Between any two points in space
you can always draw a straight line
but where is the way
between the same place
— Tomaž Šalamun
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AT THE BEGINNING of July, I decided to be homeless. Planning as I am anyway to relocate to Minneapolis later this autumn, I figured I could save some money by constellating the couches of my Portland friends in my last few months, easing the transition and in addition experiencing the place I’ve spent the last decade with untethered eyes, defamiliarize the scapes so long mutually imprinting.
It felt good, taking this risk. Already broke and unemployed with the exception of a few occasional odd jobs whose wages tend to burn away all but immediately, my suddenly being without steady roof seemed dreamily bohemian in a sense far more extreme than has been the case for a long while now.
I thought of Jarmusch’s first feature, PERMANENT VACATION. I felt inspired. I went to Powell’s and found a used copy of MALDOROR in an edition I’d been looking for for years. This edition appears in the film. Ally, the protagonist, reads a passage leading up to the most brutal scene in the book, before tossing the book onto the table and wearily rubbing his eyes.
“I’m tired of this book you can have it.”
Parsing to essentials is always gratifying, but I need to read at least two books at a time or else I’m unable to navigate my own consciousness. The affinities *across* the books & films that’re my prime sustenance also form the key that itself contains the door thru which I’m passing, the act of traversal the portal become hallway in a state of suspended liminality I’ve made it my intention to study.
The other book I had with me was an old dimestore paperback of M.P. Shiel’s sci-fi masterwork THE PURPLE CLOUD. I’d been meaning to read it for ages but hadn’t ever started it. It’s a Last Man novel in which the narrator embarks on an expedition to the North Pole and returns to Europe to find that everyone on the planet has been killed by a mysterious purple vapor. The cover of this edition — I couldn’t find an image to show you, sorry — bears a strong affinity to the MALDOROR cover above.
Anytime I begin to pay too much attention my own aesthetic tastes — for example, suspending my reading of Lautréamont from time to time to mourn & admire the copy’s accumulating wear — I know there’s something wrong. By which I mean idolatry, covetousness, a fall into the material trip that is not at all concerned with the talismanic usefulness of my properties.
Sometimes when I’m drunk and I want to show somebody something, I throw it on the ground at their feet. This has been the case with a particularly sizable wad of cash, as well as several books, etc. Following the Dorothea Lasky reading last month, we all gettin’ boozed at the Roadside Attraction, I did the same with MALDOROR to show my friend Ally Harris. Considering I didn’t have the book the next day, it’s possible no one picked it up after it was thrown down. I hadn’t gotten any further in my reading than the section Ally — the other Ally, PERMANENT VACATION protagonist Ally — had before he was suddenly done with it.
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The act of hurling something to the Earth is an interesting one. It connotes a dismissal of physical/material form, both in terms of the thing being hurled and a violence toward the dirt-planet at one’s feet. Furthermore, the act of presenting an object to someone in this way exaggerates the act of looking down, and requires one stoop to retrieve it, bowing, in a way, to the one who made the initial gesture. It’s an act that anticipates complicity.
The night things went shitty between us, Isabel — the night when it became clear to maybe everyone but me you were a liar — was Halloween. While you were on your phone desperately trying to get a cab to leave the party under the false pretense that your sister was having an overdose, this guy way trying to hit on you. I took his hat off his head and threw it at his feet and demanded he pick it up.
You often talked — almost fondly, Isabel — of how your ex-boyfriend threw you down a staircase once. Infidelity, you said. You learnt your lesson, you said. I didn’t yet suspect your pathologies. This was a scene you returned to more than once. Nearly bragging, sometimes smiling. You lived mostly in your past, or else were scheming futures. Either way, your lack of presence — it sucked. And tho I loved to see how your hands would move around when you excitedly told your stories, how you would interrupt yourself with laughter — I resented that the person I was falling in love with was mostly a former version, or your own invention, and that these things you told me had nothing to do with how we were together.
Later, I wished it were me that had thrown you down the stairs. Maybe then I’d have meant something more to you.
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To be reborn, to move forward, we destroy not just ourselves but the world as we’ve known it. For a time the signs I’ve seen have suggested that I’m dead. What does it mean to haunt one’s own experience, to have left a place spiritually and yet remain there? The books I’ve read in the Lymen apart from those mentioned above — MURDER by Collobert, THRONE OF BLOOD by Troyan — have been invaluable to me in their brutality or destabilization, undressing the architecture of a world to which I’d long grown disenchanted.
To the expression of others I plead:
kill me pull me
apart digest me
Make me new
I stand thresheld at the precipice of what worlds I myself will with remainders make, with what inborn designs I’ve had nested in my chest since shelved into a name unfolding,
long enough to weep for everything left in my wake.