Sometimes I feel nostalgia for the present moment, a fresh footprint filling with water, the huge black bear’s intelligent muzzle swinging left & right as he climbs out of the marsh beside the springhouse & ambles off down the driveway. His strength is in his loins, & his force is in the navel of his belly. When I was between the ages of nine and twelve I had a recurring dream about a pond dotted with lotuses in which the shadows of golden carp could sometimes be glimpsed, & if I raised one foot like a heron, my other foot would slowly leave the ground & I could float through the air a few feet above the surface of land or water with only my unvoiced intention to set my course. I would wake up convinced that such levitation lay within my abilities, if only I could find that pond and stand on its shore. This was, I realized later, a dream about the soul, the existence of which I did not then & do not now fully credit. But what I loved most about that dream was that the moment I took my right foot off the ground, a hush descended. All sounds turned distant & echoey like the song of a veery. It was as if the air had suddenly grown thick, or my ears had flooded with water in the aftermath of some great, improbable thing.
Another thing about Abdul-goddamn-Walid
In his emails, there’s always a facetious quotation line running all the way down the left-hand margin, functioning a bit like the unpaired left parenthesis sometimes encountered in a modernist poem: it throws one a bit off-balance, waiting anxiously for the right parenthesis that never comes (in some of those self-consciously difficult poems I used to badger myself into reading, I remember finding multiple left parentheses (ironic little eyebrows raised at the reader’s increasing bafflement at one would-be parenthetical phrase after another (“oh poor thing, he’s searching for closure” (or at least for the proverbial other shoe to drop (and I was, too, because after reading a poem or email like that it’s hard to shake the impression that all the right-hand parentheses and close-quotes have decamped to some point beyond the horizon – that sliver of a new moon, say – and everything short of it has been rendered, well, parenthetical (not “wheels within wheels,” but the opposite: a feeling that no starting point can ever be returned to, as hard as we pedal this zero-cycle (there are no arrivals, only departures (what goes around disappears into a vortex.
It is said that Plato once came upon Diogenes the Kynic washing wild lettuce for his supper. “If you had paid court to Dionysius, you wouldn’t be reduced to washing lettuce,” said the philosopher. “If you had learned to wash lettuce, you wouldn’t have had to pay court to Dionysius,” replied the Kynic.
Diogenes believed in direct, unconventional responses rather in the manner of a Tang Dynasty Zen master. Once, when someone tried to convince him of the merits of Plato’s philosophy of Ideas, he squatted down and took a shit.
Once, on a sea voyage, Diogenes was captured by pirates who took him to Crete and put him on sale at the slave market. The auctioneer asked him whether he had any marketable talents. “Yes,” he said, “I excel at giving orders. Sell me to someone who needs a master.” It is said that a man called Xeniades was so impressed by this, he purchased him to tutor his children. Diogenes was soon in control of the man’s entire household. Years later, living in his tub, he used to deride rulers as slaves to their people.
Someone once asked Diogenes why it is that people give alms to beggars, who do little to deserve it, and not to philosophers, who perform such valuable services for all humanity. “Everyone expects that they themselves might someday be reduced to beggary,” Diogenes observed, “but no one ever expects to be reduced to philosophizing.”
“Amnesia is the soul of wit.” – Abdul-Walid
On the orders of its unelected leader, the beleaguered posts of Acerbia are about to undergo a Structural Adjustment Program. There is no Universal Declaration on Blogging Rights, no legal basis for charges of blogicide.
“I am the state,” Louis XIV famously declared. Abdul-Walid recently entertained a similar delusion, equating the contemplated termination of his blog and all its contents with suicide.
But at other times and in other contexts, the Acerbian dictator has been one of the blogosphere’s staunchest defenders of textual autonomy. He has been known to reprint other bloggers’ posts without their advance permission – tolerated under the lax laws that govern the blogosphere – and sometimes has gone so far as to change their shape, once even editing out lines he didn’t like and briefly withholding attribution. Soon thereafter, he quoted Pascal with favor:
Certain authors, speaking of their works, say, ‘My book,’ ‘My commentary,’ ‘My history,’ etc. They resemble middle-class people who have a house of their own, and always have ‘My house’ on their lips. They would do better to say, ‘Our book,’ ‘Our commentary,’ ‘Our history,’ etc., because there is in them usually more of other people’s than their own.
So is this the end for our beloved cities of the plain? Will their zealous ruler consign them to fire and brimstone, blind to the plight of the righteous few? You bet your booty.
Innominate. I play the tic-tac-toe with my tongue: I-No-Mi-Nate. It is one of those fabulous words, like “eponymous,” a word that testifies to itself, a word that hides behind itself. Or, like Lolita, or opolopo; words that entertain the mouth.The surface of Os innominatum wends deliriously: a gentle rise on a broad Iliac plain suddenly leads to a ridge which gives way to a volcanic crater, and a pair of mismatched wings surrounding a circular canal and subtending sheer cliffs. It is a prodigal shape, beaten every which way for pure functionality, bearing not a single wasted spur.
Word has it, however, that all the inhabitants have been airlifted out and have been granted refugee status elsewhere – most, in the shape-shifting way of web denizens, in multiple locations. Soon enough they will learn the bleak truth behind one of Abdul-Walid’s own apothegms, You have been sentenced to life outside prison, but this is harsher judgment than you think.
And Abdul-Walid himself?
As they pay their bill, and get up to leave, the older of the two is heard to say:”Insomnia. But I don’t count sheep when I can’t sleep. I count corpses.”