The City XIX

I can watch the people come and go, to and from the bar below my window.

The bros, and blondes, and folks with money who drive expensive cars.

The peddle wagons in a steady flow Thursday through Sunday filled with people yelling and singing

Blasting top 40 songs I do not recognize.

They stand out front with drinks in hands, looking at their phones, checking their status updates and photos and other people’s photos; smoking cigars and talking about business, life, business…

Sometimes they argue; sometimes they talk about love and friends and profound things.

 

On any given night the usual two are likely to show up.

Wearing sports jerseys, The New Orleans Saints are a favorite.

They bring bags of food, usually McDonald’s or something like it.

Always those two together. One is tall, the other is not.

They drink expensive beers or Bud Light, eat McDonald’s, watch part of a game, and talk to each other, sitting at the table up front by the windows

These two are nothing like the girls in the peddle wagons.

They are not with the party.

These two are just not the pretty ones, the thin ones, the ones who get noticed…

…noticed by the bros or the men with expensive cars.

They stick with each other; night after night, eating McDonald’s, drinking expensive beers or Bud Light

Watching part of a game

Sitting at the table up front by the windows.

 

Lately I have been seeing them coming to the bar more often.

I see them get out of their little car.

Bags of food

Wearing sports jerseys, although it is no longer the season for the New Orleans Saints.

The two of them alone, with each other, they walk past all the others.

Home to who knows what, alone watching television, whatever Netflix has to offer…

Those two, the regulars, or two just like them

Unnoticed or politely acknowledged and forgotten and left to be the two of them.

The two of them, alone together.

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Fragment XXII

We speak of the alleged abnormal human, the person who exists in a marginal and paradoxical place in society who is unable, by his nature, to conform to the accepted practices and beliefs of a society. He operates and behaves contrary to the interests of society and even contrary to his own interests. He is this way because his nature is unnatural. The bonds of society, most significantly the intrafamilial bonds, are inaccessible to him and he attacks the people and institutions that bind society together. He is:

 

unaware of the necessary tendency of interest and the supreme point of his interest is to accept the game of collective interests. Is he not a natural individual who brings with him the old man of the forests with all the fundamental prosocial archaisms and who is, at the same time, an unnatural individual? In short, is not the criminal precisely nature against nature? Is this not the monster? (Abnormal 91)

 

Most significant is the paradox. He is a natural man, an expression of bestial desires without regard to social norms. And yet, he is also completely unnatural. He is a social being bent on the destruction of the social and an expression of nature which runs counter to nature. He is nature against nature AND culture against culture. He cannot fit. He is an ogre who devours his own children and savagely attacks his family, his wife, his babies. No organic or cultural limit can contain or define him.

These monsters were and are the exceptional ones. They are still with us, though they have undergone variations and have changed their outward expressions. Society and culture have changed but the monster remains an intrinsic feature of our world. It is not as if this monster has become a peripheral figure.

Once upon a time these monsters were the primordial ancestors of kings. Before they took on the status of monster, these characters saw to the safety of the earliest human social units. These men prowled the margins and fended off wolves. They held the lines against invaders. But then culture took a turn and the social arrangements changed:

 

At the origin of humanity were two kinds of people: those devoted to agriculture and animal husbandry and those who protected them because ferocious wild animals threatened to eat the women and children, destroy the harvests, and devour the herds, et cetera. Hunters were required to protect the agricultural community from wild beasts. Then a time came when hunters had been so effective that there were no more wild beasts. The hunters consequently became useless and, disturbed by their uselessness, which would deprive them of their privileges as hunters, they transformed into wild beasts and turned against those they were protecting. They in turn attacked the herds and families they should have been protecting. They were the wolves of mankind. They were the tigers of primitive society. Kings are nothing else but these tigers, these hunters of earlier times who took the place of the wild beasts prowling around the first societies. (97)

 

The keepers of culture were these violent beasts who, after finding that those who depended on them had relegated them to irrelevance, turned on the people who they once protected. And the people found that they could not do without them. Thus the only humans who were capable of turning on their own kind, and were willing to prove it, rose to the status as rulers, complete with the sanction of the Gods. What else could have made something which is capable of destroying and devouring both the natural bonds of human to nature and the social bonds of human to human.

Hand in hand with Lacan’s sickening desire toward incest and its patriarchal prohibition, the violent beast is part of everything we revile and he manifests himself still. Foucault’s parable would seem to draw out a space within culture that is otherwise relegated to something anathema to culture. These things must be contained or destroyed. They are not us and they are against all that is decent and humane.

These offenders of decency are inhuman beasts who have somehow gone wrong. By now the psychiatric classification of instincts as the groundwork for modern psychiatry would have pathological classifications for those who seem to express nothing but violence and lust. Whatever base animal instincts that may be latent within us are necessarily civilized and re-directed into cultural norms which now facilitate the “normal” human set of relations that is culture. But this beast is quite the opposite. It is sacred. It is that part of culture that we cling to with every holy impulse and legal and social norm.

Having lost the need for kings, the regal monsters have been forced to hide among us. They are the worst kind of threat because they look, act and speak just like us. We see them everywhere, in schools, public transportation, places of worship—they even hold positions of power and authority which, and they are endowed with special trust. We are the ones who invite the vampire in.

The unfamiliar and fabulous paradox of the monster is that it occupies the same position as the holy figure. They are the same animal. It is easy to allow this paradox in a kind of fairy tale, but the mechanisms of social power that isolated the monster are in fact the same mechanisms that isolated the holy aberration and these two creatures are one and the same. In the space of the abnormal, the predatory human-monster is not an external threat but an intimate and central character in social and cultural arrangements. Rather than the predatory inhuman degenerate, the abnormal and violent man is the intimate and even ruling subject at the heart of all that we hold up as our highest and most sacrosanct spaces within culture.

Those creatures of modern life we hold to be most sacred, although we do not call them sacred anymore since we learned to insert the idea of sovereignty in place of the sacred—those creatures marked off as having a particular status as protected—these are the sites of our most monstrous fantasies. Here we focus the machines of contemporary vengeance. The monsters who violate the sovereign bodies of the protected were long deprived of one of two coordinates of existence. They were stripped of time, often for the rest of their lives. We do worse now. The monsters are invested with the full weight of contemporary knowledge.

The monster is now surrounded by classifying regimes which follow his every move. Having determined the line which marks the ultimate transgression, these monsters now become characters in the vast electronic database of the human realm. Crossing the line, the monster will never regain his human status. His monstrous characteristics, listed and explained and referenced to vast systems of psychology, sociology, and criminology, are inscribed in an electronic sacred text. This is our modern epic of origins.

The monster cannot go away and we cannot “civilize” ourselves beyond him because he is the King at the heart of all we are.

 

Fragment XXI

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What is the use of getting rid of God in order to fall back on yourself? What good this substitution of one carrion for another? E.M. Cioran

The self-appointed old guards of culture devote themselves to pumping air into a dead God—a God they do not even believe in themselves. They cite their capacity to forgive themselves for their own sins as proof of their God’s viability and existence. In this way they are capable committing the rest of us to a bloody sacrifice.

The innovators, on the other hand, are so adept at hiding their God in the interstices of humanism that they have become blind to the God they created. This makes it possible for them to be just as blind to their own crimes. The sacrificial slaughter at the hands of the self-designated innocents is a priori justified since the oppressed has no choice but to hate the oppressor.

Fragment XX

… man no longer lives in existence, but in the theory of existence…

Here we are in this moment of decadence and decline in which a person is not a person but a representative of a species of person, a common example, no matter how many species that person may belong to, it-he-she is little more than a subject position in the final battle between god and unbelievers. Not that there is any real difference between the two since they both hold up their absolutes and hide them from themselves.

We are flaccid examples of humans that died long ago and we live in the nostalgic fairy tales of what we have made of those long-forgotten heroes of no one knows any more. Floating around in our electric portals, hallucinogenic magnifying glasses of Truth just as we expected to find it: self-evident and self-validating. Our struggles are silly skits, childish pretend games in which poverty and lack are simple forms of less than we really want.

The poor do not even exist. There is instead a mass of enfeebled golums addicted to need who never really experience need. Fake metals and jewels announce their steps. Angry and loud, fully expecting to be treated as humans even as they stoop and crawl like barnyard animals.

The wealthy never touch the ground. They float above with the best interest of all in their mouths and drink the sun right out from over our heads. Sucking the chill out of the entire earth as we watch rapt and admiring; their surgically perfected distortions and hellish grimaces and vulgar smiles through teeth made of titanium. We drink their spit and thank them.

The rest of us, content to just eat each other with our ideological certainties, go about with shit-hope plastered on our screens. Killing ourselves and pleasing ourselves because it is all for ourselves each of us individually the same. Silently hating each other, sending messages of love from dead hearts. Funhouse mirrors of humanity. Our stink scrubbed away. Artificial rich man prefab embarrassed millionaires each and every one of us.

It will end when we eat exhaust high ideals for good and all; when something else comes along with a brand new set of emergencies, extinguishing us, letting us freeze for committing the ultimate sin: irrelevance.

The City XVIII

I am the interval between what I am and what I am not, between what I dream and what life has made of me, the abstract carnal half-way house between things, like myself, that are nothing. Fernando Pessoa. The Book of Disquiet.

Leaning out the back doorway of the building into the dirty alley where we keep the trash cans, I smoked and looked at the snow on the ground. There was a fresh dust and still white. I looked up at the shapes of the buildings that closed me in. A narrow space, cut in a dozen directions all the way up to the sliver through which I could see the sky. Grey and low and dense. A dense grey above, a dense white below. More snow falling around.

There are over a hundred years in the building, in the doorway, of looking out into the space of the alley. People gone and forgotten; not even ghosts; the building holds just vague evidence of all of us… looking out the back door into the alley.

I thought about being nobody and I liked the thought of being nobody. I thought, this is the most noble aspiration: to be nobody. Stop exerting and expressing. Stop my vain scribbling and jabbering. It is all so futile and wasteful all that expressing, all that being someone, clamoring and fussing. Fighting to Be over all the other someones. None of us really become someone. All just white noise and clutter, forgotten if ever noticed.

I watched the light snow just appear. It didn’t fall, really; just appeared and floated around, each flake losing its each-ness as soon as it touched the snow on the ground; an old wooden pallet underneath and trash cans all around indifferent to snow or not snow.

I should do the same; float around, appear and disappear until I blend and fade into frozen layers which cancel as much as they multiply, only to melt in a few days or weeks.

I thought: what a privilege to be nobody.

Fragment XIX

Remains poetry, that is the account of man and his various vital situations and poetry to-day being purely and simply the pastime of licensed apes or laggards purple in the face, the fine flowers of bilge, the hoist to politics, the scramble for applause, etc. I will be an apoet the Apoet too no doubt, consigning with care to poetry’s galvanic zone no man’s land and subterraneans, even as it oxygenated ever. “Apoem 4.” Henri Pichette. Translated by Samuel Beckett.

 

Beginning with the account of man; rather than to justify the ways of God to man, the account of man which I have in my own way provided from a minuscule perch in a miniscule place. A poeticule, if you will, in the forms of both prose in the traditional sense and verse prose I modelled after writers I admire however much I may have come up short on this last account, the failings are my own even if the attempts were sincere. In fragments and short bursts which I justify after the fact with still other examples from literature and poetry when in fact the fragment form comes to me primarily out of a complete inability to finish something once it is started. Laziness and self-doubt, really. Nevertheless, there are ample examples from the greats, from the account of man.

The account of man as poetry. Poets who take account of man. The narrative account that is man. Man as narrative. The ontology of man and man as phenomenon and the account provided over the centuries by poets with man, his narrative, his ontological presence being the chief concern of poets through the ages even unto today. Today, here, where everything is nowhere.

Sprawling desert of four and even six lanes, interchanges to more deserts of four and six lanes. All dotted with Starbuck’s, McDonald’s, Autozone, Speedway, fuel zones, food zones, feeding zones, parking zones, speeding zones. Everything moves in all directions. Vast parking areas, oases in the desert for caravans of sows, boars, and piglets chaotic free for alls even with directional arrows and dotted lines painted on the blacktop. A giant Ikea and a giant Golf center, Walmart, Target anchors infinite fallout zones on either side. Where roads end, they never end, dead grass, piled up gravel, fences and signs, no access. It—that—no land beyond the signs and the gravel and the fences. A void to be dammed up beyond the boulevards named after a town and a center for a town which has no center with name transformed into a Towne Centre. Off, away in the pre-fab houses formed in a circle, encircled by more pre-fab houses attached to four and six lanes; access roads and rectangular parcels fenced and green, accessible to the Towne Centre Boulevard named after a dead Indian; nothing underneath, no road ahead, nothing but sky above. A geographical bull’s eye where every microscopic instance of earth is itself the bull’s eye everyone hits with their God-given dreams “sacrificing all intellect, all aesthetics in a process of literal transcription into the real.”

One hour and ten minutes from one end of the trip to the other, the bus winds through the city from the square, its point of origin at least on the map, on the schedule, though it makes something of a circle; if not a circle, a cycle which would necessarily mean that there is no origin other than an arbitrary mark made by just about anyone. It would not matter who made the mark of origin since the cycle of the bus is effectively infinite. Up the main boulevard out of the city and toward… We become increasingly cramped; people standing, clutching the straps to steady themselves with one hand and filing through electronic devices with the other hand, staring down in any case, avoiding the other at all costs; jostling each other around with the sway and bump of the bus moving up the hill out of the city proper; into the outlying neighborhoods, each named for something no one knows anything about and through wealth, decay, indifference, renewal, schools, universities, hospitals, old and new—up and to the left then immediately to the right and down a hill and to the left and down another hill, more people get on the bus; only a few get off the bus. We head up a hill. Heading north, I climb out of my seat to find more space, more freedom in the back of the bus; heading north, I head south. The span of the bus an expanse of freedom moving south as the bus heads north. Now into where the world becomes open and a great desert of life opens up in all directions, but mostly north. “…the screaming silence of no’s knife in yes’s wound” north until it stops and I gain that moment of movement from there to here, a space of spaces I look around for a place to piss.

The City XVII

Staring at phones, scrolling through the screen; one finger

Poised

Over the plastic rectangle; eyes down intent

An old man holds his head in his hands wrinkling his wrinkled face with his knuckles. Eyes closed hardly any sign of breathing, he is so far inside himself…

To my right an elderly couple stare off into the nowhere that is here that is nowhere

Resolved to waiting… and waiting… in the waiting room where we are waiting.

Killing the day in the public health clinic

Sterile and harsh overhead fluorescent lights make us all look like pale corpses waiting to not be corpses.

Talk of sober living houses at the registration window and talk of nothing between strangers and no talking at all between most of us trying not to look at each other waiting.

Across the room where beauty died in childhood now waits in full make-up and hair brushed out long and blonde

A lost jock athlete his pot belly bulging from rehab donuts and mountain dew reading a crap novel

Young and looking more like 50 sunken face scribbled over with wrinkles from the scrawl of the street and from heroin she makes it out for the elevator.

On the wall for us to read, a library of diseases

[phone key tones from behind the sliding glass doors hiss and screech of terminal reaching terminal]

Silence… dull silence; murmurs the clock slows down the more you look at it 10:00 becomes 10:25

The faces will tell you who knows the drill and who is someplace they never thought they would be

Backpacks, bulky fake designer purses, plastic bags—our shit stuffed in because who knows what you might need want find what the hell did I bring this for

The door opens and they call a name. one goes in one goes out two more walk in from outside all day long everyday ad infinitum forever and ever amen.

(eyeballs tattooed on the back of his head and flames shooting up his scalp shit-dirty hoodie)

A form asked for my religion and gave me a list of options including “atheist.” I checked “other” and wrote in my vote for “pagan.” Another form asked me if I knew how to read.

It is December 1st we sacrifice today for life another day.

But in the end, nothing hurt all that much. I now have one less part of me, didn’t hurt all that much.