Robert Kelly: An Alchemical Journal (3)

MayererAlchemy AtalantaA man of 85 in Northern Dutchess Hospital with aplastic anemia. Given a transfusion, congestive heart failure followed from surfeit of liquid. Given a transfusion of centrifuged blood solids without much plasma, congestive heart failure followed again. Digitalis & mercuric diuretic administered intravenously. “Perhaps the marrow of his bones wore out, as another man might lose his hair.”

How much can a man lose? If blood is lost in the tree, what of the fruit? I had asked the second question of the afternoon. It was not enough.

Wolfram has Parzival finally ask, “Uncle, what’s the matter with you?” And that, no more than token, recognition of the reality of the other is enough. After all the struggles, romantic & terrible & all, through the deserts of the self, at last, after years, a Good Friday spell & spell broken,
         after the spellbound repentences,
to be able at last to see the tokens perish, & seeing instead an other person, even an uncle
 (a right-angled relative, a perpendicular to the self), & make an utterance to him which is also of him: Oeheim, waz wirret dir?

What is the matter? we say in English. But Parzival, in Middle High German has to ask, What troubles you, what’s ailing you, why are you perplexed? We want to know the answer to our own question, what is the matter?

        (Which is not: Why is James James’ mother never heard of since she went down to the end of town? Where did his mother go? To The Mothers?)

       But is: what is the matter?

Everything that we know makes free.

    Genealogy, accepted or chosen or invented, always limits. Ancestor rites. Joss sticks in brass bowls. Dust on the calendar.

But to be in the world means come on harder. Talk with a hard on. Showing them the pictures. Because I want. Words extract themselves from the air as bears eat honey. We’d been at her place for two hours before it struck. What alphabet was it?

He reads the blotter’s backwards forward in a mirror and becomes a sage.

Being in this city under the sea was submitting himself almost to Ordeal, a testing of a Self (which did not perhaps need to be tested) in the midst of the irrelevant, the unnecessary, the irritant, the abominable. It was a sorrow to be here, to turn from what was his, the terrene airy life he lived in the heart of, to put himself in this fix, the half-day journey down, the being-there in the hopeless knowledge of having to ungo the whole way to get back where he had been, no further, except the furtherness of self-betrayal; yes, that was it he thought (his pen blurring in the hydrosphere), in the destructive element immerse (he quoted), yes, that was it, his joy had been to taste of self-betrayal, see darkingly how far he could go in without destroying the self, as he had as a child sometimes, breathing fast & prick erect, daringly stayed seated in the car when the el train came to his stop & the doors opened & he sat there knowing they would close & all his body trembled with the lust of his confusion, delay, desire, self-torture & still he sat & then the doors would close & he would be trapped in the kingdom of his own consequence, bedded down with the sheer whore voluptuous effect (who was also Love & goddess & wife of his manhood) of his action. Or as he would, long afterwards even, fantasize a girl in a public place taking off her clothes in a daring, trembling, smile-faced deadly flirtation with the irrevocable, how she would strip off shoes & stockings & coat & blouse & skirt & slip (& thus still be clad, though wildly more sexually, as chastely as herself in a bathing suit) & then with the same smile & the saliva drying on her full wet lips & with a shiver of total wild self-abandoning glory loosing the straps of her bra & pulling it off & letting her breasts swing free in the fierce wind of actual crime, then wriggling her panties down, rubbing her hands into her fur as she writhes her naked ass out at the world, at policemen & god & teachers & nuns & soldiers all running to beat at her with savage reprisals — she has dared & gone beyond, she has committed irrevocable nakedness.

Yes, that was it he thought, the Daring the Irrevocable; he understood the secret meaning of what Apollo’s torso seemed to say in Rilke: Du musst dein Leben andern, you must change your life, strip to the nakedness of a statue, strip yourself of arms & legs & be a torso, gouge out the flesh, murder flesh & blood, burn the earth in the ferocity of changing.

The course & sense of narrative: he becomes I; in a different way (‘in a mystery,’ as old Arthur would have said), I becomes he. Overwhelmed in the embarrassments of revelation, “I” take “refuge” in “rhetoric.”

[…to be continued]

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