from Dead Letter Game

At times I got off on the collision of bad luck and good timing. Something feral, almost seductive, in the conditions of sportive engagement. The result, as the advertisement says, a kind of “electric diary” transmutable in accordance with weather, state of health, work schedule, and habits of conscious ordering.

For example, the order of actions was predictable, which made for an easy assessment of value. Meaning fell into the shelter of a long-term project. Value and meaning, thus conflated, had little if anything to do with the finished thing, the artifact. Always a vanquished meaning in this efficient use of mourning. A sense of flow and accretion, to be sure, a formal satisfaction. If not empty vessel, then the weight of the cup when thirsty.

Then, the always important follow-through, turning over (weight of deeds performed). Plus, the tendency to work in groups of three: first, the drone of experiment (improvisation); second, duplication of perceived measure (prisonhouse of habit); third, a managed resistance to failure (secondary duplication, in dead letters).

I got used to the idea of craftwork as strategic self-defense. I could never finish and so could never lose, or win. Practice, as rite, defined every moment of every day. Nothing escaped.

Today I force back a grimace while reading through these records (the “electric diary” and other sources). No sense judging, even while the marks of discontent are obvious. The desire to self-incriminate (a kind of psychic house-cleaning) remains.

Informing assumptions included an unconditional faith in the power of language as intermediary, go-between, like the trussed effeminate body (medium) receiving spirits on behalf of a small group of anxious, hyperventilating live ones. The trips and false starts (muco-seminal dribblings) of an ear-bent consciousness would lead the way, find the channel, and in the wake of this experience an attendant flesh-node (me) could lean back and be impressed.

The work was scholarly in its effort to mine the research moment. A kind of “reading,” sure, but more the ruse of eliciting perception “nuggets,” later told true in the imprint, the finished sequence. I see it now as bullshit but that’s hardly the point.

Playing this game is like scanning an old yearbook: the faces rise up afresh but as they have always been, secure and encrypted, perfect little corpses.

The habit of repetition is the first object: that pattern of threes, for example, but other strategies emerged too, the worst requiring an exhaustive self-emulation to the point of emotional breakdown. And often some cataclysmic event was required to break the spell, or I’d go on in some mode indefinitely, convinced that I had cracked the code when really I had simply found yet another way to rally behind old habits dying hard.

One must practice, true, but things went wrong when the object disappeared behind a series of rote duplications. Copies of copies of copies, ad inf., until the illness came or someone knocked on the door.

Which brings me to the second object: love.

It’s rather embarrassing, but I have to ask: When young, how else begin? What else motivates so readily? Death, maybe, but not with so many bills to pay. Love is cheap, or rather easy to please, and for a while it makes the game worth playing.

True, winning in most games is the object, but love is the object worth winning for. When this game finally turns over (as promised), I’ll find a way to love it and maybe you will too.

Love repeated; repetitious loves; love’s repetitions, etc. This game recreates (does not repeat!) the patience with which I lived out those days, in love and repetition, always on the lookout for the next good move.

I no longer use source text because I trust neither source nor text. A source is too slippery, volatile. You never know where the next one will burst forth, and there’s no telling who has put in before you. Text, that seeming neutral, blankets an old regime. You can almost hear it like a chorus of giddy and wine-drunk cherubs: we love you, they mutter dolefully, and the lie clings to every weave.

This near-diabolical reliance on metaphor pretty much makes the case. There must be better ways to organize (then pressurize) the activity of, what, wordcraft? Not quite, but at least to reconvene on the other side of this experiment, active since Mallarmé, by which the materiality of signs has come to stand in for the kinderwurk of an able if unschooled group of aspirants.

The world today at all of its fixed portals (ways and means of multiple, numbered worlds) communicates its losses sometimes faster than the losses themselves. The cry of the burn victim in the aftermath of bombing rebounds absurdly, strikes distant listeners as an afterthought. Perception is key, and worlds collide, disintegrate, recombine in the narrow spaces between one’s ordinary bouts with vision.

So, we can willfully buy into this faster-than-light self-immolation (a body, so to speak, turning inside out in an effort to catch itself winking) or we can opt out. I’m not sure this is a real choice, but there are commitments to be made all the same.

The disjunctive text has its charms, but you have to admit it may not work well in weak economies, under conditions of suspect leadership, especially. It’s hard enough to know why the incense trail spirals the way it does, let alone why currents flow not this way but that. In other words, opacity haunts in the background, so why trouble the issue with ever-more sleights of hand. There are other ways to provoke a mood swing, and really that’s what writing is all about anyway.

The question of right practice cannot be severed from one’s choices with regard to medium and mode. Here, a nod to the form/content dyad, but an added sense that practice as performance aligns differently with content. I move with a game piece, decide on a course limited by options determined by the current arrangement of other pieces and the board’s configuration overall. I cannot reselect either the game piece or my available options. Making a move (form as performance) is very much about making that very move (content). Moving into (or toward) a new arrangement (setting, set of relations, context) touches or combines with that arrangement as it goes.

A bloody mess, I know, but nothing like the one I’m about to get into.

Nearing play time. The pressure’s on to produce (I blame only myself for that) but in a different, perhaps reformed, way.

But why different? What reform? I’ve been close to it for a while now, this hesitation to name the game for what it is: the issue, I mean, is hesitation, deferring the inevitable, equipment assessment as convenient distraction.

But all is not lost: imagine vital alliances between the given record (these entries, as proceedings) and future endeavors perceived as fresh and unmarked, untainted. Maybe equipment has been there (available, ready) all along, and I have simply failed to pick it up and use it. More hesitation, distraction.

The eyes of the dead stare out while closed lids shield us from that eventuality. These letters, a kind of shielding disguised as whimsy, preclude their own outcome. That’s the best I can do, I’m afraid, to describe how the very act of playing can be its own equipment, its own arsenal against all forms of invasion, corruption, and competition (those life strategies requiring tactical responses).

Let’s put it this way, in italics: the letter-writer revisits his own letters with a healthier attitude. I have “come out in the wash,” so to speak, and am therefore equipped, i.e. ready, for anything.