by Jonathan Nosan
“FUCK ME!” wailed across the overgrown wildflowers as the blunt needle pierced his fleshy palm. Not enough to stick but enough to start blood flowing, thoughts of tetanus, and heighten his sense of aloneness. Hurriedly placing the ten cups from the damp newspaper wrapped board onto the pine drying shelves behind his studio, midnight hid the lying dental instrument. Crumpling paper into the quick pained single stigmata reminded him of the sacrifices made for his passion.
The simple surprisingly thin runt of a teacup was the last throw of the day. The thimble of clay he easily could have thrown away became the night’s final love: his plus one.
“I saw the way you were looking at me,” she whispered up into his ear as his slow breaths touched her wet lip, “like you were ready to trash me.”
It wasn’t that way. Perspectives, like geographies, are always changing between the view, the viewer and the viewed. The same smooth rock face found perfect by the street artist’s spray can, can hold the ancestral creation story for generations of indigenous peoples. Art, creation, expression, protection, freedom, fighting, acquiescing to be heard, seen, known and remembered…He remembered her, her raised hand, looking down upon him from the steeply tiered squeaky wooden seat auditorium,
Alchemism in the Elevation of Form: A Methodology to Sanctify the Profane: Grants, papers, journals, tenures, sabbaticals, rituals, hypotheses of genius and nothingness leading him finally to his private studio. Designed with a detailed perfection, a space prohibiting any “alternative clay” contamination in respect to this last love of his life: porcelain.
His belly thoughtlessly drooped over the turquoise and bronze belt buckle as he hunched over the spinning wheel; a rickety low stool nearing collapse and a sparkling threadbare cushion incapable to protect the crash. Having stopped chasing youth, both his own and his students, he no longer agonized over keeping his physical form as well trimmed as his pots. His chemical stained fingernails darkened from decades of his bloody brown tenmoku glaze, gaining his work and hands renown in certain circles. Wavering between taciturn and mania, light and darkness of mood played emotional havoc behind his liquid blue eyes shining the glimmer of Experience. A shaggy silver mane of greasy hair framed his scruffed wrinkling face perfectly. Seventy four looked ten years older on him and his twelve years of single living released him from past obsessions of self care and maintenance—his creations now his obsessions. 36 years of lecturing in the Religious Studies department allowed late nights in the university pottery studio, and now retirement gave the time and space to put his decades of words into his ending years of action towards alternate forms.
“Rich…He’s at it again and it’s keeping me up.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Your ‘Fat Old Dude in his bright light shack’…I don’t think he’s showered in weeks…I can smell him from here…”
“Babe, you can’t smell through binoculars…put ‘em down, come back to bed, and say g’night to your AARP crush.”
“Given Netflix, chilling with you or playing Rear Window with The Professor I choose the latter. It was the best class in college and some of the only things I remember came out of his mouth. He dissected my essays when anyone else would have fast fucked them over and given me an A; he voraciously cared about making me better. I felt him molding me into the research scholar I could have become and never…”
“You’re so fucked up…”
“He could just stand in front of the class, not say a word and we all felt it. That he KNEW the things that he was teaching through Eliade and Hiltebeitel, while we were chasing quick glimpses with LSD and…”
“I still don’t get why you did so many psychedelics at CAL…”
“And now finally I get him for myself and pry into his KNOWLEDGE, study him the way he had us study the great ones…he IS the fucking great one. Making and making and making but we never see where any of it goes, no one coming in and he takes none of it out…”
“Antoinette, just fuckin’ get in the car tomorrow with a couple matcha lattes and knock on your door of eminence.”
“I fuckin’ love your psychafuckedup crazy ass.”
“Me too. Gnight,” as she stayed awake next to his comfortingly annoying sleep breaths.
The tomorrows came and went and his late night work lights and echoing expletives waned over the late summer months—thoughts of what to take The Professor now filled her dark hours.
“Salt.” She remembered. He was obsessed with salt: any salt, every salt, black salt, processed salt, sacred salt, peppered salt. Any salt found from every trip taken during college, she brought to his single windowed musty book filled office and made the offering, shared a story, until she was told her time was over. In the kindest of firm ways. Maras crystals, in the little burlap bag from her trip last year to Peru, still sealed as she felt it too nice to use, would be the gift of reunion.
Choosing Birkenstocks over the Beetle she walked a firm footed sweetly connected walk down the the long tree covered gravel driveway, the moonless night offering a help she didn’t need to know the way. Descending deeper into darkness on and off the main road, she reached his heavy dried out old wood front door, too ornate for the Upstate Craftsman. A dim flickering light seeped out of the slightly open doorframe as the final five notes of Ives’ Concord Sonata slowed her already cautious steps, pulling her in. The scratching sound of needle on vinyl guided her as that single final note hung in the air—effortlessly—as continued rotations of recorded silence gradually transformed time, the arm not yet ready to return to its resting place.
“Hello? Professor?...” her voice trailed off without reply following the smell of flames—to the blackened brass door handle barely holding on by two loose screws, her slow inhale opening the door to find him
naked face up on the floor. A creamy white icing slowly drying into every pore, gravity softly pulling skin over muscles and bones, his impossibly long slow soft breaths fill the space with dusty clouds of porcelain. Legs and arms in a perfect relaxed symmetry, eyes resting three quarters closed, his neck the only muscle working to keep the head upright and balanced on its crimson raw silk pillow under the nape. Still, standing at the door, Antoinette scans the empty room: a perfect recreation of the stories told of the cabin where he lived as a first year researcher in the North Kyoto mountains in the 80s. The six tatami mat room with perfectly disintegrating lime plastered straw pieced walls meeting the cedar beamed ceiling—full of nothing, but him. And ten cups: two at his feet, two at his fingertips, two at his shoulders, two at his ears, one at the top of his head and a last little one resting in this mouth.
She sat back on her ankles, knees to his head and saw: each cup filled with with one inch of oil, a wick floating on the oil and lit. Each pure white glazed porcelain cup carved with a jumble of unglazed letters, translucently shining over his body.
“What a fucking movie…” she thought to herself, ready. She lowered her eyes towards the glowing cup in his mouth, it pulled Antoinette’s ear down to the lip and like a master ventriloquist he whispered… “ksdutwkdernseecognitnanofgiednissuwohlrpebdotynttrungseinhpdikinaovsmefshbni.”
She went numb.
“ksdutwkdernseecognitnanofgiednissuwohlrpebdotynttrungseinhpdikinaovsmefshbni,” he whispered the word again.
It hit straight through ever vein searing her brain.
“ksdutwkdernseecognitnanofgiednissuwohlrpebdotynttrungseinhpdikinaovsmefshbni,” his final whisper of the word
hit her soul.
Letter by letter seeped into her veins and organs, filling her body and taking over the beating of her heart. The slow heaviness of her eyelids closed off the outside light, blindly placing the clutched pouch of salt from her right hand onto the center of his chest. A low vibrating buzz charged the room prying open her eyes to see the cup resting between his lips floating and revolving two inches above his dried porcelain face. Then she saw: all ten cups suspended off the ground, surrounding the Professor, slowly revolving, golden letters radiating the space. There they were: in the private VIP section of some sort of Studio 54 Disco of Soul silently tripping to to the cryptically clear spiral of jumbled letters …
The room was as no longer the room, she not she, he not he, walls ceiling floor melted into a corner-less colorless space of golden beamed letters permuting the known and permitting the knowledge to flow as one.
Each cup rose three feet off the ground, above each cup grouped the radiating words, spiraling around The Professor and Antoinette, the smallest from the mouth now at his navel, the plus nine ascending into a tornado formation as the ceiling now redolently dripped cedar oil down and olive oiled flames up, both of their bodies surrounded by the The Words spiraling above the spiraling cups…
victory splendor foundation royalty
kindness strength beauty
“I’ll give you just one more round, and then its time we go,” the room purred as the arm rose this time on its own accord, the needle gently inserting into the brittle vinyl, beginning from the beginning again and at last the sweet powerful dissonance of The Concord.
“Here we go, here we go again,” Antoinette flash remembered and said aloud in a sparkle “never did he not have a stack of Concords ready to drop, flipped perfectly to continue the flow from Emerson to Hawthorne, Alcotts to Thoreau.…the actualization of the theorization he used to go on about…lectures were like story time, his research trips sounding more like the research trips of Hofmann in the 40s… ”
But now she saw the reality of his experienced storied life. All these decades she wanted to believe—whether like Mulder or of Messianism—the notes she made in class: The Creator planting divine sparks of The Numen into the vessels below; Who would gather together around The Axis Mundi of empowerment; Until the power crashed into the destructionist times of Tohu to set the stage for; The Next Act. He told her decades ago, when she asked about the notes of The Concord, that this was the beauty he found within: the allowance and acceptance of the unfinished creates the invitation for a continuance.
And she never found his Experience. School, schul, church, cult or ashram were only saccharine teases which transferred her field research to mushrooms, psychotropics and most recently the frog venoms of the Andes.
From his white dusted soft bellybutton the little leader rose up and the whirling turbine inverted—the cups, words and golden beams chiming and resonating off each other to fill and transpose Ives’ notes into a euphonous sculpture few ears have ever seen. Together they joined the cups, rising up, his a mountainous terrain in repose and hers a single peak, their lifetimes united in a celestial timelessness, swiftly rotating just below the swirling words, she still kneeled at his head circling within the unconfined space, experiencing his nearing death as a cobweb of divine cotton candy.
“victorykindnesssplendorstrunderstandingwisdomknowledgengthfoundationbeautyroyalty,” he silently invited, and the little leader descended alone, landing with a soft radiance to his waiting open mouth. Eggshell thin cracks broke along his dried out porcelain skin, digging deeper and deeper into his form as the pull of the golden nectared letters reversed their way, drawn in to the cracks which created perfect puzzle holes to fit their letter pieces. Cup by Cup returned to their place in military like precision placement—feet, fingertips, shoulders, ears, crown—melted in to his now glowing crystalline body. Antoinette leaned over him, the soft circling wind brushing her hair and framing his head like a closing curtain. Her open lips hovering over the lips of the cup, touching, taking the smoke of the his final flame deep inside her.