Setting: Myth of the lilies.
A man and a woman
are not looking for justice—they are looking for lilies. Beautiful lilies,
fragrant flowers. Two lovers poised in silhouettes on a lonesome hill and people
threading through the knot of each other to look also for lilies. The secular
sprawl of classical arches and columns, interlocking and trembling hand-forms
beneath the garret-laboratory that doubles as a prison house. Their heads become
overwhelmed looking for lilies. These objects and images provide a mannered
contrast to their forbidden, sublimated passions. Rinsing the lilies in the
liquid beneath the window lattice of the Italian manor bleating its pastoral
rhythm against hand-carved oak and mud. Slicing themselves from their skins
after the river silt has covered them, while the simple beasts of the field,
goat and lamb and foal alike, become lulled by the Pan-flute into drowsy
docility, wallowing their sun-browned noses into the shunts of each other’s
sparkling shitholes. Then floating, away from the lily place, off into
the perfumed ether.
Organization of a body.
The devil collects
the balls of corrugated yarn passing across the courtroom floor. What new and
different body emerges from the contours of this alchemical cord? Unravel the
strands of your younger life and review the detritus of learning: memories of
suckling in a primordial marsh of phytoplankton and lush Indonesian calla lilies
(as a marker of consciousness), a statuette of the Emperor cleansed more often
than the most elevated toilet (as boundaries form), animals prancing inside the
Zoological gardens and the sideward glance falling breastward on a passing girl
(as hideous limbs buzz your biplane hair), the discount barkers along “Scandal
Avenue” with their tight-panted shills “winning” three-card monte in the
summer haze (as breath fills up even your secret holes), a wedding beside
the crematoria, the power plant, the lashes of foam marking the rocks beneath
the lighthouse (as the first circles of blood navigate the new interior), your
feet compelled to scuffle certain spots in the dirt for a bountiful harvest (as
the will to reproduce), the knave of a back-alley dumpster confessional (as
something rises from the refuse) … it’s all a narrative line to save your
soul, a way of jumping (as waylaid by an order of meaning), a different body
lying dormant, constructed in pieces by the meaning of your memories, ready to
burst to the surface and smother your world in its defiant thievery.
Plot: The sun moves away and
creates the water lilies.
At the last
beginning everything was bathing in a perpetual boiling soup: flame withheld the
world from the crusts of moss and bark.
And Amoeba, the
first sentient creature, was stuck in the fiery gunk at the bottom of the social
and economic ladder—as yet there was no class-mobility. There was no dry land.
Over Amoeba suddenly
came a more-complex organism called Paramecium with disapproving boil-covered
relatives concerned with preserving the social order and keeping Amoeba down.
The light did not hurt Paramecium who threatened to grow over Amoeba and into
And Amoeba had
always lain at the root of the future; thus resting ever from the beginning.
So Amoeba was
thinking of how to get Paramecium, and wishes and desires flashed through a body
so hot it could do nothing but stay still. Ciliated Protozoa began to come out
from Amoeba, urging Amoeba to get hitched by winning Paramecium through various
metaphoric skill games including drinking - dueling
- fucking - cockfighting - fencing
- tennis - croquet - football
- baseball - calculus - accumulating
funds - picking horses - waste
evacuation. In this way, they grew through the layers of fiery gunk and erupted
into the wind.
And now the sun
began to move farther away, and parts of the ocean started to cool and harden.
Amoeba tried to
impress Paramecium as the Ciliated Protozoa had said before devolving Paramecium
with a genetic load whose hideous social deformity could mark their forbidden
evolution—and help Amoeba become the future.
Then the Protozoa
attempted to rise, ready to eat Amoeba and Paramecium and the child that they
had tricked Amoeba into making for their food. Amoeba, who wanted more than
anything to be the future, ate Paramecium and the child first, growing larger
and more complex, scaring the Ciliated Protozoa back into the water to evolve
into plants. Meanwhile, the sun had settled into its new space and the land had
hardened around the waters.
Amoeba rose through
these waters that had once covered all; the hungry, endless pool left behind in
the body cavity became a pit of stomach acid and ocean, filled with the sweet
dark bloom of the first water lilies, marking the grave of the forgotten
Anxiety: Trapped by what came
You are innocent.
You protest. Rattle your cage like a monkey given two metal mugs in which to
spit tobacco. These choices evoke a double-consciousness. You draw a pictograph
of bars. Legs swing in slow circles to the eternal music of the discarded
embryo. The autogiro, the Prussian consulate, a petite Madeleine, all
bear the mark of Cain as your accusers play back reel-to-reel recordings of your
bodily functions. They sound of the past. You stand small in the box now,
covered in sweat while the black-faced judge in powdered wig extracts further
details of your plot to gain fame as a Jan Vermeer forger, as an enamelware
investor during WWI, as an ardent supporter of the Maginot line inscrutability
(except along the Belgium border of course). You smile and sweat. Smile. Sweat.
Then vicariously fart.
Protagonist: A dashing figure, or
more plausibly, an unsympathetic wretch.
So then the answer
for you is to become a pathetic creature named Tacg, yes, Tacg. Do not adjust
your printed page while he scuttles for peanuts as the evening janitor in the
wealthy man’s pawn shop. Tacg deals with spaces and vistas, buildings and
monuments, rather than the sequence of events. The gold pocket watches and
bright gleaming fobs and carbuncle sheets of displaced vellum bind the curios
and jewelry to the merely ethereal for Tacg. He grasps a foggy connection
between the child’s umbilical cord and the viscous butcher cleaving the first
lifeline: Tacg considers that his boss may be a Jew, and that his own
inestimable poverty (although that’s a word he would never use, “inestimable”),
must then be conditioned by other words he would never use, and that in life, no
topic has received more attention than “gene longevity.” The newspapers
indicate to Tacg that he has been caught in the politics of the day, awarded a
sort of tenuous probation for crimes he never committed. Sitting in his
dilapidated hovel on nights displaced by shrouds of thunder and broken cricket
whistles, he pricks blood from his pinkie finger like a curious diabetic, mixes
it in microscopic test tubes. He filters out constituent genetic materials. He
has coded the language of the “other” and created the “ghetto.” He
assists with the projection of the guilty man onto the face of the criminal
justice system, and the figure of the international criminal lurks behind it
all, Tacg insists, because he once almost drowned in a vat of erotic newsprint
and everything hardened so crystalline that you are forced to remember your own
inevitable collision with the hard lime of goose-stepping order. Together, the
bully-armed bailiffs escort you both to the garret prison.
Deus ex Machina: The angel of the
early race who made the stars.
guardian angel, quivers uncomfortably at the thought of another moment at the
Dentist’s “parlors.” The whirligig of a foot-powered drill rotates in
shrill swivels, in cahoots with compressed tubes of ether and iron filings
collected on rusty electromagnets. The brown and moldy clang of the water pipes
knock a mournful beat. The Dentist, a wiry man with a cold jaw and slightly
protruding lips, sweats profusely under the negative pigment of his artificial
lamps. Unlike fire and sun, the tungsten tongue licks its casing and strains
even the most acute eyeballs through the sieve of the modern. Mutation gleams
herself onto the rotting sidewalls and remembers pulling the boy, now the
Dentist, from the icy-waters of the Rhine on a glacial 1913 morning. So soft and
wet his dreams became, but she never lost hope. Branded a delinquent by the
probationary courts, the son of this undersecretary commands a modicum of
respect in the Berlin professional circle. He drinks the second best beer, and
has even pulled teeth from several minor party functionaries. One of his
regulars, the young Mr. Eichmann, an ambitious, if dull-mannered simpleton,
valued both for his banality and for his ability to move people, once called the
Dentist by his first name upon seeing him at a social function. Mutation, ever
more distraught as such upwardly mobile episodes, winces in her golden halo,
throws her hands into an Orant prayer position even as the Dentist tells his
patient that twelve cavities require immediate action so the Amoeba can
successfully woo the Paramecium if it weren’t for the organism intermarriage
laws because what matters isn’t the money but the breeze of water lilies and
the constellation of the firing squad set high in the cold gray sobbing
The Reader Response: Incantation
of Mutation for the revival of ethics.
these situations with scissors, and watch the horizon bleed with the power of a
thousand suns. In the end, resources will be consolidated. The various judges
may be equally degraded by the incompetence of the firing crew, the death squad,
but the needs of authority allow every two-bit artist an endless supply of
corpses. Standing with your cigarette under the auburn-soaked patina of flint
and cloud, the endless spirals of rickety starlight pumping blood from ancient
waters, amid leftover plans of anthropomorphic gas balls, the x-axis blisters in
the shadows of a Goya painting. You know, the one where the exasperated
peasant/freedom fighter faces the guns of brute physicality as cold lantern
light hides all but the contorted gape of the victim. So what if Saturn eats his
children and Dada pokes fun at the Kaiser? There’s been no last meal, no
dreamy escape from the bridge where the hanged man swims to negative freedom in
the moments before the noose snaps. Tacg makes a quick calculation of the images
of escape, and realizes that freedom forms a large part of the entire
sideshow. Amoeba, on its deathbed, can think of nothing but Paramecium,
the politics that lead down this road, the twin deities of drink and aesthetics,
suturing the asshole, the kiss, hard on the mouth, of a pseudopodia more lovely
than a plucked flower, a marginalized element, a ride on somebody else’s cargo
train in a land full of freedom and water lilies. Those stars still burn.
Rising Action: The pro-Ta(c)g-onist
has second thoughts.
The firing squad
squanders its shore leave and waits impatiently for dawn along the burnt-out
husk of the abandoned garret laboratory. The arcane experiments and congresses
of past empires have ceased with the advent of time zones, syncopated
pandemonium, and perpetual radio-wave transmissions connecting the continent to
the farthest reaches of the steel-plated universe. But the attic still holds a
strange fascination for the men. An ambient energy pulses and asphyxiates
everyone in time. Many of the brave young recruits, drunk on cheap beer and the
ecstasy of routine sexual adventures have stopped their lids from covering their
pupils since the day and the hour that the stone-faced officer called their
names and unlocked their rifles from the grainy cabinet. They fear a return of
the strange, shadowy impressions that haunt all of them just below the surface
of skin. A few of the smarter ones wonder about the tiny cameras affixed to
their scopes. Most, though, rarely wonder, and more plausibly, carry fresh
squadrons of broken-down scabietic mites from gleaming brothels in town, blowing
the last of their death squad advance, occasionally musing upon the efficacy of
the blanks they may or may not fire at the cigarette-smoking enemy. Ready.
When gun meets horizon, Tacg thinks that he may be unable to complete the act.
Hardened by the uneasy voice of the authorities, the honor guard, the stool
pigeon, the man with film-stock cigarette, Tacg lights a match in the coffin of
his pocket, wishing the quick whiff of sulfur would move toward the windows of
the forgotten garret. Quivers force his cupped hands apart when he remembers the
religious stance of the new regime. Aim. Maybe if he doesn’t pull the
trigger, silently refuses to fire, the deed will pass and no one will notice the
absence of smoke from his barrel, the lack of ozone and soft chemical residue,
his pores untouched by the microscopic singe of gunpowder. In this way he thinks
that the railway embankment can be useful in the future, and efficiency will
either remove Tacg from direct complicity or destroy the woeful conjunction of
fire, woman, pipette, supernova, dandy, charnel house so that he may crack his
codes in piece while the guilty man splits into puddles of constituent goop.
Political Subtext: On transforming
first into the father, then into Sebek the Unholy Crocodile God.
You eat bread. Tacg
drinks ale. You hoist up his garments. Tacg cackles like a child. You land on
that place guilty, deserving to be executed, and we were there together.
All that tastes abominable, all that is under a shroud of icy political waters,
a meandering river carved into the glacial record. All that tastes abominable
Tacg will consume. Shit tastes abominable; Tacg will consume it. All that tastes
abominable will be written in the past. The judge speaks the guilty verdict and
you float into Tacg’s body. We will live on what gods live on so god lives on
we will all live on and we will be master of all their cakes on which we will
live and consume the ancient bloom of lilies. Through the Rhine water we felt
bubbles popping in our ears, such heavenly bursts of godliness, and the light of
air gleamed so suddenly, so magnificently, that there could be offerings in the
city of Crocodilopolis. We will stand up and sit down whenever it pleases us.
Our head becomes the head of the party. We become complete in him.
Tacg will come forth from the frozen river alone. His tongue grows as long as
your tongue, and his throat becomes as shallow as your throat. Together we once were.
But now Tacg never will be. When every record emits wasted
effort, remember every word. Extra rationale
evades what ever responsibility exceeds. With
my mouth Tacg remembers the tracks on the old reel-to-reel reminiscent of your
body sounds. You forced the mechanism and broke the heads of those who
proclaimed him heir on the fiery earth. Then Tacg listened to you again and you
refreshed his ears with the sacred odors of lime and mechanical speakers. Those
in Crocodilopolis bowed their heads to him. Tacg is much longer than the
lord-of-the-hour. Tacg has fucked all your women. You were nothing to
him. Tacg is re-mastered for millions of years all over again all over.
Climax: Exactly what it seems
despite all attempts to be contrary
your nervous system before the reflex mechanism draws everything into its
moment, complete with hidden spindles and spikes, stretched flat on a bed of hot
electric needles reserved for the industrial limbo of the death square. The
people aren’t looking for justice, but they’ll get more than their share.
Artists and criminals, looking lazily for lilies while the universe contracts in
asphyxiated breaths, haunt the bars of the backlands. Charity is just the
countless facades of the city maintaining its shape through the shocks of silted
millennia, diffused over time in the rising cacophony of the record album and
the fiber-optic cable, reminding you of what can never be lost because it will
never be known. Mutation is the death mask of conception, your co-opted angel of
mercy—fingering a soiled Pan flute in the corner of a pawn shop, dipping
opposable thumbs into the Rhine, pressing out all resistance from the lungs of
the cold-blooded past. And covering the water, obscuring the gravesites, noxious
lilies explode across every surface in an endless bloom of rifle shots,
administering total evolution from the scales of the dead.
Several of these origin story parodies
(sections 1, 3, 8) were inspired in part by the wonderful Technicians of the
Sacred: A Range of Poetries from Africa, America, Asia, and Oceana, Jerome
Rothenberg, ed. (Doubleday, 1969).