Charles Freeland

Hand-Wringing About the Reality of Simulations

The guard at the door knows his obligation is to memory, not the present. Just as we are most likely to drive our cars off the shoulder and into a ravine when we are trying to hug the center line. Our reasons are of the kind that send one scampering over mountain peaks. And welding together pieces of scrap iron to make an image where no image is necessary. Where we’d prefer to think about things in the altogether abstract fashion that characterizes much of our discourse now that we’ve graduated high school. And we can’t think of anything to match it in terms of intensity. Or that ability to paint the world as something solid, fixed. And therefore of limited value. It undermines every law of common sense and natural harmony that has become associated, over the years, with farming. And there are people on shore with their hands out as if begging for something to eat. Or trying to get your attention because they think you handsome. They’d like to iron your clothes for you. They’d like to be remembered as those people who made a difference. But one so subtle as to barely escape the category of “Not worth mentioning”. Or “Worth mentioning, but not worth dwelling on”. In either case, you may be certain the glass in the windows won’t last another generation. When you replace it, you’ll be continuing a tradition that goes back at least a thousand years. To a time when there were no windows. A time when there was no time, in the modern sense. In that sense that requires time to take up space and pretend it is more complicated and interesting than it actually is.

The Dubitability of Transcendent Perception


They wish to erect something important. A monument to their having been on this planet, in this particular neighborhood. At a time in their lives when many people are not convinced they are anywhere at all. They jot notes on yellow pieces of paper. Or nod a lot in the affirmative. Like someone who has been kicked in the head by a horse.


The structure they settle on is a cone, and to be seen in history books when such are occasionally opened. Though the fascination stems from a certain word-of-mouth mythology that begins when they are children even younger than they are today. A game played with pointing fingers. A lot of flopping around on the grass.


They stand poles of fallen timber aloft, angle them together at a point by designs they keep strictly in the head. It calls for hosannas when nothing comes to the ground. Nothing makes that sound like someone enormous traipsing through. Looking to this side and that, as though afraid he is being followed.


As though there is a battle of great importance raging somewhere very close by and he can’t see it. Like Stendhal at Bautzen, witness to nothing. Though (despite what he writes later) he wishes to be.


Their mothers call for their return from the front doors and windows that reflect light now like eyes. Their mothers are unaware that the pivotal moment has arrived. The lashing of the poles at the apex. The shimmying up a full two stories with twine in one’s teeth. And who will offer up his life? Who will succeed in making songs of his flesh, tales of the palms of his hands?


We want the end to reach its own certain stature. To achieve what we could not achieve on our own. And mostly we are rewarded with trophies that seem to have been polished to a high gleam. That jump out at us like thoroughbreds.


But this is just another way of making the end routine. Something you put in the toaster. For reasons no one will explicate, they slink off with the work undone. The canvas still rolled on the spongy soil. Upright poles shifting already their allegiance from one to the next. And then finally, of course, that halfwit, gravity.

Titter at the Mention of Lamartine

She must fight the malaise that descends upon her whenever she approaches the bed, must remind herself there are reasons we can’t succumb. But these reasons are never readily apparent, and when he touches her ear with his mouth, she recoils without meaning to, almost as if there is a nerve center there originally created to warn one of the presence of adders. To ensure an immediate response and therefore at least another day of life. He considers her body the sort of thing one should thank Heaven for and wets his fingers in preparation. But all along, there is a place in the back of his mind that remains unconvinced, that chews noisily on a piece of glass and considers the unstable personality of Tiberius. The fits of melancholy. The intermittent loss of reason. If only we knew where the switch is, how to throw it in a timely manner and still find a way to make it seem as if we were in the other room. She follows trails through groves that haven’t been named officially, but which carry the names given them by children and others in the vicinity. People who spend great quantities of time exploring them or just passing through in search of some further grove where they can expect a moment or two of solitude. Maybe a run-in with a stranger. Something memorable before it even happens. Something arranged ahead of time in the mind where each detail, each caress and dumb-show, is worked out, tested and refined, by that entity responsible for forming the world out of the raw materials sent its way on the nerves. It delights in anonymous pleasures above all else, relishes the arcane and the unseemly as if it had been raised improperly. As if it had been privy to all manner of inappropriate conversations and suggestions at the dinner table when it was growing up. And I don’t wish to suggest by this there was a more respectable alternative. That we may blame bad luck or faulty circumstances, the poor decision making of a nearby adult. No, we elicit the effects best by imagining the cause, but have no desire to prove it this way. In fact, to further illicit the impossible, we might wish to understand the methods of this reservoir of bad taste, this conductor of flesh buried in the flesh itself, by analogy with the seashore. Or the armies marching overland from their base in the mountains a thousand miles away. But what’s the point, she thinks, as she inches ever closer to that place where she will move her hands a certain way. And will be no more conscious of it than one is conscious of breathing when nothing is obstructing it. Even here, the malaise is both unmovable and unendurable, the curse and shanty of her life. And if she escapes it momentarily through the insistence and the prodding of that part of him that resembles the unadulterated will itself, it is only by magnifying it until the boundaries themselves become unending. They stretch to the furthest corners of the room and refuse to slow their progress even then. They run for the empty cosmos in all directions, like light.

Charles Freeland teaches composition and creative writing at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. The recipient of a 2008 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council, he is the author of a half dozen e-books and chapbooks, including Grubb (forthcoming from BlazeVOX), Furiant, Not Polka (Moria), and The Case of the Danish King Halfdene (Mudlark). Recent work appears in Otoliths, Poetry International, MiPoesias, Spinning Jenny, Offcourse, 580 Split, Harpur Palate, and The Cincinnati Review. His website is The Fossil Record and his blog is Spring Cleaning in the Labyrinth of the Continuum.

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