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09 November 2015 @ 03:45 pm
’til cherries grow on an apple tree  
let me start by saying: if you live in or near baltimore, come and see this. if you live in the baltimore vicinity, come and see this. if you’re one of my readers who lives in new york, chicago, denver vegas san franciso or kahului, come and see this. november is booked, but they just added twelve shows in december. come and see this. you will not regret expending even slightly unreasonable resources toward that end.


friday night we drove downtown to the enoch pratt house where a group of us clustered, ghost tour style, just down the marble stairs waiting to be checked in and told what to do. the host handed each of us a small card detailing the cast of characters. V., a summoned guest of the house. unreliable. Auguste, a detective created by a famous poet. the host then took us in five, six, nine at a time and sat us down inside the narrow foyer, telling us how to behave over the course of the next couple hours:

performers are free range and the performance intuitive,
don’t speak unless it is at a performer’s behest,
don’t go upstairs unless it is at a performer’s behest,
don’t open a closed door unless it is at a performer’s behest,
please disable all electronic devices now because the performers are not supposed to know what these things are and would therefore not behest you to do anything with them,
inspect anything you want to inspect but be sure to put it back where you found it because a performer might be using it,
for optimal results open yourself to mesmeric insight,
drinks, seats, and toilets are available in the indicated lounge.

while he did, the lot of us were intermittently distracted by a woman silently pressing her face and suicidal poet hands against interior side of the foyer door. aside from the obvious concerns, it did not seem like previously established historical society behavior.

the woman cleared the frosted glass, maybe dissipated into a mist. our host opened the doors to let us enter the main hall of the mansion, then left us to collect the next group. white wine came to us on a silver tray. we wandered the space, reading poe’s private letters, ringing bells, waiting for the lights to fade out and the show, already in progress, to begin.

maybe the purpose of such a show is to awaken the audience to the realities of their own daily performance. maybe the purpose of such a show is to remind us that those things for which we wait are already happening, all around us, all of the time. maybe the purpose of such a show is to summon us into the action of our own lives, whether or not all the things we believe and act in accordance with can manage logical connections, hold up under scrutiny, give way at a moment’s notice.

an element of your story, whatever that story might be, however weird and lopsided, however sad and offensive, however horrible and inconvenient, will keep coming back at you. no matter your slights or exorcisms, no matter your refusals or facades. if it’s who you are, it’s who you need to be, whoever you are trying to be, instead. that story will come at you again and again in different forms, in the same form, in something that wasn’t like that at all that turns out to be one and the same. maybe the purpose of such a show is to trick you into performing your own story at last. for yourself, if no one else.

friday night an element of my story came at me dressed as an edward gorey illustration, handing me a letter written to the woman poe left wondering, without further comment, in a rose garden, and then proposed to, and then abandoned to alcohol and then death. she asked me to read her letter. she asked me to read it like edgar. it was a long letter. i had no idea how to read like edgar. but read it i did, halfway down the first page at least. it was a long letter. sarah touched my hand, then leaned pensively into her table. i can’t exactly remember how the scene resolved itself, just that i felt that swarming brimming strange energy i sometimes feel in ritual and all at once i was walking out of that room and back into the main hall and then something else happened. i think. maybe i’m still there, in actuality, reading like edgar at a table near the back of the enoch pratt house.

scavenger hunt for future and remote audience members:

  • a glass jar of teeth
  • a story inked onto a single long strip of paper and stuffed into a jar
  • a spool of hemp rope
  • a snifter of hypnotic flora
  • a blood spattered handkerchief

  • maybe two weeks after my surgery i woke up in a coughing fit, pulled back my hand and found a relatively alarming amount of blood. fuck, i thought, that’s it. how many people have predicted i’d be found dead of consumption, possibly in a cemetery, probably dressed in rags, by thirty at the very latest? it might have been my “most likely to”. i negotiated my inner melodrama and called all the doctors. didn’t impress a one of them enough to bring me in: turned out to simply be more grimy intubation legacy, that which could still make me sound like a pack-a-day smoker by the end of a long anecdote six months out. if it happens again, let us know. it didn’t.

    all the same, i’ve often felt like i have some footing, if thankfully not in the horrible actualities of tuberculosis, in its operatic allegory: the great narrative resist. that crisis which racks up a group of characters and strikes them off into every direction, into walls, down holes, against each other with a rumble and pop. friction creates fiction. and the other way around, at least if you're doing it right.

    poe and the women of his life had an intimacy with that resist that makes me lose any such arrogant claims to "footing." humbled, i stagger down the marble stairway. i stumble past the cemetery gates. candled amber glass bottles roll and clank in my wake. go home, silly girl.

    but not before the seance.

    i hardly see it as a spoiler. put a half-dozen troubled victorians in a room, any percentage of them navigating intermediary states, and we’re talking chekov’s seance: it’s only a matter of time. i felt a little jealous when sarah guided ben to the last open seat at the table, of ben but also of sarah, then i thought about it and maybe that’s for the best. theatrical seance or no, when i knock, things tend to answer. maybe that's a place i'd like to stay on the fuzzy borderlands of, at present. we clustered around the table, performers and audience together. the lights flickered and went dark. the loudspeakers roared and whistled. the candles may as well have been real.

    we hollered and closed in, we pounded the table and stomped. i seem to remember physically impossible motions and postures. people forgot themselves, the delineation between performer and audience member, the boundary between fiction and uncanny resonance. reality broke down. the seance worked. for each of us. in a very specific way, the seance worked. for one second, each of us performed our own story, even if it was as a tribute to our absent guest. maybe especially because of that.

    and that’s the thing of it. the thing of it is that the occult is a craft of hope made from sadness. it’s a container to hold what we cannot know. what happens when those we cannot live without are suddenly gone forever? what becomes of the creation when his creator ceases to be? what happens to the creator when his inspiration ceases to be? and that’s the thing about every element of this performance, maybe every element of performance as a craft: it all boils down to the occult. the hidden. the unknowable. the unnameable. why we act. why we sing. why we investigate. why we create. why we remember. why we forget. why we drink. why we write: because of what we do not, cannot, will never know.

    cast a shadow over the abyss. name a matter without substance. open the book and find:



    music: martha tilston - i wish i wish
    (Anonymous) on November 10th, 2015 11:50 pm (UTC)
    I love the dreamy narrative in and out of reality. I just wish I had the video rights to the nights performance. Don't take this wrong but I couldn't help but think of Eyes Wide Shut by Kubrick and I think he would have loved your telling of this night
    selva oscura: [tarkovskiy] the heartanonymousblack on November 11th, 2015 08:48 pm (UTC)
    that's the walk i hope to wobble: in and out of reality. the mental space of kubrick's ritual orgy mansion is definitely amenable terrain, though what i'd been digging into before p. died and i stopped being able to watch mulholland drive (probably just for a little longer? that film can get to me on a lot of levels) lynch's club silencio. an experience that makes one realize how many of their resources are caught up not in experiencing reality, but constructing their own version of it, and how little it really takes for that to all fall apart. merry christmas, everybody!

    i wonder how long it would take, in a recording of the performance, for EVP to drone out what was actually being said? not that what was actually being said was any less uncanny. totally sensory deprivation by way of sensory overload.

    also, thank you.