Mark Cunningham

93.3% Pure Energy

(thanks to Linda Kobert)


People in movies always light their cigarettes too fast. I was really pissed-off because I rear-ended the car with the If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention bumper sticker. “We need velocity to enter reality.” Did you know a rabbit can play the piano if you pick it up and hold its paws and make it play the piano? The film said a potato chip is 93.3% pure energy.


1903-1904: Desperate Poaching Affray and How a French Nobleman Got a Wife Through the New York Herald Personal Columns: early development of chase films: actors fall down a lot. In broken-up lettering, the slogan stated Shatter Resistant. “Hold you tight like sunshine on a windy day”—but the sun is shining over there, too. Turns out the only thing she was allergic to was the anti-histamines.


Not All Self-Breaking Cars Designed to Stop. She was trying to drown herself, so I threw a bucket of water on her to bring her to her senses. They convinced me that “to quit” meant “to keep going for two more weeks.” Now that his first term has turned the country into the middle of nowhere, he’s running for re-election as a centrist.


Another one of those talk-on-the-cell-phone-while-taking-a-dump guys. She had us repeat after her: “Dynamism is continuous.” Alpha cellulose. The river carried away “the grandest river scenery on the continent.” Every situation constitutes in itself a direction, and every direction in itself constitutes a Starbucks.


As she cut the ropes to free him from where he’d been tied up and abandoned in the darkened bar, she said, “I guess you haven’t heard the latest news.” He lost control of the thought balloon over his head, and it blew across the countryside, knocking out power to thousands, before it was corralled in the next day’s front page. From crying to crying out loud. When the director said the events were unspeakable, she realized she’d have to get with her dialog coach right away. If that Navaho language was that great, one of those tribes would have invented cell phones.


He suggested we make an episode in which we looked back at all the other episodes in which we looked back. My waist size has gone up from 36 to 38, so my range of experience has increased. We were toe to toe, shouting into each other’s face about the missing candlestick, when at the same time we saw the shadow of our profiles on the wall and stopped and said, wait a second. In a real M. C. Escher moment, the earthquake struck while she was picking her nose.


We decided we just sort of liked being in love. They said they were virtual super-heroes: just Google them and they’d be there. The travel agent swore the trip would be “an immortal journey,” but he still insisted we buy accident insurance. I said I had some original ideas, and the producers said I didn’t understand the whole concept of zombie. Comedian Tracy Morgan Brings His Unique Sense of Self to Déjà Vu.


If he’d been a TV program, his jokes would have been funny. We reminded Mr. Original that time is measured in seconds. The “ironic twist in the trivialization that occurs by making phenomena plural.” She said the women’s movement was not helped by the fact that women’s underwear is called “panties.” He’d been diagnosed as schizo, so they told him to keep only one foot on the ground. “Phenomena” is always plural.


“Acorn” now means “an object or organism made up of at least fifty percent non-corn material.” Right when we thought she’d run out of things to say about the latest Cosmo survey, she said she found entropy sexy. I get nervous at the thought of having an individual smell. One vs. one and the same. What Your Office Copier Knows.


The people had names so normal—Helen Johnson, Ken Wong—that nobody believed they actually existed. She waffled: one day she’d speak for everyone, and the next for every one. The slide presentation about the “universal human nervous system” went on so long my right leg went numb from sitting. He explained the Theory of Relativity to us, and from that point on, everything was clear—except that, as Euclid and Buckminster Fuller note, points don’t really exist.


The crowd sounded like it was shouting, “The future is now!” but it was hard to tell with all the echoes. Even as he said the answer was a “clear yes,” she felt a little spittle on her cheek. If you really want to offend somebody, keep saying, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” We swung the watch before his eyes and repeated, “You are getting sleepy, sleeeepy,” but we’d kept him up thirty-six hours straight, and he was too tired to pay attention.


He said not to take it personally—he just didn’t like people. When she started again about how we needed to do something or we’d just stagnate, I pretended to be busy so I wouldn’t have to listen. His death scene was voted Most Ludicrous, and it turns out he really died, which makes it even more ludicrous. By the “silting up of experience,” they meant “experience.” Funny Video of Kids Sleeping.


He said, “I produce belly button lint; therefore, I am,” but tests showed the lint was made in China. By the time she finished telling us how she had the genius sleep pattern, we were all snoring. Now that I have a bar code tattoo on the back on my neck, I have to pay $2.37 every time I try to leave Target. Re: grandeur: turns out I emigrated, not immigrated: thanks, phonics.


She said you can repeat a word over and over until it loses its meaning and he said you can say that again. With my eyes closed, I can’t tell the difference between the taste of a red and a yellow raspberry. I can’t tell with my eyes open, either. The dead are doing a pretty slack job of burying the dead, but at least we don’t have to pay them much.


After he debuted his string quartet based on his genetic sequence, critics said 98% of the piece could have been written by a chimpanzee. The researchers concluded the print-out of my brain wave patterns still didn’t prove I was having real feelings, and I said that hurt my feelings. Since she wasn’t there, we felt up her absence. My coffee is rich so I don’t have to be. Can we take a picture by your TV? Do you mind if we change the channel?


Martha Stewart’s drone is controlling my desserts—and, so far, the results are delicious. First we sold the refugees on the idea of maximizing their full material potential; then we introduced our line of plus-size jeans. Just a little switch in emphasis, and “content feed” changes from cause to effect. “Four minutes can be an eternity”: Christian muzak.


I suggested we use a hologram to fill the vacant teaching post: we wouldn’t have to pay benefits and we could use it as a decoy when the inevitable student-with-a-rifle showed up. The person in the commercial said, “I’m a real person.” Not perfect yet: the bra was virtual, but the interference was real. We voted for him because he was viral long before the internet. I think; therefore, I am—whoa, I don’t know where that came from.


Dear Ezra Pound: 2014: Huey Lewis and the News are touring again. I won second prize in the dullness contest, so I had two reasons to celebrate.


Embarrassing isn’t dropping 20,000 tons of bombs on the wrong village: embarrassing is having something shoot out of your nose when you sneeze. You still get panty lines in zero gravity. His explanation of trauma was so complex none of us understood it, but no one wanted to ask him to repeat it. Just before the clock started to strike midnight, she shouted, “There’s no tomorrow,” and that really messed with our heads, because we couldn’t tell which day she was talking about. I’m the mirror image of the mirror image, so everything’s alright again.


Now when he sweeps the beach with his metal detector, he no longer daydreams he’s a pirate: he daydreams he’s Security. I like to sit inside the locked car while she stands outside and says, “Open the pod bay doors, HAL.” They said they weren’t censoring—they were highlighting with black Sharpies. When she said, “I’m very interested and I wish you the best of luck,” he knew she wanted him to leave.


At first, all we could talk about was the car. Later, we could talk about the car wreck, too. He has the erased de Kooning drawing, but I collect burned-out fluorescent tubes from Dan Flavin pieces.


Her ambient CD, Until Something Better Comes Along, is a seventy-five minute recording made from a turned-off microphone, and it’s meant to stir listeners into daydreaming and then taking action on their own—and it works, because nobody has listened all the way to the end. If quantum theory is correct, and actions I avoid or options I leave unpursued automatically create alternate universes where those potentials are realized, then, just by sitting here doing nothing, I’m accomplishing more on a cosmic scale than you can even not imagine.

Mark Cunningham's latest chapbook is Alphabetical Basho on the Beard of Bees site. Otoliths has put out two books, 80 Beetles and Helicotremors.

He notes: "...many of the parts of this sequence have appeared here and there over the years as individual pieces, but this is the first time the sequence has been published in its entirety."
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