Table of Contents
2. Slide Show
1. General Description
Aletheia is a chamber music theater work about a musician in a dressing room preparing to perform for a gala benefit for an opera house that is taking place in the courtyard below her window. Though excited at first, she can't bring herself to go down and perform. As her sense of isolation increases, she becomes, in a sense, her own choir. Her voice splits into the harmonies of several voices that accompany her into a new level of being.
The ancient Greeks had several words for truth. Aletheia is one and means creating a space where truth can appear. It is related to Greek concepts of theater and ritual which were utilized to create a space in which the deific could present itself. Aletheia is also associated with goddesses of the wind, the breath, logos, and word of God. The wind is thus a theme that runs throughout Aletheia, especially as embodied by the breeze that comes through her window.
Aletheia focuses on conceptions of artistic transcendence, authenticity, and the relationship of the artist to society. We also explore the correlations between grammar and reality. Aletheia believes grammar is a form of magic through which she can transform society and even reverse her own process of aging. She thus struggles against the feeling that she is increasingly falling into an abyss of silence. Isolation and silence in themselves become a part of her story, but she does not want to compromise with the forces that might demean her art -- even if they might allow her voice to be heard.
Aletheia also addresses urban decay, its correlations to the collapse of culture, and even to the seeming death of opera. Her sense of cultural abandonment is exacerbated on another level by her beloved Jeremy who does not respond to her various entreaties.
Through Aletheia's desire for artistic transcendence, we also explore concepts of liminality --the frontiers and passageways between worlds-- and the multiple identities and realities artists often inhabit. As Aletheia reaches these frontiers, embodied in both transcendence and isolation, the magic of the logos, grammar, and song allow her to to speak as a multi-voiced self, as if art were able to sing a community into being.
* * *
As with many operas and music theater works, our creations go through a process of refinement and revision as we begin performing them, so there will be changes to Aletheia in the coming months. These will include refining the tempos, tightening transitions, and cuts to improve the dramatic arch, catharsis, and continuity.
We have been performing Aletheia from a working score. We will include the score on this site when we have completed the revisions.
We shot a video of Aletheia in our Taos studio between September 27 and October 15, 2013. The 12 minute demo video below is extracted from it.
A detailed essay about our general goals and theories of chamber music theater can be found here with examples drawn from our chamber music theater work Miriam.
This site also includes some video sketches and an essay from earlier conceptions of Aletheia. We include them here for reference. We decided not to base Aletheia directly on the life of Theresa Duncan as originally planned, but rather only allude to to her life and thought. And we decided not to include abstract video imagery with the performance. Many of the general concepts we derived from Theresa Duncan's website, Wit of the Staircase, are still apparent in Aletheia. We highly recommend Theresa's website, which is being maintained as a memorial to her life and work.
2. Slide Show
We will post the score when our processes of revision are completed.
4. A Thirteen Minute HD Demo Video/Trailer of Aletheia
5. Early video and audio studies for the work
6. Screen Shots from the Early Videos Studies
7. An Early Essay About the Work (Now obsolete.)
Thoughts About Our New
bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of
production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole
relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered
form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier
industrial classes. Constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted
disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation
distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones. All fixed, fast frozen
relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions,
are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify.
All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at
last compelled to face with sober senses his real condition of life and his
relations with his kind."
new music-theater/multi-media work revolves around the life of
Duncan, a film-maker, media-artist, and cultural critic who died
by suicide in July 2007 at the age of 43.
We focus on the thoughts, ideas, and imagery presented in her highly
regarded blog, “The
Wit of the Staircase,” which
was created during the last year and a half of her life.
character, like Theresa Duncan, feels that words are magical and that singing
them is a form of incantation that further increases their power. We see her
on stage creating and/or presenting episodes from her vlog (a blog in video
format.) There is a large video
projection screen on stage upon which her vlog appears.
The score is quadraphonic and surrounds the audience.
The video and surround-sound increase her word’s magical powers.
flow of the video is characterized by morphing – a
colorful, magical, surreal, dream world, with a seamless flow between abstract
and concrete images that often transmutate into each other.
She is obligated by her nature to be a story-teller.
Since words are magical, her stories weave the web of consciousness,
and thus her very existence. In
this liminal world, a place by nature always in transition, she must tell
stories, because the stasis of silence is death.
the work on stage develops, her stories present two main problems.
First, she is haunted by the thoughts and questions her stories bring
forth. She is surrounded by the
ghosts her stories create – a predicament that seems especially true for
creative people. Theresa Duncan
summarized this by quoting Glen O’Brien:
I do know, the hard way, is that the artists and writers who come up with
extraordinary answers are often deeply and terribly haunted by the questions
that prompt them, and you can never second guess what it is to be haunted by
ideas, by angels or demons or history or visions, by reality or imagination.
second problem is that her stories are linear and represent the ephemeral,
transitory nature of life. Through
her narratives, she is always moving away from a lost past. Her life proceeds,
leaving a kind of historical detritus in its wake.
This also happens to the society, culture, people, and objects around
her. Her existential condition is
to constantly be in flight from decay, and yet always rushing toward it. Her
life vanishes into the detritus of time, the abyss of time past.
The detritus of time is a wolf at her heels.
the work, we explore what might be termed the culture
of detritus. As noted in the
quote of Karl Marx at the beginning of this article, systematic obsolescence
is essential to capitalism since it fuels a never-ending cycle of consumption,
production, and profit. All that
she has, and all around her, decays before her eyes.
Her sense of fulfillment thus continually decays as well.
This culture of obsolescence creates in her a Marilyn Monroe Syndrome
that extols youthfulness at the expense of age.
obsolescence by definition defines human identity in terms of death.
There is never an accepted culture, but only the detritus from which
one might appear. Due to our
endless search for cultural progress, decay and death become the frames that
define our lives. We cannot
define our culture, but only see our post-culture.
Our identity is thus defined by our death.
She can never see who she is, but only what she was.
between the past and future, she lives in a liminal
world. Her being is a
fleeting instant between desire and the detritus of time.
Nothing ever rests because obsolescence is a universality.
Desire can never be fulfilled, because fulfillment is inherently
obsolete. Faces morph to old
faces. Everything morphs to the
something unreachable and that decays the minute it is touched.
Every doorway opens to another doorway. She
is a ghost caught between time past and time future.
this liminal world created by the culture of detritus, human immortality is
sought through extreme forms of objectification that create a counterposing
culture of plasticization. A
dialetic is created. Only
plasticized cadavers become immortal.
counterview would be that sensible transformation represents growth and life
experience. The fullest life is
created by mastery of morphing. Grasping
at life is pointless. You cannot
grasp what is always ephemeral and changing.
Eternity is a dream, a biography of a cloud.
The dead is the humus of the new. The magician plays with
transformation because it is the essential nature of life.
Our work will be, in part, a study of ephemerality and the magical ways
of shaping it.
she was still young, Theresa Duncan discovered her deep appreciation for words
and their almost limitless magical powers.
She also sensed that her gifts set her somewhat apart from her
working-class social environment:
the quarry in July my cousins told me the water was ‘bottomless,’ and so I
hugged the shore and learned to swim in the Lapeer library instead, suspecting
already exactly what the limitless meant…
Ever after I knew all the haunted shades of meaning that were captive
in other people’s words. And
for that they called me mad.
Theresa Duncan, the character has a deep desire to live life large, full of
energy, artistry, risk, questioning, glamour, wit, and passion.
Theresa had a wide range of eclectic interests: perfume, the history of
electricity, art, philosophy, religion,
cologne is called
especially felt there is a kind of magical power in glamour that is also
related to the magic of grammar:
believe glamour was the original occult art, and I think it is still the most
powerful. As you will recall from my film The
History Of Glamour, the original meaning of the Scottish glamer
was a magic spell. The word mutated from grammar,
or language, of which the glamour I speak of is a subset, and really just the
desires for a transcendent, magical aesthetic, however, are at odds with the
lack of culture and intelligence in the society around her.
Far from transcendent glamour, the cultural industry is often a
“thuggish Frankenstein” motivated by greed.
circus-like aspects of the main industry in our home city of Los Angeles, with
its tiny hateful core of thuggish Frankenstein manipulation and surrounding
penumbra of pink-frosted teenage dumbassitude. Unhappily, these elements of
entertainment seem to be a rainbow hued enhancement of much that is now most
see that she is not merely a dreamer. Her
social and cultural criticism (frequently expressed with a somewhat humorous
and self-ironic second person grammar,) is often pragmatic, pointed and
realistic. She comes from a working-class family in
also cannot accept the staid, formulaic solutions concerning gender often
proffered by academic feminism. Here,
for example, are her comments about a new art exhibition she has just seen and
its “obedient” form of social protest:
much rather see a show about social class, frankly, which is a much more taboo
subject than a bunch of dipshits showing their tits and taking jumbo upskirt
identify with working class men, for example, far more than I do most of these
monkey-see monkey-do second raters. Referencing one's gender's or one's own
appearance the way this work does is just spectacularly obedient as far as
has a natural gift for cultural analysis and history. She sees a correlation
in the American ideal between her beloved cities of
this is not mere analysis. These
cities become the story of herself she weaves, and that she must live.
Even if she disguises her dread with pride and urbanity, she cannot
remove her own identity from the ruthless abandonment and collapse of
this culture of vacuity and detritus she searches for hope [now even a
political slogan.] Through
photography, she studies the strange and horrific beauty of post-industrial
yet I find both places indescribably glamorous, inchoate and mysterious,
endlessly strange and iterative, as if
the street behind you is being covered over with some new fantasy by scene
painters as you drive on. I'd go on to parse out the differences between
the towns, but as I said, I suspect they are actually the same place, two
sides of a coin palmed in the alternately icy and desert-hot hand of America, a
future currency whose buying power is for strange new fast-moving forms and
fantasies that are as yet undreamt of in the rest of the West...
searches for the transcendent glamour that is the counter-side of this
extravagant waste, speed and indifference created by obsessive consumerism and
unmitigated capitalism. It’s
the defiant glamour and punk heroism of a city’s spectacular and mindless
flight toward post-industrial abandonment and destruction.
is a glamour that demands raw capitalistic self-reliance, and rejects a
paternalistic state, even if tragic self-destruction is the result.
She refuses Churchill’s promise that British citizens would be cared
for “from the cradle to the grave”:
my American ears this sounds like being rewarded for a lifetime of anonymity
and drudgery that edges each day a little closer to the cemetery--less a
promise than a threat. Such a life seems to me like a passionless tally of
passing days, a record of each winter’s snowfall scratched with a dirty
icicle into the heart. The imaginative, the subversive, the lonely, the poor,
the creative and the curious might have other plans than to stick around for
the stasis of the cradle-grave.
the stasis of silence that brings death when stories stop.
She defiantly embraces the spectacular decay of
there's a lot of liberals, like I said, in the academy or the art world
especially, it's like the petting zoo for ideas. Everything's been defanged in
yet it was her alienation and lack of support in a raw, capitalistic world
that led to her isolation as an artist, and at least in part, to her death.
notes the unwillingness of people in
downtown still looks like Bogdanovich's "Last Picture Show." You
would think it was 1951. Like Bogdanovich's small
spite of all of this, there is a mystery and magic to
is 22 degrees in
though she sees a horrific kind of beauty in this culture of detritus, she
fights despair, because she cannot accept or compromise with the greed and
mindless power that creates it. As
stated earlier, and worth repeating, she cannot accept its “…hateful
core of thuggish Frankenstein manipulation and surrounding penumbra of
pink-frosted teenage dumbassitude.”
contradictory, she celebrates the terrors of capitalistic excess, and at the
same time rejects it as monstrous. Nothing
is ever one-dimensional in her thought. She
balances every thought with its ghostly mirror image. She can never be defined
or categorized. Her life is an
to compromise with the cultural industry, and unable to remain silent about
its “Fankenstein manipulations” of society, she became increasingly
marginalized and misunderstood, in spite of her obvious gifts.
Shortly before her death, still using the ironic second person voice in
her blog, she “speaks in signs to those who know,” guided toward her by
“the varied light of our linguistic constellations”:
on the Staircase [her blog] we are oft not understood, what with our Late
Capitalist contradictions and our desire to burn through any container some
sap imagines will hold us.
just as The Little Prince could look up into the vast night sky and know that
his rose lived far off on some particular planet, we at Wit
also detail our signs for those who know, so that They
might be guided toward Us
by the varied light of our linguistic constellations. Yes, language created
even the first ever illumination, and now we borrow back a little word and a
little wattage both in order that we might reflect another of nature's fair
there be Aria di Capri we
utter, and prettily perfume the rectory air at dim rainy dusk on this fabled
Fourth Of July eve. One burst from the bottle is a beautiful woman's laugh,
startling, sharp and silver like a 747 slicing suddenly above the cloud cover
and rising into the sun. The city, the rain, the proximity to many stupid
people stacked waiting for what? in apartments. And the inviolable white magic
aura of our apartment is rent right away by July Aura anyway.
shiny armor it suddenly encases us. The sunshine, the lemons, the exuberances
of sour grapefruit and tanged-up clementines that are so shiny, so way-out,
they look like rocks that will be polished for some fantastic fairy giant's
jewels. The mist still hangs in the air as I speak, like light trails
careening oh so slowly off a crackling Catherine Wheel.
sparks stay suspended all night tonight by Olde American Magic, so stay up.
They'll illumine the way toward every American's rightful portion of liberty,
joy and crazy-colored, ever present, indestructible light.
this spirit she quotes Vladimir Nabokov, though the words seem a premonition
of her death by suicide:
imagination flies; we are its shadow on earth.”
though Theresa viewed glamour and grammar as forms of magic and
self-expression, she felt that ultimately grammar might be the more complete
form of magic. She refers to the
central theme of her animation film “History of Glamour” and comment that:
main character is looking for an identity, and glamour becomes for her a
potent form of self-expression. She finds it very liberating, because she's
from a small town. But
by the end of the story, glamour becomes limiting, then imprisoning, so
she becomes a writer, chooses grammar over glamour.
is creating herself with her story, her magical grammar, but she seems to feel
she is increasingly falling into an abyss of silence.
Isolation and silence in themselves become a part of her story, but she
does not want to compromise with the corporate forces of the entertainment
industry that might allow her voice to be heard.
To only tell part of her story, or to alter it, would be to mutilate
her being. She secretly
feels like she is vanishing, being forced into the traditional, objectified,
overshadowed, feminine companion and helpmate of Jeremy.
spite of her love of glamour, she eschews “witchy atavism” and other
mystifications of feminine identity as a trap.
She appreciates the work of Karen
Kilimnik, because it seems to offer “lines of flight,” a practical,
matter-of-fact view of feminine intellect and sexuality that can provide an
avenue of escape. These “lines
of flight” move beyond the mystification of female sexuality as represented
in the “tightly controlled, claustrophobic set-up photographs” of Cindy
Sherman, whose techniques
laboriously constructed illusions, once so emblematic of all the fragile
identity artifice of shelters like Gender and Home, now just give rise to the
question that if we're looking at a Brentwood housewife or a Lynchian-
Midwest-where-all-is-not-what-it-seems, why do all the signposts point so
predictably toward New York's Chelsea?
believes that understanding our cultural conditioning can lead to
self-knowledge and freedom. This
knowledge also formulates “lines of flight,” an escape from bondage, as
explained by two of her favorite authors, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari:
your black holes and white walls, know them, KNOW YOUR FACES; it is the only
way you will be able to dismantle them and draw your lines of flight."
examination of cultural conditioning, we can escape its limiting effects.
We can write and live a story that moves toward freedom.
feels Kilimnik shows how idealizing the feminine leads to oppression.
Kilimnik has the:
or stupidity to keep pointing out this mystification. Artists like Cindy
Sherman are the adolescent ones to we of Wit,
as they have childishly made a bargain with this system rather than creating a
space outside it. We of Wit are
not fans of
that same Deluzian directness, she quips that, “Having a vagina remains the
same, but power shifts.”
continually rebels against reductive views that attempt to define or
categorize what femininity might be:
pretty clear to we of Wit
that there is an intellectually lazy, fussily bossy tendency for critics (male
and female, alas) to want women to work within some understandable "art
historical" paradigm… [They]
then puzzle as to why the woman's work is like, different
in a way they just can't seem to explain.
fuckas, women were excluded from shaping the paradigm they are now being
paradoxically judged within. We have heard this kind of talk about women's
creative work again and again our entire lives. Wit
decided long ago that it's just War,
dudes, and that Wit would
be crazy not to constantly fire back. If this sounds strenuous, it's not--and
it feels better than just absorbing it every day, brothers and sisters.
sees the seemingly promiscuous life of super model Kate Moss as a
manifestation of this Deluzian directness of sexuality, a manifestation of
“lines of flight”, a demystified, objective, feminine self-identity that
create freedom. Moss is beyond
the public’s “chimpanzee-cage outrage”:
operates out there all on her own without a curfew or a credit card limit or a
license from Phallocentric Central.
other times, she considers that simple rage or even hysteria might be one
manifestation of these “lines of flight.”
She sees a feminist understanding of hysteria in the work of Freud:
considered by many who don't know any better to be a misogynist, was in my
opinion one of the most advanced thinkers regarding gender equality in
history. Freud's couch was a "free space" where the Doctor's new
"talking cure" enabled many women to say what was on their mind for
the first time in their lives. Freud was the first to comprehend that
"hysteria" was actually a form of communication women defaulted to
as a last resort when they were otherwise denied any outlet for expression.
Theresa sought the release of hysteria. Something
seemed to be building inside her, a volcanic but silent despair and anger.
These too become a part of her story:
nightmare is a gift, I guess you could say, and those ones that first elude
me, sending me chasing for miles over hill and dale in a pith helmet with an
empty butterfly net, are often the ones that are my "pretties", my
prize possessions, my frosted pink petit
fours. My motherfucking pearlllssss.
her mental health began to disintegrate, she went deeper into the echo-chamber
of her fears. It becomes
increasingly difficult to socialize with her friends in
is hard to make friends here, but I made up for it in enemies, who can make
you feel just as warm.”
in a darker tone:
Nietzsche's quip about suicide, the thought of a massive earthquake has gotten
me through many a long night.”
some respects, Jeremy, a darling of the arts world, was all that she had left.
They become more and more deeply entwined with each other.
They retreat into each other’s world.
As part of a sound-artist’s project, she remembers listening to
Jeremy’s heart with a stethoscope:
Jeremy’s heart like this was amazing, like staring through a telescope at a
vast and previously undiscovered world. The beats sounded so powerful, and yet
so temporary. We are just another damn song …
says he will record the beats when he is done on a vinyl record, which he then
will turn into a petroleum jelly that the purchaser can rub over their chest
to soothe heartache.
is selecting the couples slowly and very carefully.
here to hear a song we have written about this event.]
the eye of a story teller, she recalls a night spent with Jeremy at the
remember before we went to bed we were making out in the window, looking out
at the street filling up with snow, it was almost completely quiet and we were
overlooking the electric Chelsea Hotel sign ... I
remember later the wild noises that the hotel made late that night, like some
madman in the basement playing a church organ made with the hotel’s old
increasing fear and anger, she continues to speak of the corporate world’s
“Frankenstein manipulation” of culture and society.
These manipulations create in her an existential dread that becomes
increasingly real and frightening. And
as always, she see life through the story of her own existence, which has
become in effect, a metaphor for cultural analysis.
She wonders, for example, if the cold war fear-mongering of nuclear
destruction was largely a cover for something even worse: the efforts of a
plutocratic elite to control the mind of society, like a “fungus slowly
eating away” its democratic sensibilities.
The metaphorical (but also often quite real) phantasms and ghosts of a
totalitarian underworld come to haunt her:
it must be clear by now, children of the Staircase, that MK-ULTRA (and even
weird, disinfo-saturated Project
Monarch) are the ne plus ultra
weapons of past decades, as if all the Cold War missile paranoia was just a
smoke screen for all the body snatchers the Pentagon was beginning to hatch.
control and psychological warfare are the primary weapons that led to our
current Monarch Moment. Cults like Scientology and mind control-manufactured
Monarch girlies and Operation
Mockingbird are the fungus among us that has been eating away at the
foundations of democracy for decades....”
one considers how the “War On Trror” has led to abuses of what were
considered foundations of democracy, then her thoughts about “smoke
screens” and body snatchers (“special rendition”) do not seem so far off
the mark. And some of the
conspiracy theories she followed, though obscure, are surprisingly
well-documented, and have a concrete basis in reality.
She seemed to subscribe to a worldview formulated by social critic
combined forces of unaccountable covert operations and corporate public
relations, each able to tap massive resources, are sufficient to make the
concept of 'democracy' obsolete.
knows these fears are a double edged sword, that our worldview can be
manipulated by the government and corporate media, but that we can also become
lost in the depths of our own anxiety. She
quotes Emily Dickinson:
need not be a chamber to be haunted;
need not be a house;
brain has corridors surpassing
when haunted, her wit, humor, and self-irony remain.
She quotes Stephen Wright to describe the malleable, dream-like world
of human perception:
other day, when I was walking through the woods, I saw a rabbit standing in
front of a candle making shadows of people on a tree.
self-irony emerges in another quote, source unknown:
other day upon the stair, I saw a man who wasn't there, He wasn't there again
today, I think he's with the CIA...
also understands the strange motivations of some of her detractors, the hatred
and envy oft directed toward beautiful and intelligent women in puritanical
[of beauty] among women can create huge perceived power differences that cause
serious enmity, fostering a Grimm's stepmother rage beneath the civilized
surface where the "uglier" (and who's to say, really) stepsister
often compensates with chimp-colony cruelty and unconscious enforced denial of
Cinderella's smarts and subjectivity.
remembers a fairy-tale that recounts the jealousy even a mother can feel
toward the beauty of her own daughter:
reveals the perversion in the story, and the life or death warning her mother
expected her to absorb on the cusp of her adolescence: surpass me in
attractiveness at your peril. Flook also reveals that this was a lesson her
older sister, ejected from the house and lost to drugs and prostitution at 15,
did not carefully absorb.
of her blog correspondents, who worked as a model in
we know that French men and women think it's every woman's duty to be as
beautiful as possible. Within that logic, they didn't reproach me. They did
not think beauty was in opposition to smarts. Beautiful? Well, the smarter
the reveries created by her beloved perfumes, she increasingly retreats within
herself, toward a liminal world, a dusky twilight between the externality of
glamour and the internality of grammar:
summer night, as we know, wears a smile of light, and sits on a sapphire
throne. But how many know that the long blue space which curves like a
scimitar between day and night--the place called sunset--is
a liminal one?
and twilight-time dissolves the ink on any known map, heaves even the cemetery
gates wide open. This hour is prone to ghosts, and in late June this fetching,
this flattering light called Wit
forth at the height of all her neither/nor states too. Here comes the tipsy,
the ever ready for her close up, the not quite woman, the Teenage Theresa.
knows this enticing, ghostly netherworld has its dangers, but she refuses to
a gateway drug, I carried this first forward enticement ever onward into an
increasingly wild world from which weirdo Wit
still refuses to trace her footsteps backward no matter how many
other voices warn Retreat!
prepared for my journey by the Old Ones of cathode ray and drive-in screen,
out the back door I floated like dandelion fluff, dreamy as little teenage St.
Theresa of Lisieux who spoke to the flowers, past the kitchen garden with its
smell of dark blue sky and ripe red fruits. It's
just like an adolescent girl's cherry-pie personality where she puts the
delicious sour at the top and desperately hides the sweet deep underneath,
perfumes thus transport her back to the awakening sensuality of her
adolescence. She remembers the
drive-in theater in her little hometown:
tiny town too was about to become another world, one where parked way back by
the hurricane fence after dusk another familiar friend's deep voice beckoned
toward zones of enigmatic delight: Honey
can't you see, I know it's real, it's got to be. Why not chase it where it
bring deep memories. Her perfumes
transport her even farther back through time to her childhood:
the medals I earned at fifteen for the dark
You say as I rattle them ribbonless in their red wooden chest.
reaching her body and youthful glamour failing, she increasingly embraces the
greater and more eternal magic of grammar.
We can become lost in our dreams and aspirations.
We can fall too deeply into our own story.
The incantations of the logos spin the web of reality, like “God’s
foot on the treadle of the loom”. She
remembers that we can drown in our own fairy-tale:
remember Rumpelstiltskin, the internal imp of the perverse who secretly fuels
the strange female alchemy of creation, her baby and any domestic happiness
the price that must be paid for seeing something where nothing used to be.
Unless, of course, she guesses The Name.
the quarry in July my cousins told me the water was "bottomless",
and so I hugged the shore and learned to swim in the Lapeer library instead,
suspecting already exactly what the limitless meant. Like the bright orange
amber of Chergui, old
things might get suspended forever there, but we also go double deep where
knowing a name will set everything free.
once in a fairy tale I too saw God's foot on the treadle of the loom. Ever
after I knew all the haunted shades of meaning that were captive in other
people's words. And for that they called me mad.
brutality of the world around her, the political corruption and incompetence,
the greed, war, and hatred seem more dream-like like than even the internal
world of her magical and enchanting grammar:
seem like ancient killers we're reading about, it's that baroque, that
unconscious and faraway dumb.
my color-drained dreams churn, the magazine drops carelessly open on the
bedroom floor, one so two-toned, so either/or that I had you and me
picknicking in a suburban Detroit cemetery on an imaginary holiday that was
half Easter and half Halloween. The old lady bike I had just come off after
pedaling to meet you with one spoked wheel still spinning where it lay in the
great expanse of grey grass amid the Eastoween holiday headstones.
it's like this imaginary celebration in the air out there in Old Manhattan:
the pop art plastic eggs I bought filled with candy and ready in the basket
for the East Village children to hunt in the garden here, the crocuses popping
purple up in the churchyard--and yet haunted America howling, the year ready
to tip into Fall so soon.
even in this, perfume can still rise to the occasion, or almost. I think it
can. Because where Bouton de Rose
has a dank funereal bottom of amber and resin something rushes up from the
base like a genie to nearly manifest a Blakean pink vision of a rose in bloom,
broadcasting so blatantly the substance of things longed for, the evidence of
things not seen.
so Faith is cocked and loaded behind the heads of the villains, a weapon they
don't expect or see, an Easter within the Halloween, one enormous alive scent
emerging from the crooked little dark one to open so unendingly.
saw you lost there later in the dream, but when I awoke I had all the
existential calm and steady certainty of a single rose (the last one?) just
love is stronger than witchcraft.
she reaches more and more deeply into the meanings captive in words, the outer
world retreats, her isolation and despair deepen.
She finds expression in the words of Kafka:
are as forlorn as children lost in the wood. When you stand in front of me and
look at me, what do you know of the grief that is in me and what do I know of
yours? And if I were to cast myself down before you and tell you, what more
would you know about me than you know about Hell when someone tells you it is
hot and dreadful? For that reason alone we human beings ought to stand before
one another as reverently, as reflectively, as lovingly, as we would before
the entrance to Hell.
senses that salvation might come from deeply changing her life, but that she
might not be able to release her demons without also releasing her dreams.
Her fears and despair are an inherent part of her drive and
authenticity as an artist, her desire to live her life large and strong, to
let her star burn brightly, to “obey each outrageous impulse,” to commit
people to the “enchantments” of life, to defend the unreal even at the
cost of reason. She quotes the
last lines of Kenneth Patchen’s poem “The Artist’s Duty”:
is the artist’s duty to be alive
blush perpetually in gaping innocence
has a desire to live life to its fullest.
She understands this can only come through embracing change and
transformation, since they are the essence of what life is.
Quoting Peter Beagle, she sees transformation as a form of magic:
to a magician is the world forever fluid,
though she is relentlessly driven, and increasingly exhausted, her spiritual
side remains. She pushes on even
though it might cost her her life. She
reads Lao Tsu and considers the advantages of a temporary repose:
in the Way of Nature