A Bee Is A Predicate With Wings
an essay by John Olson


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 of faith.

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, form.

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 buzzing apposition. 

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 moist T-shirt.

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 circumstances?

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 noble gases.

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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