divinations (with derrida)

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Water is, by our reckoning/ within, below and without

          A smoke machine, the biggest you’ve ever seen

          Kept offstage until someone gives the signal

A suspension of time/ mechanism overhead in spidery patterns of silver and gold

Time over motion : a zero-hypothesis



They put baby-aspirin over the eyes of the deceased down here

I think there are those you should never know you met

The silent morticians

Sailing their one river

Running through

Thin and desperate



I live in the desert

I always have

And I often wish

It would rain for decades



Early forms of divination include the throwing of bones, the interpretation of both fire and water and the reading of tea leaves. The watching of plants, the way blades of grass moved in the wind, when the first snows came. The colors of the moon. The patterns of eclipses. The migratory patterns of birds, the unfathomable mating calls of cranes.



“Let us situate ourselves for a moment in that place where the values of value (between use-value and exchange-value), secret, mystique, enigma, fetish, and the ideological form a chain”



                    The image of a house on fire goes here

                    I say “image” because I’ve never actually seen a burning house

          It’s a scene in a film, a single frame: the windows vomiting orange

                    It’s only an object on a screen



What separates the image from the object?

Again: time, the dividing factor, the DMZ

Between the dead and those who believe

(image of an image) (of an image) (I think just one will suffice)

I place it with my finger, like an Ash Wednesday mark on the forehead

A lidless eye if you prefer

So even if it seems too bright, don’t blink or the miracle will escape before you can catch it

peeking back

An object in motion/ a relativity

Streaks across the painted sky/ relative to what?

Would you prefer that god spoke to you in German?

Or is there someone else?

You had in mind

What animal drags over frost and roots

When you’re not looking

A new language,

Sweet like cracked open marrow

In the bones of your unmet friends

How trite: a wolfpup pack dressed in black who only want to help



Notice that many modern games of chance, are variations on earlier attempts to tell the future. The roulette wheel, black or red. Horseraces have a spiritual aspect, though one hesitates to say that the horses are aware of it. The relationship between poker and tarot is particularly symbiotic. Even the simple notion of dice and the phrase “throwing bones” comes from the earlier practice of throwing carved bones as an attempt, as a frustration: anything to know what your chances might be tomorrow. Post dark, we divide time with light and let the rain sort it out.



The question one always reaches eventually, with a Ouija board or any similar parlor trick is: who am I speaking to? Who is speaking to me? Ouija boards are a particularly cunning coin flip because who you’re talking to resides in presupposed selves: it’s a secretly reflective surface upon which you move the glass



The large balding man in the mirror just winked at me and I am struck with the memory of

smoke and summer, afterthoughts breathed into being



The amber frame flickers and melts at the edges, like paper, no worse and no better

We talk about fire like it didn’t exist except in this



The house in the frame doesn’t care what material it burns through

What burns is what burns



Medieval accounts of horses running across fields screaming like brief miracles abound

What you might call a “hauntology” I call a chance:

The riders immaculate rising to meet the sun

They say the sunsets after the eruption of Krakatoa

Were more beautiful for a generation than any time in history

Decades before

Color photography could have preserved

Even one

A black and white

Sky made of ghosts

Recedes in memory

Like a boat on water

Where there is no water

A relativity

Cheshire Cat machine

Grinning as it disappears



A less obscure way of putting it, film (the preservation of light) is a form of memory made obvious. Here’s one: 1906, Market Street San Francisco. About a week before an earthquake swept it all away. People dart in and out of traffic, early cars and horses. A camera rolls down the streetcar tracks. What we know in hindsight. The sepia ballet of the last days. A square of murky daylight, a tower in the distance grows slightly closer with the sound of horses.



My time west/ my measurement of breath

Depends on the opposite of giving up the ghost,

On how long I can hold my breath

On convincing myself that I am not what haunts this place

Not the comet but the afterglow/ I commodify the wisdom of those who have escaped us

Not the fire but the branches/ who was it said “gaze not into the abyss lest the abyss say,

‘beg me’”


Sacrifice to the new saplings/ this way, the invisible: the cut and the cutting swaying like scarecrows

Half the body hauled off on flatbed trucks/ giants in their time, counted their years towards a flood rather than away from it

Down the mountain and down and down and down/ the momentum, the momentary avalanche

An optimist might say

Half of me is going to the sky

And the other half will be the ladder

A fluttered spread of cards while I’m falling (though I’ve not yet fallen), clubs and spades, red

and black: somewhere you (the royal you, the you you do not yet wish to converse with) is

falling and gravity is just a suggestion from the ground



A different way to calculate it, is this:



What do we do to hedge our bets? Do we listen to our engines when we start them? Beg them like flesh to please give us this our daily miles? Every good American has seen the west reflected in chrome and felt a fever. We are not limited until we are. Wreckage and squalling limit so bright. It’s a cliché to say that the only things that matter in art are sex and death but I would say that the dramatic desert highway accident synthesizes them both to a release. Mechanism flying through the air, is this brief freedom when I can expect the angel to finally begin speaking?


I imagine a glass castle, building a glass castle by melting the sand into starlight and catching the frost on its spires like a new Northern Light being built right here on the equatorial gloaming where the machinery can’t see us


“One would still have to reckon with … the “ghost” effect. One would have to say why it frightens or strikes the imagination, and what fear, imagination, their subject, the life of their subject, and so forth, are.”


And then at the edge of the land or the start of the water

                    It doesn’t really matter which

                    There are only blackened shells on stilts on salt encrusted mudflats

The new world doesn’t notice who’s watching when they light their candles

                              Forgetting when the blackout began

                              And hoping that it never ends

                              Fire remains the substance of memory


“Will that which is going to loom up be a mere example? Yes, but the example of a thing….

that seems to loom up of itself and to stand all at once on its paws. It is the example of an apparition.”



In Birdland they sing an alchemy of copper and coolant fluid

In Birdland they sing


The birds are more obvious/ when a predator approaches

Than my caution allows to quicken

We dig into the desert. Into ashes and clay. Imagine mass graves because it’s better than believing that you are always walking on one. This thirst to keep the future in its place. To stop time and stay in one place, carve a lightning shaped swath through its fields. Time is patient and ever shifting and it will satisfy your parched denial. I doubt if you COULD, like Eurydice, look backwards—there would be nothing but salt and the eyes of Gomorrah floating through the trees. The object of your affection, doppleganged


Into snowfall.

                           Gutting the dustlands out of the floodlands

                                        For a divination in time

For a roll of the dice, warm breath: superstition like sailors flickering on the horizon

                                        And only time will tell me

                                        What to name the stars



I would evoke more than disaster, I would like invoke…. more than planes hitting the Twin Towers. Distant city. Never been there but they still make me mourn. Sitting in the backseat of a car watching enclaves of silver gargoyles perched in gray suspension. I don’t remember the rest but I won’t taint that with later days that filter down like industrial waste shot into space. I remember days when it rained. Later days when there was smoke and singing and quiet. Days when “that which haunts me in time” opened its mouth and no sound came out but what I knew was coming.


Here is the axis on which the engine balances

Here, an invisible line in the sand: it’s simple

Time is what sits between

Water and fire: or a memory of each: an inland sea and a desert trip to the trinity site

All the years between compressed to a continuum, and there you are

Under isolation, the horizon above you: creature caught in glass

Future selves all decked out in their surgical fineries

A freshwater lake-----------------------------------------------a black pillar in the desert


                              What exists between them is the bulk and the heft, a vast mirror:

The glass castle a puff of steam on the surface

                                         The object in motion requires an imperfect vacuum

                                                       A crack to let the air seep in

                                                         Balance point caught on the sharp end of vision



A film preserved from the bombsite (assuming you believe me). Like wind caught in a jar. What I wish I had saved. A day when it rained. Somewhere 1999, the approximate horizon bobbing in and out of sight. I can watch it spin like my youth writ small and told to fly.

“Challenge or invitation... seduction countering seduction… provocation of other ghosts… there is always more than one spirit, and even more spectres... opaque and transparent, a secret no substantial essence hides behind”



An example of the house burning

A flame forever

What was

Cut to bits

Ribboned and torn out beating


In the west they fly east

Haven’t you ever wanted

A spontaneous séance?

Only my voice echoes

Bellies of the raid, scraping canopy


The Cassandra gambit. If you knew the future, would you coat the house in gasoline? And if someone knew you knew the future and let you do it, put it all on film for the sake of preserving the sacrifice, would they then obsess over the sound of the fire howling and a crow alighting from the roof in the moment before the furnace goes?


                                              Lights out

I am not what compels the birds,

Rather what is left behind from their rippling wingbeats

From what once flew

                                              The west goes out in the wind/ a flight signal and a black box

                                              Who drinks this soft mandala out from its depth?


“This question could be developed endlessly. We will interrupt its course and follow one of its other relays.”





So we take our chances. Drop like fireflies into light. Utterly changed. The object in motion and the observer of it. The music of the fire, danced out in public: a distasteful nakedness shooting into the atmosphere. A test run, all of it. 70 years of the future and then? Oh brightness, risen women from the glaciers. They take off in patterns, cranes over the low scrubs. I hear them sing like delicate metal just as it hits the water. I am not apologizing if only because I cannot turn around. I threw my stones like any petty meddler, I watched the ripples, counted the rings. Notations of doubt and dreaming cracks in uncrackable facades. My Spy vs Spy plague mask scented with nightshade and crow-bone porcelain. I did not know to whom my ivory was owed.


The end of history was intended to be what saved us so what happened? When fin de siècle gives way/ when the flood/ and the next flood/ turns its gaze backwards at you and yours, do you drink what you can or watch the sky into dryness like the faithful or the proud


The echoing of a brief inland sea. Freshwater apparition. Do you remember these things? Or does the desert take your recollection? This is how we remember, through slowly repeating repetitive patterns. But watch closely, like a magician’s bandaged hands/ broken off saintlike and buried underground/ a funereal singularity: see how they change, like drawing a circle in ink/ you will never repeat


The motion perfected, never get it

No birds landed on its brown surface

And then?

Watch the way I move my hands

And tell me

All about it

The ghosts of ever

Brief oceans

Haunt the plains and deserts

Stalking in vapors across our flawed degrees of creation

A V-formation

A mystery revs its wings

The way we would

Swim in it

I am a trail of spirits/ like paper dolls cut in white

Made of a sound like all the light switches in the 1st world being flipped at once

On or off?

Now that would be telling

I defer to a voice and capitulate to instinct

To perpetuate


                 “Everything begins before it begins.”





By all means presume to know the minds of the dead


Never/ “Let us situate ourselves

Let me know/ for a moment

The never/ in the place”

Let me know/ beyond the veil: the assassins

Approach and burst like ripe grapes or the best fireworks you can remember


“Let us not forget that everything we have just read was... a finite delirium...discourse on a madness destined, according to him, to come to an end… translated, but for a finite time, into the language of madness, into a delirium of expression.”


Golden laser disc spun in space skips: an astronaut’s funeral, play my favorite song at the end

I float embryonic in the increasingly obvious vapor chamber eventual

White roses in the snow

Blueprints fluttering in atmosphere

Our hindsight is a form of dreaming

Burning blossoms precede me back to the new earth


                Black spike/ Trinitite


Should you feel the need to ask, what are we talking about: remember that we are talking about

what we are always talking about

The black pillar at ground zero out in the sand (tower in the distance), crater smoothed over by

wind: the forever coda, aftermath

I call this maneuver “Leaping Child Plays The Fire Sonata”

See me twist into gravity like a deliberate inferno

Like The Lord’s Prayer, on the lips of a glass blower



                 A breakage

                 Concrete dam blowing a low note

                 Rumbles the honeybees and the black streaked fields

I am a creature in amber and air

Spun out of discarded bones and telescopes

Spyglass and message

Raindrop and mudcrack

Hailstorm and sky/ my fortune telling systems approaching indeterminate spin

Where it escapes me, the velocity

A thirst/ a return/ a language outside of time sniffing at its walls with chemical breath to stoke

the morning bellows into bloom and the glass castle is in perpetual collapse


Oh rain on green twenty years past

Like all the ghostward light I’ve ever swallowed

nate maxson

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Albuquerque, NM