Volume VI Number II

**volumeVInumberII**
May 2003

cover design by The Seeker

Jones� Problem
Theu Mao
dedicated to and inspired by Jorges Borges

The problem had begun two days ago during the reading of a monograph dedicated to the thorough critique of a recently published and highly controversial dictionary of modern grammar and usage. Perhaps even more contentious than the dictionary itself was the vast scope of the review, which although concise, contrived to adequately evaluate the lexical tome while placing the work within the context of the classical linguists clash with their descriptivist counterparts. Neither the scale of the project nor its ostentatiousness could be said to directly have caused Jones� perplexity, yet there is a certain symmetry between the article and Jones� subsequent dilemma.

�Whereas we are concerned with the realm of ideas, it is, in fact, quite unlike our physical world, insofar as it is extremely difficult to determine precise cause and effect.� � C.R. Rutledge, Plato and the Apple

Despite Rutledge�s understanding of the discrete and murky connections of thought, Jones� confusion was nevertheless connected to, if not caused by, ideas of meaning and structure. After reading the article and reading again certain sections, Jones fell to sleep easily and was not plagued in his dreams with the sort of foreshadowing that often occurs in the subconscious in certain now clich�d works of literature. That next day Jones attended a lecture on epistemology focusing on Taoist traditions, which soon blurred into the topic of the subject-object distinction in Eastern and Western traditions. The East, it seemed to Jones, attempts to place man �within� the world rather than �in� the world. It followed then that it becomes fallacious to speak of reality as something outside ourselves; we are intimates with reality, not dispassionate observers attempting to conform our thoughts to the objects of perception. As with most philosophical discussions it became impossible to discuss ancient tradition without the lens of contemporary thought distorting or enhancing, depending on one�s viewpoint, the focus of understanding. It was here that the problem surfaced and Jones� awareness realized, during a colleague�s explanation of Derrida�s discourse on language that he wasn�t sure he understood. His contention with his own thought was this: if a word�s meaning is cloudy, so to speak, having shape but no defined form, and if these permutations occur throughout time and language, how is it then with any certainty that we are able to translate? This problem, amateur though it was, persisted in his mind and as the day wore on it developed into an entirely internal conflict. Through a synthesis of the notion of a dissolved subject-object distinction and a confusion over translation not confined to text but including speech and inner dialogue, Jones had the monstrous sense of uncertainty surrounding his own thought. Given Wittgenstein�s refutation of a Private Language he felt secure that his thoughts existed in a public domain; that is, his inner language must conform to something outside of himself. Uncertainty caused him to question the ability to understand his own thought. That is, as he sat aware of the inner dialogue within himself, he began to doubt the accuracy of the perception of his inner dialogue. Once begun, this disastrous reasoning left him unable to conceive of dialect potent enough to combat this dive into solipsistic agony. His uncertainty destroyed any hope that he understood what he was thinking and after experimenting with several patterns of reasoning, all of which led to an infinite regress, he resolved to devise several tests.
The dictionary tormented Jones, for it offered the certainty of semantic conceptions and grammatical clarity he sought, yet in his current predicament he could not believe such a tool possible. In a language of infinite propositions, this was a map of enumerations; in a world of infinite language games, here were basic rules. Clearly the dictionary is either a proof of God�s existence or its refutation. Jones desired to believe in the dictionary; he saw salvation from his confusion inside its orderly pages, he wished to take refuge inside its definite explications and reassuring passages on the proper placement and punctuation of expletives, e.g. fuck! fuck? fuck.
After contemplating the dictionary for some time he rejected the first and third tests he had devised for containing fallacious appeals to authority. The second, while nearly indistinguishable from the first, contained slight deviations that Jones perceived as detracting in a beneficial manner from the theological tone of the other tests. In order to determine if he could truly understand his own thought he would construct a story combining basic observations and abstract terminology. He would intend this story to have a definite meaning at the time of authoring, and this is where the test shall pass or fail: to have the same meaning in one month�s time. His hypothesis was that if meaning was preserved isomorphically at the authoring and subsequent reading then he must be able to understand his own consciousness through time. If then this understanding is possible, it seemed to Jones that his thought at least has the potential for being understood. On the morning following the lecture and subsequent existential dilemma, Jones wrote his story.

The trees smell of cum Luere De Preah
and on the air hangs mists
of warm spring rain
to come soak my t and hair
leave saline spots on my
lenses
too lazy to wipe clean and
too thick to see clearly,
my perception
changes as easily as the
wind to which
I write to you today

two band aids cling
my knuckles deeply cut
for an accident yesterday
I picked a fight with the
staircase
on my way to smoke
it won without a strike
my brain left me just as I
needed it
concentration lapsed and
wandered to the left
my whole body followed
and now blood soaks the
carpet
and my one vent is too
painful to play

exercise will do you good?
for that is what they say
but when in reality bites
the song of merry men
is enough to make me
fall�n�pray
but when the pulse is
stirring
beating with the thump of
life
I see not fields of golden
delight
nor pools of clear
reflection
I only see and feel the
need
to stop and take a rest

oh but it is of good use
and to gain a state of
health
to which women will turn
the head
and glance the sideways
kind
so you may feel at ease to
bare your skin to the sun
and elements of life, to
bask
in golden rays days on days
only to eat away the
quality and quantity
of longevity and watch the
spots of browns and orange
grow and grow
fester underneath a blind
nose and take what life you
have yet to live
and squash it between its
toes

I find myself on many
chairs
throughout the spanse of
each day
quietly dancing within my
mind
of the things I hold at bay
a ten foot rod keeps me
taught
and walking on its edge
to which side me on my
depression falls

I just may end up a little
dead
if not in the mortal sense
then dead in the soul,
filled with apathy and
confusion�s androgyny

I sit, I look, green moss on
my neighbor�s roof, blue on
the can of whole cashews,
red on the plastic that
makes a desk,
silver of the can that
holds the green,
black of my cell and ear
phones
and white the color of no
colors, painted on every
wall
but today is gray, grey
with the sun
bringing out the grey hues
of every bark and tree,
makes the grass more lush,
but the saddest of sads is
that the tree which shades
the summer�s heat didn�t
make the drought of last
year. for it has no buds
like the others, it just
sits sparse stark and
alone��.

if I could just be a bird,
I�d fly the world I�d root
in Siberia where the forest
spirit lives, sheltered in
magic and the canopy of
time, I�d eat the nuts and
bugs meant for ingestion
and my shit could replenish
the earth, because of any
of us, my shit is brown,
brown like the dirt, not to
replenish with nothing to
offer except putrid wafts
and decomposed corn
squirts.

why, why, why, can I not be
the dirt to nourish world?

later-

smokin� rolls and rolls
you know how they talk
about polls?
how come I never get called
for those?
where exactly is it that
they do these �
so-called telephone
interview polls?
� please

� your bubble won�t become
bigger
if it never pops�

go figure
I never ever felt clever
sever my last nerve of
fiber render tender
mark return to sender
I�m a �dudley doo righter’
so what ever you deliver
make it
perishable so we may
weather in cherishing yer
thanks and giving

dr. dr. dictionary
they send shit every day
I wish my brain was bigger
wait my fake corn dogs
a ring a ring
and a bling bling
wateva the fuck dat
means

late in grease
I was walking the
atoll
when upon me stumbled
an A-hole
he said may I have a buck
I watched he sucked
took everything tucked
inside by next my draaws
but then watch that man
with his clever hand, he
walks only quietly on the
green ground no sound
abounds only nature
surrounds
I�m bereft by the cleft in
my chin
as if I wanted an ass for a
grin
and slim but within the
limit
for the stakes some steak
I only debate for the sake
of
pleasure versus hate
and within the chubby
hides a little chubby
afro�d white guy

holding a teletubby
the purple one funny
I hate the kid in the sunny
laughing maniacally
makes my skin a shudder

so I�ll not udder another
stutter

yes this is the night ender

nice ta meet chya

like I said return to
sender- I won�t defend her
again�

ok maybe one other
later the day er �

maybe you�ll wannta know
why every line has to
rhyme?

I don�t know I think in
time 1, 2, 6, 11

put it all together
and� I�m� unleaven?

lemme drop this dime
before life sublimes
from the ethereal to
the surreal and back to
just plain real I gotta
peel

That Damn Guy
Graham Lankford

Closed eyes flutter,

A twitch, a startle;

The distant sound of mice scratching in the walls
and the acrid smell of ashy human waste,
subtly invade his senses.
Reality checks in
with the crash and shatter
of an empty bottle.

�Fucker,� he groans, barely moving his lips or forcing air through his larynx.
Each shallow breath fiery, reminding him of��nothing.
Poisoned in the gut compares little to the shrinking of the brain.
Pulling away from the skull millimeter by millimeter as the supernatent sucks what little moisture�s left in his receding cranial membranes.

One eye cracks and scans the pixilated floor next to the mildewed foam rubber he�s been saturating with pure grain sweat.
Reaches one hand and knocks over a plastic orange bottle
with Nancy Larsen�s name on the label. Out fall a dozen small orange pills.
He fumbles to pick up as many as he can. With swollen numb paws,
he manages 8 or so and swallows them down with a slug
from another brown liquor bottle so cheap it reads just, �eighty proof.�

The liquor and diazepam
hit an eternity later
maybe twenty minuets or so.
His eyes roll back in his head.

The sounds fade
and small twitches start

Finally, the eyes begin to flutter again.

* * *

Fucker is the cats name.

A mangy solemn minx,

All ribs and skinny legs. Flecks of dander
and something more foul plague the large patches of bare skin
between tufts of bright orange fur.

He was bent and eating a cockroach. As the sound of a liquor bottle
scraped against the floor. He looked up and froze. The fresh scent of whisky
beneath the air. He waited and watched. Pondering.
Connecting to the man who just spilled his supper.

The brightest yellow eyes can be. left, over, around
he slinked. closer to him, that damn guy.
Not making a sound, because Fucker

doesn�t meow
anymore.

potholes
Theu Mao

QUESTION: Why is it you have come to see me?

ANSWER: I thought it was what people do.

QUESTION: But people do many things, don�t they?

ANSWER: I suppose. There are people who write, people who listen to AM talk radio, people who join Bridge clubs, people who get second jobs to support their methamphetamine habits, people who watch Broadway musicals on videotape, people who are alone, people who snap their chewing gum and those who are annoyed by it, people who remember, people who sit and stare at other people, people who…

QUESTION: There are all those people, and there are those who come to see me.

ANSWER: Yes, those who come to see you. I remember being young and now I wonder about my earliest memories.

QUESION: Here, try this: think of the memory that you haven�t remembered for the longest amount of time. Picture your memories as a row of books and open the page that is the furthest away from you having read it.

ANSWER: You mean my �latest� memory?

QUESTION: Perhaps.

ANSWER: I can�t think of that.

QUESTION: No one can.

ANSWER: Why not?

QUESTION: Why can�t you?

ANSWER: I suppose it�s because I start thinking of memories, but one�s memories aren�t like a book where you can turn back to a particular page to see what happened.

QUESTION: What are memories �like�?

ANSWER: Memories are many things. There are memories of people that come to me through some type of memory recall device, memories I remember every day, like what my name is; and there are some memories I just recall and I can�t explain why… it�s as if I were in a park and the people, birds, dogs, and leaves are there and I can�t explain why they pass the field of my vision in the order they do. There are memories I create, memories I fake, and memories I change so the narrative is cohesive.

QUESTION: Cohesive?

ANSWER: A story you see, unless recorded, must be told and retold, and depending on how or who I am during the retelling, I have to change the past so that the story that is �now� fits together with the story that was �then�.

QUESTION: Why should it fit together?

ANSWER: Look! Sometimes as I peruse through bookshelves there are titles misplaced, or worse, entire shelves filled with books seemingly placed at random. I get dizzy, I feel the world spinning around me as when I was young and my brothers and I would twirl around in our front lawn that faced the park until we would become so dizzy we would fall down, and lying there, my stomach flat on the ground, my head turned sideways staring into the wide open sport fields across the street the world would rotate around me, slowly stopping until I could see straight ahead again. Chaos in a bookstore or library does much the same thing. Usually there are only several misplaced titles, which I re-shelve before continuing to browse through the shop. The stores with no sense of order I avoid, I cannot be in them. I have begun to frequent the stores where there are only minor problems, I visit once or twice a week these several bookstores and sift through the literature and philosophy sections ensuring the titles are shelved in order. Occasionally I ask the shopkeeper for a novel or treatise of an obscure European writer whose work I know they do not have, in order that my frequent visits appear as though I�m keeping an eye out for a certain title.

QUESTION: Don�t they ever offer to order it?

ANSWER: No, no, on occasion they have checked their computers if business is slow, but the titles I select are unavailable in English, and so not of interest or possibility to most stores. Of course I purchase something now and then, when I come across a sought-after novel that�s used a certain style of printing, or a lovely binding, or a particular type of paper my fingers prefer turning.

QUESTION: I see. And why does the narrative of memory require cohesiveness?

ANSWER: It�s not that it requires it so much as it is desirable. Desirable to look back upon one�s life and see that the parts can come together to explain one person.

QUESTION: So, disjointedness?

ANSWER: Yes. Yes, picture the person whose memories do not correspond to the person that they are, if their memories seemed as though they were of another person.

I woke up knowing that I wanted to leave. What I did not know would be my own desire for return. Reaching inside, pulling, throwing and staring out, I see the stubble fields, the tilled rows of black dirt and the absence, revealing what there is not through the little that there is. The emptiness seems apparent but it is a fallacy; that tilled earth, those silos and grain trucks, the trees in rectangular rows, and the town all exist for that emptiness, for those who are not here. When I was a child I didn�t know that this is a place for the benefit of those others. Most of life here is not it�s own, but there, in the fallow fields in the ditches, and the standing water it is singing, crawling, eating, and dying; there in the leftovers, in the unproductive, is life living for itself. And the people there are much like people everywhere, believing that their uniqueness of place gives rise to their own uniqueness. Those people like most people are living lives that are not their own. What does one do when, realizing that their contentedness or lack of is created and destroyed and recreated through the retelling of their own life to themselves? I first found myself in despair over the injustice of a consciousness so created that upon becoming mindful of its own awareness, knew of its own fictions. Now I rejoice in it, becoming who I am through stories of my own creation, changing memories every week, or with phases of the moon, or after having drunk too much coffee. My favorite color as a child was green; no, yellow, now brown. Tomorrow, who can say? It is clear to me though that I prefer to keep some places in my memory. I prefer my fictions to my history.

QUESTION: There are various types of disorders related to memory, so I think the answer you are looking for will depend on each individual�s mental state. Are your memories residing in a common pool or scattered about like potholes?

return to the volume index

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *