Wrong Talk: A Triptych

Wrong Talk: A Triptych


‘The real issue with plagiarism is not the ostensible one, concerning copyright of intellectual property, and so on, but that to write a paper is an experience, of which the paper itself — the words, not the physical material ― is only proof ― and not even the words, but what they propose, alone and in groups, the process they suggest, their progression ― an experience of which, if you simply lift whole phrases from a source with no reconstitution — that is, untransposed — you are robbed, committing in the act a sort of double-theft, the knowledge of which you bear the weight, as well as the lack. Performance in the very composition, a livestream feed, yet you are lip-syncing — the whole thing falls flat, collapses under a baroque façade unbuttressed by conviction into newspaper pastiche, a ransom note for the forty minutes it takes to read your popsicle stick craft project, as well as for your ― the assembler’s ― however-many hours of construction. And anyway, what is a thought?’
A stiff forefinger of loose hand points into a pocket of ten or twelve students.
‘I’m hungry’, one offers.
‘Where’s my wallet?’ offers another.
From white tarpaulin yerts pocking the campus, No 1 Bank distributes credit cards.
Through the windows can be seen the eager renegade glint of applicants’ eyes and a range of destitute to content and suited — some blank — subscribers.
The finger thrusts into another cluster.
‘Machiavelli was right’, chirps a cherubic, moony undergrad.
‘Enkidu is Pan. His death is the birth of morality. Who goes to drink dregs had surely been a miser.’
Heads swivel radially toward the emitter of that proposal and rest there in observation.
‘Two yellow squash taut with cellotape on a Styrofoam tray’, projects a neighbor.
‘Can one speak without thinking?’
‘It’s a question of precession. The two are not wholly consistent, yet they are never apart.’
‘Orestes and Pylades: who departs to deliver the letter? If Orestes, it is speaking, and if Pylades, thought.’
A pause. The accumulated consider. Sessions are held in a section of attic, a long, peaked hall pierced with slanting sun from skylights. Attendants sit on chairs and tables beneath the tall latitudinal roof-beam, whereas in the eaves it’s only squatting into postures of recline, building from the floor an effect of four or so rows of bleachers in reverse, so those nearest the centre are the highest up. Where the roof meets the floor are arched alcoves capped by hexagon portholes made of twelve finely-held transparent right triangles — which delicate assemblage is protected by a pane of glass (also hexagonal) some millimetres to the exterior.
‘And can you own it?’
‘Either one.’
No response.
‘Significant you mention that descendant of a family cursed to destroy and consume its constituents. Who broached it, even?’
‘It just came to me’, the person who spoke of the mythical figures confessed.
‘Did you think it first or speak?’
‘The two wound throughout.’
‘And was it yours?’
‘I don’t catch your meaning.’
‘Does what you did belong to you?’
The room is silent. An oak limb taps a western pane in syncopation.
‘Property is theft’, suggests a bearded pupil from an eave.
‘Speech consummates a marriage between thought and the world.’
‘The bloody sheet.’
‘In effect.’

Wrong Talk

We were playing. Bright Bread dove and rolled for a catch when a lime band showed against her back with latches and a thin strap wrapped her shoulder before she fixed the neck of her T. An outside grew inside me with direction, a precise extension: cut weed smell with mud underneath. Then the next ball cracked me in the forehead. 
Three days later no one had to tell me it was Millet’s hit, but Chewing Gum anyway did. People stopped by when I was conscious, and if they did when I wasn’t, I don’t know, so. But Chewing Gum said Chair waited by my bed the entire time I slept, and since Chair was there when I opened my eyes, I believed when Chewing Gum said that Pigeon and Potato Fry came twice and played Ludo and Go! with Chair for hours, and that Sure Shit put wet towels on my forehead, and Year Lentil brought shaved ice for my temples, and how for two days there was a thick trickle of gunk from my ear that clumped into a mound where it fell on the palette of my bed. Butter Flat touched it, said Chewing Gum, and said it pulsed and leapt when pressed. Chewing Gum said that on the third morning the goop pile moved on its own, which Piss and Butter Flat corroborated. With a face full of lines running across and up and down, Chair nodded and stared beneath my head. Pigeon said it left a slug trail Lentil Treasure clicked and saved for evidence. By the time I woke the lump was gone. 
Rented Blanket came and cried for ten minutes, said Chewing Gum, and Millet stopped by and stood in the doorway and coughed. I wanted to ask and could not ask. That was not the best part. Sure Shit called Mosquito Fish in, who filled my mouth with marbles and flicked my earlobes, then brushed my throat with a kite feather and chanted words I could not understand while an incense cone smoked on the tip of my nose: cedar. A day later, I spoke. Millet was there and held my hand and wept, out of relief I think, because Chewing Gum said Millet felt very bad. I gave no blame, it was a good hit. Rented Blanket, Pigeon, Potato Fry, Piss, plus Year Lentil and Lentil Treasure sang, ‘to speak is wrong, to hide is just’, which is how I got my new name. 
People visited less after the celebration, until no one did. Only Chair stayed, which I appreciated. I told what I saw in the game, what made me miss the catch, when we should have won but instead I went unconscious. A week passed before I could get out of bed or walk even a few steps. We always knew Millet was strong: that’s why whoever picked first chose Millet. I was never first, but I wasn’t last either. Teams won from Millet’s bats alone. We were so close, only I got distracted. Chair listened well. I guess I’ll miss that most of all.
Bright Bread showed up the day I was able to take a trip to the toilet on my own. I asked for privacy while she was there. Chair left.
‘You look fine.’
‘Bit giddy,’ I said.
‘I couldn’t come before.’
‘I know.’
‘Some game.’
‘Your catch was great.’
Bright Bread braided strands of the hem of her shirt. The bumps beneath seemed
‘You played since?’
‘No one’s around.’
‘Where did they go?’
‘I don’t know.’
Though I recited the anthem in my mind the cover rose.
‘You heard about the sludge?’ she asked.
‘What about it?’
‘It’s everywhere.’
‘How so?’
‘Started as streaks, but now the streets are full and it’s getting into houses.’
‘What colour?’
‘Safety orange.’
Bright Bread drew her heels up to her seat.
‘Will the city clean it?’
‘They say there’s nothing they can do. They don’t know where it came from.’
I could barely see Bright Bread above the point in the cover.
‘The parks are thick with it. It’s as deep as my hips in alleys.’
Bright Bread let her hair down and replaced it in an easy bun. When I shifted for a
better view my palette rocked.
‘Little ones can’t leave home,’ she said. ‘The trees seem pleased. They blossomed out of season.’
I had to stay still or else it was clear I would tip. I drifted.
‘Most places it reaches my knees.’
‘Let me see.’
‘It’s late.’ She stood.
‘Stay. Please.’
Bright Bread got distant.
‘Won’t you get swallowed?’
‘My family.’
The drip began when Bright Bread touched my toes. I took the sheet off and she looked away, embarrassed. I tied one corner to my wrist and gave Bright Bread the free end.
‘Knot this to the knob at least.’
Her glance was quick, flushed and serious. As she waded to the door, a pull began that has continued ever since.
‘Good-bye, Bright Bread.’
‘Get better,’ she said.

The Wrench

— Even so, the simulation may supersede reality.
— What do you mean?
— Fantasy: fetishisation, the attachment to simulacrae that obfuscate the real.
— As in ‘rose-coloured glasses’.
— In a way. An augmented reality that’s created by internal processes, with no external influence.
— Impossible. Were I born into a vacuum, I would know only vacuum.
— I mean prostheses. No device.
— That’s dicey.
— How come?
— Is not any information we’ve been given a kind of prosthetic? An equation, for instance, or a constant, which can be applied to other figures toward the construction of new meaning.
— Right.
— That formula or constant is a kind of modification. I didn’t produce it, per se. I downloaded it. It was installed, a package of information, a bundle, that bears with it all the efforts that went into its production.
— Coiled barbarism. That’s not the same as a device.
— No. A formula is more a device than a constant, admittedly. A constant’s a meme, to be more precise. But a formula’s this apparatus, a solution-machine.
— What’s the insight, here? Math is a technology, a symbolic representation of the real.
— And as such a simulacrum — not imaginary, like VR or Augmented Reality, but symbolic: a lens through which reality is filtered — Joyce’s tundish.
— Math that way is an accessory, or fashion.
— Every simulacrum is an explanation, interpretation.
— As well as a projection.
— People believe that numbers are the language of God, the mind of nature, that math can lay the true world bare.
— So it’s Google Glass.
— Simulation as exposition.
— It’s alcohol.
— Fantasy as an expository tool.
— What of the mental image?
— I have here two nuts.
— Is proception already mediated?
— I have here three sockets.
— Pylades and Orestes.
— The nuts are macadamia.
— Who delivers the letter again?
— The sockets dry.
— But there is a hole.
— It’s bad.
— A tear at the centre.
— Requires surgery.
— From which this vision opens.
— Maxillofacial intervention.
— Because that suggests the simulacrum is reality.
— Two nuts.
— That there is no difference between the fantasy and the reality.
— Three sockets.
— That Neo, when unplugged from the Matrix, would still be within the Matrix.
— Dry macadamia.
— That Zion is the true delusion. The same as how without math
— How many dry macadamias?
— we are still embedded in the environment that math seeks to describe,
— You got it: Five. One, two
— but without the tether of knowledge,
— three, four
— unmoored in the apparent unknown,
— five. Ha ha ha.
— even more adrift in the simulation.
— Five dry macadamias.
— Which is the lie of enlightenment:
— Ha ha ha.
— That one enlightened is totally immersed in existence, inseparable, indistinguishable from the environment in which she or he subsists,
— [munching]
— while the truth is
— [a cough]
— that enlightenment means a state of total mediation,
— [spitting]
— radical intermediate contingency, a paradox
— The last one was spoiled,
— of inhibition absolute and
— acrid:
— perpetual attunement to movement.
— hyper macadamia.

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