exponentiation ezine: issue [1.0:literature]
I fear the coming heavy sound of
Crashing Bones falling down as I
Tiptoe around with this
Clowns frown that
Only grows for mocking laughter.
And as I dance on tightrope air
I stare below and shout aloud in
Slow and small pathetic words that
Even though I fear and fend
This Clown of Bones will fall.
Over the course of many hundreds of years, I have never witnessed a
spectacle such as the growth of the Northern peoples. As many now as
there are fish in the ocean, their nature is a strange one, to be
sure. I have watched them silently from afar while they embrace each
other so lovingly, with a tenderness I have not seen in many
cultures, all the while fighting terrible struggles which yield
nothing save horrific ends for their land and folk; they tear down
the forest around them to build unnatural structures for their
ever-growing numbers, whilst giving devotion and prayer to the gods
that made the natural world they so carelessly rape and pillage. A
curious creature, humanity. Still...
There is something about them that draws me back to them night after
night. In spite of what She has taught me about the dangers of their
kind, that their love can never be our love, that they can never
rival the love She has in Her heart for me, I see something within
them that tells me differently. A potential... a possibility that
love could blossom between someone such as myself, and someone of
their kind. I had previously been far too afraid of them to ever
approach one; I loathe the thought of rejection with a fearful
shudder – but I cannot believe that there is nothing of which She is
not certain! My own eyes tell me differently! - I had to know. It
was with this heretical thought that I dared all... I attempted to
prove to myself that these thoughts were not those of the mad.
Under cover of moon-absent darkness, I had stolen towards those
structural abominations they name "halls" to seek one of their
number. I had seen some of them who had made passing advances to
some of my kin; a sight totally at odds with what She has instilled
in me. These encounters I had witnessed emboldened my resolve to
seek out someone of their kind in order to discover whether or not
my reason and emotions had not led me astray.
Theirs is a beautiful people; their features were fine to the eye,
their language was almost musical to my ears (many a time had I been
serenaded to a blissful slumber listening to them converse), there
was precious little about them, excluding what I have already noted
concerning their self-conflicted nature, that did not appeal to me.
I have often wondered if one of their souls was not by luckless
mistake trapped within my breast.
My first attempts were largely unsatisfying... I felt not a trickle
of the emotion that seemed to play across their faces when I would
watch them engage in the compassion and warmth of their coupling. I
had begun to wonder if She was not in fact right after all, and that
I should rethink my foolhardy course – but my feelings were too
strong to be swayed by these initial failures. I knew there was
someone of their people who could return the strength of my
emotions, the power of the love in my heart. It felt eternal,
something that I alone was unable to cherish fully; I needed what I
saw in humanity to appease the longing within me as though it were
my first and last breath. It would complete me, I felt.
Tonight, I think - tonight I will feel what love truly is. I will
not rest until this torrent in my breast is finally undammed and
allowed to burst forth in ecstasy. As I make my way to their "hall,"
I find I cannot quell the bounce in my step, nor the trembling in my
hands. My heart is torn between dashing towards the enchanting
promise of their embrace, and running away blindly to Her side, to
sob my forgiveness upon Her feet. My curiousity will not be so
easily subdued however. I have to know.
I enter softly, not wishing to wake them. For some reason, I feel
the experience would be ...profaned... by their awareness. I know
not what they might have been taught about me and mine, and
prejudices, bearing the breadth and depth of my own in mind (and
what it took to overcome them), run deep. Love should not consummate
itself by allowing physical appearance to be the sole judge of its
worth. The first human I reach out to leaves me with the same
dissatisfaction I had felt previously, but I am not dismayed. It
seems they felt nothing, either. Maybe I am seeking the wrong
individuals. Maybe my love is something that transcends the majority
of theirs, and I must find an equal among them. Yes, that is it! I
have been too thoughtless in my approach, I really should.....
My breath catches in my throat. A human, much larger than the rest
that occupy the "hall," and infinitely more beautiful, seizes my
attention on the far side of the enclosure. My heart feels as though
it will leap from my chest, but my limbs are paralyzed with awe.
Shaking, I make my way to the human's side, looking at it fondly in
its slumber. This truly is an equal, I think. It would surely return
the emotions I have boiling within me. I lean close, tears running
from my eyes in joy as I breathe softly across its ear and lay my
hand on its arm...
...Words cannot express what passed between us. It was glorious.
Yet, it was too much for me. The emotions unleashed from our embrace
I could not contain. To finally physically touch love was magical,
but it is not within me to contain the power that we shared by our
mutual contact. I ran from that place, clutching myself tightly to
quiet the surging maelstrom of emotion that poured from the depths
of my soul towards the skies in an effort to find release; the
feelings were beyond anything I had expected. I knew it would be
many moons until I gathered the will to attempt such a thing again.
What I have taken from the experience is more than I can fathom at
this moment, but what it took from me is far greater than anything I
But to know that it is out there, that these emotions I have roiling
inside of me have a way in which to see themselves illuminated by
the light of reality, and not fantasy... It gives me ...hope.... I
wish She could feel this...
* * *
The next morning, the King of the Danes awoke, expecting fresh
carnage to be visited upon his hall and kinsmen. He went
straightaway to the place where his men slept, and was not comforted
by the grisly sight which awaited him in the bed of one of those who
had journeyed from across the sea.
The largest of the Geats, the battle-hardened son of Edgetheow,
proclaimed to the shaken king, "Fear no more, my Lord Hrothgar. See
you that cursed, man-hating limb I have affixed to the ceiling? I
assure you that by that trophy, Grendel shall paint the halls of
Heorot with your kinsmen's blood no more." - blaphbee
dare i disgrace
be sought death
dare i disguise
when i walk,
it follows raining
when i fall,
it is always laughing
felt like an age
i perish in my filth
when the mind is clear
the bottom line
beyond the bottom line
- what is faith -
there is the future
and the darkness, cold, void, instantiate:
expansion of what is life
into what is death
cold: graced by pines
and in wintertime
silent - steve renke
Flames lept up into his face. Then darkness. When the light came
back Jacques was staring at my face.
"The inevitable," I began.
Another handful of paper, cardboard and twigs went onto the fire. I
was grateful for the interruption of windy central Texas night. The
orange, lit from within, gradually crept over each piece of paper or
corrugated cardboard, until the material made the transition from
mass to excited plasma, waves of gas sweeping over the collapsing
structure in what we animal beings know only as fire. Far enough
behind the old drilling equipment plant, which had been rusting in
bankruptcy for two decades, no one would have cared even if we were
using nuclear fusion.
"No," he said. "The fulfillment." And thus begins our story.
Apathos was one of those well-intentioned projects that started with
a case of Budweiser that came to us because Ron's mom, in her
everlasting goodness, gave him a gas card with which one could also
charge important fuels like corn chips and alcohol. The guy who
worked at the corner store on the far side of town was new to the
country, pale skin and a whispering accent from someplace east, and
he didn't even blink when we'd come in and sign the chit in her
Bill Haley lives north of town, and he became our bassist, because
his parents had gone off one day and come home on the front grille
of a tanker truck, so insurance checks flowed in and the neighbors
had long ago learned to disregard the loud noise and marijuana
stench of his garage. I guess we made a pretty half-ass effort of
putting up discount carpet, in clashing shades of orange and green
and violet, across the old walls rotted by moisture, not the least
of which came from Bill when he was drunk enough not to care where
his piss went. Jon Mattews was our drummer, because Jon was the only
drummer anyone knew in town, so he had for some years showed up at
every band practice he could, knowing from experience that most end
after a few weeks at the hands of an irreconciliable argument.
We called it Apathos after Kurt Cobain's old band, and there's no
denying that Nirvana was a big influence, but so was everything else
that had been big on radio since 1969, when Jim's older brother Nick
started listening to rock music and buying records that Jim would
turn on to after the divorce, when Nick was only a name on postcards
from some big city called Sacramento. The Doors, SRV, Led Zeppelin,
even the candy-ass radio hits, it all went into the pot and out came
a stew colored by dense guitars. That was Jim for you - he went into
his room one day with all the equipment he could borrow, and came
out with this guitar sound you couldn't beat. Most distortion is
bass, and some crazy people use all highs, but his was mostly mids
with a good low crunch, and it seemed the noise that sprinkled over
it like confectioner's sugar on donuts was high-pitched static that
harmonized at the whim of some undiscovered gods.
I was vocalist for six weeks, but Ron only lasted a week as second
guitar. It got us past the first irreconciliable argument, which was
the name, and the next five too, so by the time I was replaced, we
had our sound down and had decided we were going for the big time.
We were going to write hits that conquered radio like Attilla the
Hun. Jim had shed the shop tshirts and was wearing open-neck leather
shirts, and even Jon was telling people he was "full-time in Apathos
now, oh you haven't heard?" It was roaring great. When it happened,
I was finishing my own take on that wail that Cobain used to do,
trailing out into the chaos like a truck passing on the freeway at
"Mark," said Bill. Then I noticed Jim standing behind him, and Jon
sitting off to the side. Our tech, Indian Joe, who's from India and
ended up in this little town by sheer bad luck, was playing the
drums and we had the tape going, so the whole thing got recorded.
Here's how it goes.
First voice on tape is Bill, saying my name. Then he stops and makes
a little noise like a half-hiccup; you can't hear it, but Jim
stepped forward at that point and said, "Well. You're doing great,
but, um, me and the boys have been thinking, you know, if we're
going to make it on radio, we need someone with some flair,
something that can really propel us to the top--"
You can hear me on tape at this point, sounding chalky like I
swallowed my tongue. I hate the way it sounds, but listen anyway.
"Yeah, good point there, maybe I can hit the higher ranges more--"
"That's not what we mean" - Bill again. "We're looking for somebody
who can really work a crowd, you know, can do the press shots and
all, hook in some girls..."
He could've straight out said I was ugly. I don't think I am, and
one ex-girlfriend agrees with me, but I'm not Jim Morrison, if you
take my drift. I look like the guy who might fix your car, rewire
your basement electricity, or take the virus off your computer.
Girls don't stop eating their ice cream when I go by, but I do OK,
"Uh, okay, Bill," I didn't sound as stiff at this point. A little
glum, sure. Wouldn't you? And then they brought in Jacques. You
could tell because all the little coughs and stuff drop out. I don't
know if they thought I would've fought him, because even I know my
odds would be slim. Jacques is big, like six plus feet, and has long
dark hair and the most testosterone of any guy from the east end of
town. The wannabe gangbangers who smoke weed in little cigars behind
the old drugstore don't even make eye contact. I could see right
away why they picked him.
"Mark." I said, and there's a little pause while we shook hands, and
then I handed him the mike. I don't need to tell you that I felt
like TV dinner leftovers at that moment, but I kept my head up
enough to go to the back and turn over the bucket we kept by the
door and sit on it. Some cigarette butts and roaches fell out - oh
well. I remember being lightheaded like you are when you step up to
Jacques lived up to his foreign-film name. He didn't walk to the
mike, but he strode up to it and whisked it up in a single motion.
He sang just like Kurt, too, but he was deeper, and when he changed
intervals more than a fifth, his voice started to vibrate inside
like loose equipment on a northbound train, and it gave it this
full, rich sound. I was still pretty bummed, but I wasn't going to
argue with this. He was watching me part of the time too, but I
didn't really say much of anything. My own plan was forming already
in my mind, and it was really simple, namely to go out to my
brother's place and finally buy that old Les Paul he kept around in
the rec room from him. I knew the chords.
Jon and I burned a cigarette after practice. "Dude, they were just
telling me it was the right thing to do, so I went along," he said,
through blue smoke.
"Looks right to me," I said, and he looked surprised. "Guy's a great
His eyes got narrow, but there wasn't meanness in it. I thought he
guessed my plan, but I wasn't going to help him feel out the
details. Instead, I said, "If these songs keep coming along, we'll
need a studio soon."
"Isn't a problem. My uncle George has one out in Austin, and we can
get time there."
I showed up next practice with that chip-flecked sunburst Les Paul,
which Jim told me very solemnly was actually a fake, and he hoped I
hadn't paid more than a hundred for it. Truth of the story was I
showed up and my brother was dead drunk, and started talking numbers
and fell asleep, so then Marsha - she's his girlfriend, because he's
still married to Laura but she's in LA - just handed it to me and
told me it was better he stopped screwing around with those pipe
dreams anyhow. Dennis at the guitar shop hooked me up with a tune-up
after I bought some strings, and I was set. Only thing hard was not
getting the strings to buzz when I changed, since it was all power
We went through the first four without a problem, and then Jacques
said that maybe one note in that bassline was out, and Bill told him
he didn't think so, and Jim said it didn't matter and Jon asked me
what I thought, and I said the bassline was too busy and then Jim
said we were taking a break.
I was out of cigarettes, and turned to go to the store, when this
arm stopped me. Jacques handed me one of his and gestured a hand to
behind the house. "So you think this is going to go anywhere?" he
Almost coughing, I said, "It could. We've gotta fix some things."
He smoked, then turned his mouth aside, and said, Yes.
"They'll listen to you."
When we were back in the smog of the garage, cigarettes and sweat
and piss around like a landscape, Jacques told Bill what to do with
his bassline. Two notes - all that is needed. Bill looked at Jim,
and then looked back and said OK. The song ripped after that. By the
end of the week, two more practices, we had five songs. The first
two were pretty weak, so the next practice Jacques and Jon worked
out a new rhythm, and then bent one of the riffs backward so it
flowed into the good riff from the other song, and Jacques did these
drowning vocals that sounded really killer. When we left that night,
we were sure that was it.
It's amazing how much energy is stored in a sheet of paper. Once the
claw of flame gets up inside it, it just crumbles around the orange
ball, and throws off this block of heat that will just seize you for
a minute thinking, That was one (1) sheet of paper? But then you
think back, all the years of sunshine and rain and dirt that went
into the tree, and all the diesel smoke and sweat and pastrami
sandwiches for the loggers, and you can see how the paper is just
all that wound up, waiting for something to let it. When the heat is
at the same frequency of whatever makes up paper, then it
harmonizes, and the thing just about explodes. I love fire.
"Gets hot in Texas," said Jim when we were fixing that damn amp for
the fifth time. It overheats, and a small short starts, which
creates this siren-song of distortion over the guitar and it gets
louder until you can't hear the chord changes. All the heat inside
has nowhere to go, so the circuitry gets nice and warm and it smells
ozoney, and we have to quit. So we light cigarettes in unison and go
out to car so Bill can puff his pipe in peace. Then Jacques has to
do a warm-up vocal test, again, and so we all wait, and then it's
near dark anyway so we rush through the six songs and call it a
But here we were, still there. "It's enough for a demo," said Jon.
"Let's get it out and get an agent."
"Not so fast," said Jim. "We've only got six, and we don't even know
how to do the credits for them."
"Screw the credits," said Jon. "It's our band. This is our shot."
"I dunno, guys," said Bill slowly. "Grunge really isn't as big at it
was. All that funky loud stuff is big now. If you want, I can put
one in like this" -- he was slapping strings, a burpy stabbing --
"and then we might get a really big shot. Cause it seems to me best
grunge can get now is regional."
"Now you are silly," said Jacques. "If the music is good? They buy.
And see, I have put in new lyrics, it is more like Alice in Chains
now, maybe Stone Temple Pilots."
"You don't want to faggot it up too much there, Jacques," said Jim.
Eagle brows rose to a ridge and he stopped. "I mean, unless we need
Jon went back to his kit. "It's a demo," he said.
"He's right," said Bill. "Just the first step."
"Well screw that," said Jim. "It's our one shot."
Jacques muttered something near me that I couldn't hear, so I tuned
"Cut out that noise," said Bill. "We're having a discussion here."
Jim looked right at him. "About what? Fixing what don't need
We did right the next week at the Mucky Duck. Some band from Arizona
was going to come in and play Zydeco, but their van broke down in
New Mexico and they called from some pay phone five hours before
sound check. The soundguy flipped out, but the Old Man was a steady
hand and he came over to where I was with some girls I knew, just
drinking his discount pitchers of last night's beer. "You guys
ready?" he said, and it took me a moment before I knew what he was
talking about, and I said, yeah. We really came together for that,
and I don't just mean the show. Jacques and Jon went off to the copy
shop and came back with some cool looking posters, with some guy who
looked like Jacques on fire in front of a nuclear missile. Bill
combed his hair, and Jim had on the leather shirt. We played all six
and then since no one kicked us out, played them again. I got a peck
on the cheek from Suz, and the local rag wrote us up the week later,
but they got it wrong and said we were a Zydeco band.
Practice was like coming back to reality. I put the guitar up and
went over to the drum rack. Bill and Jim were talking, and Jacques
went to get some water. I went out, and when I came back, Jim was
saying, "Yeah, some blues leads, and a little funk, that's more
what's on radio now."
"All okay?" said Jacques, taking the microphone and looking at us in
sequence, and that's how I remember him. There wasn't much on his
face. He was all inside.
"Let's do 'String Thing' from the top," said Jon, and poised.
"No, we're doing 'Catch This,' cause we gotta try out a new
bassline," said Jim. "And I need you to double the middle break,
since I got a lead."
We were halfway through when Jacques signalled cut. "I don't think
this is working," he said. It did sound like cats fighting in a
garbage can, to me, since there was nothing wrong with the song. In
fact it was a fine song.
"As it is, it's better than anything anyone in town has," I said.
"Yeah, let's get it down, and record it, we can work out the details
later," said Jon.
"Details?" said Bill. "This is our song. Our shot at big radio. You
sweat the details."
"Don't think just cause you got that gig you got cause to tell us
what's better than anyone," said Jim, to me. "Don't want to be
better in this town. Because this town -- sucks."
"Are you sure we need a second guitar?" said Bill, and then Jon
turned away and everyone mumbled a bit.
I put my guitar up and left. Outside Jacques was finishing a
cigarette, and where it would normally go into the can piled with
grey, he pitched it instead in a flat arc toward the house.
"Practice is over," he said.
We finally got that one done the next week, and then that weekend,
we were going to record. Jon had got on the phone and talked to
George out in Austin and he said, OK, come on down, so we did. Ron's
mom let us take her van, and he came along to keep us in line, he
"How long?" Jacques was reading over his sheets, mouthing each word
carefully and re-reading.
"Like I said last time, not much longer," said Bill. "You better not
need those sheets when we're there."
"Jesus, forget it, they have music stands," said Jim. "It's a full
From then on out it was the hum of the van and sirens that passed
us, heading north to bust the kids who loaded U-Hauls full of
furniture and dope and tried to turn a three timer profit up in
I was on my third cigarette outside the studio when Bill came up to
me with Jon. "Hey. We were thinking, uh, you know those middle two
tunes, well, we want to take them higher sort of, add some jazz
drums and a bassline, and I wanna know, are you with us?"
"No," I said. "For the last time, we can't fiddle with them now."
But it was no use. We got back inside and Jacques had finished his
vocals; he did them in one take, with a couple overdubs that George
said weren't really necessary. Jon had cut the basic drums the night
before, but wasn't satisfied, so George said if we bought the beer
we could have overtime. Guitars were next, after bass, but then Jim
and Bill got in a fight over the change-up in the middle. Jacques
looked at me and so I went over to George and said I wanted to do my
guitars, and he nodded, and we went off. I got them done in two
takes, only because I flubbed one part of the middle section on one
song we'd been arguing about back at that rent-by-week motel. It was
Sunday and while I didn't miss church, I could use some peace and
quiet. "You did good," George said. "Most guys take a few more." It
sounded like the nicest words ever, because no one else in that band
thought I could play guitar worth a nickel.
The chaos came in when we put it all together. Jim added his middle
break, and Bill had put two new basslines on each song, it seemed.
Nothing matched up. George futzed with it on the computer, but then
he told Bill they needed to drop a bassline because it didn't fit
the new song for guitar, and he told me I had to go back and redo
the middle part of that track. I took up my guitar and cut it out as
said, except for the last bit, where I couldn't get my pinky finger
to move right on the changeup.
"Just drop him out of the mix," said Jim. "We don't have time."
"If he's gone, why don't you just redo yours?" said Bill. "It'll fit
I could find Jon, and Jacques was packing up his paper. "Over," he
Finally George cleared his throat a third time. "Guys," he said.
"It's midnight. In the morning I've got a guy who did slide guitar
with Willie Nelson coming in, and he's paying."
Bill was muttering about money. Jim said shut up. Bill told him to
shut up. George threw us all out, and we went back to town with the
mix as it was. Jon said it sucked, and we never saw him at practice
again, and Bill and Jim argued over who had the rights to the songs,
so they gave me the tape. Jacques was totally silent, except when
Jim almost threw his papers out the window. "Those," he said. "Are
mine." No one was going to tell him otherwise.
It was about a week later me and Jacques were drinking some wine his
mother had from the old country. I knew it was special to him, so I
didn't just gulp it. Then we got some wood and made a fire. It was a
good party, the two of us, since that Saturday night it was chilly
and nothing was going on in town. The Mucky Duck had gone bankrupt,
and the new bar had linoleum floors that no one liked to dance on,
so they'd all gone to the river to fish and drink. Jim had met this
girl from Phoenix and was spending the night at her parents' place,
where apparently, they read the Bible a lot.
Fires live just like we do. They start, and while there's something
to burn, they're there, throwing light and heat back in our faces.
When there's no more wood, they turn to embers that glow from the
inside out, and after that, they go straight black, and tick down
until they're as cold as the night. Jacques and I were watching the
flames slow their dance, the height decreasing, when he said, "It is
done," and began pitching the papers in, one by one. I watched, and
thought about how much heat is stored in a sheet of paper, then got
out the newspaper article the local rag did on us when we won the
local radio contest. It went quickly.
"That was good," said Jacques, a little silly with the wine. He
threw in a poster, then more sheets, and a guitar pick. I didn't
have anything else but one of the dollar bills the Old Man gave us
and so I held it up, and Jacques nodded. It went in, and then he
found an old dusty box that had been lying around in the weeds and
rain, and threw it in. As the blaze crept up before the fall, I dug
out the tape. Jacques nodded. I pitched that in too, and we left
before the burnt plastic smoke could make us sick with cancer.
- Hieronymous Botch
city dawn sky is burning
streets are poured with liquid flesh
stretching white in the loss of light.
sun spills swelling warmth
over the hills, into the town.
catching the broken glass.
on the beach the flesh burns,
sunk into the sand and rancid,
trailing large clouds of thick smoke
into the morning,
splitting the sun
leaving its light dusty and old,
like tired eyes as parties end.
sunlight rancid over the flesh
lines the courtyards and streets
and rots in the cracks of the roads
and the walls and the floors
it burns long after the wood
after the burning of the machines
aging the sky, making decay
of the morning
it burns too fast for souls to escape
incinerated inside flesh
and screams are the smoke
darkening the minds of the hearers,
eroding from their minds:
the promise of a new day. - steve renke