Dead Teleologies

by dschapman

What are you working on, they asked me, watching over my shoulder, intrigued. I looked up from my work, to the sky, where the orchestra was. I listened with my skin to the symphony while I thought of an answer. What sort of answer would they understand? A catalogue of words and descriptions, like an index of buffalo carved on a cavern wall, a retreat through the hollows of poetry and fact. Strands of uncertainty, unweavable webs. I wonder when the sky will fall. I wonder am I ready. The dice in my pocket said boxcars. I read their faces with a pass of my thumb, I turned them over into snake eyes. And there, to my left, the willow tree, weeping like prosaic verse, dripping, leaning over. And the clay in my teeth, it made it hard to speak. The aftertaste of coal and oil on my tongue, corn flakes in a watery cauldron. The civility of war. Mud in my gums, mud crawlers writhing within me. I preferred not to speak. What is that, they asked me again, curious. What are you working on, they said. I sighed. A sluice, I replied. A sluice for all things. Gates and floods and flood control. Levees, with signs following, with snakes and pikes and watchtowers. That is my aim, that is my struggle. I bared to them my plans and they worried them. They told me I couldn’t do it, that I should build an ark and sail away, that it would be easier that way, that I would work with the blessing of god, that I was no builder of sluices, I should build an ark and sail away, ride the rain, not take it. I said no. I said, a sluice. I have already made great progress. First I needed iron. I forged iron. Then I needed wood. I gathered wood. Now I need the water. I need the substance, something substantial, something to form the torrent, the torrent that rips my clothes from my body, the deluge that forces my insides open, that trawls through my channels of blood like a submarine, leaking oil, leaking bleach; my bones giving way to metal, my metal giving way to oxidation. The downpour. Hard work, laborious intentions. A crippling sense of satisfaction – and it cripples me. I burned my hand in the fire, incandescent red. A falling tree fell on my back, pressed me to the ground. But someone pulled it off me. Someone fed me soup. I was thankful, I admired them.  They said to me, please, stop, and think, before you do this. All of this building, and no time to think. Being and pure being, no time to understand it. No need to compose, for it only yields decomposition. I lost patience with my savior. I set fire to the cabin and I set fire to the woods around them. Sell me your land! I am an artist. I will sculpt it into something nicer. I told them not to stop me. I told them I was in for it now, that I knew the extent of it better than they could ever try to tell me, better than they could ever try to know themselves. It is my responsibility, I said. It is my responsibility! I spoke in a feverish pitch. I talked all about my intentions. My schema of all mankind. I explained the process. A pit is formed; cement fills the pit. A frame goes up around it, a trellis is placed across the top. More and more trellises. Thicker, denser frames. Complications; walls, hallways, windows. Changes to the original design. Infestations, fallen trees. Gypsum, insulation, veneer. Winds crack at the glass and threaten to break it. A siren fills the air – tornadoes! Open the windows, whistle to the dogs, make your way with some paraffin for the basement. The tornado comes. It lifts the cement from its pit. It sends the house to the clouds, where it disappears above the rain. It will come crashing to earth again, somewhere far away from here. Meanwhile, a pit is formed; cement fills the pit. A frame goes up around it, trellises arching above us. Storms rumble in from the distance, sublime. The teleology of a romantic secularism, the end-all totality of circumstance, the determination by way of causal necessity, towards a single sweeping criticism, a broad and inspiring analysis of being, pure being, no need to understand it. Nothing to understand; being in movement, being in sense, unreferential. Being in life, inconsequential.