This Just In: Spine-tingling Not Just for Goths

This Just In: Spine-tingling Not Just for Goths

phrenologicalchartAutonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR: sometimes it feels good to have a name for something, even if the name is an acronym and a euphemism. Thanks to this week’s This American Life podcast, “Tribes” I found out that this odd sensation I have had since childhood is shared by OTHER PEOPLE. Yes, I really did think it was me alone that would suddenly, while reading a piece of poetry or listening to certain music, experience a strange prickling sensation on the back of my skull that proceeded down my spine and petered out somewhere between my shoulder blades.

ASMR. According to the encyclopedic collective unconscious currently housed in the Tubes (wikipedia), ASMR is Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Though after reading the wiki entry I was baffled by the term’s coiner comparing it to orgasm. An orgasm is a very muscular, whole-body sensation where everything tenses up with a release following it.

For me ASMR is subtle, does not involve muscles, only nerves and skin, and is an unlike an orgasm in that I can’t deliberately pursue and achieve it. I can listen to certain kinds of music more likely to trigger it, and I can read poetry in the hopes that I find a line that elicits it, but I can’t say with certainly what exactly it is I am responding to. It also has a more important component than the physical sensation that I would call liminal: it’s a state, a moment of transition or connection… and  it brings with it this strong sense of… rightness. That something sounds/feels right, as in, it has struck some kind of resonance inside me that I am uniquely tuned to hear.

When I was a kid, I was really curious about it. I felt it when I read passages in books, or in listening to classical music. (Which hearkens back to an earlier post I wrote about the central role music takes in my creative life). I used to tell adults about the feeling. One person told me it was called a frisson, but a frisson is a shudder or a thrill caused by emotional disturbance or anxiety or fear. A frisson is that creeped-out feeling you get when you hear a voice in the house when you know you are alone… it’s that attention/fear/back-of-the-neck hair-raising tingle otherwise known as the heebie jeebies or the willies. This may be a cousin of the electrified sprinkling that is ASMR, but my guess is that the willies are more a primal attention response that keeps us from being eaten by stealthy, nocturnal things.

I once saw my grandmother give a sudden shudder for no reason. She looked around in the air around her chair and then said, “A goose was walking over my grave.” Was this ASMR? I wish I had known what she was thinking about at that moment… or was she reading something? Listening to something? I can’t remember.

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it is a kind of sense that doesn’t have a name. Remember when “umami” became the other taste that was all the rage? I hadn’t even heard of it until maybe ten years ago. It is not straightforward- there isn’t a single word to describe it, except itself. People try with “savory” or “hearty” or “delicious” but truthfully, it is its own thing. ASMR may be something like this: a sense like umami that is tied to sound. I confessed to a writer friend as soon as I heard about it, who also could not believe that it had a name. She also has experienced this feeling since childhood, and describes it as a sense of connectedness.

Maybe as I grew older I never mentioned this feeling it to anyone because it is so difficult to describe, and like most things tied to creativity, I feel guarded about it. Artists are superstitious… if you give away the power of an inspiration, if you talk about a story too soon, if you discuss what drives you to make something, you risk leaking its natal force. Also, you’d be surprised how many people want to belittle and dismiss the curious hunger that makes creative people happy.

Also, I am sure that if I casually mentioned that I experience a physical reaction to beauty, that I get tingles in my head when I read or hear a line of really good poetry, or that Wagner or Chopin’s Nocturnes give me electricity in my skull, I would sound like a total loon or even worse, a complete blowhard. I’ll tell you what though, I would bet a $5 coffee that most dubstep fans and musicians experience ASMR and even seek to create it. Dubstep, as well as a lot of related electronic music is all about the symphonic- heavy on the build-up and definitely, deliberately epically narrative in structure. They build to massy, booming drops. They buoy quietly up into soaring: it gives me the prelude to zings just thinking about it. Here, just listen to this one.

My travels with Huginn and Muninn

My travels with Huginn and Muninn

Odin on his horse Sleipnier. His ravens, Huginn and Muninn, at his side. Artist: Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929)Today I am officially announcing that the title of my book in progress, formerly titled digital gothic: a spellbook for the new sorcerer, has been claimed by its rightful muses and will now be titled “Huginn & Muninn: a digital gothic.”

I also want to tell you a strange little story about how this book has come into being over the past two years. I will let you decide what to make of it, but I believe, personally, that the exhausting adventure/struggle that is writing a book is not merely a personal act. I think it’s a collusion, and I don’t think you necessarily get to choose who hijacks you and insists you tell their story.

In the case of this book, my hijackers (or guides as I like to call them), are Huginn & Muninn. Never heard of them? Neither had I. In Norse mythology, they are a pair of ravens that accompany the god Odin. They fly out into the world(s) and bring back news of what they have seen.  Their names translate to “thought” (Huginn) and “mind” or “memory” (Muninn). Odin’s relationship with these ravens is described in Scandinavian poetry from before and up to the 13th century including the Prose Edda, Poetic Edda, the Heimskringla saga, and in the work of a group of Icelandic poets called the skalds. I have not read any of these works, nor did I know about Odin being associated with ravens before they came to me in a dream. Though I have to admit I can relate in a very strong way to this image of a skald, composing poetry in chains after being captured by King Óláfr Haraldsson.

Bersi Skáldtorfuson composing poetry while in chains after being captured by King Óláfr Haraldsson.Not to be melodramatic about it, but being chained by the neck is an apt depiction of the internal landscape of most poets. This is why we cannot handle our liquor and why people tend to avoid our taste in books and movies.

So yes, in case it slipped by you where I tried to hide it at the end of paragraph 3 above, I was approached by Huginn & Muninn in a dream. At the time, I knew nothing of who they were. You see, I have had a lifelong obsession with ravens. For my 12th birthday I had a raven tattooed across my left arm, shoulder, and back. (FYI: Every birthday has been my 12th birthday since I turned 12.) So ravens were not an unknown subject to me. I know the connotations Poe has given them, I know that they are scavengers, I know that their intelligence is on par with a dog’s (really a human’s but we don’t like to admit to these things), and that ravens live in family groups and can live for 70 years. In myth I was aware of raven as a trickster god, and in the Northwest native traditions is seen as a prometheus figure, having stolen the sun and brought it down to give warmth and light to human beings.

A Nunivak Cup'ig man with raven maskette. The raven (Cup'ig tulukarug) is Ellam Cua or Creator god in the Cup’ig mythologyThen something happened.  I was out walking at night. I was listening, for the very first time, to Virtual Boy’s Mass.  I began to see things in my head, to connect internally to a time when I slipped in and out of such “seeing” quite easily- my early teens and twenties. A time when the plasticity of reality was still very much accessible to me. We are all magicians when we are young, but we don’t know it because we don’t know that reality actually solidifies as you get older. We don’t even have a way of understanding what the hell that means until it’s already happening. Before you think I am waxing sentimental, let me clarify: youth is not some precious, innocent state. I’m not forgetting the self-centeredness, short-sightedness, vanity, or naivety that are all rampant during that time, but I was remembering the  effortless and absolute belief I had at a younger age that I could apparently influence the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces, which happens to be the first definition of magic. I think most teens and people in their early twenties think in that rational-magical way. It’s how new things happen.

The thought that came to me, and the memory that immediately followed, was that I had once known how to travel into other worlds. Not the ill-advised and oft-regretted world of vodka shots. Not the blank room full of cats-in-hats behind the TV or inside the endless hypertrails of the internetz, but that portal that opens when you close your eyes and listen to certain kinds of music.

** I would like to note here, that the thought came to me, and then the memory followed. Odin’s ravens, remember, are called Huginn (thought) and Munnin (memory). Hindsight is interesting, isn’t it? Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin's shoulders in an illustration from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript

I credit my mother for this revelation about music as a door to other worlds. When I was about nine or ten years old, she once told me to lie on the floor and close my eyes and listen to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkries, and wait for pictures to come into my mind. “What do you see?” she asked me.

At first I saw the blood vessels in my eyelids, and then the phosphenes that swirl and houndstooth in flexing patterns behind your eyes when you are still “looking” but can’t see. And then I saw a bird… a white bird being chased through a storm by a black bird. I saw a battlefield. A war. All of it unfolding, happening as I watched. Not a thought, not a memory… just happening. Closing my eyes and entering that music was like stepping off the edge of the outside world into an equally vast inside world. This inside world, the one accessible through music, was unlike the world of dreams, or the world of deliberate imagining… it took me with it where it was going, not where I directed it. I did not know then that this simple act- to let go of the self and travel in this way- is the heart of the creative process. Disappearing the self is what all creative acts require, and  ironically, it becomes more and more difficult to do this the more your “self” accumulates of the daily world.

We spend so much time arriving in and occupying our bodies. It’s all we think about. No wonder we get trapped. And the trick of the writer, unlike the dreamer, is to walk the slippery, crazy edge between this world and all the others– because the whole point, dear reader, is to bring things back….. for you.Odin enthroned with weapons, wolves and ravens.

So that night, walking through Golden Gate Park and listing to music in the dark, I began to see a vision in my head of a record spinning. And the record– this tight spiral line on a hard piece of stamped vinyl– was a code. If you have the right needle, that line becomes a song. Without it… you might go your whole life not knowing what that round piece of unremarkable plastic held– an entrance to another world. That night I went home and wrote: a magical circle, the first poem of the book. And then that night I had a dream that I was inside a giant Victorian house that suddenly ripped it’s foundations out of the ground, spread its eaves and took off into the sky. I was standing in the window, holding on for dear life and watching all the other houses in the city straining to get loose and take off. We entered a fogbank, and I couldn’t see anything but vague lights, and then I heard a very distinct sound next to me… feathers being blown in the wind. That’s when I saw the two ravens– one was surrounded by a cloud of black fire, and the other had wings entirely composed of hollow flutes that made chords and tones and music as it flew. They were both hanging in the air just outside the window, guiding the house out of the fog. When we emerged, we were over the Golden Gate Bridge, and heading for the open sea, only I wasn’t in the house anymore. I was a third raven. When I looked back, the house was still flying along, dodging in and out of the support cables of the bridge, along with some other houses. Through the windows, I could see people asleep in their beds, with no idea what was going on.

That dream gave me the seeds of the poems a candle, waking the dead, and gate crashing. It also made me want, more than anything, to get back in that dream. To be able to follow the ravens wherever it was they were going.

KutkhIf you think I sound nuts, consider this: do you dream? How often are you able to remember your dreams? How often do you remember the dream just as you were waking up, but then lost it because you had another thought/started worrying about something you had to do/remembered you forgot to buy milk… and “poof” can’t remember the dream. Only that it was something strange, or important, or disturbing, or wonderful. You might grope for a few moments, trying to get it back, but the harder you try, the further it slips away. Sometimes you remember them, but when you speak them aloud or write them down… it is impossible to get across the sensation of significance in them. Sure, some dreams are just the regular old processing of anxiety and worry… or bits reassembled in a new and hilarious way. I had a dream, for example, that I was promoted to a new position in my job, they threw a big party for me, then when I got the piece of paper with my new job title on it, I discovered that I had been “promoted” to the job I already have. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the underlying feelings that brought on that Dilbert-esque dream. I’m not talking about those sorts of dreams… I’m talking about the ones that come every once in awhile. The ones that are not like dreams at all, but travels.

I’m here to tell you something: they are travels. You can go or not go… you can dismiss them and they will fade. Or you can pay attention, and dig deeper, and maybe go into territory you didn’t know existed. It’s just like the thread of song on the vinyl record. You would never think a piece of plastic could contain a song, just like you’d never think a dream could contain another world.

We are taught, at least in the culture I was raised in, that conscious control of our thoughts, actions, lives… deliberate decision-making with a very specific, intellectual part of the brain, is the highest form of self-control. The problem with this is that “doing” and “thinking” aren’t the same at all. I would even argue that you can’t really successfully do them at the same time. Doing is flow, and when you think “about” flow, you lose it. Creativity is very similar: it is the conscious act of relinquishing your self-consciousness. It is somewhere between dream and awake. The hard part is trusting it, and going with it. You can’t always dream yourself back into the dream… but once the ravens have appeared, you don’t really need to dream them anymore. That’s when you can sit down and enter the music, enter the creative headspace, and wait for them to appear… Corvus_corax_arizona

I’m nothing if not curious, but I also rely heavily in my writing, on looking up things. If an idea appears in my work, I’m off to wikipedia, (Jung’s collective unconscious made manifest) to find out what people say about it. No subject is safe– physics, otters, politics, molecules– it’s all part of the continuum, and it’s all stuff to know and steal language from. So of course, I went looking into the ravens… and I found Huginn & Muninn, (or they found me).  Check out what the page has to say about theories of their origin:

Theories

A modern reconstruction of the Raven Banner

Scholars have linked Odin’s relation to Huginn and Muninn to shamanic practice. John Lindow relates Odin’s ability to send his “thought” (Huginn) and “mind” (Muninn) to the trance-state journey of shamans. Lindow says the Grímnismál stanza where Odin worries about the return of Huginn and Muninn “would be consistent with the danger that the shaman faces on the trance-state journey.”[20]

Rudolf Simek is critical of the approach, stating that “attempts have been made to interpret Odin’s ravens as a personification of the god’s intellectual powers, but this can only be assumed from the names Huginn and Muninn themselves which were unlikely to have been invented much before the 9th or 10th centuries” yet that the two ravens, as Odin’s companions, appear to derive from much earlier times.[11] Instead, Simek connects Huginn and Muninn with wider raven symbolism in the Germanic world, including the Raven Banner (described in English chronicles and Scandinavian sagas), a banner which was woven in a method that allowed it, when fluttering in the wind, to appear as if the raven depicted upon it was beating its wings.[11]

Anthony Winterbourne connects Huginn and Muninn to the Norse concepts of the fylgja—a concept with three characteristics; shape-shifting abilities, good fortune, and the guardian spirit—and the hamingja—the ghostly double of a person that may appear in the form of an animal. Winterbourne states that “The shaman’s journey through the different parts of the cosmos is symbolized by the hamingja concept of the shape-shifting soul, and gains another symbolic dimension for the Norse soul in the account of Oðin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn.”[21] In response to Simek’s criticism of attempts to interpret the ravens “philosophically”, Winterbourne says that “such speculations […] simply strengthen the conceptual significance made plausible by other features of the mythology” and that the names Huginn and Muninn “demand more explanation than is usually provided.”[21]

So…. I thought… perhaps I am a little nuts. But I am clearly not the first poet to have been hijacked by the ravens of thought and memory… so who am I to break with tradition?

Huginn & Muninn by Guy HobbsThere is also something else: two years ago when I started writing this book, a google search of Huginn & Muninn revealed little more than a wikipedia page, and a few scattered pages on folklore. In the ensuing time, they have invaded the consciousness of artists all over the world. Try an image search of their names. Suddenly, I am not the only one dreaming about these ravens.

I can only hope I am up to the home stretch… of pushing through the daily grind to meet them, and to relay back this story that I’m stealing? borrowing? witnessing? in these other worlds. I know it will not let me go until I do… and frankly, I don’t want to let go of it either. It feels good to be able, finally, to fly in this way I always knew I could.

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 10- Muninn)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 10- Muninn)

Part 10: Muninn. [Playlist: Rob Dougan, Clubbed to Death (Kurayamino Mix]

in place of a name         kinder parents call her grief
and teach the young to tolerate her perch

upon the garbage bins
best to pay her tithes at a safe distance and move on
lest the details of her face prove catching

but whispered stories say
she is                            a fallen king

when killed in battle               his body left to rot
a raven fed upon his tongue and eyes

or worse                       she is a knight who slew a child
drank her blood            ate her heart
crimes that would displace the soul

others say these acts are not the cause
but the only cure      hence the lost soul remains so

all agree            she comes
to each alone
by firelight and lamplight
by ante meridian stillness

a hiss come riding the night
clutching her gift of invert dreams
the thief of rest

to hear her wings is to know
all the comfort of solidity jossed up
and burned

text released     in breath
from safe caging in the closed page

she lifts from frozen script
to stretch and catch the winds
of violence, blood, desire for harm

the perfume of wordless things
limp in her beak and claws
tapping there at the window

the hoarse croak of human speech
a token plume of echo

one well-known magician demanded of her       meaning
never grasping that her name was more an answer
than a name                  just as

black may be a slammed door   a curtain drawn
a shadow licking strips of sun                from latticed sills

light can bring the terror
of annihilating white
blending every nuance of the known into a false positivity

we say day and night is all it is   insisting two lasting conditions:
though the bulk of life involves   the gradual unmaking
of the certainty of noon

and where exactly lies the cusp
between what is and what just was

is she the death from which she springs
or the breath that bears a common burden
in stories that must perish to repeat

O reader
we have just done the thing together
brought her life upon this page

watched as she followed our lure
stripped            plucked            raven of the slain
deliberately crushed
into the mass of what has been until

a smithereen in a like cloud
rose                  dread-charged
coaxed home by our light

bearing the contradiction we impose:
that a moment is not fixed

until we each consume and make of it
our cells                        as memory

her return along the path
the only way we know ourselves

yet the sacrifice is real
lost memory is lost self

and each time we call her back
she answers a little changed

her shadow precedes her now
a deeper shade of dawn gray
hopping from sidewalk to rooftop

brushing the folded wings
of the hawk      awakening
exhausted         sent so many tales ago to intercept

hits her squarely mid-air
comes away with only one of her shimmering feathers

and she is gone              evaporated with the day

 

 

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 2- waking the dead)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 2- waking the dead)

Part 2: waking the dead.  [Playlist: Bassnectar, Timestretch (West Coast Lo Fi Remix)]

 

dear magician              take a lesson from the raven:
you bear the dead with you everywhere

you needn’t plant a stone
you needn’t carve up your arms

the scent of her lost cologne is trapped in your coils
his good sweat whuffs up from inside the jacket of form

the longer you travel                  the more backseat drivers                     the more
histories                                                take a lesson from the raven:

who wrests blood feathers from the meat of memory
and from dead weight               soars on hollow bones

transforming the dead into the neutral buoyancy of everywhen
and getting totally high off the overlapping particulars:

raven street view is a see-through                      into each and every room
in your haunted mansion:

here a girl who wore thigh-high docs
she nicknamed bum kickers came to
live in a railroad flat above a dim set
of stairs above the lucky horseshoe
coffee shop: her room was 5 X 12
but the 12 was vertical

one of many hidden pockets beneath
the skirts of the painted lady, a space
at once a fainting room, a walk-in closet
knicknack storage, the last hitching post
for a boy who rode his horse dead to rights
right through the ceiling, leaving his body
(which could not sneak between the lattice
of matter) rucked amongst the dirty sheets

a source of much distress to the landlord
who dead reckons his 400 crusts a month
from the holey pockets of dreamers who’ve
stumbled or washed up or clawed their way
back from the dead toward phoenix city out
of the head-scramble of the fog, to find

a non-euclidean punk-rock wardrobe to
a dimension where whole teams of mules
along with their carts, whole brigs and barques can disappear beneath the mud and still go on sailing beneath the feet of bankers the layers of concrete no tomb but super conductor of a vessel that flickers from
form to form between frames

now a seagoing vessel
now a cable car

now a wave organ built of

grave markers (because
this place has no room
[no room!] for what is
not able or willing to

be caught dead yet

keep up jump in hold on
the light rail doors are
closing the destroyer must
navigate precisely on

the right tide to eke

its massy bulk beneath
the bridge [a gate])

into and out of a narnia that smells to some
like an odorless cala lily and to others like
dead men’s shoes                      but to most
like a dry-erase marker, a neuromantic sting
at the back of the throat like mourning

smokes on a piss-splashed stoop
[our painted lady’s boots] where
a 24-year-old perfectly willing to
be caught dead will moniker himself
bucky or goon or emperor and languishes
[behind blackout curtains] [in the saloon]
while supplying snow/liquor/gold dust/
lattes/codexes to his kingdom of the dead

you can pay later but sit on his lap for awhile because
playing dead is a full-time occupation and brutal beauty
reigns forever in this garret: bread from dumpsters
peanut butter on plastic knives duct-taped shoes
stump-footed pigeons   sharpie hearts and daggers
inked in permanent marker on the thirsty skin

the inhabitants of the rooms forget
they are inside its rooms peering into
little rectangles of other buildings to
other rooms into           lcd boxes of
varying sizes all day which give the
illusion that they are not inside a room

which is the soul of mistaking dead time
for something dead                   for being
dead wrong about what’s always going to be
dead ahead

wait now          where’s the raven our conductress
it’s so easy to get lost

when one thing slides so neatly into the nest       when
years elapse while we’re in the air

just navigating the jamb from one
room to the next and meanwhile
the lucky horseshoe has burned and
all those walls where the dead were

letter     ringer    certain
doornail              dodo
neck up and waist down
in the water spit of and cut
broke and buried
easy drunk        gorgeous
rolling over

well it’s a dead giveaway:
they’ve knocked ‘em dead and
reopened as a wine bar

raven   where’s the chicken exit?
the lamp post in the snowy wood
get me out of these chambers or at least
meet me halfway with a psychic map

I’m dead serious

dear magician this is not a beanstalk
it’s a metallic breath                  bitter aspirin under the tongue    it’s a room so small
you can stand in the middle

and touch five of its six futures

it’s an open window the blind soul can’t find
hovering, transparent, on updrafts

as it bumps the ceiling                           and ricochets the walls
it’s your work ahead of you

which starts at what everybody takes to be the dead end
and is really

a nimble climb up a pilfered ladder

straight up and out of sight

 

read part 3
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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 6- wrecked)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 6- wrecked)

Part 6: wrecked: [Playlist: Atha, Voices in the Stratosphere]

adrift

in deathsleep

      in skycavern

          a ship

unfolds from deepest black:

femur masts bear
ulna spars lashed crosswise by glistening coils
festooned in ragged dregs of cloth that
sleek and luff in silent draughts

she sails
illumined by a pale blue flame
that dyes the shrouds:

aurora borealis
a solar wind aglow in death collisions
of magnetic dust

or                     noctiluca scintillans
a host of tiny animals
whose lantern organs light a liquid night:

scouts, drawn to your
foundering  pings

in the crow’s nest the vampire squid
flash their photophores
ghost crabs go barber-poling deckwards
and all that was camouflaged as wreck                  inhales
a swim sac full of brine                                               a fleshy embrace

of cuttlefish and eels
disguised as slack tatters                                          fatten

into a living interlocked rigging
propelling this vessel on dissolved wind

         billows of squidink

boil to port and starboard                       swarms of ice-blue pinpoint animals
churn in a wake of unhinged stars:

a sorcerer stands behind the fiddlehead
on his shoulder
an anglerfish casts

her glowing yellow lure
into the blackness

hung to

reel you back from        wandering the
nowhere in your nothing

the sorcerer

         reaches with both hands to fold your wings against your chest
and gathers you into his coat
into a soft nest built amongst his empty ribs

 

            heed the yarn             he says
but mind the toothy maw
behind the watchlight                        

in answer

the mizzen topsail                      uncloaks:
a giant manta    kites in slow spirals downward through the forestays

to offer             a wide white ventral surface
onto which the anglerfish aims her lure:

5          4          3          2          1
projects                        and then

fade in through murk:
the sea floor      empty               featureless

a stirring in the foreground
clouds of sediment        rise into a bed of swollen pulp
mounding, shivering into                        deadfall backwarding

                    into half-digested hulk
right-angles drawn in pale, lifeless crusts

of brainworm and gooseneck                seafan skeletons
a graveyard of hard reminders adhering                         into ship shape

a scaffold on which now burgeons an undeathing:
decks unsplinter            cracked halves of hull
swing to like a closing clamshell             cohering into seamless ellipse

two horizontal lines appear in the debris
bulked degree by degree by aggregating matter

until masts abloom in algal furs
lever upward into perpendicular bonds

and spars condense from drifts of silt
javelining true                            to crosstrees and yards
decked out in a bunting of wilted jelly

that rallies into orange anemones, violet nudibranchs,
soft life hungered forth from bones

a palace of innocence
recomposed of her route reversing

filter-feeders vomiting gusts of gorge
great fish coughing chunks of fins and scales

which implode to live silvery streaks
and spasm off into the choke

of eel grasses full lush then battening down and reefing in
and       on        and on  and                                less and less

until a trapped whisper
a mayday cry

                  appears from above
a bubble descending toward the wreck
shrinking as it speeds

              to the empty throat of that
lost wax lodge of bones
the sorcerer emerging from his drowning

                               his barren hand casting
from the pocket of his seaworm-eaten coat
a sodden mess congealing into tightly creased papers
from which unknots a twine garland

that reeves itself through the cathead
and steeves the groaning timbers of the bowsprit

             and the wreck begins to lift
answering the pull of rumor

on an anchor line reeling upward

one trembling string
one spider silk
one sounding line
one thread of tale

the yarn that always dangles:

               (we are deep-shifted now
spun into the spiral of music

               gone gate crashing with ravens

                                          shuffled our coil
on a deathtrip
stripped to
a stray signal
picked up by ghost ship
rescued
by death itself

             who builds a nest
of an empty chest
and makes of us
a heart

 

together we mind the toothy maw
projected by the light of a lure
on a manta belly
the flick in which all present company
myself included
star
)

says death, our sorcerer

just as the last frame sticks and rips
and the projection on the manta’s belly  flips     flips      flips

with a sound like something being wound up:

a pocket watch                        a music box
a windlass                                 weighing-in the bower
a bird’s heart                            racing in a ribbed locker

with each click and beat a glossy black feather is plucked
from your body and sucked straight up his windpipe

erupting from his mouth             and promptly swallowed
by the waiting anglerfish                        who smiles smiles

it’s all above board                  death says
watching the thing                  yet trapped in the watch
until
you arrived                      my windfall

he unfolds one of those crisp papers clutched in his fist
holds it tight to his chest so you can read:

When lost or unsure of your position, ships shall release a caged crow.
The crow will fly straight towards the nearest land, thus giving the
vessel some sort of a navigational fix.
         

 

come, lend me your wings death says
and lets go his charts
casting himself                  overboard

the waveson treasures of his hold
spill up toward the light:

pearls worn down to grains of sand
gemstones roughing back to rocks

glass bottles burst to living dust
a great shudder wracks the strake                     treenails squeal free of the ship’s planks
and the hull distintegrates in spinning trunnels

among the dreck           his cap             his coat
his skull          and two femurs              form, briefly
a waving jolly roger

lost from view as the ribcage sinks                     with you inside
every last feather tornadoed loose

that damned anglerfish following behind
and gulping down everything

until with a harsh shake and a push
she grasps the cage itself
and cracks you loose
bites off each of your plucked wings
and glutted, sinks slowly:
a shrinking yellow glow in the undernight

            what’s left of the ship                             pitchpoles                           and breaks apart

leaving a wake

of fractured ribs

a wrecked raven

and a choice:

the dangling yarn


the sinking lure

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 5- a candle)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 5- a candle)

Part 5: a candle. [Playlist: Virtual Boy: Mass]

 

you’ve seen where dreams end up:

in the foyer on a polished credenza               in a jar marked kosher
for everyone to admire at parties             the contents naked, shriveled,
obscenely meaty

late at night after the card games
you hear the adults sneak into the hall

the scrape of the lid unscrewing

the muffled sounds of hunched gorging

you barricade yourself behind your bedroom door
light several devotional candles from the dollar store
and conjure the real thing:

he steps out of the wall poster
and makes himself at home        taking the form of a rock angel or
that boy you met at the busstop or the school friend who can’t put two words together

tonight he’s nick cave
you discuss a way to address the problem:

he says             the cleaners are coming, one by one
you don’t even want to let them start

and you say      I believe in some kind of path
that we can walk down, me and you

so with tiny slits on the meat of the thumb
fleshed out with lyrics and candle flames
sugar water collected under the tongue

deals written in nail polish  folded in tight triangles
on college ruled paper
the same song on repeat                        11,       12,       2am

you call the live dreams down from the scrim

ghost riding it in                                                             you’re not sure it’s going to work
then

the walls shift,   the stairwell creaks
the roof shakes shingles free of its eaves

you grab for nick’s hand                        but you palm right through his wave
he shrugs back into the paneling                        just as the jambs vault the lintels

above your head in the crawlspace
you hear the mice panic

from the window you watch                 beams snap free of rafters       the house stretches                                first one long wing

and then the other

nails squeal                   mortar crumbles
pipes pop loose like tuning forks
the attic belches bats and owls

the floors groans          the house crouches
and launches

you’re airborne

your window screen blows out
followed by the window

you rise, rise                        clinging to the sill through the first awkward flaps
there’ll be bruises on your elbows from the g force

streetlights shrink
cold air flattens and whips your hair

your block                    your street        your town
shrink to toys    to blurs                             the house glides            soars

dipping to one side              and then the other
floorboards casting a hatched shadow through the moonpath

there are other houses                   here and there other conjurers
transfixed at their bedroom windows
faces transformed

your house flocks with the other houses
together they swing west

far below, the oil refinery         a black dragon with long nostrils capped by venting flames
is chewing its rear leg free of a retaining wall:

several freeway overpasses and a section of tunnel
kite past               the wind howling over their lips and mouths

out over the water now
you see the lighthouses dive and submerge
playing in the surf around the feet of the bridge

and that’s when you hear the music
feel it first, really, vibrating your lungs:

it is the houses sailing the length of the bridge
dragging their wingtips along the suspension cables

you catch the gaze of a girl in a basement window
dear friend
                  her eyes say                                          welcome

 

read part 6

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 4- bone)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 4- bone)

Part 4: Bone. [Playlist: Akira Kiteshi, Ulysses]

 

don’t trip on dying in your dream:

first stop the grave, then                                    travel!

staved on tree roots marionetted through eye sockets
you’re a prize carried on cypress knees             a  relay baton

handed from root system to root system
no eyelids now so no looking away!                              what you did               who you were

how you spent your time
slough into        a gloriously rotten skin sail
luffing with soil              until you unfurl

into beam reach

let the grubs get fat
let the beetles strip those bones

let rains lick with gravelly tongues
until      stubborn scab               loose tooth
(what you once called life)

            is scratched      shivered           yanked
loose        from the final stringy thread:

bump and grind with boulders
shake those processes and condyles
rub epiphyses with other posthumous tourists

sand yourself glassy
with shale and pumice and schist

unhinge your mandible and stuff that skull
with bone clatter and pebble storms
the stony language of former civilizations

each with their form of permanence
each with their unslakeable thirst

now that the head is not the headspace
now that the visions are not delimited on axes
nor navigable by cardinal directions

and you’ve self-effaced to a cloud-like probability
locked into standing wave
a danse macabre
a memento mori

it’s time to flex your phantom limbs
your plum pudding probability
your atmosphere of decay

let the juice spray out of your nose holes
and spoke out along the continuum
of smaller and smaller and larger and larger

til the memory is clean and squeaky
the pieces primed for reassembly

you have worlds to end         worlds to mend
the now the then the soon to be

read part 5

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 3- gate crashing)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 3- gate crashing)

On her eyelashes the fog brings you trembling mercury…”
-The Fog,
Carlos V. Suárez

Part 3: Gate Crashing:[Playlist: ibenji: Seems]

 

it all starts with an itch               that inward look:
then a twist and counter

the speed of oscillation varies with distance from the center of the creature but
the body already knows how to get to other worlds

close your eyes if you must        but trust
the break          follow the wobble                     it’s a flywheel in your pocket

timing the path of intersection with the already turning
to converge and merge and                               merry-go-flung

the motion always invisible at onset                    but you feel it coming
deep inside an internal tissue

a supermassive formation collapsing into a relativistic star
please               don’t stop                     cracking the excitable cells in the dragon’s tail

until the spike train rolls
with great speed and oscillating friction

from the mouths of voltage-gated channels
and you erupt across the threshold of the rapidly expanding pattern:

                       

I can’t tell you, dear sorcerer, what your path to the gates will look like:
all internal language is a secret working             

but hang tight in that crawlspace
the worst of the ride is reaching cruising speed

and I can send some guides:

            (in the mean time)

enter scarab glittering
on iridescent wings, towing

by fine filaments grasped in hindmost legs
an intricately woven cobweb banner that reads

up and down one column at a time
as well as across, from left to right:

“contrasting” viewpoints on your journey divide prominent philosophers:

Sir Isaac Newton’s view is a time to give                     and a time to dance as other “times” persist,
this view becomes a time to mourn                              effectively killing time at the time of death
and a time to die
  is part of the fundamental                embrace like frames of a film strip, a spread structure of time to plant  time to uproot                        across neither future event nor plucked thing
what is planted:
a dimension in which events             sewn then grown  (non-discrete, Immeasurable) occur as objects in a sequence a birth                         a container one could step in or out of but
a silence kept    a together lost     a wasted                   search, give up, tear apart, kill, weep, love, hate laugh (that’s Leibniz, Kant) the transport                       time itself an idea certainly but not a thing
a fundamental structure                                                     travel-able as thought

(and on a second banner, clinging to the first
via some dust bunnies and a chain of bluish laundry lint:)

                        Travel:

to go from one place to another, as on a trip; journey;
to go from place to place as a salesperson or agent;
to be transmitted, as light or sound; move or pass;
to advance or proceed;
to go about in the company of a particular group; associate: (travels in wealthy circles);
to move along a course, as in a groove;
to admit of being transported without loss of quality (some wines travel poorly);
Informal:
to move swiftly;
Basketball:
to walk or run illegally while holding the ball;

the second “l” in the word ball is festooned with busily stitching spiders,
as the passage of time cannot be directly perceived as it happens

but must be re-membered to exist
unendingly given arms   and legs
and breathed:

(from trembling drops
spun into vibrating strings)

whose loose ends                                 are lashed and threaded
spliced into the meanwhile by your guides

who have arrived
traveling on the fingertips of the fog

the ravens of Point Conception and Point Reyes:

one has wings contrapted of hollow reeds
lashed to his body by a harness of syntonic commas
every wingbeat a major or minor                       every dive a glissando
subtle shifts in his primary flight feathers give rise to the dissonance of angels
the melodies of monsters

blind, he glides along the chain link fence of         now
dragging his wingtips against the diamonded stutter
knowing where he is by the tone of his harmonics

and by the heat signature of his partner:

        she is a blue-black fire
urgent and reckless  and easily distracted
condensing the immediate in her hot smell
of dirty underfeathers and contagious desires

   made visible as the virga her wingtips cast:                  black beams slicing triangular seams of      now bounded by darkness

but admitting a light that illuminates

points further on:

you are a shadow strung between these shadows
cast through fog  (the fog of which you’re made,
the fine-flung particles on which you’re hung)

a medium through which you will learn to gate crash
to give in to scatter

to understand that piano notes unfurling from the banks of folds and whorls
the waifish threnody of thin and distant notes

can open in a vast and clammy throat from which no lighthouse lamp or lens or flame
can cast a plumb line

only a flux         a flex    a blur of synthesis of sense
the tap of one feather against the next

and against nearby wingtips
will unlock the braille of entrance
from the sea smoke:

(in this instance)

 the Iron Horse

 rears clear of the haar and fret gripped thick amid her ribs
(those harpstrings the dream houses pluck on nightly flights)

the blood orange foramen of her double spine:
windows squaring this world with the next

her vermillion scapula and hip caught mid-gallop
the movement of her form so slow as to appear a solid

rostrum thrust forward and tail to ground
her belly stretches taut to guard

cargo ships climbing down the ocean’s edge
tugboats and sabots yaw around her fetlocks

forged of ashes         she waits of course to rise from ashes
staring down into her mare’s nest

past the surface shadow
across which hot life skims into and out of living commerce
to the bluer pulse that breathes below                the echo current of what was and still is

a tide of tall ships          spilling their bones at the hem of california’s skirts        hemorrhaging their riches
of flea-bitten, half-starved hopes

dispersed and drifting in and out through their mistresses’ unlaced eyelets
the silky clacking of all that’s left of this influx                 currents      tides

a sea change of ash pearls collecting in the divots and channels

beneath waves of intolerable golden itches swathed
in layer upon layer of alternating hopes and madnesses

hard little nuggets lodged in the surrounding softness
dug free and sluiced                  measured in dust on scales

cast into ornaments and promise rings now clattering loose         on the bare knuckles
of the not-so-long dead                         in long forgotten graves

beneath the golf course             the library                     the museum
hugging the plumbing                    sailing slow in vessels rarefied by rotting

what remains after flesh and bone and memory have long since dispersed?
a sussurence that lures the jumpers

the risk to all who perform this alchemy:            a mercury         a gorgeous poison
slipping perpetually

back and forth between home and Land’s End: a transistor
the precious metal points of  contact through which pass
travelers                       worldly and otherwise

                                                                        drawn irresistibly to edges

whether by expansion or collapse
big bang or whimper or barbaric yawp              whether by dream or death

it’s all the same unmapped certainty
so you can bunker down and be taken by force

                                                or follow the ravens
who stretch their black fingertips to build up drag and static
then clasp their wings tight to slip the quicksilver light

and dive beak first into the dirt

read part 4

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 1- a magic circle)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 1- a magic circle)

Part 1: a magic circle.  [Playlist: Opiou: King Prawn]

 

you will naturally go on

in a spinning foreign language nevertheless bone-deeply understood by all:

to begin:                       put the needle on the record

that anything is separate from anything else is a necessary illusion of distance:

time is harnessed by singing a long line               into a thumbprint-tight spiral

voices set free by rotation and a diamond

what witchcraft what relics:

the future is rife with ciphers                  wil o’ wisp light on broken code

how you are you and I am a nearby groove

oscillating off into analog           into a dry ice fog

from the eye of the gyre     we are playback phases of the same tune

offset by πr2                  thirty three and a third               so that every few turns we sing in stereo

then decay into rounds

every few hours the moon slams up                   the sun skanks down

you will mosh                            then pogo

asking what kind of fidelity a future holds

that’s re-engineered  to reel out from center

how when you let go                 the stylus will proceed on it’s own

across the format war

broadcasting the noise in your fingerprints                      the skin fragment hiss

that bump of light that should always rewaken us

when the tone arm lifts and swings back to silence

 

read part 2

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