sable island, nc, december 2003
Sable Island is off the coast of North Carolina, and that's Kim Jaye depicted at the door inside a month of being pregnant with our daughter Indiana, to whom this is dedicated. I was riffing on tropes of green things when she appeared, and so at the moment of her appearance those words in thought forms came to her as a swarm of birds might synchronized in flight. This usually occurs ahead, but in this case it is a turning back, a motion that if out of surprise may be inward. Or as Michael Ruby points out, when a father is asked "Where's Mom?" he might reply pointing to his head, "In your mind."
Akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning "space," "ether" or "sky."
And yet where the phoem ends - clamor of words rested (not wrested) like birds on a phone line - what succor and message this arrangement might bear (as Hitchcock was moved to convey in "The Birds") is of "secondary interest" (as Breton said of reason) compared to where they come from. Conspiratorially transmitted, poetry occurs in lines like prose on a page, which may be destabilized, as Apollinaire did in his ideogrammes iconographically, just as the classic concrete poets typographically sought in their practice of carmina figurate. But behind the literal unsettling of poems made in these directions there is the normal, left-justified, "make believe" poetic form force on which they rely to shore their effects. The line is the message (McLuhan's medium), and it does not much change; and yet thinking of Creeley/Olson's "form is never more than an extension of content" it does not allow form much play but remains words ranked in rows resembling (and possibly re-assembling) order. Poetic forms are makeshifts dictated by the technological as well as inertial limitations of particular cultural horizons. We cannot do more than where we are: In fact, where we are is fantastic"- a fine fit, or struggle. We wrestle in the content to try to bring forms out into intelligibility - disclose at once limitations though at once that act exposes what awareness remains for the keeping going. It recalls D.H. Lawrence's implicit psycho-poetics in The Rainbow's campfire scene:
"She [Ursula] could see the glimmer of dark movement just out of range, she saw the eyes of the wild beast gleaming from the darkness, watching the vanity of the camp fire and the sleepers; she felt the strange, foolish vanity of the camp, which said "Beyond our light and our order there is nothing," turning their faces always inward towards the sinking fire of illuminating consciousness, which comprised sun and stars, and the Creator, and the System of Righteousness, ignoring always the vast darkness that wheeled round about, with half-revealed shapes lurking on the edge"¦ Yea, and no man dared even throw a firebrand into the darkness. For if he did, he was jeered to death by the others, who cried "Fool, anti-social knave, why would you disturb us with bogeys? There is no darkness. We move and live and have our being within the light, and unto us is given the eternal light of knowledge, we comprise and comprehend the innermost core and issue of knowledge. Fool and knave, how dare you belittle us with the darkness? Nevertheless the darkness wheeled round about."
However far we may plunge into the mere, that to which we may bring its saying back per force determines it. We may enter the dark according to our adventurousness, and it is all freedom may be or where it matters. We have this possibility to confront our selves, our apartness. That separation serves purposes, and though it seems a rising up, which is well, all we can know of that purpose is a border. The drive to distinguish ourselves conforms to a healthy part in us. In terms of what does separate us, I think of a cave, though a dark night at the edge of a cliff will do as well, particularly if the sea is below, as Rilke found - the trading floors of stock exchanges on the far shore. Any place does: I trade in words and so bring them back from there in phrases and sentences and sometimes the shapes of them in sonic sequences to which I find words that conform - so that there is something to hold, configuring that border as threshold. It is not so much "let the words find the way" but a reverse - that the way finds the words, which we are. The way remains beyond them: Darkness, like silence, is a concept. As Jackson Pollack may have said, "When I am in the thing, I can no harm," but oddly the thing (the darkness, impenetrability, and intelligibility) no longer is, because we are in it. Practically, in darkness the fire of consciousness remains literally pervasive, and perhaps more so.
Michael Ruby's study of such phenomena in "Close Your Eyes" is telling - temporally blinding himself and then transmitting what he sees on his eyelids into words. These are literal visionary tracts; Hannah Weiner in her "I SEE WORDS" ability reverses that, turning normative vision into darkness, or our inability to see the pervasiveness of our darkness. But it is important to "see" that darkness is a concept similar to Cage's discovery of the hum of his nerves in the sound-proof booth: When you are in darkness you light it, and when you are silent you sound it. Being shines and calls, we are free to discover: though few do. Some return in Joyce's monomythical trope to make of it in the various evolved systems for its transmission - the 26 letters of the English alphabet being one to which I am given. Others do as well. It is of course breath, is to breathe - and perhaps best to leave it at that, as Celine at his most lucid pointed: "Since life consists of madness spiked with lies, the farther you are from each other the more lies you can put into it and the happier you'll be" (Journey to the End of the Night).
Returning to Lawrence, arc lights now dot the landscape of Yeats' "beam rows," even if planted in Africa, returning to Ursula (meaning literally "original sap"), that woman with a face like a beetle. Darkness, as noted, is a privilege - and so where one goes can no longer be figuratively carried over. To pretend to darkness, that metaphor, is no longer viable: It leaves too much to hide and to lie about. Metaphor is the darkness, to use a metaphor. What I want to get at is that metaphor, "over" plus "bear": What is under that over is a darkness that practically cannot appear but is all that matters, pervasively.
To get at this one may draw on two (among more) meanings of the word "appendix." First, we commonly think of appendix anatomically at that blind-ended vermiform (in Latin "worm-like) tube between the large and small intestines. The appendix is vestigial because it has no seeming contemporary function - a shrunken remainder of some prior visceral form perhaps useful once for human grazing when we were more herbivore and perhaps prior to the advent of cooking. Second, we think of the appendix in book formation, the separated area for "housing" addendum material, such as: 1., an index, a list of words or phrases (genus, or kind, outside of particular instance) flowing back into the book, according to each word or phrase's appearance (species) corresponding to page numbers; 2., a bibliography of works from which a book in its construction has drawn, and so flowing into the library; and/or 3., supplementary text elaborating and/or contextualizing what has come before. Supplementary text opens another strata to a book, helping to clarify and/or deepen an impression. An appendix may be viewed as completing a book, at once providing a porous, anterior structure through which readings may be navigated and simultaneously restricted according to office or the prescribed method of doing work.
In both instances (anatomical and biblical), an appendix is not essential: in the former, it is again vestigial, with the door to its implementation in digestion closed some time ago; and in the latter, readers can digest books without an appendix's official assistance. In the absence of appendix material, and particularly an index, it becomes more difficult to cherry pick. Readers are forced to elucidate their own catalog of "key" - ”door opening" - words and phrases, which opens their readings to eclectic possibilities as well as idiosyncratic orientations and associations. For particularly self-oriented readers with established ways of marking significance, an appendix is a nuisance: trail markers (herms) up a mountain when what they want to do is bush whack to the summit: It is something that can be removed without diminution of reading function, like the anatomical appendix for the contemporary body: Generally forgotten sack we are only commonly unaware except when it's infected - at which point, unless removed, it overwhelmingly proves fatal. The body goes into sepsis, as the blood, flooded with toxic bacterial microorganisms, essentially poisons it, leading to organ failure.
An analysis of the appendix in these double meanings might have been attractive to Jacques Derrida and relates tangentially to his idea of "supplement," at least as applied to book formation. An appendix is an addition and accretion, albeit to the already supplement of writing (from speech). Or, as he writes, "[W]riting is supplement par excellence since it marks the place where the supplement produces itself as supplement of supplement, sign of sign, taking the place of a speech already significant; it displaces the proper place of the sentence, the unique time of the sentence pronounced hic et nunc by the irreplaceable subject, and in turn enervates the voice. It marks the place of the initial doubling" [his ital.] (Of Grammatology). From that standpoint, at least in book formation an appendix is a supplement of "supplement of supplement." The human appendix, however, as a leftover, a remainder, is not related to supplementarity, reminding one more of a remaindered, or unsold, book returned to the distributor to be pulped.
While the appendix serves to allow for a double meaning, it also relate to Derrida's notion of absence though, with the appendix as a pseudo organ on the lead edge of the forgetfulness to which we consign our bodies from the neck down, generally. But absence for Derrida makes the text go, or as he notoriously writes, "There is nothing outside the text" ("Biodegradables: seven diary fragments"). A very leading statement open to all sorts of nihilistic-metaphysical cant, it is only operative and useful in context, or "with text": "An 'internal' reading will always be insufficient. And moreover impossible. Question of context, as everyone knows, there is nothing but context, and therefore: there is no outside-the-text." Context brings reading into the irreversibility of time and of immediacy within the non-repeatability of events. That reading is not a separation, as an appendix may be thought to close off and internally contextualize a reading: Rather, it all of a part floods, which Derrida takes up: ""¦all those boundaries that form the running border of what used to be called a text, of what we once thought this word could identify, i.e. the supposed end and beginning of a work, the unity of a corpus, the title, the margins, the signatures, the referential realm outside the frame, and so forth. What has happened ... is a sort of overrun that spoils all these boundaries and divisions and forces us to extend the accredited concept, the dominant notion of a "˜text'" ("Living On: Border Lines"). The "overrun that spoils" sounds like septic shock, a point well past being doubled over in pain. Derrida states, analogically, that this "has happened," and the reality of the Google search engine, switching out "readers" for "users," signifies a relocation of self relative to the information structure. For example, today I ran a Google word search- Duchamp's phrase "Viennese logicians" - and in the corresponding index it drew up I found it had reached into my own database to list this Word document into which I am even now typing.
1.If, speaking poetically, the appendix of a book (as an abstraction) was to burst, what would the experience of reading that book be like? Would that book be legible?
2.As a book's appendices may be said to illuminate readings, may the vermiform appendix (in its association with A., a formerly useful human organ consonant with a bygone way of life, and B., its seemingly non-essential containment of lethal microorganisms) be said to promise darkness, both as associated with: i. the passing of contemporary human form and culture; and ii., death, as in Shakespeare's metaphor of "black night" as "death's second self"?
3.Aristotle defines "metaphor" as the "application of an alien name by transference either from genus to species, or from species to genus, or from species to species, or by analogy, that is, proportion" (with proportion being analogy, or the mingling of differing genus-species scales). The literal meaning of "metaphor": meta-, "over, across", plus pherein, "to carry, bear." In book formation, the appendix assigns value domains, particularly the index (the operative designation of words and phrases according to stated or implied genus-species significance). If it were to burst, metaphorically, and readers were to read either according to an undifferentiated plane or one self-ascribed, would this be the end of metaphor?
4. Or is "darkness" as a metaphor for what under lies what "transference" is "carried" over itself dead, as the metaphysical poet Donne at the dawn of the Cartesian in personification presages, "Death, thou shall die," - or is darkness most vital and most prescient?
5.But does Aristotle carry over what under lies what "transference" is "carried" over itself in put words "to" (aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, amid, among, anti, around, as, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, besides, between, beyond, but, by, concerning, considering, despite, down, during, except, excepting, excluding, following, for, from, in, inside, into, like, minus, near, of, off, on, onto, opposite, outside, over, past, per, plus, regarding, round, save, since, than, through, toward, towards, under, underneath, unlike, until, up, upon, versus, via, with, within and without, "among" other prepositional phrases) question, what we are - a quest - whether awake, asleep or in relative ranges of arousal betwixt and between?
6.Does a state of "intuition" of "what we are" be?
7.Or is the appendix what must be remembered?
8.And if we can "be" that arousal, is it prior to species and genus, which our appendix states: Are put "in" words, which are already a carry over - and so skipping over what be, which is what it in speaking (the act) skips (both legs in the air) over?
9.Becoming a pun (once, or synecdochically), is what under lies what "transference" is "carried" over what "lies" both as dissembling (derived from the Old English legan) and what is horizontal ( from O.E. licgan), noting the past tense of these two verbs, leag and lÃ¦g, respectively, as a near consonant?
10.Is being in language a "dissembling" (and disassembling, as in losing arrangement, or syntax) and "leveling" (undifferentiating) state?
11.Necessarily Donne likens death to sleep, "poppy or charms can make us sleep as well," a normatively horizontal situation: May we equate being "awake" then (now) - Donne, "to wake eternally" - to mean a state in reading of continual attention to what underlies language and so a vertical state, from which alone one can know what lies (in both senses)?
12.But is reading in sleep already "carried over" Shakespeare's "this glowing fire" (the aforementioned "fire of consciousness") and so a darkness (a concept), "black night," death, etc?
13.If that were so, and if the hyper-vigilance to what underlies language, which is a metaphorical medium (ladder pulled up), were to become systemic, would this constitute an end to the peculiar circularity underlying poetic expression as revolving in an illogical double helix of the probable impossible and improbable possible as Aristotle set out:
"Homer has been the great teacher of other poets in the art of telling lies comme il faut. This technique is a matter of false inference. Namely, if a certain thing B is true or happens when another thing A is true or happens, then if B obtains people assume that A also obtains or is happening; but that is a false inference. Hence if A is false but B necessarily follows if it is true, one should explicitly state B, because knowing that this is true our mind make the false inference that the antecedent is true also. An example of this is the foot-washing scene of the Odyssey.
"One should, on the one hand, choose events that are impossible but plausible in preference to ones that are possible but implausible."
14.The scene Aristotle recalls to illustrate an instance of the "impossible [made] plausible" is that in which Penelope draws the false inference from the correct description of her husband that this "stranger" once entertained her husband, versus the correct inference that this is her husband: "As Odysseus spoke, in Penelope he roused desire to weep still more, because she recognized in what Odysseus said signs that he spoke the truth" (Odyssey, Book 19, 248-250). Those "signs" are words, not sights. If Odysseus were not sheathed by Athena - if it were his speech alone that carried the illusion (lie) - he is in a poetic state, or is the poem. He is not a metaphor for Odysseus or poetic speech (as Aristotle situates his ability) but is what he says, which he can only carry over: 1., through removing the self (separation) that he is, which can only be through the lie; and, therefore, 2., becoming that which underlies what is carried over, which is himself (that which can only be through the lie), the "glowing fire," revealed. The true Odysseus is not the specious (as in "species," meaning "appearance") Odysseus but rather the genus Odysseus, who is without self, adapting his "self" (what appears) as occasion (Derrida's "context") demands, as conveyed in the Outis exchange with Polyphemos - perhaps the only "true" utterance of Odysseus, a character in the epic poem (perhaps dubiously written by a blind or blinded man). The genus Odysseus, however, cannot be found except in time and circumstance, though not in contrast, standing out (this is not Odysseus but a basin and queen, a chair covered by a fleece, and therefore Odysseus is what is left, with words) but through becoming what is necessary to that time and circumstance. The significance of Odysseus is his aim: To get home (Ithaca + Penelope). But here he is home; and here is Penelope. But he is still not here because he has not determined if what he sees (the species) is false or true. Only a lie can test the truth - the separate, or "self." If he were to reveal the metaphor, the improbable possibility of truth (of Penelope's fidelity) would vanish, replaced by the impossibility of truth, which is probable. The Odyssey is a book about Odysseus - of the mingling of events and an intent man. If there were "no man" (Outis), there would be no book. Therefore Odysseus is a book, which is true (he is The Odyssey's without-which-nothing character); and The Odyssey is a man, which is true (without the man there would be no book).
Therefore, if Penelope at this moment, "as Odysseus spoke... he roused desire to weep still more," were to wake up to see things are they are (her husband home in disguise after 20 years away at war and on the road lying to test her virtue), past the specious to the genus Odysseus "she recognized... signs" in "what Odysseus said" - the flutter in "veil" of instability between "I" and "e" to become vile - the loss of separation (self) even if found, "he spoke the truth," would it be as a burst appendix ("it is through the wound that we perceive the body alive alive-o," as CD Wright writes) with its ensuing sepsis?
15.That absence is self as rightly understood, as separation?
16.Is the lie that we are - that I be - and Odysseus being true ("become universal, I laugh," as Rene Daumal writes) a joke?
17.That Odysseus and Penelope are not separate, because they hold the world between them ("pointing to the head, "˜In your mind'")?
18.That a phoem is synecdochic, a simultaneity (what under lies what "transference" is "carried" over itself is itself)? That it speaks to be what it passes over, which is itself not silent?
The appendix is the absence of silence, which like darkness is a concept.
So it was that I stood aroused on the porch of a house on Sable (black) Island to observe my wife pregnant with our first child behind a screen door looking at me.