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The Primrose Portfolio
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Monday, April 16th, 2012

Time Event
1 On the Origin of "The Big Apple" and New Friends
[written in Chewa]

O _____ how glad am I for you and for your fortune and your guidance! O _______ my bride how thankful am I for the promises you coo into my ear and may you always deliver! O ____ how fortunate am I to be coddled by one whose anger against my enemies is so slow and sure! O ______ ____ _____ accept my deepest regrets that this land is too cold and dark for you and may the summers beat on all of ours heads like burning stones!

[written in Latin]

There are three stories about how the Big Apple got its name.

The one likely to be true—incidentally, the least interesting—is that the moniker has its roots in horse racing; the big apple, of course, is the dream of every jockey and every punter. As a man who has known more than a few punters, they are an overly-stimulated lot, though quite efficient about kissing money goodbye to see beasts sweat and struggle, which is commendable for being so petty. But overall I find that whole ambiance unsatisfactory.

The second story is that New York City is like a greedy apple taking the largest portion of the tree's sap. This is a far better story, for obvious reasons.

The third story, far more Rococo and sensational, and almost certainly false, is that a madam owned a brothel in the city long ago, and her name was Eve. How this story makes me yearn for my Salon! I can picture myself in this fantastical brothel. I see Christian motifs woven everywhere, from the gaudy crucifixes, to the stained glass, to the Madam herself, liveried like a nun who lost some garments to a windstorm, overlooking her convent of equally unfortunate “sisters”. Oh, if only the city were named after a Hellfire Club such as this!

But horse racing will have to do.

We have met the Demon Lord Nails—God bless motorcycle gangsters and their devotion to the profane—, the bohemian alcoholic Megan, the regal harlot Lex with her imperial kissing commands, her male suitors, Aeric and Darrius, on both of whose toes I appear to have trod, the amusing strumpet Bunny, who is apparently too top-heavy to stand up and requires my lap for support, Hannah with her neck-smile and whoever that man was with her, Lola the bored heiress, who is exactly the sort of person who rolls down my crater and has to be carried off on a stretcher by people who deem it their duty to do so, and finally the near perfection that is the Asuka and Elise pair.

Too bad how jaded that last pair seem to be. There’s nothing so disappointing as those who think they’ve seen it all, except for those who actually have seen it all. But I’ve heard that line before, ladies. It doesn’t impress. Debauchery should never be reduced to a contest; that robs it of its symbolic power! Although if I had to judge, I’d say the one with the Japanese name has seen the worst of it. Elise seems like she should take her mistress' advice and slow down before she too looks a bit run down.

Darrius, Darrius. What a surprise. You roused even ____‘s suspicion, and he only shows himself when he thinks I need protecting. Do you realize how much your special friend controls you, rather than the other way around? It’s so easy to pull your strings, one doesn’t even have to try. But I am used to dealing with the easily agitated. I hope you can take your face off your own cock long enough to see how two people of like nature could help each other when the opportunity presents itself.

In the meanwhile, come play at my house any time you like. Bring whichever harlot is in your grasp at the moment. Claim your territory. Bring Lex, preferably. She puts on a good show.

But now it’s time to call Letitia and point her in a new direction. After all, someone has to work around here, and it’s not going to be me.
2 On the Proper Way to Sink in Tar Pits
[written in Chewa]

O _____ how reassuring is your presence, you who are like a brother to me! O _______ whose voice is a potent drug, promise me your love again! O ____ how I marvel at your scorn and contempt! O ______ ____ _____ may your dismay and discomfort ease, and may you be patient from the coming of summer!

O _____ I hope you are as happy as I am with that gathering which built itself around me at the banks of a pond floating in the middle of the sky, a gathering which touched and tasted and savored almost with abandon! Let us hope that the next one will be more perfect, and not so divided by little conflicts!

[written in Latin]

I suppose I should write about Darrius and his proposition. Do I feel kinship to the man? It is hard to say. He is built of taut ropes and tendons, all of them trembling for action. He has the great, endless hunger and drive that seems to be our trademark, yet his drive is all nerves and need, whereas mine is slow and steady. And as is too typical of what Americans call Type A personalities, he seems to thirst for added complications in his life.

And he is afraid. That much is clear. A man of such immeasurable arrogance being afraid of anything is enough to get my attention, but it also testifies to why I should avoid whatever web he has tangled himself in.

And why this interest in Lex? She’s charming in her way, and a sheer delight to observe in flagrante delicto, but I don’t see what the fuss is about. Thank God her naturally jealous and controlling character seems to be muted whenever she is around Darrius. If their two egos added together rather than subtracted whenever they were in each others’ presence, they would cause an earthquake. I will have to talk with her more and find out what she is about.

Still, the thought of dealing closely with both of them sounds like a recipe for headaches.
And yet, that club. That would be useful. It could be very useful, as well as a good deal of fun, if only I felt reasonably certain it would not simply become the Church of Darrius. We will speak to him again, and then see how it feels.

_____ abides, making no clear proclamations about the matter, but I can sense his irritation, as well as his curiosity. It is always intriguing when he and ____ both come to the fore and writhe against each other, with _______ looking on, murmuring promises.

With Lola, there is none of this agitation. Lola, Lola, Lola! Pure indolence smothered in ennui and wrapped in beautiful flesh, like a hollow bar of lead coated in gold. She is so deliciously useless, so committed to her own existence and nothing else that it makes me want to deliriously laugh and kiss her at the same time. What does Lola do other than look gorgeous, fuck, sleep, and complain about being bored? Her best quality is that she enjoys the sight of contentment in others. Oh, Lola, feed me fruit from your hand any day of the week. Come to my house and sleep the day away, and wake up wondering why there is not a chopped apple waiting for you!

Her worst quality, it should be said, is the same as with the Elise and Asuka pair: she is already far too jaded, or at least pretends to be. What can be done with girls like Elise and Lola? They are nice to have around, but they are like bodies who have sunk to the bed of a tar pit; there is no farther depth to which they could sink. All they can do is lie there and complain about the pit not being dark or deep enough.

Thank you, ____, that you have guided me such that there are horizons and vistas yet unspoiled!

But how could I forget Ms. Beckett? Now, that woman is exciting! I would pay money just to watch her go through her day undoing the plots of her rivals without ever losing her sense of humor. People are so serious. Not Ms. Beckett. I have never seen such a fox grin carved in such a nice package. Truth be told, she not terribly beautiful, but her confidence, her independence, and her absolute refusal to invest too much importance in either me or herself made me want to find the loose thread that unravels her entire outfit to see the pink body beneath.

Something tells me that if one caught her in a towel after a shower and ripped off her towel, she would leap away laughing, wrapped in a second, hidden towel. Wonderful.
And then there is Mr. Kaluhiwa. How pitiable. How contemptible. Yet with him there is travel room, there is progress to be made, unlike with Lola. Being in his presence stirs me to a sense of purpose. His self-deception goads me, his duplicity, his cognitive dissonance lights a tidy blue fire in my black heart.

Mr. Kaluhiwa, I know that guilt you feel. I know the frustration and the loathing. I was there, too, in Africa, my head full of diagrams, my hands full of clean water. I know the feeble, cloying twinge of satisfaction that comes from charity work, and how cosmically detestable it is for ones such as ourselves to stoop and pantomime this way.
Mr. Kaluhiwa, we have things to talk about, don’t we?
3 If Someone Should Plant a Dagger in Your Ribs, Thank Them for the Gift and Keep It.
[Excerpt of a letter to ____]

I have previously decided to approach Darrius and Lex on their own and try to get a better understanding of them. Last night, I got my chance with Lex. My aim was to express my curiosity about her life and her beliefs. For my troubles, I was rewarded early on with a dirty look and the explanation that I sound like an arrogant son of a bitch. Certain that there had been a communication blunder, since I could not recall anything I had said which should deserve such a reaction, I asked her for clarification. It appears that it is not the content of my speech which I share with arrogant sons of bitches, but my style of speech. What a relief. I remained diplomatic and gentlemanly as she delivered what Americans call a backhanded compliment: I should not worry, because plenty of men sound like sons of bitches, and some women prefer it.

Oh, joy. My gratitude overflows. There is hope for me yet, according to Lex.

Luckily, Ms. Beckett and Lola came to save me from the pool of gratitude I was drowning in, and not a moment too soon, since from that point on, every inoffensive thing I said seemed to strike the lady as some kind of foolish criticism. I would love to take this personally, though hearing her talk about Miss Bunny suggests that criticism is a grain Lex keeps well stocked and which she generously distributes.

My new game, I have decided, is to continue being genial and deferent to Lex, and to compliment her without restraint, while using comically aristocratic language. Who am I to disprove people’s impressions of me? Though this incident is, in all honesty, a trifle, merely an observation about someone's behavior not warranting a stern reaction, I am reminded of the aphorism your friend Fenno said on the subject of remaining gentlemanly when attacked, "If someone should plant a dagger in your ribs, thank them for the gift and keep it. You may have use of it later." It still makes me smile!

It goes without saying that the encounter does not improve prospects regarding Darrius’ club idea. Even if I decided to throw in my lot with people who seem to merely tolerate me, it appears I would be joining a group of all-too-important people who take magic so very seriously. Darrius’ estimation of himself is clear. Lex, however, is not just a play-witch who finds altars and daggers sexy, as I originally thought, but the kind of person for which rituals are work and science. Also, if I had to guess, the kind of person who is soon going to catch the eye of the pushy, controlling kind of Special Friend, if she hasn’t already.

Not an appetizing picture, this club. But perhaps I am being a curmudgeon. Perhaps I am just too comfortable with present circumstances. We will see. No decisions yet. Why determine now what can be determined later?

Ms. Beckett continues to be a charmer, and the thought of her in Adeline’s arms on this Valentine’s Day gives me that frustrated thrill I love so much every once in a while.

Lola is—Ah, but I have to stop here, because simply saying her name in my head is a delight! Lola! Lola! Lola! Lola. Her name sounds like she walks. It sounds like how she speaks, how she rolls over and yawns in bed. I think I may like her name more than I like her. But I am being mean. She is a sweet thing, really quite delicious. I am reasonably certain that I am simply an accessory to her lifestyle, something she can paw and show off, but whatever makes Lola happy, she can have for a time.

However, I have it up to here with the cattiness between her and Lex . There are few things more annoying than the cold war played out between beautiful women over status and possessions. The open war between men for the same things is usually too laughable to truly annoy. ____ has taken notice, and is just as annoyed. He made a heart-felt appeal that I should kill the confrontation that Lola wanted so badly, kill it by smothering it, and how could I say no? I hate to have such a direct hand in the activities of a group, but I hate even more to hear ___ so upset, and I cannot bear ______’s moods.

In truth, Lex killed the confrontation herself and extended an olive branch. It will be interesting to see whether this was an empty gesture, and more so, whether Lola has the capacity to move on past petty squabbles.

Odd how incensed she got at the thought of animal sacrifice. But between women, what they fight about is never really what they’re fighting about, is it?
4 Heat Capacity
[written in Chewa]

O ______ ____ _____, this afternoon I give to you! Bask in the searing heat of the sauna! Rejoice as I stand as high as I can, wavering near the ceiling, until I feel my brain baking in my skull! Drink my sweat! Eat my hot breaths!

[written in Latin]

Today I passed out in the sauna, or, perhaps, I simply fell asleep. I woke up to Letitia pulling me out and shouting at me. She threatened to pour a bucket of frigid water on me, and try as I might, I couldn’t form the words to discourage her. My vision was grey and my throat dried shut. So irked was ______ ____ _____ as she stormed off to carry out her threat that he muttered to the others, and ___ assented, sapping her resolve. She stood there, shoulders lumped, mouth parted, gazing at me as I lay like a half-opened jackknife on the floor, still steaming and slick as the bed of a swamp. I hurt her with my groggy laughing, but not deeply, because she could feel nothing deeply at that moment.

Dear Letitia, my loyal steward. Truthfully, I was touched by her concern. In between managing all my affairs, juggling Lord knows how many disparate tasks, flying back and forth between the US and France, and somehow finding the time to arrange transportation for my various house guests who find themselves stranded on Staten Island, she finds the reserve with which to pity me. And I laugh at her! But it is the laughter of love. How many things can you do at once, fair Letitia? I can’t wait to find out. I love you.

Sometimes I watch her when she’s on the phone, and I tune out what is being said, just waiting for the moment when she knows she has accomplished something important. I can see the moment her glands dump their stores of reward hormones, flooding her bloodstream with accomplishment, with congratulations. I can see her getting high right before my eyes, in the pauses between her speech. Her drug is a job well done. I am her supplier. As many hits as you want, Letitia, I can provide. But sooner or later you have to come down and clean up. I promise there will be tangles to untangle and hitches to unhitch and kinks to iron by dawn, and your next hit will be only a jet ride away.

When she was convinced I had not given myself a stroke, and she went off to get her next fix, I sealed myself back in the sauna and stoke the flames, and I let ______ ____ _____’s mutterings meander through me. I thought about the people I have met recently. I considered how fascinating it is to say practically nothing, yet to provoke so many colorful and passionate reactions in others. I wonder sometimes as I converse with someone, “Who are you talking to? Who is your conversation partner?” Because, often, it is not me. They are engaged with someone else. Themselves, maybe. Or someone they think they see. Someone wearing my suit, my watch, my smile. Someone who uses my vocabulary or has my mannerisms.

Sometimes, especially in noisy environments, I sit back and let them talk, and I nod and smile, and I utter a loop of two or three encouraging comments to keep them talking while I think about something else, or listen to ______ ____ _____’s burbling, or to the wet velvet whispers of ______, and I feel like I’m floating on my back in a pond the temperature of piss, but smelling like sweet clay, and when I float back to the surface, the person talking to me is in the middle of some diatribe against one thing or another, or has reached a bold conclusion that sounds very exciting, or is defending against an attack on their philosophy which they believe I have launched, or is congratulating me for something, though I am not quite sure what it may be.

Sometimes I find that we are still talking small talk, and usually it is about how cold it is, or how it is not really that cold for someone who is used to the cold, and I agree that it is quite cold, or perhaps not so cold for someone who is used to the cold, while with the greater part of my mind I am reenacting, in full sensory detail, a night in Malawi just before the break of day, when I had walked to the point of exhaustion, to the front patio of death, and lay supine on the still-warm earth, on pincushions of dry savanna grass, watching heat lightning in the heavens above like the sparks from a great shard of flint that soon would light a lazy, smoldering fire between my gasping lungs.

God, I want a cigarette.
5 Lie in the Deepest Pit and Drink Your Fill
[written in Latin]

Is there anything more disgusting than watching Christians congratulate themselves for their charity work while simultaneously wallowing in self-pity over how far they fall short? Woe is thee, wretched Catholic. Woe is thee who sacrifices so much for the needy, yet will never be able to sacrifice enough.

I can’t decide what is viler: that they feel ennobled for what they do, or that they feel lowly for not doing enough. Likely the vilest thing is that, in the mystifying fashion of the Christian dog, they manage to feel both at the exact same moment!

As pathetic as Dad is, as contemptible as my whole family is, at least they have the decency to live in the same filth, the same stew of disease and violence, as the people they felt committed to help. I will never forgive them for raising young children in the midst of civil wars and plagues, but I can’t accuse them of giving away their cake while also trying to eat it. They gave it all away, those fucking bastards.

The same cannot be said for the recent clutch of Christians I’ve met. I would love to see the Sister and her obnoxious friends move into the local crack house for a couple of years. A lullaby of gunshots to sing the babe to sleep. A crib amidst used syringes.

But at least the Sister accepts a bit of selfish reward. Free coffee tastes the sweetest. The worm always finds an orifice, doesn’t it, darling?

What came over me to give her a thousand dollars straight out of my pocket is beyond me. What more proof is needed that the Abrahamic religions leave their stingers in you even after you fully tear yourself free. And the stingers go on pumping toxins.

In happier news, there are now two friends of like nature buzzing around. We’ve settled into a mutual orbit around some hazy orb, some common purpose, which none of us has really described, beyond calling it ‘mutual protection’. _______, at least, seems to understand that getting this close entails certain complications. The other one is brand new, and her eagerness makes me nervous. She’s the restless, meddlesome kind. Why do people feel such a drive toward research and sticking their noses in unfamiliar shit? For power? Don’t they know that power is given to you if you deserve it?

The universe is full to bursting with available power. It is there for the taking. It doesn’t have to be chased or researched. You just have to receive it. Find the lowest point and power will collect there like rain water. Lie in the deepest pit and drink your fill. Respect gravity, and power wants to be yours.

But now Lola is playing with dolls. Those fucking dolls.

What’s to be done about those fucking dolls? I could keep them. The first impulse is always to have an insurance policy. But devil dolls are not like scandalous photographs. They’re not inert little scraps you can wave around to control someone with. They are stitched with malicious will, sown with bloody fingers. They are little spies, little windows. ____ does not like them. He doesn’t like them at all.

And I know too well how my like-minded friends react to being controlled. I know how I would react.

Maybe I will keep Lola’s. Put it somewhere safe, but not near me. She would think twice about manipulating me if I have her doll.

One thing is sure. She did not learn this craft herself. Oh, no. We know who the teacher is.

I still smell like burnt hair.
6 We Created Them from Sticky Clay
Your Lord said to the angels, "I am going to create a human being out of clay. When I have formed him and breathed My Spirit into him, fall down in prostration to him!" (Qur'an, 38:71-72)
Then inquire of them: Is it they who are stronger in structure or other things We have created? We created them from sticky clay. (Qur'an, 37:11)

I come home to find Eden in my bath looking like a melted sculpture, a discarded lady-golem, her exquisite black skin all grey, as if an atom blast had left behind only her ashes. She could have been dead, or asleep, except that she opened her eyes, bright black, and found me with them, and she said, "Thierry, Thierry. I can hardly breathe."

"Isn't it wonderful?"

I went to bed.
7 How Your Pendalum Swings
[written in Chewa]

O ___ your guidance is incomparable! O ______ your patience exquisite! O ____ your scorn terrible! O ______ ____ _____ your appetite for clay and heat unending!

[written in Latin]

The club is being tested for the first time. My ‘compatriots’ are clearly more impulsive than I am, and I am still expecting rash behavior from them, but an agreement is an agreement, I have approached _______ about the dolls, and I will contact _____ tonight to inform her, as well. The former reacted reasonably enough. I wouldn’t have been surprised had he flown into some kind of rage or tantrum, but there was none. A promising sign. He did show me an astounding trick, a truly stupendous feat, which would come in handy in more scenarios than I can count. How fortunate that I have built some credit with him by staying true to my word! And how fortunate that the sight you lend me, O friends, allows me to see through his remarkable talents.

As for the _____, we will see. Lust and anger are volatile. Let her stomp and hiss. I will douse that fire if that need arises.

But there is more! Like attracts like, and so those who make congress with jinn, spirits, ghosts, and demons all find each other in the end. What strange friends I have made, with what strange habits.

I ran into Lexine and Mason again, who were arguing with Bunny, and watched as a rock rose up into the air as if by an invisible hand and hurled itself at Bunny. Shocking! But, O friends, you have inured me to what is shocking. I watched not the rock, but the players, and in so doing, learned something very interesting.

And that night, Lexine, probably after swallowing a surge of bile, decided to pay me a visit, and… and I don’t know what to think of it. The woman disrespects my home as an opening to serious talks about learning the information I may have; then doesn’t seem to understand why I’m annoyed, as if I should have to listen to her social commentary, refrain from answering her charges, and then be generous with my information.

And still, I was generous. I gave her her information freely and without expectations. But now I am tired of her assumptions and criticisms. I have had it with her talking to me not as an individual, but as if I am a specimen of a quaint group. She can go on thinking whatever she wants of we “richy riches” with our glittering hoards that we jealously guard. Who am I to argue?

My time is better spent coaxing people to my nest for your delight, my friends. Like Syd Sparks, the geology maiden. Riley made an easy task even easier, treating her with such overt condescension that I simply needed to be present and breathing to seem like the greater gentleman. Oh, Riley, with his precious notions of how classes should interact, so easily exploded. We are a long way from the days of the knights, who understood true chivalry. But far be it from me to teach chivalry to a knight. “Sir” indeed.

At least I can expect a visit from Syd, and we will see what she thinks of my earth and clays.

But then there is my new favorite individual, the neat, pretty little Ren. I am thrown by her maturity and her poise, and it excites me just to be alive around her, because everything means something to her, and she asks rather than tells, observes rather than describes. I’m not sure what the things are that whisper to her—whether jinn or genie, ghost or daemon—but they notice the nearly imperceptible. She knew I had tampered with the mood of the room. It seems to be something she can do as well, or something similar.

Oh, fair little Ren. So tidy and reserved. So concerned with cosmic balance. I would love to have her balance on my bed, but there is no hurry. She has invited me to her home, and I look forward to it. By the time she comes to my home, I will have the mattress of cherry blossoms, and we will lie together and discuss what is proper and what is vulgar, what is even and what is excessive.

And there is still the bet between _______ and me in my mind. I fully intend to win, if only I’m given enough time. Ren is just as unhurried as I am, but she has cracks in that porcelain skin—everyone does. Everyone has an orifice for the worm to crawl in. Lets see how your pendulum swings, little Ren.

Swing, swing, swing!
8 Renewing the Contract
[written in Chewa]

O Companions, now is the time for YOU to listen to ME.
Who deigned to let himself be used as a human palanquin?
Who has gathered onto himself the people you relish?
Who has amassed riches by dint of his own genius and capabilities?
Who is ever vigilant against those who would hunt us?
Who carries the greater share of the risk?
Who thinks rationally rather than impulsively?
Who is diplomatic toward Christian, Sikh, and Buddhist slaves for YOUR advancement?
Who dropped everything to build YOU a nest?
Who dropped everything to build YOU more nests?
Who has given over every inch of land he owns for YOUR delight?
Who delays his gratification for YOU to achieve YOURS?

I have eaten off the floor in your names, crawled through filth in your names, cocooned myself in slime in your names, baked myself to oblivion in your names, opened my home to strangers in your names, changed careers in your names, lavished praise on your names.

And there was a time you lavished praise on mine. There was a time you showed me secrets. There was a time we were partners. There was a time you were my muses, and I your champion.

Now, what do you do? Hide sullenly, like children. Criticize my every action. Scoff at my political choices which keep you safe. Struggle for control at the worst possible times, for foolish reasons. Withhold your gifts like vindictive women.

O friends, I believe you’ve forgotten our arrangement. Worse, I believe you think I have forgot our arrangement.

Maybe I have. Maybe I don’t care about your precious nest. Maybe I’d rather not be seen as a lazy fop. Maybe I don’t want to subject myself to heat and slime. Maybe I don’t want to spectate carnal acts. Maybe I’m sick of the company of vapid club girls and greasy pleasure-seekers and dull socialites and inane cultists with their potpourri “beliefs”.

Maybe I will hole myself up in the office, get out the drafting paper, fire up the computer, and see if I can’t come up with something the boys and girls over at Lelantos have never heard of.

O friends, go suck your aunt’s tit for a while.

See how you like it.
9 Back at the Table, or How to Punish Your Demons with Hard Work and Sex Metaphors
[written in Hindi]

Imagine that. We have a little spat, O friends, and suddenly, as if by chance, entire languages slip my mind. Who would have guessed?

Well, I don’t need your Latin, or any of the others, to write as I wish. And I know how much _____ ____ _____ enjoys Chewa, but I’m not feeling very charitable at the moment. So Hindi will have to do, even if it means I have to use reference material as I go to prop up my workhorse vocabulary.

O friends, how have you liked six solid days of uninterrupted design work? There’s nothing quite like rolling up one’s sleeves and bending to the drafting table, squinting hard at the computer screen, and wrestling with physics. No visitors, no walks, no mud baths, no sauna, no progress on your nest: just brass-tacks engineering. Invigorating, isn’t it?

I’d almost forgotten the nearly erotic thrill I derive from this kind of work. There’s something about engineering that reminds me of seduction. Both activities are like a game in which the savvy player uses raw intellect, tricks, intuition, patience, and aggression to coax a mystery into revealing itself, petal after petal. With engineering and seduction equally, the chaser knows that there are teams of smart people all over the world working to get the same thing you want, and that the first one to get it wins the spoils. Something also about how the thing that is sought, the mechanism, the design, the submission, the sex—it was always there for the taking to the one who wanted it the most.

With engineering as with women, once one is enjoying the fruits of one’s labor, one sees that there never was any challenge to begin with: all mystery is illusion; all things in Nature are one.

Physics is sex.

Did you know that, O friends?

Of course, you know everything. Or so you intimate.

But now, finally, we have what we wanted. Well, what I wanted, in any case. Nothing left for today but to send out the diagrams to the boys and girls in Paris and wait for them to pick their jaws off the floor.

As for you, O friends, was there something you wanted? I seem to recall something about—

• • •

Ah. Well. This is interesting. A new gift.

Glad to know we’re all back at the negotiation table.

Thank you.

I can’t wait to meet some friends so I can try out this gift on them. Now, do not take this as a criticism, but, as far as fabulous powers go, this one is a little dark, wouldn’t you agree? Are we turning melancholic in our frustration, O friends?

Don’t forget that despite our differences of opinion, I still love you all, and I know you love me. And after all—

[written in Latin]

Oh, look! Wouldn’t you know? I remember Latin suddenly. Funny how that works. What a numbskull I am to forget Latin, and then mysteriously remember it just as we’re reconciling.

I really should get my head checked!

[written in French]

I should call the delicate Miss Ren and invite myself to her house.
10 Ode to Black Earth
Ode to Black Earth

Terra preta, terra preta, even your name is rich and heady!

Black earth, Amazonian earth, charcoal and ash, potsherd and crushed bone, trash and shit, carcass and nitrogen.

Black earth is life from death, black earth is growth from decay, black earth is delicious!

One thousand years changeless, so rare and so precious, to sink in you is to worship and luxuriate

To swim in the sun, the black sun, the sun as it is to those without eyes

One thousand years of sun beating on the Indians and watching them die

Beating on their grave mounds and their ash piles

Beating them into their own waste

Beating them into humus, into black earth

Into black earth

I sink!
11 The Mind as Spume, the Body as Knower
I find it harder and harder to pay attention to ideas, to the abstract. People sit on a beach and think about--I haven’t the slightest idea! Hopes and fears, probably. People sit on a beach and think about what the shore means other than itself!

I sit on the beach and think about salt and sand. I know through touch. I know that the mind is spume coughed up by the surf, nothing more. What is so revolting about the world-in-itself? What is so detestable about the physical?

Even a simple garden is not safe from attempts to purify it, to disinfect it, to idealize it, to make of it something other than itself.

My friend Jal sent me a letter about his garden:

“What do plants eat? They eat dead animals; that’s the problem. For me that was a horrifying realization. You want to be an organic gardener, of course, so you keep reading ‘Feed the soil, feed the soil, feed the soil…’

“Alright. Well what does the soil want to eat? Well, it wants manure, and it wants urine, and it wants blood meal and bone meal. And I…could not face that. I wanted my garden to be pure and death-free. It didn’t matter what I wanted: plants wanted those things; they needed those things to grow.”
(Jal White)

The sun digests its own guts, devouring itself in a feast that keeps going late into the night, swallowing itself even as it erupts from overindulgence, and it pours itself over the Earth, and we clever Moving Things that have found a way to trap its energy in our sinewy flywheels spend our lives building up our fatty tissues and dissolving them again, eating ourselves, eating each other, grazing the patient Standing Things for their sugars only to serve ourselves up to their roots as nitrogen and phosphates when our husks are worn to fibers.

This is not a metaphor!

I see the cycle so clearly, now, and I recognize it for what it is: Paradise!

The Garden is a garden, my friends. And gardens are places of growth and attrition, bloom and rot, taking and rendering.

This is not a metaphor!

A friend asked me if I like sex. He is not the first to observe that I seem to take it or leave it. I would have given him the long answer, but I don’t think his attention span can handle it, with how distracted he is by desires--a quality I do not disparage, by the way!

But, my friends, if you have not felt a profound wonder at the way sand falls through the sieve of your fingers, sex is wasted on you. If you have not stopped to appreciate the electric-silk texture of steel, sex is wasted on you. If the waxy skin of a leaf, and its vibrant odor when you crush it to green pulp between your fingers, does not make you even the least bit dizzy, you may as well be listening to a symphony from the roof of the concert hall, feeling only faint vibrations through the masonry on the soles of your feet and congratulating yourself on your enthusiasm for music.

This is not a metaphor!

The body can feel more. The body can know more.

Quod Verum Corpus potest Scire.

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