Friday, January 14, 2011

Combatwords, Friday January 14, 2011: Identity and Reality

Combatwords, Friday January 14, 2011: Identity and Reality

We take many shapes and forms. There is the known self, the unknown self; the self others see in us and the identity we see in the other. Philip K Dick was concerned that real wasn't as real as it used to be (rather, that he was not as sane as he used to be...). If we can't know our selves, then how can we know others, much less the reality that surrounds us all?

Combat Expiration: 12am PST, 1/17/2011
Critique Expiration: 12pm PST, 1/18/2011
Bonuses/Penalties: +2 if posted by 7pm PST 1/14/2011, +1 if posted by 2am PST 1/15/2011, -1 if posted by 6am 1/17/2011, -2 if posted by 12pm 1/17/2011.
The Rules:

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  1. Well, if no one else is going to, I'm just going to go ahead and be a dick and post two. Just try to stop me.


    I pass you a plastic capsule of crack.
    You palm it and the camera pulls way back
    to show my face, gigantic on the screen
    uprooting you from your picture show seat.
    Reduced, my visage next leers from your laptop,
    now on your phone. Now I’m behind the pulpit
    gesturing up at the sullen crucifix,
    beseeching you to feel the thorn, the pricks.
    I place the host in your mouth, I tilt the cup,
    refill your stein without spilling a drop.
    I’m prone on the asphalt, dripping blood,
    having barely dented your fender or hood.
    I am the child whose needs become your own,
    who longs to steal your face, until I’m grown
    and then I throw it back at you, sucked dry.
    I am the landscape whose majesty still makes you sigh.
    I give you paperwork to keep you late at the office.
    I give you paint to dribble like you were an artist.
    I am the treadmill, pedals, weights, and chains,
    the adrenaline trigger to blow out your brains
    leaving you panting and cleansed with sweat,
    an empty vessel sculpted from flesh.
    I touch your body until you come
    and lose yourself in blissful abstraction.

    And then I go, and you are once again
    alone without distractions that allow you to forget
    that you are you, and always trapped within
    this web of cells, this jail of cells, this skin.

  2. Slanted & Enchanted: Being Stephen Malkmus

    Seated before the wall of monitors in the control room, I watch the screens flip through the hallways, the galleries of the museum, until I see him, standing him the lobby next to a pretty blond woman. One of the membership girls had called from her office, saying he was in the building, describing him to me; tall white male, baseball cap, shaggy hair, jeans. Nondescript. She was excited though; she’s a big fan. So am I. “His wife’s an artist, and she just gave a lecture on our Philip Guston painting,” she says, and now I’m even more thrilled; Guston is my favorite artist.

    And now I have the couple captured on live video surveillance. Malkmus has his back to the camera, which is fortunate for me; it’s always easier to enter if I can’t see the subject’s face. In five seconds I’m in, seeing out through his eyes. I see the lobby for what it really is, a gloomy space lined with dingy marble. I look at the woman beside him, who I take to be his wife. She wears a weirdly-cut black dress slit up both sides all the way to her armpits. I grope around in his head for clues as to what it’s like to be an indie rock legend, a beloved figure in the world of alternative music, just come up with the usual mix of arrogance and insecurity. Yawn. I look at his wife in her weird gown and smile.

    “Great lecture, Honey,” I say, wanting to hear the voice I listened to in my own rock-and-roll-obsessed youth. His wife looks puzzled.

    “You just said that a minute ago,” she says. “Are you okay?”

    “I must be tired,” I say, feeling Malkmus blush.

    “You’re tired?” she snaps. “I’m the one who just had to spend an hour trying to explain the genius of Philip Guston to those dimwits.”

    I smile at her, letting my gaze linger on her breasts. She is my wife, after all. I feel a stirring in my- in Malkmus’s jeans.

    “We should get home, Honey,” I say, and I sing it a little, just to hear the voice that sang “Silence Kit” and “Range Life” to my younger self so many years ago.

    The control room phone rings. It’s the girl from membership. “Is he still out there?” she says breathlessly. “I want to get an autograph.” I look back at the monitor but I –Stephen Malkmus- and my wife have already gone.

  3. Cartesian Evil Genius Makes You Lose 'The Game' Again [Combatwords, January 14, 2011]

    Between identity and reality is paranoia;
    A sense of visionary omnipotence is underneath those,
    Beyond that, nihilism as knowledge—not as inspiration—
    And hope's not opposite to the pessimism we all suffer.
    Impose persona, you can impersonate what and whomever
    You crave becoming, but it behooves you to be the imposed on.

    For example, you're reading this page, uncertain
    That this poem is meaningful—now you get it.
    For you either reject what it claims, or welcome
    Diagnosis, but either version affirms it.

  4. Sad Sacks and Sociopaths

    The romance of assonance
    and the constant consonance
    of kooks; truly the sounds
    of love and madness.

    The saddest are the young
    girls and old men
    and the soci-ist
    are the teen aged boys
    and battered housewives
    machine guns and knives
    poised for attack.

    Having been both
    and neither at one time
    or another depending
    on the presence
    or absence of a lover,
    or was it my mother?
    It’s so hard to remember,
    and hard to say
    what was right, wrong
    and everything between
    hello and so long.

    Here we go round
    the lithium tree
    the lithium tree
    the lithium tree,

    Did you notice
    there were three?

    I once was tossed but now I’m bound
    and held in the pleasant white room
    where a sweet woman comes
    to visit me at noon and bring me more
    pills and tales of woe.

    I don’t think she’s happy
    but these restraints
    won’t let me ease her pain.

    So sad
    so sad;
    oh well!

    Here we go round
    the lithium tree
    the lithium tr…

  5. You say, “All my secrets guard themselves,
    In darkened dungeons with tightened shackles,
    Wrapped around what’s left of me.”
    And I am naïve enough to believe you.

    So I set your essence on my shelves,
    Where malevolence can’t raise my hackles,
    And refrain from privity.
    You are the iron threshold I won’t pass through.

    Stone steps to your soul, where no one delves,
    Crumble into resents no one tackles,
    In a place I cannot see,
    In a person I have known, but never knew.

  6. “My son is a beast,” Miss Evelyn is saying as I’m changing her sheets.

    Uh-huh. I’ve heard it all before. She’s a quieter person now, thanks to her new medication, but the subject of her monologues once she warms up, is the same. Her son is a beast. Her daughter-in-law is a demon. Her grandchildren are monsters.

    I decide this isn’t her dementia talking. I’ve been an aide at the retirement center only a few months, but I believe she must have been like this her entire life. I mean, all the other dementia patients have intervals of grace when the world and its inhabitants seem benevolent to them. But not Miss Evelyn. Like in the fairy tale The Snow Queen, she must have a piece of enchanted glass in her eye that makes everyone look wrong. More than wrong - even hideous.

    I finish the corners, all spit-spot like I do for my own granny’s bed when I visit her. Now, I give the worn flannel an extra pat. She’ll find peace tonight in this bed, Miss Evelyn will, in her body if not her mind. That’s all I can do for the poor thing.

    “Is there anything else you need, Miss Evelyn? I’m going off my shift now.”

    I see the cotton of her blouse quivering, but she doesn’t answer.

    “How about a sweater,” I suggest.

    “Sweater can’t warm my bones from the inside,” she says.

    “I can get you tea or coffee,” I offer.

    She frowns up at me. “You part of that coven in the kitchen,” she asks, “the witches trying to poison me?”

    “No ma’am,” I answer. She turns her face away from me toward a white wall devoid of photographs or art. There’s nothing personal in the room at all, except a cheap black Halloween mask with a thin elastic band, on the bureau. Curious.

    I don’t know how much longer I can keep this job. It pays university students better than other places, but some of the residents are too depressing to be around. Most are physically debilitated or lonely and that’s sad enough to be around. But Miss Evelyn is that hardest of all for me to handle. Spend too much time with her and one begins to see a world populated by mythological creatures.

    When I open the door to leave, she begins her litany. “My son is a beast, “ she informs me. “His wife is a demon. My grandchildren are mons- -“ I shut the door but hear her droning behind.

    The halls are more active today, Sunday, than I’m used to. Visiting day. I usually work Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, but am doing a favor for another aide.

    I’m on my way to the staff check-out desk, when I spot them. The tallest one has an enormous bovine head on a man’s body. I have to duck as three small winged monkeys fly at my head, so the only thing I see of the dark creature is its red eyes.

    They’re all heading toward Miss Evelyn’s room.

  7. He sat there gazing into the computer screen. The title of the yet to be written paper the focus of his gaze. "What is human nature".

    Where to begin? he thought. He was stopped by the mass of the subject. He would under most other circumstances refer to the internet and apply a barrage of already articulated text. A collage glued together with a couple sentences and changed words. Thus proving himself a functional conduit of information; something palatable for the teacher. Alas this subject however was different. Being a pragmatic fellow he determined such informational resources such as the internet,anthropological texts,histories and the like were second best. First hand knowledge would be his only resource here. For he new himself to be a human for at least 18 years. 18 years full of interactions and experiences with other humans and himself. In such a view as this, deemed himself as worthy as any doctorate who had studied the subject for such a time.

    "Hmmm" he said to himself as he began to mentally search. To look for a way to broach this yoke that is human nature.

    It began with a much needed joint. For the two hours previously spent staring at the screen, staring into the abyss of that blank screen left him flooded with a storm of thoughts. He had not realized at first what doors would open when he endeavored this definition of human nature.

    As he smoked the joint he could feel his mind relax a bit like a spasmed back that was just shot with muscle relaxer. His mind wandered watching the weed smoke curl and drift languidly into the still air. His eyes grew heavy and he eased his way back into the subject at hand. His eyes slowly closed....he was staring into a vortex. It's depth unknown.It was a chaotic tumult of thousands of voices blending together not like static though for discernible voices seemed clearer than others and waves started become apparent. As in one voice set off another and another. The analogical anecdote to describe this would be "The Wave". A communal gesture performed at pro baseball and football games. Then the realization washed over him like ice cold water. These were voices encapsulated inside himself. They were voices,thoughts ideas echoing throughout history and space connected like a web boundlessly extending. As life went on he would find himself coming back to this vision and question gleaning more and more

    The paper titled "The Definition of Human Nature" ended up being a four sentence paragraph that took the sum total of eight hours to write. One which earned him a c. However he would look back on this as one of the most enriching educational experiences of highschool.