A Bee Is A Predicate With Wings
an essay by John
Everything we see in this world we see in sequence, a chain of events,
a swell of pitch. Current. Drift. Commotion. Spanish motorcyclists
tumbling through the air. Ships at sea. Waves crashing on sand. The
living word is like the living being, pops wheezes coughs hiccups, the
reality of muscle and skin leaving footprints on a beach.
Each imprint has a shape and a
significance. A reality. There is significance in shape, shape in
reality. The other dimension of our existence is an invisible mystery
whose music is revealed in constellations of meat and coincidence.
Fables, blisters, flint.
Some things bend. Some things
bead. If you watch a living amoeba under a microscope you will see a
theatre of resiliency in a drop of water. It is an action tinged with
intention. Life cemented by persistence. The goo of the human mind
expanded by glass. Nails pounded into wood. Opinions. Epistles. Leaps
Events sequenced in time hold the
air in place. Lumber and nail eventually become a barn. A stable. A
momentary space. The heady odor of hay and manure. The dazzle of
beams. The harnessing of time.
When something moves we call it a
narration. A story. Cause and effect. Block and tackle. Cricket and
fair. Juggling blades. Smiling through tears.
An eyeball is a globe of water.
It exemplifies jam. Something inside that little speck of jelly thinks
circumference is appealing. And thereby hangs a volume.
Or bobbin or reel. Light through
a lens, images on a screen.
Narration mutilates space. And so
creatures developed eyes to give meaning to a series of events and
heal space with circumlocution. A vast complex of simple cells all add
up to something ponderous in the invisible world. Thought, oblivion,
There is sometimes a moment so
great and heady it seems everything is on the verge of bursting. And
then it does. It bursts. Remnants of luminous color come dropping down
in slow biography. And there you are face to face with the great
mystery. Everything falls into place and a door opens. A door to what?
A farm in the 1500s. An autumn in nineteenth-century France. Ecuador
crinkled and imposing on a Spanish map.
It is the characteristic of an
eye to validate the visible and see who or what has been in the room.
Each room is a story. We live inside ourselves. We live inside our
narratives with furniture and people and paintings. Thought is the
furniture of the mind, and philosophy is the surface facing our
camera obscura. Everything ham and hammered and happening is outside
in the visible world. It becomes allegory in the invisible world. It
becomes ogres and jungles and phantoms and amulets. This is how the
invisible is made visible. An aperture in the mind dilates letting in
light and scenery. And as imagination bodies forth the forms of things
unknown, the poetís pen turns them to shapes, and gives to airy
nothing a local habitation and a name.
One must start with movable
letters. Swords and fighting and arguments and duels. These are given
further significance by distilling them into spells. I will assert
baldly it all becomes apparent when hidden realities become evanescent
symbols varnished with the lacquer of thought.
It is very hard to hold a marble
udder on a granite cow. But you can milk it once you become familiar
with the map of the story. A story is, after all, a bobsled. Twilight
beaten into tinfoil. Rungs on a ladder are parallel like numbers on a
speedometer or bells in the tympanum of your ear. Wavelengths are
undulations of the spirit of sound when it slips through the air as an
ambassador of impulse. The correspondences are clear, but ambiguities
abound. The impolitic gray of fog. Your face reflected in a lake. The
smoldering ornaments of a sonata made of quartz.
When things run parallel they
become allegories. Imagine yourself looking down a railroad track. You
hear the lowing of cattle in Louisiana grass. You see rays of light
bouncing hot and thick and blistered off the rails reversing the outer
picture of reality into a postcard of Spinozistic spinach. Immanence
expands into greenery, the fruitful immediacy of chaos. If it rains, it
rains jasmine and inflammation, pots or tulips, the amenity of smell
coining jamborees of frankincense and mint. And then we see we are not
only seeing but seeing through a seeing into vaults of naked eternity.
This is why there is a need for bees and elaboration. The erratic
flight of the bee excites the presentation of words in a seeming
circumstance of pattern. Pollen. Pewter. Breakfast at Tiffanyís.
A bee is a predicate with wings.
Every flower an adjective, every noun a hive of dreams and
A sentence is an engine that
dribbles declension. Birds, cows, arrowheads, warriors. A Kansas
marshal in baggy clothes. Pistons of rain move ramifications of bud
into heaving effusions of lemon and peach. Even a hyacinth is a tangle
of words. Motion and shape are the tangible evidences of life. No
narrative can work without a space for salt and kangaroos. If writing
is a form of art, its oats must absorb the eyes in a field of
subjunctive habitation. Movies for the mind which convey emotion,
beat, rhythm, vibration, an alphabet of cormorants diving for focus.
If you want to build a mask of
damask you must do so brick by brick. This is what we do in fiction.
We signify caulk with a caulking gun and wipe away the excess with a
A story begins with a heading. It
is mappable by apple and glaze. It is already in our scheme of things
quivering like a flame on our personal map of reality.
Take a bath in rose petals. The
rapids are sizzling with suspense. The water crawls or bounces over
the rocks in a cantata of liquid rhetoric because it is the way our
minds foam out of our heads. We go inward for scenes of our inner life
as if the mind were a theatre. We watch the curtain rise on a jeep. A
colossal eyeball floats overhead. We search for coordinates and find
meaning in barrels of peanuts and creaking floors. When we open our
eyes we find that the rapids are still there, but appear different,
more copulative and silver in flashes of chaotic splendor.
We know what it is to row and row
and make a narration of rowing, a tale of endocrine and flags where
viewpoint is the seed of plot and the water beneath us causes our
convictions to float, unanimous in movement. Believe me this is so.
Think of resolution as a form of ambergris, a residue left by vagaries
of implication and gray.
The wisdom of feelings drives the
narration through fragments of hindsight and recall, October broken
into bits of hue, pancakes heaped on a plate in Topeka. What happened
that day with the spoon? Why was there so much pressure to order? Why
was the menu so large and cold to the touch? The waitress was friendly
and thin and appeared to be in her early forties. She was energetic
and friendly. And yet there was a hint of melancholy in her carriage,
a soup(on of thirst only time could quench. But we were reading too
much? How do we manage to weave such stories around such thin
The first tales were told by
tinkling sunlight in the left knee while juggling bits of air called
words. Rhinoceroses, bear, deer, bison, wild horses, oxen, boars.
Necks, locks, water skis, needles, periscopes, resurrections, sarongs.
The story is a balance between thunder and caviar. One must have a
nose for nostalgia and a sense of transcendence tough as new rope. A
language for preserving the questions of the past. The mummies of
ancient Egypt. The dusk of the desk and the dawn of the lawn. The
momentum of mood and the gestation of depth. Thoughts and ideas
flushed from the skulls archaeologists have found. A rib engraved with
horses. Credit cards and dreams. The fauna of a vanished world. A
tableau of marvelous beings.
People live in two worlds, a
nebulous brochure of postponed aspirations and a narcotic flexibility.
Inner world visions are more vivid than real life. They pulse with
harmonicas and boulevards. Feathers for strange rituals.
Ceremony transcends the banality
of socks. This is why candles and mirrors are so important. Donít let
Texas get in the way of your asterisks and bagatelles. Texas is a
state, just like oilcloth. If you look around you will see the flicker
of shadows on a cavern wall inciting us to go outside and find their
counterpart in a world of endless variegations and shifting
vocabularies. The more things change the more they remain the same.
Today there is a song in the jukebox whose jubilations are just as
tawny and palliative as they were forty years ago. A cumbersome
emotion still trying to worm its way out of the terrain of shadows and
hesitations into the light of day, emotions yet to be discovered and
apparitions tearing time into shreds of phantom confetti.
Devotion is an animal. It is the
reason for nudes. We are but the servants of a world we cannot see, a
world of light and joy, a surface gleaming like syrup freshly poured
on a pancake. There is no complete reality without hearing it, tasting
it, feeling it, weighing it, sewing it together with words and
intuitions, circuitry and levers. Candy on a radio. It is vital to
have something our senses can grasp and suck into our being, a lamp or
a color, a ramification tasting of cod. The intangible pattern of
reality adheres to our alphabet like twilight, thought inflated with
The American frontier makes
better sense on the other side of a patent misunderstanding. Imagine a
town of pearls, a village of plot and story told in flashes of
insight, the saga of a rugged individualist sparkling like pasties on
a pair of colossal nipples, a torso perfect as a carrot and a
background dripping with violins. An acute sense of the invisible made
visible in symbols, iodine and pulleys, the smell of a garage, the
bright succulence of words, patina, animus, stain, a sentence rough
and frayed and hung obliquely on a towel rack. An afghan, a watermark,
jewelry in a cedar bureau. Thatís it. Thatís what a story does. It
fabricates an atmosphere then opens it with rain.
(First printed in First Intensity)
©2005 John Olson
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