Archive for April, 2013

Expiation

How did I do it?

You know, I once read something about an Indian boy who, in lieu of flowers or gifts, courted the object of his affection with stories. He would gather the gossip and prattle of the street and wrap it for her in his own cheek every day, weaving tales of Bombay for her. Hardly room for a word shoved in edgewise, she just sniggered and chortled at all the comic goings on as he became more and more irreplaceable as a source of mirth. He was sort of an amorous Scheherazade, I suppose.

Touching, no? But I chose another route.

I chose cruelty.

There is nothing so easy to ply as a beautiful and vain woman. She expects adulation. She expects desire. The world has been for her nothing but a long scroll of encomium. To win her, you must simply give her the opposite–make her want you so that she can prove to herself she is undeniably desirable. So when I first saw her, with those eyes that I don’t need to waste similes and metaphor on, I knew she had been the target of more men’s suits than are worth counting. Yet still, she was alone. From this I concluded that even the arrogant boys, sufficiently convinced of their own irresistibility, must have also been shooshed away, driven from her orbits by denial. Even they had desires, after all. They’d made those needs plain enough and she had, predictably, found them and their base appraisal debasing.

No, no. She was the worst of all possible marks. Vain. Lovely. And clever. Imagine looking into every pool you strolled by and knowing right down to the depth of it. Of course, you would start to imagine you walked on the glassy surface. Of course, you would disdain the whims of the mewling little apes that wanted to mount you.

What? Was she a virgin? Of what importance are questions like that.

So, as I was saying, I chose the long game. I found a way to insinuate myself in her affairs–first an office across from her family home and then some protracted (and ultimately fanciful) business proposition for her father. I needed to be near her, and I needed to hate it.

At every meeting, a barely courteous, condescending wrinkle of the mouth to acknowledge her. A huff for every word I heard her speak in my presence.

The best was the painting. The poor girl painted. The rich need hobbies, after all. I happened to be at the house to sign an initial contract (one I’d carefully written to obligate me to nothing tangible), but naturally her father was not present (as per my design) so her gaunt, bony mother felt obliged to entertain me so that my journey across the street should not have been in vain.

So the grey woman showed me one of her paintings as the girl looked on. To the mother’s effusive praise, I initially only offered a barely audible grunt. But the old woman, God love her, pressed me, asked if I was much familiar with art, and if I ever thought of such things. I replied in the affirmative and began an exhaustive deconstruction of the image on the canvas before me, tracing its connection to various other works and movements, once slipping in the word “reductive.” The mother listened with polite nods, but the girl herself listened with a tightening jaw, understanding better than her sweet ma-ma that she was being patronized, called an imitator, patted on the head like a child who’d managed to connect a head to a body in chalk.

From then on, I knew she would be mine. Without a dash of interest, without even anything akin to scorn, I’d won her. I was the first creature on Earth to never pay her any mind, and she loved me for it.

What? When I was done with her? I’m not certain, there have been some letters, but I haven’t had time to read them.

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isolation

Drag me on a litter behind you
Out into the desert
Thobe flapping like a sail
Leaving a long scar in the rust-colored sand

we are living inside something else

the city has a roar at the edge
a low engine palpitation
synthetic cardiac rhythm
faster than the ear bone’s repose

and at night
the larger beastly shapes
prowl with whishes in the orange glow
looking for nothing in particular
nematocysts in the larger organism
groping and ferrying souls about

somewhere in it all
the air finds space for the animal noises
the hoots of the pigeons
and the yips of stray canines
occasionally, in the black of it, human voices chirp and crow
calling out their wagers or begging on behalf of their loins

 

Idiocracy

So the idiocy of the sequester continues. Now, with FAA furloughs leading to long delays at the nation’s commercial airports, some are accusing President Obama of deliberately trying to make Americans feel the impact of these cuts.

If that was the case, then the president and Congress are rapidly backtracking. Apparently, they’re realizing that if the cuts actually impact their constituents then it might affect their political fortunes.

Newsflash, folks: All these cuts will affect your constituents!

Congress, though, is cynically counting on us being too short-sighted to realize that little fact. After all, a cut to the FAA we notice when we have to wait on the runway.

What about the cuts to research, though? Well, those we won’t notice for years, maybe decades. So Congress’s attitude is, “Eh, screw ’em.” (Once again, I want to applaud hero-of-Rationalism Zack Kopplin for whittling this so-called debt/deficit problem down for the economically impaired.)

Again and again, we refuse to learn the lessons of history. This monomaniacal fixation on deficits and debt has already been debunked, both through the failure of the theory of austerity and its actual devastating consequences in Europe. The mess there, though, could have been avoided by asking these debt ideologues–empowered here in the U.S. by the Tea Party fringe–a simple question: When in history has cutting government spending EVER helped an economy?

The sequester’s impact on research and its concomitant impact on economic growth is equally transparent if we allow history to inform our decisions. In the 1950s and 1960s, America paid out the wazoo to beat Russia to the moon. What was the result? Years of financial ruin from overspending? No. We had windfalls in scientific innovation and national confidence that drove our economy onward. Research now, though, is down as a share of our government’s spending from 17% in 1962 to an already too-low 9%. We don’t have to wonder what impact these new cuts to research and development will have. This sequester’s consequences are what good old Donald Rumsfeld would call “known knowns.” We should just go ahead and call them “Cuts to Progress” and be up front about the whole mess.

There’s no mystery here; cutting science hurts America.

The Lost

I’ve been reading about the lonely. The ones that wander off from the fence lines and the safety of the herd. They tuck Thoreau or London under their arms, fill their heads with half-plans where they are the only souls for a thousand miles and live fortnights away from any electric light. They’re lost to us, to civilization, to the ones who move through channels cut in the rock of day-in-day-out. They’re alien souls.

And yet I know them. I’ve seen through their eyes. Atop the rocks, out past the city limits, in the granite outcroppings. It’s all pretty safe there. Rangers just a city block’s worth of wilderness away (laterally) and yells and hope could bring helicopter messiahs in no time.

But up there, with only the wafting of the hueco pools and the sneaky bits of green that have clung to the margins of the tiny canyon below, I’ve seen out into the great flat sheet of the desert, where the city is only a distant oasis blur, and I have wished–as these pilgrims into empty spaces must have wished–for a world without lines, without Nazca roads imposing order on the brown shrubs and tan patches of barren dust, for a world with only unnamed shapes and without purpose.

Pure beauty. Art outside of art.

idyll, delivered

Has something changed?
Some cavitation in the gearworks
a slow-winding spring
finally clicks
and, now an old man,
my mind slows
and the restless beating of
more, more
subsides

And the thing itself
is now sufficient;
an old stone fissure
with a glint at the bottom
enough to keep my eye

On Reading The Chosen

Talmud. Kabbalah. Sanhedrin. God says unto man, “Read. And read more. Labor over every intonation, every possible meaning, until your eyes go dark,” and they obey. Young men trying on their fathers’ shoes; they live in the words.

In study.

Deep study into words and the numbers of things, codes from God’s finger, gossamer strands behind creation–a coming-of-age through inert toil, exhausting, mind-breaking toil over the page.

And you are left in a world of words. Over the landscape, Freud is a tower–a dark sentry post–and beneath the verdant hills lie catacombs of analytic logic–branching tunnels of if’s and then’s beneath the disordered graveyards of nephilim.

Worlds within worlds–all standing still.