Interiority in The Book of Joseph:
Earth, Movement, and an Eschatological Score, all written down and indistinguishably rendered by the speaking image—the wordimagespeech imprisoned between its letters.
“This criticism of connotation is only half fair; it does not take into account the typology of the texts (this typology is basic: no text exists without being classified according to its value); or if there are readerly texts, committed to the closure system of the West, produced according to the goals of this system, devoted to the law of the Signified, they must have a particular system of meaning, and this meaning is based on connotation.” (i)
But fracture was already there, readily prepared, a providential decay hatched from an apriori creation, fallen but not felt, adored in abundance or in the lack thereof. Thusly, the voice of The Book in Exile could sound like this:
in a new zodiac
soon to shine once this
its meal and
leaps into the sky
Voices cracked diasporically, when transfigured animals are born into such weathers.
I: THE CHART
Donahue’s weathered Maps don’t as much lead as direct themselves by consequence and desire. Avant-theologies could be akin, or fictive displays temporally construed. But there is something else: the question of temporality itself:
myth of the
Men and women…
What generative velocity to demand an infinitely immutable ceremony, performed from without and to a traveling against. But imprisonment awaits also, redemptive modes of internments, salivating:
“Generally speaking, our prisoners were capable of loving animals, and if they had been allowed they would have delighted to rear large numbers of domestic animals and birds in the prison. And I wonder what other activity could better have softened and refined their harsh and brutal natures than this. But it was not allowed. Neither the regulations nor the nature of the prison made it possible.” (ii)
The animalman flayed and displayed like so many phantoms exhibited on the walls of Heaven or Hell. And how dare we ask the question of the supernal when in the presence of this book, when it imagines new ways to survive the trains and overcome their incessant motion. Die Kehre—what has turned in you J/D? What time piece dissolves in what liquid and where, in you, is it? Some painful Event disrupting doors, shattering inward. I can / almost hear / Baudelaire playing / with his glass / toys.
II: WHILE LISTENING TO MAX RICHTER’S MEMORYHOUSE
J/D wends or is forced to perambulate on evermore increasingly obscure roads, followed by forest pathways always leading to the same death hole. A genre, like city planning, is a pre-formulated, pre-conceived arcade but that does not mean we know, to a certainty, his teleological purpose and the, eventual, end point. It may be that we have forgotten or have been forced to forget and, yet, a detective (what we here call: a poet) should play her role like night burglars in a field, waiting for the loss of light. In this horror movie like setting: J/D is the tentative character, the one unsure of cinematic excess. But doesn’t the owner of the desired house possibly possess the negative? Footage of a meeting, at long last, found—like Heidegger’s clash with Ernst Cassirer (disagreeable as it was) or Jacques smelling blood in the water, in his perfect health and sound disposition, willing to say:
“There are cinders there, cinders there are…” (iii)
Walls all smeared
“Line the wordcaves
with panther skins” (iv)
Either which way, the prisoner is staying put and the gods are no help at all (dreaming while we slave away and fist fight over drinkable water, till one of us dies). J/D, which will it be? Tell us, please.
III: A QUESTION
Maps for gods but gods are nothing more than excessively vain and guilty humans (from the latin humando (the burial)). And what is buried in the book? Two bodies in one grave in two dreams in three heads. A Wandering Jewess (is that it, J/D?) carries his head proudly, not in vain. Genius, not in vain. A work of mastery, the same colonized state. But is the border Hebraic, Hellenistic, pagan, mystic? They say that alchemy is the science of merging categories. Michel resolves distinctions by furthering the unrelated parts, as triangulations mount in a café:
(and so we, the liberators,
learned that, to the
The traces of invisibility everywhere and how we misconstrue the auditory signal:
I misheard the
tour guide. ‘Prayer house,’ turned out to be
And the, oft used but still pertinent, prison house of language as vector of decisive silence and prepared speed:
The words went by fast.”
A base but necessary impulse mapping out the work to be done. It may that I’ll need to write out a novel about my absent father and dedicate it to you, J/D. Like the Surrealists, emerging in the virtuous place but never quite handling the shifts of devotion. From The Book of John, we learn a loyalty in devotional single-mindedness as:
“New sentences were starting up.” (v)
But I wasn’t able to write this in ease, listening to brothel music, watching or touching or tasting the actors. I wasn’t rightly thrown out on my ass and am no better off when the Maps are not with me. But where did they go? And where do I belong in them?
IV: A DARK
A bird lands on the sublime machine, only to be eaten (ravenously), masticated by metal teeth. J/D has taken the Ground that has never been there, the illusion aping our troubles. The social machine (a simulacrum) observes the sublime (in jealous derangement) like the Hebrews (vengeful again their own G-D):
No light within
Matter poisoned. Matter lost. And our children unable to withstand the weather—whatever infinites are in your house, whatever you believe protects them. Onto-cartographies making a religion of myth. And my religious vein as an observant sublime but ersatz motherhood. I cannot, anymore.
To write a book is a vocation (a calling) like no other:
Pain is pulled from you
Pangs and aches leave you
But we do not deserve what has been give to us in the Letter (given over time to our minor lives). I would have, long ago, quit the practice if it were not for the transcendental musicians nearby, transmuters under the greyest of skies. But the market won’t dictate forgiveness because writing is lazy, unless you have a canto on hand at any given moment (and I do/will not), as a storm passes without question, without query.
J/D: Jumping / Declining.
J/D: Jaundiced / Diseased.
J/D: Jesus / Dionysus.
This is what I like to call an Artaudian chant, one aiming not to bewilder oneself but to ground a letter in the desert sand. The Wind Maps I-VII is a canonized letter dug out of an arcane head, but the face is still a foreign proof, a just born monster narrating what:
a tide turns within it…
I wrote a book (The Drunkards) for the smallest of the rabbinical sages, but J/D was able to strike the gospel I had in mind, a cultish peg enveloped in the angle.
To take a stone, to shape
the thing, naturally, like
a pastoral poem
written in urine,
The shaped rock
Aesthetics is the study of intruded space:
The ghosts look round, astonished
Aesthetics is, also, the study of uncanny fabrication—which we, regrettably, no longer possess. The Russian writers knew fabrics like we might know polished bones, new universes, or the written word. But the divine is out of reach:
Everything you have ever written
hides what you see in heaven
But tears and cards: we are familiar with:
“To sow the entire earth, to send the same fertile card to everyone.” (vi)
But what a haunted mess, what a betrayal of Pre-Socratic oaths.
Ø: AUTO-POETICS or WHAT ELSE IS THERE or BLOOD ON THE CONCEPTUAL FRONT
(FRONT IS THE RIGHT WORD)
After Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendor ended, I intentionally read the last words of Wind Maps I-VII. As, in a dream, flesh sloughed off and bounced on a rug underneath me, like emblems run amok. But my semiotic taxonomy was not restrained enough to last, yet the Maps are an impervious archive and this dream cinema could be a tandem source. In the foreground is a guardian: J/D: Joseph Donahue (…it may be…). I thought we had lost them all in a maternal accident—impotence in The Book of Eyes, forced onto a screen. But our hearts were barely in the game:
“The heart of poetry is a hollow man…” (vii)
And irony is the easiest and most banal of solutions, discovered as antipathic draw against the visionary, against Kierkegaardians standing abandoned, asocial, riotous
February 21, 1971:
Claire’s Knee is released (an
December 1, year unknown:
A cry for a mode of being
that has never yet existed
Or taken (THIEF!) by the prophets (PROFITEERS…) of the present, with their ideal of the nonexistent, un-shined upon hilarities, almost astrologically so. But I did not forget Rohmer’s contribution to the apophatic error or the way he taught me to personalize a close reading of the image and the word (both under considerable study). The Maps are an ever demanding echo of this exact didactic measure:
—your house will be destroyed
—you will not be
Localizations can de-limit your range but a hyperbolic sense of the same, implied, can catapult an eccentricity into the existential firmament, contained the The Book of Boxes. And in the abiding archive: The Book of Joseph is an endless resource for the scholar’s pursuit of Eros, told coldly but true:
A reversal stirs
The measure burns on A Wave (echoed and recursive):
“No one came to take advantage of these early
Reverses, no doorbell rang;
Yet each day of the week, once it had arrived, seemed the threshold
of love and desperation again.” (viii)
This exact point must be
known by now
But why do the dolphins know what writing is and absolutely what it is not? Why them, J/D? Simpler configurations will do just as well. But this is what I like to call an Artaudian critique, aiming to end with:
After all, there is no evidence until
there is a theory, no theory
until death and dreams
and inconsolable weeping
have brought you
to where friends express
concern about your
“state of mind”
Or no theory whatsoever, if truth does indeed seep from shadows, as if the theoretical could be usurped by the onto-cartography of a living man. But maybe it can, it may be at the edge of thinking justly. And, after revisiting Apitchapong Weershethakul’s Cemetery of Splendor, I read the first words:
“People are grabbing at the chance to see
the earth before the end of the world,
the world’s death piece by piece each longer than we.” (ix)
DOES NOT MOVE
BEYOND THE MAPS
IT CONSIDERS THEM
AND BURNS EACH
SOURCES / CITATIONS
I. The first quote is taken from Roland Barthes’s S/Z.
II. The second quote is taken from Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes from a Dead House.
III. The third quote is taken from Jacques Derrida’s Cinders.
IV. The fourth quote is taken from Paul Celan’s Breathturn into Timestead.
V. The fifth quote is taken from John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror.
VI. The sixth quote is taken from Jacques Derrida’s The Post Card.
VII. The seventh quote is taken from Peter Gizzi’s Artificial Heart.
VIII. The eighth quote is taken from John Ashbery’s A Wave.
IX. The ninth quote is taken from Ed Roberson’s TO SEE THE EARTH BEFORE THE END OF THE WORLD.
All other italicized quotes were taken from Joseph Donahue’s Wind Maps I-VII.
All images are property of LM Rivera.
LM Rivera is a writer. He co-edits Called Back Books with Sharon Zetter (his fiancé). He is the author of a chapbook, The Little Legacies (Glo Worm Press, 2016); a poetry collection, The Drunkards (Omnidawn, 2018); and a forthcoming book, Against Heidegger (Omnidawn, 2020). He is a tutor, a filmmaker, an artist, and a father.