PRINT May 1993



MORTAL THOUGHTS NOW, PLEASE, the smaller things, spores, not the drone of ideas in the abstract, lives. Chase after them, the lost attentions, slack. Words will fail you. Well they should. Because faded glamour will no longer quite do, monograms slipping off handkerchiefs, lipstick off lips. Pool of feeling? puddle.


a cry

Even the noblest ideas dissipate in dirt. And yet the enlightened mind’s dear decrepit certainties can be turned over yes like some old tortoise shell, belly examined poked. Specter and hollow suggest ideas too and bring us back trudging to gaze upon heavy, vulgar common sense clasping bits of the new and the old to its breast in some unstable, ungainly, well, intensely physical order. An order that cannot really be understood through the idea of order or theory or system or machine. It is more like a suspense, or a chasm, or the kiss that outwits time. It cannot be thought through ideas alone. It is only fair to say such things at the outset. Please beware. Common sense was not exactly anyone’s idea and it was not cannot be articulated as such.


The truth of this language was virtual but neither grammatical nor synchronic; truth lay in the movement of the language, its silt, its sediment, its variety, its capacity for semantic and phonetic difference. But the truth was equally to be found in its ability to identify with the depths of the physical thing. The truth of this language as well as its value as well as its common sense lay in its accommodation to its circumstances. It would not make the slightest bit of difference to anybody that it contained no consistent definition of the sign. Words would name and circulate about things. Words were forever in contact with material that was not linguistic, equally mobile, and practical.

Language was never alone.

And Mallarmé? You have every reason to cite Mallarmé again, Mallarmé, all wrapped in red green plaid against the cold, Mallarmé, gold pen in tiny hand, whose daily words were spilt teaching English in lycée, whose two textbook projects were written in the spirit of the grammaire historique, and whose meditation on the state of poetry moved from a reflexion on the great gap between the popular word and his own parlance to meditation on a crisis.1

Le remarquable est que, pour la première fois, au cours de l’histoire littéraire d’aucun peuple, concurremment aux grandes orgues générales et séculaires, où s’exalte, d’après un latent clavier, l’orthodoxie, quiconque avec son jeu et son ouïe individuels se peut composer un instrument, dès qu’il souffle, le frôle ou frappe avec science; en user à part et le dédier aussi à la Langue. . . . Selon moi jaillit tard une condition vraie ou la possibilité, de s’exprimer non seulement, mais de se moduler, à son gré.

Les langues imparfaites en cela que plusieurs, manque la suprême: penser étant écrire sans accessoires, ni chuchotement mais tacite encore l’immortelle parole, la diversité, sur terre, des idiomes empêche personne de proférer les mots qui, sinon se trouveraient, par une frappe unique, elle-même matériellement la vérité. Cette prohibition sévit expresse, dans la nature (on s’y bute avec un sourire) que ne vaille de raison pour se considérer Dieu; mais, sur l’heure, tourné à de l’esthétique, mon sens regrette que le discours défaille à exprimer les objets par des touches y répondant en coloris ou en allure, lesquelles existent dans l’instrument de la voix, parmi les langages et quelquefois chez un.2

(The remarkable thing is that, for the first time in the literary history of any given people, and concurrent to the great universal secular organs where, according to a hidden keyboard, orthodoxy exalts itself, anyone with his own individual game and ear can make himself into an instrument, whenever he draws a breath, brushes past it or, with science, strikes; to treat it separately and dedicate it, too, to Language. . . . Later, I would say, gushes forth a true condition or the possibility, not only of expressing oneself, but of modulating oneself, at one’s pleasure.

Languages, imperfect in this as in other things, lack the supreme: thinking being writing without accessories, neither whispering but still tacit the immortal word, the diversity, on earth, of idioms, prevents no one from proffering the words which, if not would be found by a single knock, itself materially, truth. This prohibition is dealt severely and expressly, in nature (one bends oneself to it with a smile) which might not yield for the reason that it considers itself God; but, on the hour, turned to esthetics, my sense regrets that the discourse gives way, expressing objects by touches responding by color or allure, these existing in the instrument of the voice, among the languages and sometimes within one.)

The poet’s voice will fall silent under these conditions, the word will separate from speech, there will be a last silent difference, for “parler n’a trait à la réalité des choses que commercialement” (speaking has no truck with the reality of things except commercially).3

Cette visée, je la dis Transposition—Structure, une autre.

. . . Tout devient suspens, disposition fragmentaire avec alternance et vis-à-vis, concourant au rythme total, lequel serait le poëme tu, aux blancs; seulement traduit, en une manière, par chaque pendentif.4

(This aim, I call it Transposition—Structure, an other.

. . . Everything becomes suspense, fragmented disposition alternating and face to face, concurrent to total rhythm, which would be the silenced poem, to whites; only translated, in a manner of speaking, by each pendentive.)

White value appeared in the context of a linguistic economy that had overtaken the word, subdued it, shown the old voice to the door and ever so gently closed it. Will there be any warmth within?

Très bien: car on ne voit presque jamais si sûrement un mot que de dehors, où nous sommes; c’est-à-dire de l’étranger.5

Narrer, enseigner, même décrire, cela va et encore qu’à chacun suffirait peut-être pour échanger la pensée humaine, de prendre ou de mettre dans la main d’autrui en silence une pièce de monnaie, l’emploi élémentaire du discours dessert l’universel reportage dont, la littérature exceptée, participe tout entre les genres d’écrits contemporains.6

(Very well then: because one almost never sees a word so well as from without, where we are; that is to say from abroad.

To narrate, teach, even describe, that goes along and yet again that would suffice maybe to each for the exchange of human thought, to take or to place in the hand of others a piece of change in silence, the elementary use of discourse clears the universal reportage in which, literature excepted, participate all amongst the genres of contemporary writing.)

It might be said that this language of the marketplace followed from much of what the schools would teach. It bowed to the pressure of external forces. It knew that the word could not control them.

Very well then.

Curriculum will lead to unwanted prophecies.

History and things will not be controlled, not by man, not by poets, not by anyone.

Remember this and Mallarmé.

Put little faith in lines.

Show and tell.

Stomach frying pan light bulb.

The school derived much of its authority from the first (and only) flash of absolute congruence. As the child saw the teacher to be holding and slowly meting out knowledge and progress, always knowing more, the child would draw a conclusion: that the teacher really was in total possession of the object, could actually understand it as a complete thing, origin, all knowledge, all thought, all unthought too. That such a thing might even exist! Through the teacher’s pedagogical moves the child was given the fantasy of the Kantian thing-in-self. Was it a gift? This perverse magic of rabbit in hat would captivate and compel, it would work in the favor of the state and in favor of capital and in favor of the commodity. The illusion was ideological, of course, but through it the object acquired an extraordinary power. Nature would be subsumed into industry. The stomach would lose all its autonomy.

Never underestimate the power of an object.

V. Darchez, professor of drawing in the lycée of Lille, designed a workbook page that took the first lesson on the straight line and applied it to jibber-ish IHLTFE, then to the meaningful word enfant, then another step on to amitié. But as the line came to bear on the object all notions of human interaction disappeared, the line closed around a shut wood door; no body would appear, no friendly little wave, no more words or patois or Victor Hugo. The object to be drawn would become ever more isolated. The different terms here were not, even remotely, choices. Separations and gaps between the languages, oh really between everything, became more important than the stubborn traces of old analogies. Measures would have to cohabitate with ellipse and like it.

Evaporate. Evaporate again.

Pop loved drainage.

The seen parted, as was only natural, but what was before opaque settled further into itself and didn’t want a name. Self-aggrandizement was not C.’s idea. She was more interested in her own clairvoyance, not a transparency, but a stretch of self in time that could fold back or on or toward, ajar. The selfsame C. was perfectly capable of forgetting her keys and did.

(Thoughts unwritten untroubled by lips.)

I know, you have to wait.



IT IS NOT NECESSARY. Consumed once by refusal (writing) but now never again. That’s where it stands. All at once it came upon me: in it (writing) the mind is an ego separating out other theorems and subjects not one’s own to become what one can no longer make a gift of, even (being a writer).

Now, I refuse writing instead of refusing the art world, its theorems and other subjects; because of this, I see my face. It (my face) is colorless and nearly shapeless, and I do not recognize it as having any need for refusal (writing), because I see now how it exists (my face). My face is as large as any parenthesis needs to be to any thought it needs to hold. Those thoughts vary and are moments and never include writing, not anymore. Those thoughts can be about a tree, a building, and never include writing, not anymore. Nor does refusal (writing) come out of my mouth when I speak. My speech—there is no white noise in it about that building, that tree, not anymore. This is how I am beginning to learn to speak: not in the description of speech but in the avocation of a truer speech, my tongue and teeth free of interpretation my mind becoming a tree, a building, when it recognizes one.

I am a building.

Today, my mind is a building. My speech about this building may sound like a memory, or like refusal (writing), but it is not. What I am about to say cannot be relegated to either memory or refusal (writing). What I am about to stay is an aid, a floor place of the building I am about to become. This building—I grew up in it and have returned to it now because, finally, I have faced its truth, which is my . . .