A NEW PRESS STEAMS TO THE FORE: River Boat Books

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I ought to begin with a book coming out from River Boat Books, but as you’ll see there is some sense to promoting the above volume first. It’s still, miraculously, available from Amazon, after about three years, I think, and if you’re smart and not utterly broke you should go order it right now. It’s ten dollars, very heavy, about 400 pages of sheer literary engagement, fun, serious, light, dark, densely made, densely made, written by a group of volunteer readers–never mind; here is what two writers thought of the book:

“Here is a book that makes you feel like you’ve stumbled into exactly the right party for a change, where the guests are all interesting, and some are obviously brilliant, and some are hilarious, and they’re all talking enthusiastically about books they love, from classic novels to edgy work by writers you didn’t know about. It will make you like people you’ve never met, love books you’ve never read. The concept alone is so heartening, people who care about literature should be glad that this book exists-even more so that it’s this great.” -Trenton Lee Stewart, author of the novel Flood Summer and the Mysterious Benedict Society series

“Realizing that one is of an age when one cannot possibly read all the “must-reads” in the years left is a disappointment-every novel given up, a little death-and so I was delighted to see this handy guide to many of the classics that still languish, alas, on my bedside bucket list. I can now cheerfully knock off the 2666 that squats fatly on my bookshelf. Pffft, Mr. Bolaño. Thank you, Rick Harsch. Conversely, reading the three reviews of Middlemarch convinces me to move it to the top of my list. Thank you, Korrick, Medellia, and ChocolateMuse. And that’s the genius of this Fabulous Opera: multiple viewpoints allow you to triangulate a book’s fitness for your reading regimen. Better yet, the reviews are by readers-for-pleasure: little or no academese or critspeak here, thank you very much. A fine democracy, this, treating the gods as fully equal to themselves.” -Prasenjit Gupta, author of A Brown Man; award-winning translator of Indian Errant, stories by Nirmal Verma

 

Right, so Tropic of Ideas is a group of folk on something like Goodreads that is called LibraryThing, who somehow got the idea that had they material available for a brilliant and entertaining book. And they were right.

It so happens I am part of that group, and though a couple of my own reviews were included I am absolutely not among the best of the reviewers in that book. I also take exception to Mr. Gupta’s insinuation that I do not want him to read Roberto Bolano’s 2666. I don’t, not now, not if he’s going to be that way about it, though I did give the book a fairly positive review…but now I think if he’s going to read a fat Latin American novel, it should be The Mad Patagonian by Javier Pedro Zabala. And you’ll see why in a moment. (one reason is that 2666 was meant by the author to be five novels, while The Mad Patagonian was envisioned as is, one 1208 page beast, a friendly beast, but a beast nonetheless) That happens to be River Boat Books‘ BIG book of its roaring return to active publication. A bit of mystery I will let a reviewer describe surrounds the authorship of the book, which is neither here nor there in Mexico, it’s in Cuba, where the book was written, and this book is going to be known as well as any Latin American book ever published. There’s no point in comparing it to my favorites–someone will, and some will consider it better. But I refuse to compare it to my favorite, particularly because an absolute guarantee of an historical publishing event is this same River Boat Books‘ publication of Roberto Arlt’s The Seven Madmen, which was my favorite until I read its second half, finally, nearly 90 years after it was published in Buenos Aires, The Flamethrowers, which ratchets Arltonianisme up a few notches, so that now my favorite book by a Latin American writer is now the real Arlt, The Seven Madmen plus The Flamethrowers.

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This is truly publishing history. And even with relatively little publicity thus far, Altonians are coming out of the woodwork–they became termites in order to survive. One of them I met in Trieste–he had traveled to the national library in Rome to find a copy of The Flamethrowers in Spanish (I don’t think Arlt has been translated into Italian).

The story of this translation is a beautiful Artlonian episode. A poorly educated up-state New Yorker, Larry Riley, formerly of the Coast Guard, then with the US Postal Service, probably a quiet anarchist, somehow became a great reader of great fiction. I’ll have to ask him how that came about some time. He’s an autodidact, we can assume that much. And like many an autodidact, he probably quite often does things because he is free enough not to know better. But moving beyond speculation, what I know is that about 14 years ago Larry read and loved The Seven Madmen, possibly at the same time I did, and like me he saw that at the end of the book, reference was made to its continuation in Los lanzallamos (forty words before the end of The Seven Madmen an asterisk directs the reader to the bottom of the page, where Naomi Lindstrom, the first to translate that first half of a novel into English rendered: “The story of the characters in this novel will continue in another volume entitled The Flamethrowers.“). Like me, Larry looked high and low for the presumably extant translation, became frustrated and, like any monolingual anarchic autodidact would consider, upon finally finding it had never, in fact, been translated, gave some thought to translating it simply so he could read it. And like any neophyte translator would do, he picked up some Spanish language dictionaries, some Spanish-English dictionaries, and a couple years later had read the book in his own translation. What a maniac. During that time, Larry had some contact with Naomi Lindstrom, who proved generous with her time, but when Larry was finished, pretty much told him his effort was commendable but the thing wasn’t good enough. She was right. It wasn’t good enough to be published. And so the manuscript–typewritten, of course–was shelved for Arltonian termites. And they did their job. For after ten or twelve years had passed, somehow or other I became aware of Larry’s translation, and somehow eventually convinced him to show it to me, to send a copy from New York to Slovenia, not such an odd trip for Arlt, as his mother was from Trieste and I live a mere 20 minutes from her old city. I had read into the second page of The Flamethrowers when I realized that I was reading Arlt. I hadn’t read The Seven Madmen for over a decade, but he was immediately back inside me. I was quick to tell Larry that what he had in his hands was a successful translation that merely needed some polishing. I was wrong. I was going to be the polisher, but it turned out the book need to have the mines aired out and some tunnels re-dug, at the risk of explosion some new shafts were necessary, and once Larry got down in there, like any good autodidact, he worked like a fiend to improve the book and as it turned out it needed nearly no polishing at all. The book was ready. The book is ready. Rest easy, Julio Cortazar: someone else has written an introduction this time–Julio wrote the introduction to the second English translation of The Seven Madmen, by Nicholas Caistor, a good enough translation, but hindered by the fact that Lindstrom got there first and took all the best epithets of the characters. NYRB publishes that version, and Larry’s translation of The Flamethrowers quickly got their attention, and from what I know of the correspondence between Larry Riley and the NYRB interlocutor, had he wanted it badly enough, he could have gotten NYRB to take it on. But there was a certain undertone to the correspondence that seemed to require that Larry dismiss the efforts of Lindstrom as second rate–the very real problem would have arisen that Larry chose, for instance, Lindstrom’s translation for the character Arlt named The Melancholy Ruffian, whereas Caistor chose The Melancholy Thug. Poor Caistor. He couldn’t keep all Lindstrom’s names for his own translation…But Larry could. But how to break it to Robert that Larry’s names would be different? Well, they wouldn’t have to because Larry would be broken. But you don’t break anarcho-autodidact translators–you end up like Yossarian punching Aarfy in a dream. And anyway, maybe this other guy, this Mad Patagonian pusher…

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So we come to Peter Damian Bellis, author of The Conjure Man, which disappointed its first potential publishers by having been written by a white man–some of the novel is first person white, some first person black. They really should have asked for a photo before inviting him to the big meeting. Let Mr. Bellis expand on that. In the meantime, while writing a multi-genre African epic that is not yet quite done, Bellis came across, apparently through his father, a literary man himself, a book by a dead Cuban, whose wife, a doctor, had disappeared in Africa a decade or more before he himself died, so that he sat in a small Cuban seaside town, living with his daughter, and wrote one epic book that, amazingly, could not attract the attention of a Spanish language press–the truth is she actually gave it one faint-heated try. The daughter of a melancholy semi-recluse is simply not trained in such matters. At any rate, the book came to Bellis, or his father, I have forgotten, and a translator was found, and I would not say the book killed him but he has in the meantime died, as has Peter’s father, and so, there remains, a doggedly determined, not to say fanatical, Peter Damain Bellis, publisher of River Boat Books, conceived by his father, revamping the press, steaming his press back from Kurtzville, at first for no other reason than to bring Javier Pedro Zabala’s masterpiece to the reading public. It must have been through LibraryThing that we, me and Larry, first met Peter Bellis, but the process began with all of us saying sure, Mr. Bellis, that does sound like a great book, and buying advance copies of The Mad Patagonian and reading it (let me just…here: Middlemarch, 889 pages…next to it Musil…depends on how much you want to read but more than The Mad Patagonian‘s 1208), Larry and I becoming the first two of now at least six LibraryThing reviewers of The Mad Patagonian.

So here’s where it begins to make sense that I hype the collection of reviews A Fabulous Opera, for though the ruffians of Tropic of Ideas have broken out, their escape facilitated in a manner prefigured in The Mad Patagonian, the books will be spreading across the literary landscape, and they will include one of mine that I won’t say much about here because Peter is at least his own madman to the same degree as Larry. I have  a novel coming out as the inaugural book of the the Midwestern press Maintenance Ends, a novel called Voices after Evelyn, a boisterous tale of life in a river city in Wisconsin in the 1950s when the babysitters began to disappear. But a more recently finished novel, The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas, was begging for an outlet, and somehow the whirlpool in which I found myself and Larry and Peter threw this deal out there: River Boat Books would publsih Eddie Vegas…and come to think of it, to hell with NYRB, and no offense at all to Mr. Caistor, Peter’s enthusiasm for Zabala and now his appreciation of Larry’s efforts and my own…why not all three! And while we were all at it, why not do the unthinkable, see if Naomi Lindstrom is still around and get her involved and publish The Seven Madmen and The Flamethrowers together, in one volume, as Arlt would have had he not been in a hurry to get money for The Seven Madmen? Well, I’m not sure what happened, but close enough, Ms. Lindstrom was happy to have her book re-issued, Peter managed to nab it fair and square, and, well, one good thing I can think of with them published separately is that plenty of people have The Seven Madmen already–but NO ONE ON THIS EARTH has Los lanzallamos in English, yet, not until early June…unless advance copies emerge…And me, where in this historic venture will I fit? Yes, The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas is coming, and we can be assured at least that it will have a great cover, but meanwhile, I sent a potential cover for the book to Peter Bellis, and he immediately wrote back, ‘That would work for Skulls, Skulls was great, I think I’ll publish that first if you don’t mind.’ If I don’t mind? This is a publisher? Sure, but a writer first. I hadn’t even recalled that he had Skulls, a copy of it. So the good readers, the great reviewers of LibraryThing‘s Tropic of Ideas, have all given the maximum five stars to both The Mad Patagonian and Skulls of Istria, and though that may seem a small thing, these can be some hard folk–a very nice review of my Arjun and the Good Snake by one of the most esteemed of the Tropic reviewers, one TC Murr, rewarded me a mediocre three stars. Anyway, here and now it’s our measurement. The Maltese translator and literary philosopher who wrote the introduction to Skulls didn’t give me any stars, she just wrote nice things. In LibraryThing stars are the crpytocurrency–five means a lot, but we don’t know what.

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Now this–the publicaton of these four books–is all happening soon, late April to early June. And I don’t know what it compares to, maybe one of the great seasons of New Directions paperbacks, and this isn’t the end–the list for September looks like a pretty spectacular array of books from writers around the world, including the Slavic heir to Douglas Adams and an unknown–really this time, not just some lippy proto-Naipaul–Indian novelist (enjoy the photos provided in the other books, there won’t be one in that volume).

For more material, I will provide some links and one copy/pasted introduction:

Reviews of The Mad Patagonian: https://www.librarything.com/work/19405243/reviews

Reviews of Skulls of Istria: https://www.librarything.com/work/17985579

River Boats Books (including, if you scroll down, most of the introduction to The Flamethrowers that may further elucidate that extraordinary literary situation:  http://www.riverboatbooks.com/our-books

 

Intro to Skulls:

Skulls of Istria,

River Boat Books (2018)

Rick Harsch

 

It begins as a seemingly aimless chat between two men in a bar taking shelter from the burja (bora) wind. One disgraced American historian with an overwhelming need to talk driven by bottle after bottle of Viljamovka, and the other, presumably a Slovene, simply taking in the stream of booze and words and keeping his uncomprehending silence through the swells and sweeps of both the recent horrors of the Balkan atrocities as well as the ancient terrors whose evidence continues to be encountered in the skulls and debris that will not disappear. This movement, this apparent unburdening of guilt, love, passion, more guilt and self-loathing, unfolds through the telling of one betrayed friendship and two connected love-affairs, through escape and death, to the final pages which reveal the underlying structure of a work that was deceptively free-moving and associative at its surface level.

It is in his associative use of language, echoes of assonance that seem too good to ignore, puns as self-indulgent as a drunken confessor in their reach for connections whether semantic or phonetic, that the spirit of Joyce appears in Harsch’s style. The playfulness in the language draws the reader into following signifiers and associations into labyrinthine pleasures, through ancient myth, historical warfare, sexual passion – and the pure pleasure of the chase.

Of course, Harsch’s geographical positioning in Istria, the Adriatic peninsula shared by the three countries of Slovenia, Croatia and Italy, and within spitting distance of Trieste and Venice, places him within the same linguistic hunting ground as James Joyce which makes the connection between the writers even more evident. Umberto Eco in his fascination with Joyce described him as the true modernist, as the remover of the rational mental structures derived from the medieval summae, and also of the eradication of the ‘well-made plot’ which maintains that each action in a novel is either meaningful with respect to the final denouement, or else is “stupid”. But, as Eco said, “with Joyce we have the full acceptance of all the stupid acts of daily life as narrative material” (39) – and with Harsch also.

We are swept along with these ‘stupid’ acts of daily life driven by sexual attraction, emotional attachment, guilt and pain – as well as the even more stupid and senseless acts of power and domination, destruction and shame that shaped the lives and deaths of too many in the Balkans – and as the short novel seems to be carried forward with an almost burja-driven force, seemingly with no deeper plan, aim or structure than the chase of passion and language – the novel in a few short pages in the final chapter, draws all strings together, all points of view into one overwhelming understanding that there was a point, a direction, a structure and the underlying decision of all story-tellers in love with language and the patterns of memory –  to ‘tell a tale’. And to go back to Eco’s description of Finnegan’s Wake that “to create the impression of a complete lack of structure, a work of art must possess a strong underlying structure” and “a cunningly organized network of mutual relationships.” (67)

Harsch’s Joycean inability to ignore the underpull of words, together with the location of his tale, clearly invite parallels. However, there is also a strong undercurrent in the rhythm of the prose and the subdued music of the language that recall another of his modernist compatriots fled to Europe, T.S. Eliot and his persistent vision of a dry wasteland on the borders of a river. Those souls of the dead, undone, and moving to the unseeing and uncaring bells of St Mary Woolnoth calling to all in a Dantesque nightmare of soulessness. The rivers of blood, the heads on pikes, the senseless slaughter in the wake of nationalist politics, and the highest disregard for human life at the core of the very essence of this Balkan journey unfolding through three bottles of potent pear brandy create another wasteland of human barbarity. The historian-narrator takes the tale deep into the underworld of depravity to re-emerge from the depths of Hades, Orpheus-like, telling his tale and unable to keep entirely within the rules of the game.

Clearly this journey, this short novel with its dense surface associations of sounds, rhythms and signifiers could either be a translator’s nightmare – or else a fascinating game of re-creation and re-writing pushing the rules of literary translation to the edge.

 

 

 

Clare Vassallo, Translator and

Professor of Semiotics and Translation Studies, University of Malta.

February 2018.

 

Quotations from:

The Middle Ages of James Joyce: The Aesthetics of Chaosmos, trans. Ellen Esrock, London: Hutchinson Radius, 1989.

 

from The Manifold Destiny of Eddie Vegas

Chapter Thirty-Five  DEPRESSION

Tom Gravel died in childbirth at the age of 61.

Wouldn’t it be nice to relay the joke Marie Fire in Flight repeated to the crowd at her baby Tom’s funeral, Tom’s favorite joke, about the little Injun boy who asks his ma how they get their names, and she says, well, after we give birth we have to stay and recuperate in the teepee for a while, sometimes a few days, and so when we finally get to go outside first thing we see we name our child after, what makes you ask this question, Two-Dogs-Fucking?, and some would laugh, some weep, Marie Fire in Flight, her voice a whisper beseeching the mountains for breeze, they would all understand, they would all understand what this meant to mother and son, who lived as much apart from folk as they decently could while still hoping to sell them horses long after they had sold the joint in town, lived so far apart it was a rare event for Tom to meet a single woman, rarer still for the thought of her being single and he, too, and so they could, that rare was the sex act once he had reached his thirties and old were his horse breaking bones when the shy, slender, barren some would say, Ethel Rothgerte fell for him before the menopause that overtook her features at age 19 but not her body until after the birth her husband had tragically attended of her son, fell so hard she asked him to marry her, upon which shocking moment of event Tom asked, what’s your name missus, I ought to know that if I’m going to marry you, for Marie Fire in Flight was not the least concerned with extending a family line or coddling a grandson, enough of life having signaled smokey to her from what all she knew and all what beyond related, an apocalypse, a world dying fast and if another world were rising it was no concern of hers, for hers was but her life and hern such as Tom even if she did have what from the outside seemed to some a family way sort of feeling for Rance, who bought the joint, further distancing her from the worlds that were tectonically migrating different directions, or rather distancing her from the puppet show of commerce and quotidian pretense of purpose, she would rather not observe as long as she could sit on her porch like old Hector and would have like to have with her man Tom long into evenings unafeared of high mountains, mountains above the clouds, snow atop the mountains, vast vistas from cold foothill ranch country all the way to fiery morning desert, horses naysaying, the few daily scratches signifying Tom at work, limbent cries of tree in bluster of long gust, rushing of stream or brushings of windwrenched forest in distances cold as dark or frozen as lambence of magical northery skies, the hottest of day cold with lack of odor or odor of cold imagined distance natural meanings of mystifying presences unquick with life, if in movement movement unseen, time to Marie Fire in Flight untied of fear, for if ever she awoke inside a teepee, young and vibrant and exultant expecting an exalting day she had emerged to see one dog fucking, not two, one dog fucking another dog, fucking and fucking and fucking, its great dog cock locked in concupiscence of death, fucking as natural as a bear fucking a beaver fucking the coyote fucking the jackrabbit, fucking the dog to its death? But you can’t just make things up and say they happened if they didn’t. Which don’t mean you can’t joke, especially as we do about the alienating, clashing, whiskey swilling othern with their names like

Black Cloud,

Still Deer

Sitting Bull

Buffalo Limp

Shacopay

Louise

Pinus Strobus

Young Beaver

Flapping Ear Of A Coyote

Bird

Condor of the Sun

He Interrupts

Mink

Witch

Lean Bear

Snake Maiden

Dawn

Not Yet Dawn

Spider Woman At Middle Age

Mud Mound

Porcupine

Bear

Crazy Horse

Horse

Lone Horn

Young Man Afraid Of His Horses

Owl

I love You

There Goes The Coyote

Low Dog

Black Knife

Running Dog

Eskimo John Walkara

Blackhawk

Black Hawk

Blue Jay

Brown Bear

Blue Eye

Green Eagle

Yellow Snake

White Buffalo

White Hawk

Blue Balls

Bull Balls

Bear Balls

Blue Horse

White Bull

Black Moon

Maroon Molly

Old Chief Smoke

Flumulf

Fast Salmon Swimming Up A Rippling Stream

Osceola

Tumult

Alpacapla

Green Turd

Feather Weeping

Tree

Savage Son Of A Bitch

Heart

Moose Horn

Killed Many

Roman Nose

Wovoka

Little Raven

Great Sparrow

Fart Dragger

Gray Owl

Luckless Neophyte

Antonio Garra

Pouncing Wolf

Black Kettle

Screaming Scorpion

Cornstock

Snarling Wolf

Sly Snake

Heavy Feather

Light Feather

Rainbow Warrior

Otter Eyes

Many Treaties

Little Wound

Mirthless

Ambush Snake

Night Snake

Snake In Tree

Bury My Heart

Dagger In My Heart

Little Crow

Teal Eye

Amber Snake

Gator Snout

Crazy Horse

Wild Horse

Horse With High Ass

Little Turtle Deer In The Woods

Flying Deer

Eagle

Spread Eagle

Eye Of Hawk

Soaring Eagle

Soaring Hawk

Song Of Owl

Talon Of Owl

Dog Eyes

Cat Eyes

Night Jaguar

Puma

Bear Belly

Conquering Bear

Salmon Leaping

Condor Of The Moon

Star Blanket

Charging Thunder

Lightning Bolt

Burning Teepee

Jump Like Frog

Climb Like Squirrel

Tommy Graywolf

One Woman For Every Moon

Man Lover

Eel Fingers

Beaver Tooth

Crazy Son Crazy Sun

Neck In a Noose

Nose In Soup

Forgegrof

Tenet

Rowor

Rumbling Innards

Cochise

Chases Butterfly

He Who Talks Too Much

Peace

Black Fox

Grey Fox

Black Wolf

Gray Wolf

Mountain Lion

Gray Puma

Magpie

She Brings Happiness

Black Mountain Lion

Sparrow Chaser

Swift Arrow

Wind

Soft Wind

Moon Shining

Moon

Half

Moon Moon On Water

Moon On Leaping Water

Leaping Water

Strong Hunter

Strong Like Bear

Strong Like Woman

Strong Like Man

Present For Chief

Someone

No One

Black Foot

Child

Oglala Girl

Digger

Sky Runner

White Man

Invisible Hands

Forest Water

Peace

War

Hair Cut

Crow

Mother Spirit Hawk

Mother Spirit

Laughing Maiden

Coughing Fish

Green Raven

Raven

Brown Dog

Poke-Her-Highness

Billy Two Moons

Jim Thorpe Professional

Nathaniel Canak Henderson

Abelewasi

Eareye

Sawelba

Bear Feet

Twicsttwn

Beaver Fart

Tender Wolverine

Gray Squirrel

Runner

Dinty Havesuminjuninum

Hippocrates

Darwin

Tell No Lies

Burn Forest

Strong As Tree

Dancing Bear

Dancing Otter

Dancing Wolf

Dancing Dirt Devil

Dancing Arrowhead

Dancing Madam

Dancing Wolfpup

Dancing Magpie

Dancing Trout

Dancing Vision

Dancing Dog

Dancing Cat

Dancing Puma

Dancing Tracker

Dancing Left Behind

Dancing Jack McPhee

Dancing Moon

Pas de Deus

Folie A Un Grapple

Senator Wind

Dancer

Zipping Zendel

Red Cloud

White Cloud

Keokuk

Red Grizzly Bear

Black Ass

Grizzly Paw

Bear Cub

Wife Of Grizzly

Grizzly Wife

White Bear

Many Names

Atwin

Whiskey Joe

Irish Whiskey

Joe Kentucky

Whisky Joe Canadienne

Whiskey Jacques

Firewater Joe

Hoppone

Hop Like Rabbit

Hasay-Bay-Nay-Ntayl

Apache Kid

Jack Ass

Whiskey Jack

Wequash

Sassafrass

Sassacuss

Sass Mouth

Jefferson

Measly Pikkins

Skunk Ass

No Longer Deer, even Young Tom Gravel, why not, and the infinite rest in their sacred volcanic mausoleum dreaming in the fumaroles of massacre, risen smoke signals the Battle of Bad Axe, Marie Fire in Flight looking down at the river splitting the coulees, the cuts of the driftless zone, and on that river a giant ship gassing the sky like a lofty predilection, and on that ship white folk with guns, and along the eastern bank white soldiers with guns pursuing a peaceable assembly of mostly Sauk and Fox, whole chunks of Winnebago having wandered back to villages in ingenuous warpminds of peace they had declared to lively ignorant ears, a moist, heated summer day begins early in the morning as the white soldiers rise early to fall upon the injuns, whose scout leads them astray, but the riverside is a trap, the bluffs steep, the tribes cohere too well, so well that as the men are bayoneted, the women and children flee into the Mississippi to drown, hundreds of injuns are killed, and look now down and see women and children Sauk and Fox too clever to flee spilling their blood with the men, that countless years of negotiations might cease, the many aggravations the injun brought to the tables of budding statehoodery might cease, and Marie looks there, up a bluff, three soldiers piling nine dead injuns when a shriek rends the ploppery, a timber rattler has appeared, and see there: a brave soldier bludgeons it with his gun butt and it goes the way of all combatants; risen smoke signals a stone wall Marie Fire in Flight flies fearlessly above to witness a camp of Chehaws or Muscogees, the neon signs are cursive, confusing, the taverns are closed, the neon blinking intermittently, but there: there is someone, an adolescent Chehaw, hopping with adamantine purpose that unnerves the heartiest of anthros, entering a village of Chehaws or Muscogees before he stops, animated now only from the bent waste up, his slopy shoulders flapping out arms, fear shuddering of flaying arms in restrained flight, birds laugh, cruel crows cackle, and old men laugh for they are not at war, they have just sent two canoes to Cuba on a tribal trade mission, a skinned eastern diamond back a good ten feet before choppage cooks in the fire they tend like the crops they tend to tend to, they have bullets for eyes holes and frantic women, entirely out of control as if blood were not of the quotidian, as the man who neither dismounts nor draws a firearm wonders at this display of foreign custom, this grating cacophony, this mock shock, the wide eyeholes, that one hopping as if a cricket with its ass on fire; risen smoke signals reveal to flying Marie Fire in Flight a dry sky burned blue, desert terrain below of mountains, ravines, aretes, arroyos, rattlesnakes in crannies of sharp stone or husks of saguaros, men scattered, striving, alert, familiarly execrating the horrific terrain in this year when all the cacti and the mesquite died of winter heat, yet the men do not melt despite temperatures above 110 in Spring, temperatures that put humans on edge, discombobulate their minds, Marie flies to witness this phenomenon, which is much worse where people are gathered close as they were near a dry creek bed, Apache refugees on one side, on the other the white Americans and those who did their bidding, in strokes of heat, the Apaches invited the white Americans and those who did their bidding to cross the crackling creek bed and end their sorrow, cool them into the celestial drifts, or at least in some cloud somewhere for none were here about, even the children begged—29 were not so lucky for they were forced to live, sold into slavery—for mercy, for death, vivid death, violent and sure, and further for the scalping which should always follow directly upon death that the skull might cool should there be any delay in postmort take off, which can certainly be the case when women and children stricken by heat and already prone to feckless thought having been raised dependent upon savage men number nearly one hundred and fifty, lamented one sergeant that day: it is so much easier to organize the kill than the aftermath; risen smoke signals strolls up and down the Siskiyou, Tom Gravel shaggy on shaggy plug, Tom Gravel held up, Tom Gravel and Rance Hardupp partnered passing through Old Shasta, Tom Gravel pissing into the, Tom Gravel passing into mist, for such is the rigamarole of the fumarole, wherein Pakistan elders convene, drone blown, a casserole of flesh and bone ashed–a mist mistake–for no, now Wintu elders are convened, for there’s troubles fuming from furnicularos, white men in the morning are black men at night, seeking something sacred within ancestral earth, a substance one Wintu, Walleye, claimed to have held in its pure form, which he found too soft as to doubt it would retain its form piercing a fawn hide, no magical qualities would confine themselves in such inutile fragments, so council it be, these white to black men were lunatics, certainly, but lunatics en masse, so it would take more than the rope around the waist like with that half-Flathead juvenile, Woeboy, or Woe Be-Guile, let him wander the woods and take turns winding towards him at dusk, yes, these white to blacks were a ferverous febrile fulmination, a fixed idee demon, a demon of fire, fire everywhere in the council house, Wintu elders fleeing to the crepuscular guns of miners, who had already slaughtered even the Rattlerman and as well his pulsing blue Pacific rattlesnake necklace, which anyway meant doom for a doomed tribe; risen smoke signals weird alewifes aplenty if mystic in the stakepole fortress village of Pequot remainers, lazy womenfolk and lackluster lusterless chuffy adolescents refusing to watch over angstbawling young’uns, that one there screeching tears even as clung teethy to a wide bloated breast, while finer men went off is seek of salvation as if they believed it were thereabouts within the protoconurbatory expanse of grasses and woods and short stubbed, inconstant rivers, for life were getting measly and promising meagerlier both here and wherever the proffered there might be if the land stretched beyond the Mos, hawk and hegan, well, if it even existed as other birdly ethereals, and thorny saplings backslap to scratch thighs—did the white man drive all the deer and rabbit into the Mo lands? Can we convince Sassacus that as the copperhead is not so deadly and is plentiful and we haven’t seen hooved creatures for three days that one hundred copperhead will do sometimes?—while the white coalition creeps to the stakepoles not even bothering to keep their voices down, for their spies have let it be known the men-folk are off hunting, you know, looking for white female flesh, the idiot injuns and their stickpole circumscribance with its mere two door places, and the fires started at opposite corners, meeting in the middle, all who didn’t burn shot, all who were not shot, swordsliced, all dead, five hundred?, six hundred?—they knew; risen smoke signals infundibular, so lies: upturned teepees, where the gas will go once the tin is finetinned, reflective Marie Fire in Flight casts her eyes about first taking in the birds in their millions, casts her eyes about for the moles in their millions, for irresolution prevented their apocalyptic armageddon, their redundancies, yet even maggots in their teethy billions stalk not the moles, even the most carnophagous among them are as the sarcophagous-most among them, having as they do a thing for the dead likely indescribable, impervious to research, beyond reason, as beyond reason reasons Marie Fire in Flight as what she has seen in her century more or less of human, too much of it white human, shades of failure to reason that perhaps Baby Kelly warnt no baby no more, and Jimmy Footlong of the farm down mile away long Red River was up to some funnin that got them thinkin bout Saint Louis or Natchez, the problem being to gain time, the easiest way being to bloody up a doll, break and bloody an arrow, a note I’m a gone to see Baby Kelly home for she hath gathered much a whatever needs gatherin, a Comanche arrow being most effective as they’s still feared near abouts though they be gone and the longer the gone the finer tuned the tale like the cottonmouth venom tipped arrowheads, though them Cheyenne the federals say give up their weapons cept for hunting arrows and them bow things, but there being still near three hundred should they get their asses lit afire could wipe out a family or two before they could hear about it at the fort, and look now the Baby Kelly Massacre on the banks of the river Redder than before, three hundred fourteen with precision in this case, for reasons that escape the historian, for the reason that none escaped, not one, Marie Fire in Flight knows not the relation between her will and her visions, only that the wheelbarrows are dreamlike gigantic overflowing European apocalypse painting type and the shadowy drooling hirsute Bocklin giant employed to infant toss the corpses into the volcano emanates a certain sense of placid damnation, a dumb feint towards delight, an endurance almost human, a mole badly in need of sunlight buried miles deep and magma hot on its ass digging toward the light that will be off in its brain before it comes anywhere near the surface; risen smoke signals, fumaroles and roles within fumaroles, holes and hole, dying moles, the scourge of assholes…

Tom Gravel, dead of heart attack at child birth, age 61.