Too Long In The Reliquary
by J. F. Upjohn
A meditation on a reference by Katherine Hayles in her book Chaos Boundto Claude E. Shannon's "Prediction and Entropy of Printed English" inthe Bell System Technical Journal number 30. FIVE MINUTES TO CURTAIN Heard in the wings: The POINT is to offer the view that chaos has its own order, is stuffedwith information, not dis-information. The POINT is not that chaos leadsto order, this being a totalitarian, Ameritanical view and precisely NOT the point. The POINT is the burst of surplus info achieved . . . SPOTLIGHT Narrator reads: It is possible that I am going to tell you a drama in one act. If that were to be the case you would hear these words read aloud by the narrator who would stand to the left of the stage, facing the audience. She would not look at you except at the beginning and end of the reading when she would look at you for several minutes while nothing happened. She would not know the script, although it would be familiar, she has looked it over. She reads it aloud to comprehend its meaning. A young woman and a young man would stand beside and slightly behind the narrator. We do not use proper theater terms in this hypothetical setting, it is merely a casual grouping of people in an area. They are beautiful and similar, they wear simple colorless clothes. The young woman and the young man would look into the deep darkness of the stage.The audience would see the back of their heads and a sliver of their right sides. Light would fall on the three figures gathered at the front of the stage, which would otherwise be dark. An image would be projected faraway at the back, a bright spot high on the back wall, a tear in scrimor gel, an unaccountable light leak or intentional projection. A voice from the audience would interrupt with a question. The narrator would look up, listen or wait - we are not certain what she hears - singa tune under her breath while walking to the other side of the stage to continue her reading. "Is this play a tragedy?" The narrator looks at the person who spoke. Her mouth opens, perhaps she recognises someone, perhaps not. She smiles suddenly and walks to the other side of the stage. There would be no need to describe the image projected far into the distance too far to discern. Photographic copies would have been passed out, there would be one sliding off your lap or already under your seat. Do you see the shoreline? It is clearly a crescent - the water beyond,the mountains which form an island or a headland stretching in a widecircle toward you and out of the frame. The ground is at your feet where you cannot see it. If you turned sideways you could follow it out of the frame around to the island - what appears as an island but is not -across the vast dish of water. Or you could try to wade across. Several people carrying film cameras and positioning studio lights would be moving around on the stage while the readers stand still. At times the aisle would be blocked by a standing lamp. This might be an impediment to the continuous flow of the narrative or the reading or the silence, but perhaps such interruptions would be incorporated, perhaps ignored. It would not be of concern. No one expects a smooth response. Non-correspondence is perfectly suitable. Nothing would happen. The narrator would continue looking down at her page while cameras and lights were repositioned, an activity having no bearing on the narrator's pauses or the rhythmic shifts in her breathing. At a predetermined moment the young man glances at the young woman. It was written in the script that he hears a long cry from the distant hills, and he has just heard it. At that moment she also hears the cry - was aware that she must hear it, since it is written there in the script, and she does. They would hear first the wind and on it the cry.They would listen with their heads tilted to the beautifully clear tone, which was barely perceptible and might have been the wind sweeping across the sea. The spotlight on the narrator switches off. They all remain in place. Afew minutes later the last spotlight - the one illuminating the young woman - switches off. ROCKY PROMONTORY, PADDOCK, BERN, BAY Morbidly, I was unable to leave the site alone.CLEARING Morbidly, I was unable to leave the site alone. FLOORS OF PAGES Morbidly, I was unable to leave the site alone .... on a particularly but not any particular windborne day, bearing a forlorn sense of foreboding just missed. She walked several hours to the clearing where she imagined an event had taken place. Perhaps it is in the making, but on this particular windborne, due perhaps to leaves flinging themselves in her face, in the place of clearing is shack, hovel or ill-kept room irreverently and inexplicably attached to a hallway. No longer able to engage in solitary gestures, she stumbles and continues stumbling toward the sudden hovelÉno longer a hovel but a scaffolding. . .no longer a scaffolding but an architecture. Her delays have been futile, for there are no identifying teethmarks. She mumbles frantic tenses, corrects her posture for windage and spill, evokes alternative deities and the fraudulent lot of mnemonic devices forholding oneself at bay. Nevertheless she is held at bay .... barely and by an unknown has always been the case. If she would only admit it. To anyone. Anyone. Held at bay by someone unable to distinguish between act and affliction, of that she is certain. Yet at this very (that very) moment she knows, knew and has always already known etc. that certainty exists only in the preceding moment and recitation of post-moment's content before the preceding moment's emptying out only results in a( series of one-inch photos): SHRIVELED AND SHRUNKEN FLAPPING WATERLOGGED CONTAINER WITH A BIT OF SHINY RESIDUE CLINGING TO ITS EDGES wrapped in the transparent pupa of a distinctly metaphorical avoidance ... wrapped in the transparent pupa of a distinctly metaphorical avoidance, she recognizes evasion when she tastes it, evasion of avoidance's unappetizing protrusion. Clearly the slug has slipped its shell so why not say so. The stink is everywhere (add glutinous tracks adhering tothe planks) .... the calling-attention to obvious loosely knotted - loose-lipped knotty- lost-limbed - TO OBVIOUS LOSS usually - and this particularly windborne (still windborne or windbearing) day blows no exception - bends her over at the hips into the shape of an inverted L, an unbearable posturing she would hate to be caught dead in. Yet windborne or windbearing gets to the heart of it, so simple yet profound in that clear and shimmeringly gorgeous-as-a-bubble-rotating-against-a-post-low-front-sky-of-blue sort of way that essentials have of presenting themselves, is what she realizes - would shout but if if and only if her voice would do more - anything other - than bounce back into her face, having fallen (voice, not face) from her drooling (due to unavoidable at present inverted-L posture) mouth onto the dogshit-smeared and spittle-pocked pavement where what else could it do than splat and lay? or bounce? and bounce was her bet, back up into her face, trailing and dripping or flecked or smudged (if not s'd and p'd) with d and s. Yet what were smear and pock really but transmutations of shape, that shape being expressive if not contingent on inherent (dare we say it) medium-in-context; that is to say materialization-in-relation: shit and spittle meeting their matches in shoe, boot or tire. Hopeful if nothing but .... a herd of ossifying vocolalia rumbling northwards in her throat but - fearing serious disturbance - she bullies her way through the remaining tenses, tenses which had begun multiplying and forming a significant crowd on their own, and careens into the house (clearly a house despite odd angles) by way of the only door, which happens to be a window but wide open. Shannon or Sh or Anon, she is struck by defiance in all but the thinnest of crowds. She climbs high poles and lets her voice go: Information is disorder! one day Disorder is information! the next. Nighttimes we call her Versona. Versona prays to g-d: Don't let meforget the oscillation, the alternation, the order; twice in a row would spell disaster. BUREAU Narrator reads: A three-drawer bureau stood in the corner. I moved into its viability, soothed by viability's continuous grain in the face of mobbish intent on wall's other side. The conversation if there was one had veered toward the suitability of multilistic versions, the smutch of countervalence versus cathartic au courant - a thus and so of conversion - when (simultaneous to my fingertips engaging in counter-conversation with cross-currents discovered under the fibrous surface and thighs encountering the second drawer: its topology, specifically its protuberant knob) a door opened, but merely a door not a window. I turned or leaped, an inner contusion raised my hopes. But as soon as I uttered AN INNER CONTUSION my hopes were dashed - and in the face of a beauty, too. Bureaucratically inclined? He leaned, conjured, suppressed. His words deserved themselves. He was Maxwell or Max. he was Well and demonic, only a posteriori in mutatis, not in primo. He indicated the desk indicating paperclips and staples, above all indicating temporal bondage, hidden sutures meant for eventual dissimulation - a hopeful future, but not for me. And yet I was plainly all too wrapped-up in his shuddering presence. I retreated into phrases, one phrase following on the heels of its former, replacing it: steely band for no good reason. Retreated, then replaced, I lost control. Cucumber approached at a gallop (steely bandlong gone). I fixed on the word, languished, wavered, shimmered - suddenly I was absent, interiorized, absent my presence and so on. I hauled in my stand-in, a long cool clichÎ, perfect surrogate for errant I. Do you relish? I sidled, swayed. Did you say relic? he, rubbing hands, clearly relishing. Relic: remains of a martyr. How do you know? Pedantic, unempathic. Tarnish well-spoken. While I, chopping carrots to hide my distraction (knob ... thigh ... rubbing): Help me slice, cut, chop. Help me out. I recalled other scraps,scraping, scrapes, separation, serration, fermentation. Relish, he said, the wolf at the door (with a grin). Let me in. Audience chants: Off with the tie! Out with the shirt! Off with the belt! Off with thes hoes! Off with the socks! Down with the pants! Off with the head! Off with the head! Off with the head! Up with the cuffs! Out with the tail! the tail! the tail!A few voices continue recitation while the others intersperse distasteful sounds indicating general objection .... began coincidentally with the event she was always to remember, leading to summertime and his eventual ... It appeared to have stopped breathing. This could be a glow-in-the-dark turning point, one of those unforeseens chock full of retrospective contentment. She is unconvinced. Bewitched, bemused and bereaved by futuristic blandishment of today's bland sticks, she could only muse that insufficiency was an insufficient afflictive force for reducing the greater good to a sum of its turning points. A reliquary must have episodes. From where? This, A MAJOR DEFEAT, revives her. Having crawled out from under the fallen walls, shouldering the collapsed roof, she rebuilds while she speaks. A reliquary, so loud with cadavers, turds in their pre-sequential labyrinth, memory shit - thus plaquened always already episodic, what need of episodes? Unless by episode - Please release me, let me go, I don't want you anymore - is meant a leap off the kerb of narrative's relentless win. No .... is meant surrogated under false pretenses or no pretenses for she meant, that was not what was meant by reliquary nor by episode. No sanctuary of busts, hallway of birds. No query in marbleized pestilence. No residence. No mortar, pestle, no crackpots. If the sea floor was settling, was it episodic in greater measure than it was continuous - if episode has to do with measurement, and it certainly does - relies on, in fact - the glue of it. If insanity was unsettling was it episodically unsettling - Would you occasionally avert? - or a continuous sea of psycho-chemical vehicles landing on your beachhead? This one deserved a question mark. If episode was time off for narrative's good behavior - no. Criminality must have crept in by now .... how? How can you stroke the metaphorical worm while pounding the doorframe into place - sorry - How can you stroke the worm in the presence of centipedes, despite and because of your hatred of centipedes, knowing the worm was a worm, knowing that by favoring worm you are favoring wormhood? Will the quiet removal of centipede by continuous worms troking suffice and measure up to your failure to have squashed both the beasts - or at the very least measure up to your non-refusal to have falsely favored wormhood in all its slick and slime, its reproductive undergenerosity, its noncommittal varnish in the palm? To relinquish you must have relished. This is, after all, a country of small changes.>From the wings comes a messenger who hands the ... unsuitable series of stand-in words for narrator, the word-to-avoid ....a piece of paper which she unfolds, reads, hands back to the messenger, who retreats into the wings. She addresses the audience: Confusion requests clarity. This request is large, at least as large ast he rare but occasionally fundamental country excursion. A pink elephant comes to mind - sitting down on the edge of a piece of foundation where the wall has fallen away.>From the wings: Dictatorial gumwad! Rewind. Strike after fallen away. Reluctance, after all is said and done, is the proper approach. Reliction is the act of leaving behind, so grievance is also appropriate, as is groveling and stomping. Gradual recession of water leaves land uncovered, land uncovered by reliction. Connivance is not yet considered, bald as I have become, although duplicity was bound to adhere, a word reminiscent of obtain which bringst o mind shape while adhere already suggests position - The messenger runs out to hand narrator another note. Confusion is in anguish, begs for storyline. Here, then, a gist: womanf raught with nonspectacle, invents a life of discrimination, loss, and violent neglect (cough) by posing as a marginally (cough) successful man writing the coming-of-age story (cough) in which the alienated hero (cough) wears his failure on his corduroys (cough) proving this marginally (cough) never to (cough) be truly (cough) successful (cough) writer's (cough) (cough) acceptance of the (cough) (cough) nonrecognition (cough) (cough) (cough) of his neglected brilliance (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) acquired (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) even (cough) (cough) (cough) without (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough)(cough) benefit of (cough) (cough) (cough) cough) (cough) (cough)(cough) (cough) (cough) trauma (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough)(cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) or (cough)(cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough)(cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) (cough) neglect.>From the audience: Loud prolonged snores ... evasion was unintentional but imperative, in the tautological sense. Defined by it, she was the three-sided triangle sensationally averse to one more stretch of the imagination, if that stretch was yet another pathway to one-and-the-same point, the point being of utmost concern to ... the point being THE POINT BEING her aversion to particularly lifelike breathing in the dark - breathing in the dark - amplified by corridors prickling with expectant disaster - her prickle-receptors, that is - those invariable implants among inevitable corridors. Not to say that she left the room at the least sensation, no. No. Least was in question, the question of whose prickliness. But then she thought, Perhaps a MURDER REPLACED BY DROWNING would move it along. But whose.W ould have but whose - her shoes being always pointed toward the door when there was a door and when there was not .... feet headed out head was headed in or vice versa. All contingencies came to a head, or headings proved contingent. It is hard if not impossible to say, which proposes something attempting to be said, a dubious preposition. Voices abound in the form of distractions, or they simply could be voices. Too many or vociferous. She remembers a rhythm: yaba-yaba-yaba-yaba-babada. Back when she first recognized intention as the sprout of destiny - that being the one she remembers, the one she misses most, the one that got away ... it's the one she remembers that seemed to portend destiny but which. None in particular, but always only possible, a precursor to escape. Always only possible, with escape in mind. She bent, noticed contusions spreading upward. The face might be in jeopardy. If the thing breathes ... if the thing breathes .... for example, start with a description of the scar - long and jagged, raised on the outer side - for example.>From a branch: Talk about the - No. Imagine each person you encounter on the street having the image of an artifact stamped on h - (glare prevents) - face. Imagine your body as an archaeological dig. Imagine each person's face has lost all but one feature, which is beginning to decay - (what do you do to save it?) Imagine that a woman standing in front of you is pleading with her eyes - (what is your response?) Did you know that you can peel back the skin - any skin - without getting blood on your hands? You knew that. Other languages as opaque as her thoughts, and yours. Trace, remnant, object, corpse, memento Repeat after me: Relinquish usually does not imply strong feeling but may involve regret, reluctance or weakness. Relinquish means to give up completely. Yield implies concession or compliance or submission to force. Relinquish means to give up completely. Resign emphasizes voluntary relinquishment or sacrifice without struggle. Relinquish means to give up completely. Surrender implies a giving up after a struggle to retain or resist. Relinquish means to give up completely. Abandon stresses finality and completeness in giving up. Relinquish means to give up completely. Waive implies conceding or forgetting with little or no compulsion. Relinquish means to give up completely .... a certain mark is passed. She is privileged, then, with the right to elude and to choose her style of ... elision - not in its skulking, rather in its evasive sense, shrewder than avoidance - choosing to allude to the room, the shape in the hallway, by giving it a glance, not a direct hit. She remains faithful to her essential gesture, the dash or dish. She thinks of herself as centrifugally alive, redundantly embraced, a fugitive. Relinquish! they cried as if storming the fortress. Your memories and memorials, your language - ! Immediately and already always responsive, she peeled back the salty waters: underneath once youthful splashings - later, convictions all but receded - cringed latent rubble, fissure and eruption. 'E hit bit mama in de bottom udda toe An 'e hit bit me in da fah cone row An 'e say'd "I yer papa n' yer mama papa too Ah say "Tell me if I Lolli, Sincilli or Sue" An 'e bangin' n' 'e prayin' while de cone was a' swayin' 'E say Namin' nevah holdin' up t' good ole me-mo-ree An 'e sorely in d' mornin' made a saint outta me ... none. No convergence possible but the attempt must be made to catch the strings as they fly by: accumulation might result in a lifting. She walked up the steps, imagining a shallow end. Having got wrapped up in the unwrapping, the thing obscured by scrutiny not even. Doubly obscured by the barely approaching: barely approaching, she fled, scattering remains.>From a limb: Her body was a site. Remains and renaming but she fled, dispersing contingencies, headings and all. Nothing out of the bag.>From a trunk: Perhaps, after all, no one wanted to leave the coffee shop .... pseudo-mythologising incisors attaching themselves to her pants cuff. Cool as a cucumber she pried off the choppers. She heads toward the corner booth shouting Stood between hot pokers! - flying by the seat of her pants without bearings - its cracked vinyl seat a chasm of inquiry. She settles it down, settles down. Does she love this story? if that is the word - love or story - and it can never ever be (the word). It cannot be helped, neither word nor love. But constipatory aspects symptomatic of the multiloquacious disrupted circulatory attempts to reform the linear. In other words, the words plopped out and she lost her train of thought. REAL LIFE ... in her desperation to lay it all out on the table, tie up the loose ends, get close to the story, tell the truth and nothing but the truth had inadvertently fallen into the audience pit where she began immediately rooting around to find her lost way, in a manner later to be interpreted as characteristic self-loathing. She overturned chairs in an effort to rise into a meaningful - or meaningless but with the appearance of meaning - semaphoric wind-milling that would somehow, by the superiority of gesture, cancel out the noisy clambering that she had - falsely proudly - thought of as clambering while under the chairs. Although all too aware of the descriptive - though ordinary - perfection of clambering and the tendency of such perfectly ordinary word gems to burst forth in a completely unwarranted though highly competent and confident manner - burst forth into the story dressed as a natural consequent of waving, struggling and telling or the attempt to tell - not to tell but to grasp - (A twig of guilt sprouted from the mentioned possibility that something other than story or telling - if there was adifference and there must be, according to the rule forbidding redundancy which was nonetheless easily enough contra-indicated by the prevalence of kittycats, puppy dogs and bunny rabbits - was IT, that is, grasping might be IT, or grasping It was the IT) - she snagged her coverlet amid a pigeonfest of flapping cartoon bubble words incubatinginto a terrifyingly daunting number of storytelling - (low blow, since her every attempt has been to stifle storyline) - smug words or wards -ouch hey watch it argh ... arrived just at that moment in a clearing mistaken for a coffee shop,and was glad to go in. Once inside, the din and and dimness preventedfar far more than mere gender indifferentiation. Feeling at once at the peak of effusion and diffusion, she felt she must exclaim, if not explain. So she said, I am ? ing the ! so I can stop ? ing the !. Attempting finally to ? it or IT, really ? it or IT, get it or IT ? exactly as it or IT was. Then I can stop. Then I can start. I agonize while the ! remains, while any of its remains remain. Each moment I delay, the ? contributes to the agony of resuming the !, as it has thus turned a bit more to stony resemblance. Petrifaction is the process I work to thwart. The ! already exists, has always existed. (What a conceit, this knotting, scraping, packing up, putting down, gathering,weaving, presenting.) A banner carried by waiters billows by: REMNANT OF AN OUTMODED BELIEF, CUSTOM, PRACTICE ... in the end may have to be touch ed.WHY RELIQUARY, EXACTLY .An authentic question is not a stone, a boomerang, or an intricate drawing, all of which deserve but do not possess question marks. A question devoid of its end-mark might be refuting its authenticity, might be evading its responsibility to organize around a centrality, at hat there - THAT ... THIS: that. It's misleading to point - ineffective,that is, when faced with the obverse of sieve, a filmy black inside-out sleeve with no entry. How did your arm get in there and how will you get it out? Intoned by the audience: The task, it turns impossible. At hand was no forth. Theory for the mischief-maker ran from earbone out the elbow, mopping every drool between but never - once, in the throes - promising a rimshot: rebound was the evermore, containers or coffee shops, ah-mn. A single voice remains: ... ferocious contentious condescension or cunt in doorway - ! People rush from the trees to surround and shush. Someone reads from a pamphlet entitled True Evasions: Crisp wheels of relish - oblong sincerities, corner-cut outbursts - their cartoon colors confused her path of resistance - if spiralic nontelling can be said to have edges, and she was afraid - I AM AFRAID - but shifting again on her seat - which seemed, by its narrow height, to be a piling - she found herself unable to continue waving the same old flag.Words, there must be a way to eat them elegantly. Someone said that once, I'll never forget it - it came between us in the odd times. Apparently, remains remain. I apologize. It was unexpected, what with that nice choral coda and all. Inelegant, gaunt, dripping and wrung-out, remains, even so. Expurgation has not yet occurred, although rest assured, in time, there is no MURDER REPLACED BY DROWNING replaced by MURDER on the mind. ONE FIGURINE SLIGHTLY DAMAGED The question arises: Would a relic mutate in the meantime? She muses silently about the - her - one's in general absence of relish but - in accordance with the body of intuitive laws relating to impossible questions - holds it aside, applying another layer: did the wolf at the door eventually retire? Or reside. Disturbed by the quickening pace - outright arrival - at the glowering gates of destination, she lays her quiver down, resorting to a visually textured albeit far from sensationally tactile anecdote - or antidote, if instrumental contours defining cultural shelves at oceanic depths can be classified, and they certainly can, alongside beauty and the beast for example. On the other hand - it may be said - the entire confabulation is classified.