*Who shall answer?*

Bronze-blazed dust answers.
A gray-webbed room answers.
Trials, betrayals, shroud-twinned sirs-and-madams, airs windowed silver with black forgets of boots.
A thin sonata of children answers, that might be only wind-trimmed tremolos of limbs. That might be only air braided in suddens. That may be the rolling Eidolons of all our eyes, marbles of eyes.
A chair in the square is the answer waiting for nine legless passengers.
A scraped rust of breezes answers, plaited in laced la-di-la girls dancing knees behinded.
A stain answers.
Inner officers will answer when in bared light the brunt pig of rifles speaks.

*How are cities made?*

Of collapses anew a horticulture of enterprising bricks. Of doors that came to show the wantonness of rooms. Of rivers fashioned from vacuumed hills. Of the leftovers partly canted toward months later. Of all the pale migrations.

*What is the shape of wounds? What are the colors?*

All letters are the shapes, but no named colors in the cut of ledgers. Open, shut, are such v’s of scissors as part a man.
If the wound is the Oh of ochre give them horses to save the pieces, or cart it all away.

*What is the familiar tense of another’s mouth?*

I invite you to believe that this is real.

*How are the hands made clean?*

Oh, but we ourselves are elsewhere.

[A beginning. So many more questions in an endless list, unanswerable.]

7 Comments

  1. Alina Stefanescu

    “Trials, betrayals, shroud-twinned sirs-and-madams, airs windowed silver with black forgets of boots.” Gah–this image John!!! The listing of who answers and taking us into the “black forgets of boots. Beautiful!

    “A thin sonata of children answers, that might be only wind-trimmed tremolos of limbs. That might be only air braided in suddens.” Gorgeous. Love the shift to “may” here, the way it injects a difference into the actions, and changes the definitive statements.

    “That may be the rolling Eidolons of all our eyes, marbles of eyes.” Love this image so much… did slow down and pause and wonder about “all our eyes, marbles of eyes” just because I had to reach harder for the image? I wonder what would happen if you played with ordering here, maybe jimmied things, maybe “rolling Eidolons of our eyes, all rolling marbles are eyes.” There’s a way you could play with homonyms and repetition if you wanted to, and I wanted to mention it just in case.

    “A chair in the square is the answer waiting for nine legless passengers.” Stunning line! Whew. And this is where I stopped and shook my head and thought this line deserved to stand alone, to claim its impact. So another though might be putting a space between each sentence, giving them room to breathe and create the worlds you’re giving us. Because the density is extraordinary but also singular somehow. I’m going to paste it below just so you can see it and think about it.

    1. “Who shall answer?”

    Bronze-blazed dust answers.

    A gray-webbed room answers.

    Trials, betrayals, shroud-twinned sirs-and-madams, airs windowed silver with black forgets of boots.

    A thin sonata of children answers, that might be only wind-trimmed tremolos of limbs. That might be only air braided in suddens. That may be the rolling Eidolons of all our eyes, marbles of eyes.

    A chair in the square is the answer waiting for nine legless passengers.

    A scraped rust of breezes answers, plaited in laced la-di-la girls dancing knees behinded.

    A stain answers.

    Inner officers will answer when in bared light the brunt pig of rifles speaks.

    *
    (Addenda: Oh, oh maybe a stain replies? )

    2. “How are cities made?”

    Of collapses anew a horticulture of enterprising bricks.

    Of doors that came to show the wantonness of rooms.

    Of rivers fashioned from vacuumed hills.

    Of the leftovers partly canted toward months later.

    Of all the pale migrations.

    3. “What is the shape of wounds? What are the colors?”

    All letters are the shapes, but no named colors in the cut of ledgers.

    Open, shut, are such v’s of scissors as part a man.

    If the wound is the Oh of ochre give them horses to save the pieces, or cart it all away.

    4. “What is the familiar tense of another’s mouth?”

    I invite you to believe that this is real.

    5. “How are the hands made clean?”

    Oh, but we ourselves are elsewhere.

    *
    Okay now back to line by line. These are lovely and incredible so I’m going to focus on places where you *could* play if so desired. In my aburdist opinion.:)

    “Open, shut, are such v’s of scissors as part a man.” This line is good but I couldn’t read it straight or get the slice that exists in it. Maybe it’s a question of syntax or punctuation. Gaping. Shut. The v of the scissor, the heart and the part of man. I don’t know. But maybe tinker with this one?

    “Oh, but we ourselves are elsewhere.” Love this one-liner. But also wondered if the “we” was redundant? O, but our selves are elsewhere. Or our selves are elsewheres. Another space to tinker.

    I’m seeing a series of questions followed by answers growing here and I love it. I love how strange and yet intimate the answers feel. I love the beat and the pacing. Thank you so much for sharing these gems with me!

  2. John Van Wagner

    Thank you, Alina, for the insights. As usual I can never go anything but slant into games, prompts, and exercises, persisting instead in making the whatever a continuance of what my head is already doing (I hope I don’t overextend this response). I agree absolutely with your remarks about spacing/white space and found writing in this software-space frustrating, as my double returns were reduced to singles and the question-headings I wanted to italicize are kept to standard body style, without indentation. There may have been ways to simulate these things with exotic punctuation.
    Yes, this one cries out to be extended. I think of the question-and-answer form of a catechism as proper to a rounded ‘body of knowledge’ that is to be handed down, and I have jotted questions lined up and waiting offstage.
    —Fact is, I am quite overwhelmed by the riches on offer in this workshop and have gone a bit doolally absorbing and try to get around to responding to the other pieces here. If I had a wish it would have been that you’d been able to shoehorn in a bit of Krazhnahorkai or Sokolov. I’ve been reading chunks of them for some time, but with only half a mind.

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    John, As you responded to Alina, I too have felt the riches of this workshop, and am somewhat somnambulate working to absorb the wealth. Do not, however, under-estimate the wealth you have presented here. I am humble before your call and response piece. It’s haunting. This captured me entirely––
    1. “Who shall answer?”
    Bronze-blazed dust answers.
    A gray-webbed room answers.
    Trials, betrayals, shroud-twinned sirs-and-madams, airs windowed silver with black forgets of boots.

    And these questions––How are cities made? What is the shape of wounds? What are the colors? What is the familiar tense of another’s mouth?

    Throughout the catechism, the sonics dance. “A thin sonata of children.. a chair in the square.. a scraped rust of breezes.. a stain– those vowels––those sass’s––the punch of “rust.”

    This work invites more. I think you do more with “How are the hands made clean?” This is a question fit to drive deeper into the dark of human consciousness. Go there. This piece begs for it. We are all so there in this century and the last (& those before..)

    And thank you. There is a way this is cathartic to read.

  4. Jenne Hsien Patrick

    These questions and answers are so evocative and especially for me the answer ” If the wound is the Oh of ochre give them horses to save the pieces, or cart it all away.” It feels fractal like, how each answer amplifies the next and each question opens up into that endlessness you mention at the end. The word catechism creates a solid container where the strangeness and sound open up but feel very grounded to me.

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