Monday, January 19, 2009

The Ignis Fatuus Factor

Snow, Rear Window


A copy of
the memo blew
listlessly up against

the jumble of
thumb’d up empty
ointment tubes. Or

thumb’d down. A
stock phase of
unknowing’s bleating arpeggios.

Or stock phrase.
Oh distortion’s homely
algorithms. The squash’d

flat. The malleably
got. One presumably
inveigles oneself into

it, it of
all its, by
bringing the not

up into
the vicinity of
the me, barking

up its notoriety
on the leash
of its wholly

abstract’d rage. Or.
in a cage.
That is one

of the halt
messianic sunspots of
the ordinary utopianist.

Or blindspots. Hailing
it the kind
of originary spark

that’ll work to
get a fire
going, or get

a fireman to
put it out.
Or put out.

Gah. A Year seems to dispose of itself in dopey “pieces” wholly lacking in continuity. And forcedly. (That’s the word out of the helmsman’s mouth, meaning me, the one here at the “controls,” wearing the gigantic shiny helmet. Winter’s undeniably invading my “keep,” that little shack I call my own. Too many shovellings out making a zip monstrosity of beleaguer’d time and its sidekick fervor. Meaning: three days go by astride the slick highways, gobbling down wheat “thins” for heat, barely keeping the Vibe between the ditches. All around the Lettrists with shill primitivist musics, pure phonetic compositions “based on an elementary rhythm that serves as background to the sound plot, grumbling stutters, noises, moans and cries” (Adriano Spatola). Long row of EEEE’s lying on their backs, waving their “extremities” in the air like Gil Shaham, like Gilbert Sorrentino. Their “bowings.” Incantatory power of the word that fails right at the moment the eeee hum of the tires against the dry “pave” changes “register” to a higher iiii just before the consonantal shoulder-rubble breaks it all up and one finds oneself hanging off a belt, wriggling one’s fearsome ineffectual “limbs.” (I’m just jamming: we had a passable trip, thanks. Yes, we adequated our considerable trajectory.) Somewhere there in a lost minute I did peek into Pierre Michon’s Masters and Servants, translated by Wyatt Alexander Mason (Mercury House, 1997), to listen in on what Joseph Roulin, van Gogh’s facteur and drinking buddy, thinks about painting, “a question perhaps as imposing, perhaps as superfluous as and even more opaque than the future of the human race, which, in his own words, he called the republic; the question that played through him and that certainly never made it into words, but in which he exalted, filling him with a great pity for, and devotion to, the painter”:
by what ruse . . . by what outlandishness painting seemed to him, and actually was, a human occupation like any other, carrying as its burden the need to represent what is seen, as others are burdened with raising wheat or making money beget money, an occupation that is learned and passed on, producing tangible things destined to make the houses of the rich look nice, or to be placed in churches to exalt the devoted little souls of the children of Mary, or in the prefectures to call young men to a career, the army, the Colonies—how and why this occupation, useful and clear, had become this phenomenal anomaly, despotic, dedicated to nothing, empty, this catastrophic labor that, on its passage between a man and the world, had tossed to one side the carcass of the redhead, starving, without honor, running straight for the bedlam and knowing it—and to the other had thrown landscapes left formless from the force of thought, and unrecognizable faces wanting perhaps but to resemble the man, all in a world streaming with uninhabitable shapes, with stars burning too hot and water in which to drown.
Roulin “rethinking the enigma of the beaux arts.” Madness and the calculated madness of the ones intent on getting some of the world’s attention for something that requires only solitude (which is not misanthropy, though the carnival barkers’d have one believe it so) and attention and steady application (and not constant recourse to the shill histrionics of the “new”—painting is not, nor is poetry, a medicine show). Back, soonest, to work. Gah.

Vincent van Gogh, “Portrait of Joseph Roulin (The Postman),” 1888

Pierre Michon