Allan Graubard (texts)
Kathy Fox (paintings)
November 2021-March 2022
In the pale yellow light of early morning, when the city rises up to meet the hours to come and all that riff-raff tumult and money craze, an icy blue cloud extends over the river pouring into the ocean. Although it is composed of myriad water flakes frozen into crystals, each one uniquely shaped, and isn’t altogether of a piece – one shimmering icy membrane – it seems as if it is. The illusion, depending on the height of the sun from the horizon, is fleeting. No matter. When seen, it startles. The air is prismatic, a composite of blue – darker to lighter – that congeals in sudden, even black strands that whiplash down toward the surface of the river as if they were negatives of lightning.
Until now, their purpose has escaped us. Precise measurements have revealed that they carry, within the ice crystals, organic compounds similar to that which make up fungi. In effect if not purpose, they are a fecundating medium essential to the health of the river’s biota. Without them, the capacity of the river to support life would diminish appreciably.
Also apparent, but in an entirely visual context, the illusion propagates, however briefly, a panorama of blue flickering analogs to sentient creatures, known and unknown.
Because of their ephemeral qualities, and the allure they have exerted on artists since the Renaissance, from when the first records of the event come, linguists have also begun to analyze the orchestration -- as a similitude of archaic notation. However abstract theory can be, its power to signify latent causative factors that prompt our fascination do come into play. Whether or not they ever will be able to clarify not only how this affects us but also what, in the interchange, the signifying medium expresses, is something, no doubt, that researchers will explore. I wish them luck.
For me, it is enough: this momentary radiant suspiration of air and frozen water.
I know that tomorrow, at the same time and in that same place above the river, an effulgent scenario will sculpt its jeweled hiatus.
I live upside down, my feet in the air, my head on the dirt. And when I walk clouds are my paving stones.
Fungi are known to induce in humans exceptional psychophysical states and, in rare instances, actual reformations far surpassing voluble perception and delirious cognition. From ecstatic sensations of flight to the angst of ritual mummification, the realms they incite raise issues that some of us explore, dangerous or not. Their potencies in this regard are remarkable. Pyronema, for instance, from the genus of pyrophilous, a type fungi that consumes fire-charred matter, has aroused microbiologists. Not only was it discovered recently, its origin unknown, several of us, not microbiologists but allied to the cause, have decided to test it. Not by self-immolation, the fungi bursting to life in our embers, but with the understanding that that compound noun can have different meanings for different people, with different instruments for different perversions.
Diurnal dream notes
The ingestion of the fungus revealed a grotesque figure, part shadow, part flesh, doused in blood dried to a thin, cracked skin. Its eyes were fleshy slits set far back into the face; no exit. The pupils, perhaps midway in all that compressed distance, flickering from red to green and back again, presaged disaster; personal and social castration, mutilation, flaying, dismemberment, impalement, drowning. And no matter how it disturbed me, seeking this way or that to elude it, I failed.
The neck, arms, hands, trunk, legs and feet at least defined a contour I recognized: human with brief suggestions of animal and insect. A low guttural rasping, which seemed to emanate from the entirety of the being rather than by two limbs rubbing or striking each other, came and went. Did I imagine it or did it imagine me? Did I need it or did it need me to accomplish the tortures that would, in time, bind us together?
However it came, the moment unwound from the inspirations of hatred, salty sea-spun bouquets of sex and climax, and lost regret; an animus so vital that if left unchecked would mature into cruelties we’d share .. then share again …
I also knew that if the figure did not fade off, by part and counterpoint vanishing into the air it came from, that I would submit to its passions and make them my own. Bit by bit I would become what I detested. And no longer able to take the turn in my temperament as anything other than enrichment, I would embrace the sadistic power that possessed me. This diurnal dream the fungi provoked …
Such is the seductive sway of torment, when tormentor and tormented merge, transforming a thirst for allegiance and trust into victims, dreadful victims.
Three weeks have passed. No longer who I was, I am not yet who I am. The difference is telling but not final. Nor do I sense finality of any kind, either way, Magnanimity shredded, hope pinned to its last fictive membrane, love drained of memory and language, and murder raising its celestial wag over us all.
Five weeks on. I now know that the metamorphosis is a mask with which I can play whatever role I want. Scholarly form, Delphic exercise whatever way I look at it equal to a mumbling bum, the lifted hind leg of a mutt in a stop-motion expose on canine pissing, the shattered frenzy that paints its nightmare in cresting stains and muddy chaos on too many walls in too many cities I have loved and left, the battering thunder of hooves that mimic the twisted guttural groans of Joanne in childbirth, the lingering stench of organs burnt from within, and all those gaudy trapdoor transits and off-stage stumbles – crashing into props as if they were mountains – ups its ephemeral citadels veined with Pyronema (two coruscated lips and a mouth that plunges into chthonic nebulae) … leaves me breathless, wretched, nearly blind, come from nothing, gnosis, Saturnian, Uranian, a double in staccato of the grotesque comedian in silk and tassels.
Three months gone since the initiatory speculum. I have not taken the fungus again. I do not need to. It’s in my viscera, microbial nests with dead cells and the torque of boomerangs. I can smell its fetid odor. There isn’t a drug I can take. I am virulent, vampiric ...
I am ending my fitful research. If I don’t do it now, I won’t have the nerve later. Those I have skewered to satiate my triumphs with are gone. Those to come, brief suggestions, sedges of perception, glimmer in the temporal glaze of intimate alien panting. Who could have guessed that Pyronema strengthened the more they drank? Who else recognized their twin – this godforsaken thrumming turbine infused with pyric ginns?
The mask becomes the face, the face the mask … livid days …
The sequel to the mutation is a return to an embryonic state where the precedent characteristics disgorge their potencies and a new genetic sequence forms. Having once matured to claim their sovereignty then defend it, their effects, both beneficent and maleficent, have evaporated. That they have indelibly tinctured the interior skin of thought remains the only sign that they, in configuring us, did not, at the same time, foreclose on other possible growth. In one sense then we are their progeny, the several billion of us that have survived here in the loamy subsoil. But make no mistake. Having sensed our mortality, we tend to those who will replace us, just as those before us. The cycle sustains. From an incremental reassertion of priority, the near future clarifies our failures and successes, and the means we have of scaling them. And if there is a sense of pride, it is not one that hyperbole will diffuse. Given our collective nature and the eccentricities that time invests in it, chance being as much a determinant as expectation, we embrace this transmission from one generation to the next. What will come, will come. And what we become, balanced or unbalanced by the moisture, aeration, heat and the ever fluctuating capacity of the top soil to distill the vegetal and biological matter that falls on it, will not matter much. The new genetic sequence will survive. Frail intimate markings will signify our passage – dramatic, comedic, pathetic, what have you. As for the rest of it, who can say when silence, so consuming an antidote to peripheral combustion and so differential we were before it, seeps onto and into us with near corporeal weight – such luscious poison – and the sun, our causal nursemaid …
The analog unravels, a white ephemeral scream its afterword. But like the crashing of a wave on a gritty black shore speckled with amber … where we ghost, dim auroras of salt mist … the counterlevers rise, and this glorious carbon furnace, Earth, commands …
In the pale yellow light – is it early morning, early dusk? -- fungi induce duplicitous dancing. And all that riff-raff money craze deracinates in the dust thrown by our feet. The sequel? The sequel pontificates in a broad bass tremolo: “a … new … genetic … sequence.”
Who’s kidding whom? An icy green cloud crackles above us. Hallucinations flower in great organdy ensembles. Anguish has become a game, refined, reviled, that exile, even that, cannot exhaust. We endure Gulag winters wondering whether or not we’ll make it. We dream we are embryonic in some duplicate place where tall steel electric towers sweep to the horizon. And the briny scent of sweat on those endless torrid sexy afternoons …
Warm, sweet nights … They aren’t … It doesn’t matter … They are … We sleep in moonlight … Archaic candelabras of ice conduct atonal moths … Don’t they always? … Fluted ransom cuffs shimmer in speckled ambrosia cliffs …
Who’s singing ? … What cancers? … Wheat whens and feckless defenestrations punctuate the grist mill …
Isn’t that’s the way of it, the why of it …
… it’s just a name … that time eats up … us, too … image by word by image …
And then, the pale yellow light … fungi … dancing …