The Cornucopia: Notes & Errata
Ep. 3: “Wonderfluid”
Welcome to The Cornucopia. I am Billy Kirby. Play a song. Let it be MGMT’s “Alien Days.” Let the Sundog Books coffee mug be christened with, first, two cubes of ice from the plastic tray. Then creamer (a splash). Then the refrigerated cold-brew caramel Gevalia. It is not the coveted Chameleon, but it works. Stir in the creamer with your index finger. The music starts with what sounds like a backwards violin that is itself synthesized. Watch as the white blends with the black into brown, hidden tinctures brought merrily to the fore of the surface’s undulant color-brightness as you tune in to the first sip which brings you, the mind, the “terrible master,” to alertness. Hello. And welcome.
FOOSH (“foosh”): idiomatic Colorado term: “Falling On Outstretched Hands—as informed by the older lady with fractured wrists.
I haven’t really done any significant preliminary reading, so fair warning: this episode will also be shit. There is this sense I get that whenever I read some good fiction or non-, really get a taste for the prose, that it positively affects my own writing rhythm, gets me “in the mood” so-to-speak. I have this sort of subconscious aversion to the “Fear,” to the deeply inward sense of falling discussed in Episode 2. The truth is that I have many fears. Not many all capital-F or w/h/y, but—all the same—fears nonetheless. This is the episode in which the protagonist is unveiled as the antagonist. This is the episode in which your bright eyes dim in sequence to the circadian rhythm of the body-clock’s waking widget, the episode of burned longing, of some garish overpoignant slip-speech of the speaker, of some maleficent spirit at the wake of the dream we all have, never the same dream, never exactly, not on the most crucial levels. This is the episode in which the labyrinth is illuminated, just slightly, just enough to show you it is what it is: an endless seamless convolution of corridors and stems.
I bring you seemingly good things: I bring you lemon-seasoned tilapia; I bring you the visual strength as a sensation of a protovisual thing as the womblike shut-eyed wandering inward as the sensation of the strength of a piledriver; I bring you nostalgic smells in a box of baroque silver filigree; I bring you whirling discs orbiting me on which instrumental jazz as a token of gratitude for your time as a series of playlists lie inscribed by lasers on their radial databanks; I bring you to the cell door to peer in at the You that has been in there for a small eternity, the entirety of your life, all it has known. Let loose judgements and fears of the Fear like a chameleon lets loose its tongue to catch a fly. This is what is required to gain access to the labyrinth.
Taking a second to note that I could probably go on in unpacking the various possible identities of “the labyrinth” as it stands in this context but yet to note within the note that I will not, that I’m just too damn lazy, etc., to go into it. That was all.
I am going to as-it-were kick off the episode by breaking one of my preset rules, which rule is: I will not read my fiction. Yes, indeed, I am going to read it here. I’m not particularly sure about what compulsion it is that’s driving me toward the impetus for what’s making me want to read the fiction at all, but I feel it will somehow elevate the podcast’s scope. So here I go, beginning to read, wondering what to read. I look down at my typewritten stack. There are things in there, things like germs of story, narration and blood-sweat-tears-type effort I’m not exactly proud to call my own. Nevertheless it is my own. I look down and see on the stack’s top a Tentative Author’s Foreword. I remember, looking into it, that it was written by the inspiration of my own anxiety in having anyone read anything of mine that is fiction. It is difficult to describe sometimes. I think part of it has to do with the fact that my prose is so… strange(?). I dislike thinking about what other people must feel, reading and adjudging the value of any of my shit. It’s been things they say like “I don’t know what this is.” Like, I’m like, Why the hell does it have to be anything? Why are you limiting writing to a list of prescribed genres? I’d understand if you were maybe a marketer of some sort. Otherwise it doesn’t make much sense to me. I don’t know. I’m partially playing a role here as some part of myself caricaturized, I’m sure. But anyway. I won’t tell you what the book is called, but here’s the page:
TENTATIVE AUTHOR’S FOREWORD
When digesting the glyphic spree of these otherwise pale pages, I implore you to be open-minded. As in very. This sort of defensive rigmarole I’m here calling a “foreword” is really just a concerted means by which to describe my limited understanding of the context in which the painter must justify his brushstrokes. This is a bit difficult for me. I think at once the “Wall of Self” is also a barrier through which the author must reach him or her (being the reader, here). I.e. that the Wall of Self is like a double-edged sword insofar as the author must him-/herself communicate what’s going on inside him-/herself in a way that is actually… digestible. What I maybe mean to say here is that The red dog is in the green bush as opposed to like “the hound red in thicket swollen snot-viridian abides thusly” or like “the dog having padded in from the chilly lees, insulated in its red coat, shrouds itself in the ramose green of bushel leaves so prickly and interconnected and sensitive to movement the space about them shifts with idle adjustment as it (the dog) rests and breathes.” etc., etc. The urge or w/h/y being to let the words dance themselves into an impromptu choreography the mind itself hasn’t pre-planned on a conscious level. The urge being to splatter the brush’s paint and burn the canvas with cigarette embers. Little pock marks residing, ashen penetrations their own little gradients into blackness. The urge is a difficult one to deny. The question of the context is Why not to let the mind float? Why not just let the words dance? The reservation for the necessity of the question is a declaration: The reader must be able to chew the meat. I want to somehow bow my head in resignation as if to acknowledge that I am walking the line between these two conceptual forces, letting the words dance in a choreography rehearsed only in post. That the sub-thoughts of the subconscious wander-skating that is Unedited Fiction is attempted with the communicant in mind and that the editing is done to please nothing and everything, to allow the line-walking to be a possibility; to communicate not only accurately but effectively; to talk with you; to dance. I hope you’ll forgive whatever buoyancy this foreword’s writer’s brain’s mind may be capable of. It is only and always has been a way of simultaneously telling you and showing you what I perceive as THE STORY. I hope you dream well and wake well and understand where I’m coming from. My head is bowed. My hands are tied. My mouth is sore from thinking.
GOOD tidings, MUCH love,
Billy M. Kirby
And that’s sort of it. I find I’m better at ending than I am at starting, which is probably why I’ve made so little progress and so many short chunklets. What follows the page that is the page on which is the Tentative Author’s Foreword is a page on which there is a pseudo-poem. It goes like this:
The Jibber-Walker: A Pome
Forward, must the epics go?
We in scenes of rain all cut by
streams of teardrop-dew and cloud which
fall and strike and form so well to
stroke the foot against the grain so
Forward, must the epics go?
All surfeit movement silly,
bonkers as the maddest bats who
place the blade on either shoulder,
readying our baths of blood, where
one bright leering eyeball seems to
see what no one sees in murk: that
Forward, must the epics go?
Ill forgotten shadow-creatures
creeping through a slipping stream of
smoke there spewing from pipe carb,
preying on the minds of bohemian amateurs,
instilling viscous paranoid molasses of thoughts too long to
fit onpaper. They, in wide gaits, quick as felines or
striking lightning thunder follows,
sleek and sable in their own right,
sink and slink into their shoes into the streets so far beyond us
they are invisible now… to the question… as
we, a rising thread, like unified silkworms dive through the
hoops of eyes of needles to
sew a recurring question: so,
Forward, must the epics go?
I don’t exactly remember what inspired the poem. Maybe it has a lot to do with laziness; the poem itself has to do with action. Maybe it has a lot to do with the book’s themes, which include use of various drugs, not the least-prominent of which is marijuana, ergo the “smoke there spewing from pipe carb,” etc., which deals itself with themes of inaction, and etc. Perhaps what really inspired the play with form was the laziness I exhibited in writing it, the same sort of common-ancestor to the laziness of the marijuana smoke from which the “shadow creatures” manifest, on which line the poem kind of goes a little more haywire. I don’t want to talk about this particular aspect of it for too long, so I’ll stop talking about the poem altogether. It’s an admittedly shitty poem, and in saying this I put up a guard against all criticism. So ha!, goes the writer. Good ol’ daisies and whatnot. I’m happy to oblige a tongue-in-cheek response to my own very genuine nakedly laying-out of unpackable-type stuff here. This previous sentence ill-constructed, another passé defense mechanism. An ouroboratic acknowledgement within the Matryoshka dolls of yet more acknowledgements. All this in a parallel universe in which I actually continue playing this little rhetorical game, onanistic placation, w/h/y.
The other day I was out getting coffee. It was one of those occasions on which I attempted being especially social, and failed, as usual. I got the cold-brew, sat down outside alone, and then promptly left with my coffee. But this moment I’m telling of is before the coffee. I’d exited my car. There is this place beside the Mexican restaurant beside the gym beside the O’Henry’s Coffee shop where there is a tree. The tree shades two stone benches which face each other on a pit of recycled glass mulch that shines in the parts of the shade through which sunlight breaks. The glass mulch is recycled from bottles the Mexican restaurant leaves out for the recycling plant. This all noted on a small wooden sign beside the benches. Anyway, here I’m sitting, observing the light through the shade on the glass mulch, when I notice—on a stone slab on which my feet rest—a greenish cicada dying in the sunlight. It twitches its legs. It barely moves otherwise. I am smoking a cigarette. I am still. I bend over and snap a photo of the beautiful creature. I have saved this photo for you, beneath the podcast’s play button, within the SCRIPTUM, on my website. I hope you scroll down and see it so you can maybe get a sense of what it is I saw for that split second.
n What books are you reading, Billy?
n I’m glad you asked, Billy. As you know, I’m not all that well-read. I have hundreds of books in my room, forming canyons, taking up space in the form of topographical features I can’t elucidate as I’m illiterate as I’m not well-read. But yeah, I have a few books I currently plan on reading.
n What books?
n I recently picked up Plato’s The Republic and Other Works, translated by B. Jowett and published by Anchor Books.
n Ah, neat.
n And I’m especially excited because my newest book came in the mail. It’s called The Great Glowing Coils of the Universe and it’s the second volume of transcribed episodes of my favorite fictional podcast.
n What podcast is that?
n It’s called Welcome to Night Vale.
n Ah, that’s a popular one.
n Yes, and for good reason. As you know.
n Ah, don’t I ever.
n Yes. You do.
n Ah. Yes.
What’s so compelling about being a writer is… and then he realizes he’s gone on this tangent before. Anyway, I enjoy my own enjoyment of the appreciation I have been blessed with having—the appreciation for all media’s various artforms, etc.: the ability to tune-in and enjoy all sorts of creative works. It’s fun. It’s good times, as they say. As I say. It’s good ol’ daisies! I’ve also recently picked up a book by a favorite author of my favorite author. It’s called 60 Stories by Donald Barthelme. It’s amazing to me the way this guy wrote short stories. The way he breaks my heart in the best way, in denying prescribed forms, in making his own structure of the things, of the many things. My favorite author David Foster Wallace once said in an interview that he was inspired to write after reading Barthelme’s story The Balloon. This collection of sixty stories by the guy features that very one. I read it. It was incredible. Four pages long and I’m still scratching my head, thinking up analyses, getting lost in the beauty and simplicity and complexity of its prose at various points, thinking to myself: Damn, how is it he does this? How is it he works his magic? The whole thing is like a reversal Uno card. It makes your mind work backward. I was inspired to write the majority of this episode after reading this story, and I’m proud to say that I’m probably a better person on a simple like soul-level for having done it (for having read the story). My heart has been pricked and there’s a New Valve in there, dripping wonderfluid. I have no idea what goes on inside someone’s head when they’re making work this substantive and beautiful and radiant, but I wish I did. Maybe knowing spoils the trick. Maybe I’m meant to be ignorant and blissful, to simply enjoy it as it is. Maybe meaning is pointless. Maybe the pointlessness of meaning has meaning. I don’t know. I just write this shit.
These are my words. This is my eye looking into yours. This is my heart’s most proximal valve dripping wonderfluid. This is a last call-to-arms for a sojourn into the breach of a battle for the posterity of the English Language. This is a Prescriptive grammarian whose typos abound. This is the man who backspaces with the onomatopoeia of skrrt!, whose head is always floating away from him. This is the shit-luck doper of purple prose. This is many efforts for a single thing that is a bunch of words written and subsequently spoken into a red Yeti Blue microphone which features a pop filter the mic’s gain is too high to necessitate pressing my lips into the soft material of. This is your eye looking into mine. This is failing vision. This is an addendum to the more lucid part of my life in which I am so lonely I wish I were dead. This is me trying to cope. This is the mouse playing “jip” with the lion. This is a poor quote from a poor text. I am hoping you are still with me.
If you can hear me, out there, wherever you are, please know I am here. Please know I am not the same as I was when I started this episode, that I’m always respiring, that I’m as capable of change as I am of stagnation. This is my love for you for the love of words. This is the end, and these are my words.