Editions MSS
Editions MSS
Goldbarg’s Variants
§ 17.
Perhaps we can account for Goldbarg’s fresh appeal to his otherwise uptight informants — and not just Mountain Fukari women, but, as your own genealogy attests, those of other tribes, such as the Sihlaucal — to the so-called “masked words” he learned as part of his initiation into the “masked leader” cult, as well as the subsequent sheer masked lucid strophes of his Jardim quai viottoli si bifurcam, of which I readily recall: “Per costumbre el convidat consume / E il rango, e la fitxa que sirve.”

No. His was just your typical shabby tyrant’s shabby appetite for immaculate womaninity. Once he’d shabbily sullied one matriline, my mother’s father’s mother’s, for instance, he had no option but to shabbily abuse the innocent child of another, my father’s mother’s mother’s, for example, before word of just how shabby a participant observer he was got round, setting the whole tribe (gir berek) against him, by which time he’d already moved on to another study group in another region entirely.

“New Fields of Old Work,” we could call it. As if what impelled his ragged feet, and hence the diversity of his prolific œuvre, was less a need to flee, and more a spontaneous recapitulation of the ancient seasonal-altitudinal migrations of the peoples the worldly gaze of his fashionably old-fashioned ethnology scrutinized. After all, that Goldbarg’s wizened neck should perk up in the presence of lithe brown ditto hearkens to urges, drives, instincts more primordial than any remembered folkway or traditional taboo meant to block them.

You paint Goldbarg’s travels from coast to mountain like a cool voyage from compulsion to constraint, yet taboo’s more than just a curb on temptation. The cool faces he ogled, the tranquil tread of their nimble feet, belie the prickly chill of nuque and scalp. “Old Work in New Fields.”

No matter how much your natural desire might wish otherwise, he is just as much a part of this environmental shore, this evolved ecosystem of pulsing pensées, tidal intentions, and cyclical dreams as, well, you and me.

But my desire’s alive — his is just history. What’s past is past. This shore exists here, now. We can’t relive it, Skid.

That — was unpredictable. I have to deal with it —

And I won’t. This spiral of forbearance, spiraling torment —

I think only one specific end pierces back to the start, though this hand’s artifice would mold it otherwise. Or would other, less mood-minded beginnings, perhaps, have inflicted a different ending to this art’s handiwork?

I imagine a soft, malleable, amorphous system of subtle pathways and soft processes, a tender tangle of amorous darts in — ahh! — and out where any end is potentially a beginning and any beginning might simply end if the mood strikes, if the mind stings.

Cet amant’s your heteroclite guide to the unspoken, unspeakable kingdom of mean acts.

Tu m’a tancée pour ça? He’s just a drippy leader, a soft-spoken dance mate in the drippy kingdom of tango!

Let me try to describe my rage, instead of punching as I — well, you know. There’s a black castle surrounded by black walls and a black moat. Inside the black castle there’s a black space where —

The umbilical form of your rage gestates within the umbilical walls of that umbilical castle, I know. But in the ditch, umbilical fluid flows, and that umbilical form is fertile, polymorphous, and can —

Essentialist animal! All day I work the essential earth, and what do I get? Not even air, not even the bare essence of air!

The air is vast, the earth is vast, the day is vast. All creatures are vast and we must toil unto death.

Yet it seems to me that the atheistic turbulence of the atheistic air could easily quell the theomaniacal shadows of faithful folk.

Moderate people of drastic strife. In the moderate shade of the drastic air. I see them, overwhelmed.

Of course, from a cosmozeological perspective, what’s gravitational blood for the solar goose is just so much relativistic butter churned in the universal par, pars, parse, or parsec.

The sapphic gaze gooses the sapphic blood of the sapphic other. The sapphic butter melts, coursing in runnels through all the sapphic bonds.

Hunch-backed spirits dwell in the hurtful forest.

We resolved to dwell there, resolved spirits in the resolved wood.

That strain in the aural-scape — insect, bird, distant flute, wind chimes, pylon hum — you couldn’t hear until you turned your head. With witty pity, the editor gets people to turn their heads.

Sound pity. Pity sound.

The reader’s gray face illumined by the gray god of reading. You yourself are the fruits.

You yourself are the profits. Obsessed, the reader’s obsessive godlike mask empowers the obsessive “I” of reading.

Are my eyebrows really that exotic? Perplexing, maybe, but on the whole, hardly exotic.

All of him seems empty to me now. From his empty eyes with their eerie lids and lashes and brows, down to his empty it.

Each drunken face testifies to the drunken heart beneath. Drunken mouth and drunken eyes and yet, despite the mirage of warmth the alcohol supplies, a drunken coldness.

Smooth testimony of a smooth face. Smooth coldness of each smooth mouth. Even without touching them, smooth eyes belie a smooth heart.

Hypocrisy, by and large, is a form of flattery, not theft or cheating. It panders to our need to negotiate, or rather to make vanish with a wave and a wink and a smile, the abundant filth that surrounds us. A solid sorcerer who flashes away the false, not a brawny barrator who slyly sells us the truth we didn’t earn.

The obscure truth we yearn for, but cannot reach, cannot afford. Dismal filth the sordid sorcerer steals from us, then pimps back to us in a fog of flattery, a cloud of self-deceit. That’s hypocrisy.

A theoretical truth with theoretical devils.

A fragile pact with fragile devils.

The oaken tongue torments the proud pain.

The proud tongue torments the oaken pain.

Measurable words move measurable men, I their measurable master.

You, their straight master? Straight words might inspire or incite straight people, but I —

You, the perfect one, with your perfect life!

I’m satisfied with my life, yes.

Yes, all the minor pitfalls in the minor valley of it — you endure them if you can’t avoid them, and you still have a few minor miles to go —

Skillful miles I abide, especially in the skillful depths of the skillful chasm in the skillful valley —

Of the fistulous sluice of your Norlia’s fistulous noria paddling the piercing waters of the fistulous delight that flow when she wheels her fistulous mill into yours.

I’m sorry I spouted off so glumly to you about the waterwheel of sapphic acuity. Sad that what seemed at the time a little lesbian spur to the melancholy mill of your watery libido turned out to be the tribadic blade of traumatic jealousy.

That marmoreal image of horsemen and footmen. The fanfare silent yet marmoreal. And in the marmoreal distance, around the bend of the cape, a ship like a marmoreal sign, beneath a star, marmoreal Sirius perhaps.

An addled mark is more what I see. Addlepated cavalry and addlepated infantry, the whole addled commotion of it amplified by the distant ship, the indifferent star.

At the breathless threshold of that breathless place where the breathless woman’s organon gives birth to both agony and ecstasy, the breathless raging Mona swoons the breathless color of breathless stone a yawning orgasm onomatopoeic.

The healthy woman’s Gorgonian inferno you’re trying to describe should rather more colorfully dislimn a swooning orgasm and turn to the healthy stone the groaning man’s wooing, the enraged goon’s worming anastomotic up the healthy scarp of the hard-won maison grognante of her, meaning my, moaning organ’s wonder.

At the delirious moment of that petite mort a delirious dread overcomes me.

Yes, it’s like you’re cringing with fear. Yet it’s hardly a time of cringing for me, hardly a time of — death.

I still can’t see how the Sihlaucal can derive any sort of significant faith from the trivial ashes they extract from an ordinary coal pit.

What you dismiss as repulsive, topical, and foul, our adorable Sihlaucal faith perceives as a charming optical effect of the evanescent ash-caul lignite forms as it burns.

Between a pigskin purse and le porcelet’s incessant rooting at the dry teat of la truie — yes, one might perceive a connection, but —

In the ditch, the half-dressed sow snuffles. Me, half-dressed, sans wallet, sans keys.

Practicable aspects of the postmodern voice qui nuancent la pensée.

Et dont la pensée se nourrit. Our entwined shadows linger there.

Just as ahistorical sand accretes to make historical things, ahistorical words create the space of historical faith.

Faith sans speech is paralyzed, unable to shape the paralyzed sand into any fixed form.

Should we view the plumed serpent as the earthy analog of the ethereal Milky Way, or as the ethereal sceptre of earthly power?

Neither. It’s the animal force of the cosmognostical gnomon that depicts the serpent’s path of the plumed planet flying through the field of stars.

Like a proud obstetrician guiding the infant’s skull through the birth canal, Goldbarg’s proud hands guide the proud words of his children from their proud Tetrastic tombs.

Guiding myth out of the living tissue of culture, material artifacts out of the womb of handiwork and quotidian praxis, such that one becomes merely a (translated) collection of wooden words prone to such fantastically spurious interpretations as they’re “good to tell” because they’re “good to think,” and the other, more mute wooden objects — spindle, loom, counting stick, funerary platform, so-called “totem poles,” and so on — begging for an elite scholar to give them (translated) voice in the wooden pages of a monograph. No. Goldbarg’s legacy is not that of a stranger in a strange land bent on translating a limited data set of participant observation (the stranger the better) into a travel guide or dissertation, but that of a productive node or note in the living polyphony of Fukari culture, uniquely granting his self-aware daughters the power to create their own “Book of Distaff Things” (Ktar og-Firrsan) despite any social conflicts his womanizing entailed.

I don’t deny that the body of your thesis is largely correct — yes, it’s true, culture is not just a pâté of myth, a terrine of ritual, a rillette of artifact preserved in the aspic of ethnography. But if, like me, you braved the shades of Goldbarg’s papers dans les archives du CACA, I think you might reach a more accurate assessment of just where Goldbarg’s head and heart were at at the time.

Yes, I’m aware of the stupid, ignorant, asinine and shady instances of bigotry in Goldbarg’s diaries, but that is just my point — they are like bits of gristle in the pure jelly of schizomythic womb: you spit them out and enjoy the intense flavors his humble, even simple-minded focus on plants and insects allowed him to paradoxically extract from the Fukari people among whom he lived, with whom he participated in the continuous (re)creation of Fukari culture.

I suppose I should try listing the various tempi, the innumerable “moments grouillants,” as Lefebvre might say, which Goldbarg teased out of the remarkable ability of Mountain Fukari women to choose, from among so many seemingly identical gritty pupal wads, precisely those they could extract spinnable silk from. And yet, as our author noted with some surprise in Psammophilology, what with the prominence of antlions in Mountain Fukari myth, ritual, and daily practice, while they distinguish F. tlaatlata imagos (ot) from those of F. maa (qot), and contrast the frowzy biconid ut cocoons of both with the harmonious unitary spiroid dǧaiǧ of what ever since has been termed Goldbarg’s variant of the former species, they have no distinctive Gesamtbegriff for the “productive yet sterile” Gesamtsein of ditto, whose nymphage essentially doubles, and whose pupation essentially halves, that of the “worthless yet fertile” normal variant, but rather enumerate their several instars!

Mountain Fukari women master such seemingly insignificant details as the names of antlion instars precisely through their mastery of the seemingly insignificant moments of the “savoir faire sans savoir pourquoi” that go into antlion silk production such that the “material profit” reaped from the “terminal variants,” as Goldbarg remarked, both compensates for, and complements, the “waste” of normal cocoon variants, for it is only these latter that produce reproductive imagos, thus allowing antlion natural history to mesh with Mountain Fukari myth, male and female to merge in the physical symbol of the tlaatlata shawl.

To observe him observing them as they observe the doodlebug dig its automatic pit into which the ant, parasitized by Puccinia monoica, tumbles and convulses with an autonomic screak of agony when seized and squeezed by the nymph’s jaws and pierced with its venom is to marvel at the automatic cyclicity of plural and paucal, of order and disorder: a hundred nodes of unity into each of which a hundred diverse strands automatically, convulsively, feed.

The iron pit is a world that pains me, cries the yellow-steel ant in the myth the women sing. A hundred of me it eats convulsively, then, convulsively, moults. In the iron pot it boils convulsively, each pupa a word-husk from which, when dried, we draw a hundred ant spirits convulsively entwined like a hundred moans of bright-moon pleasure into an exquisite strand of iron-strong silk.

[ A not-for-profit instantiation of human imagination and human labor. ]
Copyright © 2017 Michael Sean Strickland