Saturday, August 21, 2010

Non Sum Pisces, Rene

I thought a fish and wished it true.
Inside of you, it grew.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Oddly Unpopular Confections of Barn Zest, Inc.

Cuticle Corn: Candy corn in the shape of manicured human nails. The wrapper featured a zoot-suited camel with two extremities visible -- a hoof and a human hand -- staring at his healthy cuticles with amazement and delight.

Apricot Yo-Hos: A package of apricot candy containing pieces shaped variously like stogies, pipes, helms, wreckage, empty rum bottles and discarded peg legs. Magazine ads featured a groggy pirate holding an
apricot and a salt shaker.

Planetarium Mints: White mint dots in wide clusters presented in a black box lined with artificial satin. Science museum frequenters were invited to purchase tiny mint constellations in the shape of

Muffled Titters: An extremely well-bred Snickers alternative containing "solid chocolate stock, pedigreed dairy and ample pride."

Spearmint Ice Floes: Rough-textured, sharp and painful to lick, these serrated Nordic lollipops never quite found their niche.

Calligraphy Chews: Black licorice in the shape of miniature shirt collars, cuffs and assorted handwriting flourishes from the classical period. "What are they?" one worried child is reported to have asked.

Marmalade Zygotes: Mass production was aborted after the initial test group grew queasy.

Fair Trade Dark Chocolate Chewing Tobacco with Zinc and Aloe Vera: No one ever bought this.

"E.R. Ohs!": These wound-shaped strings of red licorice were intended to be handed out to emergency room patients to make their
waiting time more bearable. Unfortunately, the local hospital in Kentucky deemed the product "upsetting to family members."

Buzz Drops with Electrolytes: Gum drops containing "thirst-quenchin' voltage" and nigh-lethal amounts of guarana. Originally marketed to recovering crack addicts, ads featured a charred and smoking figure in an electric chair.

Mead Wisps ("Cotton candy for grownups -- from an ancient recipe!"): This never quite caught on.

Lemon Renunciates: "Scowling bites of bitter silence" that were boldly labeled "unsweetened" because "sugar would be too fun."

Platonic Yums (air blasts wrapped in sweetened edible rice paper): "Flavor for the mind from a treat too perfect to exist!"

Latte Lather (originally sold in finger-sized tubes): "Wake up to a mouthful of foam with Latte Lather: Slaps on like shaving cream but goes down like a fine Italian roast."


We are not responsible if information made available in this Barn Zest Yum-Mail ("YUM") is inaccurate or incomplete. Any reliance upon the material in said YUM shall be at your own risk. You agree that it is your responsibility to monitor any changes to the material and information contained in said YUM.

All intellectual property rights for all text, images and other materials in perennial and bi-weekly distributions of YUM are the property of Barn Zest Inc. or are included with the permission of the relevant owner of future permutations of YUM. Why, wherefore and well-a-day, Barn Zest Inc. owns your thoughts, which means we say what you're thinking simply because you're thinking it. But you knew that already because we've said it, which means you've thought it (or someone has, which means we have, y'feel me?). Which brings us to another tangential aspect of our jolly yet utter ownership: Your sense of focus, which is controlled by the subliminal knob concealed in the stems of widely used fonts. We turned that all the way down this morning. Why are you still reading this?

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Tis the Season to Knead Wally

Normally, he enjoyed watching rows of lights pulse rhythmically in darkness. However, several Christmases on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains had compelled him to rethink his preference. "From now on," he thought, "I might catch my buzz from bioluminescent fish."

Many people's holiday decorations are subdued and reassuring. Unfortunately, the flashing lawns of Mamaroneck were unhindered by taste or restraint. A drive through the nabe yielded a non-stop clutter-fest of Santa constellations, electrocuted reindeer, frozen greeting card screensavers and flickering trees like massive defective lightbulbs. Of course, there was nary a dreidel, kinara or Winter Solstice tree in evidence. Yet there was no shortage of Alpine crosses and glowing plastic mangers. (Diversity, where are thy bulbs?)

If they'd really known him (and he knew they never would), the people who displayed these atrocities would be glad he didn't own a home. Otherwise, his seasonal tableau vivant might consist of taxidermed Prancers, Donners and Blitzens with red light bulbs protruding from their eye sockets, and humans dressed as spotted cats peeking out from behind them. He would call his creation "A Donner Party Xmas (and a Leopard Society Kwanzaa)."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quintains for Beaked Echolaliacs

How might I frighten the curlicue curlews
that notate my quirks with their tails,
scrawling cursive in purlieus
for germs in their purview
that forge pathological trails?

When may I nurse back the silence of purse-black-
necked stilts that lean, white-flecked, in tide pools,
as choral as coral-
carved flutes made immoral
by cravings for sorrel on slide rules?

Survival of the Slightest

A strand of tissue twists in relative dark. It is surrounded by translucent beings who curve to submerge it in shadows of green, blue and brown, obscuring its torsions like bottles made of colored glass.

Small wonder this smaller wounder is noticed and ignored, which is what it wants. It twists because it has withered on one side and wishes not to be seen.

Poor pearl-pale ligament wisp, thrust in the pocket of topsoil's unconcern. Earwigs inspect you, eyesight neglects you. Nothing for it but to emit a hoarse ittermittent whistle. You do this by forming a Z and pumping your strand-end to expel air -- barely audible even in silence, yet this is your song.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Cipher Critters

Words and phrases, freed of representation, join and detach to form queued constructions. Often, the forms they generate are rhythmic and visceral, and play against sudden splinterings of meaning. Flawed or unrealized concepts, such as that of the Voynich manuscript, or the key volume in Borges's Library of Babel, give way to absolute music, each measure tended with delicate refinement. "Nonsense" reconfigured as distant modulation: atonality, as truncated leaps to faraway keys.

One trend in 80s decon was to refer to language as a disease (academics suddenly grew obsessed with the word virus) or as a foreign organism evolving relative to, but independent of, readers and authors. Perhaps Goethe started it, with his epigram, "Life is a disease of matter." If so, then onto the next level: Creation is a disease of life, thus, language is the disease of its creators (or of creation itself). Fascinating, even now, to view patterns in words clinically: as a scientist might, but with a poet's sense of music and invention. The endlessly repeated cipher of the spiral, appearing in disc galaxies and heart fibrillations, seems to contradict the idea of a creator with an untraceable and disruptive signature. Perhaps people who work with language as pure form reproduce disruption and change as a process devoid of life. Perhaps Lucifer is a flawed metaphor for the personality of matter, a dead presence whose anatomy and tendencies are far more elaborate than any implied by a familiar feral torso and jaded face.

In the beginning was the cipher. Then the cipher mutated with use into its antonym. Other ciphers joined it in ravishing glossolalia. Or perhaps sense-as-structure is a stage of gestation, and the inspired scratchings of pre-language coalesce into forms that are later misused to represent the world after the trail of revelation's gone cold. Perhaps inspired nonsense is not in code, is not a transmission to be deciphered but a sculpture to be admired. Or perhaps representation is not missing but atomized, taken to a scale so small and distant it depicts hidden processes for which there can be no sounds or names or pictures.

Or perhaps everything has a name, and nonrepresentational language is the naming of things decidedly out of range. Not the Platonic universe, but the complexity with which it is suffused: the process encompassing the claustrophobic symbol. The referent of continuation behind Giotto's toilet-stall-narrow heaven.

(For Charles Bernstein, in memory of a conversation about Thomas Campion.)


Metonymic Orbs. We've often seen drawings of eyes affixed with limbs and slotted mouths. Eyes, in short, substituted for creatures' heads and bodies.(1) This form of metonymy is as common for animals as humans. Equally so, substitutions of heads for eyes.

Less often, the eye replaces the head of a quadruped. Equally atypical, eyes in place of fur. Likelier, to find the bather's averted glance awaiting the voyeur through the torso's white-misted nipples: inward-turned but certainly not unwatched.

Full substitutions of eyes with veinage are slightly less abundant. One thinks of drawings in which orbs with elongated stems slither along the ground, signifying alarmed worms, asps of the imagination. Sighted flowers and plants: less common still, but equally obvious. Inarguably, examples must exist of an ocular sun gazing down at a field of sunflower eyes -- blind ovals straining their tangles of scarlet stems.

No reason, then, to disinclude other metonymic forms: Eyes with artfully knotted stems for formally attired human limbs. Carved birds on plates with eyes in place of organs. Half-hidden eyes in the slots of cutaway creatures (animals that resemble cross-section illustrations in anatomy charts, and camouflage themselves as diagrams in doctors' offices). Eyes floating, matriced within transparent cave crustaceans. Eyes for cryptic parts embedded in the sides of Precambrian crawlers.

The Repetition of Eyes: Orb armies, eye-swarms, eye-pores; patterns of perforations and blemishes flowering into eyes; staring cheese-holes and haunted holes in fabric; floating masses of wincing orbs in place of bubbles; cells, hives, infestations of eyes like liquescent eggs.

Single-object substitutions: Lips, nostrils, wounds and ear apertures as eyes. Lone swordfish with staring gills. One tarot card symbolizing Dennis Oppenheimer's displacement: a single dilated pupil sprouting thorns at the center of the desert floor.

Cosmology: Perhaps what we glimpse above us is "The Father," as so many hope. But perhaps it is only a crowd of strangers' sightless spheres. Glowing sclera-globes revolve in place of stars. The night sky itself: an all-engulfing pupil.

Culinary substitutions: A silent filmstar's fear materializes in a pan, eggs' flickering yolks enclosed in shriveling lashes. Breakfast is served to the frail, sick and sleepless. Later, round puddings and viscous white sweets will be distributed to rested diners; to those in between, gazing caviar.

Precious Gems and Metals: Baubles like pupils with chromatic irises; ring-mounted jewels, the names of which often indicate their resemblance to animals' eyes, displaced by the literal object:-- colored exactly the same way, pupils moving when the wearer isn't looking. The inverse: A living tiger with jewel stones for eyes. He can see through shale, metal and wood to the ready meat beneath.

Behind us, a conspiracy of patterns in ornate wallpaper and furniture: pupiled crescents appear when detailed surfaces converge.

Put away your book, Reader, lest the blurred print gaze back dully. Fall asleep, and follow the small letters darting together. Orbs rise through the armrests of your chair; the dream-world watches you intensely. Staring doorbells ring for you as long as you don't touch them. Neighbors swivel in your direction, neck-stems straining as you sink out of range.

Lower Sleep's hood, sleeper. Picture yourself as squiggles on its chrome. Walk-about, lyre. Blind man, draw the blind.


(1) One could assert that, technically, an eye in place of the head alone is an instance of synecdoche, not metonymy, but head-reduction and body-substitution are so similar that affording separate classifications to each would be misleading, which could cause the Platonic Universe to glitch until a perfect repairgod appeared.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Inaugural Undress

For a long time, I've avoided keeping a blog. Why, you bleat or hiss in response (depending on your shape)? First, anonymity is underrated; second, personal detail is tedious. The minutiae of my day, my preferences, my aspirations -- all seem insufficiently synthetic. Authenticity is both exhausting and impossible. Even those who are known for it have created their personae.

Better, perhaps, to construct artificial beings and inhabit personalities as they emerge. To speak in their voices, whatever the subject, and not my own. The problem with identity politics is the presumption that beings have fixed identities.

Perhaps you've always identified with the Faun who stands at the edges of pastoral lithographs. Perhaps you see yourself as a bearded Himalayan pika or a manatee of mist. Perhaps you have not yet found a name but grip the limbs of trees with fingers like long-nailed tentacles, wrapping them several times over but never feeling secured to the world you fear. Perhaps your antennae detach to precede you like emissaries. Perhaps you exist as sentient CO2 and tend to float toward people of whom you grow too fond. Or perhaps you are a leaden object given temporary voice, an almost-empty inkwell repeating the phrase, "if only."

If you're a reclusive quill pen with flaccid poisonous spines, perhaps you curl and recoil while questioning this entry. No matter, your passing thoughts, unless you voice them. No matter, your voice, since you sound it by existing. Your morphology is your gist, your anatomy, text without context.

We are no longer a society of smokers. We're not allowed to spume kinetic spires in air. As match-tips do Balkan Sobranies, internalized imagery sets fire to our compound eyes. Our bodies are cigarettes. Our organs are ash-strewn auditoriums.

Into this place on the page, we pour out curios and critters. Ours is a Katamari course of discarded dolls' eroded gods. All come to life just when humans do the opposite, falling asleep to become rooms furnished in smooth milk crystal. Uninhabited, human lungs are bellows of papyrus: closet-constrained, shriveling and expanding.

But dreams are creatures, too, creatures encompassing creatures. Vagaries drool processions concretized in paper skulls or, more likely, capsized in woolly maws.

Make yourself a home, your lips, the entranceway. Tread selectively on the paths in permafrost. My cosmology is no one's, my bestiary, everyone else's. I'd welcome you, but, as Pelleas said, I happen to be lost, too.