20090717

David-Baptiste Chirot


EL OJO DE DIOS

Part the Second: Parrot and Owl

For Eireene
Until upside down we meet

El Colonel smiles. Having arranged himself as though “setting up for an august display a stuffed likeness of himself, having carefully arranged the limbs and facial expression as though he were a funeral home director in charge of a painted and preserved, mounted and stuffed El Colonel whose taxidermist he himself was, he had come to a decision. For, seeing that this representation might be not only a form of mummy but also a kind of dummy, he found himself taking note of a changing role in his ongoing process of narration—from out of a mummified writing to find itself emerging as an activity of ventriloquism . . . ”

El Colonel gave a brief staccato and sotto voce laugh, “made almost harsh not only by its brevity and force, but by the cut off, raspy sound of its half whispered and conspiratorial tone.”

El Colonel sat for some moments, feeling himself in all his limbs and nerves becoming indeed a mummified dummy, expectant, alert, for those moments when the drama would commence and his ventriloquist would begin to supply him with the lines of his character, which was after al but a variation on an imitation of a stand in-representation of himself in his role as El Colonel.

El Colonel smiles. Considered from this perspective in which drama and the saying of lines provided by another converged in an enactment of that writing which he himself produced in the action also known as thinking, he realized that he could “indeed begin to speak of himself in the third person, and so alter the enactments and lines of the drama to be played out by himself on the stage of his high ceilinged white washed stone walled room; that indeed not only might he adopt the role of a third person narrator, but also begin to treat the movements and spoken lines, and indeed the presentation of inner thoughts also, as evidenced in the gestures and facial expressions of the mummified dummies being ventriloquized and playing their parts, with al this leading to the realization that indeed he could begin to treat this all not only in the third person but as a form of theater, in which he would also be providing the stage directions for the movements of characters, for the tones of lighting and the acoustical arrangements made for the amplification or softening of vocal tones . . . ”

El Colonel smiles. Seated now in the full and resplendent realization of this multiplicity of actions known as thoughts which are simultaneously writings, he saw that he also could be a spectator of the production of the plays carried out by means of ventriloquism, third person narrations, and a setting forth of inner thoughts via the dummy of a mummy who played the part of a representation of a Colonel decked out in funeral home splendor, at once alive and stuffed, a taxidermist’s dream come to life in the dimness of a cool and closed for the evening display room now realized as a Night at the Theater. Joyfully, he now found himself observing himself in the process of observing this play which was about to begin, following the directions given by himself to these beings enacted by himself for the benefit of that spectator who was himself. . . .”

El Colonel smiles. Having reached a conclusion, come to a decision, he is now ready for the play to begin, and for himself to take charge as the director of all that happens among spectators, actors, prompters, stage hands, musicians, technicians and as the writer of the text which is but the brief sketchy outline of that which must be made flesh as well as that mummified dummy to be made eloquent by a ventriloquising stand- in for a stuffed taxidermist representation of a funeral home directors art, not so very different from that of the kind of dramatist he himself now undertook to be, as in itself but a part of the overall production, much grander and more circus like by the moment . . .”

El Colonel smiles. And now let the play begin! —-—Let the Circus open its tent to the incoming night airs and crowds . . .

El Colonel smiles. Previously so precisely unfolding, the events of the day have started to run behind time. 10.00 hours has ticked away and the minute hand on El Colonel’s watch continues moving, widening the angle of triangulation which it shares with the near-stationary hour hand. Footsteps are heard on the stone floor of the hallway outside El Colonel’s door. His adjutant appears.

El Colonel smiles, and with a brief hand gesture signals his readiness for a report. “Mi Colonel, El Ojo has not arrived.” El Colonel’s sharp ear had caught the distant sounds of some one entering the foyer at the other end of the long hallway. “Has another man entered, Adjutant?” The adjutant nodded a slight assent, his impassive face glistening slightly with sweat as the day warmed, and his anxiety rose. El Colonel took keen note of “this slight defect yet to be corrected in the demeanor and decorum of the recruit... Though who could fault him perspiring in this heat? Still, it did not mask his distinct lack of a requisite and resolute composure . . .” (But then, in the slight somnolence of the gathering heart, did not El Colonel enjoy a certain “relaxation of rigor, letting sentences trail off, drift off, to float among the hazy vagaries of an alluringly veiled suggestiveness . . . “)

El Colonel smiles. A very slight lift in his lips indicates a suppressed sense of mirth. “And does this man have a signature, a name put down in writing, Adjutant?” “Si Colonel. He signs himself Senor Greene.” “Ah. And what does he look like, this Sr. Greene?” “Forgive me Colonel; it is very hard to say. I—”

El Colonel with a brisk movement of his feet beneath the desk, signals an order coming. The Adjutant straightens stiffly. “Adjutant, a man named Greene whom one has trouble in describing is none other than El Ojo. Conduct him here immediately.”

El Colonel smiles. As some do in adjusting a tie, so El Colonel does in arranging certain of his smiles. This one requires a few extra knots and flourishes, for it is from his Special Reserve, among the most prized of his chefs d’ouevres of the art. “The Butterfly Effect: to create the sensation of the unfolding of vast and brilliant wings, and then, having let the viewer behold for some suspended moments their outstretched beauty, to have them begin to flutter, as do the petals of a flower in a slight and refreshing breeze, before the acceleration of the effect and its launching into flight. And, air borne, there to dazzle the spectator with its agility of the great aviators and the consciousness of its poise, even in flight, of a great and noble woman, a classical and exotic tropical beauty, a true Regent of the Air.” And the Butterfly is perfectly poised as the Adjutant arrives with a shadow not his own moving behind him in the cool dimness of the stony hall.

El Colonel’s Butterfly Smile opens, parting its wings like lips, and then slowly unfolding them into the full display of their glory, there to remain beautifully balanced and poised as the Adjutant announces the entrance of a figure made even more vague by the gorgeous beauty greeting him.

El Colonel rises slightly in his chair, and with one arm indicates the chair prepared for the visitor. With the other hand he indicates to the Adjutant that the coffee should be poured now, the cigarette packet left untouched, and his departure made gracefully.

El Colonel smiles. Once the coffee is served and the Adjutant has retired, he addresses his guest in a firm but friendly tone. “Signor Greene, it is very good to see you weekly again. And how have you been? Are your travels still pleasant even in this heat?”

El Colonel smiles. One must give El Ojo a few moments. He has to have a few sips of coffee and unravel the plastic off the cigarette pack wrappers, break the seal and fold back the foil, folding it neatly at an angle across one corner. Then he must shake the pack up and down before tapping it several times on the palm of his left hand. Then one single cigarette, shaken loose, is slowly transferred to the waiting lips, an old battered Zippo comes out, the cigarette is lit, and El Ojo, sitting back exhaling with a satisfied sigh, says—“Ah! Now I am open for business Mi Colonel. Yes, now I am open for business.”

El Colonel smiles. While the young men of the Heroic Patrol “evince a carefully contained yet none the less discernable degree of a childlike affection for El Ojo,” he, on the other hand, “senses deep within himself a Baudelairean ‘Correspondance’ with the man, prompting him to murmur sotto voice, ‘mon semblable, mon frère,’ at times when listening to the detailed accounts of El Ojo’s ‘Voyages,’ among the scenes of their ceaselessly astonishing native land.”

El Colonel smiles, not a Butterfly Smile, but a much simpler one, more informal, more reassuringly confidential and “open to listening, like an ear that has bloomed forth from the lips of a flower.”

El Colonel suspected that El Ojo possessed a literary ability which he greatly respected and found most fascinating—that is, he suspected El Ojo of being illiterate, or at least selectively illiterate.

The clue to this illiteracy El Colonel found in the incredibly detailed presentations that El Ojo was capable of making, so detailed that they must proceed from the kind of photographic and aural memory that, in his experience, only illiterates and near-illiterates possessed.

These prodigious feats of memorization, which had enabled the Heroic Patrol to make such detailed maps for their lightning hit and run attacks, had prompted the young soldiers to dub this personage “El Ojo de Dios” or simply El Ojo. The All Seeing Eye a—and Ear—a Being of mythical stature and one deeply revered in their youthful and invented Cosmos.

The exactitude of El Ojo’s prodigious feats of detailed memorization of existence was coupled with what in effect was their opposite as far as the appearance of El Ojo himself was concerned.

That is, while his memory was exact and detailed, the memory of he himself was not at all exact nor even certain. Where El Ojo presented exact details to the listener, to the observer he presented only an invisibility, a gap, as the memory of his appearance vanished with him when he departed, leaving behind not even a trace in the vacated site of his no longer present presence.

As many times as he had come to “do business” with El Colonel, the young men of the Heroic Patrol could never recognize him from one visit to the next. Each time he showed up, he was seen as a stranger. And once they had accepted that this was indeed El Ojo, that legendary figure alive before their very eyes, it was only to recognize him for the duration of the visit, and then, immediately after, in discussing amongst themselves the popular visitor, none of them could agree on whether El Ojo was short or tall, whether he wore a suit or a peasant’s clothes or even if he had or not a scar on his face, or an arm in a sling, or wore sunglasses or plain glasses or perhaps contact lenses or had nothing at all in the eyes but a bright glassiness or a hardness as of obsidian.

There were times; too, that El Colonel enjoyed day dreaming “that some untoward event, unnoticed and lost amidst the rubble of so many others, had caused a lesion which produced alexia in El Ojo.” Alexia fascinated El Colonel even more than illiteracy—an illiteracy, however, in El Ojo’s case, which could be translated by way of having El Ojo write out the letterings he had memorized with such distinctness, as though he were stopping for a moment the flow of time and narration, halting it to take a snapshot, which he could then write out for his listeners, so that seeing the images, they produced the meaningful sounds which he could not read himself.

Except, of course, El Colonel hastened to add to himself, that often El Ojo knew words because he had been told what they meant, so that recognizing a particular combination of letterings he could utter something of what they spelled out, as though he were indeed reading, after all. Thus his direct transcriptions of signs seen along the way might not be images which he could read at the time, but in the act of writing them out, they became ones he could suddenly recognize and “read”. This sleight of hand method of appearing to read would dissuade the observer and listener less patient than El Colonel from “divining his illiteracy.” Or, if not totally dispelling the idea of said illiteracy, at least making of it an arena of ambiguity.

It was to this arena of ambiguity that El Colonel found himself returning again and again, not only in the presence of El Ojo, but also in the aftermath of their encounters; for El Colonel thought that among these ambiguities, these drifting shadows of forms at the peripheries of presence, among these there must exist further mysteries, enigmas, whose dim outlines slowly became more clearly perceptible to his persistent inquires and speculations.

Like a moth drawn to even the dullest of flames, El Colonel felt himself irresistibly attracted by these mere sketches of an opening in the flickering shadows of enigmas without name. Passing through this sketchy and obscure portal, he felt a distinct sensation of walking backwards, “into the past darkly” as he said aloud to no one but the echoing of his own voice in the cavernous silence. Using the echoes as a form of sonar, El Colonel followed them along the sinuous paths of a labyrinth which now and then flashed with sudden illuminations of moments in time uncannily familiar, and at other moments merely revealed an inky swirling, like that left by a departed squid.

As El Ojo spoke in his monotonous, detailed way, presenting an incredible amount and array of informations which would later be gone over again and again, El Colonel observed him carefully, during those moments when he forcibly tore himself away from the labyrinths of the past darkly.

Then, thanks to patience and attentiveness, El Colonel had found that El Ojo had another peculiarity besides his formidable memory and his equally impressive unmemorable presence. This was that his eyes oscillated between two forms of expression. At times they were suddenly a dark glass, which stared blankly at the observer, “like the eyes of a parrot, which appear to absorb all light into them while staring outwards at the observer with the steadiness of a stuffed bird. And just as these glassy eyes, through a glass darkly again,” muttered El Colonel beneath the ongoing monotone of El Ojo, “just as these eyes stared back, so did a parrot’s memorization of language, words, phrases, syllables, morphemes, phonemes speak back. And for al the world this ‘parroting’ and these ‘eyes of a parrot’ seemed completely in concert with the suspected possible illiteracy or yearned for alexia of El Ojo.”

Thus, a part of El Ojo was indeed his being as a Parrot, a Parroter of language both written and spoken, memorized visually and sonically, and retransmitted to the world from photographic and sound recorded memory as the projections outward of images and sounds, a reproduction of the copy of the reified spectacle it had registered so completely.

The Parrot however, was only one half of the dual nature of the eyes of El Ojo. The other was their prolonged periods of blinking, punctuated here and there by a closing of the eyes for short periods of time. This shift from an unblinking eye to a blinking one El Colonel thought of as a movement from a Parrot to an Owl. For in this blinking and eye shutting, El Ojo seemed to be not only “the spitting image” of an owl, but seemed also to have acquired that aura of “wisdom” associated with owls.

Blinking and shutting the eyes, sometimes with a slight drooping of the head downwards so that the chin came near to touching the chest, this Owl seemed as impenetrable as the unblinking and mimicking Parrot. Two impenetrable appearances which gave to El Ojo’s eyes an alternating glassiness as of black ice, and the flickering of an old movie being shown in a dim and obscure room wherein the screen was nothing but an old and dirty sheet brought down from an attic whose roof allowed in the dust and rains of the universe.

As El Ojo alternated between Parrot and Owl and droned on in his monotonous recounting of incredibly precise and at times completely superfluous detail, El Colonel’s seeing through the past darkly began to take him back to times he had long ago abandoned, like old and worn out mines left to create chemical interactions with the waters which found their ways into them.

Spread over a series of El Ojo’s visits, El Colonel had been following this labyrinthine passage among the abandoned mine shafts and catching ever more glimpses of not only times but beings from out of the past.

Among these he had realized with an immense start during El Ojo’s last visit, was that of a small boy with whom he had sat in the ill lit mud floored room of a schoolhouse, trying to follow the lessons taught by a small and energetic young woman, whose voice and gestures seemed to weave an hypnotic spell over her students. El Ojo remembered that he had sat at the very far back corner of the room, on the East side, where now and then a ray of light would manage to make its way through the water swollen slats of the wooden wall. The play of these rays of light would pick out the muddiest and most polluted puddles which had formed in the dirt floor and make them shine like lakes of fire and gold. It was these lakes and light rays which had first “set his mind on fire,” El Colonel recalled, and given him the raging desire to learn, to study and somehow find a way out of this disaster struck existence clinging to the sides of a mountain, among the rubble which was all that was left after the bombings and raids by the government forces under the supervision of their American and Israeli advisors and contractors, those true signs of The Power of Will behind the True Force desperately called upon by a Dictatorship of Devils.

El Ojo was droning on, his eyes closed now in the Wise Owl Meditating Inwardly under the Guise of Napping mode, a mode he had developed under the direction of that Goddess whom he was a representative of, Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, Calm and Clear Headed presence in the midst of the Chaos that exists as the “background noise” broadcast playing the sounds continuing to emanate from the first moments of the Creation of the universe.

El Colonel smiles. Among the seemingly mundane static drone modalities of El Ojo’s endless stream of precise and vividly detailed descriptions there are always those sudden pockets of revelation, in which the bright light of an illumination shines forth and reveals a landscape previously hidden, one that is littered with those bits and pieces of information so necessary to the operations and life-sustaining missions of the Heroic Patrol.

Among these bits and pieces, El Colonel knew from experience, were those shards and fragments, those bobbing heads clinging to shattered spars floating in the flame-dotted ocean of wrecked and burning ships, which were companion texts to those he found in the rubble of burned libraries and private collections; to those tomes captured at gun point or saved from the drenching downpours and harsh exposures of the elements. It was from these texts, such as they were in their burnt, torn, time and light stained fragmentary and dampness-warped conditions, that El Colonel had been able to piece together those elements which he used to exercise those thoughts simultaneously writings which provided him with the action of an accompaniment to his existence, so that he could create this Theater which doubled at times as the Cinema of Catharsis, and on whose stages and settings he found himself giving life to a world of death, in which the peppery smells of slowly roasting corpses floated in the air among the sensualities of thick and bright heavy flowers while in the distance droned the music of insects accompanied by the last gun shots marking the end of a confrontation as its participants melted back into the forests . . .

El Colonel’s own head seemed to be dropping slowly towards his chest, as El Ojo’s droning spread a nodding somnolence of half-awake dreams throughout the bright and light air of the high ceiling room with its windows flung wide to the green and vibrant world, to the high and blue skies . . .

El Colonel let himself begin to drift into these eddies and undercurrents of waking dreams, into the shoals and small tree-draped riverside inlets not much larger than the floating boat of one’s somnolence . . . .drift into these areas where memories begin to rise from the muddy and rich alluvial soils deposited through time and making buried worlds indicated by the heaped up piles of sand, like those immense ant hills glimpsed in old children’s books or in some long forgotten documentary shown once to some children whose teeth chattered in the auditorium whose roof was barely a strainer for the thick rains pouring down . . .

Among these dreams floating in the puddles and muddy rivulets El Colonel slowly made out scenes leaking from the long closed vaults of memory . . . memories of himself and a small enigmatic boy seated in the back corners of the cramped and rain filled shack that was a school on the side of a mountain . . . and thinking then in watching him how this small boy always seemed capable of knowing what the words on the blackboard were when the teacher called on him, yet when it came time for he himself to write them down, he had but a sketchy idea at all of how to proceed and had to depend on El Colonel’s boy self for aid with the tiniest of words, the simplest of sentences and even with the occasional refresher course in signing his own name.

El Colonel gave a start in the midst of his rivulets of dreams, and found himself staring at what appeared to be a reflection in the dirty water of the mud puddles of the floor, a reflection of a man who looked uncannily like the boy seated beside him, a man who now sat facing him . . . startled into a semi-consciousness, just alert enough to turn over and over in his mind’s observing eyes the facets of a rough diamond dragged out of the suddenly light struck mud. Startled into a slowly expanding alertness, El Colonel found himself rediscovering a once long entertained suspicion which later he had abandoned as no more than a passing fantastic glimmer of fool’s gold. . . a suspicion at the base of his spine where the nerves shot signals straight up into the brain and blinded him with their Light, the Light of a Truth that he at once knew to be true and felt himself wary of—for it takes time he muttered, to be able to simply trust one’s intuitions . . . especially in a business such as this existence here at the edges of the world . . .

El Colonel, jolted now by a much stronger and more powerful shock of realization saw that El Ojo might indeed be the adult into which the half remembered ambiguously literate child of his early school days had grown . . .

El Colonel turned his eyes on El Ojo, who sat placidly in his chair, now the Parrot, brightly chirping away in his strangely high voice the listing of another long stream of sites and their signs in such a jerky speed that it was impossible to say at any given moment which in particular his Parrot eyes were registering. El Colonel looked and looked at El Ojo watching every tiny bob and weave of his Owl Head, his Parrot Head, and seeing if in these might remain yet a tracing of those movements now coming back to his recollection made in the small shack by the small and grimy boy at his side, asking for help at times and at others confidently “reading’ what the teacher had written on the old battered and fading blackboard as it turned into a mixture which combined its own decompositions with those almost impossible to erase layers and layers, those thickening palimpsests of chalk and erasings, which had been piling atop the crumbling base of the ancient and disintegrating blackboard.

El Colonel watched in wonder as this figure before him, Parrot and Owl both, began to devolve as it were back through time, reverse engineering these dual manifestations of his “Ojos de Dios”

Alternating with great rapidity before his very eyes, El Colonel observed the swiveling nature of these two forms of eyes—Parrot and Owl, Owl and Parrot, like the sweeping arcs of a Lighthouse whose projector itself shifts lightings, angles, movements in quick succession as it revolves. El Ojo one moment was before him, a small figure neatly poised in a chair too large for him, the next moment a small boy at the back of the dim, unlit dirt-floored classroom, listening to the sounds of the rain carom and ricochet off the corrugated tin roof.

El Ojo droned on in his hypnotic way, mesmerizing the shadows growing steadily as the day wore on. El Colonel sat very still, watching the eyes in this face in which the lips moved on and on, like those of a dummy or marionette, a puppet, manipulated by some unseen hand. “La Mano de Dios!” El Colonel thought with a start of the great and wildly strange footballer Maradona. La Mano de Dios, l'Ojo de Dios, all of them summed up as it were in the alternating appearances of Parrot and Owl on a small human producing a recitation of things never before seen nor heard, as Lazarillo de Tormes puts it.

As the afternoon wore on, El Colonel’s tension relaxed and he simply tilted back in the old chair and let the stream of words flow over him. El Ojo, he knew, would not stop until he had come to the end of his detailed presentation of al that he had seen, heard and “read” during his journeys since last visiting El Colonel. That El Ojo stored up such a profusion of facts and scenes for him suddenly astonished El Colonel. Perhaps concealed in this outwardly impersonal recitation was, after all, recognition of some closeness between them.

El Ojo finally came to the end of his long journey of words and sat back a bit in his chair, shaking a cigarette from the slightly opened tin foil of the pack’s top, and placing it firmly between his lips, lighting it and letting out a thick stream of smoke that slowly dissipated in the late afternoon shadows.

El Colonel also lit a cigarette, observing how is own habitual way of holding so closely resembled that of El Ojo’s. Another sign of our secret friendship, our Baudelairean correspondence in the forest of symbols and stones, El Colonel murmured to himself.

El Ojo sat there before him, resplendent in his through enjoyment of the top shelf quality coffee, the special cigarettes and the attentive and patient ear of El Colonel. (It was only at the moment of his departure that the payment for his services was produced and handed to him wrapped in a small handmade pouch like al the others used for the same purpose in the region.)

The two men sat smoking as the shadows gathered about them, cloaking them in the rapidly cooling air. With a small gesture El Colonel declined the offer of bringing in a candle or turning on the lights from one of the young soldiers of the heroic Patrol.

Finally El Colonel bent very near to El Ojo and began to murmur to him in evermore urgent and coaxing tons, trying to tease out a flash of recognition, in which the two boyhood friends would find themselves both seeing themselves as now grown men and still good friends, their friendship enduring though al the long bloody years of upheaval and displacements.

The closer he leaned to El Ojo, the more he stared intently as he poured out his longing for this friendship to really be here, and not simply a figment of his lonely imagination, a creation of his writings and a method of trying to find some connection with a bombed out past he knew must be somewhere among the wreckage strewn al around them in every part of the land.

As El Colonel crooned and cajoled, El Ojo began to rock quietly in his chair, and his expressions continued to alternate between Parrot and Owl.

Suddenly, in a burst of enthusiasm and dread, El Colonel seized El Ojo by the shoulders and drew his face very close to his own, and said in a voice filled with the power of storms and wild horses—“Bepe, Bepe, don’t you remember me? The school house? The tin roof? The copying papers and blackboard’s words? The rain he mud, the tin roofs and blood?”

El Ojo simply stared back, though is face had been violently drawn straight before the very eyeballs of El Colonel and his having felt the hot breath of the heaving breast of El Colonel.

El Ojo continued to blink, now a Parrot, now an Owl.

Suddenly El Colonel understood. This was El Ojo’s way of remembering their shared past their childhood and friendship. None of it was lost to him, none of it forgotten. While he repeated the long memorizations signs he couldn’t actually read and traveled far gathering sights, sounds and symbols t be borne to his old friend, he had at the same time long ago learned to conceal any such signs from being outwardly recognizable.

El Ojo had concealed everything, and hidden it so well, that al that one saw now were these surface appearances, these impersonal recitations, these mechanical performances with cigarettes and coffee.

With a start, El Colonel recognized himself in these words—that it was he as well as El Ojo who had learned to conceal everything beneath an outwardly mechanical and impassive presentation of a being going through a series of rituals in order to gain a foothold still among the living. .

The past in order to endure had had to be “buried alive” as it were, hidden within this cloaking of obscurity that presented only appearances to the eyes and ears of a continual and extremely dangerous surveillance. Meanwhile this outwardly seemingly unfeeling being, this seeming Parrot and Owl, carried on courageously hidden in the heart of the enemy and brought from out of there his news to his friend.

In the darkening shadows, in the cooling air, in the fragrance of the last flowers’ closings, El Colonel leaned forward and embraced El Ojo.

“Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère,” El Colonel said aloud in the resonating high-ceilinged room.

And laughing, he began to rearrange himself to again assume the role of El Colenl, thanking and saying goodnight to this trusted source of information, and finishing the scene with a snappy salute from himself and al his men.

But tonight as he did so, for some moments El Colonel felt himself adopting the alternating gazes of Parrot and Owl, to be seen in and by the Parrot and Owl that looked back at him.

Mummies, dummies, Parrots, Owls, Colonels, soldiers, all of it a performance beneath the watching eye of the large and seemingly light producing reflector, the moon.

In the sun’s reflected “moon light,” the two pairs of eyes met in a seeming production of non recognition in which lay concealed a secret resemblance, a secret sharer.

In their mutual recognition, and of it, neither gave a sign.

*****

Afterword—A Supplement—Written “Ahead of Time”

This is from a letter (to the buffalo poetics e-list) written some months ago re Appropriation; I stumbled upon it today by chance while looking for something else. It seemed “appropriate" then to appropriate it, and present here as a kind of Appendix or Supplement to the text of Parrot and Owl.

I noted before that there is a relationship—as there is in Moby Dick—between the uses of appropriation and translations, mimicry and copying, which make of writing potentially a form of acting, even of acting in a theater constructed by the writer and in which the writer becomes both the director and the leading character or characters. It is possible also for the writer to become the audience as well and in turn the critics, who provide reviews, commentaries, blurbs, hatchet jobs and fawning notes of introduction for some favorite of theirs whom they wish to promote in the role of a kind of "private agent." This dispersal of the "writer" through so many roles in turn begins to generate ever more series of meta-writers, meta-dramas, meta-commentaries until one has what is basically the long glorious history of the productions of Shakespeare's Richard the Third and their myriad spinoffs, including Johnny Rotten copying Laurence Olivier's Richard in the film version for his creation of the character and existence as a performer on stage of—Johnny Rotten, who in his turn is ranting and attacking the Queen.

This theatricality of a writing which makes use of appropriations and translations (including invented ones) means that the "author" does not "die" but instead becomes an actor, in which the presence of other voices begins to issue through the throat and the writing of "some one else" to come from the hands. The actor whom is the role that the writer has become, speaks lines which are—whose?—The writer's? the actor's? the role's? And out of these emerges a writing which is a fiction which is at the same time real, or a reality which is fictional, and al the while is performing an activity which is a writing, a gestural, visceral, sonic and visual action writing which may in fact exist "nowhere at all" but as the non-writings of a non-writer who regards thinking and writing as the same, just as imagined writing may exist in a sphere in which it has no need of being "written down," as it enjoys in fact the freedom of it's not existing on the page, but in the "else wheres.".

When Bartleby says "I would prefer not to" and instead stands staring at the blank view through his window of a very close pressed wall of the building opposite—is it into these elsewheres that his writing now is being done?


 
 
 
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