Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Marie Redonnet | Ist and Irt

Marie Redonnet
Ist and Irt
Translated from the French by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert

Towards the south, the lake recedes, its waters are filled with fewer fish. Doubtless it is for this reason that the fishermen of the lake never settled there. It was there, nevertheless, that Ism and Isl decided to live after they met. They bought a new boat, they constructed a cabin. The spot truly pleased them. Ism fished, Isl dressed the filets and went to sell the fish at the market. Ism caught nothing but little fish. That's how it was around this part of the lake; all the fishermen knew. As he was a good fisherman, Ism caught a lot. But his catch was poorly rewarded, because only the big fish brought a good price. Ism didn't regret having settled there with Isl. He had few needs. And they had enough to get by with the money from the little fish.

At the market where she made her way each day, Isl was courted by the most famous fisherman on the lake, Irg. He was always the one who sold the biggest fish. One day, he offered one to Isl. She carefully prepared it for the evening meal. She wanted to surprise Ism. But Ism was somber, and he didn't look the same when he saw the plate which Isl presented him. For some days now, the fishing had been bad, the fish had gotten smaller, and less numerous. Ism feared that the fish were disappearing from this part of the lake. He said nothing about it to Isl. And Isl wasn't bothered by having fewer little fish than ever to take to sell at the market. Besides, she always brought home a big fish from Irg. Chance had smiled upon her. She concluded that Ism had no taste for fish. She had to eat it all herself. In the days that followed, Ism became still more somber, and he brought home fewer and fewer fish. He didn't talk to Isl anymore, he acted as if she didn't exist.

One night, Isl didn't come home from the market. She had accepted Irg's offer to go and live with him at the other end of the lake, there where big fish could always be found. Ism stayed by himself with his boat and his cabin. He kept on fishing. But his fishing got worse and worse. His filets became shreds, the little fish hid themselves in bigger and bigger holes. One day, Ism didn't catch any fish at all. At the market, Isl triumphed. She sold the best fish in the lake. She was happy. She gave birth to a son, Irt.

Ism decided to leave the lake, and move upriver. After several weeks of journeying, he came upon a second lake, smaller than the first. peaceful and fringed with forests. Ism quickly found a spot which suited him, along an isolated and well-protected creek. The next morning, he went fishing. He brought in some big fish. Ism had done well to move upriver. It was on the banks of this river that Ism wanted to live ever after. At the market, he was proud of his fish. Each morning, he went fishing, and each time he caught big fish. At the market, he met a young lake girl, Isn. She pleased him right away, and he asked her to come live with him. Isn was happy with Ism. She went to sell the fish at the market, she dressed the filets. She gave Ism a daughter, Ist. Ism and Isn passed their days along the edge of the lake.

One day, a young fisherman arrived. He was called Irt, he was the son of Isl. He had come up the river, he wanted to settle along the edge of this lake. He built himself a cabin in a little cove at the lake's edge. At the market, Ist now replaced Isn. She and Irt met. Irt had had no luck since settling. He had fished out only little fish in little quantities. Ist was sad for him. She frequently offered him one of Ism's beautiful fish for his evening meal. Irt was ashamed of catching nothing but little fish, and he didn't dare tell her he was in love with her. So it was Ist who took the first steps. A few days later, Irt asked for her hand.

Ist and Irt decided to move up the river, in search of another lake where they might settle. They journeyed long before they came upon a very tiny lake which resembled a lagoon. It was there that the river had its source. The water in the lake was transparent and very deep. Ist and Irt settled along the edge of this lake, they built a cabin. Ist didn't want to stay at home when Irt went fishing. She wanted to go with him. So they went fishing together, each at one end of the boat. They caught some small fish and some big fish.

The years passed. Ist and Irt had no children. They fished all the time, but they had caught only small fish, which just sufficed to keep them alive. The big fish had disappeared from the lake. Then the little fish began to disappear. Ist and Irt were now very old. Every day, they went to the middle of the lake to fish for the last little fishes. Their boat was very leaky, it took on water. While Irt rowed, Ist emptied the water from the boat. One day, Ist no longer had the strength to bail all the water rushing into the boat. And Irt continued to row as if nothing were wrong. When they arrived at the middle of the lagoon-transparent lake, very softly, very gently, the boat was swallowed up, along with Ist and Irt.

Born in 1948, Marie Redonnet was trained as a teacher but soon left her job in a public school in the suburbs of Paris in order to devote herself to writing. Since 1985, the year of the appearance of her first literary work, Le Mort & Cie, a set of Haiku-like verses, evoking her father's death—she has published short stories (Doublures) novels and novellas (Splendid Hôtel, Forever Valley, Rose Mélie Rose [published in translation by the University of Nebraska Press] Silsie, Candy Story, Nevermore) and dramatic works (Tir et Lir, Mobie-Diq, Seaside).
One of the most distinctive voices in contemporary French literature, Redonnet is often connected with other young French writers of the period, including Jean Echenoz, Jean-Philippe Toussaint, and Annie Ernaux.

English-language copyright ©2009 by Gilbert Alter-Gilbert


Douglas Messerli | Language Writhing Machines (on Tom La Farge's 13 Writhing Machines No. 1: Administrative Assemblages)

Douglas Messerli
Language Writhing Machines

Tom La Farge 13 Writhing Machines No. 1: Administrative Assemblages (Brooklyn: Proteotypes, 2008)

This is the first volume of Tom La Farge's promised 13-volume series on structures for writing, which he describes as "writhing," "writing with a difference," as if the activity were something accomplished with a coiling snake in hands or through a discharge of electrical energy. Certainly the kind of "writhing" La Farge speaks of—writing with constraints, arbitrary rules "imposed upon composition that drive you to say what you had not thought of saying in ways you would not have chosen to say it"—in its formal and often comical Oulipian twists, bends, and folds—requires a mastery of language and an artistry that allows one to give oneself up to the possibilities and accidents produced through the form itself.

In Administrative Assemblages La Farge explores several larger systems of arrangement: "Lists and Catalogs," "Memory Arrangements," "Full Disclosure," "Invisible Libraries," "Classifications," "Timelines," "Map & Gazetteer," and "The Composite Portrait," and suggests some methods of composing in each of these categories. These systems, based primarily on methods attempted by members of the Oulipo writers, offer up new possibilities of how to write; and La Farge's clear and concise descriptions, along with his list of methods, if nothing else, should well serve creative writing classrooms from here to eternity, particularly when he has completed all 13 volumes (forthcoming pamphlets will consider Dictionary Drives, Permutants & Recombinants, Visual/Verbal Hybridizers, Decryptions & Reëncryptions, and Homomorphic Converters).

That is not to say that every form will appeal equally to all. While I am a born list maker, I find the kinds of listings La Farge mentions—shopping lists, the lists of Walt Whitman, and even the lists of the American Oulipo-influenced author Gilbert Sorrentino (whom La Farge does not list), often as mindless narratives that demonstrate a lack of connection and complexity—things I seek in fiction. Similarly, although the "Memory Arrangements" of books such as Joe Brainard's I Remember are often charming to read, I think of them as literature "lite."

More interesting, it seems to me, are the formulations of Marcel Bénabou's patterns of "Perhaps you ... Not me," or "Me too."

Perhaps you like the records of Lawrence Welk. Not me.

Of far more interest are the constraints of "Formal Disclosure," which often use official-seeming forms as guides to creative composition. La Farge points the works of J. G. Ballard, who "uses physical structures that assemble a social reality in order to shape his fictions." For example, Ballard's 1975 High-Rise "uses the stratified sociology of an apartment building as the basis for a story of class war in a disaster scenario prompted by the failure of the complex systems on which such buildings rely." In my own condominium building it would be fascinating, I suspect, to explore the radical differences between the numerous older Jewish couples, the younger Korean families, and new Russian immigrants, along with the several gay couples that make up the majority of units.

My companion Howard would adore La Farge's "Invisible Libraries" systems, in which, for example, he suggests amalgam-books such as Crime and Prejudice or The Bleak Doll's Heartbreak House. Howard is always spouting such titles as Death of a Venice Salesman and The Color of Purple Summer.

Of equal interest is La Farge's discussion of "Classifications," works which deal with issues of classification such as "kinship systems," or "inheritance patterns." In Jorge Luis Borges's "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins," the author explores that founder of the British Royal Society's attempt to create an ideal language by dividing the universe into forty classes, a systemization that quickly falls into a kind of absurdity that is ridiculously poetic.

Whenever I think of "Timelines" I am reminded of Harry Mathews's brilliant experiment in My Life in CIA, where, pretending to be a travel guide, he lectures on a possible trip through the USSR using several systematic rules: 1) They should only take trains and buses whose departure times read the same right to left as they did left to right; 2) For every departure, a return must be assured that strictly obeys rule one.

"Map and Gazetteer" forms more directly involve the visual artist in presenting various allegorical travel routes and comic maps based upon the outlines of countries coinciding with what La Farge describes as "an agglomeration of national caricatures." But, of course, there are verbal gazetteers, an example of which was recently presented in the New York Times, a map of Britain showing only towns with profane sounding names such as Crapstone, Penistone, East Breast, Pratts Bottom, Titty Ho, Crotch Crescent, etc.

Similarly, visual artists are at the center of La Farge's discussion of "The Composite Portrait," particularly by the painter Nicolas de Larmessin, who created portraits representing human figures made up of the things of which they were associated, such as his "Librarian," a man made up of books, or his "Musician," a man wearing various musical instruments. I once used just such a portrait of individuals in my fiction Letters from Hanusse using 19th-century phrenological systems that depended upon the bumps and fissures in the skull to determine the moral condition of the individuals to characterize the people of my mythical country Hanusse.

In short, La Farge's 13 Writhing Machines, given the contents of this first volume, promises not only to be an utterly entertaining presentation of various formal systems of literary writing, but an illustrative example of how to get writers, young and old, to experiment with new and empowering systems outside the scope of realist psychological narrative. We have long needed such a thorough discussion of such works, and perhaps in the 21st century our younger authors can go forward from these with an exciting energy of new possibilities.

Tom La Farge is the author of several books of fiction, including The Crimson Bears, A Hundred Doors, and Terror of Earth (all three published by Sun & Moon Press) and Zuntig (Green Integer). He lives with his wife, the author Wendy Walker, in Brooklyn, New York.

Copyright ©2009 by Douglas Messerli.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Félix Morisseau-Leroy | Eminans a story for singing

Félix Morisseau-Leroy
Eminans a story for singing
Translated from the Haitian Creole by Peter Constantine

Nan Kas? Nan Kas is an area not too far from Grangozye. But the earth there is different. In Grangozye the only trees that grow are goat trees, bayaonn, gayak, flanbwayan, and cactus. But in Nan Kas guinea weed and rubber trees grow. If a young man has the stamina to sickle away the undergrowth, he can plant corn, beans, yams, bananas, melons—anything he wants.

The earth of Nan Kas is for the taking. Anyone can cut out a piece of land to make a field for himself. But a fence has to be put up. Wild animals and horses, mules, and abandoned donkeys have more rights there than humans do. The law does not extend its arm to Nan Kas, and the only thing that can save you there is a good fence.

Once I had marked out the piece of land that I was going to turn into a field, I figured it would take me about six weeks to clear it and start planting. I went there every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from dawn to late in the afternoon.

If it had just been for me alone I would not have worked that hard, but Mareyta's father had said that we could not marry unless I had a house to put her in. I agreed.

And I'm not a guy who says he'll do something and then doesn't do it.

After four weeks I realized that I had not even cleared half the land, so I got up earlier in the morning and left Nan Kas later in the evening. Even Maryeta said: "You'll kill yourself!" It was as if she was saying: "Work harder so we can have our own house, so we can sleep in the same bed."

These words echoed through my blood like a cool breeze, even when the sun sat on my shoulders pecking at my head like a big bird.

The sweat that ran down my back was hotter than boiling water. Two streams flowed down on either side of my stomach and plunged between my thighs like needles to torment me. If it hadn't been for Maryeta's refreshing words, my head would have split a long time ago.

With my eyes I marked out the land that I still had to clear.

It was a large chunk.

I threw myself at it. I wielded my machete as if I were fighting off an enemy who was out to kill me. I no longer felt heat or exhaustion. It was always like this when my battling grew more fiery than the sun. I no longer felt anything. I did not feel the cuts on my arms and legs. I lifted my machete against a sea of villains, cutting them down for good. Even when a whole brigade of undergrowth tumbled to the ground, I was ready for more.

I gathered piles of wood together and started packing them into posts for a framework for my house. My heart jumped with joy. I sang:

If a woman disrespects you,
Then mark her—
with a crayon!

From time to time I would pick up the posts to check how many I had. I would tie them together with flax, put them on my head, and leave.

People who crossed my path at that point had best make way for me. I would fly over rocks and stones, and then drop the packet at my mother's house.

Before I would eat the food she had left for me I would run down to the shore for a swim. I would swim from the port all the way to the well. There I would wash my body in its sweet water and then run home to put on clean clothes.

Mareta was also a record swimmer. She even swam in the Devil's Rapids, where people say there are dangerous whirlpools. That didn't stop her.

At times I would imagine that she couldn't make it to the shore, and that I would throw myself into the water to save her. All the little boys and girls of Grangozye can swim like fish. The moment they are born their mothers throw them into the ocean so they will learn to fend for themselves—coast kids....

On Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, when I didn't go fishing, I would carry sacks of coffee. Carrying coffee is not a job any young man can do! The day I had gone to Madame Lelyo's to ask for a job carrying coffee, everyone had laughed at me. Jakòb and Bèlvant, the senior carriers, said to me:

"Well, well, Nans! So, give it a try! We'll give you a sack to carry!"

They loaded me with coffee as if I had been a carrier for ten years. But I didn't fall. Each sack weighted a hundred and forty pounds. With one of those sacks on my back, I turned to Bèlvant who said to me:

"You won't make it all the way down to the shore."

Jakòb said:

"And even if he makes it to the shore, he'll never make it back."

I did make it all the way to the shore and I came back.

On the first day I carried ten sacks of coffee. I told Madame Lelyo:

"Please keep my money for me. I want to buy boards, locks and hinges for my house."
Jakòb and Bèlvant called me over to drink grog with them to celebrate my joining the coffee carriers. Every time a boat came into port for loading, they would let me know so I wouldn't go to Nan Kas or go fishing. I always counted the sacks of coffee so I wouldn't carry more than the others. They sang a song about me:

Eminans, valiant young man,
Sacks of coffee, sacks of cotton
Make fifty kob and two gourdins
for Eminans

Maryeta asked me:

"Why are you doing such backbreaking work?"

"So I can finish the house!"

She understood.


One day I was cutting wood in Nan Kas to make lime. By mistake I hacked my machete into a wasps' nest. The wasps stung my eyes, my ears, my mouth, my chin, my nose, my neck. I gathered up seven different types of leaf to rub my face. To no avail! I could feel my head swell up like a sack of coffee. I couldn't open my eyes. Even though I was desperate to get back to Grangozye, I still took with me the usual bundle of dry wood that I brought my mother. I carried it on my head. But I couldn't open my eyes to find my way to the main road. I propped my eyes open with my fingers. But I needed my hands to hold the bundle of wood, so once I reached the road I started heading back with my eyes shut until I realized that I had lost my way. Little by little I forced my eyes open. Finally I made it home.

When my mother saw me she started screaming. She ran around looking for ointments. She boiled water for compresses to lay on my forehead. She heated up a spoon and moved it over my face. But all these ancient remedies did nothing for me. Fever came, and with it delirium.

My mother had never spoken to Maryeta so that people wouldn't say that she was setting her son up with the girl who could read. But that day she took courage and approached the house of the girl that people said would marry her boy. She asked her if she knew of any medicine against wasp stings.

"Viks Vaporib."

Maryeta gave my mother some Viks Vaporib which immediately made me feel better, especially when I found out Maryeta had given it to her. The next day I got up. My face was much less swollen.

Maryeta came to see me. The whole of Grangozye was surprised to see a young woman who had been to school cross the street to visit a simple man who had to do the most base jobs so he could build a house for her. She stopped a while in front of our door to speak with my mother. Her father also passed by and greeted my mother. He asked her:

"How is Eminans doing?"

"Praise be the Lord, he's doing better."

My mother asked Maryeta:

"How come your father knows that Eminans is sick?"

"I told him myself that I was going to visit Eminans so he wouldn't hear it from elsewhere."

Within three days I was back at Nan Kas with some matches. I set fire to a bundle of straw and burnt out the wasps' nest.

Maryeta and my mother became good friends. They would visit each other regularly. They would talk for hours. I never asked them about what.


The house was almost ready. The frame was covered, the doors installed, all that was left to do before we moved in were a few decorations and putting in some furniture. Every afternoon when school let out, Maryeta would come over to see how things were progressing.

One day she came with a package of newspapers. She told me:

"We'll keep these newspapers here so I can show you how to read. It won't take more than a week for you to learn how to read this newspaper. You won't have to read other newspapers or books. It's all in Creole. Everything a Haitian needs to know is in there."

I took the newspapers without quite understanding what Maryeta meant. I wasn't in any big hurry. In two three months she and I would be together night and day, and she would have lots of time to teach me to read. I would read the newspapers and see what was in them and they would be better than all those books that learned people read.

Three days after Maryeta had brought me the newspapers—it was a Sunday, and I had just bathed and put on clean clothes—I saw a truck drive into Grangozye. It drove up to the police station, picked up some officers, and drove up to Maryeta's house. My heart beating, I stayed in my house and waited. It never occurred to me that they had come for Maryeta. They made her get into the truck and drove up to my house. They dragged her out and a nasty officer asked me:

"Are you Eminans?"


"You know this girl?"


"We're going to search your house!"

Before I could open my mouth to anwer, he hit me so hard in the head with the handle of his machete that I would have fallen down if I hadn't been a coffee carrier.

"Savages!" Maryeta shouted.

They slapped her. I threw myself at them. They held me back. They searched the house and found the packet of newspapers. They asked Maryeta:

"Do you know what this is?"

"Yes, but Eminans has no idea! He can't read! I asked him to keep them here, but he has no idea what's in them. It's me you have to arrest! He's innocent!"

"You're joking! You'd make a good lawyer, Miss! Get in the truck—you too, young man!"

They went into the house once more. They came out and two of them jumped in the back with us. The others got in through the front. They left the back of the truck open so we could see our house, the house that I had worked like a dog to build for Maryeta, burn. They lit a fire inside and waited to see if the flames would spread through the house before they drove off. Then they closed the door at the back of the truck so we couldn't see where they were taking us.

Maryeta and I sat there silently. They didn't speak with us either. The truck drove on. We drove up mountains and down into valleys, and then up more mountains. We drove across plains. We drove over rocks and stones. We had no idea where we were going—all we knew, by the way the truck was shaking, was that the road was bad. If we'd been heading for Port au Prince, we'd have already arrived there. Well, after a couple of hours we slowed down. We drove into a courtyard and the truck backed up all the way to a door. We were told:

"Get out!"

We got out and they started pushing me. Maryeta began pleading with them again:

"He knows nothing. I gave him the newspapers without telling him what was in them!"

They hit her once, they hit her twice, to no avail. They asked what I knew about the papers.

"It's just like the lady said!"

They threw themselves at me and began clubbing me for all they were worth.

"Tell us what you know!"

"There's nothing I can tell you. You might as well kill me right now!"
"When the time comes for us to kill you, we'll do so without asking your permission. We'll put you in a dyak. You know what a dyak is? Yeah, we're gonna dyak you!"

"Do whatever you want!" I answered. "I can't tell you what I don't know!"

Maryeta screamed:

"The newspapers were meant to teach him how to read! He can't read! How is he supposed to know what's in them?"

"Listen, Miss, you'd better keep quiet! When we've finished with your boyfriend here, we're gonna take care of you! You're gonna tell us all you know!"

Then they began to set up the dyak for me.

They tied my hands, they tied my legs, and passed a pole through the ropes. They lifted me with the pole and balanced the ends on two tables. I hung there, head down, and they started beating my buttocks.

They beat me thinking I would lose consciousness. But I didn't. They picked up a whip. I could see everything they were doing. They whipped me right in front of Maryeta's eyes. She fainted. She had told them no more than she had said before.

They took Maryeta away. I heard them open a door and then close it. But I couldn't see where it was.

I couldn't walk, so they carried me. They opened a door not far away from where they had locked up Maryeta, and left me lying on the floor. When I opened my eyes, I saw nine or ten zombies in a room without windows. Some of them were sitting on the ground, others were lying on their backs, and others were crouching. They stared at me as if it had been an eternity since they had seen a man who looked like a human being. I heard them say that. Some of them were consumptive and coughed like dogs.

For two days I ate nothing. They came and washed my back and buttocks with alcohol, not to heal my wounds as much as to see if I would crack under the pain of the buring liquid that they rubbed in hard.

The zombies spoke to me. I did not speak too much with them. I told them that if they gave me few bites of their food every day I would help them escape when I myself broke out. They asked me:

"When do you intend to escape?"


They told me that some of them had been locked up three for six, seven years, that they had lost all hope. But no one laughed when I said:

"There's no way I'm staying here! I'm going to get out of here, and I'll leave, you can leave the door open for you. If you guys want to leave, you can leave too."

Deep in their hearts, they thought I was mad. Those who were really crazy in there believed me. They gave me a small bit of their food every day. They also gave me their water. They drank each other's urine—in my eyes they were lower than beasts. Every time the guard opened the door to give us our food, to take us out for our shower, carrying his whip, his revolver, and a bunch of keys, he would punch me. He would say:


He'd shout:

"What a name, Eminans!"

Everyone laughed. When he left, they'd tell me they had to laugh so he wouldn't beat them. I said nothing. Four days later, I asked them to keep quiet so that I could sing. I sang:

Far out at sea
I lost my Loua spirits,
I ask you, my darling, where are we,
Where are we,
Where are we today?

I stopped singing and waited. The others wanted to speak. I asked them to keep quiet. They fell silent. Some time passed, fifteen minutes or so, and then a woman's voice could be heard.

Keep a lookout, keep a lookout for the thieves
Keep a lookout, keep a lookout for the thieves
So they do not eat our food.

It was not just an ordinary voice that sang. It was a beautiful voice. The other men now believed that I wasn't alone, that there were forces working for me. They didn't know that Maryeta was locked up a few cells away. They thought that the Goddess Ezili had answered my song in person. They all gave me half their food.


I still used to lie on my stomach as there as no way I could lie on my back on the mat they had given me to sleep on. But when I heard the sound of the key in the door, I would crouch on all fours waiting to be punched and hear the words: "Eminans, what a name, Eminans!"

Six days later I sang:

Mondong o, mondong o
Ye, ye, ye, ye
Mondong o, mondong o
Ye, ye, ye, ye
Mondong ate roast mutton
Mondong ate roast goat
Mondong is strong, he is agile
Ye, ye, ye, ye

I didn't have much of a voice. But the men in my cell were quite impressed by the song. This time I could see they were waiting for the answer to come. But I had to wait for Maryeta to sing back. We waited for half an hour before she answered:

The young man worked
The young man did not eat
The young man worked
The young man did not eat
The young man took his money and bought a
beautiful scarf
Last night he slept without soup

She sang with a cross voice. I coud hear my cellmates say:

"The Goddess is ill-tempered. We do not give Eminans, her medium, enough to eat."

They gave me all their food. I ate it all. They said:

"It wasn't Eminans who ate our food. It was the Spirit, the Goddess, who ate, and she will fix things for us."

Nine days later I felt strong. I sang:

Kondi Loko we are leaving
We are leaving for our country
Kondi Loko we must leave
We must leave for our country

Maryeta answered just as I was singing the last words:

Ayizan, we shall go
We shall go to Gelekwe
We shall go to seek our family
But Ayizan
It is you who tied me up
It is you who shall release me
Oh Ayizan, open the gates.

This time, even though I knew it was only Maryeta answering my song, shivers ran through my body. Just as she finished singing, I heard the key slip into the lock. I quickly crouched down. The guard entered and asked:

"Which one of you was singing?"

No one answered. He came towards me to punch me:


With my head I rammed him with tremendous force in the stomach, knocking the breath out of him. I snatched up his revolver, his whip, and his keys, and then jammed a piece of cloth into his mouth. I seized him by the seat of his pants, and dragged him out into the corridor. I left the door wide open. We stopped in front of Maryeta's cell and I said:

"Open the door, you bastard!"

He opened the door fast. I said:

"Maryeta, we're leaving."

Maryeta stood up, grabbed her clothes and came out. I was still holding the guard by the seat of his pants and we made our way through many corridors and out into the yard. I gave him back his keys in front of the gate that faces out to the sea, and told him:

"Open up!"

I dragged him to where the sea waves began washing over out toes. I said:

"This is the place where you come to execute your prisoners, right? One day the hunter reigns, but the day comes where the prey takes over. Today it's my turn!"

He sank to his knees and begged for mercy. I hit him on the head with the bunch of keys. He fell. I threw the keys far out into the sea. I whipped him twice across his face, as a signature he would carry for the rest of his life. I put the whip down next to him. I took off my pants and my shirt and wrapped them in Maryeta's dress. I tied the clothes into a bundle on my head and went into the sea. Maryeta and I walked in the water as long as there was ground beneath our feet and then we swam. We took our time. We swam slowly, like people who travel far by foot, setting off early in the morning, arriving as night falls. We would stop to see which direction we were heading. The moon shone brightly. We could see the shore. We would swim to it, rest, and then swim out to sea again. When we felt that we were far enough from the prison, we went onto a beach to look for a place to sleep.

To sleep? The clothes I had tied into a bundle on my heard weren't drenched through and through, but they weren't dry either. Maryeta took off her wet shirt. I went to wring out my clothes to dry them, and take off my underwear to shake out the sand. When I came back I found that Maryeta had laid out her dress on the sand and was sleeping under the rays of the moon, which gleamed on the water drops on her beautiful black skin. It was as if she were covered in jewels.

I kneeled before her.

I have never prayed at a saint's feet. I was surprised at the words of prayer that sprung from me: Abisini, Kèskedye, Virgin Mother Altagras.

It is in a king's bed that one find such a princess sleeping, decked in jewels. And she belonged to me, a mere dock-worker, she would lie in my bed, the biggest most beautiful bed a man can give a woman.

On the peak of Blanch Mountain I have seen the sun set behind Kolonbye into the lagoon of Dizwit.

On the beach of my town I have seen the sun send its rays at dawn into the four corners of Spanish country.

On the Place D'Armes I have lain late at night and counted three thousand stars in the sky.

On the shores of Karye I have seen the rainbow descend to drink water and to tumble in the waves—I was so close I could have touched it but I just stood and watched.

But I had never seen anything as beautiful as Maryeta lying nude in the rays of the moon after having swum by my side for two hours.

I could have shouted with joy.

She stretched her arms to me.

She reached out till she touched me.

Pain mingled with sweetness. Maryeta rose and swayed like a sailboat passing the Devil's Rapids in a storm. Our bodies stretched like the sailboat's planks. She put her arms around me, pressing me towards her. The wounds on my back stung, but the pain was sweeter than the sweetest joy I had ever felt.

We went into the sea and sunk into each other's embraces again, but I did not tell her that the sea water burnt my wounds like fire. I told her it was sweeter than honey-mead, sweeter than Creole cane, sweeter than the deepest sleep after nine sleepless nights, sweeter than... We rolled back onto the beach, then back into the sea, and then onto the beach again. We lost all track of time until we both fell asleep. I hadn't slept for nine days. In prison the slightest sound had kept me awake: the sound of new prisoners being brought in, the sound of prisoners being dragged off to be shot, the sound of prisoners who were killed at the seashore with one blow to the nape. I slept deeply. When I woke, the sun shone as brilliantly as the sun back home in a sky without a cloud. An exquisite sky to behold after nine days in a cell without a window. A group of children sat on the sand. Maryeta sang for them with her beautiful voice. I jumped up. Maryeta told me:

"The children have been waiting for you to wake up to tell them a story."

I told them:

"Oh, yes! I shall tell you a story! But we are in a hurry. I shall tell you a very short story. We shall return one day when we have more time. But today we must leave. We slept too long. The story you will hear is of how we came to this place. We came from far far away, from the crossroads where life meets death. These crossroads are black as ink. There is no sun, there is no moon. There are no stars. There is no sea for us to bathe in. But we are wont to bathe in the sea. We love the sun. We love the moon. We cannot live without water, without sun. We fled. We took a boat and came here to bathe. Thank your mothers and your fathers for letting us bathe in their sea. Do you see that boat sailing by in the distance? That is the boat that will take us home. Thank you, thank you very much."

The children loved the story. They were not surpised to see us naked. One of the children asked us:

"Are you Adam and Eve?"

I tore off a leaf from a nearby vine and covered myself with it before putting on my underwear. Maryeta slipped into her shirt. I tied our things into a bundle and put it on my head.

We were about to leave when one of the older children came with a jug of water. I drank a few sips. I poured some drops onto the sand three times. The children looked at each other. We waded into the sea. As we began swimming Maryeta asked me:

"Do you know where we are?"

"I have no idea. I don't even know if I'm alive or dead. But one thing's for sure, if I'm dead, I'm in Paradise. Those children were the little angels in heaven."

"You're still telling stories."

"I never stopped telling them!"

Maryeta did not answer. I didn't hold back, I spoke and spoke. I spoke of beautiful things. I spoke. I spoke until I did not know what I was saying. Maryeta lay her hands on my back. She asked me:

"Are you all right?"


"You don't have a fever?"

"No, I'm fine."

That is when I realized that I was not fine. I fought hard to take a grip of myself, harder than I had ever fought cutting the undergrowth in my field in Nan Kas, harder than I had ever fought lugging sacks of coffee.


I remember us swimming and then coming out onto a beach. We walked by the shore, where cars would pass by. Every time we heard one coming we would jump into the bushes. It rained and we got drenched. The sun dried us. We learnt a lot. We learnt that there were many people in the country who lived like we did. No food to eat. No house to live in. Nothing. We did not ask anyone for a handout. Maryeta sang for the children. They gave her food. I told them stories. They gave be ten kòb, twenty kòb. I bought syrup candies for us to eat. We swam in the rivers that we came across. We scraped together enough money to buy a basket which we filled with leaves so we would look like regular travelers. Some places, people gave us coffee to drink. At times we said that thieves had stolen all our things. It was near enough to the truth. After all, we had been robbed through and through.

In some places people thought we were saint-spirits from Africa. They gave us food, drink, money. Before we left, Maryeta would always sing. One time I was hired to unload a large truck that had broken down, and load everything into the replacement truck. I got fifteen goud for that. That was the most money we ever made. We bought sandals, slippers, a knife, some matches.

One day we were almost caught. We arrived in a village where we met a policeman on holiday. He was telling a story about "two prisoners who had escaped swimming." It was the first time in my life that I was truly frightened. I didn't know how we would have gotten out of it if someone had taken a good look at us and said:

"Hey, aren't they the ones?"

But the policeman was definitely embellishing the story. He said we had opened doors without keys. He said we had stopped a boat that passed by the harbor and had boarded it. He said Maryeta had sung a magic song that had conjured all the Loua spirits from Guinea and the Lesenlemo spirits of the saintly dead who came and saved us. He said that on the beach we had written into the sand prophecies of what would happen to Haiti in ten, twenty years. He regretted not having met us, for instead of trying to hunt us down he would have sought our guidance.

Then he told a story which we would have found downright funny if fear hadn't wrung our insides. He said:

"There once was a town where a young woman lived all alone in an old straw hut in which there wasn't even a chair to sit on. One day, by the Lord's blessed water, a couple appeared before her house. They asked her for a cup of coffee. I turned out she just happened to have some that day. She gave them coffee, she gave them bread to dunk in it. Before they left, they asked the young woman if she could sing, and she said no, she'd never tried. They told her: 'You have a beautiful voice, try singing like a woman in pain, and then singing like a woman who is happy.' That's all they said! They turned their backs and left without a sign of where they'd come from or where they had gone to. The girl did not stop singing until the whole town came and brought her over to the radio station to sing. That girl's made a mountain of money. If I'd met that couple, I wouldn't be here now! City people always think they're cleverer than everyone else, and then they always end up doing stupid things."

I thought to myself:

"That's definitely true."

He said:

"This country is full of mystery!"

"Yes, he's right!" I thought to myself.

When we left that house I asked Mayreta:

"Did you hear that?"

"Yes," she answered. "Did you hear what he said?"

Maryeta did not sing for the people there, and I didn't tell the children stories. The moment we had the opportunity, we ran for our lives. We disappeared. We no longer visited the houses along the road. We just climbed mountains and descended into valleys until we saw the sea, which didn't seem to be the sea we knew, but a different sea, a sea with big swells, thundering louder, rising higher, crashing harder than we had ever seen before. When the waves rose, they rose as high as Madame Nima's two-story house. And yet there was truth in what the policeman had said. We did get to Grangozye by boat—on a yacht in fact. But that was much later. I don't know how, but we met this rich young man who was on a pleasure cruise with a beautiful woman. He asked us if we wanted to travel with them, all we had to do was a bit of work on deck. It was like heaven on earth. We had a room all to ourselves and they stayed most of the time in their cabin. We prepared the food in the yacht's kitchen. We had everything we needed. We never saw the captain. At times we would drop anchor for two three days and then leave again. We sailed all around Haiti. When we saw the precipice of the Devil's Rapids we told them that we wanted to get off. At first they didn't want to let us go, but when they saw that we were ready to jump into the sea they steered towards Kapyè. They left us there and sailed off.

We couldn't wait to swim where the rainbow drinks water. Nothing had changed. A school of brightly colored fish with pointed mouths gathered, dispersed, shot off in all directions, whirled about, then gathered and dispersed again. I told Maryeta:

"They are dancing for us."

We looked out into the ocean and saw two rainbows. They didn't arc over our heads the way you would expect, but lay straight across the sky. Maryeta said:

"Look! They're welcoming us!"

She sang:

Ayida behind the rainbow
Look—her dress is of seven colors
Ayida behind the rainbow
Ladies—her dress is of seven colors
Ayida behind the rainbow
We can see her—her dress is of seven colors
Ayida behind the rainbow.

She sang without stopping. The same song. All day and all night. I said to her:

"The two rainbows, that is us! You and I standing alone here in town."

She sang on.


So, on a day like any other, we appeared in Grangozye. Everyone was surprised to see us. They all thought we were dead. They were even more surpised when we told them that neither Maryeta nor I could remember where we had come from or where we had been. The police came looking for us, asking where we had disappeared to, but we had completely forgotten everything. They made their report. After a while, the chief of police told them that as we couldn't remember a thing, there was no point in questioning us any further.

But at times words would tumble out of my mouth. I would tell stories in the middle of the day, stories from an era long long ago when the little cucumber had battled the eggplant. People said I was touched by the moon. When the moon touched Maryeta she would sing, she would weep, she would laugh. On and on she sang, laughed, wept, and sang. For fifteen days and nights she sang without stopping. No one saw her eat or sleep.

People said that we had gone mad. That the moon touched us as it waxed and waned. That is what people thought of us. We, on the other hand, thought of ourselves as rainbows. The moon did not touch us at the same time. When our heads were clear, we heard talk of our madness. We put up with it, for if we had said we were not mad, people would have insisted that we were even madder. But when neither Maryeta nor I were touched by the moon, we could remember little scraps of what had happened before and after we had escaped from prison. Maryeta told me:

"Do you remember when I brought you that newspaper on the steps of your porch?"

"No, but I remember the first time I drew a letter in the sand. We had just woken up, and you started showing me how to read."

"Well, I don't remember that, but you learned to read so fast that it was like you'd always been able to read and write."

Maryeta could not remember who had given her the pile of newspapers and where she had hidden them before our arrest. One day she woke up in the morning and found them by the head of her bed.

My mother had died while we were gone. Maryeta's father had also died. It was distress that had killed them. We did not cry when we heard the news, but for a while Maryeta stopped singing and I stopped telling tales. When I wasn't raving I would take my machete and go up to Nan Kas to cut down the undergrowth on my field and chop wood to build my house, as if it were the first time. I worked feverishly, like a dog, before the moon would touch me again. I worked without stopping for a breath of air. When there was coffee to be carried I lugged more sacks than ever before.

It was like I had a magnet in my shoulders. They'd throw sacks of coffee, and I'd catch them, balancing them on my shoulders. I would then make a full turn and women and children carrying water up the mountain path would stand in a row to let me pass. I would hourl the coffee sack onto the boat and double back for another sack. I would see the same women and children, still carrying their water on their heads. I'd be up and down the hill twice before they reached the top. When I passed horses and mules that were climbing up the hill on the narrow paths while I was carrying sacks down, everyone would stop to look at me. If I would have stumbled into one of the animals I would have gone tumbling down into the ravine. They say that fools have a saint who protects them. Whenever there was a ship to load, I was there.

But I still always had time to read my newspaper. I would go to Maryeta's house and sit reading from morning till sundown.

When the moon struck Maryeta she would sing endlessly, and I would be so unhappy that I could not go near her house. And when the moon struck me, she became dejected. We begged the Lord that the moon would touch us both at the same time.


Then one day, when both Maryeta and I were feeling fine, she said to me:

"Eminans, you know what you should do? You know how to write now. You have a talent for telling tales. Why don't you write a story about everything that happened to us from the time you started clearing away the undergrowth in Nan Kas up to this very minute?"

"But Maryeta, how am I supposed to do that?"

"I'm serious! I'll bring you paper and a pen, and every time you write five or six lines you'll bring them to me to read."

"Do you think I'll be able to do that?"

"I'm sure of it! I f you write things every day and I read them, we'll no longer suffer the madness that's been tormenting us!"

"Do you think so?"

"Those who say you ramble in your madness don't know that you're a writer. All writers invent stories. It's the same with me. When the moon strikes me, I sing without stopping. By you see, I've always loved singing. I don't need the moon to touch me in order to sing."


This is how I came to write the story "Eminans" which you are now reading. Eminans is the name that my father and mother gave me, the name with which I've been known in all of Grangozye since the day I was born. My signature reads: Eminans.

Maryeta said:

"You know, people don't have to know that we're no longer mad. It's none of their business. But I'll sing whenever I feel like it."

"And I'll tell crazy tales during the day, and at night write them down for a newspaper, so that they will be read by everyone who can read. I will sign the stories: Eminans."

And that was that.

Félix Morisseau-Leroy was born in Grand-Gosier, Haiti in 1912. He spent his childhood in Jacmel, where he studied at Condorcet Leoy’s school and afterwords at the Lycée Pinchinat in Jacmel, completing his education in Port-au-Prince. He was a teacher at the Lycée Pincinat until he was named chef de division at the Ministry of Public Instruction in 1941. After a period of education at Columbia University in New York, he returned to Haiti as Director General of Education.
Morisseau-Leroy often uses the Haitian dialect of French known as creole in order to communicate with his often uneducated audience. He is the author of numerous stories, poetry, drama, and essays in both French and the Creole dialect.

English-language translation copyright ©2009 by Peter Constatine.


Kathrin Röggla | attic

Kathrin Röggla
Translated from the German by William Martin

with a hand on your heart and a hand to the sky, to lay down a sunday afternoon stroll
right through a flock of birds as if the whole time it were nothing, a gravel path
and nothing more than the gentle spray of pebbles to the right and to the left, that's not so much—

still, with a hand on your heart and a hand
to the sky, somewhere it all must have a beginning/middle/end, and a decent view as
well, for example from the top of a little derrick that one has been climbing for all these
years, and now one sits again on top looking out over the entire park landscape: how here
and there one pair after another rises then falls, how the faces rearrange themselves
before each other, and everything acts as if in reality there were no such thing as

still, with a hand on your heart and a hand
to the (sky, in pairs now), nothing further can happen, he knows, and: it's been proven,
only a basement flat or attic apartment in the light of day at last, where one sunbeam falls
onto the next then all at once get buried—
then one's eyes quickly get blindered, and there's nothing left but a flood of children to
contend with, he knows, the old guy (all nailed together) up there between the branches
of false trees, yes, soon there'll be nothing at all left alive in here, it all just gets stuck in
late morning and can't get out, he goes on, and finally all you've become is somebody
else's idiot lackey and don't exactly make an el dorado either, and the compass only
points in one direction anymore, and that's to work. then at some point you run into your
old acquaintances again and go roost like straw in the bars, no one bothers to make plans
anymore, only sometimes someone becomes a grandfather and begins to take himself

but he didn't fall by the wayside, he knows life backwards and forwards, after all, and
learned how to deal when he had to. and so every sunday afternoon he lays down his
stroll clear through this park, along the gravel path, past the exhausted grass, past the one
or two figures carrying with them their dogs as if in bottles, pulling them out in guarded
moments to get some air, past all of this and further until he reaches the hunter's stand, as
he calls it, and climbs up. a wooden structure half-hidden between the trees, jutting up out of the park as if one might still get a good view from there. but as soon as one gets there
the view (as if through a thumbnail) sticks to moving only back and forth between a
monotone landscape of grass and sky above it, a single monstrous thread unwinding itself
each day an nothing more. but in the end there's still the people
hiding in between, and how it's caught them all again: most just lead their lives along at
arms' length beside themselves, and then they're surprised when their lives disappear
altogether. but he puts an end to that sort of thing each sunday, right from the start. and when he's gotten all the way to the top, then it's just a bit longer before he's ready to

with a hand on your heart and a hand to the sky, that's really too much, that's going too
far, he tells himself then, and: what is there left for him to make out of the whole story
anyway, besides, he just doesn't know what to do, with everything these days so stuck in
the middle, so stuffed as he is with air.

Born in 1971, Austrian poet Kathrin Röggla recently published her first book, niemand lacht rückwärts (no one laughs backwards). She won the Berlin Younger Writers Award in 1993 and in 1994 was a finalist in the Ingeborg-Bachmann-Preis competition. Over the past few years she has had numerous publications in Austrian and German magazines.

English-language translation copyright ©2009 by William Martin.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Benjamin Péret | The Four Elements

Benjamin Péret
The Four Elements
(from Natural History)
Translated from the French by Guy Bennett

The Earth

The world is made of water, earth, air and fire and the earth is not round but bowl-shaped. It is a heavenly breast whose twin stands in the middle of the milky way.

The earth breeds flies, diurnal spirits appointed to protect it in hot weather for in cold weather, the earth dries out, becomes a gourd and no longer needs a guard, while in summer smoke comes out of its ears and, without the flies to guide it up into the air, clouds would lie about the earth like filthy rags.
When watered, earth gives:

1. Lipstick from which kisses are extracted.
There are two types of lipsticks: undulating, long-wave lipstick which, when distilled, gives flags, and light lipstick whose flower produces kisses. These kisses can be obtained in two ways, either by drying the flower plucked at the moment it blooms, or by crushing its seed which gives a highly volatile essence that is difficult to preserve.
2. The Turkish bath, which is obtained by kneading moist earth with curdled milk and makes so much noise that it has been gradually relegated to deserted regions.
3. The frog, which slowly devours the earth.
4. The cello, used more and more frequently in treating arthritis and, ground to a powder, enjoys great favor in the washing of delicate fabrics as it doesn't affect the color.
5. Glasses for the near-sighted, which are obtained by softening a little earth in a boiling infusion of China tea, then setting the mixture to cook in a double boiler.

A great many other things are extracted from moist earth as well, like the compass, the saveloy, the boxer, the match, the preposition, etc...that our grandmothers were still using but which can only be found today in antique shops.

By blowing on earth, that is by mixing it with air, you get the gooseberry if you blow lightly, if you blow violently, you get the tricycle.

The use of mechanical processes (whose origins will be discussed later) which allow one to insufflate the earth with greater quantities of air, has bred the sieve, obtained by forcing a powerful jet of air kept at room temperature into a pile of earth stained with chicken droppings. Clay, when reduced to dust and placed in a receptacle whose air, circulated by a powerful fan, goes from the point of freezing to fifty degrees above zero and vice versa every five minutes, gives the concierge. Invented by Albert the Great, it has since been perfected but is worn out more quickly now than in the past.

In a receptacle containing air at a pressure of three atmospheres and subjected to very low temperatures, earth gives the knitting needle. Increasing the pressure and lowering the temperature, you get the blackbird, the cradle, the pea and the horrible motorcycle.
In thin, toasted slices, earth becomes a fishhook, in thick slices singed on a roaring fire it becomes a urinal; rolled into balls and exploding in the fire it gives the grasshopper and, if the ball is large, the mustache.


Air, in its normal state secretes a steady cloud of pepper that makes the earth sneeze. On the ground, the pepper condenses until it gives the knick-knack in summer and the newspaper in winter. By simply placing the latter in a cool place it turns into a railway station or a sponge, depending on the number of pages. The pepper also condenses at a height of two thousand meters, then falls back to earth in a powder so fine that no one notices it, but the testament to such flagrant uselessness eventually appears as, unbeknownst to them, passers-by inevitably trample it. At greater heights, the pepper nourishes the stars, giving them their luster.

Painted blue, air makes undergrowth in dry weather; in rainy weather it makes bleach, but is then harmful to man who absorbs large doses of it for it causes ulcers, boils, and damages tooth enamel. Painted yellow, air is used to dress furs and, mixed with powder of cockchafer, cures lockjaw. When sucked on, air is used to repair innertubes, when salted, it becomes a bed. Warmed between the hands, it dilates to the point of changing into a whip. Torn to shreds and sprinkled with red wine, it gives the maestro, so useful to peasants at harvest time. Dried in the sun and preserved all winter in a dry place, in spring air will give the engagement ring which, due to its extreme sensitivity to variations in temperature, is very fragile and rarely reaches maturity.

Shut up in a closet, air tends to escape so as to blow out the door at the first possibility, taking the shape of a mushroom generally used today to fight wrinkles.

Pickled in vinegar, air gives the portr which, in windy weather, is as runny as overripe cheese. The runny porter is then collected, dried, carefully ground and then sown in a shady spot. Within a month the moon sprouts, emerges from the earth and blooms, for the moon is not a heavenly body as is generally believed, but the pollen of innumerable female runny porter-flowers that rises every evening, whereas the male flowers fall to the ground leaving their seed to sprout again. Every morning the moon plunges into the sea and, as it hits the waves, produces the tides. As it dissolves, the moon gives the sea its salty taste.


In the form of rain, water becomes an earthworm as it penetrates the soil. These earthworms, reaching great depths, gather in countless masses in natural cavities and produce petroleum by spitting. There are several types of petroleum:

1. Hobnailed petroleum which has but a brief existence for it is eaten by moths.
2. Petroleum beans favored by elephants because it stimulates the growth of their tusks.
3. Unicorn petroleum which, as petroleum, is useless. Only its horn, eroded by the wind, gives birth to the marathon runner, which is constantly used in the porcelain industry for the purification of the kaolin that must first be purged with squid ink administered in large doses.
4. Hoarse petroleum, so called because of the inelegant sound it emits. That's where we get the bells that spread the germs of infectious diseases.
5. Hairy petroleum, which attaches intself to the bark of trees in cold countries and, eventually, gives sparrow eggs, firecrackers and pins, in that order. When the firecrackers and pins mate they give birth to red billiard balls which terrify carp. Their ferocity is such that within a few days, the most abundant fishponds become barren and the red ball dies of hunger shortly thereafter, producing will-o'-the-wisps in the process.
6. Snowy petroleum, which is found only on the highest mountains of Europe. Above two thousand meters, this type of petroleum loses its qualities, tarnishes, becomes brittle and, if left in the sun, turns into a chair, a harmless looking lemur whose highly venomous bite can be fatal if not treated promptly.

River water, in moonlight, gives the hen whose feathers are much sought after in the production of low coastlines. In summer, the hens have no feathers but are bristling with red teeth which, when ground, are used to make candles, so useful in the countryside to detect the presence of water tables. These waters are inhabited by multitudes of keys which, as soon as a well is sunk, escape through the opening and fly off to nest on the tops of tall trees to the sound of their srill cries. After nightfall, they band together and attack dogs that flee at their approach, baying at the moon.

Having risen to ground level, well water evaporates quickly, leaving a beautiful light green residue at the bottom of the receptacle: the principle of causality, which, soluble in oil, is the father of the artichoke. When heated, well water hardens, dilates, and acquires, at a temperature of eighty degrees, a great elasticity which makes it susceptible to becoming a kangaroo within a few days. But this kangaroo is prey to respiratory illnesses, not to mention tuberculosis which has destroyed great numbers of them as well. That's why the deadwood kangaroo, which is much more robust than the others, is prefereed by rabbit breeders whose products, at its very contact, acquire a long, silky coat, which is highly prized in the production of flags. When the tempeature drops below zero, well water turns into a beggar which, sliced wafer-thin, is used in the production of grottos.

When sea water evaporates, it gives a bristle whose longevity is truly astonishing. There have been reports of thousand year old female bristles that still give birth every year to four litters of shot glasses, and each litter is made up of a dozen glasses... One can easily imagine that, in these conditions, the shot glass would have become, for man, a scourge worse than plagues of locusts had he not found a fierce enemy in the crutch. Indeed, each crutch annually devours tens of thousands of shot glasses and, in equatorial Africa alone, crutches, of which there are some twenty species, gather in countless flocks which, having devoured all the shot glasses they can find, begin to terrorize the natives, destroying their crop of calf's liver, thus reducing them to a state of poverty and famine.

Finally, there is also bearded water, about which little is known (it is used to make suits of armor favored by shivery old women), flying water, with which navigators plot their position, light water, from which swimming trunks are extracted, hardwood water, indispensable to confectioners, dusty water, used in carpentry, feathery water, hunted in December when its feathers take on their brightest colors, cinder water, used in electricity, and many others that will be discussed later.


An essentially mineral element, fire resides in stones and eggs. When damp and left in the sun, quivering stones give the best fire, velvety-smooth and fragrant, popular in the burning of churches; but they mustn't quiver too much for, if their quivering is too pronounced, fire melts, giving us tartar sauce whose needles, pricking anyone who touches it, inoculate him with begonias which makes the person yawn from morning to night. If the stone quivers intermittently, the fire coughs and spits a damp moss that extinguishes it, giving birth to fleas dreaded by dry cleaners for the damage they do to colored dyes. Disturbed by the presence of fleas, colored dyes lose their brilliance, so much so in fact that it is impossible to achieve a uniform color. On the other hand, this disruptive action is prized by those dry cleaners seeking to produce a marbled effect. They simply place equal parts of both fleas and coloring agent in a closed container and keep the mixture at a high temperature for a more or less lengthy period, depending on whether they wish to obtain marbling or moiré.

Left out in the rain all winter, windy stones give a blazing, but short-lived fire if care is not taken to soak these stones in the sea before using them, that is before putting them in a reed cage that favors the production of fire. The fire then attracts moles which it feeds on and which thus contribute to the increase of both its duration and intensity.

A great many types of fire are known. Among the most popular are thin sliced fire from which bottles are extracted which, set to soak in a quinine bath, give in turn a fire so hard that special tools are necessary to saw it into boards so sturdy and light that children make kites out of them. There is also clog fire, offspring of the sleeping car and the wheelbarrow, which is prized by composers for, stretched out on a soft bed and well-dressed, it emits, once it has been lightly salted, the symphony and, sprinkled with ink, the opera. One of the more common fires, the reeking fire, is obtained by steeping a bishop in cod liver oil. It gives off a foul odor, but facilitates the cultivation of asparagus, for reeking fire destroys the filecabinets that begin gnawing away at them as soon as they break soil. We should also mention cloud fire which keeps mice and rats from moving into uninhabited houses, muslin fire, indispensable in baking, ostrich fire, that all young women slip into their corsages the night of their first dance, limping fire, terror of doctors for it causes epidemics (as soon as it appears it is fought off with leek spray), beaten fire, which disturbs sleeping villagers the night before the harvest, stick fire, pill fire, powdered fire, dry fire, black and white fire, striped fire, doctoral fire, etc.

All of these fires can be readily found anywhere in the world in a more or less pure state, but they can be easily cleaned, either with fish bones, or by passing them through filter paper soaked in vinegar. There are, however, still other, rarer types of fire—button fire, for example, that goes so well on blonds, brain fire that is produced with great difficulty by pounding turkeys with couchgrass until you get a thick paste that you set out to dry in the sun after dusting it with equal quantities of finely ground iron and copper filings. If the filings are not fine enough, the paste runs and gives pennies; if they are too fine, birds peck at the paste which soon explodes in a cloud of black dust that sticks to your skin and that can only be washed off with a tincture of iodine. With one kilo of this paste, you get a knob of brain fire which is extracted from the dried pasted by breaking it open. But you must take care not to drop it onto wool, which would become rabid. Folded in turn, brain fire, mixed with ground heliotrope flowers, is prepared like tea and given to women who wish to have beauty marks. Among the rare fires, let us also note shutter fire, which seeps out of volcanic ash long after the eruption, at the rate of a few grams per ton of ash treated with cider, it is indeed quite rare; jowl fire, used as an ornamental motif; flying fire, forbidden in milliners' studios for it turns the employees against their bosses; rose fire, that can be found in the woods in springtime, very early in the morning; crossbow fire, which is a very rare illness affecting snails (one in ten thousand is stricken); shivering fire; suspender fire; breast fire; and finally crumb fire, which is occasionally secreted by the female penguin while laying eggs, but which evaporates very quickly if not immediately collected in sour cream.

Author of some fifteen collections of poetry, a novel, a natural history, more than thirty short stories, a pornographic farce, numerous theoretical and political tracts; editor of two anthologies, co-editor (with Pierre Naville) of La Révolution surréaliste, and co-author of Breton, Éluard, and Desnos, Benjamin Péret remains one of the most prolific, yet least known of the major surrealist writers.
Born on July 4, 1899, Péret, like many of his future colleagues, fought in the First World War. He moved to Paris in 1920, determined to make a career for himself as a writer. At a gathering for the Dada journal Littérature, Péret met André Breton, Louis Aragon, and Paul Éluard, and began to participate in their activities. His first book of poetry, Le passager du transatlantique was published the following year with illustrations by Hans Arp.
Numerous other publications followed, among them Au 125 boulevard Saint-Germain with illustrations by Max Ernst (1923) 152 proverbes mis au goût du jour with Éluard (1925), and Dormir, dormir dans les pierres, illustrated by Yves Tanguy (1927).
In 1929 Péret left Paris for Brazil. A revolutionary communist, he was imprisoned for his political activity and deported in 1931. Back in France, he organized with Breton the international Surrealist exhibition in the Canary Islands in 1935, then left for Spain where he joined P.O.U.M. in their fight against Franco. During this time Péret wrote three seminal collections of poetry, Je ne mange pas de ce pain-là, Je sublime (again, with illustrations by Ernst), and Trois cerises et une sardine, the latter being published upon his return to Paris in 1937.
Mobilized at the outset of the Second World War, Péret was quickly arrested by the Nazis and imprisoned, but released upon the surrender of French forces in 1940. That same year he left France for Mexico, where he would live for eight years, writing Les malheurs d'un dollar (1942), Dernier malheur, dernière chance (1945), and Feu cenral (1947, illustrated by Tanguy).
Shortly after his return to Paris, Péret wrote his first and only novel La brebis galante (1949, illustrations by Ernst), which was followed by, among other works, the collections Air Mexicain (1952) and Mort aux vaches et au champ d'honneur (1953). In 1955 Péret once again set out for Brazil, living with Indian tribes in the Amazon rain forest, and collecting material for his Anthologie des mythes, légendes et contes populaires d'Amérique, published posthumously one year after his death in Paris on September 18, 1959.

English language copyright ©2009 by Guy Bennett


Christopher Middleton | The Weathervane Oiler (from Depictions of Blaff)

Christopher Middleton
The Weathervane Oiler
(from Depictions of Blaff)

One night in December, the wind rising outside, through the noise of surf, Blaff, the usually taciturn Blaff, who is hunched like a gargoyle on his wooden chair, nodding into the fireplace, quietly admits —"Yes, and to think that once I wanted to be a weathervane oiler." Obviously we asked: "What?" "A weathervane oiler," says Blaff, "someone who oils weathervanes. With a little can of oil he climbs up inside steeples and oils the weathervanes, so they won't get stuck or clatter too loud." "Ah," we say. Aware now that the surf has taken over when his voice left off, we are listening again to the wind as it shakes Blaff's wooden shack on this stretch of terra firma inshore from the dunes.

"That was a good sixty years ago," says Blaff. Chin in hand, he looks around, checking on us: Are we worried? Are we awake? Then he leans back, stretches his legs, heaves a sigh, and speaks again, very softly, but not mumbling.

"It was hardly a vocation, just an idea, and I never did try it out. And pretty soon it was archaeology, another idea, digging deep shafts, a descant to the oiling, down, to complement up. I used to wonder where they'd meet, the way up, the way down. Archaeology was more like a vocation, and I had already scoured whole fields of ploughland, sometimes finding flints." After a long silence Blaff took a sip of the Armagnac and brightened: "Imagine going up the stone staircase from the presbytery, at first the wide ascent, then it steadily narrows, for the steeple proper starts, and then, rung by rung, you climb the iron interior ladder, till the cathedral, or church, spreads out far beneath you. At the top of the ladder, which is raked, by the way, so you have to mount it leaning out and holding very tight, you come to a little door, and you open it. The town is now four hundred feet below you, tiny houses, trees, tinier people in the streets. If it's night, you see the lights twinkling, hear the swish of ravens' wings, their sharp calls piercing the medley of faint fragrances, frying fish, acacia, bonfires, according to season. On a clear day you can survey the shire, much of the island, with all its shires, the mountains, rivers, meadows, towers, castles, perhaps a sea shore? Now comes a difficult bit. You have to sit, just right, on the threshold, lean out backwards and reach up over the lintel coping, and so you grope overhead for the first rung of another iron ladder, the one that's fastened to the slate or stone facing of the steeple. Your fingers find the rung, you take hold, and whisk yourself up off the threshold, grip the second rung, steady your feet on the coping, and haul yourself rung by rung up the ladder. With practice, not so difficult after all.

"There's a can of oil in a holster attached to your belt. then you're at the tip, you reach up and squirt oil into the socket into which the perpendicular rod of the weathervane is slotted, and, reaching up even higher, into the joint where the horizontal bar goes, the one that tells which way the wind is blowing. Then you climb down again. Down again you climb. The last wriggle through the little door is the most difficult bit. You have to angle your body in through the doorway just enough to get a foothold, before you let go the bottom rung outside, on the top rung inside. That done, you take a last fond look at the little worlds that are spinning or twinkling far away down there. I can't say how often you have to oil a weathervane...."

We ask: "What if...?" Blaff grins: "Then you're a goner. Make no mistake." And again he hunches. And is silent. Then again he sips, no, this time he gulps his Armagnac. And he lays a log on the fire. And he is hunched again, his face to the fire.

We have a question; "Were there many weathervane oilers at work in those days?" "I think not," Blaff tells us. Then he stands up. "They certainly were not unionized," he says, "and maybe it was steeplejacks did it on the side, as piece-work, or as recreation? Or perhaps, I used to think, the discipline was too repugnant, nobody did it, and that was why I felt it might be a vocation for me. There would always be work, and you could travel all over the island, get to know all kinds of people, garbage men, itinerant princes, and having selected and trained an heir you could retire with honours and the blessings of an archbishop."

As an afterthought: "Some cathedrals have towers, not spires, towers with a cone on top, easy to reach. And there are many churches, in towns and villages, which have no weathervanes, so you could mount a subsidiary business, installing them. And then what? there could have been artisans, artisans designing complex and subtle weathervanes for me to install. Animals or angels. Swordsmen or saints. Works of art, so indescribable, so high they'd be neighbours to the invisible. As it was, the manufacturers stopped at poultry. Even then, poultry, common roosters might be more resistant to the elements than fabulous elaborate seraphim and whatnot. Just something shining up there, what more do people want? As for archaeology, the less said the better. My discourse is built of my dissensions; but something shining down there—to dig something tangible out was a dull desire, only a diffident nudge from a desire that altered itself as the days flew by. It might have vanished altogether now: a desire to know that down there is where it was."

Again the crash of surf. Heat of the fire. Blaff crouches, hunched again, gargoyle again, on his wooden chair. "The thing might be," he says, "to evolve a mode of knowing that actually takes up into itself the tangible, a subterfuge of domination and so becomes, not as now a little oilcan flourished in the face of the elements, but an all-sufficient element in itself, an agency that quells the rage of what in us corresponds to the elements, namely the distempered will.

"But you see," he now murmurs, "I've been stumbling on a back road of the eighteenth century. Any moment now," suddenly he is pointing to the door as a huge blast of wind buffets it, and Blaff is calling out—"any moment now, one of those terrified starveling poachers will rush in, or a waif gnawing on a stolen cheese rind, and can we hide him?"

Noted translator Christopher Middleton was born and raised in England and today lives in Austin, Texas. He has published several books of poetry, most recently his Collected Poems, and several prose books, including In the Mirror of the Eighth King (Green Integer) and Crypto-Topographia: Stories of Secret Places. Depictions of Blaff will be published by Green Integer in 2009.

Copyright ©2009 by Chrisopher Middleton


Douglas Messerli | Barnyard Philosophers (on Lee Breuer's Pataphysics Penyeach: Summa Dramatica and Porco Morto)

Douglas Messerli
Barnyard Philosophers

Lee Breuer (text and direction) Pataphysics Penyeach: Summa Dramatica and Porco Morto / performed as part of the Under the Radar festival, New York, Mabou Mines / the performances I saw were on a matinee on Sunday, January 18, 2009

After the weak performances I had witnessed one night earlier in a Broadway theater, I was delighted to witness actor Ruth Maleczech's marvelous performance of Sri Moo Parahamsa, the first bovine to lecture at the Gifford lectures of William James in Scotland. As if she herself had four stomachs, each with a different voice attached, Maleczech divertingly argues, in pure pataphysical nonsense, that the post-performance animal should take acting lessons, and proceeds in a heady mix of scientific jargon and an oddly logical argument based on the existence of the "triune brain," that all animals should "Know Thyself":

As an academic, a mammal, and a cow, I know I have a soul
And since I do not have a neocortex, it must not reside
It's my thesis—and I'll go to the mat with a lizard on this
point—that psyche lives in the limbus
Reality is not real, it is virtual
Each mind has its game and virtualities are subject each to their own laws
The neocortex to the laws of reason, the reptilian spinal stem adheres
to chaos theory
and as for the hedonic—limbic laws are, in the vulgate vernacular, showbiz
"Know Thyself" says the Delphic oracle
Well, to "know itself" the post-performance animal should take an acting lesson

The school, of course, is her own: The Institute for the Science of the Soul, a fully accredited acting conservatory ranked in the top ten by US News and World Report!

A zany satire on various acting methods ("A Strasburg, a Meisner and an Adler may differ in approach, But Methodists generally agree that the spiritual script breaks into actions and objectives") "Summa Dramatica" ends with a recovering animation, Marge Simpson, testifying on screen to the value of Sri Moo Parahamsa's Institute, loosing an hilarious send up of phrases such as "truth is beauty." This delicious monologue (or, if we count Marge as a "true" character, we must describe it as a dialogue) ends with the new barnyard post-performance conclusion that "The Greeks have been in denial for 3,000 years / The Truth is not beautiful."

Poor Porco, the wonderful puppet of Breuer's loony imagination, has just committed suicide, and in a valedictory ode from the grave admits that he could no longer stand living, obsessed as he had become with the great Grey Lady, The New York Times. Although he attended the famed bovine-run "Institute" for a while, he left it doomed by the "Sick Fiction Syndrome," destined to end its days as a replay of a subplot to The Lion King.

Breuer's satire here at times seems so broad-reaching that it does not always hit its mark, but when Breuer's language does hit home, it takes us all aback, as we are shamed by our easy acceptance of mediocre journalism as a "true" presentation of life. Recalling his feelings upon first meeting The Grey Lady, Porco proclaims:

What did I feel, Grey lady I felt vivid!
O the torture, the spins, the needles, the pins. The creative dilemmas...
What music of my heart should underscore what angle of your face?
What did I feel Grey Lady? I felt "life-like"
The Times was a beautiful vagina that in my hubris I engorged
with every cunilingual wag of my tongue
Your vibrations were histronic!
There was drama in the air—tragedy—and it was generational
The New York Times was going through menopause



I am a New York Times creation, American un-emancipated
I am a tabloid's love slave.

How hilarious, accordingly, to have read a few days lady, in the Grey Lady herself, a review expressing the following:

So there's this pig, see, and he lives The New York Times. After a romantic affair with the Gray Lady, they commit suicide together with a "Diamond Sutra dagger," but not before the pig, played by a puppet, offers a few sweet nothings to a stack of newspapers.
...If you're trying to figure out what is going on here in "Porco Morto,"'re not the only one. ...It stars animal puppets and features a lot of bad puns, pretentious jargon ("normative soulfulness"?), some jokey video and barely coherent mockery of commercialism and this news organization.

Lucky Porco's no longer around to engage in conversation with his former love. Breuer couldn't have written a sillier response. As Mac Wellman once admitted, the surreal events of his plays are generally based on news articles; "you couldn't make them up!"

I was happy to verbally admit, upon Sri Moo Parahamsa's urging: "I pledge allegiance to the hype."

Copyright ©2009 by Douglas Messerli

Lee Breuer | Porco Morto

Lee Breuer
Porco Morto


Bones found by the Behoheo River less than fifty meters from the hippopotamus hole
Were identified today by Abdul Ibn Said Zwow, Mustapha Macai National Park medical examiner
As Gonzo Porco PhD, author of the best recycled” Lonely Planet Guide To Heaven On Earth
Which first identified paradise as a tourist trap Mr. Zwow opined he had been eaten by a lion

Behoheho campground, Macai National Park, B. Benedict Hare on a sentimental safari in East Africa … direct to the Times

At 5:25 pm the sun sank behind a violet cloud and a yellow bird flew into a Banyan tree
A shock of thunder followed by a glissando of rain-washed clean a disorderly cache of bones
On the green grassy banks of the Behoheho (Swahili for Hippo shit) river
Vertebrae, ribs, haunches, skull, and the curved tusks, the great incisors – I knew at once the long wait was over
It was now possible to write finis to the strange, sad story - there could be no doubt
Here were the remains of Gonzo Parco PhD He had disappeared eighteen months ago

While the cause of death has not yet been officially determined, postmodernists worldwide have been investigating reports
That Gonzo Porco PhD, (who had a history of anxiety disorder) had committed suicide by terminating his pata-narrative
The news of his death ended a painful limbo for the animal’s progeny
During which time they answered emails from concerned admirers of all breeds and followed up reported sightings
One in a pen at a Vermont country fair decked out in an aquamarine harness for the annual pig run
And another at a diner in New Jersey

Yet for his nearest and dearest there seemed to be little hope and no final answers
The suspense grew agonizing in it final hours as a digital image of the quadruped’s ossified remains
Was sent to the Times, (see breakfast edition posted online at
The pig’s “challenged” son Porqueno had observed that the skeleton in question had the tusks of a warthog
And that no known incarnation of Parco had heretofore taken that form
But hope was short lived as Mike Hammer, the animal’s dental surgeon
Came forward with documenting x- rays of the elaborate bone reconstruction
That had enabled the pig to have implanted warthog tusks
Certain evidence that Porco had been working on his terminal persona for years

Mr. PhD practiced the art of deconstruction with an obsessional mania
That transformed his fixations into fetishes and his fetishes into facts
The swine, who spoke publicly of his infidelities, megalomanias and even once of his remorse
Had striven to put it all behind him and settle in to porcine bliss - a girlfriend with an illegal sublet in Brooklyn Heights
Bikram Yoga, vegetables from Urban Organic, the occasional tantric workshop
He’d quit smoking, darkness and cynicism, it seemed, were in retreat
Animals familiar with this period commented that Porco had lost weight and appeared buffed up.
They wondered aloud if he were taking steroids
But in truth Porco had begun to visit his veterinarian almost daily
(As a septuagenarian tetrapod his Medicaid covered it for modest co-pay)
The diagnosis was shocking He was self- deconstructing Apparently the pathogen was bliss

The pig’s primary care veterinarian googled the biochemistry of happiness and printed out the latest online publications
Bliss, it seems, works on the amygdila to synthesize alkaline anxiety, which overcompensates, producing acidic flatulytus
Which causes the large intestine to eat itself - a syndrome called FOGO, or, Fear of Getting Off”

After his disappearance an article in New York Magazine chronicled the pig’s despair.
“Trait by trait he’d begun to lose that pure strain of swine that had sustained him throughout his maturer years
He picked up table manners, made friends with feminists Boorishness, the role, simply deserted him
He tried testosterone, shooting directly into the bacon, and then porcine growth hormone into a pig’s foot - to no avail
Porco lost touch with his characterizations, which consigned his face to a glazed expression
Where once there had been drama Where once, out of his snout had poured hyperbolic greens, golds, purples, carmines, aquamarines
Syntax like a pellucid coral reef, huge reverberating harmoniums that woofed and bassed and trebled
Now, even his closet perorations drained Stories shriveled up before a reader’s eyes, green metaphors turned brown for want of watering
He forgot his given circumstances. His zip code, his middle name - at length he lost his tone of voice
We do not fear final moments - we fear final words
My final words fall away over a precipice
Wind currents rise against the cliff face
Upon which my words dip and float - upon which they paraglide
A thousand feet down rolls the turquoise main
My pages are surfing out to sea

This was show business. The pig was only as real as his last quip.
When the critiques came out, maudlin, was the consensus

As his condition worsened Porco began to question the entire animation industry
As a post structuralist he had no theoretical issues with the technology
He was a work of eighteen to twenty four frames per second serial art, an action-illusion, a life-like-ness, and a cartoon
He accepted his class upbringing – lower middle “pop”
He knew his genre’s history - his conception as a series of jells
In the Roy O. Disney “Mickey’s New Friends” studio wide character design competition of 1937
Jells that, like algorithms, bootstrapped their way into the illusions
The illusion of action, the illusion of continuity, even the illusion s of free will, …and of love
He was informed about his economics, the sale of the Porco copywrite in 1939 to Jack Warner’s Animaniacs
That Looney Toon Town where each demented feature character swam in a troubled sea of negotiation
Over its product, its ego, its accent, its representation, whether or not it wore pants
Each demanding a new contract, a bigger trailer, more points
And his “buyback” by Buena Vista in the 60’s Parco was prone to recount with the requisite tongue in jowl delivery
His brief sojourn as an animatron in the pigsty of Old MacDonald’s Farm east of the magic Kingdom in Disneyworld
The swine never failed to credit its great debt to electronics Born again in the 90’s, the pig was redesigned with the digital chops
To negotiate the dot com bubble’s reefs and shoals, to, as a cyber-metaphor, compete with life, the biological metaphor

But now he had his doubts about the whole shebang A glance at the seasonal ratings corroborated his fears of imminent demise
That The Ecco Porco Show was a candidate for termination
He grew bitter: (email to management/June1)
The voice on the God mike is a voice over. It says I can’t take direction.
But it is written that God hates pigs He’s one of those Nazi specie-ists.
Every pig in the poke today has some ancestor who went into the oven.
Then desperate: Police confirm that Porco was won’t to call 911
And leave hints that he intended to erase him from the network before the axe fell
Wiretaps of his cellular reveal that, “This is Porco – please leave me a message”
Had been ominously edited down to “Hi – please leave”

He checked himself into the Institute for the Science of Soul in June of 2002
An interview given to the Times by the Institute’s director, the Holy Cow Sri Moo Parahamsa, painted the pig’s existential dilemma
“The client presented with a sick fiction,” explained the venerable Guernsey
“The crisis was aesthetic but its symptoms were fiscal”
According to a source close to the cow that prefers to remain anonymous
“There was something deeply uncommercial about Gonzo Porco PhD”
Here was an animal who’d been born to sell out – and no one would buy

The poor beast attempted to reinvent his marketability five times
But fame and fortune, “those glittering baubles”, chose always to elude him
His farthest foray into the capitalistic conceit came in 1995 with a contract to edit
“A Lonely Planet Guide to Heaven on Earth” that cult guide for the pilgrim traveler, to which the pig’s preface reads”

The arguments for and against travel to Heaven on Earth are often emotional. The question of whether informed tourism helps or hinders the ‘Pro-Plutocracy’ movement and ‘Soul’s Rights’ is the subject of ongoing debate. As of this writing Heaven on Earth remains under tight military rule. Dissent is forcibly repressed. The pro boycott group argues that shekels from tourism go right into the pockets of the archangels, that Judgment Day is a legalistic farce, an that Jesus Christ takes bribes (can be bought –baksheesh). Others feel that a travel boycott is counterproductive, arguing that since the package tour requirement has been waived (1998) the lot of the poor soul has improved.

Historically, celestial tourism has always been a complicated issue as pilgrim travelers utopia-bound are used as pawns in the strategic match-up of Heaven versus Hell. In a landscape discolored by conflict, what often prove the deepest scars of paradise lie in wait just inches below its surface. The legacy of landmines in Heaven on Earth accounts for an estimated four to six million buried bombs dotted about its bucolic pastoral, many planted in Spiritual Heritage Sites.

Eco-tourism is the first victim when into one’s itinerary wander one winged angels with cracked haloes and singed harps turned to beggary, buggary, and even crime. Holy tourists should check with locals before choosing a spiritual path to follow – even if well marked with colored blazes - and never wander off it to go dancing in the field, or even take a shit. Your members and your digits are worth more than your modesty.

For further information contact Amnesty Interstellar, 1 Eaton street, London, or Soul Rights Watch, website and also the Free Utopia Coalition. Heaven is, historically, for all its metaphysical pretensions, still your generic Holy Empire, and tourists to H.O.E. do invariably email back to Lonely Planet comments like “you’ve seen one empire … you’ve seen them all.

But the day after its publication a neo-conservative think tank impounded the entire first edition
Which sits even today in a sealed vault in Beverly Hills.
Each foray into fiscal resuscitation grew more shallow breath’d and futile
Ecco Porco , the movie was aired at 5:18 on Sunday morning by Cable Channel 103 1/2 Its Neilson rating was -2.

It is symptomatic of the sick fiction syndrome that such an animal would end its days as a replay of a subplot to the Lion King
The watchdog on crisis line would try to keep him talking “Fictional Termination!
Porco, are you going to stop writing just like that! Are you going to break your pencil?”
The conversation was recorded and we can hear the swine weeping
That broken pencil line seems to have pressed his button

Porco’s departure from the Institute for the Science of Soul was a depressing affair
The pig had spent the night packing. It was important for the animal to be portable,
But it was loathe to throw anything away
So it packed and repacked, as if by re-arrangement its belongings could be made to disappear
The truth was, Porco couldn’t decide whom it was he was packing for
Shoes that were too large for a previous persona could be too small for the next
Not to mention the dramaturgical chestnut unity of time and place
Where in the world was it going and in what season would it arrive
Worst of all were its textual problematics It had no new material
Desperately looking for old swinish puns to recycle
Porco stuffed a pile of frayed and coffee stained papers into a red manila folder
That, it is believed, the pig carried with him to the very end

“What was in the folder?” I was doing a fact check for my obituary
And the sad little porker facing me alone was in a position to know. He knew everything
Officially he was literary executor of the swine’s archives before which he’d sit morosely all day long
That afternoon I ‘d found him weeping over a feature in Arts and Leisure
“What was in the red manila folder?” I repeated
He rose in a cloud of depression and limping past the mail that was never opened, by the phone that never rang, he wrenched open a rusty file
“There’s only one thing amiss”; said Porquenco de Leon, Porco’s “challenged” offspring “I can’t find his love letters.”
“Love letters!” I cocked an eyebrow. “That pig couldn’t love anybody.”
Explained Porqueno, “That’s what Porco called his Good Reviews “

A letter to the editor of the New York Times from Boheho River East Africa dated February 6, 2008 has been received .
It appears to be a suicide note entitled Last Will and Testicle begun that fateful departure night . It is the pig’s last words

To the Editor: Dear Grey Lady …

I’ve just notified my psychiatrist that I’m checking out of therapy on the advice of my agent, as Group Therapy is bad for my character
Apparently, when the psychosis is aired the persona blows away in the breeze Nobody recognizes me
My agent says that Media America is a cultural construct of mythic proportions
He maintains that I am not remotely connected to this myth and suggests I go into translation
He wants to book me in East Africa He says my animal works in Swahili

I have a number of fears concerning East Africa
Not the least of which is that outside Nairobi I won’t be able to pick up the Times
Yes, I’m ashamed to say it but I’ve relapsed
After packing, I hit the street to cop at the newsstand
Normally, tooting up cost $1.25 – that’s when you smoke or snort or bake it in cookies, or just have a nice evening read
But now I’m using the needle Shooting up the New York Times costs $5.00 and you stay high for a week
It’s a deal. It includes the Sunday Supplement, which, alone now, is $4.50
The generic junkie will laugh, but in truth I am a hard-core abuser
Yes, I’ve come to know substance abuse better than most
The substance we each abuse is reality. Reality is the name junkies give their fiction of choice.
For example, the reality of heroin is that it’s simple shit – one-dimensional, formulaic - (that’s the skinny from Second avenue)
The heads of the town are up to The Times

I can remember the night in Group that I got hooked
The weather was bad, wind blew, rain rattled
There were seventeen of us. A new client had come; a Grey Lady She was suffering
Sitting rocking in her chair like a stack of newspapers teetering on its axis
Her edges were damp had she been caught in the rain, or were they tears…
“Please welcome the New York Times to Group Therapy”, Sri Moo Parahamsa announced. We clapped politely
I had the urge to cum all over her. I’d found my fetish - truth in journalism

What did I feel, Grey Lady I felt vivid! O the torture, the spins, the options, the creative dilemmas
For example, what music of my heart should underscore what angle of your face?
What did I feel Grey Lady? I felt “life-like”
The Times was a beautiful vagina that in my hubris I engorged with every cunilingual wag of my tongue
Your vibrations were histrionic! There was drama in the air – tragedy - and it was generational
Clearly the New York Times was going through menopause
In the hot flashes I could see your pages smoldering
You were all shook up, and it was this that seduced me to distraction
You believed in yourself. You were a self-believer, (any lie detector test could tell that).
The Times believed it was the paper of record, arbiter of Truth, Justice and the American Way
Not to mention fashion and wines.
You thought you were the system itself. You were positively delusional. You were my liaison dangereux.
All my life I’ve wanted to fuck the system. It was love at first bite.

Gossip had spread that in your private interview you tried to terminate treatment before you’d even begun
When the holy cow let slip that perhaps you, the definitive tabloid, were a fiction like everything else,
A rich little JAP from Hillandale, Connecticut, a Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover, an Ernst Block gold leafed item at Sotheby’s
That like everyone else, you were a note to an essay on phenomenology
You flared your nostrils, pulled out your checkbook, and breezed out the door.

I sat there erotically close, looking at your nipple and saying not a word, thinking,
“We’re both in the entertainment business, loose packets of fictions. We’re so alike you could be my mother
It made me hard as a crowbar knowing that if you could see me inside out you’d want to kill me.
And in the still of the night, when I woke to the realization that I couldn’t do it… couldn’t say to myself. “Pig, that wraps it!”
It was a comfort to my soul to know that all I had to do was come clean to you…. and you’d kill me for me.

The first session of Group is traumatic for any new client. Old convictions are challenged
The Times was truly vulnerable at the onset of deconstruction, when one’s blueprint is brutally revealed
She was obsessed with the notion that, just like any generic God Spiel, she was history
As a group it was customary for us all to go out for coffee after our sessions
I made a point of sitting next to the newspaper She was having a hard time with her family history assignment.
I could have proffered my help. As a book myself my scholarly researches could have filled in the blanks.
I could have told her that the first post modern attempt to create utopia - the very thing all books try to do –
Was the one perpetrated by her own ancient ancestor A’dol-’ph O’ck/ks ,
Who from the humblest of origins, that of a first generation Babylonian slave,
Turned entrepreneur, purchasing for ten sheep a controlling interest in a Tigris river papyrus patch
Which enabled him to print All the News Fit to Inscribe
And rise to the position of publisher of the Old Testament

I could have written her whole story - how her patriarch, the ancient O’Ock/s observing in 543 BC
A line of commuters from the burbs of Baghdad, each astride an ass, reading its daily scroll, postulated that
“News is either Good News or Bad News, hence, an editorial policy that administers hits of good news with doses of bad news
Creates the habit of reading one’s morning paper”… that, in short, news is addictive.

How back in the “fig” (for that’s what the hip called Jerusalem then),
‘Why news is junk’ became the subject of an historic argument on the steps of the second temple.
A certain redactor on the Old Testament drama desk pointed out that Good News following upon Bad News upon Good News upon Bad News was not journalism at all but “theater-in-itself”
And, traditionally, was not reported, it was reviewed.
That the news was, in actuality, Entertainment Section advertising copy – each show trying to fill its balcony seats.
How history records that the Holy Circulation Department lobbied for the Bible to become a single gargantuan Sunday insert
Stories trying to sell themselves being indubitably a newspaper’s life blood and, by definition, “circulation-in itself “
And, consequently, as the news came to be no more than entertainment advertising copy filed by any hack who could hold a stylo
It became editorially imperative to make taste by passing judgment on which hack jobs were to become canonical
And which were trash to be thrown into the bin of the Apocrypha
The drama desk, it was argued, was the only qualified judge of reality for a people of the book
For, reality being performative, a people of the book was a people of the script
How it is written that Elijah had prophesized on Mount Hebron that Frank Rich would be bumped up to the op Ed page

I could have filled out her whole ancient history
But then how could I bring myself to tell such a story to the New York Times
She would be hurt and in her paranoia bring her whole late edition down on my head. William Kristol can raise welts! I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead I drove her home in her Mercedes to her Hillandale mansion in Connecticut.
All the way the Grey Lady lay with her head buried in my lap unzipping my fly with her teeth between tollgates
She felt rejected if I didn’t cum just before I paid the $1.25.

We would lie in bed, a dictionary between us. We spoke such different languages. I’d have to look everything up.
“Do my truffle, baby”, the New York Times would moan
I couldn’t understand a word of what she meant
The dictionary explained it as a literary allusion to the politically incorrect animal
Pure Skrunk for ”Stick your pig snout up my ass and snuffle a turd”

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love Maureen the Bitch in thee, the Fat Frank Rich in thee
Sports Wednesday, Critics Choice, and Sunday kitch in thee
You are my late breaking story. My International page, my Metro section.
You caress me with your headlines
Lies, all lies… Lies are “life-in-itself” The truth is nothing.
And here in east Africa, as I confront the truth–in-journalism, gazing through a suicidal window onto my demise
Shaking like a palsied pig before falling through the glass pain to sleep without dreaming
I write this rhapsody to you, my dearest prevaricatreuse … you are a swineling’s dream come true

At root our love affair was a fatal attraction,a work of Thanatos.
Grey Lady, I loved that schizophrenic vein buried deep in your composing room that wanted me both dead and alive
As much as I snickered at your byline, so much did I love your media hype?
How you put your spin on me, an unclean animal, un-kosher, a jihadist sworn to a holy war against winners.
How many hogs get to be bad boys. How I loved what you loved in me most - my Caledonian Boar

And, of course, like all the unclean of the earth, all I wanted was a hot bath
You see my dilemma. How can a pig be kosher? Like a Midas, everything it eats turns to fatback
Your system digests a Vanity Fair and shits out a Democracy.
My system converts gefilta fish and matzoth balls into bacon

You were orgiastic - all cultures are orgiastic.
Here in East Africa when I open you up section by section – even the foreign edition of you, even the Herald Tribune –
I am jerked off – I am transported. I am restored, taken to the theater,
My restoration theater of delights where fools prattle and hubris reigns
Upon your G spot the world beckons me to improvise. Your reality working with my reality is feral inspiration
Your news working with my news is classic chemistry, that collaboration wherein an entertainer’s basest instincts are honed
Where every plot imagined is constructed
Culture has never had an EMO. Extended Massive Orgasms are cultural anathema. Culture, traditionally has had to jerk itself off
But now in my coffin I foresee an orgy of delight, not only with the Paper of Record, but with every snob classist tabloid on the newsstand.
I foresee my right fist in the ass of the New York Times, my left fools finger dancing a Bosa Nova on the head of Gourmet Magazine’s defrocked clitoris, while I go down on the New Yorker.
Get the picture? A cultural EMO can only be had at the hands of the counter culture! Your sex life is in the hands of pigs.
And for the pig a path to the stars is hewn from the land of the deadly dream.

You see, for me, little pieces of the world have gone absent without leave
(It’s a sign of Alzheimer’s, I’m sure)
And all my misplaced pieces I have re-impregnated in you.
Knocking up objective reality has kept me from the brink.
O Times, you were my entertainment, and entertainment is an animal’s saving grace.

And now, my darling, now, in this my deepest of depressions, I am just deranged enough to take you at face value
To buy into the Full Monte of your delusion - freedom, poetic justice, constitutional reform
Its there, like a hologram in all the news that’s fit to print, in your thumbnail review of Frank Capra’s A Wonderful Life in mini disk
Here in East Africa I’ve been sleeping in the street. I cover myself hands and feet in you - you, my media coverage
I crumple up your pages and stuff them under my neck and between my legs. I wipe my ass with your style section
On the coldest nights I tuck the Sunday magazine around me like a body bag
Passers bye say whom is that pig sleeping under the New York Times - who is that swino.
I can tell you this now, my beloved, now that I will be dead and gone before you print it
Now that I am a letter to my editor in chief. Only now can I tell you
Yes, I am your child. You are my mother. I am your creation, America unemancipated, a tabloid’s love slave.

For it is proved, it is fact, and has been duly reported, that utilizing the latest advances in carbon dating and computerized stratification typology that can record an onion peel of earth as thin as a millimeter, it has been shown that George Washington did not cut down a cherry tree, neither did he throw a gold piece across the Delaware, nor sleep here nor there nor anywhere. Not an archeological molecule of historical America has been unearthed. At Gettysburg not a bullet has been found – only c-dimutane veroxided, an important nucleotide found in petrified horseshit . And as for the Emancipation Proclamation - recent chemical analysis corroborates that it was forged between 1931 and 1934 in the vicinity of Times Square. Reportedly, this derivative of horseshit was also found in all the news that’s fit to print and 12.7 molecules per micro liter have been discovered by chemical analysis in the ink of the Emancipation Proclamation. In short, nobody has been emancipated. America was not discovered, America was created by a small gifted cabal of writers, editors and marketing consultants working feverishly on the Times Building’s 64th floor during the famed gloomy Sunday circulation crisis which, pundits are convinced, pushed the’ depress’ button harder than the stock market crash. In other words, America is not a republic, nor the flag for which it stands, America is just another people of the book - a Times bestseller.

And these animals hooked on the news of the day are collectively termed a readership. JJ Roseau explains it in The Social Contract - “Since what you read is what you read into, every reader gets the news they deserve.” A readership forms a corp. Readers of newspapers form a news-corp. A corp is any individuation in a mass – be it a body of flesh and blood in a biomass or a body of truth in a mass of conjecture. Corps are reciprocally parasitic. A body of truth lives in and digests a body of flesh and blood, as do bodies of flesh and blood live in and digest bodies of truth. When bodies of flesh and blood are digested by bodies of truth –in-journalism they, politically speaking, are held in state. And thus in 543 BC, in the mind of the publisher of the Old Testament, the state as a state of mind was born. As the Bible created the Jews, the Times have created America. What a gaggle of Semites could do in Babylon, another gaggle could do in mid town Manhattan – create an addicted media-ocracy.

But it was the Goyem that sold it. The marketing of culture to the western world was really the invention of one man – Pablo Bonaparte Escobar. Pablo was born in a small theme park replica of a Corsican village circa 1791 in the province of Medellin . His particular genius was perceiving the market potential of narco-culture, that as long as there’s a demand for narco-culture there will be a supply. Today, the price of culture on the street is in the billions. America alone contains 28 million animals addicted to the Times.

Bonaparte-Escobar is credited with the invention of a process of throwing culture into a large pot and cooking it into a paste which, chemically speaking, is a 70% pure cultural chloride. The purification of narco-culture goes through many stages before it reaches The Times. Under the Medellin cartel, the leaf was pounded into a white theocratic powder, which, over the years, was developed into baroque concoctions such as Athenian democracy, Spartan oligarchy and a variety of monarchial mixtures in the dark ages after Rome. Various catalysts were used in the process – which begins with the literary leaf of the culture plant. The addictive chemical component is called drama. This leaf, which had been chewed for millenniums by indigenous animations, is activated, not by the traditional bit of ash or lime, but by a dollop of vaginal fluid or cum which you place on your tongue before mastication.

Culture, more easily transported and distributed in powdered rather than in leafy form, was initially introduced by the academic community, but since the advent of ‘culture crack’, a process that draws out more of the hydrochloric acid from the cultural mix in a chemical reaction that makes the mixture crackle, distribution has been dominated by tabloids. The traffic is such that the narco-culture distribution network is called the Dis-information Highway.

Allow me to digress for just a moment. I do hope you won’t feel used but I have a favor to ask. I am enclosing in this letter to my beloved editor a note to Ben Bradley. Would you pass it on for me? Thank you

Dear Ben:

It is a disturbing thought that, as made painfully clear by my publicist, the New York Times has opted that you are planning to review my opening night in Botoweowo East Africa - (it happens to be my closing night) – in the performance piece known in working title only, as Porco Morto. Why the fuck the Times would spend 6000 smackeroos on a business class to Nairobi, hotel, driver, bodyguard and miscellaneous expenses is beyond any semblance of a business rational – which only re-enforces my suspicion that the Times is out to get me one last time. Ben, you know you won’t like my ending. It's not abstruse enough for you. It's not post-structuralist enough for you. I know you Ben. You have a vegetable aesthetic…it's not Potatoland enough for you. Ben, if you dump on my death scene what the fuck do you expect me to do for an encore. As Patrick Henry put it, “Give me life or give me liquidity” Journalism has final cut on life’s movie. The play is a power play. It’s all about sex.

I understand the sex game, C & D, create and destroy
Build an animal up in order to tear the animal down…
Feed ‘em to starve ‘em , sprinkle upon them the manna of media exposure and then bury them on the back page
Every animal has its enemy. Every hare its hound
Fat Frank has been mine. He’s painted my financial picture for twenty-seven years.
But little does he know I’m member of The Egise Pas Presse .
On Geddy’s birthday Mama Lola told me she dreamed that someone eating a power lunch was in my way .
She handed me a Frank rich doll saying don’t stick pins in it. That would be murder, Stuff lard balls down its throat. Frank will gain 84 pounds before Labor Day.
And that’s just what happened. Have you seen his latest photographs?

But the enlightened beast sees the post modern picture
That animals are a taxidermological bricologe of systems, composites of linguo-artifacts That, like a computer chip, have crossed a threshold of emergence.
This emergence signifies that they have read their storyline
And high, as a character in a fiction, behave in a manner that has come to be defined as a life-like-ness.
Parco’s Republic, which discusses ideas as idealized “forms” notes that the idea of a “life-like-ness” is traceable to Frank Capra’s A Wonderful Life which animals, pigs among them, have voted, industry wide, into their top 100 story lines.

The introduction of a dream into a form is called a fix. A fix implies that something’s broken.
Before it is fixed, a form has broken faith But once it starts dreaming, faith-in-itself is totally restored.
Then watch out! Here comes another cultural artifact

Ben, let's be professional. I’ve been emailed a questionnaire from the East African Critical Establishment, the answers to which I append forthwith.

Q: Local wits in both Variety and Backstage call you the “non profit venture”. Can you elaborate?

A: To be perfectly honest, my bookings are a disaster. I am a book. When you book a book you just can’t start cutting pages because its running over budget. As a tourist of life, I suspect my tour has been undercapitalized.

Q: Le Monde and Figaro have called Gonzo Porco PHD “post-humanist” Is that good press or bad press?

A: According to the Origin of Archetypes by Natural Selection, the post-humanist as a species evolved by deconstruction of character following classical evolutionary laws. Nature selects whether a characteristic like “piggishness” will thrive and reproduce or go extinct.

Q: Any species confronted with extinction mutates wildly to come to terms with a new environment. Dinosaurs became chickens. Come clean now Porco. What about this warthog business? Why reconceived a performance at this decrepit stage of your career.

A: I’ve had it with domestic animals. A domestic animal is a constipated animal. Culture, the great domesticator, fills animals full of shit. I’m wild at heart. I go back to the beginning. I was there at the summer of love. I go back even further. I was there at the first drop of acid. I was on the road with Jack.

Q. Are you going extinct?

A: Tonight somebody walked out on me. I couldn’t believe it. At first I thought they were just going to the bathroom. I kept staring at the empty seat expecting them to sneak back in at any moment. They didn’t even wait for intermission

Professionally speaking , Ben, I suspect that the entire East African Critical Establishment works as stringers for the Times Drama desk, and I expect to be strategically misquoted . After I’m dead I’ll sue. You can count on it!

Grey Lady I love you. Love of System is the World as Will
Because the will of the world hath commanded me to love the system, the will of the world hath commanded me to kiss the butts of winners.
If I were a single cell, the will of the world would command me to cohabitate with other cells in an orgy of communication until I became an organism.
Now, as fiction, I am commanded to edit myself into the canon, the Meta-fiction, to write myself off
For it is written “You are the will, nothing exists besides you…and you are a hungry will... and there is nothing to devour but yourself”

I love thee grey lady
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…. actually there’s only one
Suddenly I am a song that makes me cry.
I make myself cry as I feel my animations coming apart
My bones float out of their sockets, my sinews stretch and pop
I am of two, three, four minds - they fly off and dissolve in a Dirac soup, a soupy sea of misery
No mountains rise up out of it - no islands appear - no reefs - just rolling swells of tears.
I am a song that can make me cry.
You too are crying my dear Grey Lady. You too come apart
Pain pulls you this way and that.
On your front page replete with wars of the day, the murders of the hour, the bone thin children, the imploded dreams,
The parade of pigs obeyed in office, the slop of capital gains, the pork of life… the pork!
I can read into your soul that you feel something. I can feel you feeling something
You’re losing your journalistic objectivity. Grey Lady, you’re fighting tooth and nail but you’re losing it
Losing your moral fervor
And I can see that all along your moral fervor has been just as fictional as all the rest.

Thus with my last breath I take the Bodhisattva vow - a vow of compassion.
But as I am helplessly postmodern, I can’t feel sorry for people. I can only feel sorry for publications.
In my great compassion for the written word, for all tabloids, all sensate beings and books and forms
I find I have gained compassion for reality-in-itself.
I am a song that makes me cry. I shall sing it to you



Lee Breuer is one of the founders of Mabou Mines theater. Among his many successful plays there are Ecce Porco, The Shaggy Dog Animation, Prelude, Epidog, Peter and Wendy, and (with Maud Mitchell) Mabou Mines Dollhouse, which Green Integer will publish in 2009. Green Integer also published his La Divina Caricatura: A Fiction in 2002.

Copyright ©2009 by Lee Breuer