Ptarmigan

a grouse with completely feathered feet

4/29/2004

Josh is leading a movement to send poems with "aubergine" as the last word to the New Yorker. It all makes sense. Really. Here's mine:

Seige Mentality


Picking up sticks containing polders and $10
in the giant tuber forest
I forgot sunscreen

The way out of the box
is the box factory
A corrugated told me that
I forget why exactly

However if I were the murder capital of 1783
I would decrease into a single cow

Entrapment nourishes broken personal effects

Who really roots for easy way outs
amongst pretzels and quarters on the floor of
the onager
Odds are
phonecia would enjoy walking among us

From port sailed a few eggplants
and their aubergines

4/23/2004

More proof it's better to just trust the alternate universe I'm living in. So I was watching Matrix Revolutions the other night (god knows why; what an abomination of a movie!) with Kristin, and I noticed that one of the councilors of Zion looked strikingly like Cornel West, but I thought that this would be too asinine to speak out loud. Until I watched the credits (in a stupor as to how I wasted 2 hours of my life) and saw that it was, indeed, Cornel West.

Say, did you catch Stanley Fish, as "Cashier", in Final Destination 2? No, but I heard Howard Bloom really carried Pluto Nash!

4/21/2004

I put a bare-bones .pdf of "Home of the" here, so you don't have to read it quasi-backwards. More soon. Let me know if there are problems with the file.

4/20/2004

Home of the (part 6 of 6)

So many stories are lost everyday without really anyone trying, and no one will be able to dredge them back. Lost or sacrificed, the pieces cannot do anything but fathom their obsolescence. Which is no small task. Because, at some point, white or black will checkmate the other and all of the armies will be cleared, and the board will be set again, like a wolftrap. There are no survivors. There are only winners and losers. And yet, the state does not concede anything, any soft intent. The state makes people happy despite themselves. The state ruins stolen kisses and love, and obeys the rules it makes. Which is a small task.

Desperately, people try to show others that their lives are not, in fact, desperate. That they aren't spoilt children. And to keep a straight, non-lachrymose face while doing so. This often involves touching amusements. Touching a unicorn figurine made in Antarctica. Touching a soldier boy's limbless arm. Touching the side of a lightless lighthouse. Touching a chess set missing the black queen--the Cathars had ran out of bone, in a way it was that simple--thinking of the mother who gave up what she loved without knowing exactly why.

When ruined, one has no choice but to reconstruct everything lost, as if blindfolded. To try, at least, even if the memories are gossamer thin, almost islands, shredded maps unrelated to any territory. Because at the end of every unremembered story, there are footsteps in the broken city, and the distant pluckings of ukeleles. At the end, thousands of passenger pigeons blanket the sky, obscuring the sun. At the end, the black queen weaves a path through the smoke's rubble, the rubble's edges, the incandescent anthem, looking for a way out and home.




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(that's all, folks; thanks for reading, it's been fun. much more readable html and pdf files of the story coming soon)

4/15/2004

Home of the (part 5 of 6; read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 below)

Once in town, the foreman walked to the failure mall and killed the fence, which wasn't hard. The foreman was on a business trip. Every trip was a business trip. Several figurines shattered.

Where is it? it had asked in its woman voice, the one it used to establish the contact. I thought you and I had an arrangement.

The fence stammered. You don't understand. She didn't want to leave the pieces behind.

Everything, the foreman said, will be left behind.

Afterwards, it put the "security" system to sleep and rifled through the fence's possessions, looking for the pieces. Most of which were poor and worthless. It bit its fingernails in boredom until it found Cleo's dossier in the secret library. The library was in a compartment behind his desk. How original. It was heartless. The secret library was mostly 20th century porn and chess books. Bestiality and endgame strategy, mostly. Your boat is floated motherfucker, it said, standing on the fence's windpipe and providing a small benediction that it thought tender, though it was not. Chess was a way to convince itself not to self-destruct. Between two horse copulation magazines was a slender, stapled volume of anonymous sestinas. It smiled. It had once lent the book to the fence as collateral. The compartment smelled like gobstoppers and melancholy. It secreted the sestinas into its pouch and left the mall. It needed pieces. Crossing 13th, it started walking to the East Side, towards home.

The streets were empty except for police pretending to be homeless. But their ragged jackets were too clean and had too many iron-on sponsorships. The homeless had no sponsors. They didn't bother the foreman. They might have even winked. In the failure mall, it had memorized the sestinas, poems about picking blackberries for the untenable Lord and effervescent failure.

Its cogs creaked. It truly had been in Cambridge Springs yesterday, surveying the ruins of the old grandmaster's hotel. For future development. At some point, no property would be too far away. However, it was not arrogant, and was more than compliant to admit its own shortcomings. It had thought that Cleo's proximity would corral any ambition or chance ecstasy she might have had. That she would merely confuse yearning with confusion, and let the tensions settle into her. And she did, for a long time. But people weren't solvable, unfortunately. Not that it didn't try. The old set had to be acquired. Her friendly takeover broke the deal. Her reluctance couldn't have been anything else. This made the foreman faux sad. Crossing State Street, it began whistling the old national anthem. Its favorite song. The 100 year old peanut and macadamia nut shop was closed. Most recently the store sold circus peanuts and only that. Circus peanuts were the undead of the candy world and were in a strong market position. It heard waves crashing over Dobbins Landing, half sunk and tilted. Upon reaching East and 10th, it crossed itself at Saint Anne's as a lark. Novenas were held there for a long time. The trick was: go to the church 9 days in a row and one would receive a plenary indulgence. One had to appreciate the psychosis needed to perpetuate that worldview. However inelegant an exchange of spiritual capital it was. Much simpler to declare Jesus as savior, enter a Christworld nexus, and invest your annuities in the war futures in paraclete funds. Or distill the bones in a temple into a system of material production, i.e., the factory.

It reached the outskirts factory. The lights were turned on at the silent gates but it kept walking, toward her house. It could hear the copiers caterwaul, the eyelashes twitter. The eviction notice didn't move her in the ways it intended. It needed compliance. The house was empty and lightless. After letting itself in and finding no one, it sat on the elliptical couch. It appreciated, in a way, the venomous quirks of the mother. The gardener drowned himself. So easy to drown when living next to a lake! It heard patters from the baustrelaides of the factory. It saw the ukulele on the floor. It stood and took it. It started to pluck at it. A string broke. It smashed the ukulele against the television, shattering the instrument. Inside the ukulele was the skeleton of a small bird. A passenger pigeon. It laughed and plucked the bird out by the wingtip. It could tell the bird was a passenger pigeon by the bone structure and beak size. Poor bird, it said. Where are your children. Where is your flock. The last of your kind died in a zoo. It placed the bird in its pocket with the sestinas and went outside.

From the backyard it saw the robot, a classic Walbot, sitting in the cemetery behind the stucco house. The cemetery had a slope and an emptiness. The foreman opened the unhinged gate and walked towards the robot. The robot was nursing a small campfire. Campfires were illegal. The robot was male-like, with beach blond hair and a Wal-Bowl identification plate on its chest. Anyone with beach blonde, finely tuned hair in Erie could easily be recognized as an android. The robot didn't look up; it rubbed its hands. The foreman liked to brew tea from black cat blood.

What's your name, son, the foreman said, crouching on one knee.

Nicollette, the robot said. With a French accent.

The foreman smirked. It learned how to smirk at board meetings of the godly and unimpaired. Do you know you're trespassing on private property, Nicollette? Do you want me to cite code?

The robot shivered and crossed its arms. It knew not sadness in its face, its Ken Zen eyes.

Cleo said I could live here, it said.

And where is Cleo?

Nicollette didn't respond at first. It stared into the fire and its features became blurry, somnambulant. Its physiognomy and identity confusion would have made a fine addition at the factory.

How about this, Nicollette said. I have an offer for you. A game of chess. I win, and you leave Cleo alone. You win, and I'll deliver her to you. And her possessions.

The foreman could not lose. It had many years of study for such a competition. It had once carried on a correspondence game with a Maori grandmaster, who had become a used car salesman in Wellington, for several
years. Won handily.

I accept, it said.

The robot produced a board and pieces. The board and pieces. Not a cheap plastic set one would buy at Wal-Mart, cardboard board, plastic pieces light enough to float in water. The foreman was nearly struck dumb.

Play here? the foreman said.

The robot pointed to a revolutionary's tombstone that had been flattened by time. It placed the board there.

There's no black queen, Nicollette said.

Of course there is, the foreman said, cracking its knuckles. It's just not present.

What do you propose we do then, the robot said. Your call.

Pretend as if it's there.

Invisible, you mean.

Sure. Why not.

All right, the robot said. If I want to move her, then, I will indicate the proper square.

The foreman stiffened. Unacceptable, the foreman said. I always play black.

Black always moves second. It is not an advantageous addiction.

It is for me.

You misunderstand me. I always play white. The arrangement will ensure that neither one of us will trust our gift too much.

You're not Nicollette, the foreman said.

It doesn't matter, Nicollette said, turning the board so that the foreman was white. Move. The foreman looked up at the moon, spider-webbed with cities. It could call the tree doctors in any second. Or summon white phosphorous from the secret kites, down to end Nicollette. But it didn't.

It tried to contemplate an opening. Across the street, it tried to cue up its database of every chess game every played and recorded. There was a silence. It set its mind to dreaming solutions, but only found considerable terror. It wanted to step away, overturn the board. Move, Nicollette said.

The foreman—which wasn't really a foreman anymore, as much as a compilation of inert, powerful ideas trapped in a body—reluctantly moved F4. An oddity.

Bird's Opening? Nicollette said. My. Very brave of you. Very brave. It remembered her face as she was pulled from the temple roof, how she kept trying to laugh when the captain put a musket in her mouth. The captain refused to let her laugh when he pulled the trigger. He killed himself a few years later at LeBeouf.

Does chess have to be about winning and losing, though? the foreman asked, trying to squirm. So single minded?

Niccollete squinted at the board. Well, there is the draw.

It became exasperated, and said: That's not what I mean.

Across the street, noises. It wanted to turn its head. Its memories were caught in a sphere akin to a soap bubble. The foreman never went to high school, never kissed anyone, never became moved by anything except other people's capital. Its existence led credence to the idea that children with medieval ideas of right and wrong ran the show. They grew up. They ran an economy or two. A fiefdom. They never died. They became imaginary. It heard cats escaping from the front gates. Thousands of them. The cats' brains were used as processing power. Which was not to be confused with process and power. It wanted to close the gates. It wanted to sleep. It could never sleep. Cleo must have let them go. Cleo could sleep. The cats scampered onto Dunn Boulevard. Some were as large as elephants, some were as small as field mice. Some had eight legs and some dragged themselves away with two. Some had cancer, some had bubonic plague, some had dementia, some had agoraphobia, but managed to escape somehow. Some could speak French, some could speak Mayan, some could speak Basque, some could think in every language but not speak any. Some could give lectures on industrialism and living wages, some could teach Go. Some had napalm tails, some had rope tails, some had switchblade tails. Some had diamond claws, some had lapis lazuli claws, some had hardened corn syrup claws, some had no claws. The only traits they shared was their catness. And in a way, they weren't even really cats; much as the first Cathars in Erie weren't really Cathars.

Whatever their state, the cats turned a hairpin turn and headed south, away from the bay, towards upper Peach, towards the mayoral domes and Christworld. They ran away from their history, and yet, at the same time, into it. No one could say whether anyone lived in Erie or not after the cats were freed. It was likely, but inconclusive. The city became unimportant to most purposes. Lost in the footnotes of the sun's fog and the moon's fog. Even the fog's fog. It was not its story anymore. The story became smaller and smaller. Nicollette—the robot calling itself Nicollette—was lost, and the foreman was lost, and Cleo was certainly lost. They might have existed everafter, but they were still lost. Someone in the office turned off its photocopier and its story was no longer copied nor illuminated for others. Someone unauthorized in the factory entered the break room—which had a roof—and left the refrigerator door ajar. For the hell of it. A ghost left a body, fled the coop. The foreman was happy, in a way. As much as it could be. Happiness itself was a frail ghost. It closed its eyes and felt the passenger's proxy skeleton stir.



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(to be continued...soon!)

4/06/2004

Home of the (part 4 of 6; read part 1, part 2, and part 3 below)

Pepin's floating. He's floating about them. Their time is now, but his is not. He puts his finger into the marmalade sky and doesn't feel any wind. It's windy. He's a lighter-than-air aircraft. Of sorts. They're playing. They don't know the time. They don't know the proximity of adversaries. One chanced a glance at the other. Neither has touched the board. Which means it's white's turn. Soon they will meander. He's not sure what is sensory information and what is realism. On his farm, once, he milked cows and learned to like it. Hills were called mountains in his background. He hates chess even more, after what happened to him. He loves God! However, that is unimportant. His mother's name is Marguerite. She is still farming. She has farming stories that he will never hear. That is a long time ago. White moves finally. C4. The English Opening. White has made him laugh. Lieutenant Carve--that isn't his name, it has to be Carver--is close. Carver's floating, but in a boat. He will be woken. The English opening lends itself to positional play. Jockeying, and not swift tactics. At least at first. The English Opening can lead to brutal retributions eventually. Pepin sees Black's knife next to the board. Pepin's cold somehow. More than usual. To disavow knowledge of the game, he holds his breath. He came to New France because of a girl. The girl was sixteen. Somewhere she is. She died of smallpox on the Atlantic crossing. He can't hold his breath long enough to reach her. Holding breath is like holding court or serve. He's forgotten her face. They threw her into the Sargasso. Other women have resembled her all the same. He lets out his breath. A sulfur trace streaming over the peninsula. No one's living there. Time gives serve. Black king and white queen are dead. He didn't see their ashes deposited into Misery Bay. That's what the Commodore later calls it. But it fit. It fits. He's deposited too. Part of him. A safety deposit in a sand bank. He doesn't hate White with all of his heart. Pepin knows he is young. She was not. The young are interruptible. After what has happened to White and Black and the others, he came away easy. He's floating, after all. He hasn't found anyone else floating. The French fort is ephemeral. They who think they are more than footnotes. So Pepin and the French military share the same language. Big deal. Everyone is a footnote. Entrapment isn't so bad. It nourishes broken things and makes them grow big and strong. He would like, at some point, to see one of his loves again. Unlikely. The French fort passes. LeBouf lasts a little longer, though he can't see that. The factory has slid into the marshes. It's hard to talk about in the open. No one can see this, as no one can directly see a black hole. For a long time it couldn't be considered a factory, as much as a place where corpses were burned. Pepin can only see the absences around the factory. There are tricky currents and tidepools within the peninsula's many nooks and moors. It's a good place to hide and hide things. The factory begins its production unbeknownst to the Pennsylvanians. Underneath the duckweed. The state buys the lake port when he inhales again. The state needs access. A safe harbor. He sees odd speculative bubbles. America has plans. America, he wants to say, you are one clumsy girl. You are so obvious about your schemes and flirtations. Winters remind him of past frostbite. He lost a pinky tip on the farm. He was a hard worker in Quebec. He gutted fish. They mixed the fish with potatoes and put it in tins. Meal alchemy. The Cathars, he realizes, weren't quite so fearsome as he had feared or even hoped. Even after all they did to him. They weren't even really Cathars. They enjoyed thought costumes. They paid a heavy price. America would have done them good. A declaration of independence and constitution. The city arrives, sloping to the bay. Burghers want to build a profit fleet. War with the English makes this possible. Pepin thinks of the English Opening again. There is no American Opening. There ought to be. He's contemplated mating with clouds. Albino gulls dive. He has time for historiography. The American fleet sinks an English fleet. Niagara monster built in a cove. The remainders of the American fleet are sunk in Misery Bay. The landbridge floods. Recedes. He doesn't want to mewl over his predicament. The hardest part was when they opened his chest cavity. That's when he fled. That's when holding his breath became more than a way to conquer hiccups. Civil war brought actual factories. He had applied for a cabin boy position in Quebec city. He milled around the docks. He was hungry. He didn't know they only had canoes and no cabins for boys. He could read. He was the only applicant. He was on the canoe with the goat, who shit everywhere. No wonder they wanted to kill it when they landed. Once in awhile a chips wrapper swirls by, and that's it. He's grateful for litter and nutritional statements. Food pyramids printed on trash. Of course there is always the Eriez to consider. The skunk people. Maybe if they weren't eradicated by the Iroquois, things would have been different for him. Or a beheading on the spot, upon landing on the peninsula. Hard to say. Ironworks cast dies meanwhile. A long era when trains stopped in Erie. The depth's factory felt competition. This was no doubt natural. A kiss is a technology aimed to achieve a desired effect. A kiss is an opening. It's difficult to consider his belly button. He can't look. He first kissed the White Queen while gathering berries with her. Eventually she crushed the berries against her thighs. He kissed the berries off. The passage of their mutual seduction. She would wander through the nascent city nude. Poles, Germans, Irish homing pigeoned to the city. The gem city, it's called for awhile. No one finds gems limning the streets but at least there's work. Presque Isle is inaccessible except by boat. Mosquitoes show their displeasure to tourism. There is a lake-side lighthouse. A house is attached to it. Children live there. Coast guard. Pepin watches them get older. They build a trail cutting across the peninsula to the bay side. Dead fish are a language. They gather near the docks as a grammarian's convention. A sidewalk trail arrows past the marshes. Oh they tore that up. But not for a long time. The children use the trail to go to school, to the bay on the other side. A ferry to Erie. The trail seems straight. The children die. The factory's migrating, underwater. Sledging on the bottom, upturning mercury boots and nonrefundable cola bottles on the bay's bottom. He imagines cats in diving bells hauling the factory underwater. Nearly departed souls resemble cats. They skulk and hiss. He observes pesticides and tourist arrivals and bathhouses and children drowning in undertows. Or straying off the sidewalk trail. Deer shy away. Ticks pounce. Grandmasters joust thirty miles away in a tourney. In the early history of chess, the queen used to be a limited piece and could not move far. Anonymous Europeans made technological enchantments to accelerate the game. The queen became the most powerful piece. Aside from the king. Even that was questionable. The King's power rested in his vulnerability. His bones tremble. Ticks with lime disease and zebra mussels are cousins and arrive at the same time. Trains stop stopping as much as they used to. He sees her at last--and what he would become, reawakened--in the eighties. She's building a sand castle next to her mother. For a few seconds of slowness, he hears Cheap Trick chords on the trans-am distend. Her mother stares at the sand. They're both on a beach towel. Her mother cocks her head and starts digging. He's unsure of her dowsing--not of its accuracy but whether he wants to be found. Then he thinks, of course I want to be found. Who doesn't. She puts her hand flat on the sand. She tells her daughter to wade. The sand castle's spires remind him of home. Rain ruins and wolves skirting the crop edges. He never understood Cathars and never would. Wade? the daughter says. A pigeon flies past, out of its habitat. Practice your doggy paddle, Cleo. Don't swallow the water, it's filthy. Keep your chin up. This last command, even he can tell, is tactical advice and not encouragement. He enjoys the linear progression of time. Even though he knows it's kind of a farce. It turns out that the colonists on the Peninsula were kicked out of the Cathar establishment. Loose as it was. For violence and malfeasance. The White Queen told him this a few days before their separation. The girl is dutiful and splashes into the waves. The mother scoops up the bag. He mimics spitting sand out of his mouth. At that moment, the mother realizes she'll never play professional chess again. Her head's crowded. With the pieces in place above the sand, the factory comes ashore in a foggy night. Sets up shop in an abandoned warehouse, of which there are plenty. Close to the stucco house on the east side. Within striking distance. But the factory waits. Zebra mussels invade in its wake and win. In like fashion, Pepin floats above the stucco house and sees recalcitrant spires, gangplanks, chained vats inside the factory. He sees dimly. Tractor-sized photocopiers where the cats are penned. Inner ichors. The mother loses the Black Queen! Or rather, the Black Queen escapes. Maybe there isn't a Black Queen in the first place and never was. Hard to say what is true. He is over the house. A good view. The mother gives up chess in earnest after a legion of failures. Cleo senses she should never discuss this. House turned up top to bottom. Arguments over who lost the queen. Vast quarrels. It's useless, he hears. It's useless. I swear I had the queen, it was in my grasp. The remaining pieces are squirreled away in storage and the mother dies. And then everyone is filled with the Lord, and a few people design systems to save and consolidate other, less fortunate people. Much later, he whispers to the girl--now much older, and sadder--that he will give his breath and breadth, and that she will never have to be alone unless she wants to be, because her time is dire, because others want to ensure that. And it's not your fault, he continues, it's mine. It's all mine. But I need you to breathe with me, so that it may be rectified. She opens her mouth in the bath and then he's inside of her. And then everything is different. She doesn't move to open the door when she hears knocking. That's the factory representative, he tells her in a cortex whisper. He's offering you an eviction notice. Don't read it. That's why I'm here for you now. I'm hearing you. I have a better way to protect you. She doesn't read it. The factory is getting desparate, reckless. It doesn't dare raid the house with his protection. I love you, she says. He sees through the foreman's window the knife. He can shift back, at any time, to feeling Black's knees on his chest and the first fluttering cut across the neck. He doesn't. He has a self. She's fragile and warm, he thinks. The churches sadden the streets in bright crosses. Migratory species are shot down with antiaircraft guns. Icarus solutions means losing track of extinctions. Satan is a better chess player than God. It doesn't mean he wins. But he has nothing to lose. Operators on a abandoned blocks on 18th try to contact like minded psyches through telepathy and ham radio. Signals bounce off him because they don't reach anyone else. Pepin doesn't correct her love. A love that her betters would call wicked only because of its suddenness. He coaxes her out of the tub. Now go find the rest of me, he says. I'm in the attic, in a banker's box. Your mother painted it blue.


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(to be continued...)

4/03/2004

Yes! NBA comics:

Set of 4 action-adventure comic books: HARDWOOD HEROES #1 Features: Shaquille O'Neal, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Paul Pierce, Baron Davis, & Ben Wallace with Richard Jefferson, Jermaine O'Neal, Jerry Stackhouse, & Michael Finley. Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, & Ernie Johnson of the TNT broadcast crew are live at the scene. A mysterious amulet brings the ancient sorcerer Nabu to life and he uses his powers to engage the skeletons, dinosaurs, and other creatures to attempt to defeat our players and take over the world. THE GUARDIANS #1 Features: LeBron James, Gary Payton, Jason Kidd, Mike Bibby, Kevin Garnett, Allen Iverson, & Reggie Miller with Kenyon Martin, Stephon Marbury, Matt Harpring, & Pau Gasol. Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, & Ernie Johnson of the TNT broadcast crew make an appearance as well. The evil Master V's group of super powered henchmen, including Inkblot, Thunderstruck, Pitbull, Landslide, and Her Quickness, and others attempt to take over New York City. THE ZONE #1 Features: Karl Malone, Carmelo Anthony, Rasheed Wallace, Steve Nash, Allan Houston, & Ray Allen, with Brian Grant, Jason Richardson, Antoine Walker, & Toni Kukoc. Our NBA heroes put on special suits to take on a mysterious siren named Circe and her hi-tech gang who commit spectacular robberies. AIR & SPACE #1 Features: Chris Webber, Tracy McGrady, Scottie Pippen, Vince Carter, Dirk Nowitzki, & Elton Brand with Amare Stoudemire, Gilbert Arenas, Steve Francis, & Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Inner city kids