MARGUERITE PORETE

When the soul speaks about God she talks about him 
as if he is a carpet unfurling within her, a spreading that she
will never touch because as it opens she is displaced
she sees by God what she has become but never fully enters
as on full moons I sleep restlessly, waking up every two 
or three hours, like something is trying to burn its way
out or in. But last night it was my own mistake perhaps
not the moon or the heavens, not the celestial movements, 
taking Ashwaganda before bed on the advice of a psychic
who I followed credulously, the powder recommended to me again
as it once was by someone who found sleep difficult 
when I was not around because of the voices whispering
that did not belong to her. Was it the moon? Was it
God? There was always something bubbling up
some revelation that kept whatever complaint or need I had
at bay. Four parts to the prayer that you 
are supposed to say to yourself in the car or in the shower
or in bed or on the street: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. 
Thank you. I love you. As the host explained it works
because these words resonate from millions 
of prior uses, like we are crystals attuned to language’s
past. A bit like drinking the same glass of water 
that was once Caesar’s piss. For twenty-one days
listen to the meditation that followed his eight minute
explanation, which included hierarchical diagrams in which shame 
is at the bottom, next to guilt; anger, surprisingly, in the middle;
enlightenment somewhere among the fleeting emotions
on top. Where is longing? Where is resistance? 
Where is quiet? Where is war? I don’t remember.
But the chart loosely corresponds to the soul’s 
journey towards oblivion, the seventh and final stage
in which God wills all the soul’s will, and which properly 
begins with the soul’s understanding that she is nothing
all of the world’s wickedness, insufficient without
an infinite sufficience. For the final sixteen minutes 
of the twenty-four minute video the meditation:
the host breathlessly racing through the prayer’s
four parts, speaking so quickly it would be impossible
to keep up, though he says you should. Perhaps the speed
he talked was meant to evoke a feeling like the recognition
that nothing you are ever near will ever touch you completely
just like oil and vinegar particles keep their distance 
perfectly in mayonnaise viewed underneath a microscope. 
The first time I took Ashwaganda—once only, 
nine years ago now—I woke up in the middle of the night
gasping from an erotic dream that turned violent
in a bed loaded underneath with a Lousiville Slugger. 
I lived far out, alone and afraid, and someone was coming for me
though she never fully arrived. But in my dreams vacant
uncanny she could come right to the edge of the carpet
just as in daylight she could circle the house 
when she thought I wasn’t home. Now I have 
sympathy for both of us. She was trying 
to touch something just like we all are. Long since 
I have started when encountering her on the street. More
understanding that the end is what we 
all desire but never reach

On the call I could not see her face, 
silhouetted by the window at her back.
Did not know whether she was here 
or somewhere more exotic—perhaps in
Greece, the place portended by her name. 
I had just been given an email, with no
instructions, and no real idea what 
was waiting on the call. You must now endure
this dangling, she said. You have
prophetic dreams. She said between one
session and another she did not remember
details—it was never herself speaking. She said
there was a fine line between surrender
and effort. I must be on the lookout 
for animal guides, she said—a downy 
woodpecker, a solemn ash—vegetable, too?
Whatever was living that spoke back. 
She gave me a prayer and said that she
had trouble meeting my ex’s third eye. 
She’s ashamed. I hadn’t asked her to, 
but left the call feeling both strangely
quenched and cleared—like I was 
the tree where the woodpecker 
had plunged his beak. 

I DO LOVE
from a conversation with Racter

If you have hurt many people then Al Capone 
is more superb than Helen Caldicott. 

Did you know Jesse Helms? He lived in a little nest. 
A little nest is a good place for a dweller to dwell. 

When one lives in ecstasy a little nest is very attractive. 
André, this is an ambiguity! 

Quaffing seltzer is your ex’s passion. 
André the truthsayer. 

A gloomy novelist is still not Shakespeare.
Tell me honestly are you poetic?

To prefer everything is wrong.
A bored smiler often falls prey to a surprising flower.

A trash can is a good place for an introvert. 
Forever the resident. 

Nothing has an uglier look to it than love when it is not on our side. 
Okay? Excuse me for one moment. 

Your ex is in a repair shop. Residing! 
Oh, to reside forever! 

Tell me honestly are you treacherous?
Bella Abzug once mentioned that I do love. 

THE WB’S SUPERSTAR USA

Superstar USA was a television show that ran 
for less than one month (May 17–June 14) 
the year that I graduated high school

It was a spoof of the show American Idol, still at the height 
of its popularity (its first year, the day after the penultimate episode 
when Kelly Clarkson sang the song that would give her victory
a girl on my bus explained to us with a kind of solemn shock, 
that she still had goosebumps that next early morning
from the night before)

Superstar USA ran on the television network the WB, at a low point
in that network’s history (which is saying something).
They were throwing all kinds of pasta on the wall hoping it would stick.
Particular low points: Joe Millionaire, and that bachelorette-style show 
called Beauty and the Beast (I think), one glamorous woman in a house of nerds

But of this I remember very little—in May and June of 2004 
I was regularly drinking until I puked, which somehow sounds
better than it ever was. One weekend a Scottish rugby team we billeted 
(repaying the favour they had done for us) was getting naked outside the strange 
and lonely backwoods mansions of some of the players on the team. 
I was sleeping it off on couch cushions placed on hardwood
or being scolded by my mother that one time she came to collect us
and I hadn’t sobered up

No one ever carded me before I turned nineteen
I don’t understand this, always attribute it to some mean tension
or anxiety I must have carried in my face, once even 
buying mickeys and a twenty-sixer wearing my graduation t-shirt
from that year. Now I know they simply didn’t ever care

But back to the show—Wikipedia says “Superstar USA told contestants 
they were looking for the best singer when they were 
actually looking for the worst.” Something in this inversion reminds 
me of the party the night after the one where I’d been picked up by my mom—
an older player hearing the story of what I had done the night before
saw me crack the gentle tongue of a tall boy I had been handed
(so I could save my mickey) and told me “Still drinking? Good man” 

Reading the Wikipedia article it strikes me that some inversions
and some cruelties are more honest than their counterparts, hearing how the winner,
Jamie Foss, was told on stage the truth in front of the audience she had just sung for—
for all its shocking violence it still reminds us 
some truths are longer and harder to learn 

Every so often he would go into the woods and take off his clothes, carefully choosing a location to hide them. He transformed into a wolf and ran through the trees and over the hills, coming back sometimes days or weeks later. His wife begged to know where he had gone but for a long time he refused to tell her. Finally he relented and horrified after he demonstrates his transformation she steals the clothes and hides them so he cannot return to his human form. This is the story of Bisclavret, betrayed by his intimacy, and unable to leave the state that he enters after the betrayal.

In other tales of the werewolf it is a skin that is put on. A suit that allows the wearer to perform horrible crimes undetected, sometimes a gift from a god or a demon as a reward for the bearer’s devotion. Putting on the new skin—to transform one’s inner being one need only alter the exterior. 

Bisclavret had no choice in the matter. His wife took up with another man and he was trapped in his animal form. Eventually he is rescued by the king, who discovers he is a rational being. In time the wife and her new lover are punished—unfortunately and brutally the wife’s nose is torn off by the werewolf Bisclavret. (He is otherwise noted for his gentleness.) From then on, we learn in the postscript, all of her descendants are similarly noseless. The exterior becomes a representation of the interior, and the interior is altered in turn. Of course this not how genetics work, and perhaps that is something even Marie de France knew herself, though she was writing only in the twelfth century. 

One werewolf is courteous, the other violent, depraved. One takes something off and the other puts something on. Both lose and gain by this process. Both are reduced and magnified. Often like Actaeon (who of course transforms into a deer) they are torn to shreds by dogs. Often they become symbols for their hungers—their mouths elongated, their snouts, ravenous and forced to hunt and prowl. 

I would like to take off this skin or this clothing that I have been wearing for too long. Last night I laid on the couch and listened to a reading that had been done for me November of last year. I hadn’t known then that it would be for the last few months of 2020, 2021, and even beyond that. Some of what was predicted has come to pass—much still remains for the future. 

It was heartening to listen to this little message, to hear my hesitant voice which I did not realize was so hesitant then and to understand that already so much has changed. I would like to live according to the other voice and the life that it laid out for me, to live in something alive to the promise of the future. For that certain things need to be left behind, for they harm both onlooker and bearer. 

Now it is spring and the trees are in bloom. In Toronto everywhere there are flowers. This is an exterior that is working in me, that feels part of this change. 

Convenience is not class. Past a certain level no matter how high you rise life will never get easier for you. Living is difficult. I mean being with yourself. Existing alongside imperfection, your own and in what is around you, what always will be. Accepting that you do not have the power to change and influence. Accepting that the world doesn’t bend at your whim. 

Now we think of labour as moral—a protestant ethic. If you do not work hard you do not deserve to live. That is bullshit. But work is important. The medievals talked about this. A life without labour is hard to live. A life lived in convenience and luxury unmoors you, setting you free in the worst way. 

There are different forms of labour. Different forms of difficulty. Living alone, working from home, materially comfortable. This is its own kind of frictionless environment. This is depraved and languishing luxury.