Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Not see become

Nine Dragons
Scroll of the Nine Dragons - Chen Rong - circa 1244

Waterfall and Monkeys - Shibata Zeshin - 1872

[ cross post from The Empty Forms Between the Ivory Gates ]

the interrogator
the process of torture
born out of a dream
long ago in Morocco
he studies me patiently
states he wishes to add a chapter
to our mutual exploration of pain
much like the Waterfall and Monkeys of Zeshin
or the Scroll of the Nine Dragons by Chen Rong
you know these, of course
framed images in the room now
he indicates Zeshin
note the water is unpainted
it is not even there
the lines of ink
merely contain the absence
the most dynamic, energetic
moments are the most empty
the paper underneath
unpainted, untouched
he passes his hand lightly
over the rocks below the monkeys
you can almost feel the water
rushing through your fingers
he walks over to the wall length scroll
now observe the dragons
swirling out of the spirals
of mist, of fog, of clouds, of time
of nothing
again everything is born
out of this nothing
you can see the dragons
clawing their way through
almost fighting their way out of it
this self-knowledge of having been created
conjured, summoned into form
note how the dragons grasp hold
of this nothing
in particular the one to the right of the central vortex
holding what appears to be a crystal ball
a circle containing all of the energies of time
what is most powerful
is the absence of anything
within the circle
the paper, the background,
the ground of being we take for granted
is all that is within this sphere
being held within the dragon's claws
I say nothing
he studies me
says, perhaps I am belaboring my point
he motions to two guards next to me
they lift me up and place me
into a trunk full of cotton wadding
my hands and my feet are bound with rope
I am curled into a fetal position
in order to fit tightly within the trunk
cotton wadding is packed tightly
around my body
it is impossible to move
the interrogator sits in a chair
leans over so his face is close to mine
it is almost comfortable
he takes small pieces of cotton
packs them tightly around my head
says, one might imagine the womb
and here he places a black rubber device in my mouth
a long tube runs into a coil he holds in his hand
he fastens a buckle around my head
holding the device in my mouth
he takes two pieces of cotton
and gently inserts them into my nose
the tubing is narrow
and it difficult to get enough breath
he continues to place cotton
all around, packing me tightly into the trunk
I am trying to get enough air
he whispers into my ear
it is important that you not panic
I want, he tells me, you to imagine
the negative space of Zeshin
to know the power of the dragons
to understand in a profound and intimate sense
how much energy is contained within
the absence of a thing
that is always present
and here the lid of the trunk is closed
and I can hear latches being locked
it is becoming hot
I am trying not to panic
to remain calm
to not let him win
to not allow him to break me
the trunk is lifted
and turned so I am now head down
I feel all of my blood
pushing into my skull
I breath through the narrow tube
as evenly as possible
I am very hot
sweat pooling in my ears
trying to breath more air
seems to constrict the rubber tube
so I have to force myself to take slow breaths
suddenly there is no air
I cannot breath in or out
I can see the Interrogator in my mind
casually holding the end of the tube shut
between his thumb and finger
as he contemplates
the Japanese prints in the wall
on the verge of passing out
he releases his grip
I am so desperate for air
that the tube seems always sucked shut
I have to slow my breathing
my blood is pounding in my head
I seems to float in this thick and suffocating
cotton womb tomb
the Interrogator repeats this process
of asphyxiation over and over
keeping me conscious
but with never enough air
but with just enough
I long to either pass out
to die
or for just one last time
to breathe deeply
just one last breath
I imagine the Waterfall with Monkeys
the empty spaces between the water
full of space of air of nothing
I long to breath in that nothingness
and like those images
where the foreground is hidden in the background
I suddenly see the dragon
not see

Friday, November 29, 2013

There's some do.

Written on the 22nd of May 2009.
East 53rd.
Austin, Texas.


Another shot of tequila.
In the room. Alone.
I made this table.
Wanted to write on it with a hammer.

I thought he might still come over.
Listening for the sound of footsteps through the leaves.
Under the thrum of the a/c.
Between the blinds.
Bloodshot eyes.

Polaroids fall out of a book.
The old bar.
The swordfish and the stoplight.
We all thought it meant something.

This morning I signed my confession.
Lost the pen in between the seats.
Don't matter.
Cheap pen scarred from being carried around in a box.

She said wait 24 hours.
But I already told them I was guilty.
Don't sign away your life.
But it was a done deal.

Came back to the room.
Turned the a/c up to make it cold.
Man on the corner with the upside down sign
Said it was hot.
D' you have any water?
Naw. Well there's this from New York City.
Said he probably wouldn't drink it.
Said it didn't matter.
Water is water.
Who cares about the container?
There's some do.

Spend the rest of the day watching shadows
From the driveway reflect though the blinds.
I can see where the cars pass by.
Clouds turn the room from gray to blue.

Keep shaking awake.
Hunger flutters in my gut.
Stepping off a stair on my way to sleep.
She comes knocking, frantic.
Don't answer your phone. Worried.
Always just when I get to the good sleep.
And then she's gone.

I could make a call.
Or walk down the street.
And then what?
Wouldn't be good anyhow.
Not without a place to exhale.
Not waiting for the next knock on the door.
Watching for shadows.
Afraid of cats.

Wake up at the bottom of the ocean.
Squaring circles with Blake and Newton.
Breathing in the night. Suffocating.
Turn on the light for air.

Another shot of tequila.
Cook up half a leftover burger and some fries.
Try to wait it out.
Put on some clothes. Shoes and socks.
Sit here at this table I made.
Straighten papers.
I remember this book
And a bunch of polaroids fall out.

I know every face.
Half of 'em dead. Rest ghosts.
Look at those walls...
I pulled the nails out
And hammered them back in.
Replacing truth with lies.
And those faces...
We were happy just drinking.

A message on an old phone.
Can't live. Am lost without you.
Bar in the background.
I walk down the street.
Mexican woman killed her lover here
Fencing with a coat hanger.
Right in the heart.

And it's nothing good.
All my words sound like whispers curses
Under a clown's make-up.
One minute in: got anything?
Only ever one reason.
No I love you until the afterthought.
I hang out to dry.
The dog gnaws on a piece of hide.
I sit there for thirty minutes
Under a rain of tears, knives, cigarettes.

Finally, just leave.
Walk back down the murderous street.
Faces under street lights.
Naw c'mon. Too gone to fuck with.
Footsteps behind me.
Close the gate.
And wait for the sound of dried leaves
Crunching bones outside my window.

Another shot of tequila
And there is just...

Another shot of tequila.
Waiting for him
To come around.
C'mon, less go. For old time's sake.

Bottle's empty.
I think those cats got babies in the garage.
I'll spend the next couple of weeks
Watching them die.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Dry bones can harm no one

I have taken to sleep recently as I once took to drugs. The want for it comes over me like a fog of desire. I indulge myself in it richly with deep initial breaths as if I am pulling in the first clouds of smoke from a burning Morphic rock. I can feel the deep blue oceanic atmospheres of the night-times of the brain growing within me like a pervasive vine, twisting and twining though my inner world. Oddly, though dreams do come, visions of domes of pleasure, when I awaken they are only foggy wisps of memory. Most often I am awakened after only a couple of hours of sleep with a throbbing headache which lasts for several hours after. If I can, when the headache relaxes its hold upon my brain, I will return immediately to sleep. With my recent resolves concerning memory, I have struggled to remember my dreams only to wake up increasingly drugged and hung-over for having been in the depths of it.

Today, I remembered a dream, an incidental thing, that nevertheless seemed a triumph.  Not so much concerning the dream, but that I was able to remember just the slightest fragment of it and hold it within the structure of language, the cages of words. The act was not without a melancholy sort of sorrow, as if I were betraying myself and sleep itself. A spy in the house of sleep, covertly recording the exquisite dramas that I was allowed to witness under an implicit oath of forgetting. Where previously I had abandoned myself to the esoteric mysteries of sleep, now I was watching from within the net of language. It was no longer enough to caress the beauty of the fish in the water, I now was now hanging lure and line, waiting to set the hook through the skull of it and tear it out of its watery womb into the bloody gasping world of language. A Pyrrhic grammar, at best.

I return to the boathouse, to the place of myth and religion, and see there are no fish in my net, only bones. There is no one to welcome me and the boathouse is falling to ruin. On the shore, close to the pier, I dry the bones over a fire, humming an old tune, blowing and breathing over them, asking Ezekiel's questions. There is no wind. Smoke rises through a sky filled with stars.

Finally, consider the Fisher King having awoken from the long spell of enchantment to the Waste Land of his former kingdom. Jesse Weston's read through T. S. Eliot:

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?

What is that sound high in the air
Murmur of maternal lamentation
Who are those hooded hordes swarming
Over endless plains, stumbling in cracked earth
Ringed by the flat horizon only
What is the city over the mountains
Cracks and reforms and bursts in the violet air
Falling towers
Jerusalem Athens Alexandria
Vienna London

A woman drew her long black hair out tight
And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.

In this decayed hole among the mountains
In the faint moonlight, the grass is singing
Over the tumbled graves, about the chapel
There is the empty chapel, only the wind’s home.
It has no windows, and the door swings,
Dry bones can harm no one.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Author Posthumous Haunting

Who is the audience? Ancient graffiti. For whom do I write? A dead god? Those I love who have lost and are losing their minds? My own dead self? The vast skeleton out there in the Desert, half buried in the sand, shattered skull, scattered teeth, ancient bones broken under centuries of storms. In the cave of that cathedral cranium, sitting before a fire, feeding pages into the flames. Why do anything? Why create? Why spin figures out of the baseless fabric, this insubstantial pageant faded? The words disintegrate against the zero of everything. Thoughts turn to dust in the fallow womb of this world. And yet... the guttering flame endures as the fleshy marionette jerks in sad pantomime over the rack of these bones. I am that one now that mocks his own grinning. Author posthumous haunting, one with the man in the wind and the west moon, stars at elbow and foot. My horrible dominion.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Faces of Addiction

Photo by Chris Arnade

It was twelve degrees outside and maybe a few degrees warmer inside. Michael took off his gloves to work the crack and clean the pipe. He stopped to warm them over the candles. Frost from his breath mixed with smoke from the crack.
The stories of addicts in the Hunts Point neighborhood, the poorest in all of New York City. I post people's stories as they tell them to me. 
What I am hoping to do, by allowing my subjects to share their dreams and burdens with the viewer and by photographing them with respect, is to show that everyone, regardless of their station in life, is as valid as anyone else. 
 Its easy to ignore others. By not looking, by not talking to them, we can fall into constructing our own narrative that affirms our limited world view.    
I can be contacted at Chris@arnade.com