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J A C K E T   #   T E N  
O C T O B E R   1 9 9 9


Nathaniel Tarn
two pieces from Architextures 



E BEING DEAD, one can go into oneself indefinitely now. It is possible to enter that huge tomb without danger of superstition. And pray for miles. He had begun finding himself by the theft of a fountain pen. Which had been his by right - yet denied him for years. A calligrapher? Never! He was now way beyond all possible writing. The small, four-footed scribblers who dealt with holy scribing in normal times were exhausted at their own invisibility. Animal gods. However hard they came down, with four feet to the ground, their paws left no trace whatsoever. In fact, they were hardly calligraphers at all - left a long way behind the capital in a sort of small mist, extending hardly a city block in acreage. Though they thought of it as the flower of human empires, of course it lost its currency the very next day.

No - stolen pens had quite another purpose. They became . . . ritual instruments: adamantine symbols of a cast-off power that lay in wait now, behind bush or tree, for the birds of ill-omen to pass. All governmental figures were in at last: scribal personae were up over 80% in about one thousandth thousandth of the era's duration. Available commissions were few as blades of grass in the forever now decrepit fields. It would come to be a race in future between the scripture folk and other quadruped endangered species as to which might outstay which in unforgiving radiance. Note that for the bipeds - all had been given up for aeons already. As to the birds and such: one mantis alone held up the fields to heaven.

And she as the retaining matter, womb of reality we are dead bound to, world of reality-concerns which never let one free for a single moment? What is there yet to do? Ha! if there were things to do, the world would never be stopped! Seed by itself, set free out of the womb of concept: before concept is no is-ness. Absence of name - void as the fields between star families inside our sight - perceivable after long intervals in the heart of the unnamed. We are dead gone now, be sure of it.



T HAS TO BE REMEMBERED it isn't personal. Mountains collapse; valleys retch up; sea heaves above the land; sky crashes into mountains: the whole world seems about to disappear into the milky way - that path into the cosmic web of galaxies - and everything to end once and for all. It isn't personal. Species go down the rain; forests disintegrate; rivers dry out; not a thing spawns: the planet is about to join the other colds out there. Society and culture both have failed mankind; mankind has faded its gods. It isn't personal.

Social Science first. We are too many; we cannot all get jobs; we cannot all be fortunate - or even loved to death. The nation's a catastrophe; the economy fetid; the politicians assholes. The cultural bureaucracy (especially) is now illiterate, so dumb and mind-forsaken it's near gone critical. It's nothing personal. Spouse leaves you; children abominate you; parents cut you off; friends no longer call - or even  send you a Christmas card. Ifs nothing personal. You're fired from every job you ever held and simultaneously. No one will ever hire you once again, give you commissions, send good things your way. You are as dead in a dying world as if your life had never been. And there's no resurrection. It's nothing personal.

Psychology next. No satisfaction from the dreamtime? Perhaps your mother failed you. Or your father. Perhaps you cannot get from others what you lost on them. Not a single friend in the whole universe - a true, blue, trusted friend to whom there's nothing can't be said? Perhaps you thought unduly you'd crushed your puppy's limbs, strangled your pet canary? You are as lousy as anything created. And so, at last, you reach the final wall; the wall so thick that nothing will go through it - except yourself as naked as you were at your own birth. It isn't personal. This side the world, that side the work: no path that can be lived on both the sides. In the world you die. Outside of it . . . you might just draw another breath. You go through, no?


Nathaniel Tarn's latest publication is "I Think This May Be Eden," a CD of selected poems from Spoken Engine (Memphis/Nashville). Recent poems are in Hambone, First Intensity, and Conjunctions among others (obtainable from Small Press Distribution, Berkeley).

The collection The Architextures is to be published by Chax Press, Tucson, in 2000.

You can read more about Tarn in issue # 6 of Jacket.


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