“The spell is a myriad-minded poetic story-form that has been practiced sporadically during the 20th and 21st centuries by an underclass of radicals, outcasts, mystics, prisoners, and the neurologically non-normative. Originating in dada terma, the spell contains elements of both poetry and prose and traditionally consists of 13 parts. These parts, which are purposely presented as fragmentary and heterogeneous, contain disparate elements which may include: pronouncement, myth, vision, intention, rant, preachment, dream, memory, overheard speech, self-help, nonsense and irruptions from the present moment. (The exact admixture is a matter of obsessive secrecy among practitioners of the spell.) Each element is required and must be present, though it may also be present in its absence, just as a long-dead parent or lover is present. Frank O’Hara’s “Meditations in an Emergency” is arguably the best known 20th century American example of the spell. Outwardly humble in its apparent embrace of mish-mash and gibberish, the spell in fact aims at nothing less than the transformation of the world.”
-- Jerome Rothenberg
You can hold your breath until you turn blue,
but they’ll still go on doing it.
but they’ll still go on doing it.
-- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (8:4)
For the Removal of Obstacles
1. Did you receive word that civilization was to end today? Was this Armageddon scheduled? Is this yet another ‘Was Supposed to Happen’? Did you find it in your briefing? Mine neither.
2. Oh! How much simpler life would be if one did not wake up, every day, as a different person! Yesterday I was confident, I’m sure of it, I had my plans and reasons. This morning of that person -- there’s no sign. Don’t think I’m insisting on remaining positive -- no, I would be depressed, if I could stay depressed, if I could have just a little goddamned consistency. I ask: what’s the good of finding myself when I just go on evaporating? I would gladly take psychiatric drugs -- joyfully! -- if only I could find someone to give them to who was even halfway reliable.
3. Once we knew for certain what the surgeons had removed, we hurried to learn whether one could survive without it.
4. I prefer to only go to bars that allow swapping blowjobs in the back. I only pretend to understand the point of other sorts of bars. Some guys even get fucked in the toilets, bent over, and gripping the cool tank. Once I was pissing at the far side of the trough when an orgy flared up. As much as I can, I just try to cooperate with whatever’s going on. The truth is that I am tremendously fond of parts. This is what I’ve decided to do with my life. Instead of becoming important. Occasionally I am envious of successful people. Mostly I feel pretty good about it.
5. Q: Why are you so totally opposed to appearing respectable, even momentarily? A: Because throughout my life the people who have hurt me most were always those most beloved at the supermarket. The Captains of Appearances, of how do you do’s. The Unofficial Mayors. Down through not even the bread aisle could they pass without praise. Racist asses excuse themselves by saying a black man mugged them. Well -- I was mugged by nice people.
6. This morning I put my boots on early so that I would be ready. Then I stepped on my glasses and I broke them. Tangled in the bedsheets, they’d fallen to the floor when I made the bed. Here was the fruit of my earnestness. The prescription glasses, exorbitant, had been, of course, a gift. I picked up what what left of them and cradled it in my hands. With any luck I’d eventually end up in a country where I could afford to fix them. I note that the sadness I felt as I held the glasses -- in three pieces now -- that sadness had already been there before I broke them. In sadness I had broken the glasses. The knot of anguish had been there, just waiting to be assigned, and now, with my boot, I had given it a job.
7. A brother teased me once that my first word as a baby was, “Excuse me could you please pass the butter?” Except I wasn’t a baby -- I was closing in on 4. And still had not spoken. My parents were concerned I might be slow. Sadly, this turned out to be true. I did eventually learn to speak. Unfortunately I never managed to become what one might call natural.
8. OK, all right, so I am not an emperor. But just the same these are my notes on horseback.
9. “You know those hangovers like Near Death Experiences where you see all at once what you’ve been doing wrong all along? I have those like quarter-annually. Even hungover I still made it to work today. Now I can’t wait to get home so I can fix my whole entire life.”
10. More and more I say, “I accept, I accept, I accept”. Perhaps I am becoming spiritual? No, I suspect that I am only trying, slyly, to get back at life, to get a rise out of it, to do what it would least expect.
11. I ought to ask myself one question at the start of every day -- how oh how to make less trouble in dull and repetitive ways?
12. And this now is where? And where is next? Tell me please that it is visa on arrival? Will this card work for the ticket? Will the cardholder mind? Or is there some reasonable country I can get to by bus? Can I at least get my haircut first? Does anyone know me there, at wherever’s next? Can I stay with them for awhile or would that be too much? Should I offer money or just try to get by with sex? Is crossing the street just totally impossible, as in Hong Kong or Kolkata? The gym is where? The gods are who? Potable water, pickpockets, chance of getting laid? My time here is done, I must move on. The only thing that’s totally certain is that I’ll show up wearing this same shabby shirt.
13. A serious, bespectacled man, approx. 50 explains, “I was a Peep. To be a Peep was my aim. I covered myself in an industrial sized tub of marshmallow fluff. Then I covered myself with sugar dyed yellow. And I was a Peep. I was edible.” The pretty barista seeks to be polite and asks, “Did people eat off of you?” The gentleman shakes his head. “I failed to take into account body heat. I had like -- stalactites. My costume was not a success.”