simply followers—that would grow exponentially alongside a plot centered precisely on this character: a man assembled by tweets assuming that he is not where he should be and who therefore undertakes a sort of anti-Odyssey which tries to fuse fantasy and terror, classic adventure and metaphysical drift, the possibility of parallel universes and the uneasiness with the reality that surrounds us. Now that the man in tweed walks on his own feet thanks to the account I opened for him on Twitter (@Elhombredetweed); now that the series he stars in already has three episodes or parts exceeding three hundred pages (“The Man in Tweed: The City,” “The Man in Tweed: The Island” and “The Man in Tweed: The Epidemic”), I can’t help thinking about the flesh and blood being that gave origin to him: is he stuck on another bustling corner of the big city, his eyes glued to the horizon where the mysteries of the everyday are brewing?

MEXICO, D.F., MEXICO

Monday, March 20, 2017

Murat Nemet-Nejat: from “Animals of Dawn,” with an Essay on “Hamlet & Its Hidden Texts: Poems As Commentary”



            Bait & Switch    
                        "Polonius: What do you read, my lord?"

the sculpture                                                    
of the night—

dream—                                                           
                  
erodes                                
in the morning

words words   words left                                  

over the melting                                              

dew (the pickpocket).                                      


Ghost was the sculptor of the dream,
itself a sculpture. 

.
                             
absolute love may not exist but is everywhere    

maybe not kind                
maybe not nice                 

but is everywhere.

therefore,
infinite love precedes its happening

Is.

Is.

. 
  
Mom says she and I in hatred are each others' its, objects that love melts into rain.


                                                             the stars were on the sidewalk    
                                                             as if at the prophet's coming       
                                                             because it had drizzled the night before
                                                             dizzy like a cloud, i left the house      
                                                             skipping, skipping on the stars
                                                             pleased as punch in the moonlight
                                                             playing hopscotch
                                                             as at the prophet's coming         
                                                             because it had drizzled the night before

. 

through your transparent gown,                            
low light from a table lamp in the back room.  
your long legs                                                            
were luminous in the door.
i moved fearlessly.             
guilt hung back
on the acacia trees
in the rain.
the church bells were calling folks                  
to prayer.
we spread a picnic blanket        
on the bed.
that's how everything happened first.

. 

"Not a mouse's stirring" 
     

the crumbs of the clock spilled from
tulle
curtains, as the night
ended, light in smithereens                               
slowly in the eyelashes of my cat dispersing
over the rug.
Who’ll pick them up
now, the leftovers
from the shuttle worriless humming on.    

Morning streamed from the hair
of the widow,
sprinkles of the clock and light.
I
opened my hands, but as I opened them       
they still kept streaming streaming streaming.

wall. ghost. mirror. bird. arras.           
window. wind. widow. tree.
dew. water. tears. river.
mourning.
painting. panting.
death. hearth,
etc.

. 

"Horatio: The morn, in russet mantle clad, walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hills."

. 
"So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. " Robert Frost


the corrupt weaponries of language.


            To Be Too Much In the Son  

"Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The memory be green, and that it us befitted
To bear our hearts in grief
                                            (and our whole kingdom
To be contracted in one brow of woe,

...yet...  with wisest sorrow... together

with remembrance of ourselves... 

yada yada yada!)

Have we
                   (as ’twere with a defeated joy,

With an auspicious/dropping eye

...

Taken to wife")

yada yada yada! 


                            "nor have we herein barred
Your better wisdom, which have freely gone
... along."

yada yada yada!

. 

An Image of Death
                 what we call the world is merely the illusion of the nearnes of things.
                 what we call the world is only the image of the nearnes of things.

The audience's eyes: Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes, Hamlet are on stage, simultaneously. They'll all be dead in two hours.

Laertes asks the king leave to leave for France

Time is forgetfulness in Hamlet. Everyone forgets though protesting otherwise (including the ghost, "Remember! Remember!" he pleads from under the claptrap  truepenny machinery of Elizabethan stage—representing the underworld—to a joking Hamlet), the most cutting of all Hamlet forgets Ophelia.


            Return to France

                        Laertes: My thoughts and wishes bend again toward France

An unquenchable loss over something once possessed—not life, but something else, peace of silence, or love, or the night itself—which to recover one must cross a reverse threshold—warping into a parallel dimension—looms over the play.   

Facts are jailed into themselves.        

Death is jailed into itself.

. 
                  
            think it   

                              "Hamlet: Seems, Madam, no is. I have that within me
                              That passeth show..."   


to be it, does it have to exist?                
god is it, whose essence, is non-existing.            

sofas, beds, the hysterical archdukes of MY psyche.


            is

what is man?
man is a what
obviously,

a rose is a rose a
rose is.

. 

            Mayflies    

Infinite possibility doesn't mean freedom, but that it may happen infinitely
but of maybes

Infinite possibility, within finality

that is the pharosrhythm perception of freedom     
as gestures of maybes    

prr

object ivities in a mirror existing

in continuum.

. 

            Hummingbird   

Before we part  did                                    
A moment we share together 
you having placed a small nutrient vial of translucent liquid on your porch
and I, watching birds dipping into them

you away,

                 in instantaneous darts.

Does THAT have to exist? I can't remember. D I D.        


An instant on the threshold of not remembering, the change of time zones— erasure of the table of memory—the humming bird approaches the moment of stasis—of jump.

. 

            Memory and Rhythm—a Rhythm of Forgetfulness—Insanity

    Shakespeare seems to forget what happened from one scene to the next in Hamlet, seems to suffer a kind of dementia, giving the play its purposeless bursts of focus, meandering—a genius democratically and at random dispersed among the characters—giving it its seductive, ever alluring air of translucent insanity. Its irresistible entropy.

Polonius: Marry, sir, here’s my drift:
(And I believe it is a fetch of wit)
You, laying these slight sullies on my son
As ’twere a thing a little soiled i' th' working—
...
And then, sir, does he this, he does— What was I about to say? By the mass, I was about to say something. Where did I leave?
...
Videlicet a brothel, or so forth. See you now,
Your bait of falsehood takes this carp of truth...  (Act 2, Scene 1) 

*

    Memory has a great difficulty crossing the threshhold of dawn. A self-propelling time has to move forward, as if a completely forgotten dream is still brooding in the bones.

            Hark!                                     

            Frost

            The ghost
            's kissed by the morning
            & turns into a frog



            in the soul.

    The sun has a different rhythm than stars, though in the frame of eternity the same. Time moves at different speeds in each. The walled-in ecstasy of Scene 1, "swift as the meditations of love," is followed by the objective view of Hamlet as moody, irrational or insane—his meandering, exploring metaphysics on suicide, instead of revenge, and his churlish obscenities.

Except while encountering the ghost, at night, Hamlet lives, his being is, in the wrong space.

The play Hamlet is out of control.

Scenes follow each other in obstructive rhythms, failing in, inhibiting the play's linearity of purpose. The Macguffin of revenge. Two temporal cadences are superimposed.

            trapped outside time, "[the] Messiah allows time to be continually deferred."         (The Burnt Book)


            Delay is a ray

            from unreal-  

            ized
            space.



Hamlet and Its Hidden Texts: Poems as Commentary, Film Lumière

Hamlet is the holy text that is at the heart of a day book/ things, real or unreal, objects, living or un-living. Almost every piece in the poem is a commentary—a riff of thought, a speculative argument, a parallel alternative text, a counter argument or counter fact—turning around a specific word or phrase, a disjointed twisting of fact or a suggestive, elusive echo that occurs in the peripheries of the reader's/listener's mind—out of the focus of the linearity of the main action, the revenge, in the play.

    The paradigm of a text made completely of commentaries, like moths flying around a holy text with its own distinct linguistic identity, is The Talmud Here is what I write about the nature of such a text in "Eleven Septembers Later: A Reading of Benjamin Hollander's Vigilance":

            Precedents of Prophecy (Film Lumière)

            The verbal precedent of a poem whose ideal condition is stasis is The Talmud. In it single words explode into commentaries. It can not be read but     stopped at every word and riffed from; re-read continuously, super-imposed,             blurred commentaries creating the Jewish consciousness of responsibility and        guilt....  The visual precedent of Vigilance is photography... The space created by             photography/ film lumière has an unconscious, to its viewer reflecting,       revealing the dreams, aspirations, fears of her teeming population. Superimpositions of different media—film, T.V., the web and words emanating from them—on photography, which film lumière is, creates a unified    field/space which is prophetic.

    The perennial question on Hamlet is why Hamlet does not go from A to B in a linear line, "swift as the meditations of love" or, as Laertes does, "defying hell"; but meanders, mostly travels in a world of ideas, and arrives at his purposed destination, seemingly by default, exhausted, feeding on the immediate carnage around him. He does so because he exists in stasis, in "a ... field/space which is prophetic." The sole action he can commit is death. It is the space where consciousness (the soul) is born. It has nothing to do with character or a character defect though Hamlet himself thinks so.

    Hamlet's is a language of the soul progressing towards dying.

    Hamlet's language is not of acting, of showing; but of an "isness" outside "living" speech: "Seems, madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems... nor all the suspirations of breath... can denote me truly." His focus is on a dissolution of the body towards the un-human and un-living: in essence the dissolution of a Wittgensteinian language of exchange and observable, speakable f(acts) towards silence. This dichotomy in the play is distilled in its concept of time as speed and slowness, their duality. Hamlet is aware and fatally wounded by what Claudius defends: speed, the imploding speed between the vigil of death and the merriment of marriage, warping time. Hamlet "meanders" outside speed in a state of stasis, though he himself sees it as paralysis. The two are irreconcilable. Though they point to the same facts, like convex and concave mirrors reflecting each other, the wall in between is unbreachable. That unbreachableness (the way the consciousness of the living, the real, the rational can not breach into the consciousness of the un-living, unreal) is at the heart of Hamlet's mysterious power, what makes it a holy text.

    Ophelia occupies a space between the two. Her death, a union with water and plants, points to a moment when the focus of the conscious mind (consciousness itself) turns from life to another dimension (vigil) of lamentation and song: "... Her clothes spread wide/ And, mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up;/ Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes,/ As one incapable of her own distress [italics my own]."

*

    Laertes' and Polonius's warnings to Ophelia about the unreliability and lastingness of Hamlet's love for her turn out to be true. Hamlet's love turns into abuse and mockery, interspersed only with an unpleasantly perfunctory profession of love at her death. But, though the predicted result occurs, it has little to do with Polonius's cynical view of young passion or Laertes's decorous argument relating to the real politic involved in the marriage of a prince. The cause lies in another dimension, the space of the ghost.

    The a-causal, infinite space of Hamlet.

    A Day Book is not a comparison, a metaphor; it is not like Hamlet. Rather, its Talmudic commentaries are against Hamlet, subverting and reconfirming its autonomic, ever elusive sanctity--its otherness. In a sense, in A Day Book I try to transform Hamlet, at least for a single moment, into a plant, an animal, a speck of dust, a dew.  

    Not a moment of understanding, but bee-ing.