Four-way Looking Glass

forest mist slice

To us there is a difference between the fallen and the brave. We may sort out the backs of the dead. We may separate the coats, gray from blue. Time and borders and affiliations sift about and spill over as they do and must. This is all seen in red and white, too. I had, picking strawberries, hunted about the overgrowing vetch which had blown over from afar, from another farmer’s field last season, for something succulent and sweet to eat. So it seems. So it was. So it had been. And even down the low narrow line in the forest, I had witnessed the doe in the mist, her head lowered while the world itself was framed by constant death. The butternut tree had fallen, and the beetles had undone to rough yellow the bark of the standing ash. While for some, all human records of these are deemed memento mori, I had not been able to agree. Not from my standpoint, not from the toss of space where I had landed. For me, all had been some visions of life. Chaff and wheat. Fool and sage. Villain and hero. And so on. The usual dualities never applied. Never were. Never had been. There were just gradual mixtures of dusts in the heavens, in earth, and somewhere in the seas, too.

Mathilde Evacs Pomroy

stove and pilot

My reasons had been plentiful. If these had been any more than they were, I would have been lost among the reds of all the red poppies. I would have been more wings upon the backs of flying monkeys. The ubi sunt nomenclature of my clattering days would have been spent or ignored like bales of rolled hay along the countryside in autumn. And all that, like my namesake and my Latin verse, would have gone unanswered. So I may have been left darning my socks and time. I may have gone to seed and shower. I may, too, have as little sense left to my time as peas to the edge of a knife are falling, falling down. And all my frailties, beyond the wool-spinners of Sulpicia and maidens of Sappho are no less than unforthcoming. It had not been a reason to have been wroth. It had not been a destiny to go to the Aegean any more than to have traveled to New Alaska. And had I ever been asked, had I ever been put to, I would have answered quite the same, dressed in my gunny sack: snap snap snap. Like so, had I been pining by the fieldstone. Like so, had I been awaiting the brim-rock rains atop the bluestone quarry. Verily, I had known just as well that what had never been arrived before my mountaintop gaze had also never, like the barn swallow’s tail beneath its muddied nest below the wooden beams, departed.

Mallory McGiven

I had been lying in bed blue and depressed. Even the pills did nothing. They didn’t make me sleep. Just even more immobilized. And that had made things even worse. The ruffled hawk feather from the dirt hills of Arizona. The bar of hand-poured silver from Eureka. The smooth Petoskey stone from the shore of Lake Michigan. Stashed away. In a shoebox. In another shoebox. All the other shoeboxes. I had had an entire row once that had been thrown away. Automatically. Even those. Hopeless. And even his colorful striped woolen blanket. Folded and dumped in the curbside dumpster. Even my notebooks. Dumped out in the same dumpster. Even there I could not bear witness to, bear to read my own testimonies. My self-deception. Amazing! The one! In love! At last! The same thing. Ad nauseam. Depressing. Even my own confidences with myself had been wistful inventions of the imagination mostly. Mostly like pretty, colorful decals a little girl had once pressed onto square glass bedroom windowpanes to make herself feel better about her grimly lived life—there’s a rainbow! there’s a unicorn! there’s a windmill! there’s a four leaf clover! there’s a smiling sun! Imagined. Made up. Pretty. Make believe. I had disconnected the landline, blocked my cell, same for any messages. I had lain in the lavender oil bathwater and had remembered how beastly he had been, crouching on his elbows lapping up water with his tongue by the lake, who had, it seemed, completely loved me from his ruined castle which love I had not I felt, dozing eventually into oblivion, nor had I accepted had been my own before I had completely slipped away myself.

Hugh Salzmann

picnic in field grainy

Few things had given me pleasure more pleasurable than to watch all my mercies and all my crimes be in passing or be plowed away. The singularity of my pettiness, the careful slip-off tools of my trade, amused me as much as were I had been both Sultan and Scheherazade. I had been pleased with myself to no end, stashing my gear in a hole so deep and so forlorn I might myself someday be loath to pull it out into our diurnal world ever again. And between the careful stirring of pure black oil sunflower seeds with another mixed sack of wild feed by hand, blending them together in a five gallon bucket for the hungering winter birds, in addition to my woolen apparel befitting the country habits of a simple but comfortable squire, I was as inculpable to all eyes as the blighted Mexican nobleman Archibaldo de la Cruz. Even the thought of sirens at my drive had not increased my resting pulse more than one or at most two beats. No, it had been a great beauty born to watch my footprints become erased by both nature and machine which had otherwise provided the absolute clues to my perfidy, chronic and perennial, those now forever vanished snowy boot marks leading thither and back. The kind hammer’s tapping in of an elderly lady’s postal number having fallen off its little roadside plaque across the way from my home during the past springtime, with a hardware purchase from a package of shining brass escutcheon pins, needing only three, not counting the one I had dropped and lost on the ground, it was the perfect cover, and an exercise in patience, a plotting of neighborly character that had already gone back three years’ time. And galloping lunatic downhill through the white soft woodland powder, I imagined all sorts of terrible things that were to have become my life had the faraway sirens I had overheard in the village’s distance become nearer and nearer. Most anarchists worth their salt are the true aristocrats of the great Earth; I am no exception to this rule. We love to create inexplicable chaos against authorities that would, like a pack of well-trained dogs, hem us in, if caught; and truly love the untouched bounty of the land which nature freely bestows upon us all—all women & men, all lovers & ex-lovers, and all erring children who wander on their own, as is their birthright. At length, my own true protection, my own safeguard against eventual capture, more than my vast caution, had been my steady recollection that beneath my own well-kept fingernails was just ordinary dirt.

Made-Up Bed-Sick Movies, 1918

hair face headIt was so bad that he watched Dr. Zhivago four times in three days. Now this film had formerly been reserved only for watching once every five or six years when he was laid back with a bone-aching flu, when everything felt so dreadful that the only possible comfort was to be buried in a Russian snowstorm of melodramatic love.

It was so bad that he made one gigantic pot of it and ate, when he had to, helpings of oatmeal cold. Or, if he had moved to heat it up, heated a portion of it in a small saucepan and scorched the bottom of it over again.

It was so bad that when the fire went out overnight, he did not light it when he woke as was his habit still long before the light of dawn came up. He lay in bed cold or pulled another blanket fallen askew over his body. And if the house stayed that way all day, that’s the way it stayed.

It was so bad that his bones were filled with her screams of death and dying. They were inside his skull, they hunched his shoulders, they closed his eyes to them. Her furniture, her books, her bedside table, her belongings they were all thrashed and thrown about and her little body continued to thrash and throw itself about.

It was so bad he woke to screams that were not his own, traumas that were not his own, cries that were not his own, wounds that were not his own, parents that were not his own, in his own bed faraway from hers that was not his own, in his mind that was not his own.

It was so bad he could not imagine having once lain with her, his arms having ever held her, his heart having for years surrounded her. And her sweet voice was like another’s soft hand touching a green velvet mask behind which she gripped a silver sword; and her coiling naked body an emerald, scaly trap; her raw mind’s pure power, an indefatigably winning finger.

It was all so bad; all he saw were hapless visions of Welles’ Josef K. Notes, and words, and phrases flying by. A screaming, broken cavalcade of pain joined with death. Or, a make-believe, bed-ridden Western. They were horses’ hoofs flying, kicking up dry prairie grass and dust, all whooping and whooping, all the bonnet-wearing women in their wagons all bloody and slaughtered, while the Indians calmly riding upon the escarpment of the nearby mountain looked down at all the madness they do not recognize below them as human.

 

(read more & play around @ egbertstarr.com)

 

 

 

 

The Native American Girl*

glassy river

John Rolfe’s uneasy letter regarding his troubled wishes to marry Pocahontas, seeking approval from the Governor:

http://libertyletters.com/resources/jamestown/john-rolfe-marry-pocahontas.php

Early European settlers here in this North American continent had in their homes Bibles, and Bibles, much like guns, were the even more forcefully effective weapons of Christianity, mechanically-produced inventions of Gutenberg whose coming into being not merely put into permanence words spoken, but rendered them in an orderly and composed way of thinking particular unto itself—and thereby, too (like phalanxes once upon a time), had both formulated and were the formulation of a very peculiar ordered system of Systems; one which was vastly more powerful than anything any previous cultures of “mythos” (etymologically meaning to be “of legend, of fable; what is murmured, what is spoken”) had hitherto created or could create—these latter being civilizations whose origins were rooted, rather, in a sense of “the immemorial,” “of Nature,” “ancestors,” “old as the hills,” and so forth, and which were not by definition inscribed, engraved, carved, cut into stone.

More important, then, than the issue of “personal agency,” which is generic, is the one that is genetic or historical in scope; and, in particular, when one culture does not take the place of another as a successive replacement, but destructively displaces one as the Other. Essentially, in the grand arc of history, this has come about in just the past several thousand years with greatest effect and increasing frequency because of “logos” used as the preeminent instrument and sometime weapon of the West—which translates roughly from the Greek as “order,” “meaning,” “logic,” and most notably in The New Testament, “the Word.”

Regarding the celebrated marriage of John Rolfe to “Pocahontas,” John Rolfe represents this: the European mind whose very foundational essence is instrumentalized weaponry, representing unto himself the Good a priori; and all else dissimilar, unlike itself, must in contradistinction to itself be construed  as snares, traps, insidious evils (it being no accident of metaphor that Rolfe describes himself in his letter—after acknowledging the libidinous over-charge of his “unbridled desire of carnall affection” for the teenage Indian girl while he closed in on the age of thirty—as being “so intagled, and inthralled in so intraicate a laborith,”) only to return to these same maso-erotic images of capture, slavery, and torture later in that very same letter where he refers to the “many other imperfections wherein man is daily insnared,” (emphasis mine); which, in spite of whatever charm or “agency” one might impute or rather ascribe to “Pocahontas” (meaning “the mischievous one,” “the playful one,” “little wanton” “father’s favorite”), this rather charming and fanciful nickname itself just an epithet for her actual name Matoaka, she is still no match for her already once-widowed husband—differences of age and correlative maturity & experience notwithstanding; nor, of much greater significance, for the cultural performance that Rolfe, like a bizarre sort of anthropomorphic metonymy of his particular historically determined or genetic agency, plays and must play out.

Rolfe’s is the difference of a cultural  mindset that is barely decades away from discovering calculus, a stone with which to count or reckon, paving the way from Newton onward, to all future higher mathematics; and Matoaka’s autochthonous culture whose is, if it is to be compared to any outside of itself, much more akin to the great Sappho’s that drifts and values the majestic and the poetic “having come from heaven wrapped in a purple cloak” also seen in the beautiful trade-pieces of an indigenous people’s purple-colored wampum.

The individuals—John Rolfe and Matoaka—themselves are unimportant except insofar as they represent the nexus of an ineluctable historical massacre, of one culture’s lapidary mindset over another’s, of the Bible Reading God Fearing John Rolfe as agent of one culture armed with memory-tools of de-scription against which a re-named, re-scribed Rebecca as wife qua opponent was powerless to be anything but overwritten by the logic and the Word of the Christian West.

*for who but her own father and her own people really had the right to call her that?

For further consideration, there are these (among many) movies to watch:

Navajo Joe, a brutal spaghetti western, starring Burt Reynolds; in particular :59 in the film where Joe asserts his being American and refers to his many generations past born, as well as his own, in what is now the United States, unlike the newly arrived white Indian killers who deny him citizenry.

Duck, You Sucker, a sophisticated Sergio Leone (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, among other greats) epic starring James Coburn and Rod Steiger. As formidable commentary on the ills of early Western technology used against indigenous people as you will ever see.

Straight Flooded Tree In Tilted World

flooded tree

It had been an aside in a chemistry lecture. Maybe there had been some sort of presentation about covalent bonds, or spdf orbitals, all of which was forgotten over time. Well, not exactly. The understanding of quantums and the minimal amount of energy necessary for an electron to move from one level to another stuck with him. This meant that when people referred to “quantum leaps” as meaning huge jumps in reasoning, or sudden galactic increases in human understanding or technology, he knew how wrong that was. Really, a quantum leap or ‘jump’ was the least amount of barely anything measurable, or, for that matter, imaginable.

But the real point to Introduction to Chemistry, was Dr. Pearson’s stray comment, the aside mentioned here at the beginning: “Nature doesn’t care an iota for the life of Man.” This was just an objective fact being asserted, just as a chair with three legs that is supposed to have four will fall down. It was a slap in the face to the more palatable, and more acceptable, evolutionists’ notion that Nature cared not about survival of the individual but survival of the species. Well. Who cares? Nature not.

This basically blew apart to smithereens the anthropomorphic conceit that was critically observed by John Ruskin and subsequently referred to as the “pathetic fallacy,” in literary circles. But, without having to go there (just click the link), even crazy android Roy Batty subscribes to this Man-nature-love in his famous, last “Tears in rain” moment during the closing minutes of Blade Runner, which we all have seen, or which we must. Here, the idea of human sadness as represented by wet tears is connected directly with the wet raindrops in Nature. In fact, they have converged. Their confluence makes them indistinguishable. Nature is sad, people are sad. They are both wet and sad. Such is his own technical induction into the world of his own moribund humanity, alas the day. Well, maybe Nature does not, but Do Electric Sheep [Still] Dream at Night?