What are the myths of daughtership and the father-daughter relationship? What is one daughter’s experience in the context of these? Can the daughter’s words ever be understood by the father, or are the language of the father and language of the daughter too radically separated by distinct social experience? Why must a daughter who has answered the first question No go back and face the crypt? These are the starting points of my explorations in I Came Bearing Bears. Then, further, I wonder, how is the father-daughter relationship paralleled by colonization between nations and patriarchal hierarchies of knowledge and power? Is there a sense of aboriginal being outside these hierarchies or must this remain a dream? The text explores an amoebic psychological landscape that stretches between Dublin and various points across Canada and between younger and older versions of the narrator, who invents something she calls Willow Language as a sort of companion in this venture.
The passage included in How2 is the opening of the novel. At a later point in the following passage (which appeared this year in on word in England), I found I had stated metaphorically some of the nature of my exploration, my poetic praxis and my sense of how language is deployed and received:
At the same time, in other writings, I was becoming intensely aware of
the way words buzz with a sensibility outside their denotative dictionary
meanings—a kind of tactile harmonics that I could compose in landscapes
of rhythm, motion and texture. The words buzz like bees, and these buzzings
invoke the shamans of our being. So powerful are they that our schooling
devotes 12 to 20 years teaching us to suppress them in our reading strategies.
From I Came Bearing Bears, a Novel (manuscript)
You asked me about my father, so I will tell you. He died of cancer, probably not very quickly. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. About six years before, someone wrote a note to me that he’d been diagnosed. I didn’t write back.
Seventeen years before his death was the last time I spoke to him. He’d sent one of his cryptic notes, which said “I take full responsibility for what happened.” What had happened, I wonder. I filed the note away as evidence of murder. Then, he telephoned me. The last thing I said to him on the phone was, No, there’s no point. We speak different languages.
Silence was the only answer. The language of the father was not the language of the daughter. Maybe because language is ultimately a private event. Incommensurable spaces gape between us.
But then who am I and who are you but people I invent? Where is the territory of I and the territory of you? The territory of father and the territory of daughter? The territory of Irish and the territory of Canadian? You have a literary address: Leopold Bloom, Ireland. I address you as Mr. Bloom. Like you I spent a day in Dublin only mine was October 31 whereas yours was June 16, and then of course you went on living there with your wife Molly and your daughter Milly and your son Rudy.
My father, too, is an invention, a literary address, and I am another one. You could say I went in search of these addresses in the General Post Office in Dublin and then in the General Post Office of memory—it too having war memorials for its declarations of independence.
To Ireland. To the land of Ire. Of murder and love and mourning. To the land of Ire on a flying bus called RyanAir which gave me the last seat on a bank holiday weekend, the plane packed with rowdy college students laughing and joking in the back rows so the stewardess with her stockinged legs and her blond hair coming a little unpinned had to stop the safety announcement like a peremptory nanny and wait for sh sh sh to go round, then start up again about exits and air masks and diagrams in seat pockets and then stop, sh sh sh, and start over. My return from the land of Ire—impossible—the man from Stena Steamship I spoke to by telephone insisting I had to get to Dublin and book it in person. Yes normally people just arrive and walk on to the ferries but for Canadians we have different rules. I don’t believe this speech you have offered me about master cards, I insist on seeing your real body. The telephone itself a sinister network of harmonic ferries.
When I arrived, I didn’t really know much about you. I’d heard of course. You are rather famous, you and your ancient namesake. You pointed out a Martello tower, but it wasn’t till much later that I realized the significance of this to you and even now this significance is truly impossible for me to capture—this sense of a landmark in literature and imagination, this home of a struggling lion of letters, a father of literature, who set out to write an epic ironically depicting all that made life an epically unepic paralysis. Instead, at the time, what I saw was something that looked like a small round cement fortress clinging to a cliff above the sea and when you said these towers were built to fight Napoleonic invasions I immediately pictured our bunkers in Stanley Park in Vancouver, built to ward off Japanese invasions in the second world war. Dublin was under construction, the site of an odyssey in the father language, an odd thing – an odd fish-line hurled in a higgledy piggledy loop—of invasions, bunkers and fortresses.
My guidebook was quite clear about where to find you in the brass plaques in the streets. One of them mentioned you had experienced a “puffball of smoke” coming from a barge on the river. Another said you smelled “mockturtle vapour and steam of newbaked jampuffs rolypoly” from Harrison’s Restaurant, which was still there on the east side of Westmoreland Street. Every year by following these plaques people retrace their hero’s footsteps.
I begin to trace my footsteps.
You dropped me off at Clontarf DART Station which wasn’t on my tourist map. The DART was not darting. The gates were closed, the ticket office closed, people were leaping the turnstiles anyway. Polite Canadian that I am, I hesitated until someone unlatched the sidegate. Headlines pursued me. Canadian arrested for fraudulent ride on Dublin transit system, polite Canadian always in transit. Please purchase your ticket at destination, a sign said. But signs must be interpreted. Very well, I would not be arrested on my only day in Dublin. I got off two stops later at Tara Station.
Little did I know then how far I would have to search for Tara and my harp.
A couple of blokes stood at the exit gate lurking in their guard cage—there is no Canadian word for bloke as we don’t have them in Canada, or at least not in Vancouver, or at least not enough of them to qualify for a word. Maybe we need more football or soccer matches, or maybe we need to import the word bloke so that heavy-set, sheepish-looking males relentlessly external to the internet in a world of electronic signs, will have a place to live, a website as it were. The plight of the bloke is mine, polite Canadian without a ticket. Or is it? Maybe I’ve got too much of a website—a daughter site I long to escape from, a father site I want to claim with murderous ambition.
The guard blokes are talking among themselves and hardly notice my non-existent ticket. When they do, they laugh. Over there, they gesture past the guard station to the ticket booth. Polite Canadian purchases ticket and brings it back to blokes. This time they seem really puzzled. Like why did I come back? The one who seems more on duty rather than his friend who seems to be there mainly for blokish company takes the ticket, looks at both sides. Why don’t you keep it, he says, Use it on the way back.
I crossed a bridge and walked along Eden Quay, on the lookout for snakes of course and naked men and women with figleaves. I began to search for a cafe that the guidebook said was an essential Dublin experience—a Bewley’s oriental cafe. Was it run by Chinese, I wondered in a silly way. Amazing that any of these signposts convey anything. Could a Canadian be oriental in Dublin? I walked past the statue at the foot of O’Connell Street and up O’Connell Street through the columns of the Post Office. But of course I couldn’t find a Bewley’s. Some say only the unexpected arrives.
Daniel O’Connell towering over the broad boulevard of O’Connell Street across from Burgerking formed the bold design of combining the Irish Catholic millions, under the superintendence of the native priesthood, into a vast league against the existing order of things – the bold design of claiming back the Irish Republic. Yes! This is it. I hurl out my fish-line to the vast league against the existing order of things.
Walk bricks and stones in the arches, spires, cornices and architraves of Dublin in the land of Ire. Walk up Henry Street, turn to narrow side streets till I find a cafe for breakfast. A small plain storefront full of ordinary people drinking coffee and smoking, unlike the grand cafe I’d passed up along the way with its revolving doors, quaint bentwood chairs and marble tables, huge windows from which to see and be seen by passersby on the busy street, and also a huge line-up at the self-service counter. Which do you think would be more authentic, Mr. Bloom, for the “Dublin effect”?
And who are ordinary people? In my back-street cafe they wear mainly straight-cut black or dark clothes. Pale and slender with spines like curving willow branches, two young girls serve the customers. The willow girls, I hail them silently, hunch over their notepads. Their jeans and aprons are black. Their T-shirts white fading to gray. A large sign says toilets are for customers only. Whereas, in the grand cafe of my memory people are wearing beige or brown wool with dashes of orange, purple or green as they mill about display cases of savories.
My father wanted to be something more than ordinary, something as significant as a Leopold Bloom—someone with a Bloom effect. I address this from the boonies of Vancouver on the west coast of British Columbia. I address this from beyond the pale—in the low-income housing projects down by the Vancouver dockyards—their washed-out brick, their yellow doors, their turquoise pipe railings.
A figure approaches me, coat open to a spreading bulge of abdomen, button across it pulling on flaps of white-faded-to-gray shirt, exposing a V of hairless chest skin—man or woman, hard to say, yellowy gray wave of hair sprawled from a side parting across the head and down below the ears, in tired tendrils, the way you see in some aging rancher or bartender. The figure approaches, face sallow, eyes sagging, walk drifting. The figure approaches Hope abandoned—the boundary of Hope and Hopeless, sense and senseless.
Some people give up, I guess. Then, some invent themselves as one who’s just between jobs. Jobs give workers ground to stand on—give workers themselves. Just as the roulette wheel gives the gambler the gambler. Just as heroin gives the user a charming wit. Just as words give the writer the writer and the reader the reader. Just as the father gives the daughter the daughter. And the daughter gives the father the father. The murderee, the murderer. Which shall I be?
Can one ever cease to invent one’s self? Apart from death?
Gospel According to Bees
Sometimes they put two boiler slaves in charge of the sugar-boiling to spell each other. Spell a word; cast a spell. Hot spell, cold spell, dizzy spell, gospel. Spells spell a word cast a spell spelling spells. Fainting spells Knitting spells Howling spells Laughing spells Writing spells Read a word under spell of its spell. Unread it. Disspell it. Unspell a word and recast it. Unspell words from dictionaries. Recast our words. Your words. My words. Give the horses a spell. Rest a spell. Spellful. We cannot tell the way things are; only spill into spells.
like book binding.
Spelling bees at a spinnery. Pleating pleats an incomplete from plies of compliscence to fold together barks or plaited willows with narrow inlets. Take a spell running the sphygmus, a spellwork of plaitwork’s imbricate lapping. Spell me at night watch. Spell me at hauling the nets. Spell me at haunting howling the nets, knitted unknitted nets. Spell me at castanets at casting nets at casts outcast overcast, a sugar spell, a moon spell, spelling a story, an apartment block, a seaside, a cuckoo clock.
Sugar caster spell caster spell the seer spell the sparkle play and gambol cast the seen spun in the Gothic spill spun in the spurrit spill byspel and gospel spell the seen spell the peas and beans spell the bees spelling bees in the spinneys and thickets and the thickest thickety thickets thick with crickets cast worm casts shadow casts about comes about coming unspellable unforecasted a stone’s cast a glance cast a votive cast a shade of thought tinged in a play played in a plaited incomplete well filled with never, well played in earth’s dice in metal melted molten molted casting off as stitches bow-lines the cast of the father’s twisted inflorescence warped in jaggery sugar toddy sugar cane ships full of bees cunning casts in clay casters of cense.
In the centre of the casting pit, fix a crane holding a ladle charged with molten metal. Give us a cast to the next stage as we cast unto others incrustations of viscous crystals coiled in feathery plumes of small spikelets, sometimes boiled in open double-bottomed pans, sometimes heated by boiling oil and stirred steadily to make sands concrescent in small granules of real called basket sugar. Centre the taphole of the ladle over each mould ringed around the pit. A scent of unspellable spindles the height of the culm immanent culminant, sometimes yellow, sometimes red, sometimes purple internoded in sepals in steeples in swells. Tap molten metal into each embellishment. Dip deep-bowled under mother-liquor cooked only to string point in vessels cast of rondels to purge strikes of sugar hurled castle to rooks castle. Clay this sugar, this moisture percolate through vast mass, washing away as molasses.
Spell our prayer, spell our casting, spell our temple, spell our masking.
pleasure pegs a foothold at court.
whether we jump heather
A Third Reel
has never been breach
has ever been speech
has never been teach
Cranes on the docks PREE PREE PREE to containers containing containments of packages. Dream time comes. Hot night sounds. Laughter on steps. Ka-chunk-chunk-chunk, motorcycle. Pistons the notion I can describe this. I too could bloom at night, send night fingers into sky, pluck stars casting I in ImagInatIon, a play in three axes (as in taxes) or axes (as in taxis).
Finger blooms spindly and droops to undersky we take as black lake. Reflection. Finger inflections ten wriggly toes, an effect of connection.
Do not look back at parataxis: space as function of time. Feel it. Our capsule’s luminous puff of frog-throat riding through sea-worm dimensions, mad to cross borders. Worms wriggle everywhere. No, you can’t camp here. You are outlaw.
Elaborate a ruse for the border guards. This intelligence as reading interstices. You can’t camp here. One of us will disappear in the labyrinth, pretend he is lost, reappear on the other side of a border, masquerade as guards inflect our di-mentia, its labiate labour permeate axis.
The Father is the Father of the border guards. Do not look back to the axes. We are captured by the guards in our capsule. Do not look back except to axe.
He is the Father. Farther and farther. Pretend to be nice meaning meat for the guards to eat. Night blooming meat strung up by its feet. Swung up by its feet. Bludgeoned down down, our faces as wrecking balls blooded on borders we have sinned and sinned and sinned. Forgetting to say thank you in transitive transparency.
A Cereus effect. Curious evil light of street lamp thru Venetian blind. Someone writes this. Something haunts something contingent upon something rewritten as lurkers in night effects night effects night. You disappears when I address it.
The You effect. The border guard will not allow sugar cane. It is out of season. You may not take sugar cane back.
You again. But there is no point asking who you are. Youing and Iing in this leaking at night past border guards. They are Youing and Iing. Which of us are guards have leaked in like ink from a black lake (in parentheses) night blooming sky. Night blooming eyes (in transitives).
of—no I cannot you—an effect of not I
Coyote lopes on night roping roof. Slopes to the underlake. Scream of long-legged cranes wheel maws along ships. Pulleys cable, hooks grapple a feast of containments. Rust blue green blurts in the dock light beside black black sea. You say this with longing for sea song. You or I. Or they. Can say. Train grunts shunt. Then screech along rails, long alongs along rails. You-Iing to night, an effect of night.
Father of this song. Angry underbelly of self-consciousness boils up out of blunt black sounds. Out of season. You cannot take it back. You are law, an effect of law, a law of effects. Blow job in a car at the curb, idling its engine.
Cigarette glow in the shadows. You see this whether you want to. Sugar cane out of season. Growl-oof.
Dog reads night scents—a kind of gnosis. Growl-oof in his dogged dogness, the noun stops thought like pitch on a pipe, night holes we play black. Sentences expect more and more cigarettes. Pull the blossom out my desiccated branches. Pull back Hylocereus undatus. Green scaled wood wax out of tubular whiteness. Pull back. Is it you? Waving? I repeat my growl-oof into night longing for a lyric wax among three-winged stems. Naming it.
Naming it gnosis. Night knows animal things wax and scaly wave upon wave upon wave upon wave upon wave. Beast after midnight. Hesitate, stop. Take wood wax in tubular whiteness: the I blossoms longing for a long song of eye-trains long along rails along docks pulled out of night. Thunk-tunk a-tunk. Thunk-tunk a-tunk. Thunk-tunk a-tunk a rail song spinning You I spun. Have spun as spiders spit. Coyote You, coyote I. Try to sink black into ink -- which of us are guards which write the guards. Which the ships and sheep-thick fragrance that cloys our lips, our existence contingent on matrix and gnosis, contingent networks undoings, invention convention and guards of deployment. You you. I I. I you. You I. He hes. She shes. We we. They they. It its. Occupy blossoms undoing this this, Undatus. With short stout spines of description, from the written, unwrite.
— Angora Anguish
I send you magnolia daggers ragna of the gods rangorous agnomen hidden in Colorado hidden in idio long-fingered long lingered and indigo for ideas eagle our dialogue our diagonal logos to lag word idle alloys of Idaho ignescent and pagan ignescent and wagon way gone agon ally igneous angered or ideo-ed and langorous-idded a figure struggle from a ground glanced arrayed logy with lignin sidled from anguish and angora, logy with lingua, anguine eguagnal, logy with signaled ragoon.
In the siege
of stateless emergency, the stateless inhere
To entrope, or wrap in a turn.
Sir Architect stands over his building divebombed in a mountain gorge. Madame Opera Star paces the carpet, cross that I missed her performance. My goat runs rampantly through their yards tangling the tether in and out of a series of posts that get my goat: postmodern, post human, post post-office, post peatmoss, post posting posts.
Madam Opera Star: Earnestly adhere to the post.
Sir Architect: Post the posting in the postman.
Me: Who will that be?
elephone, telephant, telephone.
To entrope, wrap in a turn. Macaronicism: sentences interrupted and jumbled upted like a plate of macaroni. Thus: spaghetticism; seaweedism; mobiusism.
Phoebe’s Song, the Phoebus: the Sun personified in brilliant text, counter-intelligence radiant in its twists and turns, its ellipsis and equivoque.
I dream of Chinese food in a junk. Bamboo shoots bamboozle, bean sprouts bok choy. Bees. Ginger garlic and rice chow mein. Truck chirp, the garbage men chowmein down the lane of trash cans. Trash mein. Lane mein. Tins. Jars. Crumpled paper. Pizza crusts. Steak rinds. Bones. Leftover lettuce. Soggy diapers. Grease. Morality. Rules. Judgments. Throw them out. Is a word a judgment? If I say that’s a dog, is that a judgment? Say I describe the edges of not-dog, the blur where fur meets air, ear is sound, here is there.
Invent a dog when you name it ogd or odg. Where, when, how are they? Myth of odg: odgetheism.
Logos of odg: odgology.
Could we be odgatic? Meta-odgic or odgical? When is irresistible odgidity?
insects infest my fingers, farming in figurines.
or fold. The irresistible tendency of a universe to turn
Othering, you law others. Shove the furniture around. That you have invented. The giant solipsistic you, a monster of entropy, who made all evil in the universe, who lug it around in a lumpy sack on your back, who foul the moon with rocks and rubble breaking your concrete mood.
Such heavy lenses. Heavy jagged lenses. Can we see it, entrope the installation instantly, or do we get it in stallations like rows of cubicles. Stallations of stalagmites, tiny horses infecting my figures, my figuring.
Other, how speak without imagined other—entropement?
Othering a harvest of wild strawberry, like Dickinson’s mail from Tunis. Morning post in small redness without nouns. Difficult the way they nestle among sharply defined tooths of air. How do we find ourselves, among tooths of air we call leaves? Find eyes in leaves?
My toe-nails aren’t painted like yours. You have blue ones. I have yellow ones. Who are you? What is your sight line? Who are the selves we occupy in vision machines behind screens’ smashing reflections. Behind glass shatters. Shutters shunted shatter shudders. Shutters shuttle like crabs scuttle. Shutters shut shutters.
Wind in. Wind out the trophic food of thought. Wind in, wind out washing machine. Pool ball caught in a U swing entropy back and forth in a bowl of space.
In allophanes, phone what you think through tin cans and string, ear pieces and receivers, cranking long-short-short-long, rotary dials with thumbpieces stop you going round, round, round, numbers buzzing ten types of numbness on the line, digital with fingers, radio rays what is phoned arrayed radio-phonically, what is phoning what is phoned what will phone allotropic what has phoned us now.
The Universe. A single version writing verso—inverse reverse conversation. All language is backward, eguagnal.
Fall back into black. To excavate for cricket site in burrows where earth crumbles big themselves as antarctic icebergs. Cricket parliament and night songs. Bugeyes gleam big as leg teeth twang. Prrupp. Prrupp. Prrupp. A feeler twitch, antennae pick up radio from another gnathic universe, translate what ferries carry across channels of sense. Solar sighs hiss in cricket ears. Tsk Tsk Tsk. See this, see this, see this.
Sea as Ur-soup. Solute through the solvent.
Cognition has no cogs no gears. Gnus and gnosis gnar on the same page.
Tea—very brown, then light. Entropy. Runs itself out.
Coherency is a kind of money. Unpleasant coherence is vulgar.
of the lyric demon
Billions of hairs to thick their lizard feet with molecules surfaces of things. Billions of enunciations, asking, commanding, praying, declaiming, predicating, judging, exhorting, complaining, lamenting, predicting, spelling, telling, invoking, cursing, conjuring, entroping. Reading so much more than an earnest lyricism of the noble savage: the belief that we all rise from the same gut feeling.
Gecko boots lizard a universe toward ertness (read art-ness).
Inertia, Latin for idleness. Poetry IS what you make it.
Phone what you think in saxophones and homophones, in phonolites and phonoscopes. Phone what you think in allophones and alloys of allo-phane. Phone what you think in phon and antiphon, in allotrope of allonym, our aloe song.
grab the gear shift, grab the gab,
Power pulses under periods, sentences the sentiments the salamander sentimentals, takes the bull by the horns, the wool by the thorns, snap out of it dingbat, this is cool dude poppy power popping out all over the place under water under thunder under the go go go go go go goggle guys, shot from the slip flip clit fuck the biff riff the ruck whatever I do do doodly do do whatever get better I do do doodly do whatever I voodoo.
CON STRUTT SHUN
ACT SHUN. A
ALL IZE it
logo logo logo logs
You’ll you LAY SHUN
LALA A SHUN
runs itself out entroping its
BIO: Meredith Quartermain is a Vancouver writer whose work foregrounds the (f)act of dwelling in words. Her publications include Terms of Sale (Meow 1996), Abstract Relations (Keefer Street 1998), Veers (Backwoods Broadsides 1998), Gospel According to Bees (Keefer Street 2000), and Spatial Relations (Diaeresis 2001). Her writing has appeared in West Coast Line, Five Fingers Review, Chain, Raddle Moon, Mirage Period[ical] #4, Potepoetzine, Alterran Poetry Assemblage, East Village Poetry Web, and in on word (U.K.).