«–i] [MMX.Viii.XXi] Anthony Mariani: The University Pub [+i »

And not as she considered her old ways of humanist description now did any of the most memorable notions of Dr. Passageway’s relentless exegeses resonate. They of the baby tongued––their roundabout themes, their circuitous transitions, their intrinsically indie, linguistically indeterminate formalisms, impossible beyond the window in Composition Room C as phenomena to be lived: here as the pressing together of geometries one moment, as hard as cotton the next, because even the hare-brained among the Reality Makers may achieve hot breath on the neck, a contact high, or an L.A.P.D.-style foot-bath, washing their manicured hands of the teenaged or otherwise genetically predisposed to basement-living as if to maintain with medicinally approved regularity a butterfly melody in the cacophony of the world, a location as inscrutable in the mind’s eye as “Euphoria” is to the seeker, the establisher of uncertain, joy-disproving terms. Abounding were recollections, of the surveying of cast-off and/or intended linguistic shapes: of that particular moment, when upon ambulating ass-first into the peculiarities of supposition, she fainted into the Throwing Chair but only to awaken several weeks later a-fresh and having swallowed 17 jazzy modifiers (immortalized on the Post-It note on the side of the laptop screen); of also alighting upon sex, the great coupling and un-; and of also digging into the complexities of banality, their wondrous platformings into verbal legerdemain providing for non-emotional gruel, a gift as rewarding as toast upon always-later inspection: not a street urchin, to be tended to as affectionately as a springtime garden framed by snow, but victimless, a curious, dumb shadow attended to, backdropped, by telephone poles, the dusk, and maybe a farmhouse permeated by Scandal. Her remembrances surfaced on the screen at a pace that could not be described as “furious.” What had she to do with society? The Golden Arches had been smeared. They were gathering for the impact of the judiciously placed plot, where storms rise up out of the navel and wine is produced from melted twigs. Dr. Passageway was always of a mind to explode. He once spent an entire evening rattling his tongue at the white photo of Walt Whitman above the threshold as if no longer a member of the honorable class. Several times, he emphasized a point by agitating the air in front of him with an erect index finger. At the source of the good doctor’s intense dissatisfaction and palpable impotence in the bearded face of Greatness were Uncle Walt’s reversals of point of view. “So are you a fucking poet, or are you a goddamn pioneer?!” Cross-referencing known minutiae against the philosophies––gnarled cords of phrases inhabited by prepositions like so many parasites, pronoun/antecedent disagreement, hash––the good doctor arrived at the sparkling conclusion that influence manifests production, whole words being coughed up at intervals inversely proportionate with the capabilities of hands, feet. A fire erupted in her belly, as the newspapermen say. The whole world was folding in on itself, twirling to a black coda, to a point on the Cosmic Graph parallel with early Mars and beyond the printed word, the past-due notices, the last-minute retrievals of hush puppies from the Catfish Parlour down the street. She deferred to the Zen Sentiment. Suffering unto her the unwashed as mightily as 19 nuns might retreat from suggestions of fleshy ankles tattooed her mind with the early markings of only occasionally footnoted glyphs, graceful markings born not of allowances for non-emotional artifact-ness but welcomings of the Known, the reduced-to-hard-labor milling about. So vibrant was her young heart in the face of Reason arrived at via the front door of Diligence that to misspeak or regurgitate the surreal linguistic forms would have been to thumb the nose in that great bearded face. “So are you a fucking writer, or are you a truck driver?!” Nonsense. She had no more time for Fancy than a dog had for grapes. Space, a.k.a. That Void, introduced into the repository of the Known, attached to her hip like a leather bag of gold coins, the needy blob that was Logic. The good doctor had his reasons. Fate had delivered unto his shoulders a titan. To him, the Process began to seem inappropriate, dirty, tied to a dirty fate. Herding words was presently seen––it was later reported––occupying her breast; how when un-tethered to determinism, the prime examples of Proper English spooled around iron-clad Illogic. She touched the Writing Table and then touched her mouth with the same hand. Having not yet yielded either a cute turn of phrase or a duly surreal profundity alarmed her worse sensibilities, their coiling in her breast tantamount to a stick of dynamite’s being set aflame. She began walking around the room, touching objects and then putting the fingers employed in the service of touching the objects into her mouth. The vase, the lamps, the sofa, the Duchamp, the Post-It note on top––everything succumbed to her delicate fingers. She moved as a ballerina, her heels seemingly hot to the touch. No part of her at her most capable and well acquainted with the Great Equalizer was to be instructed at the present moment that one of the brightest possible exit strategies in the entirety of novel-prone Humankind had been for centuries unintentionally dialed into Forgery; that any sensation of the Mirror Universe in them acquitted themselves of moral fiber gaily and instead of laboring ’neath the gray sun of Fact; that in inverse relation to their inner mechanism, their harmony, a naturally accumulating lust for some species of reprieve––a Billy Collins poem, perhaps, or an encouraging mood of humor, hooch-infused; some prospect of the persistence of Sighing Time––took hold, though its music was of a stirring, albeit inconceivable nature. Which desires should have or could have been quelled, nigh stomped out, until the demands of Her Muse were written off as offensive to moral fiber? She bound out of the room and into the campus at large. Upon the face of the pub had been tacked a jester’s cap embellished with two grackles’ feathers and a hastily rendered drawing of a streak of lightning, in which Dr. Passageway had once enlivened a quorum of drunkards with a song and dance in the Whitmanesque School, tacked into place with a seven-inch nail, though not to be regaled by human eyes was about any other section of his wardrobe––his tweed jackets with the patches on the sleeves, his corduroy trousers, his argyle sweaters––or any other semblance of his devotion to the pub as a member of that jocular class. As to his leather-bound remarks, that compendium of the literary equivalents of a fleet of gnats which proves beyond any doubt his inexactness of mind sat beneath a golden sheen of dust. She had a remarkable gentleness about her now, an unquiet distrust of any of the Course Practice and untiring distancing of herself from Forms, entreating unto her from the drunken unwashed as much of Phat Respect, and always of as much general bonhomie, as provided by the everyday virtues of a girl of her station. “It is I who have arrived to inform the good people of Martha’s Vineyard and the very pub by which Martha had taken her good name that I could not get into any MFA program of any material consequence and have about as much of a chance of achieving publication as a practical man’s unlearning of mathematics. However, I am prepared in such new, fresh circumstances to propose my never-ending sex to the nearest connected hanger-on.” No sooner did “on” leave her mouth than the male part of the present company––and every one of them had unfolded his arms (for each man had assumed the Professorial Attitude at the dawn of her pronouncement)––and throw his lips upon her Burberry-heeled feet (except for Dr. Withdrew, in whose freckled heart burned an oh-so-original predisposition toward general misanthropy). Easily alarmed creatures slouching about Society, the men were famous for stalking one another, especially in hallowed halls, slapping one another with fists, and agreeing to disagree out of sheer physical necessity, a queer circumstance, most notably when the mere distance between idea and publication was roundly considered marketable. Though differing greatly mostly, they remained united on the Inconceivable. Against their steely insistences, hyphenated modifiers had come to seem workmanlike, Proustian. Domestic drafts were quickly produced and engaged. How much like sod good ol’ Reality had come to seem when in the atmosphere of the sexy grace of phenomena, the pressing together of forms steeled, the indeterminate tongue-shapes unbound. Sunbeams began to illuminate the window, and the birds were now working on a flitting melody. “The language that is created between the voids of emptiness that astound the screen is of a curious kind, not known to found any intellectual mass of any sort of responsible gravity but in keeping with fractured Reality, or Surreality, or Ur-Reality, at the birth of our realization that thoughts are, in actuality, the gods’ voices or, in some cases––in the most magical cases––the spheres’ songs,” she said. Not being committed to earnestness was clearly a winning attribute of hers, enabling her to reduce the MFAs to the Genteel Level and also to cloud the rabble’s eyes and ears with prosody of the like heretofore unseen or –uttered. The sound of several full domestic drafts being clinked together echoed down the gulfs of space and time. Dr. Withdrew even saw fit to consign to the dustbin of recent history his predilection for anti-hurrahs. What was best for her seemed spurious at the present juncture, that on the soggy floor of her tongue––shaped before Dr. Passageway’s rhetorical utensils had begun to brace it against Realist injunctions––a childlike desire to be whisked away between the pages of a device more supple than she had ever known was littered with nigh intolerable doubts and fears: doubts structured around a recurring muteness, fears erected by the suggestions of truths too impossible, too poorly imagined, to bear.

Excerpts from Anthony Mariani's forthcoming debut novel, The Book of Etna, have been published at (the web portal of contemporary fiction author Ben Marcus) and in No Record Press' annual Red Anthology. He lives in Fort Worth, Tex., with his lovely wife Dana.

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