posted/written by caroline picard

Woody Allen Woody Allen Woody Allen

An older gentleman, he came upon a fallen Redwood, collapsed and soundless in the yellow grass. The sun was hot, it stole the sound and smell from the air, except sometimes the man heard a buzzing fly land and when it landed everything was more silent than it had been before. The man studied the log, imagined its figure wearing away with rot, woodmites and termites and peculiar worms, until it wore down into dust—the shit of insects—and fed the dull earth.

Instead, the man took a cast of the tree:

He hired a team of employees and together they gathered around its stupendous girth. They raised the dead log on pedestals—sweating, the whine of the chainsaw—cutting the trunk into eight three foot cross-sections. They took elaborate photographs of each of the tree’s parts. Like a murder scene, quadrants of the surrounding area were taped off. Surrounding tree trunks bore neon pink symbols of work on their bases. Everything was documented.  Everyone wore rubber gloves.

They took a cast of its massive breadth, width, length in sections:

sealing the tree in soap, they poured wax around its parts just before nightfall and in the night the wax hardened and in the morning they cut the wax off in clean, re-sealable pieces. They sent those pieces to Japan in a very cool box.

What came back:

The tree—a new one, it resembled the original—came back without the wax, for the wax had been burned to make the new tree. The tree came in parts, the same eight three-foot cross-sections. Its parts made of wood, not Redwood but Hinoki. Its surface had been carved in a myriad of patterns, different borring strokes; the surface of the replica was carved to look like the surface of the old. This new wood blonder and clean looking, though with the self-same hollowed core of its dead predecessor.

There was a note attached to the mid-section.

Someone was asked to translate:

Once put together, this tree will last 400 years, before hitting a crisis of 100 years, during which it will crack. Thereafter it will last another 400 years before it begins to decompose.


*

Manhattan, New York, 2009: Mr. Allen finds himself sat in the corner window of a high-rise apartment—his own, (he can tell by the family photographs, framed and standing on the bookshelves, and the side table too).  He recognizes the pattern on the carpet; it looks to be Persian, red and black interlaced geometries. He remembers the smell of the place—the smell is both familiar and difficult to perceive; it must be a smell belonging to him.

Soon-yi sounds to be making coffee in the adjacent kitchen and he can hear the clattering of domestic objects as she opens and closes kitchen drawers, cabinets, the dish washer; he can hear utensils bump up against interior wooden walls. Mr. Allen conjures a flash of light pouncing on the landscape of things, sprung suddenly from the dark. He wonders if objects possess a sense of being.

It is as if I am in a dream, he thinks assuming a moment of adolescent existentialism. My actions are not entirely my own but I am more or less comfortable. He looks at his hands clasped in his lap and feels, for a moment, the texture of the corduroy underneath. Past his hands, legs, he looks at his feet in brown, waspy loafers. He isn’t wearing socks. For a moment he imagines his actors feel this way in a set and, going against better judgment, makes the disquieting attempt to peer over the bounds of his imagined consciousness—

into the dark, a mottled grey behind his eyes, either the color of his brain or simply the color of what he’ll never know—

His eyes glassy, he looks at you without seeing. “Talk to me, shout at me, so that I’ll wake up and know that I’m here with you and that certain things really are just dreams.” He is merely talking to himself, a recitation.

Truth be told, he cannot remember living in any other place. At the same time he does not remember how he came to be here.

He lifts a hand to feel his upper lip, relieved to find the moustache still in place.

*

The first opera singer ever recorded had past her prime when she was recorded. By then an old woman in her career, her voice wove through the aria like burning paper. Upon listening to the record, people of then recalled how remarkable she’d been before, as a young woman. “The best,” they told their children, smitten by nostalgia.

Children, when grown, repeated the rumor to respective children. And everyone, ever since, has believed the first opera singer recorded to be the best singer there ever was, for their memories make her so and there is no evidence to the contrary.

*

The young people aren’t any good in his movies. Terrible actors. They don’t understand. They try too much to be like him; they aren’t like him enough. They don’t listen to his direction. They impersonate rather than become. Scarlet Johansson. Jason Briggs. Christina Ricci.

Mr. Allen crosses one leg over the other, relishing contempt. Doughy and plump and taut. Ripe. Budding.

The aroma of coffee wafts into the living room.

*

The dream is one of paradise. In the dream men and women live forever, a glistening surface projected by the whirring of gears and oil and machinations run by invisible, grease-stained hands. The dream is one of desire.

*

Mr. Allen has a hand on his temple. His eyes are closed and therefore he does not see the grey day so much as he feels it. Or, discovers the feeling of it. He can picture it in his mind. The leaves are turning in the park below, across the street; he does not see these either. He knows only they are there. For a moment he imagines that the changing leaves are expressed in the sound of loose interior cutlery. He thinks of the sun as something that pounces.

And then he concentrates:

Music comes from a computer on the desk in the opposite corner of the room. It sounds like it comes from a phonograph. Concentrating on static, the overarching fuzz and pop, as bad as any radio station, he imagines the music to be broadcast from the past.

Mr. Allen presses his fingers into his eyes, pinching the lids together almost, feeling a dull pressure in the back of his head. In the darkness behind his eyes; trying desperately to imagine what she might have sounded like—this siren—when she was young. Feeling through the static, for the traces of her youth. Straining back into the past, her voice the bridge.

In a record, he believes, there is the promise of eternity.

*

Someone said LA was like a Dream Factory. He said working in the Dream Factory was pretty tiring; he was pretty tired of making dreams. He complained about the silt he was always breathing—dream silt. He hoped one day to unionize the workers.

*

In a club in Brooklyn with Soon-yi: Mr. Allen has come to the conclusion that Soon-yi’s friends, boys mostly, hide their sexuality from him. He is conscious of the shadows in the basement barroom—no windows, barely any light. Drums clatter and dash and bang as Mr. Allen is jostled occasionally by flanking, shiny strangers.

“One time in Romania I went to a bar we drank in bars that used to be dungeons they used to torture people in those bars. No I’m serious you could still see the burn marks on the sides of the brick where they used to keep lit torches while they tortured people.” Soon-yi can’t hear him and she smiles in a dreamy way watching the young boys on stage, watching the people at the club, hiding her mouth behind her hand; hiding her mouth from her friends across the room. Mr. Allen feels the shadows like a blanket. “I’ve been feeling so odd lately. I can’t explain. I don’t feel myself,” he says. “I must be getting sick. You can have my whole fortune.” Stuttering. “Did you hear? They finally arrested Polanski.” But Soon-yi does not hear because she’s dancing also, jostling up and down against the others in the room and Mr. Allen feels like an old man wearing socks.

It occurs to him that he will die childless, save for those things that he made in discrete instances; things starring himself in scenes he could control.

*

When Charles Darwin’s turtle, Harriet, died in 2006, they discovered her organs had not aged at all. It was believed that, barring disease or accident, turtles could live forever for evidence of time was not apparent on any of her interior organs.

In Hollywood there is a single mother selling serums of Harriet’s DNA on e-bay. It was manufactured abroad. Black market. It has not been tested. Some of her clients: Ashley Olson, Elizabeth Taylor, Heath Ledger, Michael Jackson etc.

*

The next band comes on stage, just after Mr. Allen looks at his watch, notes the time and wonders what time he might be able to go home—

Soon-yi talks to some of her male friends at the bar.

Mr. Allen looks around at everyone in the room and shakes his head. He looks again on stage.

The keyboardist looks exactly like him. Only younger. And shorter. Should the keyboardist step off the stage, he might stand a head shorter than Mr. Allen. Everything else about the fellow is spot on. He hears Soon-yi giggling across the room. He imagines her covering her mouth.

“I have a proposition for you,” Mr. Allen says after the show. There are candles on the bar and they cast an irregular but welcome light. “I would like to hire you. Assume my life.” They sit at the bar. His doppelganger drinks a whisky Mr. Allen has bought. “I’ll pay you very well.” Mr. Allen’s hands dance around for emphasis. He finds himself regularly touching the young man, occasionally going so far as to pinch the fellow’s shoulders now and again, testing the fellow’s firmness. The sensation is exhilarating. Mr. Allen wonders, abstractly, if he was himself the same density once.

“Why should I do that?” the young man asks. He looks amused. He wears a plaid cowboy shirt with opalescent, buttons—snaps. Tight black jeans on and converse. Sideburns and Buddy Holly glasses. He smokes. His hands are smaller than Mr. Allen’s.

“Only, you’d have to cut down your sideburns.” Mr. Allen says, worried suddenly, brow knit. He studies the youth, looking for other discrepancies. “And maybe get just a slightly different haircut. I understand the times are different, but at least for the transition period, you’ll need to adopt a little more of my style.” With a sudden clarity of thought, Mr. Allen smiles, relived. “Oh! I know. You’ll have to go away for a while. I’ll send out a press release. I’ll say I’m going abroad. You go abroad too. We can meet in another part of the world, somewhere where no one will know who we are. Then I can teach you how to be me. Then you can come back to America. It’s very simple, really. We could even make movies abroad. When you, ‘I’” he smiles and winks, “come back, no one will ever know the difference.” The young man shakes his head. He seems not to understand. “This has to be good.” Mr. Allen continues. “I’ll pay you an exorbitant amount of money—where do you work? Retail?”

“Record store.”

“Right. Good. Well. You’re rich. Did you think it would be this easy?”

*

In the end:

After the first recording of the opera singer, but before the death of Harriet, an anthropologist and a sociologist made a movie with a cameraman and they traipsed around Paris and Saint-Tropez playing tag with a camera. The interviewee became the interviewer, each time asking, “Are you happy?”

No one was famous.

Mexico City February 2009

Kelly and I lay on the floor surrounded by books.

“What question should we ask next?”  Kelly asked, aware of the absurdity of her question, as though asking a question can only ever be preceded and followed by an infinite loop of questions about the question itself:  “What is the question?”  “What was the question?”  “What is the answer to the question?”  “What does the question mean?”

We had been asking questions about God, and existence, the nature of nature, the mind-body connection, problems of philosophical methodology, reflection, and language.  But our limbs had fallen slowly to the ground like petals.  I had not found the post office.  We were becoming younger.

“Should I go back to the Marxist?”

“No…”

“No, I’m not asking you, I’m answering your question.”

She opened a book.

“Shall we ask Freud?  Or perhaps Pessoa?”

“Pessoa,”  I answered.

She leafed through the book

“To think about God is to disobey God,/Since God wanted us not to know him,/Which is why he didn’t reveal himself to us.”

“What does that mean?”  Kelly and myself elegantly and imperceptibly becoming of one mind, a woman talking or thinking to herself.

“It means you are conflicted.  That you are caught between two impossible halves of a division—like a Chinese finger trap.  You cannot know God without betraying God, but you cannot know not to know God without first knowing him.  Therefore you are in constant betrayal.  There is no option that does not lead to betrayal.”

“Did I not know that already?”

“You can’t ask Pessoa these things.  You want answers, you must go to someone who gives answers.”

“Who, like God?”

Kelly made a chiasmic facial gesture, raising her eyebrows and lowering, cocking her chin, her face splitting, breaking open, apart, like the earth, over time.  An expression that indicates both possibility and direction.

She reached over to my copy of the English bible laid out next to the Spanish one on the coffee table amidst my drafts of translation.

“Dear God, please give this poor young woman the strength to make a choice in this most infuriating dilemma.  Please guide her by giving her quick and easy answers so that she will not have to take responsibility for her own decisions.”

I grabbed the Spanish version off the table and threw it at her mouth, where her words had come out.  She raised the English version just in time to block her face and the Spanish one collided with it mid-air, and fell to the floor, open faced, it’s onion skin pages curling and bending.  Kelly laughing, the books scattered around us like the rests of a Bacchanal.

“Old Testament or New Testament?”

“Who cares, god is God, right?”  Jubilation.

“And Joshua gave their land to the tribes of Israel as a possession according to their allotments.”

“What is that supposed to mean.?”

“No idea.  Joshua sounds like a dick, though. Try the Spanish version.”

“El cadaver de Jezabel sera como un abono que se esparce y ni siquiera se podra decir: “Esta es Jezebal.”

“You opened to the part about Jezebel?  Unbelievable.”

“Let’s see…”  I rifled through my papers.  “The cadaver of Jezebel will be like a dispersed interest payment and not even the most insignificant shit will be able to say, ‘this credit card statement is Jezebal’”

“Your Spanish is really crap, you know.  How are you going to translate the bible if you don’t even speak Spanish?”

“Shut up, I’m working on it.  Besides, it’s the language of God I’m translating, and God speaks directly to me.”

“You’re fucked up, you know?”

“What’s it to you?  What does the New Standard Revised have?”

“Oh here it is, The English version says, ‘the corpse of Jezebel shall be like dung on the field in the territory of Jezreel, so that no one can say, This is Jezebel.”

“What are yout talking about?  It’s practically the same as my translation.”

“Joshua and Jezebal sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g!”

“Oh shut up.  I’m asking Bolano.”

“Bolano!”

“Bolano!  Our saviour!”

“Oh shit, I opened to Cesaria Tinajera’s poem.”

“You know, sometimes I think 2666 is actually based on the bible.  Like the Satanic Verses is based on the Koran.  The Satanic Verses of Mexico.”

“There is no doubt that Mexico needs its copy of the Satanic Verses.  There is also no doubt that we must do more to expose the tyranny of biblical dissemination in Mexico.  That it was the most heinous of the weapons of the Conquest, and remains to this day the principal instrument of oppression, never ceases to astound me.”

“Perhaps Bolano was trying to do that.”

“Perhaps… but Bolano has his own dialectic—or his own dialogue, I suppose.  Don’t you think?  He would never construct such a simple allegory without destabilizing its structures of correspondance…”

“To think about God is to disobey God.”

“Don’t think about God!”

“Ah!  I’m thining about him, I’m thinking about him!”

“Sinner!  Sinner!”

And at that I lunged across the room and began to wrestle with Kelly the two of us sisters, locked in a linguistic battle over the truth of God.  Our arms moving through each other’s, around each other’s bodys, our hands holding onto each other’s hair, our  mouths in flight, two angels, the wandering interpretation of texts.

“Oh what’s this?  This book of fairy tales opened all by itself!  Let’s see what it says”

They unraveled and laid flat on their bellies on the cold tile floor.

“Close your eyes and point.”

“ ‘Go West in a week,’”

“Now that’s some advice I can follow.”

– transcribed (loosely based on reality) and posted by Lily.

[ic]

July 15, 2009

posted by Caroline Picard

written by Fernando Pessoa, Translated by Richard Zenith

As you may or may not know, Fernando Pessoa wrote under a series of pseudonyms. Henry More, an alleged “Wardour, Voodooist, etc.” was simply one of them. Having said that, I really like imagining Pessoa looking at himself in the mirror and giving himself the following pep talk.

pessoa28 June 1916 at 6 (5) in the afternoon

Because I want to speak to you.

I am a man who is your friend and no man is more.

A man who is your friend is a man who tells you the truth, not one who is a flatterer [in] any way. I am non. You are a son of my nominal mind, and if you do not know that this means, I cannot tell you. You must not maintain chastity [any] more. You are so misogynous that you will find yourself morally impotent, and in that way you will not produce any complete work in literature. You must abandon your monastic life and now.

You are not a man to make much in the world if you keep chaste. You are…No temperament like yours can manage to keep chastity and keep emotionally sane. Keeping chastity is for stronger men and men who have to [be chaste] on account of physical defects. This does not apply to you. A man who masturbates himself is not a strong man, and no man is a man who is not a lover. Many men make many mates. You are a moral child many times over. You are a man who masturbates himself and who dreams of women in a masturbator’s manner. Man is man. No man can move among men if he is not a man like them.

Make up your mind to do your duty by Nature, not in a manner so insane as now. Make up your mind to go to bed with the girl who is coming into your life. Make up your mind to make her happy in a sexual way. She is a masculine type of girl and she is a woman quite made for you. She must make you happy, because she makes a man of you. She meets you and she makes you love her. She is strong and immensely masculine in her will and in her manner of making you submit to her. Make no resistance. There is nothing to fear. It will all be simpler than you suppose. She is a virgin, just as you are, and nomad[ic] as you in life. She is no marriageable woman, for she is morally too nomad[ic] to make a nest. Only a girl like this can make you mate with her. No manner of resistance on your part will do anything. No resistance can resist an overpowering will. No more need be said. Nor more must be said.

No more.

Henry More

good-bye, my boy

posted by caroline picard

and finally – i wanted to add this short poem, what was written by the same pseudonym Campos who first wrote to the Ophelia in question….

This was written in October of 1935 : Here are the first five stanzas

All love letters are

Ridiculous.

They wouldn’t be love letters if they weren’t

Ridiculous.

*

In my time I also wrote love letters

Equally, inevitibaly

Ridiculous.

*

Love letters, if there’s love,

Must be

Ridiculous

*

But in fact

Only those who’ve never written

Love letters

Are

Ridiculous

*

If only I could go back

To when I wrote letters

Without thinking how

Ridiculous.

posted by Caroline Picard

9 October 1929

Terrible Baby:

I like your letters, which are sweet, and I like you, because you’re sweet too. And you’re candy, and you’re a wasp, and you’re honey, which comes from bees and not wasps, and everything’s just fine, and Baby should always write me, even when I don’t, which is always, and I’m sad, and I’m crazy ,and no one likes me, and why should they, and that’s exactly right, ande verything goes back to the beginning, and I think  I’ll call you today, and I’d like to kiss you precisely and voraciously on the lips, and to eat your lips and whatever little kisses you’re hiding there, and to lean on your shoulder and slide into the softness of your little doves, and to beg your pardon, and the pardon to be make-believe, and to do it over and over and period until I start again, and why do you like a scoundrel and a troll and a fat slob with a face like a fas meter and the expression of someone who’s not there but in the toilet next door, and indeed, and finally, and I’m going to stop becuase I’m insane, and I always have been, it’s from birth, which is to say ever since I was born, and I wish Baby were m y doll so I could do like a child, taking off her clothes, and I’ve reached the end of the page, and this doesn’t seem like it could be written by a human being, but it was written by me.

Fernando

fernando-pessoa-22

you can read more about this poet by going here, however I noticed a discrepancy between the facts on this website and the facts in my book (The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa, Grove Press 2001); my book says Pessoa died one month after the break up with Ophelia, while the web site suggests that Pessoa and Ophelia met again after nine years.

Meanwhile, [Pessoa’s] imaginary friends grow up into a pantheon of poets, with the four major heteronyms listed above, various other semiheteronyms, and some poets appearing only once or twice. As far as is known, he died a virgin; he did take up with one Ophelia Queiroz when he was 31 and she 19 — she also wrote to some of the heteronyms. After six months Pessoa broke it off, saying that he was not like other humans, followed a different Law. They reconnected, briefly, nine years later. Ophelia recalls that once he kissed her on a bus.

When Pessoa died in 1935, he left behind a steamer trunk brimful of manuscripts — 27,543, to be exact, written by some 86 different poets, male, female, young, old. Some of his heteronyms inspired others, wrote criticism of others; a few preceded Pessoa in death, and then, occasionally, some new poems would be found posthumously; the heteronyms founded many schools of poetry; they traveled the world, with many adventures, homosexual, polysexual; they wrote scholarly theses; they had lives and loves. The papers in the trunk are studied like an archaeological dig.

posted by Caroline Picard

An excerpt from The Selected Prose of Fernando PESSOA

Edited and Translated by Richard Zenith

foto_fernando_pessoa2

ABEL’s, 25 September 1929

Dear Miss Ophelia Queiroz:

An abject and sorry individual named Fernando Pessoa, my dear and special friend, has asked me to communicate to you–since his mental state prevents him from communicating anything, even to a split pea (a notable example of obedience and discipline) — that you are hereby prohibited from:

1) losing weight

2) eating too little,

3) not sleeping

4) having a fever,

5) thinking of the individual in question.

As the sincere and close friend of the good-for-nothing whose message I have (reluctantly) undertaken to communicate, my own advice to you is to take whatever mental images you may have formed of the individual whose mention is sullying this reasonably white paper and to throw it down the toilet, since it is materially impossible for such a Fate to befall the pseudohuman entity who would justly deserve it, if there were justice in the world.

Respectfully yours,

Alvaro de Campos

Naval Engineer

26 September 1929

Dearl little Ophelia,

I’m not sure you like me, and that’s why I’m writing you.

Since you said you’d avoid seeing me tomorrow until between quarter after five and five thirty at the streetcar stop that’s not that one there, I’ll be there waiting.

But since the engineer Alvaro de Campos will be with me for most of tomorrow, I’m not sure I can avoid his company–which at any rate is pleasant–during the ride to Janelas Verdas.

This engineer, who’s an old friend, has something to say to you. He refuses to give me any details, but I hope and trust that, in your presence, he’ll see fit to tell me, or tell you, or tell us, what it’s all about.

Until then I’ll remain silent, respectful, and even expectant.

Till tomorrow, sweet lips,

Fernando