Nob 8, 2012

An "Incident" Thread

AN— how nicely you put it. baraka's poem reminds me of a borges capsule story: "the witness". the killer and victim (and the witness) collapse into each other, their verbs and pronouns and viewpoints intermingling. they are all of one face. the killer is lost too, somehow dead too, or dead to language (we have no word) and not merely missing but made (by the poem) into a void

AN— and the poem is peppered with all these empty spaces, gaps in our knowledge, gaps maybe also in our desire to know? our capacity to know? and our willingness to respond?

DE— It's truly like those two characters of the earlier "Incident" (with a tongue and a word between them) have grown into these adults (with no word and just the bullet between them)

DE— I'm playing with the idea that the murderer and the murdered are so intertwined that they are almost two halves of a suicide, stewed in a common anonymity. The incident as a scandal is intriguing. Especially with all that (yes scandalous) repetition redundantly referring to elusive facts, blurred silhouettes. They appear too insignificant to be named, and that's a scandal in itself. It's also about being so much scandal out there that it might all amount to no scandal. Maybe the poem is also about how we are exposed to these newspaper(ed) deaths but can't absorb them all, can't feel for much of them, yet we retain traces that nibble at our nerves, replace these frayed ends with blind spots, numbnesses. That is, unless we try Baraka's path, which is to put our finger over these "slain universes" write over it the line "We have no word". Which are still words, and is much better (as hope and thought and affirmation goes) than truly having nothing to say about a man found killed, the killer lost to the wind.

AN— that's just too depressing. but it's true. poetry and art must be in the forefront of various efforts to "re-sensitize" us. but who wants vulnerability to all that hurt?! vicarious or not!

AN— will it change us? yes, i believe. and i am reminded of sylvia plath (and her son) by "vulnerability to all that hurt"

DE— This must be what was referred to, earlier: "El Testigo" by Jorge Luis Borges. Maybe not in this story, but in others, Borges plays with the theme that the killer and the killed share destiny so intensely that they are like brothers or lovers or shadows of each other. So also in this poem of Baraka where the killed man is also dark of soul.


In a stable lying almost in the shadow of the new stone church, a man with gray eyes and a gray beard, stretched on the ground amidst the animal odors, meekly seeks death like someone seeking sleep. The day, faithful to vast secret laws, continuously displaces and confounds the shadows in the wretched stable. Outside stretch the tilled fields, a deep ditch filled up with dead leaves, and the tracks of a wolf in the black mud where the woods begin. The man sleeps and dreams, forgotten. The bells calling to prayer awake him. In the kingdoms of England, the sound of the bells is already one of the customs of the afternoon, but the man, while still a boy, had seen the face of Woden, had seen holy dread and exultation, had seen the rude wooden idol weighed down with Roman coins and heavy vestments, seen the sacrifice of horses, dogs, and prisoners. Before dawn he would be dead and with him would die, never to return, the last firsthand images of the pagan rites. The world would be poorer when this Saxon was no more.

We may well be astonished by space-filling acts which come to an end when someone dies, and yet something, or an infinite number of things, die in each death—unless there is a universal memory, as the theosophists have conjectured. There was a day in time when the last eyes to see Christ were closed forever. The battle of Junín and the love of Helen died with the death of some one man. What will die with me when I die? What pathetic or frail form will the world lose? Perhaps the voice of Macedonio Fernandez, the image of a horse in the vacant space at Serrano and Charcas, a bar of sulfur in the drawer of a mahogany desk?

AN— you beat me to it. all the same, i'm glad that "the witness" is here alongside "incident" to testify, show us how much pain we've consigned to oblivion, challenge the limits of our consciousness and compassion and how this can be proven by our language and our use of language

AN— baraka's first curtailed "shot" is interesting. we're used to it as a transitive verb, but here it becomes intransitive, and whoever follows "shot at" erased even before the bullet gets there. by the time we get to this "shot" you mention, we have no idea who's who, who's behind the gun, who fell before it

DE— Thank you for noticing!

AN— the confusion overwhelms, but it is sharpened somehow, by baraka, like a knife's edge

AN— never ends. perhaps we put up with it because we can't keep on feeling it