Mudlark No. 20 (2002)
André Breton Works
by Chris Semansky
Chris Semanskys poems, stories, and essays have appeared in literary magazines and journals including COLLEGE ENGLISH, NEW ORLEANS REVIEW, POETRY NEW YORK, POSTMODERN CULTURE, MINNESOTA REVIEW, and MISSISSIPPI REVIEW. His collection, DEATH, BUT AT A GOOD PRICE, received the Nicholas Roerich Prize for 1991 and was published by Story Line Press. He teaches online courses for SUNY-Stony Brook and is a senior contributing writer for The Gale Group.
The Real Life of Piggies
The Real Life of Piggies
A youngest child, the first little piggy
10: Thinking words the body of thought. A table. On the table a script. In the script directions. For the characters, there is no plot (usually). They do not think of themselves as characters (usually). How do they think of themselves?
9: Consider Connie OConnell, nineteen-year-old seamstress at the Yardville Yarn & Fabric Factory, unfolding herself for you under the pink incandescence of Cadwalder Park light. Consider Patty Pratico, her racquetball sweat a blister of want spread over her arched back, her muscled thighs, your hands reading her skin, moving her limbs, her deft responses, writhes and resistance, her eyes a bituminous simmer. Weigh the fat seconds it took for Janet Kuchinskys smile to deepen there in the doorway of the Broadway Motor Lodge in the middle of your seventeenth year. Consider the urgency, the witness of youth staking its ground, blood like words not yet come by, the beginnings of a map, the need for a scale. Consider Wendy Bujon, Sarah Ruge, Christine Westin, Karen Hummer, Nancy Chen, their faces points on a staggered line charting your past. A is to B as woman is to now. Charts have margins, and something to say. But theres no escape from the cartographic paradox: to present a useful and truthful picture, an accurate map must tell lies. Consider the lies.
8: This isnt like you. You are not the product of your past loves. You are not the sum of your scattered memories, picked at and plumbed like a clutch of fading slides. You are not a retrospective of Kodak desires. You are not like like.
7: What has happened once will happen again. An image arrives, a smell conjures, a touch wakes you. You color by numbers, the numbers find out.
6: People are talking, mouths moving. They hobble along the rail reciting the alphabet, hands linked, tongues flapping like little flags announcing their country of desire. A scent of iodine and cold fish floats by. The familiar ebbs and replenishes itself like all good breath. Places everyone. The actors take their seats, erase their smiles in cautious blinks; the music spills forth, a shimmering and a thud. You know this part, and the one that comes next. Parts are rooms without the furniture.
5: On the porch, your neighbors gather, take turns pronouncing your name, sloughing off each syllable like old teeth. They want you to speak, to place yourself, to tell them where, and who. Details, they say. Tell us everything, they say.
4: In the dirt, you sketch a diagram: circles, boxes, a twisted arrow and an ampersand. You take a switch from the tree and scratch it out, raise your head, scan their faces for direction. Theyre smiling, heads bobbing like happy geese, their skulls great knobs of mottled flesh keeping time to the warble and slush of their own blood. What you hear couldnt fit inside the wind.
3: Your mistake has been thinking of time in regard to purpose or direction, being one place and going another. This orientation inevitably leads to disappointment and despair, persistent nostalgia or infinite deferral. Your mistake has been thinking of time as something that happens to you. Your mistake has been timing yourself to think in words. Your words have been your mistake. This time.
2: Detour. The trap door drops and youre left in the lurch, lighting a cigarette. A cardboard sunset hangs in the background, soaking up the stage. Next to it gas pumps, a rusted Coke machine, and the Mojave Desert spread across the floor. An old man sitting. A few dogs chewing. At your feet a bicycle. In front of you the road. In front of that the horizon, blue and clean but wrinkled. You get on the bike. You ride off.
How The Rain Fell
You were slicing apples in the kitchen
He started in the hall, planing pitch pine
Occasionally, hed stop to sip coffee
He ate tongue and feta, complained
We asked nothing, trusted his work
The contract called for completion
our shadows the way we once fell
A piano falls from the sky.
Bed, lie in it
Today you unmake it,
The Lover I Need
will score equally well
What The Window Cleaner Thought
They could have been making love or he could have been beating her.*
There were screams, but their pitch was such they could have been peals of a more complex pain, some delicious resistance or erotic taunt.*
Descriptive narratives that editorialize frequently fail because they blur the picture.*
Her face, what I could see of it, had the expression of expectation and remorse, smooshed all together like a fresh flour paste.*
I kept looking in and looking down, checking my belt and scaffold. Half fearful.*
In contemporary male writing, narrative action often gets frozen in an adolescent dreamworld where desire is configured to represent not so much a plot whose protagonist seeks to retrieve some lost relationship to an idealized past, as a mosaic of conflicting wants, an anarchy of motives that refracts more than points, bubbles more than flows.*
This mornings paper again told of a man who talked his way into womens apartments, claiming to sell encyclopedias of exotic knowledge. Once in, hed force them to undress and cook for him, while he read to them from the Talmud or a book on abnormal psychology. Afterwards, hed rub their elbows with virgin olive oil and make them recite from the second edition of The Moosewood Cookbook or the L section of the Franklin Encyclopedia. It was the way knowledge circulated that got him off, the way information made the rounds from one place to the next.*
From the mirror on the back wall, I think I see him looking at me. I cant be sure.*
The window fogs.*
Once you have selected the key events, determined their relative importance (show and tell), and their connections, rethink the strategy of your plot line. Will simple chronology suffice? ... Such connections in time, place, and character can be virtues, but they do not create a sense that the events have a necessary and logical relationship, a syntax, that allows us to understand the events individually and as a whole.*
My belt snaps, as does one of the cables supporting the scaffold.*
I hear something inside the apartment. It sounds like guinea pigs gearing up for dinner, or*
Going down I see: Graffiti on the side of the building: TERRY LOVES BETH; PUTA MADRE; FLACO RULES; FOR MORE SOPHISTICATED HEAD CALL 900-312-9292; a man dressed in lime green Speedo tights clutching a butchers knife approaching a chicken tied to a makeshift altar; a one-legged pigeon on a ledge.*
One woman said he wore a monogrammed yarmulke and spoke with a lisp. Another woman said he told her he needed her window to shoot videos of high dive suicides.*
The idea of falling: a fevered pitch; taupe-colored water; the first speed on an electric fan; plastic forks; short circuits; a tattooed kidney in lemon; raw sewage a well flossed halo bean dip not missiles conflation hanky tie foil-wrapped morning breath minus eight and*
The appeal of cleaning high-rise windows engaged youthful dreams I had about living in the city. Possibility, anonymity, the usual suburban desires. Playing God without the power to change a thing. An omniscient narrator with a point of view. Glass barriers to private lives.*
I imagine what they see when they see me, a solitary human figure fifty stories above ground, suspended by wires like some absurd marionette, a huge squeegee in my hands, belt ringed with assorted cleaning paraphernalia. Some gasp, then bang the drapes closed often with a suddenness that stuns. Others love to perform, to have an audience thats not a judge, an audience whose only function is to give them an uncontaminated scene, make the world easier to read.*
Reading someone reading you, you lapse into the second person, are yourself reflected, in glass, mirrors... World becomes gesture, a pantomime of impulses, a grammar of motion.*
The newsstand on Eighth Avenue boasts the largest selection of magazines and newspapers in the city. Sports, politics, skin, cars, trades, current events, etc.*
E-pis-te-mol-o-gy: The force of gravitation, which for any two sufficiently massive bodies is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them... 2) Grave consequence; seriousness or importance.
Theyll never catch him. There is nothing to catch. There is no man, no singular beast who plots and creates, makes it and takes it away. He is a dictionary entry, a few blips on a chart on a screen in a room. There is nothing to know. Knowing is no thing. Desire is all. Webs. Triangles. Plaids. The gravity of need. The distance between any two points.*
Just press the button and in sixty seconds you have your picture. Watch as the chemicals pool, coalesce, figures develop, define themselves before your eyes, providing you with the perfect image.*
The roof could use a coat of paint.*
Some stains never come out.
Just when I thought I had pockets deep enough
The window opens onto a sky shot with smoke,
A summer suicide? A push? A trip?
are out scouring the street for his shoes,
out like clumsy kittens. They are just your size,
but wind up at a Pizza Hut with the victims mother,
and a pie with the works. To go. Theres so much
and when she insists on being objective about your
claim poverty and grief, swear youre not
You stand on your head just to prove it,
and roll over, then jabs a thermometer
Too tired to argue the finer points
hand that has fed you this day. Indeed,
this way, over lost shoes, cheap food, and cheaper talk,
No Place Like Home
Where else would I be at this hour of the millennium
Never mind the distance of better lives, the prospect
bulletproof pasts stacked like unopened maps waiting
The pulp of afternoon sun
You dont want to leave
Let your hat fall,
André Breton Works the Crisis Prevention Hot Line
First thing he does is kick the other workers out. Then he records a toilet flushing, plays it back for each call.
What a life..., he sighs, dreaming of lunch: a roast chicken plump in the throat of a bicycle.
Art stinks! he yells at the fluorescent light quivering above him. All writing is garbage! I left my renegade pasty waltzing across watercress kneecaps, and just look what the flagship brought in: a beaker of gunpowder, smoking roses!
All at once the toilet starts to ring and water gushes from the receivers, tiny geysers lip-syncing the souls of tinier lives.
In the two seconds it takes him to shout Allo! after dipping his head into the bowl, Breton wonders how bubbles translate at this depth, whether the oxygen that carries speech carries love as well. Love for the drowned. Love for the surface.
What difference? he thinks, suddenly remembering a childhood, where tin cans and strings stretch across sun-fed lawns, the metallic echo of small voices settle like pollen deep inside the ear of tongues, and the promised clouds of heaven hang limp, anvils over the head of every silly breath.
Self-Portrait With Possible Future Problems
Dispossessed of an acute paranoia,
From the Diary Of a Closet Shadow
I learned to love you in the dark, but there were no windows and I couldnt tell if you loved me so much or not at all. So many nights Ive lingered between hangers, cleaving to the pleats in your skirts, pooling among the creases of your shirred bolero, dreaming your body into them. Your body was like lines from a foreign film waiting to be dubbed: I knew them by heart but not the translation.
How many times did I slink into rifts between walls and listen to the other shadows, those house dwellers who dawdled and gossiped outside, planning for when the rooms would again be bathed in the feathery afterglow of dusk, and they could then arrange themselves on your floors and walls in a diagram of rough edges, a palette of penumbral shades into which you could dip your body?
The desire of these spectral amoebae is nothing compared to mine. They want to worship. Adoration simple. Me, I would dart for your throat like a dental mirror, hunker down with your tonsils, glide along your gums like a ghostly catamaran skirting the barrier reef. I would be a student of your darkness, a tenant to your windowless cathedral of night reading with claustrophobic joy the nicks and dimples of your buds, flirting with your fickle frenum in the murky lair of your mouth, catching the taste of your words, being the first to sample your own special recipe of wind and thought and cluck. To live there, a carbon of your every kiss, is what I crave, to cuddle with your corium in your cavum oris proprium, a sub-lingual shade cradled and courted, known but not spoken, there but not quite, at the tip of your...
Hide & SeekFilm as paper, paper as scissors, writing as fucking, penis as leech, leechcraft as writing.
And no word for, thats right, none at all of us dream of becoming mothers, wouldnt want it that way can always be better than taking it on the chin often leads to Nicks the little guy with the chip on his shoulder rode a parrot who always spoke first and asked questions later that day they found his body covered with soot, raw as an old sock-ing it to hims what he deserves more than a slap on the back hes carried that monkey too long now it seems, co-authoring the distance of then and there it goes again, up in smoke the signals came together for a final farewell to what the hells that smell could fry a brainpan full of metaphors is like a day without Pound cake tightens the belt that hung my favorite suicide, my funny valentine, dont leave me now before its too late for games like this, though they do offer a means by which to position oneself in a field of dreams, now wasnt that a great movie?
Bleeding hearts blunder towards predictable endings are predicated upon a horizon of expectations is better than an eclipse your own habits smack of self-fashioning pedantry can be fun if done with the right person just got away, see if you can catch him her it, objective pronouns arent substitutes for sugar include saccharin and fructose have been known to cause cancer in laboratory rats we see ourselves in ideal form, said Plato often got headaches thinking of the perfect table supports nothing, has no legs, no ground to stand on
Im not a believer, but I love
Trying To Survive The FloodTo live is to lose ground.
The trail to your own body leads you nowhere,
Get out of bed. Got out of bed.
Go figure. Two crows have taken ill
Horoscope says Ive got it all wrong.
any further, please inform my agent,
I must be where I am, you go ahead though.
This is not the hokey-pokey, she said. You cant just come around for a peek every now and then, stick your head in and look around.
My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.
Whatever was in his mind was never clear. At the beginning, she cultivated the art of reading him and grew so accurate in her assessments that she could predict his next gesture, anticipate the thrust and parry of his remarks. The prepositions of his behavior declared themselves in the most obvious of manners: a plaintive sigh signalled more distance, a retreat to some dusty crook of his past; hunched shoulders and squinted eyes said watch this, Im about to stagger you with my knowledge of popular culture. These physical announcements never became endearments or facsimiles of, and they werent self-conscious signals on his part, designed however strategically to elicit a desired reaction on her part. They were closer to a set of ad hoc tactics built up through memory and habit, and claimed as his own. He used them, if one could employ such a word to describe his behavior, to steady his own sense of emotional imbalance. Once he became aware of his actions, embarrassment overtook him like a sun shower, for he was certain then that she knew as well.
The nature of life is that good behavior becomes carcinogenic too. Drinking milk eventually gives you heart attacks, and sunshine, cataracts.
So I changed. No longer able to surprise or motivate her or myself, to catch even a hint of what it was that brought me this far, I moved further away from the second skin of my gestures, my expressions, my shrugs and tics and nods, my thoroughly telegraphed life. I cultivated the stone-hard stare, the indifference of sky. I became opaque, so dense at affecting indifference that soon I no longer cared how she responded. I gave the appearance of apathy squared; I was the silent vowel, the e in hole. I continued with my work and I knew what my work was. There was something I needed to know, and there were places I had to look.
My vocabulary did this to me.
Jack Spicers dying words
May 25 fidelity to revision can ruin a lifes plunge into darkness remains better than a day without sunshine (or overhead fluorescent lamps), than a body without grammar, a gesture without movement we cant get to the next point I want to make will be assigned # 41363 has been named Prisoner of the Year I learned of her death was already too late for me to say Look, make up your fucking mind, buddy, can you spare a hugll get you anywhere you want to go, this is a free country for the rich can afford to be humble; who said thats a great sweater youre wearing Mr. Potatohead, ditto for those Italian frames have got to go where no man has gone down my pants without permission from the person Id become were that to happen, who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men a tiny pinworm jockeys for position with a major law firm, s how Id describe my decision to go ahead with our next project will involve you and yourself have got to agree on somethings always bett
True happiness consists of getting out of oneself, but the point is not only to get out, you must stay out, you must have some absorbing errand.
Quite frankly, he could never see beyond the shape of his own mouth while he was talking. So consumed was he with his own motions, the processes of his own body that it wouldnt have mattered if I were a calzone or a dog. Well, thats not fair. The fact that I am a woman counted for him. That way I could be a buoy in his daily wanderings; Id clap or scream or cry or scold or congratulate him. When hed look at me itd be as if he were looking at himself. He could never stay or stay away for very long. I was the flippers in his pinball machine.
Paranoia is the natural state of a skidding organism. Volatility is the inevitable condition of angels.
If you ask me, they both had problems. Hed spend the day cruising neighborhood trash bins for books and magazines and spend the night in the basement sorting them into piles and tossing them into the incinerator or pasting them into scrap books. He was always angry, pissed off about something or other, claimed everyone ignored him, showed him no courtesy. He reminded me of a cartoon character; he had this eggplant shaped head and this greasy smirk like he was always up to something, like he knew something. God knows why they stayed together. All she did was stare at him and hum. That awful hum. Once, after shopping at the A&P down the street with her, we walked home to our building together, and on the way back ran into him. He was on his knees picking through somebodys trash, thoroughly engrossed in some scrap of paper, when she almost tripped over his legs. I cant describe his expression when he looked up and saw her. It was the only time I ever noticed anything close to vulnerability in that man. I thought he was going to cry. But neither one of them said a word. They just stared at each other for a good thirty seconds; she had her jaw set real hard and she hummed, like a refrigerator or some night animal or something. And the way he looked up at her, kneeling there in the midst of all that rot and squalor, that kitchen stink fetid vegetables, old clothes, cans, diapers, paper, always paper it was pathetic. Neither of us talked the rest of the way home.
Maybe youve got a kid. Maybe youve got a pretty wife. The only thing that Ive gots been bothering me my whole life.
The body of a middle-aged man was discovered on the steps of the county library yesterday afternoon buried under a mound of debris. The cause of death was not immediately known, but the city coroner said the mans tongue and lips were black with newsprint, apparently from ingestion. Newsprint covered more than ninety percent of the mans body as well, the coroner said, possibly a result of having smeared himself with magazine and newspaper pages. A chalk outline marked the space where the corpse was found, but it was not known whether the deceased or someone else made the mark. The identity of the man was not released.
Just because youve stopped sinking doesnt mean youre not still not underwater.
Q: How do you manage now?
To operate effectively, a system must transform input from the environment into a form that meets its needs, but must also observe and regulate the actions of its component parts, thereby assuring that their respective activities are carried out and coordinated. This constitutes its monitoring function. Such monitoring is essential to any system to assure the effective implementation of its primary task, whether that system is a living organism, a social organization, or a factory. The system must have an apparatus for monitoring its components. In the living organism, its nervous system serves this function, and in social organizations and factories it is some form of management structure.
gladly is best left to other geniuses,
Their gears are so smooth, you want
These fat cows of so much thinking.
At parties youll find them slobbering
Of course theyre men.
True geniuses can see through poetry.
constellation of lights brighten
Content to Be Formed
Dispossessed of an acute paranoia, I assumed a vagrant
Mr. X claims fluency in salt, razor blades, and water, and has been known to use sex as a tool for opening new dictionaries. He can also hold his breath for days at a time. Associates and prominent academics in the field assert that hes so proficient at the Dead Mans Float he should be a professional corpse, rent himself out to pranksters and insurance swindlers, glide into the good life, nose to the ground. Instead, he writes: poems, skits, recipes, monthly profit reports for Millennial Angst Ltd., a clothing and footwear concern headquartered in Hamilton, New Jersey, a quasi-affluent suburb and Republican stronghold snaking like a moat around the state capital. Hamilton boasts a mild climate, low property taxes, clean water, nationally ranked schools, and a healthy respect for diversity, having recently elected two handicapped Tongans and an ex-NBA trans-species cheerleader to city council seats. The council, however, immediately issued an edict outlawing all acts of deletion, including (and especially) those associated with words, both written and spoken. Since nothing could be taken back once uttered or inscribed, everyone in Hamilton grew reticent to speak or write, lest they be misunderstood. It is a matter of historical record that underground groups formed shortly afterward, trafficking in the technologies of erasure. And it is here that our Mr. X staked out a name for himself, among the clatter and splash of words and their owners, among the thought of, the wished for, and the unsaid.
For reasons unknown or semi-known or not wanting to be known
All rights revert to the author upon publication. Texts distributed by Mudlark may not be republished for profit in any form without express consent of the author and notification of the editor but may be freely circulated, among individuals, for personal use providing this copyright statement is included. Public archiving of complete issues only, in electronic or print forms, is permissible, providing no access fee is charged.
Contents | Mudlark No. 20