Charles Freeland & Rosaire Appel

from Albumen

The pit at the center of the cherry stands no chance against my teeth, not on this day when the sounds that drift down from the floor above are those of fallen bottles and someone playing a familiar melody on what I take to be a mandolin. I’m left with innumerable hard bits on my tongue, intermixed with the half-chewed pulp, and an unpleasant sense that the melody is going to haunt me until late in the evening when I can finally put a name to it. When I can tell myself that what I am doing is no different than what everyone else on the planet is doing at some point or another. Barking commands at imaginary underlings. Exploring roads that seem to have no set direction – no single identity of their own – just so as to have something to do for half an hour. Or until the clock stops working because it is one of those with hands and the force of gravity has finally grown stronger than whatever force it was that allowed those hands to defy gravity for years on end. Of course, just when I think I have turned a corner, when I think I will be able to continue without suffering one abominable pang after another for the rest of my life, I look into her eyes again for just a moment and I am lost. How can the most intense experience one knows in a lifetime be the simple act of gazing? Thank God at times like this for the invention of the trombone! For those who know how to make the trombone sound faintly like a full-fledged thought first emerging from that region of the mind where thoughts have not yet been granted their full compliment and arsenal. Where they are mere lines and shadows floating about at the surface of something very like a soup or stew. And you are expected to dip some sort of implement (this, in the right hand, I suppose, is the trombone itself, though it could also conceivably be other items like a spatula or a novel, so long as you are the one who writes it) into the soup or stew so as to dredge up from the bottom whichever pieces have gotten stuck, have been burnt on and so can be expected to contain the greatest concentration of minerals and collagens and whatever peculiar shapes give our thoughts their solidity, their ability to hang together even when we hurl them at objects in the outside world that we might otherwise expect to dash them to pieces. Soon it becomes obvious that it will never be enough for us to exist inside our own skin. We are expected to occupy other selves as thoroughly as we occupy our own. And yes, we are supposed to ask permission first, but that doesn’t ensure a painless transition. Quite the contrary! There is blood in there and we will, by definition and the laws of physics, displace it. We will take up space previously reserved for nerve fibers and whatever serves as the interior equivalent of a mirror.

Affix support braces to the walls and still there is a rumbling sound, a vibration that seems to emanate directly from them, from inside rather than where you would expect it to, namely the ridges and fault lines that run for some distance along the horizon. We can’t always see the horizon but we know it is there because people refer to it constantly. It seems to be one of those things in the world without which we could not orient ourselves. We could not stand up straight for any length of time. In this we are very similar to the bean plants and other vegetation the elderly never tire of planting around their otherwise run down houses. Not that we need the comparison to make sense, to be coherent the way ordinary speech is coherent until you introduce narcotics or lesions on the brain. But still, we have certain verbal expectations and when these are violated, we feel as if we have steered, quite by accident, into a world nearly identical to our own, but with certain key differences as well. Long straight patches where nothing happens. The conspicuous absence of birds. Anda straddles me, takes the crooked leafy emanation into herself as easily as if she had been created specifically for this moment. The sensation is not at all what I had come to expect given the descriptions of it one finds in periodicals or the loose talk of acquaintances when they don’t realize their every word is being memorized by someone with a vested interest in what is being said. It is a category of bliss, to be sure, one at the very top of that ladder, but the operations of the mind do not cease and the operations of the body follow a logic all too familiar to anyone who has studied the positivists. Anda makes noises I try for a while to emulate, but there seems to be no reason for this and she shoots me a quizzical look out of the corner of her eye at one point which makes me feel self-conscious. So I begin instead to speak out loud the filthiest things that come to mind. That they come to mind at this moment with almost no prodding strikes me as something just shy of a miracle, the sort of thing that occurs, apparently, at regular intervals the further back you go in time. But which has now all but dried up (if one can, in fact, rely on a comparison using the organic concept of moisture or the lack thereof to capture the entirely inorganic concept of the miraculous). With the possible exception, now and then, of burn patterns on ordinary pieces of bread. Or someone snapping a bungee cord above a river and living to tell the tale. Even if she breaks a collarbone in the process. Even if she emerges covered in contusions. But make no mistake. There is no apparent structure to these contusions at all. They seem entirely random in their distribution, as if to call into question the concept of the guiding hand at precisely the same time the outcome of the event itself seems to verify it, seems indeed to insist on it in quite the haunting vox alto.

Under the earth something stirs, follows its own inclinations to the surface where, I suppose, it finds enormous disappointment and so returns to where it came from. In the meantime, we look around, trying to find what has changed, what this visitation has done to alter our environment. Whatever we see we file away as just so much clutter. We strain to maintain some sort of consistency in the way we sign our names. Maybe, we reason, those lines in the soil were made by a tractor. And whoever was driving it had something particular in mind, some message he wished to send to the rest of us, but he didn’t feel ordinary language was up to the task. He thought he’d sensed in it a separation from the everyday such as you find in the minds of schizophrenics and those who must care for them. Those who are infected with their wards’ particular way of discerning the universe and, once infected, abandon all desire for a cure. Afterward, Anda brushes the leaves from her body and gets dressed and I am left to figure out how to conceal this new appendage, this sudden emblem of what I was not previously that still protrudes obscenely from the broken portions of my shell. We discover important truths on the fly, divine them, as it were, through the simple prosaic refutation of the divine that manual labor represents. A working things over with the hands. A turning the mind into little more than an extension of that which houses it. That which is charged with getting us safely from one place to another, all the while engaging in whatever mischief it can get away with. Breaking off bits of sugarcane. Bringing them to the tongue. Anda can’t contain her mirth as she studies my attempts to conceal it, and I would like to be angry, but the endorphins are still running amok – flooding the plain – and the sun is sinking somewhere behind us. Animals are moving about now in the underbrush not far from what is left of the coop and it is time for us to move on. Once under way, Anda utters the name of the city that awaits us at the end of the path, utters it with some intensity as if to make of it a talisman. I ask her to repeat the name several times, pretending not to be familiar with it, but I just like the sound of her voice, the sound of something tangible residing on her voice like a wooden box of the sort that usually contains something of value. A bracelet or a small ceramic pipe. An ardent, hand-written note from someone no one else in the family knows.

Charles Freeland is Professor of English at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio. He is the author of twelve books and e-books of poetry and prose, most recently Eucalyptus (Otoliths), Five Perfect Solids (White Knuckle Press) and Variations on a Theme by Spinoza (red ceilings press). His website is The Fossil Record.

Rosaire Appel is an ex-writer visual artist in New York involved with abstract comics, asemic writing and wordless books. (website: www.rosaireappel.com).
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