Teratology

by dschapman

I stand by my self in a very dark room, alone in some attic-like office, wiping with the back of my hand the beading strands of sweat from the furrows of my brow. It is a small room, a hot room, thick with air and unconditioned. I work here, hot in the heat of the midst of it, heat in my eyes and my fingers, chafing my skin, flooding my pores; saltwater runs like chalk over pavement, cold in the rain, hot like hell in the heat of the masterpiece; hard and long have I been working, sifting through history, alone in the confines of pitiless heat, a place where even the angels fray. I am aware in my darkness of something anomalous, something strong and strangely anomalous. Through the darkness, I pursue it, with my shirt tucked into my trousers, poring over piles of paper that have long since been patterned with ink, ink like light of darkness forging words, putting fires in the place of fires, water in the river of life; paper damper than I, sweating the summer away in windowless rooms, singing the hymns of my forefathers. People are dying out there; the people out there, they are suffering. I wonder what the world is like, outside, past the terrace – my terrace, when I need it – sometimes, wine-guilty, there standing, I stand in the sunlight, breathing the air of the earth as it settles like sawdust around me, whole and warm and expansive. I stand there, eyes closing, taking it all in from my edge of the universe, seeing the sights as they stand, only then and never more. Days where I wonder, what it must be like; what the world is like, outside. In lieu of lovely poetry, of failed prosaic experiments; words, without flesh from which to form it, without blood, as Alexander the Great drew blood, as Cain drew Abel’s blood; no one else is outside today. It is too hot; there is too much sulfur in the sky. The streets are like journeys, purposeless, misleading. Eons stretching on past eons, intersecting eons; a multitude of meaning. It is the best I can do for to live with myself, standing hard at work in a very dark room, hiding my plight from the rest of the world; the rest of them have plights of their own, fewer places to hide than I. It is the best I can do to get up in the morning, to come up here, to this tall darkened room by the terrace, alone in the musk, alone in the vapors, reading illegible papers, riddling unanswerable rhymes, looking for clues, hoping for some fulfilling conclusion, striving for fulfillment, selfish for fulfillment; it is vain, this game, it spurs vanity. I stare at my self; I am selfish. I am seeking answers, having thus recognized anomalies, and I trawl for them like claws on ancient seabeds, digging up sand by the handfuls, picking up ships like the wind and sailing them into new paradise. Filing cabinets filled to the brim with oxidated papers, dresser drawers stuffed full of clean and fitted shirts, bookshelves brimming, breaking open. It is like a warehouse, this library, this mapping of mankind, mankind’s map of all existence; and here I am, having stolen the blueprints to the machine, all of the plans to the city, a cosmologicist;  and I have the blueprints pinned to a wall, where I can study them, so I might try to understand the order of things, to sort out the parts from the consummate whole, that I might make for myself a sentiment, understandable, communicable, and constitute. Blueprints of a place, a landscape, a constant turnover of purpose and placement, a world in constant turning, spinning on axes, the world as it is, once was, yet spinning; an order, a people, a system of fact and of principles, the sensible machine, made good of re-purposed materials from pieces once crumbled, loose ends tied together in singular endings and wings made of paper and burning. I read through manuscripts from a world long precedent, legends and myths from the ages of man in his cradle, waiting in awe for meaning, for evidence of meaning, still waiting, now praying, now given up and cynical. There is no single name for my wonder; I wonder in awe at the whole of it. Once I wondered, as a boy, on the nature of things; I wondered for my own sake, Who goeth there? What is that rustle, that it stirs so the leaves from their stasis? What is this muscle, what is this bone, that I move it, that I will it, through thought, into motion? What is this thought, that I think it? This tool, that I wield it? Who are these kings, that I love them, these giants that once walked the earth? What is this earth, that I sings through the day as we sung through the night, that it spins in its place in the cosmos? As ever once I may though have wondered, I wonder only stronger now, and I wonder up-hill, ever-strengthening, ever-learning, destined to fail. I tremble with ease at the sight of the pillar, the Obelisk, that it stands so divine in the distance, the fore that it forms all around me, rolling like liquefied ground, enchanted attractions and magical heights, an angel of happiness beckoning me; beckon me, angel, take me to thy orchard, fold me in thy wings and hold me. I roll up my sleeves and check the clock; it is midday, the sun is done rising, the descent is begun. Clouds form, coolly, over the horizon, over the buildings and treetops. I have plenty of time, but plenty of work for to do, and I doubt I will ever finish it. Like a slave, without payment, nor purpose, working furiously, indolently, uneasily. This is the best I can do, this maniacal pursuit, inexplicably crude, because it is all I am capable of. Were I a luckier man, I would be in the mountains, drinking wine from a wineskin and resting for a moment in the sun, on the rocks, with my carbine and a pile of dynamite beside me, stolen horses waiting patiently nearby, resting for a moment before continuing on for my mission, a mission of war. Otherwise I might at least be awake, in the cold of the morning, stomach growling, drinking from the creek water, cold, it numbs me, it numbs my fingers, passing my fingers through the muck of the bottom, hunting oysters. Eating with five other men by a campfire, spearing out meat from a cast-iron pan with a knife tip, rabbit and pigeon and squirrel, thinking with ease of a woman, a lady of the town that she loved me, a woman that fell for this man. But I am not lucky; I will never live the life that every other man has luckily lived, or that life of romantic exhaustion, lives of challenge and lives of triumphant misfortune, sorting through skulls for a gemstone, finding peace in the heart of the wilderness, eating through handfuls of flies finding sugar, tracking real prey over deadly terrain, fighting real wars and winning real women, real rites of passage, real brushes with death, chances and happenstance and a prime sense of righteousness. Instead, I am asleep in a dream of fortuneless plenty, a happenstance of a curious, impermanent stability, fragile and ludicrous stability, the top of a mountain of quicksand. Without the will to sustain it, it will disappear, and when it is gone, I will cry for it; I will miss it then, as now I miss the romance of a prior time, a mythical age of even more curious constructs than mine. When my world is gone, I will miss it, deride it though I may. And to prove it, I freely admit it, I believe it, I preach it and record it; and then I deride it some more. Like all the modern men before me, modern in all manner of times, all spaces of modernity, from now until ten thousand years prior, and ten million years more before that; from cells, into vultures, into demons with wicked potential, seraph with blazing attendance, like all the cellular lives that grew up from nothing unto nothing in order that one day I myself might grow, from perpetual nothing unto perpetual nothing, a blight in the queer unspeakable struggle that upends again and again our progress, like all modern men, I am knee-deep in corpses, I am fighting for my life. The battle for good and evil, taking place on a nameless sphere as it veers like a wheel through a universe of jewel-like abstractions, spheres and squares and pentagrams, stars and their star-like delusion through space, light and light without time, motion without motion in homeostatic magic perfection. We live, and we fight, in the space of some words, few words; whole worlds contained and forgotten in the course of a lifespan, whole spans led on and summed by words, an unintelligible intention. Skies open up in tempests above us; they let go of their torrents, pent-up inside them, and wash on our world the furor of angels, withstood. Water pours when we cry, like the cumuli, letting go of a trillion droplets, droplets let loose in miraculous freefall to collapse in a flood at our feet. We float in the flood of the rainwater, like two by two the goodly beasts once flew before us, flowing freely over the errantless waves of some indecent benevolent god, a comfortable madness bursting to earth from the skies, parting the seas that did sculpt them, razing the grains that did raise them; love, unbridled, imperiling. Our kingdom, come, to those whom deserved it. I lived in a city in a valley without a river, the river dried up and dammed to preserve us. Damned to preservation, damned to subservient truth; so serve us, our nature, our sentient truth; asleep in the storm of our man-made deluge, the praise of our nature declaiming us; we stand, declamatory, in fig leaves, afraid of what we know. To have made with good faith this bed and to have been thus condemned to lie in it; at rest in the bed, where my father too did lay, where a hero long before him lay, in keeping with tradition, with strong men of tradition; where strong men stumbled across continental frontiers, drunken over the plains, tearing down the endless forest; and here, at the end, the sameness, the satisfaction made delinquent, the algae always blooming. The crusades against men have all been won; so begun the crusades against straw. I am ready to fight; I am a talented fighter. Able-minded, aware of the astral imbalance; hearing things, thinking things, churning newness into soreness, soreness into death, and from death unto mystery. Thick in the mystery, against unyielding heat, virile hot mugginess, and working, steadily working, but never quite working enough. Of virtue, of goodness; this is no romantic obsession. This is a life, and it must be believed; and we ourselves are our only belief systems. Belief in a myth, that is, the primordial truth; believe in the timeless totality, the nerves and the nerve-endings, the psychoses spun out of centrality. A victim of external insanities, constant and violent obstructions; it is up to the self, to my self, for to isolate myself a sanity. I was given these hands, as I was given a sense of the ether; and from the ether I must form, with the hands of a maker, a good and tangible form, an ethereal water from fogginess, and step thusly unto it. This is my stepping-stone; watch me, see me stepping. Stepping forth through the ether, and unto it, out of the fog unto fogginess, anomalous.

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