I’ve been in Philadelphia for a couple of months.
I have a few weeks left here.
I didn’t know anything about this city before, except for Mumia Abu-Jamal, AIDS, Thomas Jefferson, and maybe one or two things about the underground railroad.
Nobody ever knows what city I live in anymore and neither do I.
This is a gracious place in a lot of ways, gracious in the normal sense and also gracious to show its scars, the way New York hates to show its scars. Currents of liberty and affliction are clear everywhere, which is so restful for me.
There’s this old synagogue with antique and vintage vendors inside it, and one of the vendors, a corpulent man in high belted slacks, even listens to Jewish radio, I remember the day Netenyahu said that absurd thing about the UN being able to declare the world flat, and I had better not get into Israel-Palestine right now, I am trying to kill this blog, and no customers are ever in there, so when you go in you feel as you fondle the beautiful old things that you are touching a dying world whose sparkle is both too dear and too rarefied to circulate the way it might among for example those of us who hide our cracked hearts and minds in things that are beautiful because they are old and in things that are old enough to lend us a beauty that is old enough not to hurt or kill too much, like where are all the dreamy kids, they are never in that synagogue called antiques paradise or something like that, it has always been empty when I’ve been in there, and everything is too expensive, it’s like these strange old birds just want to stay in there surrounded by glittering flotsam and not sell it to anyone, just stew in a vault of every kind of past.
I wanted that passage to end happily but it put its head down toward desertion, like the mark of some forgotten architectural masterpiece solidifying the transit of an elegaic thought, as Sebald would do it, but not as good as he.
It’s cool how this old black church and the synagogues and the queer places, the places where the freethinkers and visionaries and rebels used to congregate, are all sort of close by here.
Philadelphia was the perfect place to get into alchemical, revolutionary, and abolitionist ideas, and it’s also been a place for me to do a weird kind of secret acupressure on my mom’s psyche.
She went to medical school here, and I like to think about her before the fall.
Here she is winning the chemistry prize at Jefferson Medical College.
Here she is more recently. I am scared to really look at this picture just like I’m scared to really look at her and talk to her right now. I am going to post it here and not look too hard.
I am only looking out the corner of my eye, as though looking at the sun, and I think she is gorgeous, and I feel scared.
I think about the beautiful ways that people can touch each other with their minds. I think about the promise that we will get used to, get good at talking to each other in different ways from the old ways, I want to be braver, I think about the strange collapse of the difference between inside and outside, narcissism and generosity, that is part of what bewilders and stuns us into paralysis and action, mass delusion and stunning conviction.
Anyway, I can’t look my mom in the face and when I see her I usually yell at her and then burst into tears.
I went to New York to escape into art, and I got to, but it never made me happy. I think I get too confused about the difference between what I love and what I hate when I’m there. Like TELEPHONE was great, in infinite ways, but what it still boils down to is my mom standing outside the Cherry Lane in the cold during tech week waiting for me to withdraw $300 for her, never being able to sleep at night, never being able to decide if I felt better flat broke so I had nothing to give her or prestigious and earning so I’d be able to feel just sad enough about anything nice it felt like just another shitty gig to provide me the cash so my mom could give it all to Nigerian scammers and I could appease some bougey morailty in myself, bougey and half murderous.
It’s magical to finish Mercury in a city where my mom was a promising and ambitious young woman and not yet an operatic tragedy. It’s funny, but when I get whiffs of the past here I feel like I’m doing a gentle accupressure on her soul, letting it know I love her even though at this point in my life I can’t look her in the face.
BTW The Philadelphian Gold is an allegorical, alchemical text from 1697, from a magazine published by the son-in-law of one “Jane Lead” and that boldface is a link for the curious.
Long live this blog. It is dead.
This blog has existed for a year.
I’ve been wanting to kill it lately because I feel completely transformed, and nothing about this place, the way it looks, the way it feels, resembles the way I look and feel anymore.
I am going to kill this blog tonight.
But first I am going to write this, and one more post I think right after, one I have been meaning to make for some time. And maybe leave one or two tokens more, or who knows really how this is going to burble out, I want it to burble out as formless and stretched out and clotted as it needs to, because it’s like a sack of shit right now, these strange feelings, about to give poor Mercury scoliosis if I don’t stick my finger in and start daubing the asylum wall with whatever this is.
This morning I woke up feeling very strange, an anxiety and dread clutching at my heart for reasons I couldn’t totally understand.
It made me angry and scared to feel anxiety and dread today because the things that matter to me most have been going so well, and because I am totally revolutionzed.
One part of it is something strange that happened to me during this year that this blog has existed. Even though I have shared so many things I care about and love and also things that hurt me, a weird secrecy came over me, a secrecy of suffering when I was feeling terrible, and a secrecy of ecstasy when marvelous things happened to me. I feel I failed utterly to communicate the greatest things and the worst things. These are inside Mercury and they’re in my heart and body, but they weren’t here in the internets, at least I don’t feel they were today, and today what I woke up wanting to do was be braver and truer forevermore.
But that was only one part of the anxiety, which, the rest of it, is so familiar to me, so old.
It’s the dread and sorrow taste of a roughness at the pit of my body, and at the bottom of my heart where there’s a shit-tightness that feels centuries old.
The sense of something thickening deep inside me against an onslaught of negating debris that a big part of me just wants to lean into, a big part of me wants to be nothing and lean into the whirlwind with my jugular throbbing and just fucking be done with it tonight. I mean be done with myself.
But it’s this negating voice I want to be done with, it’s the hold it has on me, the way it makes me sigh against myself and want to see myself dead so I can just be close to some of the people I love whom I couldn’t love right enough to bring them back to life.
This voice wants me to die for love but it also wants to kill my love, because all it is is a guilty voice, an old voice, the voice of a cynic, the voice of death, the voice of my father. It’s a voice that doesn’t want me to love what I love, that doesn’t want me to cherish what I cherish, that doesn’t want to let me feel sad or lonely ever, not that it wants to protect me from these feelings, but it wants me to take them like a soldier, it doesn’t want me to ever feel at home, it wants me to glare at things like a French actress going for blank, defiant horror.
It’s a voice inside me that is despotic and Napoleonic but also totally delusional, it is so cruel against me, it doesn’t want me to have any feelings, it hates me, it wants to kill me, and it’s really scared of the world too.
I want to make this almost-last post about this cruel voice inside of me because I want to kill that voice so that it will die with this blog.
I’m angry at this voice for showing up right as I’m almost through structuring Mercury, the bizarre tricks I’ve been playing on myself to bring this book through the way I’ve been so revolutionized so it will still carry me along, so it will blast me forward the way I need it to.
I wish I were writing this faster and that I hadn’t written so many paragraphs about the voice that wants to kill me, but I needed to, apparently, as I’m already a lot calmer.
There are things about the attitude of dejection in literature that bother me. Not that I think they are wrong, but that they both make me ecstatically happy and afflict me when I am revolving, when I am gathering fuel in vacant lots.
They afflict me like a formalism, because I think I’ve somehow started to see that I developed a weird paranoia about telling things that make me ecstatically happy and ginormously sad, and it’s an internet paranoia, like something really bad would happen to me if I said these things, or spoke about what I truly hate. I feel like I have somehow expressed a puce version of myself that isn’t true enough, and in some bizarre way it comes out of my mom’s affliction, which has always scared the living shit out of me, but which I have also always forced myself to live as though it didn’t.
The exquisite, coffin-like sentences of Michel Houellebecq will always haunt me. The aphoristic deaths of Cioran. The floridity of horror in the accidents and prophecies of Paul Virilio. The motile and restless sorrow of Jean Rhys, who gets it exactly right. The lord’s prayer in Frannie and Zooey. The Aleph of Borges. The maddening perfection in the logic of Simone Weil. I always wanted to write as though I were already dead. I don’t know why. And that part of me that wants to die is crossed with the part of me that is way beyond me, that wants to live more than anything else. And at the center of that cross, at the center of that X, is the poem I write, whatever it is.
I remember reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover in High School.
Some parts of it I thought were dumb, like the way the lovers wove flowers into their pubic hair.
But what did I know, and who was I to judge, and who am I to remember this now.
I would never have described D.H. Lawrence as a writer who was important to me, I have only read one of his books, I remember that sometimes French people would go into ecstasies about “the perfection of his style” and I think I found the style the most annoying thing of all, and I’ve forgotten almost everything about Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and yet there is one thing about it I always remember, or think I remember, and therefore I think this book has been incredibly influential to me, and even though I’ve forgotten almost everything except for what I thought was wonderful and perhaps I have exaggerated or distorted what has become for me a signal part, well I think it is incredibly important to me, and maybe D.H. Lawrence is as great as they say, even if I’ve totally failed to see the greatness in him that other people see, and have mistook for his greatness something that I made up, and maybe what I’ve made up by mistaking it for something I saw in D. H. Lawrence is as valueless as anything else other people can’t see, or as priceless, or maybe this is only it, the very same thing that other people do see, and now we can all be friends!
I was working at an antiquarian bookstore, I think it was the summer before sophomore year. My work in this bookstore and the owners of this bookstore and just the existence of this bookstore, all of these together were the most powerful, the most influential, and the strongest medicine the good lord saw to send to me in those dreamy, shitty adolescent days.
How’s it going with Lady Chatterley’s Cate would ask me in a voice both mocking and affectionate. She was one of the two owners and I feared and adored them both, because not only did they know everything, but they were so sweet to me, and I had decided that greatness and totality should be both cruel and largely unintelligible, like the tomes of modernism say, or like my father’s dead face, so it took me some time not to tremble even from their good humor and kindness.
Anyway the part of Lady Chatterley’s Lover that I always think about is the part when the lover, I forget his name, he’s from the working classes, and he and Lady Chatterley have just fucked, and he says that he wishes that the men would all wear tight pants with red stripes and loose open shirts that would show their beautiful bodies, and I forget if he said how he envisioned the women should dress, but the men shouldn’t be hidden in black and their bodies and the joy of their bodies should not be hidden, and that the men and women should work just enough to give pleasure to their bodies and food to their bellies and rooves for them to sleep under and should otherwise have plenty of idle time to make music and swim and play and fuck and share their love.
I am always surprised and not surprised to think again of this part of Lady Chatterley’s Lover, which I read in high school because I had read somewhere else that it was scandalous, I think I read in some old copy of the Evergreen Review or something that D.H. Lawrence was a visionary of sex and class and that his ideas were not merely pornographic but revolutionary, and I always think about the difference between revolution and pornography, and how the latter has had a way of stealing the former.
I think about it whenever I’ve fallen in love, and I thought about it yesterday fucking in the vestibule of the building I live in, that I always love to see people who love each other sporting all over the place. There are varieties of lilies here that I have never seen. A month ago I saw varieties of irises that I have never seen. I think about people and their work hours and the real meaning of slavery and how I hate to see anybody under the yoke of any man, and how surprised I am again and again that what people consider pleasure is something they are willing to pay somebody else to take the lion’s share of, while they, the horde, watch.
Energy crisis and financial crisis, these crises of dearth that have nothing to do with scarcity and everything to do with the serving of dead masters, the worship of dead ideas, the terror of an order that might be other than the order of a master whose star’s only mystery is how much we are willing to pay him to keep on being, keep on seeming, what he is for us, what we need for him to seem.
For example, it is not a sexual revolution for all of the sex to be on the internet, and it is not a sexual revolution for a genius of sex to become a film star of sex. We geniuses of sex are supposed to fuck the world, not steal the sex of the people and take their money. I think this is what is supposed to have been revolutionary about D.H. Lawrence? I can’t remember. Maybe this is what is revolutionary about me.
I can’t fall in love without wanting to see everyone in love and fucking. When it’s spring and summer, I don’t want to see the sticky depakote eyes of the boys who spooge more with their laptops than they ever have their whole lives any other way. And it hurts me to see women who fuck themselves through their own mirrors so hard, and hate themselves so hard through their own mirrors, and try so hard with their fashions to please god look fuckable today that they never, ever, ever learn how to make love.
If you are in love, do not memorialize your good sport only for porntube, I pray ye. Bless the land of your terrible fathers, your mean mothers, your charming and indifferent neighbors, bless them with the ointments of your loins.
Sometimes I cannot see a thing except by the light of its going.
And so many things have happened to me in the last two months I don’t know how to describe them except by the light of their going.
I keep wanting to describe what is happening right now by that same light, but it doesn’t really make sense to use temporal relations like that on a blog.
I’m just going to have to let myself dissolve more until a form comes to me that I want to make real for us in some newer, more bracing way.
When the world has translated itself utterly, and everywhere the same dead ideas and dead people are being served, and the same used gods are being worshipped with the greatest of human energies siphoned and sucked into a pit of coagulate in the voice of the young mother on the phone, whose beauty makes me dream a dream bigger than the one she sees blooming out of her own frontal lobe, i really hate to say it, but I wonder will we ever touch each other in this world, without still being people, without the ecstasy of triumph over every dark place and every dark body in which to hide the best and the worst of our desires.
I don’t imagine that explaining why the Man of Law’s Tale in Chaucer makes this feeling make sense right now, or why the perversity of a disturbed relation to time, as in the work of Philip K Dick or in the suffering of a schizophrenic, can be spoken by me today in the reasonable manner of a daily hit of small reason, the small, apportioned reasonability of a blog that even as it might militate for a space beyond reason, even as it might deploy its energies toward a wilderness of the mind, would end up sitting here one trumpet short of a fanfare day after day, like all the others, admirable for what they volunteer, admirable for what the share, for what they care for, for the energy that says only you can go on and i will walk part of the way with you.
Cos there’s a weird ecstasy of finality bracing all my edges and it just has no place here, not until I’ve played a few more tricks on time and on myself. Finishing a book is a strange place to live in when you know the real secret about writing for you is a game to play with time more than any other game. Not a game to play with form, not a game to play with music, not a trick to play on the truth, but before and after anything else, before and after anything that is legislated by the stakes of the work, it’s something woozy happening in time, and look at the way I’m writing, can you fucking make head or tail of this? I am undergoing an absolute transformation and this is what it sounds like in the middle. To deny it and write book reviews as though I were just a person would be a gesture toward a lesser (I would feel it to be a lesser) completude that in any case could just as easily be placed here or elsewhere and so dismays me, and for which in any case i have been careful not to make this the mere platform, not that I’ve undertaken a single simple project here, not once. Anyway I do not think I have been all that careful really. I just fell in love and changed my life and I’m almost finished writing a book I don’t know how to write.
There are spaces where a person is expected to speak of herself incompletely, and there are spaces in which one should only gesture at the ineffable with wit and tact, while negociating an infinity of fates via the sleights of hand that are, after all, only adult, that are only what is called for.
I want to post what I don’t understand, from a place in myself that speaks the least, to say see you later, see you next time, see you when I feel like having it all again.
um apparently i’m performing at cakeshop’s 6th anniversary meltdown this saturday, may 7, with two of my favorite bands in the world, california genius HOLY SHIT and reclusive genius FANUELLE. also on the bill are the beets, surf city, and conversion party, whom i don’t know but i am sure they’re great.
i’m assuming this is total bullshit as in not real, unlike the death of osama bin laden, upon which i will be forced to comment in the near future.
i love HOLY SHIT and FANUELLE, so maybe i’ll show up just to see them because to see them would be wonderful.
but i think this can’t possibly be real because cakeshop is real, i’ve gotten tummy aches from their vegan moon pies, and i never agreed to do this.
one thing that is real is that HOLY SHIT is playing with GARY WAR and JOHN MAUS at glasslands on may 9.
wtf. thank you ef for calling this to my attention.
ok, matt just texted me “let’s do it” . ummm