The Deification of Michael Puig

 

“Squash meat gorilla. Mouth tooth. Cry sharp-noise loud. Bad think-trouble look-face. Cut/neck lip (girl) hole.”

-Michael

 

 

Michael Puig was born on March 17, 1973 in the western lowlands of Cameroon.  He died of sudden heart failure at the age of 27, a predisposition for cardiomyopathy being not uncommon.

 

Red red.

 

At the time of his death Michael possessed a vocabulary of over 600 lexemes.  Some skeptics argue that Michael never truly used language, the difficulty being with the asking of questions.

 

Why do you trouble quiet?

 

The Archangel, depicted often with large feathered wings and full armor, asks, “Quis ut Deus?”

 

Gorilla me Mike.

 

Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and also Pope John XII.

 

Cry sad cry eat red.

 

Hanno the Carthaginian encountered a savage people in 500 B.C.  Later, American missionary Thomas Savage obtained the first specimens in the form of skulls and other bones.

 

More gorilla chase.

 

The word relic, from Latin reliquaie meaning “remains” or “something left behind,” being some portion of the physical[1] remains of a saint or venerated person.

 

Trouble think pull-out-hair.

 

And Joseph Merrick, who could not sleep lying down due to the weight of his head, who died attempting to sleep lying down, who may have suffered, from a dislocation of the spine, from Proteus Syndrome.

 

Quiet sorry quiet good.

 

“Theory of mind is the ability to attribute mental states—beliefs, intents, desires, pretending, knowledge, etc.—to oneself and others and to understand that others have beliefs, desires, and intentions that are different from one’s own.”

 

Michael played music on strings held taut between fingers and toes, was a passionate and talented painter whose work has been exhibited to international acclaim, loved yellow.

 

“Theory of mind is a theory insofar as the mind is not directly observable.”

 

Posthumous study of Michael’s anterior cingulate and fronto-insular cortexes revealed an abundance – comparable to that found in some humans – of large spindle-shaped neurons.  Such neurons have been known to appear in humans and, more sparsely, in great apes.  And whales.  And, at three times greater concentration, in elephants.

 

Michael, who remembered the death of his mother.

 

Buddha’s tooth, the holy foreskin, and seven heads of St. John the Baptist being other relics of note.

 

And Nebuchadnezzar, who dreamed a huge tree, suddenly cut.[2]

 

Big-trouble do.

 

Daniel 12:1.

 

Me gorilla good thief smile trouble.

 

And Robert Leroy Johnson, who may have made a deal.

 

Devil me show you.

 

And Jean-Michel Basquiat, who was a painter too.

 

Red sorry quiet good.

 

And Daniel, who read the writing on the wall, may be buried in Babylon, Kirkuk, Muqdadiyah, Susa, Malamir, and Samarkand.

 

And Michael appreciated Luciano Pavarotti, who died at the age of 72.  As did Louis Althusser.

 

Michael’s heart broke, the problem being a predisposition for sensitivity.  His adoptive sister, told that Michael had become an angel, responded only, “Imagine.”

 

The Archangel defeated the dragon, asking, “Quis et Deus?”

 

Me, Myself, Good.[3]

 

 

Whale Fall[4]

by Castor P. Rosenthal

 

My little sister was born.  I was 7.  Dad took me from school, gave cigars to my uncles.  I picked her name, Violet.  Watching her breathe her first baby breath.  And scream.  I don’t have a little sister, never did.

That’s what it’s like, not as simple as knowing.

 

Violets.  Baby’s breath.  Amaryllis.  Chrysanthemum.  Delphinium.  Dahlia.  Dandelion.  Gardenia.  Peonies.  Wisteria.  Himawari.  Sakura.  And scream.

 

I stood in the crib, not my crib, waited for someone to find me.  In the morning, waiting for someone, at the house in Gardena, the one with those little stones in the backyard, star-shaped like sembei.  And the next-door neighbors who couldn’t come out to play after their parents saw our faces.  And the dog with the small name that bit me.

There’s no scar.  That’s what it’s like, never quite sure if it’s really a windmill.

 

I live in a skull.

I fly a four-chambered heart, held by a baleen string.

 

In the fall the leaves on the Japanese maple out front catch fire, fall by November.  The redwoods stand in tight circles and cut their eyes sideways without comment.  In the spring the seedlings peek from beneath the ground smelling of tiny superlatives.

 

I swallow sound.

 

She was sitting on the commode when I walked into the bedroom.  I thought I wasn’t supposed to see.  She smiled with half her face and beckoned me to sit on her lap.  Or I sat on her lap.  Or none of this happened.

That’s what it’s like.

 

Many years later I saw him again, never having met him before.  His red hair had turned silver.  His back had bent.  He walked ponderously.  I called him by name.

At his flat we made stone soup.  That’s definitely what it’s like.

 

And death.  Heart attacks, aneurysms, strokes and degenerative diseases, cancers – lung, bone, colorectal, breast, brain, cervix and prostate, complications from diabetes, once from the flu and once even a severe asthma attack.  I was murdered at 33 and went through a windshield when I was 27.  But that’s what it’s like.

 

Context is irrepressible.  And imaginary.

 

I started the day folding paper cranes and soon dug splayed hands through a pile of dry wings, holding out hope for the shell of a tortoise beneath their missing feet.  I sneezed and they lost their grip on the ground and a thousand cranes blinked out against the faded sky.  In the quiet behind the sound of senbazuru, finally grown still, I settled to the ocean floor and waited for the echoes of lives I never lived.

 

 

THE MAHABHARATA

 

[The following excerpt, excluded from the TKP edition of 2007 as well as the first edition of the Compendium has, in the estimation of the editors, earned a place in this second edition thanks to its developing status as one of the most claimed and (re)created pieces of dismemorabilia vying for attention.  It is the belief of the editors that The Mahabharata, as it has come to be known, is – regardless of (and for many readers precisely because of) the incertitude of its provenance and the resulting variety of its versions – not only worthy of inclusion here, but also in point of fact unquestionably a part of the novel.  Though general consensus ascribes the earliest recorded mention of The Mahabharata to an obscure entry in The Archive from the winter of 2001,[5] the excerpt itself only began to garner more widespread attention after its appearance in an appendix to J.R. Sparrow’s 2005 case study published by Kannon Books, Sacred and also Profane: Reading Dismembrance.  Subsequent appearances of The Mahabharata have grown quickly and steadily more frequent and heterogeneous.  Some notable examples include an edition of the novel released in 2012 by Sahasranama Press in which The Mahabharata is presented as an invocation at the start of the text; The Mahabharata, a daily blog of haiku started in 2009 by independent recording artist Fat Man Cypher; The Mahabharata, an exhibit at the Museum of Jurassic Technology in Culver City, California consisting of a series of disparate versions of the text each printed on pressed grains of rice displayed on slides and viewed under microscopes; The Mahabharata, a three-panel comic strip appearing in The Archive weekly since September 2010, courtesy of username Smritinoveda1000?!; The Mahabharata, a stage play from Los Angeles-based arboreal acting troupe Shinrin Yoku which enjoyed modest success at small venues across the L.A. metro area from March-September 2006 and later enjoyed consecutive three-month runs in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and again Los Angeles in 2011; and The Mahabharata, first displayed in the debut exhibition of paper artist Parvati Williams in the spring of 2010 and later used as the cover image for Trident Books’ edition of the novel released in early 2014.  But while the volume of the conversation drawn by The Mahabharata’s point of gravity is good reason for its inclusion in this new edition, the nature of conversation renders that inclusion problematic.  Due to the wide variety of The Mahabharata’s versions and the relative youth of the conversation surrounding them, a consensus on how best to represent the excerpt here has itself been a subject desiring some reflection.  Given the limitations of time and of space and of spacetime, the editors have opted to present a composite text representing an approximate synthesis of available versions and/or records of versions no longer accessible.  As this new version cannot fairly be attributed to any particular earlier purveyor of The Mahabharata, the excerpt here included – appropriately titled The Mahabharata – is provided courtesy of Tokyo Kitchen Press. –T.K.P.]

8:15.  I’m a little boy.  It was the summer of ’45.  Mom was four.  Dad was still two years away.  I started falling but never made it all the way down.  The heat was tremendous.

They made a statue for me.  Well, not for me, but you know, after me.  I still remember the first time I saw it, but it’s a memory that disappears each time I notice it in the corner of my vision, leaving me sniffing a series of oblique details like fresh tracks.  The girl I was with, the ridiculous sweater I was wearing, the feeling of being in my twenties.  But the statue stuck with me somehow.  A darkly burnished mother doubled over, clutching one child to her chest, scooping another up onto her back.  I believed I saw in the statue something I hadn’t understood before.  Perhaps it was only a moment in which I remembered that I loved my mother, but either way, quite a statue.  I recently saw that statue again for the first time.  I was dismayed.  It looked nothing like I felt then.

And then there’s the cenotaph, which most people probably only see for what’s written on it or what stands above it.  Isn’t that always the way?  Trite, but what can you do?  Still, I think it’s the most appropriate.  I mean does any of the rest of it really suffice?  Sure there’s the visceral reaction to all those jarred up keloids and broken watches and faded photos, shadows that don’t work right and people signing their names at the end as if they’ve read anything at all.  But the cenotaph with its emptiness is the only thing that’s got enough space to hold it all, everything that can’t be said, can’t be incorporated into a sense of self.  Otherwise there’s just me, a tiny big red balloon hanging suspended over a model of an earlier version of the city that doesn’t exist anymore and, let’s face it, probably never did.  Which of course we know can work on the page, but when I’m hanging there for all to see looking so much like a Tootsie Pop without my stick, well, it’s hard for some people to fit their minds into something that tiny.

44.4 seconds I’ve been falling now.  You’d think I was joking, such an unlucky number.  And I still haven’t made it all the way down.  But it’s too late to tell you any of this anyway; you won’t hear, already, a massive dilation of time like brightest white

 

[1] My father’s hands, being both large in span and thick of flesh, turn and turn, press the table and lift the air while he watches.  He might be bringing an aroma slowly to his face, but he is only speaking.  My father’s hands were massive, he says.  Much bigger than mine, he says.  My father’s hands are massive, much bigger than mine.  I inspect the nubs at the ends of my arms, the spindly fingers, the impossible shortness of my reach.  I fail to see the dinner plates they will become.  Like paws, he says.  I am dismayed at the withering of generations.

[2] sempiternal.  That means it goes on forever, unchanging.  Set here in text, it stands like a tree planted paper-thin, year after year, never stepping in any direction, silent.  Static.  The text says nothing but elicits its words from the outside, sees a self intended in the attending mouths of its environs.  Existing within and without.  Ventriloquist venture.  Such is the sense of the unspoken text.  And as some somebody says, “In this preliminary remark and these concrete illustrations, I only wish to point out that you and I are always already subjects, and as such constantly practice the rituals of ideological recognition, which guarantee for us that we are indeed concrete, individual, distinguishable and (naturally) irreplaceable subjects. The writing I am currently executing and the reading you are currently performing are also in this respect rituals of ideological recognition, including the ‘obviousness’ with which the ‘truth’ or ‘error’ of my reflections may impose itself on you.”  But of course what this doesn’t allow for is the impossible likelihood that in fact it is all true, all error, and neither fact precludes nonsense.  And through it all, the text remains, unchanging Proteus, standing ready to be rebuilt, reread in the image of its incompleteness, to revel in the lives it will one day come to have lived.  And if it remembers anything of its earlier versionings, what would that signify to the next?  Sempervirens.  It goes on changing forever, a continually reset text, reaching higher, spreading roots six feet deep.  Sheathed in sheets of paper each year, another ring older.  Unchanging evergreen.  Millenial watcher.  Metasequoia.  Cryptomeria.  Clinging to the spinning world, waiting to let go.  What does it know?  The timbre of timber tipped, tampered tamber.  Like earth slowly sundered.  A pitless pitiless apricot split and heard, by the tiniest ear; such is the sound of the falling giant soon to be mouldered by microbes.  A receding wave that serves to curve the impending crash.  Bacterial turnaround bringing about a sprouting, composing a new whole from its own disintegration.  All of which is to suggest a text not eternal exactly, but

[3] For a compelling interpretation of Michael’s place in the novel, the editors recommend Belgian duo Ronny & Renzo’s “Me, Myself, Good” from King Kung Foo Records.

[4] Despite the many widely noted allusions the following piece appears to make to the band by the same name and its self-titled debut album, Rosenthal has steadfastly maintained his ignorance of the band’s existence at the time of its first writing.  On the subject of the reading public’s insistence that there must in fact be some connection between them, Rosenthal allows, in the Fall 2014 issue of Parthenogenesis that “…they are not wrong.  Because they see them, the connections are there.  It’s news to me, but that’s hardly relevant.”

[5] Submitted December 7th by commenter “kangi10,” the enigmatic entry in its entirety reads, “Now I am become Ganesha, curator of worlds.  The Mahabharata does not rest.”  As this was the first and last contribution to The Archive made by kangi10, the identity and motivation of the commenter are left to rumor and speculation.  Similarly, though the significance of the comment continues to accrue as the conversation surrounding The Mahabharata and the novel as a whole grows, the original meaning intended by this self-proclaimed curator has been lost beneath the layering of time and the proliferation of varying readings.

 

 

 

 

Daniel-Takeshi-Krause-Dream-Pop-PressDaniel Takeshi Krause‘s work has appeared in two languages, three countries, and four dimensions.  His work has been performed or printed most recently in Versal; at The Banff Center in Alberta, Canada; in A Bad Penny ReviewSugar House Review; and in Halophyte. He completed his PhD in English at the University of Utah.  He currently lives in Southern California and teaches at Loyola Marymount University.