Hi All – I chose a version of the animal prompt, I suppose. This one is the story of the imperious robin detectives that stalk our lawn, then it sort of falls down a wormhole into a meditation on the Surveillance States and the complicity of metaphor…anyway, enjoy!

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We will investigate each blade of grass or make it citizen to Our will. Each fellow robin a cousined detective. Our charge imperious and punishment in excess for each discrete individual worm in offense of any number of indexed and articulated and coded and justly formulated laws. For protection We extend draconian umber shadows over each meager burrow. Our control total. No need for panic or think. Assurance doctrine designed Our panoptic heads to surveil with cocked-eyes and has lined them in technologies of coalsmudged microplumage that pulls in light and sucks in any sign of dissident gleam peeking out from the enclosed safety of heathen earthen abodes. We siphon up each pitiful peasant, willful and wriggling from the individuality of their homes, if decency codes permit and issue warrant (they will). Never to be undifferentiated while connected as one glossy category under Our one gaze. We Are A Complete Circuitry. A fulfilled dream.

Is not metaphor a miniature scene of a bridge? Imagine each cobbled stone on their own and yet bordered and connected hovering softly over silent and clear-running water. Its clarity is plunging into unbeing, so to see it, let us say it is made instead from the luster of toothpaste, the sparkly kind a child may layer in a shoebox diorama and exclaim, “look, a river!” This, too, has a brisk running and is endlessly deep. How cold it must be. How deadly freezing this close to Nothing. Each trickle past the anklebone feels familiar, but unique. Each step (if one dare take it) is never the same river; never the same serif “I” of shinbone dipped. Why are we now down here wet under the bridge again? We know the story about what happens in (and to) undersides and you may not be able to scale yourself out of this abyss We penned you in. Never forget: you are prey and under Our inspection. A ladder will instruct you on climbing up and out through the echo of its construction.

Alas, now the bridge has burned in itself in the mean time of your ascent and the stream below it polluted. You choose how it went: the fact of the event does not matter as much as the evident. While gathering poppies on the bank of decision as evidence against your indictment, you neglected to notice Cause trotting off with Effect. They had, dancing, just looted the dead who not yet haunt the half-moon suspension of sky between flow and keystone. It smolders. Still are there crossings. Did you think you were the sole pilgrim? The subject of Our investigation. God’s eye has been on We robins.

6 Comments

  1. Alina Stefanescu

    Adrian, the argument goes straight into this amazing line: “Each fellow robin a cousined detective.” My mind exploded at the way “fellow” rubs against “cousined” here, and the marvel weirdness of what feels almost Wordsworthian or Emersonian, especially with the capitalized Our will.

    The capitalization of the “Our” does something different as the piece moves, which is to say, it takes us from an oracular Emersonian mode into a sci-fi mode, and I had to sit back and admire this particular technique for a few minutes because I’ve never seen an “Our” do this before. And because it’s magic.

    “Is not metaphor a miniature scene of a bridge?” is a perfect beginning here. Just going to quote you back to yourself so you can see how well this works, and how much is happening: “let us say it is made instead from the luster of toothpaste, the sparkly kind a child may layer in a shoebox diorama and exclaim, “look, a river!” This, too, has a brisk running and is endlessly deep. How cold it must be. How deadly freezing this close to Nothing. Each trickle past the anklebone feels familiar, but unique.” Fantastic images.

    In the next line, with its wonderful “Alas”, I didn’t catch “mean time of your ascent”, or it didn’t flow smoothly for me, so that’s a space where I might play and even maybe give up on the clever “mean time” for something duller like “duration”?

    “Still are there crossings. Did you think you were the sole pilgrim? The subject of Our investigation. God’s eye has been on We robins.” Dear god, what can I even say? Fascinating and fabulous.

    The Our, the subject of, the detective eye, and the feeling of terror that also reaches into a sort of Emersonianism is brilliant. Thank you for sharing this marvel with me.

    Tomorrow, we’re going to read Danilo Kis. And I thought of him as I read this piece, or about something in particular. Danilo Kis called the genre of his work “faction,” a hybrid of fact and fiction. He also spoke of “poethics,” the poetics and ethics of using facts and fiction together, questioning and redefining their boundaries depending on context. He was a genius and one of the most ethically-driven people I know, and he accomplished this through blurring fact and fiction.

  2. Lisa Alletson

    Holy of all things, Adrian. This is surreal and officious and sinister and a bit crazy. I could not love these lines any more, “We will investigate each blade of grass or make it citizen to Our will. Each fellow robin a cousined detective.” And then for no reason I teared up as I kept reading. The Socratic questions are fantastic. I don’t know how many times I’ve read this. Please let me know when you publish it.

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Adrian, This is a romp from first to last.
    Each first line of each paragraph hooks us– I love: “We will investigate each blade of grass or make it citizen to Our will.” and “Is not metaphor a miniature scene of a bridge?” (and the imagining of cobblestones…) and also: “Alas, now the bridge has burned in itself in the mean time of your ascent and the stream below it polluted.”

    And I especially love the way you bring it home with “Still are there crossings. Did you think you were the sole pilgrim? The subject of Our investigation. God’s eye has been on We robins.” The kick with “did you think you were the sole pilgrim” and the warning that lingers within the reader– God’s eye has been on…

    Will be looking at those robins in my yard with a different eye–

  4. Adrian Frandle

    Thank you for the comments, all!

    Alina, you spot on identified the part that was tripping me up, too! So thanks for confirming that – I’ll throw that “mean time” under the bridge (as it were) and fish it out for something else later.

  5. John Van Wagner

    Adrian…
    (Section 1)
    Love these fascist robins and their deputies, “our control total”, extending “draconian umber shadows’, showing themselves not only controlling but tightly controlled, implicit in the push of polysyndeton “any number of indexed and articulated and coded and justly formulated laws” and wonder, since ‘history is written by the victors’ if there’s any stirring at all in the burrows, if there’s a subterranean uprising, or any room for a voice of the pitiful.
    (Section 2)
    Swerves into cold pre-Socratic waters; its circulation is now inward and parasyntactic, pondering, speculative. The narration halts to doubt itself “Why are we now down here “ (NOW-DOWN-HERE a slow melody)” wet under the bridge again?” before the harsh reminder “…you are prey…” and I realize, oh yes, this must be what’s it’s like below, among the pitiful— we don’t see “them” but it now appears You is the one to be hauled up.
    (Section 3)
    “Alas”. A further swerve, into the second person, the protagonist rolled up into the accused and (alas) perhaps the meal. There’s this wonderful phrase “the half-moon suspension of sky between flow and keystone” that seems to affirm that we may be in the land of allegory—the bridge standing in as metaphor. And God’s eye, which ratchets the cast up a notch at the very last.
    So I’m getting, not quite getting, a progression wherein you could play more with the resolving lens, the placement on this stage of the personnel, their implied voices, and the flow between these lovely pocketed islands of lawn and burrow. Thanks for this!

  6. Jenne Hsien Patrick

    Wow, this was amazing to follow and read. The repetition of Our throughout the first paragraph was ominous – also the capitalization throughout both added a fascist tone and really worked to estrange the rhythm of the words as well. The sentences are so rich and in my mind I see that overlay of robin and surveillance machine. “We Are A Complete Circuitry” – !!! That gave me chills. I loved this piece, the word choices/play, I too have read it so many times every time rewarding in different nuance. Thank you for sharing!

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