Archive for October 2009

Eel Saliva

October 30, 2009

eels

I envy the electric eel (Electrophorus electricus, and not an eel but a fish) who can construct his nest out of his own saliva, and put out some tremendous voltage from his own inner organic batteries. In my case, to provide myself shelter, I have to rely on others to travel to far flung corners of the earth and violently extract from it sufficient wood, plaster, copper, steel, clay, fabric, plastic, etc. How much more efficient and personal if instead I could salivate copiously and build up a home from my own inner materials, and then, with my own organs, proceed to light and heat and decorate. Even if I were only half electric eel I could sit at this computer, I imagine, and instead of requiring others to dig coal from the earth and burn it, or construct titanic dams, or split the atom, my lightly charged fingers on the keys would suffice to light up the screen and send my words across the world.

True, the electric eel generates its greatest charges, upwards of 600 volts, only in self defense. The slow strangulation of the planet that my wall plugs help along every day could be seen as a case of self-defense as well, if I accept the argument that nature is my sworn enemy, that nature is an intruder, a home invasion maniac, climbing up the trellis in the back yard, easing through the open bedroom window, reaching out tranquilly to throttle me while I, half asleep, slowly reach under the pillow for my gun, my car, my hair dryer, my computer.

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Umbrage

October 23, 2009

berlin

On a long hike in the desert, hot and exhausted, I warily eye my shadow as I walk. What is it, exactly? Light as air, ephemeral, a filmy silhouette, an inky ghost that fears the sun and rushes to fill and define whatever space the sun can’t reach. But here’s my trick: to trade places with it. Now the shadow becomes substance, ponderous and fleshy, endowed with all the heat and weight and ache that once were mine, while I, projected by it toward the sun, become an airy ghost, an intellectual breeze, a whirl of dust in the shape of a man, perfectly able to float another ten miles, while shadow, poor shadow, scrapes along, slowly stretching out across the desert floor as day declines, so heavy and elongated at last that it can barely move. I’ll stop to watch the sunset, stop to let shadow rest! But then comes the unwelcome realization: I am the one that is temporary, the one that disappears in the dark.

Cocoons

October 16, 2009

goya

Let me fall asleep and dream of  monsters: not only the beautiful bats and owls of midnight, but also basilisks, krakens, chimeras, and hippogriffs, as well as monstrous ancestors like Enkidu, and Adam, and Ardipithecus. All are products, perhaps, of  sleep, or at least drowsiness, except for the last, who appears at first in the full  glare of empiricism, but once unveiled starts edging instantly toward myth. Reason and madness weave the same cocoon, and out of these miniature caves of metamorphosis emerge such lunatic moths and friendly ghosts as will carry me tonight to bed, to my own chrysalis of sweet unreason. El sueño de la razón produce monstruos hermosos.

A Plasm

October 9, 2009

casper-the-ghost

A desire to live as more than one species is a protest against the stinginess of genetic inheritance, but how feeble. Fine to imagine myself manbat or merman, and stitch words and surgeries to make a multicarnal carnival, but natural law in the end forbids the survival of hybrids. Strange, because if our souls could step out into view for a minute, take a turn on stage, we could see a whole life history written there in the form of spiritual gills, spines, brains, tails, coattails.

Perfectly fitted inside my plasm, my physical cavern, is my ghost, translucent as Casper. Not actually a perfect fit because the head is antlered, in honor of the diversity of life and in apology to the several deer (not a lot) that my father shot down in the mountains of Utah and we ate at the kitchen table in Salt Lake. From such celebrations it’s not hard to move down the path of shamanism (in my case via mormonism and magic) to the Gundestrup Cauldron and its depiction of the horned god. My own spiritual antlers are newer than that, still in ghostly velvet, but are growing, growing, heliotropic, rooted in the brain.

Lucifer Chiropter

October 3, 2009

martin

No meditation on cave mythology can continue without a discussion of the Christians’ Hell and their eidolon, Satan, who presides there in a form that appears half human and half bat. The topic is suggested by the calendar, with Michaelmas falling this last week. Michael, in Revelation 12:14 at least, is the one who casts Lucifer out of heaven and so inaugurates the general Satanic revenge narrative. Now, the wings of archangels and the lower angels appear to be modeled on the wings of storks, and Lucifer must have sported this style in Heaven. However, at some point, and it’s not exactly clear when, he trades these in for, or they are spontaneously replaced by, bat’s wings, though they are necessarily so large that they might be better thought of as dragon’s wings (and indeed in depictions of Michael’s triumph his adversary is either a leather-winged anthropoid or dragon).

On modern occasions of masquerade there is a clear preference for feathery over leathery wings, even though natural history neutralizes both, and teaches us reverence for both birds and bats. The only explanation for this persistent post-Christian prejudice is a simplistic bat/cave metonymy. Even though there are birds who live in caves and bats who live in trees, the “hellishness” of caves perennially brands our innocent bat friends with a mark of murky evil.

To combat this bias I intend a plastic surgery in which the skin of my back will be carefully and partially flayed, and left to soften and cure while a new layer regenerates. The free layer is then divided in two, and stretched with the aid of bone-like struts into the shape of chiropteran wings. Such appendages are easy to hide beneath clothing when not needed, but unfold with a fiercely benevolent magnificence when the occasion demands.