Sunday, July 12, 2009

Multilingual Rhymin'

If you stay anywhere long enough the anesthesia in the air will eventually numb you. Your eyes turn a glassy jade, the alien language, once so incomprehensible so as to contain the answers to the mysteries of life, reveals itself to be as mundane as your own language. All these people are talking about food and directions, food and directions, and money and money and money.You lose your fingerprints and the place does too.

A sprawling town can shrink so fast. The streets, which seemed interminably long and wild on your arrival, show their intersections, their mundane traffic patterns, their terminuses. The grid becomes mappable, the highways navigable. Maybe it is time to leave that city when each step you take ceases to be a non-directional move into the unknown and becomes a utilitarian move in a daily routine. If you catch yourself looking at your shoes while you walk, maybe it is time to leave.

The hipsters wanted to be always lost, confused, confounded, perplexed. Always encountering something unfamiliar, dangerous, everything they touched and everywhere they traipsed potentially fatal or orgasmic. What a pleasant binary--

and yet there are limits to it. Please excuse this anachronistic, absurd misreading/misappropriation of a classic:

Take Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness as the refutation of the Hipster Ideal, of constant travel (geographical, mental, whatever) as savior-happiness. Marlowe as hipster: sailing South down Africa, constantly increasing amounts of stimulation on the riverbanks. That is the ideal, in a sense: to always be horrified, at a rising clip (pardon the pun).

In the ideal world, though, Marlowe never reaches the "heart of darkness," because there is no physical heart--Marlowe would continue sailing South forever, being continually more outraged, stimulated, an asymptote on the Zambezi, never sailing back to London. But the moment he enters Kurtz's hut, and meets his terminus, the lifestyle is crushed. There is no more South--only return. Can you imagine Marlowe staring at his shoes on the trip back North, with disappointment recognizing settlements and peoples, the stump of the tree where they stopped for lumber, a fishing outpost that provided lunch in months past. How dreary for Marlowe.


I love to watch baseball because the seasons have no apparent heart of darkness.


Seven/Eleven rhymes in the Thai language, too. Jetd/sib-etd.


I woke up at 7 this morning to watch a Braves game. Fell asleep after the 9th, slept from 11-4ish. Thai lesson, learned to tell time (Thaime). Needless complications in an otherwise beautifully streamlined language. That's why they had to create Esperanto, I guess.

Maybe reading is going out of style because the limits of language have been reached, because the heart of darkness has been breached and now as writers we are only poking around the beaches.

Movies are still new, the technology is improving. Literature can't really do anything to advance, poor guy.

Here's to poking around the beaches, then:

Brave World
by Tony Hoagland

But what about the courage
of the cancer cell
that breaks out from the crowd
it has belonged to all its life

like a housewife erupting
from her line at the grocery store
because she just can’t stand
the sameness anymore?

What about the virus that arrives
in town like a traveler
from somewhere faraway
with suitcases in hand,

who only wants a place
to stay, a chance to get ahead
in the land of opportunity,
but who smells bad,

talks funny, and reproduces fast?
What about the microbe that
hurls its tiny boat straight
into the rushing metabolic tide,

no less cunning and intrepid
than Odysseus; that gambles all
to found a city
on an unknown shore?

What about their bill of rights,
their access to a full-scale,
first-class destiny?
their chance to realize

maximum potential?-which, sure,
will come at the expense
of someone else, someone
who, from a certain point of view,

is a secondary character,
whose weeping is almost
too far off to hear,

a noise among the noises
coming from the shadows
of any brave new world.

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