To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

David-Baptiste Chirot: Cinema of Catharsis (I-III)

for Rex Chirot & Jerome Rothenberg


El Colonel is smiling, writing with his cigarette’s smoke in that great page, the sky . . . that great page, ever open to all, in which all eyes may read---and there, their readings being writings . . . find also the writings of others . . . moving, living, in skies of their own among these sometimes shared skies, these skies sometimes encountering each other . . . these writings, readings readers & writers . . . meeting among these skies . . . so that—

So that—El Colonel has often wondered, often written his own “versions”—of his readings which are writings—of these phrases he found underlined in red among the black letterings of a fire-singed Bible in the basement of a bombed-out bookstore in a small provincial town high in the mountains . . . and which are: “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”—for, had not El Colonel wondered—what, if, indeed, come face to face, that ‘I’ which became known as also it was known—what if indeed, that ’I’—were an Other . . . for had not he also read, among other books found elsewhere, among other demolished sites . . . had he not read that ‘I is an other’ . . . in which case, El Colonel writes with his cigarette in the sky’s pages . . . in which case might not the “I” be also known as an other . . . an other found continuously in this other that is his writing in the sky . . . a writing read by others . . . who in reading in their turn write . . .


El Colonel is smoking. Writing in the skies, on the varying hues of blue that shift with their proximities to the horizon . . . writing on the clouds scattered carelessly about . . . his eyes like fingers move, inscribing texts often in no known languages, at times in ones he barely knows from tattered texts come across—languages foreign to him—and, at times, even in the two languages he knows well . . . writing in the skies essaying to convey the dream states that float among memories---involuntary memories called out by the random touching of a shadow at the foot of a tree on the ground next to him—events long forgotten vividly alive—

El Colonel is smoking. These memories & dreams he is inscribing in the sky are not of large events at all. Thank God! No!—No, these are all the small events, happenings, that one is unaware for the most part that one is even noticing as they are passing—


In a room, in some other place, a city—somewhere—she is sitting, smoking, writing in her journal . . . some time ago she had begun to interpret her life in terms of events, of writings, of images, documents—come across in her continual perusal and construction of her own “Kennedy Collection”—comprised primarily of books and old magazines, but including also stacks of Xeroxes of fotos of the JFK Assassination, which she keeps for cutting up and rearranging—into collages—and these slowly through time finding their ways into various scrapbooks she keeps—

This “Kennedy Collection” she periodically pours through, finding each time a differing sequence, a differing set of clues as to the “meanings” she is to interpret from them regarding her own existence.

Increasingly, her own days are intercut, shot through, with those “Days in Dallas”—especially as Autumn advances, inexorably—to the annual return of That Day—among “Those Days”—yet not only “those Days”—but all the Days surrounding them through time—the entire lifetime especially of Lee Harvey Oswald dominates certain areas of her consciousness, including the continually growing storehouse of memories which she associates directly with the Life of Oswald.

Thus, one October, during visits to her sister’s, she became aware that certain patterns in the linoleum were directly related with constellations which must have been embedded in the kitchen, say, of the houses where Marina Oswald had been living with, say, Ruth Paine—and others, perhaps also—where the Oswalds had lived after their New Life in America had begun--and these intersecting patterns and constellations found in linoleums were in fact reconstructions of some other events in consciousness, a consciousness greater than her own—indeed, one comprising, as it were, chunks of the Twentieth Century itself . . . even though now well into the Twenty-first century, she felt that these secrets exuded from expiring linoleums scattered through time and across the “interior landscapes of the late Twentieth Century” . . . yes—she distinctly, most definitely felt!—that these secrets being exuded had traversed the “line between Centuries,” as though transgressing a forbidden, or, at least—forbidding-- border—not unlike, say the border that Oswald crossed from Finland into the Soviet Union during his “defection”---yes!-- she felt, she distinctly felt-- these “secrets” had been, were continually—seeping, invading surreptitiously, as though entering in as soldiers do in moving through ground brush, on their bellies . . . that these secrets were arriving, day by day, night by night, at the very entrance to the battered small house she lived in on a battered small side street in a battered small section of the battered small city which she envisioned always as the one sacred place where these rites could take place, observed and participated in only by herself, their one initiate . . .

One October Sunday . . . as the late afternoon golden glow began to fade from the hallucinatory reds, oranges, dark greens and near-blacks of the heavy leaves—as the first shadows of the suddenly much cooler twilight began to etch their ways across the small battered lawn . . . one October Sunday, she indeed felt more strongly than ever the presence of the seeping secrets exuded by the linoleums of those kitchens Lee Harvey Oswald had entered in, in visiting with his estranged wife and children . . . she felt that these secrets were unfolding before her very eyes there on the shadow etched small battered lawn . . . sounds were reaching her from a neighbor’s TV—set to the NFL football games . . . Oswald she remembered had watched football during his last visits with his family . . . (more likely college football, on Saturdays? . . . some part of her mind registered the question—hanging there in the air—have to look it up, some part of her mind muttered, making a mental note of it—almost certain of it—were after all the pro games on then, before there was more than just the one then much smaller pro league . . . ? an important detail to come back to--)—yes—Oswald had watched football games . . . her eyes moved among the patterns etched by the twilight shadows on the small battered lawn, seeing in them the slow emergence of patterns seeping in from those long ago linoleums . . . as though the “action” of the plans gathering in Oswald’s mind—whether his own or those being planned and planted there by others---as though the action now was moving outdoors . . . from out of those rooms in the cheaply furnished homes, those flimsily constructed rooming houses he moved among . . . was moving outdoors and there, in the gathering twilight, taking form, gathering its thoughts as it were, in the patterns emerging—the very same patterns that had been observed in the linoleum—she now saw quite distinctly etched there, there in the backyard, on the small battered lawn . . .


El Colonel is smoking . . . from the stream of involuntary memories which he is writing in the sky with his eyes . . . begin to emerge, at first in clusters, closely clumped, tightly gathered—begin to emerge small constellations of images, images each so sharp, so clearly distinct, that its facets, diamond-like, begin to etch into, cut open, the adjacent images in the constellation---releasing sudden erupting streams—like those lone spraying spumes suddenly sliced open and squirting forth from the sun---those long trails of raging, burning, appallingly beautiful reds and oranges . . . blasting into space---pure Heraclitean fires . . . of being---Being released into the infinite of Space---traveling with such incredible storm-powered speeds that they seem to scream into the eyes . . . and out of these searing images . . . as though they are cooling in an acceleration of “the evolution of Time” —out of these released images emerge suddenly, in single file, as though a slide show being shown in the skies—images, images long forgotten—no longer singular images, but ones which open up—as the mouths of caves are said to open—and reveal within them depths . . .

El Colonel is smoking . . . leaning, leaning into the slight breezes which are now coming up over the edges of the hill . . . leaning the better to see—to see within this opening now so vividly before him—

It is a cinema, its entrance like a cave mouth—embedded in a seeming cliff, which is in actuality as its image becomes more distinct to the hard-peering eyes of El Colonel—which is in actuality the tightly spaced wall of a series of buildings on a street he had once found in a bombed out small city . . . it came to him now in a howling rush of clarity—the entrance to this Cinema of Catharsis as he had thought of it, even before entering into it and finding himself, first, in a lobby entrance, a very long, extended hallway—at the end of which was the glass enclosed small booth where a ticket taker would be standing when a show was in progress—at the start of shows, also—and at all times in between—time now heaving and buckling, in time with the heaving and buckling of the parquet floor of the long hallway leading to the interior entrance where the ticket taker’s booth was standing . . .a heaving and buckling which, nonetheless, did nothing to disturb the immense lobby card images hanging on the roughly painted walls of the long hall of the lobby . . . these images, each one of them belonging apparently to completely different films—gave evidence of the long history of this particular Cinema—as some of them dated back to the era of Silent Films—while others showed more recent productions—most of them cheap B jobs . . . El Colonel finds himself, via the intensity of his gaze, “entering into” the area beyond the ticket taker’s booth—

El Colonel’s figure, leaning into the breezes, leaning into the sky—looks for all the world to those eyes outside himself which he often finds looking at himself—from himself—his own eyes, detached, as it were—and located at some distance—find his leaning figure for all the world to look like some shadow figure, a silhouetted shadow puppet on a wall of infinite space---a wall of pale depths . . .

El Colonel is smiling to himself, smiling as he enters into the area beyond the ticket taker’s booth—an area where the once red plush rug is now worn thread bare—literally thread bare, El Colonel finds himself smiling to himself, smiling to find the time worn phrase, itself not a bit “threadbare”—to be in actuality, there before him, the most vivid illustration he has ever found of that thread bare phrase—and, on this thread bare surface, are scattered the kernels of long ago pop corn, the ashes of ancient cigarettes, the air still redolent with the scents of both—the heavy clinging haze of the popcorn smells intermingled with the ashy tastes, acrid and acrimonious, of the cigarette ashes held in suspension among the interstices of the threadbare rug . . .

El Colonel smiles, and, pushing on, as he smilingly puts it to himself: “as his actions, reversing Aristotelian Poetics, imitate the words—push on”—pushing through the heavily covered door that opens somewhat unwillingly into the Cinema itself . . . before entering, El Colonel’s eyes take in this dim lit arena—picking out the shadowy tops of the lines of the seats—here and there, like rows of broken teeth—betraying the presence of seats which, due to the excited or angry gestures of some patron, dim, jerky, faraway—some patron’s having pounded on them, beaten them, into a kind of slouching submission—so that the rows of seats are broken up by these gaps, these craggy monuments of remaining teeth-like chairs—jagged and raw—their blank spaces staring at the Cinema screen—gaping from their gaps into the as yet dim presence looming there in the shadows at some distance from El Colonel, who remains for some moments standing at the entrance . . .

[To Be Continued]

NOTE. David-Baptiste Chirot –born Lafayette, Indiana, grew up in Vermont, lived also Gottingen, Germany, Arles & Paris, France, Wroclaw, Poland, Hastveda, Sweden, Boston and Milwaukee. Since 1997 essays, Visual & sound poetry, Performance Scores, prose poetry, poetry and book reviews in 70+ different print and online journals in USA, Brazil, England, Spain, France, Germany, Russia, Chile, Australia, Yugoslavia, Italy, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Cuba, Turkey, Japan, Holland, Belgium, Uruguay. David-Baptiste Chirot's own blog can be found at, & previous works have appeared on Poems & Poetics with more to come in the future.

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