Enslaving the Concussion: Peter Markus as Experience

Blake Butler


I can't remember if I made this up or if there's a quote somewhere, by Beckett or someone, Stein or someone, I won't guess Gordon Lish, that the sentences of all great texts could have been placed in any order. There is semblance to the body of the text's organization like a skin where the spirit contains no eye. It is both permeable and breathing, surrounding a finite set of organs, blood, and bone. With lesser texts, you could stick a pin in any word and find the meat there more deaf than its surrounding flesh, and then the whole rest of the pod comes crumbling. There is object and entertainment. The ark is comprised of boards the hold the water out and the air-sound of the preserved animals and men in. Each word has a different smell of death. Each word does not require another until it is forced into service. It is author's job to locate, parse, and name. To shake out from the mass of real and unreal the secret sequence that was never meant to be, but now is.

I've had a concussion for the past two weeks. For the past two weeks I've been reading a lot of contemporary poetry, if mainly for the white space more than the language. The thankful silences that have snuck in around the word. A lot of artists now seem like they are hiding even in the midst of presentation. You can feel the circle of someone going and away and staying there in too much very contemporary text. Too often text believes it already is what it will be before it is. The machine has run its the paces before you even get through the first sentence. Of the reader it asks and asks, and as you give and give, the way you should, you find often little or nothing there to bang you out of the shitty human pod. What do I read for if I don't want my face slapped? Shouldn't my concussion come out stinking worse? I know I'm going to be able to stand up the next day no matter what words are selected to be given, but should I want to?

Besides the poetry, I've been rereading Peter Markus. Every time I read Peter Markus I feel like I am the same place I was when I was reading Peter Markus the time before. It's like the air becomes connected. Since now I had this head wound, the head wound became copied back throughout those old days in my life. I was twenty-something and my brain hurt then just like I am thirty-something now and the fucking brain hurts. I was trying to think of what to say about Peter Markus while reading Peter Markus and this inside bleeding. I kept getting wrapped around the words. I kept finding the same words there, the multitude of which for every instance of brother or mud or fish relays as well through all previous iterations. I could turn a dozen pages and see the same sentence reappeared, suddenly surrounded by all these different sentences that looked like the sentences before, except not, like the way the grass is in yard outside my parents house as opposed to the grass I remember near a beach, and the grass of yards where people put their loved ones later, and grass that itches and grass in photographs and grass that's gone. I kept hearing Peter's particular voice in the headwound. I wasn't sure if it was a smiling voice or a voice drunk of milk or a voice like mirrors have, so it was all three.

Like the way a jerk must make a map out of a wide land, between the lines, I began to count. I began counting out sentences, the organs in the paragraph, the big fat black slabs that rise out of the white teeming with hooks. Reading Peter, one knows the stomach is the stomach and the nostrils lead into the head. We all know inside the head its black like font, a blackness that should feel as thick as being able to see nothing, allowing the visibility of anything and everything, contained. Each inch of wall is the whole world. Like I'd read the first sentence in the first story then the second sentence in the second story and the third sentence in the third story and the fourth in the fourth.

We watched our father hammer and pound, into our front yard's ground, a handmade sign that said, in letters big enough for us brothers to read what it said, all the way down from where we were watching, down by the muddy river's muddy shore: HOUSE FOR SALE.

Outside, in the rain, the dirt beneath us turns to mud.

Outside, the moon, it is a fish swimming in some river that is unseen to us brothers and our mud-shiny eyes.

What did I just tell you?

Us brothers, the both of us, inside our boy heads, what we were wondering was, Out where?

We both of us believed it, we were the one, that the other brother other than us was the brother second to us.

We were down by the river with our fishing man father the day that this other brother was born into the world.

Jabs, jabs, jabs. Blackness. In acquiring my makeshift map through Peter's three interlocking collections, my widening jumps through the total body reoccurred 64 full times, a square of eight, infinity to the power of infinity. I wasn't reading this time as much as falling. There was the language of the story but the language was more like math, bones in a bloodfield I remember feeling I recognized like bed the first time I even read it. Scrolling through the books, I realized I was getting dizzy, like I was drinking, drinking Peter. This tongue that's stuck up inside of this fish, it isn't a fish's tongue up inside of this fish. Then the drunk became to grow more calm, elastic, elated, opening and beating, the opposite of sleep. I kept thinking of Peter's own private way of reading, the way he'd said often he can't even finish a book he loves, how much he gets caught up in a single page or paragraph or syllabic string. His appetite, thank god, appears throughout his art. The story was in every word, not just the sentence, the story was all over the page, you couldn't pick up the book without having the story in your blood and in your mouth. The words had been infused with understanding that required no other traps or tricks of needing to be god. A place of endless childhood, but one where the flesh is always cut, the head is always nailed through to a larger surface, the family is planets. You could just look at it, the paper. You could read a word and set it down, walk around with some heat in your head, going wild the way you'd been told without even moving. Like how I'm dizzy even now. I can't remember if I made this up or if some old dead dickhead said it but like a sky works there are books you can look at and see one color and know the color is deeper and deadlier than anywhere you are. The kind of a look that actually hurts the eyes of the brother who's doing the looking. You can see the word "mud" and know that mud comes up to your neck, and the mud is packed with sediment of bones and food and animals and blood all in its one wet syllable. Or you can go "brother" and know that in a cave obsessed with sex and magical animals and excesses and releases, there is another kind of person, a person carrying the body of itself through the mud of itself. A world made firm in text accessible in no other means. It isn't really form or image or story or idea or really language. The edge of language appends somewhere else. Somewhere, I'm sure, the sun is shining. It doesn't need your mouth or your machine, your blood, your skin. It knits inside your sleep. It will repeat. It repeats because it was. It is because it.