from The Penetralium - Part II


Part I

I called her at noon


I called her at noon. The answered the telephone, “yes, Sir, speak.” I asked to speak with H, giving her full name, which she once despised but is now neutral towards, using that or her nom de plume. “The Lady in question excused herself and requested that you appear in half an hour.” I said that I would call in half an hour. O and I were in what used to be the the meat processing building, now a labyrinthine market. The carp swam in the filthy tubs. O was excited by the place – a true labyrinth, you can come here easily in your dreams. “No, Sir, I understood that you were to arrive here in person, not call.” “Yes, Ma’am.”

O and I went to The Oak Tree. I was still feverish. Along the way I listened to him tell stories, rumors of her lovers since I left. “The one, __, he is a very strong man, and has seen everything – when I asked him what it was like, to know her, he answered ‘don’t go there’… That is her nature.

O understands – he helped me through the desperate years after her departure. Everything has a price, he said today, you want tantra, you pay. Perhaps what I find in her – lose in her – is part and parcel with what he calls hysteria.

O accompanied me to the dormitory. I for some reason ended up telling him about Merry’s bullfight in Dogtown… (FIRST FALL, SECOND FALL…) – he waited downstairs.

I mounted the stairs to 401 and knocked. She was asleep. She tried to rouse herself, and I thought, need you? Stay in twilight, love.

I had expected a continuation of the no she had forwarded. There was none, there was no no, no yes either. “A moment of panic with my son, wishing you were here, I dreamt you, touching me, saying everything will be fine, fine.”

And the transactions? (‘Tis not a game that plays at mates and mating, Provence knew…) Is that what it is, in retrospect? My offer stood – I can chance her, I have come to love even the tangled webs, but I shan’t be there for her until she is present.

A kiss. (She used my surname – used my surname in the vocative as she often does: you should have begun with a kiss, dispelled my doubts.) That I do not want it to begin again, the hysteria, find me in you… I askt, and no answer.

“What do you want?” “You.”

I told her that from what she had said, things that were already in my mind but indistinct had come clear, that I could see what she was, but that she was also another to me, mine – (You’re the psychologist, you know what projection is.)

What do I want? Make a space for us, a holy place, and do what you wish with what flies in your head, but leave that place untouched. No answer.

We spoke for over an hour into a calm, bringing things up from it is very nearly six years ago now, everything breaking into now/then, light/dark, promise and disappearance… and yet – enough from her to know that she would open to me, were there no permanence involved (permanence/impermanence)… I tried to tell her that we could be what she chose, but under all her protestations (“I can ask nothing of you” “you can ask, but ask it deeply”) there is her usual arachnid effort to draw me in, not into herself but into something spun of her – and I will go? When I well know that I love her, in a way that my conscious caution will not be available to me? After she has extracted promises, she flees: I don’t know, I can leave at anytime, I… I tell you I can leave at anytime and yet I don’t want that to be a stone for you, don’t let that become a stone.

Your tenderness binds me, she said, what do you think, will you always be so tender? Far more tender. Far, far more tender. I reminded her of the episode where I did not want to fuck her when she was drunk, laughter, far more tender. The dualities – she keeps repeating how she had to forget the past to become a mother, how she finds in her child the perfect mirror, how she does not want me to show her herself.

From that time, one of the few things I could not remember was her parentage – I brought this up when she said that she did not like it for her little son to spend time there, at the family seta. Her father was put in a psychiatric institution for professing Eastern Religion. “Not like O, at that time,” she said, “at that time it was a serious thing.”

Don’t let that become a stone. Help me dissolve my doubts. That I would leap, of old, that one leaps differently when close (“sleeping far away from one I love is not alone the way alone is” RK) –

That this is as far as that. Now/then, light/dark, spilt and conserved. That I wanted you to be here and put your hand on my son’s forehead. A perfect little reflection. “The level of being attracts the life,” George quoted Gurdjieff.

This is as far as that – I could retell every detail of what we said, where my hands were, what showed or ran under what we spoke before it reached our ears, the promise of her eyes, of skin, of what it is to sit here committing it to disk, a narrative. Rereading the last section, I felt more than anything my own… posture.

I told her: you taught me how one lets doubt in oneself, that if you truly will something, you find it, do not sully it, allow it to be, no matter how it flowers in illusion… do the same for me, I askt her. If you do not want me, find a way for us to be. If you want me, leave it alone.

There is a way, GQ said, to be on all of these levels simultaneously. This was when GQ taught me that to find a being one took that being to be on the level one wanted to see them, did not incessantly drag them down. I have known a few people who did this, who flourished in this way. I flourished after learning that process, and yet return to the inner sanctum, to this level? Seed me, seed me, said the mud.

What strikes me in the histories is that I saw everything differently, tongued and sucked into those places that leave this place (is that what I am? [“viz., alcohol does rot the honesties”] …someone utterly incapable of being here? Where is here?) / those places – (are they places?) that are not obscured by this kind of thought, stick figures for the fire – and yet, and yet.

What do you want? Someone to whom I can tell everything. (Go find yourself a notebook.) Someone to whom I can tell everything that also perceives. Transmutes. Is the perceiv’d .

“What if I tell you your book is chaos?” It is all an asthma, she also said.

And were she to speak only to herself? Perhaps that is the nature of a god. The rest of us overhear.

To find her human, after all these years, afraid of the divine, afraid even of the memory of the sin that made her so? And yet she has only put it by, can’t she see that, put it away, to one side, sealed it over. Again and again she said she needed to cease looking at the past to transform herself into a mother.

+ + +

Pansies, white tulips, lilac, white lilac, Persian lilac, thousands of dandelions in bloom or gone to seed, the first irises. Feeding the furnace birch. Hard to get pure birch these days, they mix it with aspen. Birch burns hot, lit with first drafts. Drizzle, wet lilac, grass, crabgrass already tall, tiger lilies already reaching to the knees. And then the nameless flowers – ragana (the witch), is blue, the spiritual colour. Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow. The rain in the brain falls gently on the pain.

Birch burns hottest, milk spoils more quickly in this weather. Salt, placed between the windows, keeps the glass dry. A piece of silver dropped into a jar of water keeps it from going bad. A spoonful of sugar, poured into a litre of heated milk, keeps it fresh for a night and a day. Wilderness is not what is cherished here. Nature at the hand of man – garden – a sure hand, one the ax fits, he has golden hands. Under the Soviets, the alder, a nasty wood, grew over what had been beloved landscapes. Now the alder groves are thinned, the streams freed, vistas renewed. Apple blossoms, rain. Hyacinth.

Let this not become a stone to you. That I can go away at any moment. We can always go away, can’t we? Her nature.

“The king found his rarest emerald, the Stone of Doubt, for whose sake Death sent its children into the world…” To wake like that, tentacles wrapped around three bodies and the stone glinting through the flesh, a glass of Monasterskaya izba undrunk on the oaken table, golden sweet-smelling wine, the kettle whistling, rain, lilac, sorrow. Not fear so much anymore. Transparency. Release.

A letter from A: H. . .she sounds both wonderful and also intolerable. this may not be right. this is what i remember thinking that first night we met, too. but you will remember better than i - i told you that about someone - was it H? you seem to have said that the contrast is appealing somehow. or compelling. is she the one that said “maybe”? or something else 1/2 way to your proposal. if yes, and she is keeping that up, forget her. oh, god, i’ll have to start drinking wine soon, i guess.

We can always go away, can’t we? Forget her. Of her own lover, A writes: what i do know is that he, um, i mean, i am not the object of his sexual desires – and yet, responding to my “that marriage would have to be everything, the solitude and introspection and mad lust and repose and friendship – and it isn’t, and it hurts to see it so far away, or is it that the impossible is its nature,” A writes: i read it over and over again and each time with a different configuration of people and it doesn’t really matter who you meant exactly, because, you are, in your wisdom, which is extensive, absolutely right. right about what marriage must be, but not that the impossible is its nature. and so i’ll hope (folly again) that that is eventually something we both are engaged in, whatever the configuration.

But we do not know. We have not seen. Few books upset me more than a biography that attempts to show the interior of a relationship, especially the interior of a marriage. There is the lust (simple!?), the contract, the transactions, the dependency – the alchemy, the secret, the astral journeys, the mystery.

But you and I, A, do not know. My romantic ideal, for which reason I cannot even play dress-up with my history – I have nearly married, but find it impossible to even play at calling any of my past lovers wives. (Can I call my past selves I?)

Again I return to the philosopher X’s definition of love: it is to be ready for everything.

Mihlestihba, love. From the IE *mei- : *mi-, “tender, soft, beloved.”

The demons found in such a blissful thing, figures in cold pursuit, convections, theatricality, annihilation of self, clinging, a dance of death, even. And when the otherness is ruined, the alien nature? (“Our sense of the tragic waxes and wanes with the sensual.”) Forgiveness?

To be ready for everything, not anything. Everything, a whole. (Lie back, my totalitarian love.)

Germain on Crosby: “He extends this protective anonymity to almost everyone. Even chance acquaintances become ‘S’ or ‘E’ or, at the most explicit, ‘Lady A’.” It is interesting how I. becomes I in these pages – “I became my assistant” – at first I thought of finding her another letter, to lessen the confusion, but then accepted this occasional “infernal discrepancy” – that is how close we were. Were we? Are we?

I intend to work the Magick of Abramelin the Mage here, someday, someday soon, the version given in The Vision and the Voice, isolating myself utterly with increasing ardor, depriving myself of the extraneous factors and conditions that obscure ( ) – I have been alone here, for the first time in my life, spending weeks in the Svente woods, far from electric power, drawing water from the well, working the fire, the breath, walking in the forest, sleeping in a silence broken only by the occasional wild animal.

And yet I am a person of such densities and confusions. Forgiveness? Or I have caught more purity in a dream, or in a lover’s eyes, though the changes wrought in enforced solitude were profound – washing the poisons from the body. I also worked rituals there – my first work with the Enochian calls, sinister sexual workings in the forest, chthonic activity…

And, once, I found her, long long after I had “left her,” (we can always leave, can’t we) – clear and tangible between a dream and dawn, bedewed, open.

A writes: it’s not that i think you find insanity attractive per se, but i must ask you why you don’t find it pointedly unattractive. (you’ve heard this before from me

H was in a hospital when my astral form reached her, then, in the woods – green tiles.

Most types of “sanity” are more unattractive than insanity. (Why does A choose the word unattractive?)

“Conscious desire is unattractive.” (Austin Osman Spare) Or does she mean not pretty?

I do not know of its prettiness – its hideous beauty I do know. Consensual reality is accursed, not insanity (but I would lose the word insanity as well – here, with H, it is lunacy – she is menesserdziga – it is very much lunar) (Roget’s offers almost two pages, ranging from ‘demented’ and ‘corybantic insanity’ to Milton’s “moping melancholy and moonstruck madness.” Best, the thesaurus quotes Aristotle: “No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness.” [True, even if Papa Pedant is no buddy of mine.]) The things that bind us to reality, to a second-hand, slavish, repulsive world of false responsibilities and rote behaviour, the bonds that make slaves out of us, accountants headed gloriously for the retirement village with our sane and slavish daughters and a “practical” view of things, bloated with opinions (“and buses full of small, captured animals / being transported to an empty book” RK) are far filthier than madness, are fashioned out of fear, on the one hand shunning the grave (its gravity) and on the other hand confirming it, ignoring eternity. Passion transgresses. Passion is suffering. “Beauty will be convulsive or will not be.

+ + +

Bright sun after a cold night, returning exhausted after a night and a day with H, sleeping in my jacket (kurtka) rather than remain awake waiting for embers to seal into the old, crumbling Swedish furnace (they are round towers of bricks encased in sheet metal – you arrange the wood and open the flue, shut both flue and door after the little blue flames cease their dance over the coals…) – Cockcrow, jackdaws. The neighbour keeps carrier pigeons – they wheel over the garden, high over the garden, somehow always between the sun and the eyes, the light through their wings, the whirring sound.

She had gone to see O. I told O for the first time explicitly how I love H, how no one I touch gives or is given what we share, the unutterable bliss (that it is as yet unutterable – “the work of love is to find the words that will make it love” [Joris] … … … an infinity within a few hours yesterday, “where time is shrivelled down to time’s seed corn” [EP], in which this this this this accursed reflexive analysis came at last to an end – the lift, to be lifted from it, to lift oneself this this this this self to lift, the swimmer, in the light streaming from your eyes [a reflection you saw, a reflection of self] but to lift oneself onto the shore [“Manchild, she said…”] from the ink where ineradicable demons swim in sinister arabesques / is it



it is


The sweet look, love, and her words transmit the vision – innate, anew – as if I can feed on her music alone, as if touch itself is eyesight – “Behold mine adoration maketh me clear” – adoration of her form and winged words that take the breath away, return it adream, of such freshness, odor of lavender-scented cotton torn from the line and draped hurriedly over the bed before leaping, there, to dance softly wildly into those parts of the body where the self falls finally silent and substance is born anewhow I used to stare at a reproduction of Gustave Moreau’s painting where the muse whispers into the ear of a poet and see her, precisely her, the distance of the lips from the lobe, the mysterious verbs that release me as a drizzle in the hoary lilacs releases their heavenly fragrance. It is here, paradise. Wouldst thou own it?

Trembling, afterward. “What I feel of my old sadness is a shining blue-like body in my body.” (Stein) The scales and barnacles covering the abdomen fall away. Her touch is burning memory, the dark woods are aflame. The maps remain, the charts showing the tentative paths to some contrived treasure, buried rocks, interred pain mistaken for rubies.

Wouldst thou own it, wouldst thou promise to reach beyond whatever selfish drudgery in the old life, does it return? Does it return, feelings like swarms of vermin, half-thoughts, divorced opposites dressed in hard words, destructive insects bearing the kind of knowledge that results in sorrow only, shoves the breath down into depraved genitals, hisses in the heart, twists the brain like a dwarf tree bearing tiny, poisonous fruit, a bush whose berries deform the menstrual cycle, dead animals microwaved and served up at some fluorescent restaurant furnished in plastic, darkened eyes staring into gaps that are not some sainted emptiness but an abyss between sour time and half-hearted industry, servers with forced smiles walking in circles among such dreary love songs, God an abusive father flashing out of a cloud at orgasm, dark blue water in a series of toilets, still, blanketed stink, pink toilet paper, all affection ownership, every inspiration madness, any devotion only security, until it is swept into death, and even death…

+ + +

For the third time, I try to tell I that I must leave, that we cannot be together – and again we end in a state of suspended emotion, her crying from the depths of her soul, deeper, from some opened juncture at her basis, for hours, animal, despondent as something poised over a fetid chasm, its legs stiffly stretched, paws lacerated by what it held for year after year as ground, the most awful gut-wrenching wailings and all for me, what me, what me is this that is never there for her, why is it not there, when must we be there for one another, what is that troth – beneath her harsh words, she bears only love for me, and it is exactly the total love… I crave to feel in such a prolonged and certain way / not this love, not from her, the animal plunges into the chasm o why o why can she not be human, crave to feel in myself so cloudless / but it is only there, only there, were I not going away she would clutch her pain again, her conviction that she is born to suffer, now that I am capable of making things good, can’t you make things good, please please please make things good - – – - silence - – – - and after my silence, then I will, I will and she waited for me, waited for me for all of this time, waited, changing herself, ill, her letters unanswered except in the beginning when I promised to work things out or wanted her, wanted this creature I know, the only one who knows me, wrote and promised “and then you sent another letter and all your promises had changed, and again I believed them – and I waited and when you came you were cold to me and I had been sick a month, in pain…” We are little animals, she used to say, small defenceless animals. I try to tell I that I must leave. How does one tell I that I must? Can I? And at times the wailings transcend the pain and I can see through what we did what I did to her what I did – see into what? To try again? To try again, the heart heavy with clouds and intolerable bonds, her constant threats of suicide – Why am I seeing this? Why must I see this? – This is some barbaric child of my own lies, of having ever asked her to wait? And when it was clear? When I returned here from the moon, and she had seen everything in her dreams? And again, now, I am trying to convince her to breathe, to let go of this pain, to let go, let go, lift your hands and let it go – she said she could, now, during the day, while all night she dreams me (I don’t dream you anymore) and then the terrors come rushing back – what am I doing, why did we make this place, why am I destroying this garden – this beauty we made, the first earth I have ever had, raised things in, flowers mostly, irises, irises everywhere now, irides, and the way we knew one another… Past tense?! So few, so few times when we found one another, and all of those periods in which the one looked while the other rotted or ran – and then she touched a dead spider, carefully placing it on a stone – and I saw her world again, her secret world into which I came, her struggle with her paintings, months and months figuring them out in her head, the space, the tones, the strange entrances into a vision – and I can turn away from this? From someone who has so forgiven me, from a being who has loved only me for year after year, survived my ambiguities? She told me that she did not blame me for what happened – then – when, after I betrayed myself and H (not H, not H, how can I betray someone who could not imagine us… I betrayed my own love, merely my own love / and it is – mere? – Illusion – oh the fear, to trudge again through the self’s only vast vistas, depersonalised remorse, salt marshes stretching under heavy skies, eyes blighted, sightless, a house full of bric-a-brac, the once loved objects – and the future? To be paralysed, not knowing if I can drag myself back here – would I? Would it be a lie? And my vision darkens, other old curses floating up around what had been so clear, (could we stay friends, I do love you, please, breathe, please, I, breathe) – she does not love you, I said of H, she only wants to weave her webs – and on the one hand H has told me that it was true, that she could no longer believe in her own happiness, that she was determined to destroy herself, that she did not see the others she drew into her, forcing them to love her? And when I see again her hysteria, when dark air whirls around her swathing everything, losing her to me… this surrounds the certainty I see in her when she opens to me, the constant telepathic contact we share when we are to one another / it is me, me, me – only my reflection – isn’t it? Losing her to me.

The chestnuts are in bloom. The old man is rounding the corner. The ancient streetcars screech around the great curve in Red Army Street, raising dust, the dead birds in the meat store there are scrawny, blue, the shelf lined with bottles of vodka, the lemon vodka tinted in an abominable yellow, cadmium. The woods beyond into which the tramway plunges, as if they too were part of the sinister city, in midwinter especially it is a surreal transmutation, row after row of identical buildings, then suddenly the snowy woods, a few scanty cemeteries, then pine barrens, then a cathedral of pine trees as far as the eye can see.

+ + +

And so, after staring into a boiling mirror the colour of dog’s blood, into the horror I made (oh but that is to be here – the Oath of the Abyss, as everything that happens is a message – but everything) (not anything, not only the lovely, poisonous flowers wreathe the maypole – little blue shoes, aconite, behind the house) – I am seeing / not only what I have made, but what there is to see /

                                                                                                                      on a clear day, 
the poplar seeds as thick as a larks’ blizzard, (less of them now, they troubled the images of important men by sticking to their dark suits and were felled by the city, this same city that used to buy the feet of jackdaws to thin their population, which exceeds that of human beings though not that of souls, the Jews in mass graves on the road to Mezciems, the Gypsies buried under Pyervomayskaya, the microregion virtually treeless.)


Authors Note:

The Penetralium is a work in progress that was begun in 1998. There are various quotations scattered throughout the text. A few are attributed, others not; like Nathaniel Tarn in his LYRICS FOR THE BRIDE OF GOD, a book much in mind, I would like to name some of the writers who helped to form my mental climate during the period of writing (and before and beyond it) — first and foremost, my friend and teacher Robert Kelly, to whom the work is dedicated. Others include Robert Podgurski, George Quasha, Kenneth Irby, Pat Smith, Harvey Bialy, Gerrit Lansing, Charles Stein, Clayton Eshleman, Paul Auster, Duncan McNaughton, Kathy Acker, Andre Breton, Ezra Pound, Baudelaire, Alejandra Pizarnik, Strindberg, Austin Osman Spare, Aleister Crowley, Kenneth Grant, Linda Falorio, Nietzsche, H.P. Lovecraft, Louis Martinie, Robert Duncan, Hermann Hesse, Nerval, Robbe-Grillet, Michael Palmer, Cathleen Shattuck, Georges Bataille, Michel Leiris, Artaud, Rimbaud, Harry Crosby, John Dee and Edward Kelley, Lautréamont, John Crowley, Hans Bellmer and Malcolm Lowry.

. See also, Robert Kelly, “The Flight of the Crows,” Vol. 2, No. 3.



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