Edward Williams


June 2008


This frightening jumble of primary and secondary color cubes and rhomboids, which might also be a crashed spaceship (or two), is the supposed-to-be-attractive to children front of the Strong International Museum of Play, here in downtown Rochester, NY.

Right nearby in the crazy-as-hell City Park, a little boy, having streaked on through this cubist jungle gym, or whatever it is supposed to be, chases a square shadow. There is hope.


56) Lucky

—–People are always telling me to tone it down and stop clowning around, I could really amount to something if I would get serious and put my ideas in clear sentences, but my ideas are being clouded and impeded and actually distorted, tragically, by my own delivery, for I seem obsessed with couching them in a set of continuous stylistic interferences, and, heck, my own mannerisms are getting in the way of direct communication. They want to understand me, but I won’t let them. There is something very near always highly attractive in my clearly oddball thesis making, people are always telling me, but it, or I, seem to be addressing an audience of elite listeners, educated on some other planet perhaps, who have learned another language, even, from the plain speaking English with which they, these people themselves, address each other, and get around in the workday world with fellows of their own kind. I am not human, or I would talk like a human. Though I seem to have grafted myself onto the human race, and learned some of its wiles and tricks of speech, so I can nearly put them in a trance, sometimes, with my utterances. I have obviously developed an intense interest in yapping and harping, and chirping and digging away at it–whatever it is; and they are not being critical of me as a person. No, they certainly aren’t even personally bothered by me, people aren’t. People are only just always telling me that they don’t have time to listen to me right now. And this I am to understand is a compliment, for they do believe that if they did have time, right now, it would be worth it for them; they can tell I have something important to say, just by the way I am standing there, apparently. But people have priorities, and priorities always come first, and getting into some kind of philosophical consideration, and lost in its labyrinth, is like . . . last.
—–People think I must be kidding, with half or most of the topics I bring up willfully, gleefully, disdainfully even, as if it really doesn’t matter what their reaction is. Hardly anyone finds it imperative and of the moment to consider what personal application a profound issue might have, for them, as if I was a messenger and scribe sent directly to them. It doesn’t usually occur to people that it is fortuitous, or even fortunate, that they are having this conversation, at this time, so appropriate to what is happening in their lives; they just say, “wow,” and move on. It seems to me I live in a mystery no one else even acknowledges, and believe in angels that no one else does; and that whereas I deny there are coincidences, everyone else assumes that is all there is–coincidence, and life itself is accidental. I have to sustain myself by constantly telling myself that every other impression I get is an optical illusion. And that every general assessment I make of other people is just grossly misinformed. How’s that? People seem crazy, or they are wounded, and  the way they treat me is doubly crazy, or like I was trying to hunt them down and finish them off, with my serious focus. Parse that. Life is a riot. And I am lucky. The truth is if you subtract the antics there is no gymnast at all. Without the flourish there is no subject, behind the curtain, for the flourish is a gesture towards the curtain, it is always a magic show, that is how this world came to be. And we do not know the interior rigging. But we speak, and I speak wildly. And I say it is the exaggeration, and the personality, the hinge the door is hanging on, the coat tails flapping as the dark figure sweeps down the street, in a sudden whirlwind, the very idea that this is it, you are finally conscious, you are face to face with . . . the task.


—–“You’re missing out, man,” I said, “you don’t seem to realise that you have to work on being immortal, or it doesn’t happen.” And you might not have all the time in the world for it, either–I continued thinking, for audiences in general. Though if you do, if you do work on your immortality, I mean if you get somewhere, in your focus on the job, then you have precisely that–all the time in the world. “But the point is, my man, you have to work on it,” I badgered, though he was already distracted, “not just wait and see if you qualify!”
—–Well, here we go. There are thoughts that are half-formed and require expression to even exist, that is why you are always rushing, stepping over yourself to get to writing them down. When you say it is because you don’t want to lose these thoughts, that isn’t quite accurate. For they don’t even fully exist until expressed. It would be accurate instead to say you copy them halfway, and write them in order to help them. Then you have them, and naturally you may ask if there is a further step that will guarantee them further, these ducklings. So you get mixed up with the notion that if they were published, and others could lay eyes upon them, and were made into staples of literature, became public truths–that would secure them, like forever.
—–But this isn’t really the right trajectory, nor is it your concern. I am talking to myself, but it’s a dialogue alright. Your real concern, I say, is a stronger, collateral issue. It has to do with the existence of yourself as the caretaker and author in the life of these thoughts. You want these thoughts to be famous on high, that’s the real story! And I know this is true, you bypass completely the notion of worldly success for these thoughts, and want them on a plateau that is secure from all threats and challenges. You want to lay them at the gates, they are your timber. You want them as part of your suit of armor when you step into the land of immortality. They are what you have gained that in fact prove you to be immortal, and I don’t mean some historical immortality like we give to dead authors, when we say glibly their glib words live on. I mean immortality in company with . . . what? Here is where it may look like I falter–but not so. Here is where I reign.
—–“Now that sounds like an interesting project, securing immortality!” someone drawls. “Yeah” I say, “it really is.” First you think, well let’s be systematic about this . . . interesting project. Define your terms, and spell out just what immortality is, before you run off to find it. For some reason, I recall that we used to play Capture the Flag, in the long hour of dusk, before being called to dinner. Lord! I am helpless in the throes of this atmospheric, otherworldly memory. That was so exciting, and still that twilight beckons and it begs for description yet, as if it hadn’t happened yet, or in the right and permanent context, ever. So, here is one of those images that I call a thought, the very kind of item, precisely what I am talking about! If I can get it, latch onto it, it’s a ticket. A ticket to immortality, it’s a bought and paid for entrance fee that gets me into some kind of, I don’t know, ultimate show I guess. The point is, I don’t know. And I think I have immortality sighted and in my grasp, as I configure and stay with this blanket power of summoning images. When you ask what immortality is of course you immediately realise that to know what it is, would be the same as getting it; that these are simultaneously, the gift in what is given. Copy that. That is the familiar sequence of thought itself. Do not doubt it, stranger. Maybe only those who accomplish this actually do get it, and everyone else–or what appears to be everyone else– fails to exist. The faces in the pasteboard crowds. They will not rush the field as the game ends, but I have my head in hands, and when I look up I am sitting practically alone in the stadium. It is windy, isn’t it?, my friend. I can tell by the look on your face that you have forgotten practically everything that ever happened to you. Yet, you know alot of ancient history, and through a keyhole, what worlds are ready to come back.
—–Thought is large and encompassing and can entertain almost anything in its manifold folds and ripples and undulations. Well! I say, the world of thought is larger than the brain–that is what I said in life, until I was blue in the face. I mean we were out on the playing field, when my mother in her skirts came running, to tell me someone had died. No, it must have been my father, walking slowly with his large steps, because it was her father who had died. I am still wrestling with this memory, and I defy anyone to tell me where it is located. In what workshop, on what workbench while I study it in the leisure I surely have like built up on credit, for all my serious awareness. You surely can’t contain the world represented by my awareness in the nutshell brain, I don’t care how many ganglia you cram in there. I mean I don’t think the brain even produces thought, actually. Rather the other way around. Rather run the other dread serial away. That way, round and back to the sandlot in the twilight.
—–“What? So what does produce thought, if not the brain?” she said.
—–I don’t know what produces thought, I said–and this is going on too long. I don’t get into these considerations in order to find out some absolute applicable truth, and make it my doctoral thesis. I am looking for immortality. Get with the project. And, my precious moonface, if you say it is the brain then we just have an even more complicated question to answer. “What?” she said. She wasn’t even listening, probably. I went on, for the fourth reader in my brain, I mean my mind. Well, I said, then you have to ask what produced the brain, which produced the headache of thought. Well, she must have said, we know what produced the brain. The way she pronounced the word “know” echoed in the halls of immortal gods and all heroes of fiction. Apparently she thought this was self-evident and didn’t even need an answer, because she just smiled. Like we don’t know where ectoplasm comes from. Smiled a kind of deathly smile that said, the brain grew out of physical stuff like a gooey mass. Thoughts emerged like electrical currents, sparks, whatever. Thought itself is one of those thoughts, you see–but I don’t think she got that far in her thinking–which, you’d have to say, was only a murmur.
—–So, I said, since she was still an angel, I guess it is a matter of ownership. Who takes ownership of this production line, the interesting project I spelled out–I guess that is the question.

54) Oblivion

The Landscape of Oblivion

Six minute slideshow of photos circa 2000, in Rochester, New York. Music: “Time Out” by Margaret Explosion. Please play at least twice, for cumulative ecstatic numbing effect.


It’s a rare occurrence, since usually the traffic here in our medium-sized city is pretty scarce, even aimless, and the buses mostly empty, or carrying ghosts on their way to the Mall, or the Community College, but last week at some point I got totally hemmed in by a fleet of motorcycles, to my left, and a city bus wrapped in a cheeseburger. Now I don’t know if these windows are those one-way kind, like they have in police interrogation rooms, but I certainly hope so. If there are people, or ghosts, inside peering out, they would be looking at the drivers like myself, gazing up at the phenomenal bus. Our mouths are watering and agape, having received the message that we Must Eat Now. A thing impossible to do. I think I felt the taste of blue paint, and that was mixed with the smell of gas. I don’t remember what happened next. I must have had time (and the wherewithal) to take this picture, though.

52) Epitaph

—–The fear of death is the fear that survives death. That fear you have is of course not of any kind of death itself, but of the unbearable thought that nothing exists beyond death; that it could ever be that you are gone. Utterly missing. This fear is already focused on something beyond life, which it cannot imagine. Thus it becomes a fear of somehow existing in nothingness, like cut loose in the sky, abandoned by life. It inhabits a void, a lost personality, a spark in the cold that could easily be extinguished. You entertain in fear the idea of being nothing. It is the fear of losing one’s personal self, that self that is the only sure thing you have carried. But look–this fear is already surviving what it fears, for it thrives in someone who virtually owns it. Say it is not death you are afraid of, but say you are afraid of what death might mean. Say you are involved in a dire exercise to find meaning in existence, upon threat of extinction. This fear exists before death, and whether death comes now or later, or not all as you imagine it. And the key is, this fear is not exhausted, by the event. It has exactly what it takes to survive death! In fact that is precisely what this fear is: the survival of what it fears. This thought is an exaltation. A revelling in its grasp of a void in life, a question, the mystery that plagues and exalts us–that there is something left out of an equation which, yet, seems like a complete equation, as if life and death were all the song, the only dance, no chorus above.  Dance of an awestruck spectator who is most profoundly described, spinning in place, as in a state of fear. It is the triumph of consciousness, this fear.
——I look up into the black trees and I fear everything, for this is a terrifying fate to be so alive. The slash of a single telephone wire is more fearful still, and the photograph must be like (and, alas and for luck, it is only like) my epitaph.

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