Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Joel Chace, A Lesson & A torso excerpts from Ciphering


Asemics, #33, image by Irene Koronas

 A Lesson & A torso excerpts from Ciphering                             



A Lesson

She speaks the sentence.  Then, a







student at the board writes,

In English, there are three







to’s.  Next one, …there are

                            three too’s.












                                                                                                             Finally,…three two’s.  

                                                                                                  Prof:  “So,

you see it?”  Usual








“No one?” 







Usual blankness.


                          again:  “And how about











                 ‘ I watched my mother

   exhale for the final time.’  ‘My







little boy looked up with his

                                                                            sad face, and smiled.’ 

‘We saw fog spread







across river flats.’”


              inscribing in notebooks.




                                        A torso                                    (for Walter Benjamin)

                        Fine flag over it,

                 sleeping, rethinking

                             ground from

           the ground up.  Having

                fallen from the train

         that does not leave until

everyone is on board.   A kind

      of escape, at that, from its

              marble block.  But this                                                                                                    isn’t narrative, not

with lightning flashes

out there and,

in here, messianic

sparks.  The minor boredom

of order will come

knocking, but there isn’t yet a

door in this fabric.  Or

a Saturday night rolls

around like death, to cleanse

                     all filth from the body.

             Then, maybe, chess, quick

      game against that unbeatable

                       automaton with the

                   mystical dwarf hidden

                                  inside.  Seven

                    thimbles, 49 levels of

                 meaning, with nothing

                   seamless.  The upper

                                                                      torso seems not just high, but

blocky, huge.  From Zero Zoo,

a tiger leaps into

the past:  Adam, father

of philosophy, named it.

This one says, Just wait

 until daylight, and I

will go forth and learn how

to shudder.  Then I shall have

a skill that will support me.

On a stone pillow,

                                  it waits, not

                        for Empty Time’s

             continuous flow, but  --

                          under its flag, at

                                 a crossroads

           in the labyrinth  --  to see

          when and where it will sit

                    in history, in its own

            modernity that possesses

                                   antiquity like                                       a nightmare that creeps

                                                over it.  That afternoon,

                                                           they stroll through

                                                             the arcade, sky’s

                                                          narrow, gray curve

                                                    overhead.  Money and

                                                        rain belong together.

                                             The child thinks about three

                                                                bluebirds on one

                                                          branch, lunch, a map,

                      fox, turtle, squirrel.  A

               flashing at her feet.  What

                           entrances her:  Not

                      what the moving neon

           red sign says  --  but the fiery

                                 pool reflecting it

    in the asphalt.  Though what this

                                    little one really

                                  desires is to exit

                       the tunnel and, on the                                                                              other side, to see the new

construction site’s fine,

jagged detritus

enlivening hard-packed

 earth, gigantic

 dumpsters.  Then

still more men fell down, one

after the other

from the chimney.  They brought

two skulls from dead men and

       nine bones, then set them

              up and bowled.  Lying

            beyond the black, daft

                         border of their

                      territory, a dirty

      heaven:  young loris with

              its thin shadow; two

      grains of wheat on which

                        a kindred soul

had inscribed the complete

Shema Israel; pieces

of toast in a playpen;

white sprinkles edging

a gully; taxed

numbskull; blank bank; virtue

mill.  Recurrence

of transience, a

rhythm of downfall, leading,

when embraced, to great

humility and to

            happiness.  His ability

      to see the remnants, the

         ruins inherent in grand

              ideas; not to deface,

 but to leave the face within

          the block; not to leave

               his work to become

a remnant, but to fashion it,

           from the first, a made

              remnant; to remove                         the extraneous and leave                                                          

his Atlas Slave, imprisoned in

                    its own body and

                     pose, unrelieved

                     by any opposing

              force.  And disruption.

     Rupture.  A truth, charged

       to the bursting point with

                            Time.  Chip of

                          Messianic Time,

                      reclaiming lost

                  voices.  Property

             relations in Mickey

Mouse cartoons:  here we

                   see for the first

       time that it is possible

              to have one’s own

                   arm, even one’s

   own body, stolen.  These

   prunings and the moon’s                                                                                                                sliver should be

enough.  Camp

Divine:  tapestry; rhapsody; rested

quill; gym; garage; yellow

wire; vast key; outdated

globe; square fool; courtyard;

river; flight; flint;

road, with robbers who

make an armed attack and

relieve an idler of

                  his convictions;

               film.  Sitting, she

         helplessly stretches

her arms for a fruit that

             remains beyond

        her reach.  And yet

 she is winged.  Nothing

     is more true.  She, all

      those leavings, ruins,

                           all under

a fine, blank flag that must

now be a home, the new

home.  We have long

forgotten the ritual

by which the house

of our life was

 erected…But the human need

for shelter is

lasting.  Architecture 

has never been idle.  Its

             history is more ancient

                        than that of any

            other art, and its claim

                        to being a living

              force has significance

                 in every attempt to

                      comprehend the

                        relationship of

the masses to art.  Massing

                       under the new                               house.  And here is                                                                             

 a new someone.  Her

                    clothes are

impermeable to every

          blow of fate; he

   looks like a man who

                 hasn’t taken

                his garments

             off for months;

           she is unfamiliar

               with beds; when

             he lies down, she

                      does so in a

              wheelbarrow or

on a seesaw.  That fine,

              blank flag of the

        Now Time.  Only he

            who can view his

               own past as an

              abortion sprung                                                                                                                   from compulsion

and need can use it to

full advantage

in the present.

For what one

has lived is at best

comparable to a


statue which has

had all its

      limbs knocked

                                                                                       off in transit,

                                                                                  and now yields


but the precious

      block out of

          which the

                                                                                  image of one’s


     must be hewn.


—Joel Chace

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