Mudlark Flash No. 67 (2012)

The curtain might rise 
anywhere on a single speaker 
			— Edward Dorn 
In the beginning, we’re told, was
the Word, as told by The Word,
and the rest is History, 
as the saying goes—
remains, leftovers, to pick
through, recycle, take
apart, reassemble.

The settlers here live in logos cabins
built by linkin’ blogs
from the Great Emancipator,
in a chain of being that beggars
any known epistemology.

Above the road to Bone House
a young woman hovers
in her solar-powered levitation vest. 
She, as most of us, has 
known only the rapture of two suns,
the paradisal parade,
not that old Antaean grounding—

But this is no narrative. I have
no story to tell. No one’s life
is an arc. The only plot
lies somewhere off the road
to Bone House, and even
She Who Hovers cannot descry
it or, left alone, describe.
My mother won a freezer and a fur
coat on Queen for a Day one year,
back when we had 
just the one sun—

That’s not a story either, only
accidents in succession.
She filled in three blanks:

In Bosch’s Hell a rat [pounds a drum]. Ding.

[Marlon Brando] said, “I don’t like
the country. Crickets
make me nervous.”
Ding ding.

On Bolivar Peninsula, Hurricane Ike
revealed a football-sized
[mammoth’s tooth].
Ding ding ding.

Each blank could have been a story,
but she was no narrator, rather
a filler of factual gaps
(and she stored the fur coat [in the freezer]).
If this accounting were a story,
it would probably trace the roamings
of the human genome, the hiphopping 
Y and the independent, dependable 
X. But these characters need no N[arrator],
as billiard balls need no cue,
at most an interpreter, someone

who can excavate the foundation of
Bone House, beyond which now
our two suns set, or explicate
the narratives of the Tenders of Lies
importuning at every cross road—

But that, too, begins to sound
like a story, even a meta-
story, crackling in the electronic thicket.
In Second Life the Hall of Lectures
accepts into it a colorful assembly,
not individuals but clusters
of behavior seeking a plan or
if not a plan a mode or 
an organizing principle.

They view the Lecturer from different
angles, without knowing angles, and hear
his voice on different wavelengths 
while parsing his words into a thousand
different understandings.
Each thinks he knows

but all hear the scraping of the backhoe
back at Bone House where
the Programmer prepares to backdate
the cornerstone when it sees 

Which again is no story, a mere fact
made up for convenience, a fabrication
like any stone carved to purpose
or not—
Much like the unicorns released
to the countryside by the sentimental
and unimaginative, which have multiplied,
much as do also the sentimental
and unimaginative, trampling
the red wheat and despoiling the forests—

All of which too could pass for narrative
on a sunsless day, though the details 
likely would muffle interest,
so many alleles turned
to such obscure ends. 

Perhaps after breakfast someone will 
unleash a pack of teenage boys 
with laser blasters to thin the herd,
which at least would be a linear gesture
if not a story’s line.
When the suns eventually set,
the iDream (patent pending) captures
the citizens’ subconscious. 
They plug in to download 
their nocturnal transmissions
for playback when they wake. 
They swap the narratives with friends
or deposit them in Dream Bank boxes
on even-numbered and oddly-
named streets and wait
for interest to accrue.

Everyone knows by word
of mouth whose dreams are best.
iDream Editor is in beta test. 
In First Life, Dr. Aribert Heim
collected Jüdische Schädel,
especially treasured the children’s skulls
in a line on a shelf 
in his Matthausen office.
Somewhere they went missing,
as did he from the photograph
of his German champion hockey team,
ten years post-war.

The Khazars, he claimed, drove him 
to the tennis court roof of the rundown hotel 
in downtown Cairo. They forced him to hear
the muzzein’s call from Al Azhar mosque,
to which he walked fifteen miles each day,
Tarek Hussein Farid, with the check
from his sister in Baden-Baden
and his German Koran, gift 
for Uncle Tarek
from his landlord’s children.

Seldom seen in Cairo’s streets and stalls
without his camera, he never appeared
in a photograph. His unpublished
book on the Zionists disappeared
in Second Life, as did his cancer-
ridden Aryan body. 
“NeXT,” say the letters 
on the vacated building in Redwood City,
the one with I.M. Pei’s 

((((((floating staircase))))))

Now it’s an inpost for skunks and rodents,
raccoons and foxes,
feral cats.

If every narrative needs a next,
then the previous NeXT is Now, 
after the Gold Rush has doffed its Levi’s
and plucked its chickens,
after the Silver Surfer 
has washed up on the silicon strand, 
as RejuviMed shores up 
the foundation,
anchors the staircase—
Voila! vivarium.
And so it begins again, another
iteration, recombinant in the retelling,
running on the inside track, another 
accident needing to happen, another
avatar flipping switches 
cut from the family tree.

[Reload current page]

My avatar blogs about my life—

Stephen has 63 friends,
but they’re not speaking—

and others’ avatars read it
as if my life is all middle,
no beginning and end. 
Chances are my avatar 
will outlive me,
but he’ll run out of things to blog about,
if he hasn’t already, since verbs
and adverbs and pre-
positions and prepossessions
have no place
in Second Life, 

and the number of names,
while great, is finite, and 
conjunctions become wearisome
after a spell, or even before it’s cast,
spellcheck or no.

(Or was that a rumor unleashed
by some other writer about the verbs, 
and adverbs and cetera, 
disinformation manufactured by
MFA program insurgents. Hmmm?)

Stephen is having leftovers 
for dinner

[Reload current page]

404 Error: File not found

[Reload current page]
The Speaker of Facts emits messages
from wireless receivers mounted
on each hitching post 
all around Town Square 
to counter the neigh sayers
and keep the populace in line.

“Peanuts are legumes,” the Voice 
asserts for the record. “Water
was available yesterday.”

On the reality show “Scriptorium Idol,”
monks from various religious traditions
compete to rewrite the classics
to conform to the world we imagine today

(which should not be confused
with the competing program,
“Reality Today,” flowing 
through a pharmaceutical 
distribution channel near you).

The audience favorite, a Trappist, 
reworks Hemingway—and who wouldn’t
want that task—so now, at last,
The Suns Also Rise.
The long shot Gnostic scrivener 
has Ecclesiastes,
in which no thing is new
under either sun, 

though Bone House
must undergo reverse engineering.
The facts change, but the meanings remain
in dispute beyond any 
serious lingering 
The tour guide at the Memorial for Forgotten Phrases
explains that in the old days
“laughing out loud” meant “LOL.”
“We’re told,” she continues, “that no one ever
wrote or said ‘laughing out loud,’ 
but apparently the phrase existed
before its current transliteration.”

“More puzzling,” she says, “is the phrase 
to your left—‘What the fuck’—which
is what our forebears used 
as we use ‘WTF.’ 
Although we know the definitions 
and functions of the individual 
words, scholars disagree
on the meaning of the phrase.”

“On your right is ‘For what it’s worth,’
which was a popular song in First Life.
No one knows why it became our ‘FWIW,’
despite extensive research on the song’s lyrics,
which, FWIW, do not contain the phrase.”

She pauses. “If this is TMI,
you may take notes.”
Do you wish to overwrite this file? 
All information will be lost—

Unlike palimpsests, in which multiple
stories play out simultaneously, though
some be hidden or infuse their color into the pre- 
and post-scripted narratives
cohabiting a parchment.
These scribblers had no fear

[The Speaker of Facts announces: “Today the sky 
fills the eye.”]
of history, just an immediate 
need for materials.
Goethe sought more light and died.
Augustine needed more earth,
so overwrote Cicero, the Psalms
trumping but not undermining
De Republica, or so
the story went—

Not unlike the Albert Speer bunker
in East Berlin, which the Russians
then next used to warehouse bananas from Cuba,
the redolence of which persisted in
the S&M techno club and now 
the art gallery—four different stories
five stories deep 
under Reinhardstrasse—

Unlike on the edge of our town,
where Digital Diversions Developers (3D) 
does site preparation for DanteWorld,
the project beginning in medias res,
Purgatorio to open next fall.
The Inferno phase is fully financed,
but Paradiso is still dicey, if
not jagged,
and the architects struggle
to convert terza rima into glass,
steel, and rollercoasters.
La Vita Nuova Hotel and Spa
will open on schedule.

[Reload current page] 
[The Speaker of Facts again: 
“According to Wikipedia,
in the seventh century 
the Dalai Lama dispatched
his scholars to Tibet’s neighboring lands
and charged them to return
with a workable written language.”]

(That ’pedia entry is subject, of course,
to revision, endless tweaking,
or deletion. 
Check back 
before speaking author-
itatively on this or any 
other subject.)

At the Hot Links Café the wireless
is free. Every sausage tells a story,
and each like a story passes
through one grinder into another
in reaching the Reader’s Digestion.
Meanwhile, in the Museum of Poetic Devices, 
Ed Dorn’s Literate Projector stands
on permanent display, running 24/7,
throwing transubstantiated movies 
into stark text on a flat screen. 
It purrs as the audience gasps 
as “characters” become characters,
Brando’s Terry Malloy’s constellation
of movements and motives distilled
to combinations and recombinations
of 26 symbols and assorted punctuation,
diacritical marks and remarks

(My avatar’s blog prevaricates:
Stephen wonders why the story
of Tibet’s written language
has never been written 
in Tibetan.)

contending for white space
and a reader’s eye.
Crowds form to try to stump the Projector,
calling out Andalusian Dog! and Three Stooges!
and although it threw sparks
when distilling Koyaanisqatsi,
the text projected clear and linear
in the darkness of the filmic
Stephen’s avatar “writes”: Gravity

Bone House is no subterranean Berlin
banana bunker disco. 
Bone House has but one story,
ground level, told over and over
and again, 
but it has exactly as
many meanings
as the number of visitors
who pass through it.

On the walls of Bone House the Muralist
painted the story of human progress
under one old sun—

the hominid antecedents, agriculture,
the printed word, the modern flourish
of electromagnetic enterprise, 
occupations, and pre-

and the Muralist’s descendants return
each generation to paint different faces,
pentimento, on Neandertal, 
homo habilis, statesman,
emperor, philosopher, and astronaut,
perfecting the belief in, while confirming, 
the fallacy of perfectability.

“Stephen” blogs, I’m not
averse to avatars but I think
they should be seen, not
heard—no avatars
I lie here writing in Bone House,
barely remembering First Life, when 
the Word became flesh and the world
rippled out from my hand and eye
to horizons more easily imagined now
than understood then—

or when I sank into Second Life
and learned to look out
these windows, walk
these hallways, pace these empty rooms,
forget names and faces, and tear
the pages from the book of hours.

Words failing, flesh failing, 
the world without 
falling in while
the exhaust of the backhoe
mixes with the memory
of mortuary gardenias.

The nouns break down into
phonemes, then consonants, vowels,
then curved and straight lines,
serifs, dots, before dissolving
into the silent earth.
The verbs evaporate
in their own heated intensity.

I lie here writing in Bone House.
I lie and I wait.
At which “my” “avatar” “deletes”
“his” “story” and blinks at history,
all of which words 
in the preceding clause 
constitute a narrative, 
what any “narrator” in
good standing may tell us,

not unlike the habitual clicking
of the reload button—

410 Error: Gone

[Reload current page]

Έν άρχη ήν ό Λογος.
Caveat lector.

Stephen Bunch lives and writes in Lawrence, Kansas, where he received the 2008 Langston Hughes Award for Poetry from the Lawrence Arts Center and Raven Books. His poems can be found in Autumn Sky Poetry, The Externalist, The Literary Bohemian, Fickle Muses, and Umbrella. From 1978 to 1988, he edited and published Tellus, a little magazine that featured work by Victor Contoski, Edward Dorn, Jane Hirshfield, Donald Levering, Denise Low, Paul Metcalf, Edward Sanders, and many others. After a fifteen-year hibernation, he awoke in 2005 and resumed writing. Preparing to Leave, his first gathering of poems, was published in 2011.

Copyright © Mudlark 2012
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