Kendal Q. Binmore: Quetzalcoatl: journeyman in story, entries 1-6

Quetzalcoatl: journeyman in story

Kendal Quetzalcoatl Binmore


Department of Literature and Literary Criticism, Yale University, emeritus


William Blake Chair in Fine Arts, California Institute of Technology, Traditional Campus, emeritus



1. My naming.


2. My Mentors


3. On Harvard Square


4. Night soliloquy of a critic


5. Academic Hospitality


6. On my Ground


 1. My naming.


           I toddled among ruins, my mother on all fours, supplicant on knee pads, brushing dust off dust, hoping to discern residue of resolved life, life before the pluralism of intelligentsia which leaves us agnostic on the question of existence. I toddled, placing tiny hands in crevices of centuries, words of incomprehensible sacrifice, of brutality which held the world aright. Little little boy, walking like a comedian, cooing over syntax scattered beyond resolution, syntax once placing feet firmly in steps, raising mountains of stone, feeding an opulent priesthood of death–death, and life, for our channeling of death lets others live. Cities gone, somehow to be recovered in the next gentle brushing of dust, cities raised high by skeletons, as are ours, but, unlike ours, the skeletons were meant to remain.


           I think this brutal honesty attracted my mother to the ineffectual task of remembrance of peoples no one would now own. Ruins a place for people of the cracks of modern life, people who survive, perhaps even thrive in their small way, but know they are unnoticed by the grandeur passing overhead. In the ruins, in the dust which somehow never leaves its origin, somehow hovers near its birth, hoping for remembrance, in this dissolution the living step knows equality with all else. The grandeur of today will someday be revealed only as dust; in that future distance there is no supreme, only the common trajectory of entropy. So some step among these ruins, thinking as much of their own defeats as those of this traveled past, dissecting the power of the present as much as that of the past. Perhaps all arrive at this place where past and present are the same, if senility does not overtake first with oblivion; but those that go to real ruins, ruins enduring beyond any memory of what they were, these arrive at the confluence of past and present early, with much time to think. And some of these, most strangely, are paid to enter the fate of entropy at the height of biology’s denial of oblivion. Such a one was my mother.


           I toddled in Mesoamerica while my mother searched for residue of godhead. She went into valleys ancient, almost indiscernible, and there inquired into the nature of height. There what is essential to all glorious nows yet forbidden of speech can be reconstructed through a dead cultural syntax, a syntax perhaps foreign to the past it is purported to have made, more an indirect attack on the unseeing present than dry description of steps long gone. Godhead is civilization, my mother thought, and duped a civilization denying godhead to pay her for this punditry. She searched for the pulse which makes of a whole skeleton a single bone of some grander thing. She would gaze upon the skulls near a Mesoamerican ball court as though bits of a great beast awaiting proper ordering for revelation which is resurrection. That beast, she seemed convinced, would rise again if properly reconstructed. Better–we would then find said beast had never left us.


           My mother was passionate about monsters, the monsters that make the history we record, that lift some to the heights, heights defined as far removed from the crushing feet which travel the human land. Height nothing but avoiding the feet underneath. She would grasp that monster in ecstacy, yet spent her life avoiding the creature in its present form.


           I toddled at eight. I toddled into ten, all the while hearing my mother’s sometimes night cries, not of tears, but rapture. Later, perhaps not enough later, I imagined the mechanics of the heard: legs open wide, raised, hips thrusting out, rolling back, upward feet crossed to hold the ineffable, crescendo of cries, pinnacle, sole reason for evolution manifest, all ancestors there, rocking her body, grateful puppet, she riding a foreign godhead, crescendo more than climax, crescendo a path away, climb to find a god, climax unfortunate return. Hers was a good dig.


           Later I wondered if I was made in such communion. But God need not come for creation to be. Evolution is too practical to await applause. Godhead attends, when it does, for its own reasons. Those reasons kept my mother coming, in many ways. She sought perpendicular path, movement which defines direction in the making. She would grasp gods to know where, how they go.


           She suffered no qualms in her cries, steps more important than place, cry an announcement of departure, crescendo the engine of civilization. Not a proper British attitude, yet British she was. But, as said, hers was a good dig.


           I too was a step–and was so named. Quetzalcoatl, plumed serpent, bridge of land to sky, sea to sky, touching at far horizon. Always departing a mountain of corpses, those who would rise in a single place, climbing up and over one another; always departing, giving up place, moving toward the far point of land and sky, intersection known only to the sun, that place where return is the only option. Quetzalcoatl, who swims/flies where sea and sky are one, who has no home, for there no house can be.


           I was made step unending, crescendo unending, hold on God who awaits climax to be released, climax my name ever defers. If I were to avoid the resolution of triumph I would need camouflage to make my escape, and that she gave, good British camouflage, a good British name: Kendal Binmore, Kendal/Binmore to sandwich a Quetzalcoatl: Kendal Quetzalcoatl Binmore. And so I have spent a life moving toward far point, no closer than when I began, only closer than those who never go. Flight sandwiched between place, that place which is no place, really not hard to find at all, not being anywhere at all. In words I have moved toward the sun as it sets and rises, birth and death the same far point. In words I have circumlocated the Great House no one owns but all claim uniquely. In words I have traveled the escape of gods, their recurrent gones, an inverse resurrection, escape proffered to us. It’s been a good dig.


2. My Mentors


           I walked a desolation full of power, later to find it laying in wait in the strange, vast isolation of cities as well. Everywhere in the desert image confronted in silent being, there only if allowed–but, once allowed, it rushed everywhere, circled with its presence, players in a world enduring beyond any civilization, we surviving on tokens of their being, conjuring in our monuments their presence, riding glacial forces destined to snuff us out before we are born. The inscriptions of ruins try to channel this vastness, to direct this geology ever so slightly, to leach power from power to make a splendor visible only to men. Monument a slight embellishment of image, just a few lines crudely drawn; look to its environs to discern why its there. Ancient image grown through desolation, erosion of rain and wind, creative in its caprice, its blindness, then to die through the process which gave being. We in our monuments a marker, bringer of observed time, placing these ancient things which are not onto our abacus’ of life to death.


           These images known only to civilization know neither life nor death, only position. They are not–until observed. Yet they channel our fear and hope, our wonder; we give them power over us so we may soar beyond what we have made. What we have made, yet with no singular hand, our creations thrust upon us anonymously, inheritance through no father.


           Here parents are fiction, as clueless as child, as certain that something somewhere knows what is. Image comes to mentor us, not the parent that cannot be, that God comes later to clear the land, to leave us less secure so more inclined to grasp; image comes to mentor us, inserted into a landscape which just is, no unique possession, the very same landscape into which all are born. If we look long, we find that landscape into which image comes is itself surfeit of image. Image comes because other image is there, already there cause for more, a crowding growth where what was becomes a part of something to be, dissolving so it can return through contrast. These mentors, ancestors of no clear pedigree, tell us that crowd is all there is, crowd the creator, crowd the destroyer, crowd the drawing of new contour to remake and spontaneously create.


           This the desolation of desert taught me–to escape the crowd you must find crowd somewhere else. We are nothing but exit entering into crowd, one and the same, our distinctiveness no more that this. To be distinctive requires a crowd. To run away is to vanish from oneself. In the isolation of desert other things come, no different than in the anonymity of city, of market, of profession. Solitude is revelation that the density of social life is as within as without, we the perch of social forces we decry elsewhere. Desert is a vast conflict unawares; so our saints go there to wonder wander the landscape of all.


           This boy walked the paths of others’ interest, there to spy in distance vast sentinels in rock, bird-men not allowed to fly who vanish at a touching distance. On path I stepped on faces worn to such through steps, grimaced stepping stone owing its existence to callousness such as mine, ground of support in insecure foothold, myself in other land. Birds flying nowhere in geology, somehow jumping stones to follow me, I as alone as them, they finding me no matter where here is, no matter where they are. Vast denial of isolation in this desolation, a breaking out of forces only possible because no committee there to talk them gone. Rough rock chiseled hills raise themselves from ground, massive bird struggling to become, embedded in molasses so encrusted as to deny motion to our human eye. Yet struggle for release there is, its presence calling to us for recognition, we wandering for purpose their means of escape. Everywhere image struggling to be made, awaiting release through hand or word.


           And I, I walking up to olympic sentinel which becomes an assembly of cacophonous voices upon close inspection; I came to see in the man made remnants of civilization gone repressive control over this struggle to be which is freedom incarnate. The monument tethers all us, walking its steps a distancing of the cacophony made minion by the height; walking its steps making theater of vista defined by the architect. Later I came to understand that the grandeur of the ancients comes into relief in their fall, when their control of image falters, when story comes bursting through the crusted hills, when stone comes to walk the land just beyond our sight, but not beyond our words.


           Rise and fall are where we are known, the rest control of these. These were my mentors, accompanying a boy unseen, boy tramping on desolation past, harbinger of importance only he knew, mentors awaiting notice, to break the boundaries once again, to make of chaos hope. In desert, where chaos is never distant, hope lurks everywhere.


           These my mentors, with me young they followed into the refinement of rewards, breaking a wall to let me out. I began walking in hodgepodge, as a boy of all importance, soon following them as they followed me, I breaking their walls as they broke mine. I shattered them so their splinters could fly, never seeing their end, splinter falling to ground pointing to another. Quetzalcoatl, who left pinnacle to greet the fall, who knew the crown was in the building, not the throne. I walked the desert and never left, wondering why my sojourners could not see the desolation surround, wondering why my sojourners did not know they sojourned. I walked. I walked north, walked following the births and falls, walked until I found the living ghosts of past recovery, ghosts imprisoned by a civilization maladroit at the concept of fall, expecting others to volunteer this essential task. Quetzalcoatl knew to draw this task before any appointed time, this my entry into past fall to make a present. I lurched forward, teeter tipping into fall, this my step, tipping ever north. I walked north, ever toward the United States.


3. On Harvard Square


           Resplendent in title I came to Harvard, there to be judged by importance known only to few. So many inaccessible caverns of ritual there, ritual rationally expressed, small cadres of permanence, commentators on existence, talking the world into conformity, insulated in monument if world resists. Talk some more, until either we or world have aligned; in our cavern it will be world which moves, this the benefit of protective rock. Walk Harvard and pass caverns unnoticed, unknown, nod to passers by, perhaps shamans of an elsewhere, perhaps on their way to sacrifice of paid meal, paid by no discernable human hand, yet paid, somehow, somewhere, by some someone.


           I quipped words slung my way, title my shield, placement my armed encampment, my audience looking for weakness, not to topple me, for in my land I cannot be moved; looking for weakness to wedge a new place where they may stand, unique. In the marvelous incantations of academics defeat need not be eradication. My slayer makes a place off-center from me, later encountered as long lived ally in difference.


           I quipped, grateful for a past of wandered ruins, my spice brought to meal, inspiring imitation, so insuring invitations to defend this acquired palette in shared sacrificial meal thereafter. Invitations in abundance–but Harvard was special. Not for its days, which were not as important as residents needed, but for its nights. Nights invaded by other talent, talent convening anonymity where acts are given unpriced by strangers asking only the splendor of momentary recognition–not something from which a sacrificial meal can be made.


           In Harvard night come street performers, and after my incantations in cabal I would extricate myself with fatigued excuse from my peers to stroll to sacrifice alone, to join briefly well fed canaille in appreciation of these nightly immigrants, I recovering anonymity which lets a flush of importance such as mine be. I marveled, participant in audience, performance as much about shared dazzle as transient, well honed skill. For in audience we collectively unconformed to day, denying the maze of paycheck life, leaving coins not of alms but tribute. Surround of monuments named of obscure wealth, we viewed hapless talent likely to die through its innocent imperative to be seen in the freedom of descending evening. We marveled but took the lesson of our paychecks home, hoping some implausibility might pluck one of these few into the domain of frozen entertainment where spontaneity is comfortably commonplace. But we know mostly this will not be, so come to value the flame without face, flame every direction turned, briefly lighting our evenings valued for not being our days. In contentment, more or less, we came to value the perilous turn we would not make.


           So I walked one Harvard evening after quip, wondering how often monuments began as fragile flame, rekindled, long later or not, once first fuel spent. Why must heros wait so long for name? Perhaps civilization is possible only through distanced obscurity, past made and then made again until what was props us up unawares, both past and present unaware, all our commentary completely, absolutely irrelevant save as more prop we do not see. I walked in Harvard evening, among heros past that make my living now. What have these streets to do with the sacrificial meals where importance is rationed? Perhaps naught now–but much some past.


           A close evening, sky made low in cloud, twilight come early, air electric in anticipation of power beyond any institution. Yet we congregate to see the fragile thing, youth desperate of effort, ignorance its fuel, we on the side wondrous at the expense. Two players: one draws crowd, the other desolate. Amplified voice, with the imperative of childhood not quite gone: “Don’t go over there, come see me.” Thrill of failure in that crowd, to see the human fate once and ever again; none turn their heads, but cortices flare electric in ancient ways. Then air shakes, thunder on wing, something somewhere moves, snuffs our words, makes of all title trace of air, physics outdistancing evolution.


           Crowd looks up, each head grateful to be not the only one. Serpent travels sky, Quetzalcoatl flies to meet himself, named by only I, travels to make himself, jumps small differential again and again to make a grand, terrible thing, slinks to light a sky, travels beyond his named territory, there, beyond all known understanding, alights the singularity of creation, we seen in the uncomfortable relief of an instant. Quetzalcoatl is differential, travels from surplus to dearth, reminding our trajectory is determined by vacuum beyond our sense. Quetzalcoatl flares on side of sky, forces somehow distant, save for those whose eyes have been to that land.


           Such is language, to tell us what we cannot understand, my forte and fat livelihood. Tears come, chilled renewal, sky’s deliverance from itself, an apology not needed here, but perhaps in an elsewhere now barren through force, we rememberers of apology ever misplaced. Clothes bespot with vastness, crowd abandons the youths desperate for singularity, crowd abandons itself, all entering shelter, force frozen by a past, there to live in the fiction that we can avoid the unending differential which is storm.


           I too. Huddled in cavern whose making is long gone, I with others grateful for this theater beyond any hand to shape, to touch askew forces which shape us to destruction and more. I await this end of rain, latter arriving late to collegial sacrifice. They understood.


4. Night soliloquy of a critic


           I have traveled much, am disoriented, tired. Placing pen down, I know not where I am, recognize not these surround, landscape of no importance, perhaps never really inhabited, the only world known road of pen’s ink, inked terrain unlived, what’s lived perhaps forever unknown, perhaps living consists in not being known. I rise, inked landscape vanishing. I was never there, no contour to ground my being, no security upon which to walk into the outside which ever confronts freshly, touch to slap to caress to more. I close my notebook; when opened again, words therein will not be mine, mine only the flow of ink to paper, mine no longer as pen moves on.


           How can this matter? How can worlds inadequately sketched, never lived, be such font of satisfaction and contention? Through this wished truth: that civilization is built upon incomplete, uninhabited worlds of ink, life residing only among the unread, unwritten, but ink become river of transport, transport through canyons said impossible to traverse, ink dried made lumber for houses, for prisons, for public spaces we believe mark the one true reality. All made of unreality, cut and trimmed to form the contours of life. We stand upon absurdity, our own and lives past, and oh how we howl when comes freshly flush ink to blot our stand. We will kill to keep that ink at bay. And there are ways to kill beyond prosecution, prosecution just another maze of condensed ink to be negotiated in the performed fact that only our travel matters.


           Make a key: the travel of others is naught but inked half worlds to self, only one self, never shared. Writing works because the lives of others are skeletal works of mind. We live underneath scaffolding of necessary ignorance, and this we call the greatest product of the human mind. Our geniuses live as we, babbling idiots without that scaffold, sometimes insane because of it, the unapproachable our savior and sometimes torturer.


           I rise, dizzy but not giddy, soon to be pushed out the door, room which comforts because unshared, because unavailable to others, pushed out, room gone as though moved as a set piece, gone as I am expunged by ink far denser than mine. I cannot write enough to halt that coming torrent. All words are magic, but mine soon of lesser power. Would that I could stay this flow to shelter my one truth, that confluences of push unending is the only world we have. We all drown in the necessities of others, this our necessity. Drowning so others may drown.


           Come Tezcatlipoca, come magnate of vice, guardian of moral code, confessor for penance, come to this ill named Quetzalcoatl and give him drink so his time may come to die through movement. Come to this man of lesser control, sketched in lesser symbol, who yet snatches humanity from your final grasp; come to make him drunk so he may teeter away from what has been, turning toward that whence to see the fire of self collapse. Come so his tears may leave etchings in mountains for latter day shamans to scry, this his return to divine the wells which will douse the world anew in word.


           Tezcatlipoca, dense of symbol, ornate pinnacle of civilization, push me out. Tears of ink will make my road, will come to let you live through me once again, my destruction your peak, your fall my recurrence. Drunk on ink I return to desk, pen in hand to trace the worlds, worlds only of ink, which will snuff me out, here my etching for future notice, shamans becoming me once and ever again.



5. Academic Hospitality


           They screwed on my desk in the abandoned night of office, there to entrap saltine scent for my encounter on the marrow. Who I know not, can only guess, guess the power of these laughing networks of transient friends which make career, blank faces walking by, perhaps not of this act made world, perhaps with cortex bright in social joke. But all jokes are social, stripping the individual of meaning, making person generic, releasing bundled attributes for assortment in some other vessel. Cackle of joke is the breaking of present vessels. Somehow a key was found, door opened, social sexual delight made, made the right word, somehow someones broke the public boundaries, this somehow ever the font of petty power and more.


           I a guest in their land, came prodigy of book, stuffed words in their mouths ever before they spoke, lived in solitude because ever blind to their land, their hospitality pushed back onto them until they felt suffocation. I closed their doors and called myself ostracized. My anger grew, as did their disgust.


           I incantated words early to fame, came to see the excretions of my mouth as the only world that could be made. Entering vacuum I made objects with my breath, phrases to stand upon, cooed syllables to comfort, adroit tongue transforming air into civilization. I provided sustenance to delight others and never knew the how of it. Accolade came in generous prosperity. Until I left my land and found myself extraneous to the days and nights. Oh, I was greeted warmly in the dawn of hopeful use, each new acquaintance potential for creation, but my words stumbled them, blocked their paths, forced them to mumble apologies unheard in my dense superiority. Fool, I thought they gave me money just to be, no glimpse of the no’s others endured to sustain that flow. I never discerned the desperate struggle for placement which makes the young civilized; I made civilization in a glance, never knowing for them vacuum remained. Bright-eyed wonder became glinting derision, my presence an affront to their necessities. Necessity will not abide its denial, even that of a fool; in fine, civilization rests on the absence of alternative. I mouthed words for use, not realizing that when use becomes necessity all are on puppet strings.


           I opened my office to saltine prehistory which strips voice of all but the ancient imperative which placed us here. Particulate made flow of genes, mathematical formulae made real, the very trajectory of planets, not their description. To be so near creation is terrifying; better to be creation than merely nearby. So the faceless message conveyed in scent: we propel the world, not your words, your words are noticed for this, for us, we cry out in your den of cobbled words and thereby give it meaning. You suffer being at our pulse, we use your presence to step one rung higher, to avoid the lesser cries muted in their plurality. We distance ourselves to make our cry grand. We are the singularity of creation, riding atop your efforts which can never flow as we. This moment we are flow. We drown you, watching you flay helplessly in a medium beyond your control or ken.


           And so it is. I am a deadend, living on the capital of others, words sustained by breath of others’ primal cries. All I write is for the flow I can never be. Do they with children know what they have done, or is the howl lost to ear in the mundane necessities which words as these make? Perhaps that night was triumph for lives later forced into by ways made of text of foreign hand, both prankster and victim emblems of some greater, unending war. My words are stolen breath of howl which then channels the primal cry into maze of struggled unclarity. The cry abides but wanders among mazed walls, hoping for fitful expression, and such will come.


           When I opened that door I was told to keep my place. We pay people to come appropriately–but to come. My grand young book floated miraculously on cries of pleasure, of will to be released from all boundaries, but I refused to know. In the passing days snickers came not from man or woman but from the necessity of recurrence which lets us be, that which lets consciousness be so it may be, that which we foolishly feign to understand so that we may scream at night, Being thereby being again. Appropriately scream, relaxing shortly in that slot which is also flow. Such is an individual: quantum made wave by some other hand.


           The scent dissipated, but my mind stayed numb. I knew thereafter that the purposes channeled by corridors determining encounter are not mine; that the pulse of academics is rarely more grand than entry into an office with closed door, there to practice breath for scream.


           I would not take the joke, keep my purposed place. I discerned the snickers, with more to come. But I wanted only to explain, not caring that explanation is valued only as use, use the swell in each of our pasts which brings us to our heres. I would dislodge myself from the physics of being, a floating hazard to drown or watch drown.


           The jokes continued, Being’s way of finding me a place, my breath a pity to lose entire. Yet still I thought I could play Being against itself. I went to the United States, a fabled land of Herculean endeavor where men of no history shatter the history of others; came now two books in hand, famously unread, opportunity soon sinking in exploitation. I came in my own resources so was a free resource, text pulled from my tongue, all astounded that I asked for nothing in return–until I became obstacle to my own product by refusing the later edit. Just a few small steps and all would be well, but I would not take them. Those steps spanned chasms. My books were made falsely; I believed them, but belief not why they were published. I lived symbol; my colleagues lived the purpose of corridors, white lab coats of criticism, progressed measured by the next conference, next paper, next book.


           But I, I still dwelled in the frozen struggle of mountains, of bird breaking crust, yet immobile before a civilization denying what it has already done, what it is about to do, once we turn away, to later encounter consequence but no hand, only always spying some other frozen future awaiting our lapse, no matter how fine and steady our sight.


           I championed the indiscernible, the frozen movement in rock which tells us the world is not what we think, that our trap is of our own making, but never beyond breach of someone somehow somewhere. Critics trim their lives to make a status where production is expectation. For me creation was wilderness, intelligence unseen by others. For them understanding was always mutual, their communities so small, only status to raise thought beyond their lives and ken. But in desert there is no status–only encounter, on occasion. I lived desert, saw ruins ancient and modern everywhere, yet could not speak it so it would be heard. Soon the laughter came. My vessel was to break.


           Trapped in the deserts of my youth, I wrapped myself in symbol. But the only symbol in academics is conformity. The water cooler’s the thing, refreshing largesse of no consequence, isle of banter confirming our place as we stroll back to office where the unread is made, this our promised land, that what we write will go unread, all too engrossed to progressing thought to pen.


           I never left my deserts, as alone in the social sea as there. Symbols everywhere I placed, these my companions while others matured in primate purpose. Take away my symbols, take away my world; watch me tumble fall, acrobat failing performance, watch me tumble fall–but without ground to end the show. How much longer until he lands? I was in endless fall so common to my living I did not know.


           A small wooden plaque, from Israel, a dove with “peace” on its body, hanging over my desk. Tear it down. Again and again. No one ever notices, no one ever speaks. I place it back, again it falls. I tumble fall over something beyond primate sensibility. Desperate to fly, not fall, I wrap myself in more symbol. A kimono worn at desk, first foray into the life of Benjamin Suzuki. Soon a beetle comes crawling down my back, fitted to purpose not its own, tiny legs telegraphing this world is not what I think, wish, need, beetle same color as kimono, as foreign an inhabitant as I. Somewhere a primate hoots in pleasure. All I see is betrayal in a violated space. But there can be no betrayal where there is no person.


           At the end no one sees me. I leave and no one looks. I tumble below their eyes, I tumble below their grounded steps. Broken of symbol, I tumble in air without necessities to prop me up. To snuff a man, make him useless.


           They were worse for my loss. They knew that. But the deep, hard laughter which hurts and shakes the body says otherwise. Primates progress by watching others lose.


           So I tumbled for their enjoyment. I tumbled past paychecks, past recognition, past friends; I tumbled out of life, into the rarefied loss others shun. Then, finally, finally, ground came: I tumbled into the desert of my upbringing, where isolation was communion with pure process. And there I found I was no more alone than those awaiting me.

Rocks slide

making a way up

Benjamin Suzuki

           Tezcatlipoca, enemy to both sides, impartial leveler, fountain of caprice, you whose bloated fetid corpse kills in death, disease, famine your avatars, take my name from me. Let me die with the rest, do not force me into the no-space of future, not present, hope. Let me live a ruin as the others, let me laugh down others to keep creation leashed. Do not torture me by giving birth to my name: Quetzalcoatl, he who rides creation to where sea and sky meet, he who sojourns at horizon, final, inescapable arbitrator of finitude. Let me think the world is my laugh; do not send me to the hope we all avoid.



6. On my Ground  


           I tumbled into catus, spines impaling memory for dispersal in some later to be.


           We carry our enemies within, not of us, not them in toto, but trace of act, veering us, our own acts colored slightly unawares, shifting our making, our acts impregnating in slight difference to what could have been, a chain of slights beyond our ken, leading to something far removed from our imagination. We and our conflicts disperse something foreign to all. This is humanity, recognition that the foreign is carried most intimately, that in encounter we absorb a world, willed or no; that difference, difference within a single mind, is what each is.


           Humanity is no species but strange leap frogging network of encountered encounter, commonality not in Homo sapiens, but in privileged memory. We are not one in our taxonomy, do not want such a One. We are plurality overlapping and disjoint. We travel awhile through others until barrier comes, and are grateful for that presence which raises disgust as reason to be. Humanity is a collection of necessarily incomplete travel, finitude of jump our safety and very being; safety is being.


           Some perilous few fail the jumps, stretch their humanity beyond recognition, enter more lives than prudent. These we call storyteller, writers without venue, composers, artists. And anthropologists. These distorted beyond survival’s necessity, in camouflage, present but never there. Rarely we see how they bridge the few jumps we make in proclaiming our own glorious humanity. These bear humanity, and we would not have them in our home. Humanity is no global trait; to be, when it is, it must be incomplete. Do not intone human, all to human: that is a trait rarely manifest, against humanity, a limit but few ever sight. Humanity is a transitive function which dampens to oblivion; art, when best, attempts to revive that function against its own planned death. Our impalements of memory are our humanity, made to see us other yet blunt our horizon.


           In spines aplenty I stand in memory, memory not to navigate around but with those impalements which make me other than I was. In the far north of Mesoamerica, some would say beyond its fringe, a rock slope of facial profile tries to push beyond that which gives its shape, profiled mouth open in strangled anguish, image trying to burst its material abode, trying to enter the purity of Nothing and so be done, this frozen failure of purpose its very being. Approaching the slope it ceases to be, its impossible struggle becoming the ground of our steps. We climb, climb the beyond fringe for what is said to be on the height. There great boulders part to just span adult shoulders, entrance to a mountain alter that should be elsewhere, perhaps hopeless retreat in some civilized decline.


           We reach the height, mother and I, I just twelve, still leashed by biology to her godly quest. We reach the height and spy, beyond the opposing slope, a small paved runway at bottom, empty, white dot of house at far reach. The day is brutal; heat radiates from the pavement, focusing the ascending air for some other eye.


           “There.” She points to the runway. Across its width a small whirlwind, dust devil, dust on pavement lifted by incomprehensiblity to briefly color vortex, alighting thereafter once more onto the silence of decayed purpose which is its home.


           “Your namesake.”




           “Quetzalcoatl, the whirlwind, one of his appellations.”


           The devil crosses the span, leaves civilization to flare briefly in greater dust, then dissipates.


           “See. The devil travels a differential of civilization, is that gradient of being, then vanishes. So Quetzalcoatl escapes civilization along its gradient, travels away from the center he made, uses its being to exit, escape, then, beyond its fringe, seems no more.”


           I’m only twelve.


           She returns to the slope inhabited.


           “And here we are, beyond a fringe.”


           Walking to the boulder’s gap, she pokes her head in. “It’s here! An alter, as we were told.”




           Head pops back. “Yes?”


           “Am I to be a Quetzalcoatl?”


           Her face goes academic, game face of knowing none know, but such must not be said, her academics a mutual conspiracy of unknown unknowing. Lies and truths are best said quickly; langsam is the pace of maybe, our civil cadence.


           “I have not labeled you. I … provided a crevice. Maybe something will sprout there. I don’t know.”


           “Maybe I’ll fall into it.”


           I’m only twelve, but a precocious only twelve.


           She stiffens, turns away, enters the opening where an alter of conjectured faith awaits her presence, she knelling before the small rock carved thing, search her prayer to find.


           Left alone on the expanse of fringe, I wonder now if a Quetzalcoatl made it there, placing an artifact for mother’s bending knee. Odd placement which meets no theory, an act severed from its reasoned birth. Perhaps this a definition of revelation. There I, a twelve year, towed by a woman frantic to find godhead, there I stand, now I stand, on the fringe of discipline; there to stand, on ground of frozen struggle, awaiting navigation away from mother civilization where I will whirl my future bloodied spines to other purpose.

I lie between failure and success

bridge to either

Benjamin Suzuki

           Tezcatlipoca, Yohualli Ehecatl, night wind which causes men to fear so worship their petty acts, you who ride the residue of Quetzalcoatl Ehecatl, that wind which moves the sun, that wind harbinger of rain, rain womb of all; you who draw the circle called civilization, you are but an eddy of power, destined to dissipate into the very fringe which defines your other, so you. Each letting of your power an I, a Quetzalcoatl, moving toward wind unencumbered, seed transported beyond purpose, perhaps deposited for tailing rain. Perchance there to grow, you to sprout from my bowels, that foolish fortress called civilized man, foolish, yet ever coming.


           I bring the rain to trap me awhile, to make a you, so that later, starved in destruction, I risk the fringe to make myself anew. Tezcatlipoca, you are but my necessary creative failures. I am all fringe, you the grasping hand groping toward the intangible. Together we are humanity.

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