Tom Beckett

from Appearances: a Novel in 365 Fragments (a work in progress)


Shadows are sitting on the chairs vacated by History and Politics.

The shadow with a knife has begun to chip away at a block of wood.

The shadow with a pair of scissors is making a length of paper dolls. Each doll has its own speech balloon.


What does a shadow see when it looks in a mirror?

What would a shadow say if it were to speak?


Twenty Recognitions (to be continued)

1.                Answers don’t surround one.


Love is afoot in the world. It has no fixed destination.

Love has nothing but questions—where to go, what to do next?


The Cave’s two shadows have put their artistic pursuits on hold. The block of wood sits in the middle of the table, as does a stack of folded paper dolls.

One shadow clasps a knife in its hand, the other shadow grips a pair of scissors.

The shadows are entirely focused on History’s and Politics’ pursuit of the Virtual and the Real.


What do shadows make of things?


Twenty Recognitions (to be continued)

2.                Life consists of repetition and interruptions.


Vaudeville without Organs, Science and an (occasional) Other are still together on a bench. They are all talking, but they are not talking to one another. They are talking to themselves, but apparently are thinking they are talking to someone else.


“Are Chalk Outlines haloed by speech balloons still among us?” the Projectionist wonders out loud.

“What speaks through me?” the Ventriloquist asks.

“Can someone tell me what to do?” asks the Hypnotist.

Science keeps casting about saying: “This, not that, this, not that…”

An (occasional) Other : “Where has my shadow gone? What am I called and what am I called to do ?”


Love wants to become a Chalk Outline.

Love wants to limn a specific emptiness.

Love wants to become a framework for something yet to be made articulate.


The shadows aren’t, and don’t want to become, attached to anyone.


History and Politics both are and aren’t present to their joint pursuit of the Virtual and the Real. That is to say that it has become a job. A job followed through on, but a job neither enjoyed nor understood.


The Missing

Desire, It and the Author: all missing. Art(hur) and the Subject: also missing.


Vaudeville without Organs, an (occasional) Other, and Science are walking together now. They have decided to return to the Cave.

Love, though it does not yet know this, is on the same path but going the opposite way.


The Hypnotist is the only member of this little band to suggest that the figure in the distance moving toward them might be Love.

Love grows larger, draws near. Some seem to register its presence. Some don’t.

Love passes by and out of sight. The little band continues on toward the Cave.


The Cave isn’t just a destination. It’s an aporia, an unresolvable canvas.


What speaks?

Who is what?


Love is feeling lost on the road away from the Cave.


The little band has reached its destination. The Projectionist slowly opens the door to the Cave. Light leaks in laddering the shadows.


At the same moment that the Cave’s door clicks closed, and the shadows return to what they’d been before the door was opened, Love admits to itself that it doesn’t know where it is going or why. So it turns around and begins walking back toward the Cave.


Love’s return path is strewn with obstacles. Contexts slide into new constellations.
Trouble’s afoot too.


Twenty Recognitions (continued)

3.                Experience is opaque.
4.                Presence and absence are interchangeable.


Love feels likes it’s tripping and then it falls down.


As the little band’s eyes slowly adjust to the dim light of the Cave, they settle on the Virtual and the Real and take in the scene.

Things are not as they were before.

The Virtual and the Real are slow dancing on the chalky dance platform as the juke box blasts “Multivariate Melodies.”

History and Politics are in their cups at a table arguing with two shadows.

There is chalk dust in the air.


There is road grit in Love’s blinking eyes. Its knees are bruised. It trudges on toward the Cave; and, lost in thought, stumbles and falls again.


Love’s Obsessive Interior Monologue

If in then out.

If out then in.

If in then out.

If out then in.

If in then out.

If out then in.

If in then out.

If out then in.

(And so on…and on…and on…)


The little band has disbanded.

An (occasional) Other and Science are now seated at the table with History, Politics and the two shadows.
Vaudeville without Organs has just started shaking its collective booty on the dance platform with the Virtual and the Real.
The jukebox is in the middle of “Joint Custody Rhapsody.”


Love doesn’t know what to think, so it suspends thought and simply continues moving one step at a time toward the Cave.


To those stomping the chalky boards of the dance platform, the Cave seems like a petri dish of compounding and decomposing sounds. Every now and then a snatch of contextless conversation arrives unbidden in a dancer’s ear. For example:

“You untune me.”


“Bodies interrupt me.”


The shadows are singing scales: “Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me… Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me… Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me… Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, me…”


Twenty Recognitions (completed?)

5.                Everything’s not at all about any one thing.


The shadows have fallen silent, but History, Politics, Science and an (occasional) Other are now all singing scales.

History: Then-then, then-then-then-then-then…

Politics: Them-them, them-them-them-them-them…

Science: This-there, there-this-there-this-there…

An (occasional) Other: You-us, us-you-you-you-us…


Love keeps trudging on toward the Cave. One step at a time.

Love comes to realize that its feet are consistently falling into someone else’s footprints. Footprints pointed toward the Cave.


The dancers on the dance platform are stepping in one another’s footprints too, but they haven’t noticed. They are wrapped up in the rhythms of “Chalk Songlines.”


Love feels as if it is walking in place, stuck in space, mired in infinite regress, always already historical.

Love wonders: if it is no longer truly moving toward the Cave, is the Cave moving toward it?

Every step Love takes now feels like a disarticulating proposition.


Rhythms enact rhetorics of structure in the chalk dust on the dance platform. Dancing becomes mobile architecture.

Tom Beckett resides in Kent, Ohio. His book DIPSTICK(DIPTYCH) won the 2013 Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize.
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