Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"an experimental approach to understanding burnt fish bone"

The rain threatened, a sickly purple glowering, and I was listening again to some Charles - Bukowski not Ray - while my wife dressed the baby between coffees. '90 Minutes in Hell', via Nothin' in Sacramento.

Three short damaged pieces. I did not get so far as 'May Make Paris Yet'.

The readings are almost perfect, the theatrics of the title forgivable, his delivery - the timing - telling. Charles was acquainted with his own failings more intimately than most.

The mildly wheedling Hollywood inflection reminds me a lot of Bernstein - Steven Jesse, not Leonard - despite the younger man's relocation to Seattle; a maladjusted adolescent in oversized glasses. Pimpled round the edges.

The tone of each reminds me of all that is fine in poetry.

It startles me greatly that some are quick to dismiss his writing as miserable, coming out the armchair with scalpel blade as bookmark in their 'Grapes of Wrath'. Stabbing at perceived haemorrhoids, 'Their Finest Art' made tumorous flesh. Carver, for example, strikes me as more acutley grim. Editorially concise. Even while I admire the economy.

I don't know. There is nothing so silkily noir in those utterances from a bungalow with the drapes half drawn. Just the sense of making sense of routine.

Restriction. Absurdity.

We bundled Milo into his buggy and set out for the second hand shops permeating Dumbarton Road. An outdoor market. The rain held off for a little more than half an hour.

I had the most peculiar dream much later, in the early hours of the morning, with our youngest son waking us for the third time before the grey of 5 AM.

I saw a book opened in front of me. A line or two in sharp relief.

"...Red on the outside with blackened channels, charred transgressions touching 1 mm at the bone."

I could not make sense of it. It conjured for me notions of plague. Bubonic transmissions. That "1 mm", though, seemed altogether too modern. Anatomically precise.

The metric overture to an excision.

I sat in front of the desktop monitor after I'd made coffee and punched open a tab. Googled the line as I remembered it. The computer is growing too sluggish to be smartly useful, the beach ball spins and idles. Like its operator, it may require therapy. Psychiatric intervention.

The search unexpectedly yielded more than one result. Nothing verbatim, but close enough.

"illustrate the taphonomic complexity involved in the formation of burnt fish .... transgression, supra-tidal berm building, ... fragments smaller than 1 mm in size. ..."
"DNA from burnt bone in the early stages of burial. Nicholls. (2000) also considered bone mass as a ...... in the site at all levels, particularly in the 1 mm fraction'. ...... transgression (c.6000 BP). Thus, the archaeological record ..."

More than a possibility, then. "An Experimental Approach to Understanding Burnt Fish Bone"; something more vaguely archaeological. Well. I am no chef. I might occasionally dabble with sauces on the side, but my capability with fish is strictly third rate. Raw tuna; a breaded haddock tossed under the grill.

I don't remember consulting any recipe. Less, any stone cold treatise. Locked in Mesozoic deposits.

This conundrum, such as it is, is more curious than debilitating.

King Charles' 90 minutes - 12-14 of them, at least - has again given me pause for thought. The finances are not good, but I am working up contingencies. Drumming up a sweat.

The poetry waits in its implementing.

The telephone rang.

"Hello, " a passive aggressive voice intoned. A woman's voice. Crisply officious, faintly bored. "We have your son here at the office. He does not look too good."

"Well, " I said. "That's a matter of opinion."

"No. He does not look good. Period. You will have to collect him."

I left for the bus stop with a bottle of Peptac Liquid in a plastic carrier bag. Aniseed. The Peptac Liquid, not the bag. There is a world of difference between heartburn and underlying condition. When I was a young man, I suffered from heartburn a good part of the time.

A little Milk of Magnesia always worked a treat.

"Hey," I greeted my older son. Bowed over on the bench and clutching his chest. "How are you feeling ?"

When I was staring at my teens, the notion of credentials got in the way. I decided I had not lived enough. That all good writers must first acquire a consumptive skin; tanned by alcohol, at least, like Kerouac. Yage, as with our more exotic Uncle Bill.

Except for Hemingway.

Even strawberry nosed bank managers, I knew, sought quite earnestly to emulate that inflated florid robustness. Right down to the ridiculously tidy maritime cap. Seemingly reserved for holidaying in remote Scottish parts; possibly called upon as an aphrodisiac where oysters failed.

The irony, of course, is that Kerouac - up on bricks - was more often off, than on the road. Visions of Neal. Cody. The train hurtling past his bedroom window as he sat at a desk and fed white paper in and out.

It was the rhythm which appealed to me, I think. The music of it. Before Eliot. Plath. Camus. Joyce. Stone. Trocchi. Ezra pounding.

An unabashed exuberance. Sharp creases duly crumpling.

"Listen," I said. "It's all simple chemistry. The litmus test."

Well. You are familiar enough with dipping those little squares of paper. Coming up red or indigo, occasionally a neutral yellow green. The rainbow in a bruise.

It's all the forensics I know.

It's why the Latin crash course feels so apposite. I am less taken with dispassionate bebop, possibly, than the heat of the rash. Heartburn. Thrush. Immediacy.

'An anger which moves', emphatically.

Maybe a Pablo could make sense of it all.

And my older son ? Thank you for asking, he's doing quite well. A lukewarm glass of milk was all it took. At a pavement cafe. Stay with me awhile, and we'll maybe figure it out.

Cold suite to follow.


@eloh said...

You've been on a roll lately, I'm having a time formulating a response before the next article to be devoured.

Your son is maybe stressing over his lessons. Later in life... college, I did too... it caused horrible headaches and painful stomach.

ib said...

Could be, but outwardly he is very together; calm, unfazed.

I am more inclined to put the episode down to citrus juice and assorted carbonated swillings. Also, he is fond of anything remotely spicy: jalapeños; piri-piri; pickles.

What ticked me off was that his while his school seemed very keen to assume the worst, nobody thought to give him a glass of milk. I don't expect their sick bay to roll out Leonard McCoy's patent leather boots, but a little common sense would go quite far.

As it was, he got the afternoon off.

Actually. I was vaguely hoping you might bring your forensics skills to bear on that "charred transgressions touching 1 mm at the bone". I am still quite intrigued at where it came from.

Even should it be subconscious retina burn from random surfing.

The sequence of events as followed, I think, was entirely arbitrary.

That said, I used to stress over all manner of things too; the faintly important to the inconsequential. Probably still do.

Ramone666 said...

Ah, Steven Jesse Bernstein. Put him on immediately after reading this. Great stuff. Is that 'a Pablo' mr. Picasso or mr. Augustus btw?

ib said...

Pablo Ruiz Picasso and Augustus, both.

Two pieces in the jigsaw, I think. A unique eye; a unique ear. A singular way of perceiving.

Oddly, it's not the Cubism of the Málagan which appeals to me, so much as his seemingly effortless sketches. His sculpture. And Augustus' ability to pause and channel out the static.

Steven Jesse Bernstein's "Prison" gets better too, every time I hear it. Just a monster of a record. Full of crashing slabs of noise and razor keen lucidity.

Good to hear from you, Wim.

@eloh said...

Ahh, I must admit that as soon as I started reading this visions of what we called "crispy critters" came to mind and have been giving me that burnt pork smell for awhile.

ib said...

Rats. I could live with bullet holes, roast fish, even. The notion of deviled human offerings, though, leaves a bad taste in my mouth.