Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Confession of Sorts, to Break the Monotony of Recriminations and Begin Anew (for real this time)

Oh now this is a real injury, your assessment of me against my avowals. Certainly a man should be able to define himself, in his own history at least, or at least I wish it were so. You will see below that even as I write this, I am not sure of its possibility, and doubt, like you, those avowals I mention with such reverence. Similarly, my readiness to sustain injuries to my pride is perhaps a symptom of the illness this letter hopes to cure, and the way it harries my soul, as I will explain. Still, I maintain that others may act from interest alone, while I, on the other hand, hearken to an age when chivalry was not yet slain, when one saw it more often than in the mirror. My motives are purely for the glory of Dulcinea, and whatever excess falls to me shall be my only reward. Of that much I am sure.
If it weren't for the conciliatory attitude I've adopted for this letter (which is appropriate to some of confessions I have later to bare), I would certainly be tempted to call you, my most loyal friend, a villain, and spur Rocinante to Denmark (if we are not already in those environs, as earlier speculated) in order to avenge my honor and that of Dulcinea Del Toboso, that most fair of ladies, from the spurious calumnies that have vexed both of them from out of your own sweet mouth (as it is translated through your hand and its pen-attached). To be enseinte with such venom as these insults warrant and such guilt of a single moment is too much for my heart, particularly now, when I am full in the flush of adventure, entwined in the righting of wrongs, and thrashing the wildest monsters in pursuit of honor (and an island for Sancho Panza). The most salutory explanation for your attitude in the opening of your most recent letter, the explanation which most puts my mind at ease and allows me to forget the barbs, wounds, and thrusts of our recent verbal battle, is to assume that you, and perhaps myself as well, are under the spell of some evil enchanter, probably this Odvallo I am preparing to vanquish. It is likely that we are made pawns of his foul magic in order to distract my mind, that it will therefore be unable to guide my arm against him, for he knows that he can never corrupt my martial ability nor match me in honest combat, and so lays into the coward's last refuge of dark means and trickery to divert me from my goal entirely. Perhaps, though, it is only me who has been charmed. Your letter betrays in its successive passages a lucidity I long for, but which escapes me, buffeted as I am by emotion, the moment, and some passion I can only feel and not see. You are correct, I no longer take enjoyment from this chore of writing and reading. Though I remember a time when I did, like the nostalgia for youth.
And so, let me begin the process of untangling the astral thongs which are binding us and making us spin uncontrolled, you and I (perhaps only I am thus launched; the vertigo is such that I cannot tell whether it is I who is spinning, or you, or us both), around an unbalanced and wobbling axis founded on the inability of this letter-language, or our use of it, to re-present what-really-is, and its tendency to portray things as-they-certainly-are-not, and possibly -as-they-cannot-be. Worse, it is a tendency to carry facts on a cloud-vessel of emotion, perverting that former's power of reason and evidence with that latter's eloquence of persuasion.
The first thong to be worked on is the one whose bind is the most crippling, of which I have complained of late, and the knot of which is the most remote from our current state. It is, perhaps, the uber-thong of our current row and its linguistic character(s).
Coming more directly to the point, I will say that I have unhappily discovered the root of my recently-adopted illanguage. My illness, whose symptoms seem intricately allied with our communiques (they correspond to our correspondence), whose effects leave me babbling, speaking ciruitously without ever reaching the center, whose ravages have rent the fibres of my mind in its attempts to weave my historical tale for you, may be approaching the horizon of remission, if I can spur it on with a slight act that nonetheless fills me with fear.
Some time ago, you suggested, perhaps in jest, perhaps merely out of your suspicious nature (which we have already examined), that a letter bearing the signature of my squire Sancho Panza was in fact written by me, and that he and I had switched roles briefly.
I confess it was so. You had reason to doubt, for, truth, Sancho Panza can neither read nor write.
On those days, shortly after defeating the Ogre, I set to work reconstructing the story for your benefit. Only, upon reaching the end, I was stricken unreasonably with a fear that the tale sounded too self-aggrandizing, and that such congratulatory autobiography was unbecoming a knight errant. I have been infected with such reflections on the possibilities of conveying my history properly ever since I began to write our letters. I hastily signed my squire's signature to borrow his ostensibly objective perspective, hashed out several phrases to disguise my identity and insinuate his, and sent the letter to you as if it were an outsider's report of a great deed, which, I hoped, would amplify its own greatness by assuming the mantle of objectivity, by imparting the appearance of truth to that which seems terrific, and by implying much through feigning to say little.
The next letter following that one found me guilty and self-recriminating, and the expression of these sentiments was to diminish the significance of the battle with the Ogre (which was, in truth, a great victory for me) so that the entire incident might slip into obscurity and be forgotten by you, and I might never have to answer for its curious appearance in our document-ary
This attempt at concealment, too, was unbecoming a knight, and I have truly suffered the lashes of my conscience as it worked itself upon my linguistic faculty (through some odd displacement of my ego, and the substitution of my language for it). To it, I beseech mercy, and on behalf of myself, I beseech you forgive me.
That act, an effort to avoid a conflict with you, was also an effort to avoid responsibility for what was then a relative trifle that has since transformed into an epistolary cataclysm of a proportion that virtually obscures its own origin. I have, with such a "trifle" managed to undermine the aura of candor and honesty that underwrote what we wrote, which, I fear, has undermined our ability to write. I fear this new unstable space where we cannot say what we mean, even when we say what we mean. I am unsteady in this new zone (this "stage", to conscript your metaphor for my war) where things may be what they seem, but are never so in our reading the report of them. Where we are in shifting and unsure levels of performance and observation. I want to find our way back out of, or hasten our way through the shadow of earthquakes where we find ourselves (if such is possible, once one becomes accidentally aware of its omni-presence), and I would enlist your help.
And, if your graciousness affords such a luxury, I propose to begin anew for myself, in a new state of openness and candor with respect to my adventures, to embark on a firm-ground uni-directional journey of objective reportage, to cast off the veil of metaphor, the entanglements of dishonesty, acting, levels, representation, and attempt to recover with these avowals some of your faith and naivete in reading my narratives (whose objectivity you have no doubt come to ... doubt--though you say you will approach it with infant eyes). I want to know who I am, want to believe what I see in reading your narratives, in taking in and adopting all those narratives that form the foothold of a life in this world.

So, here's the rub: I propose an end to lies. This begins a new phase in my relation to my history, in which I will strip it of fantasy and embellishment, and tell it like it is.
Thus, with your blessing, I will begin Part Two of the History of Don Quixote De La Mancha.

Your own letters, haphazardly connecting the drama of the prince of Denmark, I will receive with the naivete I ask of you, and so, remain amazed at the powers of your Rasputin: M; and similarly at your donning the mantle of genealogy, a noble act, not only because in your case it happens to be literally so.

More to follow, in a lighter vein,
In supplication of forgiveness,
In anticipation of leave to continue as I see fit,
In understanding that probably there will be recompence to pay,
In genuflection,
In promises,
In nobility,
In righting of wrongs,
Don Quixote De La Mancha
Assisted by Sancho Panza, who neither reads nor writes.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Having Come out of the Dark Tunnel, We Enter a Timeless Truth

When I began to write the letters of this letter to you, they melted into the page like water into loose soil, and I had to coax them back out of obscurity by enacting an intense pressure on my eyes and mind. Writing (and reading) is becoming very difficult. I think it's some symptom of our communicable disease. Somehow, in the rhythm of this task, the music of language has been preserved, but its specific content escapes me. And, while I continue to write, to pin down and entrap meanings in these marks, I feel as if I have no vanquished foes to send to pay homage to you. I feel as if I have nothing to say. And instead, I can only listen to the music of the pen waltzing mechanically across the parchment, immerse myself in the cacaphonous ballad of the words as they clatter together in my imagined ear, as I imagine they will do as they speak to the spheres behind your eyelids. What is this disease of illanguage I begin to suffer? Perhaps the solution, as I so often propose to you, is to throw myself all the more into the fray of life, that I might be counter-infected by its haleness.
Before so doing, however, I will, as seems perpetually necessary, linger a moment to advise against your present course of action.
This particularly on the subject of your melancholia, the diagnosis of which I have withheld from you for some weeks for the sake of decorum, though having suspected it, and from which you have recently sought succour. A symptom of foreclosed grief? What love are you unable to mourn? What loss of your own ideal? Where your self is made victim of your split ego's critical faculty for having come too close for comfort in its perceived similarity to some improper object. It was never Polonius. Perhaps his noble son, possessed of the simple but righteous passions of a dull youth of mediocre birth, that has a certain appeal to it, I can see. Perhaps the atmosphere of the field camp and your R and G.
Still, whatever your astute observer and too-close analyst of the infamous initial ("M.") reads in your person, I shall be skeptical. His mein is sinister, his methods maniacal and I dare say magikal. It is as if he were the voice of the very phantom I myself am hounding (or that you are that composite phantom in your newly twain psyche of analyst and and analysand, critic and critiqued). Only you seek him for your salvation, and I seek him to provide for the salvation of those, like yourself, under his spell.
Perhaps my low assessment of his talents and his character (and my desire to see him as a part of you) are the effect on my rhetoric from the other half of my own dichotomous persona, the emotional faculty. For I do sense that, while my opinions so expressed are no doubt an accurate description of my feelings about him, they are salted with a bitterness one does not often taste on savoring my letters. Probably I feel jealous that, having found my own commentary on your sorrows, desperation and other neuroses less than sufficiently insightful, you have turned to another ear you find more appealing.
Still, do not, on account of finding the hallmarks of this jealousy in my words, think that my admonition is therefore unfounded, for I fear that in your turn, you have alit on a dark course, one in which your more destructive urges will be unbound, even if only with the intention of rebinding them in other, stronger ropes. One can never truly contain the demons one has summoned to do one's bidding, whether they are of the hoary realm below, or the hoary realm within. Be warned.
I think that, so far away here in La Mancha, occupied as I am chasing down those who wrong my honor or Dulcinea's, I shall be unable to come to your aid, the distance from Spain to Denmark (or wherever you have been cast ashore after being battered by the stomry seas of your somber proclivities) will be too great for the sympathy in my heart to o'ercome, no matter the strength of the will, or the speed of Rocinante's worthy hooves.
In any condition, I feel your man "M" must be leaving important things out of these "notes" he sends me crumpled into tiny packets with your letter. They seem fragmentary, and either he has a remarkable memory and does not need a complete record for his purposes, or he is merely stringing you along with the appearance of therapy while padding his purse with the rights of Denmark's youth, for which purposes he would not desire a complete record. Or, thirdly, they are meant only for my benefit, to tease me or make me curious without creating a full account of a subject of obvious interest. No matter the reason, they are more grounds for suspicion, and I hope to make an infection of mine that it might serve you, who are in the most danger from this shaman.
Still, the wound you have dealt me in this infidelity of confidants will probably hang with me. It will be one of those hardened scars my portraitist will have to gloss over. If he can. The blows you are wont to deal me leave their marks on the soul, and can be read in the eyes and the gait and the posture, and their manifold expressions cannot be obscured, even by the most skillful brush.
To say nothing of the hypocrisy in your sending another's letter with your own. There is a certain parallel in your inviting him into our discourse and the much decried letter to your mother I sent so long ago. And then again, the unjustice I suffered on your discovering a letter penned by Sancho Panza in my stead. How, then, I on receiving one from Mesmer?

On to a more reasonable account of recent business, though I find I have little heart for it.
Sancho Panza and I continued our surveillance of the monstrous Baron of the local realm (I call him Odvallo, though I learnt yesterday that I have been mispronouncing it, and not according the surname the proper Andalusian twang, since the Baron's family hails from that area, though they have been in possession of their current plot for some generations--in local mouths, the middle syllables are swallowed or mangled in the epiglottis, and the word comes out as a strange sort of garble between the initial and final vowels; I can hardly pronounce it, much less devise an orthographic representation of this assault on the ears for your edification--perhaps this difficulty, or the infiltration of the one dialect into the other is a cause or symptom of my linguistic infirmity, mentioned above).
The Baron Odvallo haunts, as I said, the twixt hours, and during the day and night retires to an interior room with no windows in a large and stately manor house on the north side of a small hill, round the base and up to the crest of which grows a thick hedge on three sides. This hedge is formed into an intricate geometry and stands higher than a man's head, making it into a labyrinth, at the center of which is this minotaur, Odvallo. I have, these past weeks, been making forays into the maze during the safe hours when the lord is withdrawn, for the purpose of tracing a map of the correct path, so that when the time comes I should be able to penetrate the house without announcing my approach unduly with wandering and cursing, and then, after, I should be able to retreat without muss. I am, shame, without a long enough bit of string for the conventional approach, and so this method will have to suffice. The constant need to draw, strike out, and redraw this diagram is, also, the reason that I have been without paper enough to write you. And so a longer interval than you are used to elapsing between receiving envelopes from me has had to pass. I apologize for that.

As always in humble service
Don Quixote De La Mancha

Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Real Revelation, This Time for Real

How fun to imagine there were a secret level to my descriptions. As if, by changing the names and locations, I might decieve you and put you off your guard, all the while circling your ramparts with Sancho in tow, perhaps disguised as a fishwife, mystic, or several sparrows and a damsel fly. Who, then, the cthonic monstrositiy I describe as my local nemesis (of whom I should tell you more to aid your bibliochase in the undertombs of your clan's halls)? Who then, his sniveling familiar?
This speculation enmerries the humid, sweltering midday in which Pancho and I can do little but listen to the torpid deluge assaulting the walls of our tent and absent-mindedly lay bones on the moist earth under our feet, wiling away these hallucinatory hours until the cool psuedo-respite of dusk, when we emerge to carry out our reconnaissance. It is during this half-life that we collapse our tent and crouch in the brush to await the perambulations of the object of our interest.
Often, as Sancho searches the mist and shadows, I scribe my stolen missives to you under the shelter of my cloak. I ferret these documents away in close, double-sown patches of calf-skin such as are used in making wineskins. It is there I hold them until I find a merchant or tradesman on a northward journey, and I give him a coin to keep it safe and--here's the rub--dry. I use a simple mud-coal ink, and any more water than necessary would blotch the letters and make their decipherment more difficult than it already is. I suspect these dear patch-pockets never make it you. They are a novelty and not inexpensive. I promise them to the carrier, so long as he doesn't remove it until the weather breaks where he goes. Well, that's a plausible explanation anyway. And I'd have to be clever to invent it if destiny hadn't paraded it in my field of vision.

On the subject of speculation in general. I find it takes up more and more of my time as the oscillation of our coversation between the apogees we represent speeds up exponentially. I speculate more than I live it seems, and I have passed the event horizon of your psychic world which inverted the polarities of "real" and "imagined". But then, horizons are relative, and there is always another to be crossed over.

I will come to the subject of our surveillance in a moment, but first I turn to another phantom. Have I told you about my mother? She came to me last night, as if to remind me that, while she had been present in my thoughts often, she had only rarely been present in my words. I should rectify that lack, of course: a mother's reproach is a hard thing to bear, as you know.
My own mother, though, is a far league from yours, I think. I hesitate to mention the comparison that leaps immediately to mind of our two mothers, so different. I fear, of course, that it will reawaken that reproach I have suffered these many weeks, on account of a certain inappropriate congress between your mother and myself.
Still, I must answer my ghost in its time, and perhaps answer to you in another.
So on to the subject of my mother. I remember most of all her smell--common, I know, since smell is that most historical of the senses. She never cooked, and so it is not the smell of some comforting cuisine that comes to mind. Instead of the kitchen, she spent most of her days in a languid humor in her even more languorous boudoir while my father was away on some errand or another for our lord. In this sensuous study, my mother would engage friends of both sexes with little concern for decorum. She was of a character so beyond reproach that she was able to entertain men in her private quarters, and I never nothed a word of slander from the lips of the servants--something no lesser woman could have accomplished. I would often sit outside the door of this salon and read books, waiting for those blessed moments when the door would open, and in a fragrant bloom my mother and some acquaintance would emerge, she in some shift, and he in riding gear, or perhaps it was a handmaid in a stitched bodice. The stranger would depart, and for a few minutes, I would sit with my mother in the humid air of her boudoir and breathe that strange scent that was both alive and dead--both sparkling, and somehow hollow and dusty--which I attributed to a conglomeration of the perfumes in the many half-full bottles that sat on the vanity. That smell is the one that haunts me when I think of the beautiful face of my mother, forever suspended in the peak of her youth (in my imagination). There, in that boudoir, in that mixed aroma, she remains always possessed of a flushed beauty that seemed without cause, and always just beyond description.

On to the origin, Odvallo. Sancho saw him on our latest bivouac, and we were able to come within a short distance of the path of his revolution and remain unseen. I heard him expounding, as if dictating some theory for transcription, though only the ears and lips of his assistant recorded any of it. To my own gathering devices, nothing was intelligible; it sounded dark and slippery, as if he was philosophizing in some alien submarinal tongue from the bottom of the sea where no light penetrates. His milky eye gleamed uncannily in the new moonlight.

Suddenly our information gathering was at an end. I thought I saw his apostle hold for a moment as they passed in front of us and sniff the air as if he were a hound on a trail. I caught my breath in my throat, and stifled a gasp as the cold hand of fear gripped my heart. Fortunately, after an interminable moment expired, the fiend appeared to dismiss whatever sensation had overcome him, and hurried to catch up with his lord who had continued unabated and unaware ahead of him. If this servant is as observant as his master is oblivious, it is a good service the latter garners from the former, and one he needs dearly.
Tomorrow, we should be careful to remain downwind, and to steel ourseveles in order that we should be able to continue our observations in the lunar shadow of fear cast by this trailing apparation and guardian figure. This gatekeeper may present the more significant challenge of the two. Though I still suspect that larger, more imposing creature to be mixed up in daemonic alchemy, and such arts are never stable, and so never without their danger.
Don Quixote De La Mancha

Friday, December 08, 2006

A Long-Overdue Transfiguration

It's been a long time since I spent any real time looking up at the sun on an overcast day when its brilliance is cloaked in silvery clouds. There are, on the surface, of course, beasts drinking tea, perusing pamphlets on politics, leading much commoner lives that we on the less extraordinary orb. It is ironic, you know, that on a celestial body that only reflects light emitted by some foreign element--that this same light should be transformed into so many myriad forms. Those opposite dark spots, composed only of shade on a field of light, going about their business of monotony, and we, here, in the light of their shadows, run in a million directions, on a million errands, in a million guises, all just little captured beams of light waiting to refract and dissipate.

musing. forgive. I think I mentioned something about not being myself. Is that correct? Even if unsaid, its truth resounds as if said.

Negative thinking as defense against disappointment, A Critical Analysis in Limited Time:
One recriminates others in secret for their optimism. One suspects the bonificient of being baleful. One renders the joyous uncanny by remembering hallowed moments that preceded it, or by suspecting its permanence or motives; fusing dark memories with light so that they should always call forth somberness, tinting eternally all passions indiscriminately with the dark brush, so that whenever they are represented in the mind, they hearken back to despair. You perceive, not receive barbs and slings. Does not the fortified castle call out for siege, exist only in siege and never at peace? Does not "tinder" beg to be set afire, while "twigs" inhabit a different destiny?
It is, more likely, as a defense against joy that you prepare for pain. In expectation of sorrow and wrong, there is suffering as martyrdom, righteousness accrued from circumstance. In joy, one must forge one's own righteousness--a difficult task, as you know. It is one's sense of righteousness in joy that one must defend constantly; one's righteousness in pain is assumed. And so, happiness is the spoils of courage and requires it. Pessimism repeats itself, lives in itself, and foreswears all else.
And, tangentially, the most misanthropic soul is often the most susceptible to recriminations from without. It is, perhaps, what sowed the seeds of mistrust in him. I suppose I chalk it up to intrapsychic forces. I know not whether I make use of this, or act in reverence towards it, we are poor judges of our own character always. In any case, I seem unable to let the patient alone.

Your sister's unheimlich verse puts me in mind of a novel I read recently. In it were a terrific menagerie of impossible people. Intersections of types and nations, strange monstrous conglomerations of bodies stitched together as characters running in front of my reading eyes like acrobats, trapeze artists. The author was a woman, I can't remember her name. I think Ophelia is right. You are an impossible creature. And I myself as well. I only wonder in what rings we perform, and if you and I are in these distant rings, what centerpiece is being staged between us in the intervening circumference. I hear it thundering; I can hear the pipes of the accompanist; I hear the applause; but, trained as my eyes are always on my own act, careful not to miss a beat or a trick or an "ahh" from an observer's lung, I cannot steal a glance towards it, nor hope to discern your own routine on its far side. Are we always to be so consumed by our own performances that we miss the main attraction?
This is perhaps all I can say of it. I have never been one for poetry that does not concern chivalry. Sometimes I fear my humble intellect is too fallow or too frozen to understand messages not couched in narrative.
Still, it is not you only she seems to be apostrophizing, but some function of yourself in relation to her mother and herself. Perhaps a reference to some social contract between you three (we are truly in mind of contracts, no?). Have you broached the subject, I wonder? If it is professions of love that came to you secretly, perhaps this is the cause for your shame, love being loathe to bring itself into the sun for fear of being left shivering unembraced. Surely this is not your situation, but the behavior takes on the character of habit by a young age. One always blushes, after all, whether love be requited or no.

Your three cards describe my life, my story, my stories.
I wish I had paper enough to describe to you their pertinence, but I seem to have run out, damnably. It is so cursed hard to come by sometimes out here on these journeys. Perhaps your next missive could contain some of that in addition to the tome you mention sending? (I impose too much, I am sure, but the threat of a cessation of our correspondence will no doubt induce you to find a way) The book you have already sent is a delight. I read it daily in small amounts in order to preserve the pleasure I derive from it, in order to prolong it, and forestall its discharge. I do have to pass the time while I await and consider my intercourse with the local Don, whose sinister visage is ever present in this hamlet. It is as if all the children in the village share one half of his brazen dichotomy, each of them complete yet grotesque, he motley and terrible.

Sancho and I are staying put for the time being. An interminable rain has made traveling difficult, not only because it has eroded our initiative.

Stick to your painters, they do your image justice.
Don Quixote De La Mancha