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Clark Coolidge
from Mine: The One That Enters the Stories
(The Figures, 1981)

 

VIII.

The blearier the men the more they stalked the black locomotive in the twilight. A parallel adventuring along backdrops of dull violet weed. They came to nothing, found out nothing, in the touchings of the outermost nerves of the brain to the dark shapes of the outside, shapes so dim they were filing themselves away. And the birds go up to the tops of the trees where no one will see them. As when sleep comes then the cat goes up and down. The links of all the branches threaten cracks to glow through from the other side of the fabric. And the men persist in their seek of the smudge locomotive. I have no further vision here except of men stumbling around a dim engine cellar in dirt pile dullness. All further endeavour strikes me plod. Tobacco light. He who is patient obtains . . . what? In certain cavern chambers I felt I was crawling inside a mind.

Under my life are the galleries of the circuit delves. And there is much there remains unravelled, if that word could come to mean unremembered. I walk forth on a thin shell surface I fear will increasingly crack through. My voice turns thin in the brevity of substance. I even fear to call. But so far I can still call it. And the smoke gains smile in its shelvings at the window sun. In all thus tensioned such murmurs are marbles, and the merest notion a rattle. Iced candle flamelets on the vanilla throttle. And there grows another mouth further down on the neck, through to the throat. It must become possible to speak with the lower animals through that one. Out in the slow light of the glacial top the day all the platinum stakes disappeared. With the sense that they had gone inward, behind the surface of all solidity. As in the silent dream I climbed down the abyss behind the radio in trying to fix it.

I come not to bad but to sorry. Nevertheless this all has a kind of linchpin severity. Swedenborg spoke of "correspondences", but perhaps this could be taken further and in another direction than that of the stratum of mystical glues. You write to friends and receive certain objects in return. These are then placed under glass in the collection hut or cabin high on the Schneealp. Returning to view and handle them again each summer the composer of bare intervals unburdened himself of the central coiled whisps of provocativity and at last arrived on the shoulder of lyric heat land. Here one summer I myself noticed a small ice cube that seemed to have fallen a long distance through a darkening shaft into the light of benchmark buds and drift wheat. Below planed the slow glacier, the one that had inspired Baudelaire to a coronal of IOUs. At the precise rate of thought these are the ordinary events. I picked up a pin in the sun, it couldn't wait.

I tried to watch that on a tube in the room. The thing? Oh, I saw that on the lathe of heaven. Did you . . . Did you mind? The circuit clicks off leaving the only motion to a pair of squirrels picking at the pie-plate covers over old pipe holes. The resultant heatlessness will not necessarily depress one. For the sun is out and the wind on things, the hairs on a bowler's head. Makes me speculate on the fur growing in the moist dark at the backs of paintings or even sculptures pushed back against walls. When I walk in the streets I see meters everywhere. I have not the change I fear. I hold not the risk of knocking here or there. I hear a ticking, always of other objects besides clocks. Must be their molecules are disarrayed at certain angles of the sun. Where is the man who will clasp to himself an icicle at the bottom of the year? I have often thought to take the time to watch things growing solid.

Grows itchy, grows straight away. Behind the barn lay an algaed green sump, whence rose the polished toads with veering eyes, thus the reference to "powdered frogs' legs" on the radio the following morning. But by that time no one alive within hearing, the end to another briefly far fetched story. The seeds developed unto death even before anyone could ascertain their existence. Thus does science develop ingrown hitches. The glass of water is always taken away before anyone is finished drinking from it. The album played through with a lead rod. The green flash beyond belief or exposure. The pin at the bottom of the pot. I have told you and told you.

Then the lights came on again, shortly but briefly, and the groaning hefters groped for their clothing and an equally ill-fitting consciousness. The barracks room was painted in a vegetable but nonetheless blinding Tahquitz orange. Perhaps the intention had been thereby to burst the men awake, however cratelike that notion. At any rate a line formed leading creakily from washroom to entryway to a dimlit outside standing around. They await. They attempt to read the type on their shoes. They watch the sunball rise behind a clanging rustiness. They see the treed squirrels eyeing them from variously acrobatic angles. They wonder just what is the work for them this day. Will it be more wheat to be aligned or a whelming despair at the ledge-sized fragments of iron to be whipped from the dells into place at the perimeter of the campgrounds so new to them. They had arrived over a numberless succession of nights entirely spent hurtling through tunnels, a veritable decalibration of the compass. Work was after all everywhere to be done and on time. Teeth had each to be tuned by a fork proper to only it, and cabinets of a greenish porcelain installed on every pole by the way. Gallons of wire had arrived at the camp, a sort of violet liquid that achieves tensile lengths when exposed to the least puff of air. There were these tasks and always more to be done, none of whose eventual functioning they would ever witness, for by the time the final adjustments, always made by others in their wake, had been made, they were always already on the move elsewhere. They were commonly known only as The Spiders.

And in the restaurant, a noise. The glass top of a medicine bottle, salt, had fallen against the chromium molding at the base of the counter. A slightest pause, following which the patrons ate on. The radio had been removed, since the uninterrupted talking thereon had been felt to constitute a confusion of the conversations amongst the eaters themselves. Thus the unfolding of the species proceeds further into self-containment. We will no longer admit to the possession of outsides. What's to fear? There is nothing out there. Meanwhile the diner, cradled in cables, was being lowered gently to a spot on the tundra by helicopter. Standing room only, for further thoughts on this matter. Emblems of personality will not be returned. The cruciform piece from the base of the stem continues to be kicked from foot to foot at random.

Then came again the animals. The aloof snort snail, strumming his glass ear rods to good effect as tweezers. Through the agency of this one, odors could be perceived purely visually. He disappears down the carbon lane, as if a gruff rug were tucked at the edge of town. Next comes a lion whose torso is composed of a trembling peach bag, from which bellows a report like audible parsnips. He is erased at the edge of a weed space by a passing glazier hefting his sign. On the three hinged panels are shown: an oval pile, seen as from above, of assorted dark greenish substances thought to represent a theory of magnetism; a bald man in shiny black uniform with a sawblade, toothed on each edge, in the form of the Xtian symbol for fish depending from his horizontal left arm; and furthest to the right, in fact pushed right up against the border as if by a great but invisible force, the pink palm of a human hand on which has been scattered an arrangement of thistle seeds, to all appearances the metallic punctuations for sentences of words which have vanished. Now comes a flight of pinpoint-sized beings able to raise and lower the surrounding temperature by varying the frequency of their buzzing. These seem drawn to the point of a distant peak whence they are heard to disappear with the sound of a large angel cake dropped to the pavement. Then the lime worms, borrowed from the neighboring town, short themselves into the ground at any point, eking out a labyrinth of passageways of complex extent but such narrowness as to prevent human investigation. Knowing these worms to be tireless in their excavations, and so fearing the collapse of the very earth beneath their feet, the remaining animals hiding in the wings, and there are some fascinating examples such as the Zeppelin Spaniel or the Cleat Hog, have announced their unconditional refusal to appear here on this day. Thus comes to its end yet another world.

 

 


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