This morning he walked up to the old homestead of Mama and Daddy C, pictures of which you have seen before it was demolished leaving nothing but a bald spot then. There is no longer a bald spot even, rather, there are rectangular plots of unevenly moved grasses, of differing shades of green and brown almost like a schematic of the house. Like a version of my son’s computer game Minecraft a house rises up in the head. ghosts arise in mid day, folks coming and going. The following was written for something, a FORT!/da? welcome party for Allen Shelton’s book I think. I think he hated the event. Had problems with his rental car. too much other stuff happening took away from the charm of his work. Well, everyone is hungry,
The following is a mashup –yet again– of stuff, some posted already, some not. Stuff pastered on top of stuff, decayed moments peering through. No amount of digging exhausts the past. even though it’s always the same. We will get to the future but we will never travel to the past, only to its scrim, its apparent horizon. Blake’s infinity in the palm of the hand, even as it is constantly disappearing.
O. not so silently gloats from the couch: “O Brother, you panic in the face of a gone face. Don’t be like a beaver in a foxhole”
Why don’t you just fade away O….
“Brother I would if I could; my fate is to become ever more visible. like the Law. Remember your Kafka: ‘ During these many years the man fixes his attention almost continuously on the doorkeeper. He forgets the other doorkeepers, and this first one seems to him the sole obstacle preventing access to the Law. He curses his bad luck, in his early years boldly and loudly; later, as he grows old, he only grumbles to himself. He becomes childish….'”
neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which promote questions rather than godly edifying in the faith, so do!
St. Paul, King James Bible,
1 Timothy 1:4
He or she is a mystic who cannot stop walking and, with the certainty of what is lacking, knows of every place and object that it is not that; one cannot stay there nor be content with that. Desire creates an excess. Places are exceeded, passed, lost behind it. It makes one go further, elsewhere. It lives nowhere.
Michel Certeau, The Mystic Fable
It’s 2013 as he boards Google Earth and levitates from Atlanta. He gains altitude, viewing the whole of the southern United States of America. As he heads west, moving slowly over the thin silver line of i20, he can see the varied marbled green patchworks of farms and small towns. Chartreuse, Mantis, Asparagus, Olive, Pine and more. He knows these names because he briefly looks up ‘Green’ on Google. So many of them, other than the national forests and preserves. Did it look like this decades ago when he made the trip from Mississippi to Georgia with his family? Surely not. Just getting from one place to the next then took travel over two lane blacktop, winding though small towns, maybe ten hours to make the trip.
He begins to make his virtual descent over Birmingham, following a back road that his family even now takes, over the Tenn-Tom waterway, a fabulously carved channel which barges ply with goods. Or do they still? None are in sight from above. Passing over the lock and dam, he descends even further but now beginning to be beset with a peculiar double vision. (It is this way no matter which way he goes, whether through Meridian and then onto state route 19 or in taking this back route.) He begins to be overcome with the sickness of nostalgia and melancholia. This happens no matter how many times he makes this trip and no matter in what sort of conveyance he makes it in, either actual car or the ethereal and anti-tenebrous sky balloon of Google Earth. No matter. A certain darkness still manages to assert itself, a certain uncanniness seems to seep from the very borders of Mississippi as he makes his way in, a feeling which maybe Joseph Conrad would be more disposed to elucidate. O.k., he knows it’s all in his head, right? To him, that doesn’t make it any LESS real, it makes it more real but in the same kind of confusion when you see pictures of ectoplasm : real or not? Or something in between. Yes, he thinks to himself. It’s this something in between, or the thing seen out of the corner of the eye, or those floater things apparently inside the eye. Real but not. Or not but real. Depends on which way you want to go.
He feels like the occupant of some UFO as he passes over Scuba and Decatur and Moscow (Yes!), now hovering over Deemer Road outside Philadelphia, where the old clapboard unpainted farmhouse stood, now long devoured by ravenous Kudzu, pulling down any revenant into the depths of its green wake. Now his ectoplasmic craft slowly meanders up the road, alternating between street level view and overhead view. It was dust and gravel when he used to make that three mile trip on his bike. The sepia-toned flipbook starts up in earnest now, one virtual snapshot after the other beginning to tumble out, lathered up on each arrival. A Proustian disease for sure. He felt himself approaching the edge of a precipice of abyssal memory. Yet at the same time, he strives to find new ones but no, it’s always the same set. And how could that be otherwise? There are no, there can be no new ones, case closed. Or has he lost some and gained others? No way to know. That’s just the way memory is, a volatile superfluid, like ectoplasm oozing its way over everything. Like the blob in that old Steve McQueen movie, moving at first slowly up the stick then in the blink of an eye it moves all the way to the hand and you are lost in another reality, one you can’t escape from. But wait a minute he thought: that’s the way everything is anyway, always the ooze coming slowly up the stick then it’s all over. Instead of from space though, a preferable option in many ways he thought, it’s from the past, a territory that is exactly equal to what is in front of us, even if it seems like we are gobbling up what is in front of us and disposing of it…or even drawing something nearer. (He wondered: did anybody still believe that Something was Coming? There seemed little dispute that many arcane and mysterious things were now past…but stuff coming toward us? Even that way of putting it many would argue with. The only thing coming was Progress, more good stuff, more Better-ness, the very Best-est of what we had now. But there was no mysteriousness, that opacity which was and is always tenebrous in the eyes of Progress. What that implied were those ‘endless genealogies and fables’ which so concerned Saint Paul, and perhaps even the bad infinity of Hegel, a road to hell paved with good intentions. Or something like that. He was beginning to confuse himself. But the point here is that you gotta cut bait at some point, move on up the line where the fishing is better and the lake is calmer. It was like there was, or is, a weak messianic power coming out from the past but it was so weak that it would take a supercollider of a brain to determine how such redemption would work. Certainly the hailing power of the voice of the technofuture smothered over all other voices. It resulted almost entirely, he thought, from the glorious housing developments on the Shining Hill of modernity and the clear-cutting that was necessary: the faith of the future depended on the eradication of the past.
“Our time, the present, is in fact not only the most distant: it cannot in any way reach us. Its backbone is broken and we find ourselves in the exact point of this fracture.[….] Contemporariness does not simply take place in chronological time: it is something that, working within chronological time, urges, presses, and transforms it. And this urgency is the untimeliness, the anachronism that permits us to grasp our time in the form of the ‘too soon’ that is also a ‘too late’—of an ‘already’ that is also a ‘not yet.’ Moreover, it allows us to recognize in the obscurity of the present the light that, without ever being able to reach us, is perpetually voyaging toward us.”
Giorgio Agamben. What is The Contemporary? In Nudities., p 15
The name Mississippi, perhaps the most onomatopoeic of any state. It is known that it is of Indian provenance; but which tribe? It is said that it comes from the French Messip, the French rendition of the Ansihinaabe , that is Objiwah or Algonquin, name for the river : Misi-zibi, meaning Great River. Another rendition can be traced through early French records to the name Malabouchi, from the Gulf Coast Indians. An early French writer attempted to explain the India name, Mechasipi as a contraction of the words, Meact Chassippi meaning ancient father of waters. My choice would be story of the Choctaw and their kinsmen the Chickasaw, ‘migrating from a far western county long, long ago.’ When the wise prophets of the two tribes first saw and contemplated the great body of water they exclaimed “Misha spokni!” Misha in Choctaw meaning ‘beyond’ and spokni conveyig the idea of something ancient. Yes, an ancient beyond, the pine barren flatness of much of Mississippi, especially along the delta like the Appalachian Mountains, older than the Himalayans, but lower.
The county of Philadelphia called Neshoba, gray wolf in Choctaw. And outside the township of Philly, the ancient mound called Nanih Waya (Inholitopa iski), meaning productive mound or mother mound. “When they emerged from the mound, the first Choctaw were still damp from the Underworld. Aba iki, the Father Above, who had brought them forth, laid them out along the ramp of the mound to dry. The scene unfolded ages ago, according to one origin story, deep in a Mississippi wood. In other versions, the Choctaw and Chickasaw entered the world from a cave near the mound. Yet another variation tells of a prophet arriving from the west followed by an entire people.” From limited archaeological evidence it is likely that the mound was part of the very large mound culture consisting of many sorts of mounds and mound related structures numbering in the thousands in the Mississippi valley and that the Indians were late comers and simply made use of the area. The Cheatham clan most immediate to him had its start though Dick Cheatham in a community nearby; it was often said by the elders of MY tribe that there was Indian blood in the clan and I have reason to think that true. I’m still waiting for my ‘indian money,[ro1] ’ as my grandfather put it, to come in. however the Indian money came in another way in the form of casinos bilking the white man the Chata preerence for an unbrokend langueage flow now transferred to dollar bills.
The last of the eight sibling Cheatham clan died recently, a life for the last one, Bobby, lived almost entirely in Mississippi but not the case with the other four brothers and three sisters, all but One sister and Bobby having lived just about there whole life in Ms, the others fleeing to Georgia and Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee I think Bobby lived in California for a year or so he always wanted to go visit his cousin there mainly to go to Disney Land which had just opened when they were there, due to his Sunday night viewings of the seven pm appearance of Disney’s Wonderful World of Color but now Florida has one and things are different anyway and that ALSO is where my uncle Willard, who looked just like a real Indian moved to Fl and who, when he had returned with his family from Ga would always go on every holiday up to the “house on the hill’ where momma and daddy cheatham lived during and was greeted one time by Willard with “Well, if it ain’t the Yankee and his hermaphodite son” I guess because we were wearing Bermuda shorts and his hair was touching his collar but now that he thinks on it his uncle Jack never really left Mississippi either but since he was the most educated and smoked cigars (which he could always smell from a distance) and seemed more sophisticated because he seemed to be always eating out in Jackson) and did something at the University of Mississippi and was superintendant of schools for awhile, being known for shooting a hole in his front driver side door and then claiming his opponent did it but was found out somehow and discredited, causing the diaspora of the teaching Cheathams, Willard, Norman, Bennie, Jack to other states but come to think of it Jack stayed and moved to the delta, a little town called Rosedale, almost not there I’m remembering now and from Google looking down on Rosedale it seems perilously close to the great twisting serpent Itself, flooding looking like it is all too probable, swirled, all the surrounding lands swirled wildly like the bleeding Madras patterns on those shirts and fabrics popular at one time, there in one of those swirls in 1964 was where his cousin Ricky was killed while camping out and frog gigging with a companion, shot while his companion was mutilated (I never knew what that meant exactly: where? How? No details were ever forthcoming but lurid and impossible comments made the rounds about the family, which even to this day he can’t articulate and even the FBI came down to investigate but never at least known to me, ever left any word as to what happened) although he will never forget or forgive the time that, much later, on a visit back to the home place where Jack had moved after retiring from whatever he was doing in Rosedale, caused his father to sputter incoherently in his rage while Jack, who always smoked cigars and always reminded him of Edgar G. Robinson, continued to goad him, like he did generally at Daddy Cheatham’s but this time he was older and all he could do was sit in amazed and embarrassed stupefaction and silence, he still feels the pain of that moment and in fact the stories of the whole lot of them continue to swirl around his head with least provocation, a eight headed hydra or Medusa maybe pulling him backward, the stony face of the dead dragging back to the set-scenes, a primal grittiness of reality holding forth over all of it, yes maybe Ricky was gay he remembered a time when all the boy and girl cousins were herded by Ricky outside to the side of the house where theri pants were pulled down and amidst cheerful threats that their penises ( or what was it then surely not cocks, maybe dicks since I remember we made fun of cousin Richard for having the nick name Dick so yes it must have been dicks that were threatened but did this happen or did he imagine it no way of knowing but it seems real enough and oddly enough he remembers Cocker Spaniel owned by Jack that was frozen outside and around the corner from the dick threats but surely that is some kind of fabrication but he swears he remembers it like a giant dog sickle while the little white Cheatham house, built in 1946 by all the brothers, the ‘dick wall’ was less than forty feet from the Methodist church where Daddy Cheatham was a deacon for many years and where from his house down below the hill old man Brennan’s voice could be heard bellowing out Rock of Ages on a Sunday morning, the same church where Daddy Cheatham’s final service was held but the year is still 1964 Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were the first casualties of the civil rights movement, killed by the sheriff and buried in an earthen damn outside of town and his grandfather is still lying in wait to this day he can see now The pews of the small church packed with relatives and friends. The preacher coming forward at a certain point and allows that Richard ‘Dick’ Cheatham had a special friend Willie who would like to come view the body Dick Cheatham worked in the sawmill a few miles from his house, some sort of foreman and Summer nights I can remember Willie, a black man, coming by and sitting in the back yard with my grandfather, talking till the fireflies came out on soft honeysuckle evenings but now all the fireflies have gone out permanently and Willie is visiting again. Was he not allowed to sit with the others his confusion is rampant as he sits there in the stone silence, maybe a little organ music, Willie walking down the isle with his hat in hand This image haunts him to this day, not knowing what to do with it and what does one do with ghosts anyway And what are memories but ghosts, hauntings that can’t be exorcized except by penalty of losing part of one’s self The deep well of remembrance sears us simply by its diaphanous nature, it’s inability to be easily pinned down, constrained by what we want, what we desire, what we think is best The ectoplasmic stuff of remembrance never quite geting frayed into nothingness, it hangs on though its own externality, posing as pure internality … but who is to say about that, about what is purely inside and what is purely outside? Surely there is no purely, but an enfolded complexity, various types of Mobius strips, Klein bottles that ceaselessly shuttle back and forth, in and out, matter becoming conscious becoming memory becoming matter becoming earthworms becoming plants becoming energy becoming life, becoming face, maybe to the ends of the universe — and back Who is to say Ghosting knows no limits It simply shifts and squirms in its liminal constraints to another form, another race, another gender, another life, another species, the traumatic gossamer crinkling of its edges perhaps simply threshold phenomena, portals signifying other entrances and exits These halos, thresholds the very epitome of Benjamin’s description of aura as the inchoate perception of the greatest distance in that which is closest to us.
Skin: the thing that is closest to us, yet betrays the most distance, distances of galactic proportions (but even the word galactic sustains this duality of skin, meaning from the ancient Greek, milk, as if the stars were poured out into a thickening skin in the sky, white on black) Skin as boundary marker and threshold delineating, separating, folding together; even a sacrament which opens the inside to the outside in Eros as well as in wounding even a sacrificial threshold the only one a person ever has really, a singular offering, continually deferred even while daring all others to avoid the breach of the skin.
And what is more ghost-like than skin Never announcing itself (except when it becomes visible at the borders of the socius, of races — still, visible but invisible), yet subtly holding together, holding out for, but surreptitiously so, an invisible boundary between self and others —and when it comes visible trouble starts, just as ghostly manifestations announce their own traumas, delays, deferrals, returns of the repressed, the mobiating of black to white and white to black and the sacrificial halts in between, the black and white stills from back then, alternating with technicolor, then technical color, then nothing.
Ezekiel 37:7-9 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV)
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.
8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’ “
1. [41.20] Until when they come to it, their ears and their eyes and their skins shall bear witness against them as to what they did.
2. [41.21] And they shall say to their skins: Why have you borne witness against us? They shall say: Allah Who makes everything speak has made us speak, and He created you at first, and to Him you shall be brought back.
3. [41.22] And you did not veil yourselves lest your ears and your eyes and your skins should bear witness against you, but you thought that Allah did not know most of what you did.
[ro1]in.gh Dick Cheatham in a community nearby; it was often said by the elders of MY tribe that th