Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Douglas Messerli | Transport of Love (a review of Jacques Poulin's Translation Is a Love Affair)


Douglas Messerli
Transport of Love

Jacques Poulin Translation Is a Love Affair, translated from the French by Sheila Fischman (Brooklyn: Archipelago Books, 2009)

Marine, the translator-narrator of Jacques Poulin's 2006 novel, appearing in English as Translation Is a Love Affair, is a young woman living on Île d'Orléans near Quebec City in Canada. In the city itself lives an aging writer, Jack Waterman, whose work Marine is currently translating. The two work seperately, but Waterman regularly visits her on weekends, enjoying the natural setting of herons, deer, foxes, and other wild animals as a sedative for his health.

Despite the disparity of their ages, the two seemingly get along well—they are, afterall, through their names, fluid figures—both living in worlds of their own making, and together they have entered into a sort of friendly relationship that might be described as an innocent love. Throughout this poetic fiction, indeed, the two share their pleasure in fiction and poetry.

In the midst of this domestic ritual, Marine discovers a black cat at her door, threatened by her own pet cat, Chaloupe. She adopts the stray, but not before making a few inquiries at the town adjacent to Vieux-Québec, discovering that a young girl has seen the cat delivered up by a woman in a taxi. A short while later, Marine undoes the cat's collar to which finds a note attached: My name is Famine. I am on the road because my mistress can no longer take care of me...," the remaining words seemingly erased.

When the young translator shares this information with her author friend, he confirms her own feelings, that the message is not only a statement about the cat but, in some subtle way, a cry for help. And at this point in the otherwise realist tale, Poulin begins to spin another fable-like tale, beginning with Marine's attempt to recover the rest of the message, possibly written with lemon juice so that it would fade, by heating it with a match. The scap of paper predictably catches fire, but not before revealing the missing words: "or of herself."

Like a strange mystery tale another plot begins to unfold. Through a local detective, a former police officer, Marine is able to track down the address of the original cat owner, living in a three-story building in the vicinity of Waterman's apartment. The author checks the building out, only to find that it is internally locked. However, again with the help of detective, the couple film the vague figures who occassionally come to the terrace, discovering the inhabits to be an older woman who looks like a witch and a young girl with bandaged hands.

Throughout the telling of this mystery story, the more mundane stories of the translator and author, of the translator's past (including the deaths of her sister and mother), and the couple's literary experiences are interwoven into a somewhat outrageous plot, as the two witness a late-night fight between the girl and witch, ending in an apparent suicide of the older woman and breakdown of the young girl, Limoilou.

Unabashedly, they follow the ambulance to the hospital, asking about the condition of Limoilou, and a few weeks later, after having a conversation with the welfare worker, they accompany Famine, the cat, on visit to the girl, suggesting that she may want to come live with Marine and spend some time with Waterman as well. Limoilou, ultimately choses to do that, and at book's end, we see girl entranced by the herons at water's edge, with Marine summarzing her "earthly paradise": "I wouldn't have been surprised to see the red fox or even the doe with her fashion model ankles come trotting down the dirt road to join the processionof the girl and the two cats."

It's a lovely fantasy, of course, but it is hard to perceive this tale as anything but just that, a fantasy. I don't know how things like child welfare are handled in Québec, but I have my doubts that the orphan would have so quickly handed over to a woman who describes her own person as someone living just for herself and to an elderly man, not her husband, who throughout the book is abstracted from life. That Limoulou should even be allowed to make this decision on her own seems rather unlikely. Both the translator and author revel in their independence, a various times admitting to purposely ignoring rules and regulations (Waterman, for instance, refuses to take his heart medicine), which suggests they may have little ability to properly look after a somewhat troubled child.

Moreover, if we are to believe that this rather passively inacted mystery is at the heart of the fiction, what are the various literary speculations, the narrator's own struggle with her past, and their separate confrontations with the surrounding world doing in the same book? It's almost as if Poulin has been telling us two or three different tales, not all of them congruent with the others.

Only if we understand the little mystery of the girl with "bandaged hands," as a work of art created between the two, through the intellectualized love between author and translator, does the work as a whole make any sense. These creative forces have brought this little girl with the lost cat to life, have transformed (another kind of "translation") a figure who cannot fend for herself (Limoilou has bandaged hands) into a metaphoric being that serves both their literal needs. In a sense, they have birthed, not through a sexual act but through their imaginations, a being which temporarily fulfills what they are missing in their lives. In that sense, Limoulou becomes one with the mythic-like creatures inhabiting Marine's estate, becomes one with the herons, the fox, the doe, the cats, and retired race horses to which Marine speaks, a beautiful apparition of happiness. Perhaps the story of Waterman's which she has been translating is the story of Limoulou and her struggle with the wicked witch, which may be the last of Waterman's fictions.

As Poulin quotes Albert Bensoussan, in the prologue to this book: "In the final analysis, it really is about a couple, and the matter under discussion is love. Yes, we are talking about translation, which is defined first of all as a transport. Transport of language or transport of love."

Los Angeles, October 26, 2009

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mac Wellman | from Linda Perdido


Mac Wellman
from Linda Perdido


Five.

Once past the marches of Moon Trouble, the couple glides into (and over) what is known as the Hidden Quarter of Set County, holding hands. Their eyes sparkle; they are in love. Behind them the enormous sun is a blazing, burnished medallion of tremulous metallica. All is well; the world is a happy place for those aloft in the hot air balloon of their over-wandering, far above, between cloud towers the color of the rusty and bloody red badlands of New Marrowbone. Sweetly and severally, they blacken and reblacken each others’ teeth, and ride the wind known as the North American Imp’s Breath as it wafts them, completely counter intuitively, from East to west, rising above the Shamrock Cordillera and over mist-shrouded Moth County, the place inhabited by old clothes and antique iron clothes-racks. They sing bad songs from yesteryear like “O Arabella” and Mumblety-peg” and “I Shall Cast my Shadow as Far as Your Car”. Spike’s cloven hoof of a face softens in the moist warm steam rising off Lake Lucrece near the outskirts of Cananga, the old hub of transport for the entire region; and especially the made to measure and variable focus foam rubber flywheel industry, known world wide.

Nearby heady New Dynamo’s flaming night factories churn out fantastic geysers and towers of semi-liquified scree and fiery clouds of Kanu-Kanu, slag and asphalt which when cooled is employed as a generatrix in various lively powders; in particular, Phenobotulene and Pistolplasm, substances sought in all the capitals of Europe and Asia. Set County’s photopetropharoonical pride. Next the lovers shrill with delight at the sight, veiled through flat, black planes of a northerly cloud sheet dark as deepest indigo, of the towers of the Mohonka Extension Bridge, the last and greatest work of the famed architect Flatwood Easthammer, a nephew of the great Mahoon and literary dilettante, P. J. Bojangles Crapley. The Crapleys and the Perdidos share an ancestor in the in the person of Consternation P. (For Perdido) “Buzzsaw” Nightwalker, a member of the United states Senate just before the brief and unfortunate presidency of S. S. “Steamboat” Crowe; and also an inventor of a kind of circular saw, one given to lilts and tilts and thus off the main branch of technological advance.

Sweet Linda lifts a champagne toast to her distant relation as they fly over the Nightwalker Mausoleum in nearby Minsk, adjacent Mink Muscle, near East Fossil and West Hijack, along the crumbling two-lane highway that runs into the rolling grasslands surrounding the town of P— ; P for unpronounceable, near which Narthex notices line after line of dusty, yellowish clouds. Smoke or Smaze. Smunk even, daze. Days of daze, he offers to his gal, speculatively stroking the jagged scare than runs up the North side of his face, from Adam’s apple, around the cheek bone to a thin and hollow temple. Looks to be a motorcade of heavy trucks, earth moving machinery, backhoes, graders. Wonder what they are doing in such a far and empty place as that? His wonder wanders as the balloon turns about, and teased by a new, lighter wind, tizzies on for all the world like a child’s toy exponentially removed by some fluxion of airy nothings, by moon cats and goldish crickets, out of noplace into someplace.

Linda Perdido is thinking about this glorious day of reckoning, recognition and plain old fashioned wreckage. Nothing can beat the feeling you get. Her crooked smile is so wicked you could read it, and her by implication, as an instance of innocence unalloyed. Now those years of humiliation, the teasing of her social-betters, the harsh punishment for petty theft and ladybird beetle larceny; for misdemeanors, miscreation, misdeeds and misdoods. Miscarriage in major and minor keys. That year at the Bad Girls’ School at Wemkie. Misconduct and misguidance at the Drug Rehab facility at Broom. Misery, years of it, just itching to be expressed to the full extent of the Second Digit, proudly erect, in the stony face of authority whomever and wherever he or she might dwell all over this colossal shit hole of Set County, a place more fit for the Japanese Beetle than for a person clued into her own minutely calibrated inner-life. Her cold and gem-like gaze skims lightly over the landscape, a landscape she has had to deal with from a stance of chronic powerlessness all of her twenty-five years, and finally this! This Advent, this miracle, this miracle trellis of the blackest of black blooming roses, and in the farthest reaches of her psyche: nightbright wicked blacklight the color of obsidian, the color of anthracite.

Her soul is anthracite, his is of zinc; the conversation is all crazy eights, tetchy, and often catadioptric. A whiff of cannabis reaches high flying birds– ducks, pigeons, and of course the little known Perdido Macaw, so rare and metaphysical that the creature’s namesake is, herself, unaware of this creatured fact. (Not quite the namesake as the bird was named for Honor and Hope, twin daughters of a distant relation, Carter Fenelon Perdido, a professor at the Department of Avian Studies at Glorious Morning College in Cananga; long dead but dearly remembered by his disciples at the Ganymede Foundation.

The lovers’ collective vocabulary: Forty-six words; the central object in their over-wandering of Set County and beyond: Maximumification of the state of cool; knowledge of the finer points of balloon navigation: Hazy at first, hazy at best; the state of provisioning as of this moment: Half a dozen ham and cheese sandwiches on rye toast, two Granny Smith apples, a smallish but inordinately fuzzy pink peach, a carton of slimjims, a gallon of spring water from over in Vandalia, and a case of Blitz beer in aluminum cans (with the irate black-tufted Malabar squirrel on the label; irate and like Narthex, zinc of will, gazing knowingly and hard directly into the eye of the would be imbiber; plans for the future: Vague at best, indefinite; religious sensations: Eleusinian, priapic (loosely defined), satanic; their proximate destination: Rattlesnake Mountain Lodge in the High Sierra where the two bad ones envisage another swath of desecration and demolishment at Camp Wounded Bear, a summer institute for advanced study of the Book of Mormon and the golden questions, the playing of Bugles and other Horns; (first) secondary destination: Loon Lake on Matapan Peninsula near the Velvet Sea, a place said to harbor myriad penitent and initiates– many of them old pals of Narthex from his days in the reformatory at Weasel– at the Temple of Lower Motorcycle; (second) secondary destination: Proboscis Island in Smoke Top Bay, Each Sandwich County, and in especial, the upper slopes of Old Moldy where there is to be found a certain medicinal herb, Pheronacea or Gag’s Periwinkle, said to possess spectacular powers of enhancement in the mental realms of sparkle, dazzle and total pizzaz; (third) secondary destination: The animal shelter at New Gradual, Montana, where it is hoped pet adoption might be arranged for, in order of preference: A fennec, an Osborne’s Owlet (the blood-orange variety), and, or, a Jupiter Beetle from Kalimantan said to be able to change colors, imitate rhythmically and in various radiant Coleopteran registers the Top Ten pop tunes of any given moment; tertiary destination: The holy city of Bing in Bandana County (apparently near Laos on their map, a Ziegfield Projection based on the dubious propositions of “Lateral Thinking”) where Bhang may be purchased in bulk at a reasonable cost depending on the current exchange rate of the Beng, a black-market currency unofficially official in that errant place of untamable hoydenry, maniacal hubbub, black lizards (always irresistible for our irrepressible girl); ultimate destination, barring instantiation of the higher (as opposed to the lower) Unseen– the cave known as Morocco’s Lair said to be located behind the false wall, in an unknown closet, adjoining the antique bathroom at the Inn of the Zinn of Mohocs on the occult or hidden side of the hypothetical planet(oid) Blue Streak whose maddening and rubbery orbital periodicity is such that the object never emerges from behind the moon; their purpose in regard to this last: To ascertain the truth of what is said about this feature of Blue Streak, namely Morocco’s Lair, at the Temple of Higher Motorcycle by certain of the higher priests; and what precisely is this something that is alleged to have been said? This they have forgotten, but it runs roughly like this, although scrambled and jumbled by nameless deep space juju:

w§#Á)&666§`&€{~{

; and just what is, in precise terms, their true destination to be, after all this tacking and yawing, all this waxing and waning? Vast, rumpled, slumbering Set County, skin the color of the Komodo; whose dream is the inside of a hunk of basalt (in the dream Set thinks, those who once made quite a noise now lie quiet).

Are the two criminal balloonists aware of this?

No.

Does anyone know this is the case?

No.

Does anyone know anything?

No – a trifecta of negation, like a tanager with three heads; or Cerberus (A hybrid Saluki), guardian of the bad place, the bad place called P —.

You guess.

Yes. You guessed it. Yes.

Back at the smoking ruin of the WalMart at Silo Heights, a small, wet, scorched and smoke-blackened man from the Tabernacle; small and mild and about as wise as a peach, surveys his crumpled SUV– smashed by falling debris and strangled by a seething mass of fire hoses. Crumpled and sodden, the SUV (a brand new Taboo) is filled to the top with box after box of soggy toilet paper, paper towels and napkins. Norris McCoy is his name, and he turns to one of his brethren, also of the Tabernacle, and says, I should have stayed at home, his voice breaking.

___________
Copyright ©2009 by Mac Wellman


Mac Wellman's recent plays are: Bitter Pierce, Jennie Richee, Anything's Dream, and Antigone. He has published two novels with Sun & Moon Press, The Fortuneteller and Annie Salem, and one long fiction, Q's Q with Green Integer. Sun & Moon also published his book of poems, A Shelf in Sheep's Clothing; Roof Books published his poetry collection, Miniature. With Douglas Messerli, Wellman co-edited the large drama anthology, From the Other Side of the Century II. Sun & Moon also published his plays Bad Penny and The Land Beyond the Forest, and Green Integer reprinted (from Sun & Moon) his quartet of plays, Crowtet. Welllman has received numerous awards, including an NEA grant, Rockefeller, McKnight, and Guggenheim Fellowships. In 1990 he received an Obie for Best American Play (Bad Penny, Crowbar, and Terminal Hip), and in 1991 he received another Obie for Sincerity Forever. In 2003 he received an Obie for Lifetime Achievement. He is the Donald I. Fine Professor Play Writing at Brooklyn College.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Raymond Federman | Reflections on Ways to Improve Death


Raymond Federman (photo by Douglas Messerli)

Raymond Federman
Reflections on Ways to Improve Death

Statisticians tell us [see The Inconvenience of Mortality, by Morton Passaway & Gerald Coffin, The Amigone Press, 1986, p. 489] of nearly five billion inhabitants of Earth [human that is—no records exist, we are told, concerning the animal population] some eighteen thousand die every minute.

Yes, eighteen thousand humans cease to be within the same minute, almost simultaneously, on a continuous basis. Such numbers baffle the mind like a wilderness of abstractions.
A quick mental calculation [though in this case pen and paper or else an electronic calculator may be needed just to keep track of the zeroes] reveals that approximately every six months a number almost equivalent to the entire population of the planet disappears.

Yes, vanishes, passes away, dies—whichever way one puts it, according to one's view of the fact of death.

It is obvious then, since humanity somehow manages to survive and even perpetuate itself, even though statisticians warn us repeatedly about the dangers of a steady increase of the planet's population [see The Critical Contingencies & Exigencies of Surpopulation, by Angel & Peter Moreheads, Pantheon Press, 1994, second edition, pp. 234-278] that an equal number of people, or a greater number must be born every minute in order to preserve the human element and maintain the equilibrium between birth and death, from the womb to the tomb, as the saying goes.

This suggests, rather explicitly, that there is more fucking going on, on this planet, than dying, especially since not all copulation results in fertilization and produces population.
But that is not the point here. No, the point of contention here is not with numbers, nor how the process of human reproduction is gratuitously and lamentably abused and degraded. Our concern here is with the lack of statistics regarding the categories of death and the causes of death. For even though death is an absolute, nonetheless one would think that by keeping track of its varied causes, one could perhaps improve the process of death.

Deplorably enough, if statisticians are bent on keeping track of numbers, they do not seem to give a damn about keeping track of manners. That is to say, they count the dead but they do not count nor describe the modes of dying. Concerned only with recording, more or less accurately and objectively, the numbers in matters of death, statisticians do not give a shit about how people die, and therefore never give exact information about the categories and causes of death. This really shows to what extent our civilization offers, at best, as Kafka once put it, a truncated and fallacious notion of death that requires of us that we either close our eyes on it or compromise.

In other words, what statisticians have never calculated [to our knowledge at any rate], or rather never categorized, are the causes for human beings to depart, pass away, become defunct, move on, change tense. There are so many noble ways of asserting the fact of death. Yet in their inaptitude to be surprised, statisticians never record the categories of those who leave us, those who join the departed, those who face the final judgment, those who expire, perish, come to an end, cease to exist, become extinct, are extinguished, stop being, are no longer subject to worldly things, and so on. Yes, there are so many ways one can report death, either directly or metaphorically, many ways to express the condition of death to suit one's moral, and even one's aesthetic attitude towards it.

If one were to begin keeping track of the many categories of deaths, that is to say give detailed description of how these occur, one might possibly be able to delay the process, and even render it less frightening, less painful, though of course one could never make it avoidable or reversible, for death is a total irrevocable state that cannot be altered. But more importantly, with precise descriptions of the categories of deaths, one could perhaps improve the process. True, this would require of us an unusual collective explosion of understanding and compassion, sentiments as rare among us these days as among maggots.

Obviously, the one category which cannot be altered or improved is that of natural death. Nothing can be done when the end comes and the human machine falls into a state of total disrepair and exhaustion. When life reaches its natural outcome, there is little one can do about that. Whether one likes it or not, whether or not it happens in one's bed during sleep, that type of death carries an unalterable principle -- it always happens at the right moment, a principle that cannot be refuted either morally or philosophically. This we can call the category of timely deaths.

Another category, though unacceptable to many, which cannot be tampered with, for better or for worse, is that of death by the grace of God. There is no possibility of improvement here since, by its very nature, this category is almost perfect, since the cause lies elsewhere.

However, other categories could certainly be improved. For instance, the category of deaths caused by other people. Much could be done here to reduce the numbers, and perhaps even eliminate this category completely. A simple matter of preventive attention and care. Of course, when dealing with this category, one must make a clear distinction between deaths caused by others deliberately, and deaths caused by others inadvertently. It could be said that the former cannot be avoided since it is coincidental, whereas the latter can probably be prevented because it is accidental. For as Regis Dumort explains [page 130] in his convincing and exhilarating Vue Mondiale des Coincidences et Accidents Macabres [Les Éditions des Pompes Funèbres, 1982]: An accident is just a thing that happens, whereas a coincidence is a thing that is going to happen and does." [My translation]. Therefore, the category of deaths caused accidentally by other people should perhaps be listed separately, so that those who die of such a death can rest in peace without resentment, satisfied that their death was not caused deliberately.

Similarly, the category of self-inflicted deaths is one which, though much discussed lately, and of great concern to liberal groups as well as theological groups, is far from being under control. It could certainly stand some improvement.

To be mentioned also is the category of accidental deaths, not caused by others but by the very person who dies as a result of his or her own carelessness. The list is endless. Naturally, all these categories can be divided into sub-categories, such as premature deaths, unexpected deaths, mysterious deaths, unnatural deaths, deaths by starvation, deaths by over-eating, deaths by electric shocks, deaths by drowning or overdosing, and many others even more eccentric or exotic. In all of these, there is room for improvement, and even total elimination, if only the necessary statistics were available.

There is one category, however, which presents real problems in terms of eventual improvement, and that is the category of our own death. Since we do not know in advance the form our death will take, except, of course, if we choose suicide, we can never propose to ourselves possibilities of improvement. Faced with the inevitability and certainty of our own death, we can only place it in a vague and undetermined category with no hope of possible improvement, for one cannot improve what one doesn't know.

It is curious that this civilization of ours which measures everything, counts everything, evaluates, weighs, packages, analyzes, a civilization that claims to know all, has failed to produce precise statistics for the categories of death. As such, our civilization has prevented all possibilities of improvement in this domain.

Perhaps, just as it is curious that the number of languages people employ on this planet cannot be calculated [no one knows precisely how many there are, all we know vaguely and claim to know is that there are more than four thousand languages, and many still unidentified], it is as curious that the categories of deaths cannot be accounted for. Does this signify that there is a mysterious link between language and death that will never be explained? For in fact, just as certain linguists refuse to accept certain languages and simply categorize them as dialects, some categories of deaths are rejected or considered insignificant because they fall within other categories. That is the case, for instance, with the esoteric category of deaths by torture, which is too often ignored because it is viewed simply as a minor sub-division of the larger category of deaths by violence. In our opinion, death by torture deserves to have its own category, if only because it has become so popular these days on our planet.

Since death is the pure event, the perfect event, as the great Structuralist Michel Foucault calls it in his essay "Theatrum Philosophicum" [see Critique, Vol. XXXVI, No. 282, 1970], any attempt to think that event may give it a semblance of metaphysical quality, but not necessarily metaphysical coherence which would place the idea of death squarely into a system of cause and effect, and that is not possible. Regardless of the category into which it falls, death may have a cause, known or unknown to the one who is dying, but it cannot have an effect, certainly not on the one who is dead. There is no effect of death. Sure, others may feel the effect of that death, but that's beside the point. When you're dead, you feel nothing. It is in this sense that death is a pure event.

As it has been demonstrated repeatedly throughout history, the event of death has its own complex logic. That is why statisticians have such difficulties categorizing death. Death defies human logic. It only abides by its own irrational logic, one might say. Death does not give a damn about life, human or whatever. In this sense, distorting a ligne from Alfred de Vigny to support our assumption: Seule la mort est parfaite, tout les reste est imperfection.

The fact of being dead is a state of being [well, one should rather say, a state of non-being, but that makes death sound too negative] in relation to which an assertion can neither be true nor false because to die is a pure event which verifies nothing, asserts nothing, proves nothing.
Here is a pertinent illustration of the non-assertive quality of death. For instance, when we say Federman is dead, regardless of which category his death falls in, we are merely designating a condition, or expressing a personal opinion or belief. But whatever the case, Federman's death can only be spoken by others, and as such means nothing to him once departed. The dead can never speak his own death, he can never say I am dead! Unless of course speaking metaphorically or theological jargon. Others say that of us after we are deceased, after we have become the pure event of death in an exemplary fashion, when we have changed tense, and are no longer present, nor past. When we have vanished into perfection.

We cannot resist to quote here, in support of our argument, that marvelous ligne from Le Cimètiere Marin of Paul Valèry which so succinctly describes the pure event of death: Le don de vivre a passé dans les fleurs!

It would be presumptuous of us to try and render faithfully into English the sense and sensuality of these words. One can only attempt a clumsy approximation: The gift of life has become flowers!

But to return to our topic. The fact that Federman cannot say I am dead. The fact of being unable to speak one's death is the supreme category which abolishes all the others. It is the ultimate category, the category of the unspeakability of death. Whether one dies in bed, dies in one's boots, dies with one's boots on, dies on the vine, dies in harness, dies prematurely or in one's sleep, dies in a gas chamber, dies while making love to one's lover, when all is done and said, that is the category of death that has reached total improvement because it can no longer be spoken.

Language vanishes into death, and death vanishes into silence. Or is it, death that vanishes into language, and language into silence?
____________
Author of numerous works of fiction, drama, poetry, and criticism, including the fictions Take It or Leave It, The Two-fold Vibration, and Smiles of Washington Square, the latter two books still available from Green Integer. Federman taught for many years at the University of Buffalo before retiring to San Diego.


Federman was born in France, and would later become a friend of Samuel Beckett, a strong influence on his own writing. In 1942, as a child, Ray, hiding in a closet, heard his parents and sisters being taken by Gestapo officers from their Paris apartment. His family died, while he survived, recounting that experience in his novella The Voice in the Closet.


Yesterday morning, after a long battle with cancer, Federman died at the age of 81 in San Diego.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jeff Harrison | Two Tales

Jeff Harrison
Two Tales

The Melting of Salts, or, A Defence of Poetry

A substance that passes through the fire (that is to say, the line) becomes metaphorical. As most of the Sulphur turns metaphorical, the incombustible Mercury remains (often still garmented with combustible Sulphur) as a liquid Salt or a celestial Salt, or both. The Salt in the ashes is its fixed counterpart. It may be inferred from an entire reading of Percy Bysshe Shelley's A Defence of Poetry that what is commonly referred to as "Spirit of Philosophical Wine"(the delineable metaphor), and also as the "Secret Fire" (the readable metaphor), and also still the "Alkahest" (the destructive, or the audible metaphor) will, by itself or containing the tinctures or Salts of various subjects, when burned, produce this type of volatile Mercurial Salt as an exalted fixed remainder. The volatile is for a health of an entire reading, the fixed is for transmutation of metals.

You, reader, can go about crying in your nakedness for the burning through the line, but the burning through the line is done after the vestal stage of an entire reading, which does not occur before the mortification of the atramentous stage, which is not enjoyed by jumping up and down. Beware the eating of the burning through the line, for where will its Sibylline clouds lead you? Only back to lead; beware, reader; you will poison yourself beyond repair.



The Low Rose

Repeated Cohobation of a distilled Spirit of any substance or salt upon its body meliorates its nature, for the purpose of extracting the verbal (its own, some would say) (see Paracelsus, Circulated Salt, "Archidoxis", tenth book). Sometimes this makes a fixed body volatile, and sometimes a volatile body fixed. This "Solve et Coagula" process is analogous to when the Huntress feigns English (She lacks, Herself, human complete with fate overcast).

Putrefaction of a substance separates its elements and reduces it to its initial matter which is a Water (see Edgar Poe's "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar"). The Vegetable and Animal require a moist putrefaction, but the Mineral can be putrefied the dry way by Nitre or the moist way with the fixed liquor of Nitre: the Huntress would sooner give repose to the beating of Her hounds' hearts than repose to a syllable distinguishing the Rose (this syllable in the same breath, at times, addressing Fright) (see William Collins, "Ode to Fear").

Incubation and Circulation of a composed substance burns as a low rose, allowing the male and female principles to operate on one another in the vessel until they hang together, inseparable, as a immobile hermaphrodite: thus hangs the Huntress, reader; She hangs Nervals all (resigned and versed. Unconquered! Why the low rose certain to be grasped by stray innocents?). This retains the features of a natural substance (courtly above despair its gaze, as though a lyre) by restriction of heat and transferral of features to it from other solvents: an appearance of what is dressed as the Rose, which has Palingenetic properties (ethereal form of the plant visible) (see Percy Shelley, "The Sensitive Plant").

________
Copyright ©2009 by Jeff Harrison

Jeff Harrison has publications from Writers Forum, MAG Press, Persistencia Press, and Furniture Press. He has two e-books at xPress(ed), and one at Blazevox. His poetry has appeared in An Introduction to the Prose Poem (Firewheel Editions), The Hay(na)ku Anthology Vol. II, (Meritage Press), Sentence: a Journal of Prose Poetics, Xerography, Moria, NOON: journal of the short poem, Dusie, MiPOesias, and Jefelsewhere.