The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

Proceedings of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living
David J. Keffer
(link to main page of novel)


April 1, 2018
The birds of the island led the tanager farther up the mountainside until they arrived at a waterfall. Although of modest size, the secluded nature of the space and the continuous music of the water falling into itself proved entrancing. The birds paused, in order that she might catch her breath. Thirsty from the climb, she did not kneel to drink from the edge of the plunge pool, as neither did her hosts. Here, the direction of their progress changed and they followed the meandering stream back down the slope, as it passed between boulders, carpeted with a verdant moss seemingly internally illuminated by an intense green. Soon, the stream was diverted into a tunnel, beside which the birds passed single-file along a slick, damp stone footpath. The passageway quickly opened up, revealing an expansive cavern, centered about a subterranean pool. Within the pool, the water seemed still, but the tanager detected on the far side the sunlight of a second opening and the faint echoes of water spilling over a stone lip to continue its descent of the mountain. The ledge too widened into a stone plateau that allowed the birds to spread out at their leisure in the half-light. After her eyes adjusted, the tanager more closely inspected the cave. To her pleasure, she found the walls were streaked with veins of gold, an extravagant gift of the gods to birds who had no use for such treasures. The water too seemed to contain a golden tint, although if this effect were only an optical illusion based on the reflection of the walls the tanager could not tell. She imagined that, in the same manner as the flamingo finds its pink, the golden coloration of these birds could arise naturally from the imbibition of this water. When she was invited, finally, to drink, she did so deeply.

written while listening to:  Zubi Zuva - Jehovah (Tzadik, TZ 7209, 1996, United States, cd,

April 2, 2018
The tanager remained for several days in the company of the native birds at the side of the subterranean pool. The water possessed a nourishing and invigorating quality; she felt no desire for additional sustenance. Eventually, the birds began to wander off in pairs, each according to an individual schedule known only to themselves. The pair of birds who had assumed responsibility for the tanager, while she dwelt among them, indicated with glances toward the entrance to the cave that their time for departure drew nigh.

The tanager knelt beside the pool and took one last, deep draught. She knew well that it was extremely unlikely that she should ever return to this place. She followed the birds into the tropical starlight, where the distant, stellar radiance saw fit to approach and mingle gaily with the golden pigment of their feathers. We could suggest that drinking from the pool also imbued the tanager's copper curls with a golden tinge, but that observation may have been no more than a figment of our imagination, beguiled by starlight.

The regal male and the subtle female did not pause outside the cave to allow the tanager to admire them. Rather, the trio resumed their ascent of the mountain. This time the tanager was expected to keep pace. Such starlight as this, which had traveled across the vastness of space since the universe was young, could not be kept waiting any longer.

written while listening to:  Charles Hayward - Double Agent(s) Live In Japan Volume Two (Locus Solus Records, LSR 002, 1998, Japan, cd,

April 3, 2018
At the top of the mountain, the trees thinned, their foliage forming an incomplete canopy, through which the starlight fell in fragments. Among these slivers of light, the pair of golden peacocks performed their courtship ritual. They were a long mated pair and familiar with the routine. As to their motivation for choosing this night to re-enact the performance, one can only speculate. Perhaps, the particular information carried by the celestial light at this moment induced them to relive their own memories. Perhaps, as is the case with many couples, they simply sought to reinforce the bond between them by restating their vows. Alternatively, or perhaps simultaneously, they provided a demonstration to the tanager of the ritual. Certainly, it is not an affair whose description can be found in the textbooks of ornithologists.

As is well known to science, the elements of our universe are created in stars. Not only is the radiation of starlight a product of these stellar furnaces but so too is the matter of our being. That folk associate in the energetic signature of starlight a historical perspective more than they do with matter is only one of a number of cultural mores that, at best, skirt the truth.

In their being these birds housed mysteries no less ancient than the cosmic radiation by which they were now bombarded. In their courtship, they revealed these secrets to each other, making the mystery manifest.

The tanager watched as if a spellbound voyeur. To be sure, Gentle Reader, if you had been in her place, you would have sought every reason to do the same.

written while listening to:  Ruins + Kazuhisa Uchihashi - Live in Tokyo & Ljubljana (F.M.N. Sound Factory, fnc-028, 2002, Japan, cd,

April 4, 2018
The significance of the courtship spectacle witnessed by the tanager is, of course, open to multiple interpretations. The ambiguity can be traced back billions of years to events rare even on a cosmological scale. At the end of their lives, stars of a certain size expire as supernovae and produce a shadowy remnant, a dense neutron star. When two neutron stars collide, heavy elements, such as gold are created and scattered through-out the universe. Embedded in meteorites these clusters of gold plummeted to the Earth approximately four billion years ago. There, they were assimilated into the planet's crust. The tanager had observed veins of this same gold along the exposed stone walls of the birds' subterranean refuge and perceived a golden contamination in the cavern pool from which they drank. Distributed between each member of the mated couple, these atoms of gold, separated for eons, seek to be reunited. The courtship ritual, which culminated in the union of the male and female bird, provided exactly the opportunity for these atoms to once again mingle as they last had during the explosive, cosmic collision that gave birth to them. Much the same phenomena occurs during the joining of any two creatures, people included, though not all are quite as spectacular, owing to the much lower residual proportion of precious metals in their bodies. From this point of view, each union is a miraculous occasion with cosmic significance.

In order to believe this version of events, one must possess both a faith in the scientific description of the universe as well as an optimism that the physical universe, when left to its own devices, is not bent exclusively on dissipation.

written while listening to:  Ruins Alone - eponymous (Magaibutsu, MGC-39, 2011, Japan, cd,

April 5, 2018
With the coming of dawn, the tanager departed the island. She was not farewelled by a flock of birds, as she had been welcomed, for the message, which they had already communicated to her, also contained implicitly within it an expression of their enduring goodwill.

The tanager ascended into the morning-colored sky and soon the island dwindled, a rapidly receding dark speck on the shifting canvas of the ocean. Aloft, she withdrew her cellphone. Through the manipulation of her two thumbs, she recounted the events of the island while they were still fresh in her memory. Much to her consternation, it seemed a demon had possessed the auto-correct and attempted to thwart her intentions at almost every other word. Patiently she entered and re-entered the text; a long flight lay before her and she felt no particular urgency.

The narrative was transmitted in fragments via satellite to the waiting phones of the other members of the executive governing committee. Each member received a clause, or sentence or paragraph as it arrived. Poppy excitedly read each portion within minutes of it appearing on his screen. Others waited for the entirety of the passage to be broadcast before commencing to read it from the beginning. In this way it was made known that the first contribution of the tanager, and the third overall, to A Fractured Portrait of Iris had been accomplished.

written while listening to:  PainKiller - The Prophecy (Tzadik, TZ 8311, 2013 (originally recorded 2004, 2005), United States, cd,

April 6, 2018
With the most recent contribution to the manuscript in hand, the full committee reconvened on Friday. Many were preoccupied by the fact that the previous Wednesday had been the fiftieth anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Stuart and Poppy, who resided in the United States, had participated in local, memorial events. Two days later, they continued to think about the discussions raised by the anniversary, especially the recognition that the perfect society, for which King had labored and died, had not yet arrived. In many respects, such as wealth inequality, what progress had been made in the beginning of the past five decades had been lost at the end. These thoughts caused the committee members to reflect on whether their own actions were appropriately benefiting the common good. More than one was tempted to reconsider whether the creation of A Fractured Portrait of Iris was the best use of their finite time and talents.

When they communicated these reservations to Poppy, he attempted to fortify their resolve, for he too shared their doubts. Failing that, he reminded them, by way of consolation, of the words of the Roman philosopher, Seneca the Younger, born circa 4 B.C., who had written,

The duty of a man is to be useful to his fellow-men; if possible, to be useful to many of them; failing this, to be useful to a few; failing this, to be useful to his neighbors, and, failing them, to himself: for when he helps others, he advances the general interests of mankind. *

*Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, (Seneca the Younger), "Of Leisure" (De Otio), c. A.D. 62, collected in Minor Dialogs Together with the Dialog "On Clemency", translated by Aubrey Stewart, London, George Bell and Sons, 1900, pp. 240-249. full text:

written while listening to:  Duet for Theremin and Lap Steel - 10 (no label, no catalogue number, 2018, United States, lp,

April 7, 2018
As we have already noted, though we repeat it now because some time has passed since their first mention, the two children of the director of the library, from which Hong Samud joined the committee's video conference, spent their weekends in the library. We have previously met the elder child, a daughter, nominally five years of age. Sulin was known to eavesdrop on Hong Samud and had a nebulous and incomplete knowledge of Iris. She imagined Iris as some kind of foreign-dressed plenipotentiary, whose great power was exercised in commanding the elderly guest at her father's library to create her portrait.

"Spell it," ordered Hong Samud.

"P-L-E-N-T-Y-P-O-T-E-N-T-I-A-R-Y," Sulin enunciated each letter carefully.

Hong Samud corrected her spelling. He then encouraged her by saying, "Now go use it in three sentences before your mother puts you to bed tonight."

Sulin smiled, relishing the prospect. She already had one good idea. The next instance when her little brother, scarcely a year younger, ordered her about, she would admonish him for acting like a plenipotentiary.

Hong Samud readily admitted the questionable utility of teaching somewhat impractical vocabulary to this child. He had several justifications for doing so, despite his reservations. Her father, who generously provided this modest office, had suggested that he serve as a weekend tutor, supplementing his children's education. Also, Hong Samud did not entirely agree with young Seneca on man's duty to usefulness. Like Poppy, he had some time ago ceased to regard utility as exclusively a virtue.

written while listening to:  Jaimie Branch - Fly or Die (International Anthem Recording Company, IARC 0011, 2017, United States, cd,

April 8, 2018
Although the librarian was a native of this part of the world, he had lived abroad for much of his adult life. His experiences had endowed him with the familiar breadth of perspective, common among veteran travelers. He observed the idiosyncrasies of his own culture with fondness but acknowledged them as one choice among many, rather than as quintessential ways of living, as did many of those who had never left the islands. Certainly, the locals regarded him as one of their own. Of the four traits that most distinguished tourists from them--language, diet, manners and skin color, Hong Samud completely conformed to the provincial habits. At the same time, they recognized in the librarian, a prodigal son who had (at least figuratively, because details were scarce) left his father's lands and participated in God only knew what sort of outlandish practices, before returning, a repentant old man, to the fold. Many were the stories of youths who had fled the island, only to succumb to alien temptations, never to be seen again. By what manner Hong Samud had managed to escape a similar fate remained a mystery. His general inscrutability incubated in them an uneasiness and bade them maintain a formal distance. Hong Samud himself did little to discourage this reticence in those in whom he encountered it. To a non-negligible extent, he agreed with them. Also, he was a man of many secrets, who prized his privacy. That prejudice should form the basis of a wall about him could be interpreted as good fortune, since it exempted him from the necessity of having to erect intentionally such a barrier himself.

written while listening to:  Sylvie Courvoisier, Mark Feldman, Ikue Mori & Evan Parker - Miller's Tale (Intakt Records, Intakt CD 270, 2016, Switzerland, cd,

April 9, 2018
The library was oddly positioned, located as it was half a kilometer beyond the outskirts of town. An isolated building, it sat on a modest expanse of cleared woodland, facing the northern coast, and the South China Sea beyond. When construction of the library had first begun more than a decade ago, many observers remarked that the location was poor, not because it required a short walk for library patrons to reach the building, but because it would be buffeted by the annual storms and would not last long. Despite the ill prognostications, the single-story building remained perched on wooden pylons, themselves about a story and a half again in height. While the sea waters had certainly reached the piers during many storms, the library and its contents had yet to be damaged. Sometimes, when heavy rainfall lingered, the library could only be reached by boat for the span of a day or two. This essentially closed the library, since the librarian lived in town, in a house also on stilts, with his wife, their two children, and his elderly mother.

Regardless of the weather, Hong Samud was present in the library every day. He arrived before either the librarian or the sun had risen. Often in the predawn darkness, he stood on the porch and greeted the first wave of visitors, who did not stop to peruse the books within, for they were fishermen on the daily way from their homes to the harbor. If one among them possessed the inclination to enter the library, he did not let it be known.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Sumac - American Dollar Bill - Keep Facing Sideways, You're Too Hideous To Look At Face On, sides A & B (Thrill Jockey Records, Thrill 463, 2018, United States, lpx2,

April 10, 2018
Similarly, at night, Hong Samud was the last to leave the library. The director did not remember providing him with a key, but, on one occasion when he left midday to attend to business in town, he had returned after dark to lock the library and found it already secured, with Hong Samud sitting on the unlit porch. The old man had plainly offered the key to the director, who, after an awkward moment, had declined. "Keep it."

On the present night, Hong Samud again sat in a plain wooden chair on the raised porch that spanned the width of the library. Before him, the sea noisily shuffled over the narrow stretch of sandy beach, bound between rocky embankments on either side. Amidst the allure of the hypnotic tidal rhythm, the nocturnal cacophony of the lowland jungle arose. First, bats emerged in the darkening sky. Their silhouettes whirled erratically, chasing insects too small to be observed at distance. Soon thereafter a familiar porcupine crept forth to investigate the base of the pylons for invertebrates. Finding nothing it moved onto the beach, searching for carrion washed up by the sea. Sometimes, although there was an ordinance prohibiting the practice, fishermen cleaned their fish at the water's edge, and the surf carried the entrails ashore.

Because Hong Samud was the first to arrive at the library and the last to depart, no one, not even the director, knew precisely where he lived. Hong Samud had not revealed to anyone on this island that, in actuality, he felt most comfortable in libraries and, therefore, preferred never to leave them.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Sumac - American Dollar Bill - Keep Facing Sideways, You're Too Hideous To Look At Face On, sides C & D (Thrill Jockey Records, Thrill 463, 2018, United States, lpx2,

April 11, 2018
Hong Samud left the starlight and the sounds of the surf and the night jungle behind when he closed the door to the library behind him. He passed the check-out desk and strode by the aisles, formed between wooden shelves lined with books. At the rear of the building, he did not pause outside the door to the modest director's office, which he used for an hour on most mornings, for the purposes of joining the ICEML video conference. Nor did he stop at the adjacent, small receiving room, where books were kept before they entered circulation, or when they were in need of repair, or finally at the end of their lives, when they were pulled from the library to be recycled for the value of their material components. It was at the third door that Hong Samud stopped. It took some imagination to describe this space as the "Special Collections Room", but that is what the director and his librarian-wife called it. Scarcely more than a closet, this room contained those books deemed too precious to be allowed in general circulation. Hong Samud had perused the contents once and found it to be an eclectic mix of a few, old monographs, mainly from European publishers, brought by boat to other side of the world in the previous two centuries. There was also one delightful but dilapidated portfolio of historic maps of the island, which was brought out only on special occasions or during the visits of government officials, reviewing the efficacy of the public funds used to support the library.

It was through the doorway to this closet that the old man stepped, in order to effect the transportation of his mind, if not body, to that extra-dimensional locale, which we have come to know as the portable library of Hong Samud.

written while listening to:  Susan Alcorn - Curandera (Uma Sounds, no catalogue number, 2003, United States, cdr,

April 12, 2018
The few readers familiar with the account,* (numbering perhaps no more than the fingers on one hand, for the book has yet to be made publicly available), may recall that the portable library possessed a portal directly connecting it to every other library in this physics-based reality and beyond. With its seemingly infinite number of rooms, the portable library served as a central nexus connecting librarians spanning parallel universes. Hong Samud suspected that there was an infinite number of variations upon the theme of librarian--he himself being only a single example--who stocked and staffed the library. Their meticulous work was evident in the well-maintained organization and incessant expansion of the collection. He remained unsure whether he had ever encountered another librarian within the reservoir. Such was the nature of the library.

In geometry, it took the form, at least for Hong Samud, of a central corridor extending in an endless spiral. The floor revealed no slope, but performing a complete circle did not return one to the same point; one rather simply found oneself in the company of different books. The central corridor was lined on either side with modest square rooms filled with bookshelves from floor to ceiling, centered about a wooden reading table and matching chairs. The rooms were numbered and contained books of a similar theme, though often that theme was not immediately identifiable. It was also postulated that every time a new individual entered the portable library, at least one new room was created, inside which one could find every book that individual had read or would ever read.

From this infinite repository of knowledge, Hong Samud intended to discover those books, originating in this universe or another, which provided insight into the versions of Iris, whom Poppy loved beyond all physical constraints.

*The Portable Library of Hong Samud: A Novel that Grew as a Vine Grows, Guided by an Innate, Phototactic Sensitivity, Keffer, D.J., Poison Pie Publishing House, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2015. link to: promotional flyer.

written while listening to:  Susan Alcorn & George Burt - A&B (Iorram Records, AH79, 2010, United Kingdom, cdr,

April 13, 2018
The illumination within the portable library seemed to be emitted by the substance of the air itself. Without a distinct light source, no shadows were cast. In this gentle light, Hong Samud held a fragile volume in his hands. The book was about six inches in height and four wide, holding only a hundred or so pages between the hard, fabric-bound covers. No identification marks of any kind were printed on the cover or its spine. The midnight blue fabric was scuffed at the corners and worn along the edges. The oil of a single pair of hands had darkened the surface, where the book had been clutched tightly. This aged book had once been dear to someone.

Opening it, Hong Samud's suspicions were confirmed. It was a diary, in which the pages had been filled by hand. The script itself was nothing to admire. It did not possess looping curves or artistic flourishes. On the contrary, it seemed the unadorned penmanship of a woman with other, more important duties, whose sole use for this journal was to confide those thoughts that had no other outlet.

To be sure, on the first page appeared the woman's name. Hong Samud did not recognize it, nor should he have, since this woman had never published a memoir, nor been recognized in any regard for her clandestine literary efforts. Always the soul of discretion, Hong Samud opted not to share the author's name with us. We shall have to be content to call her by a pseudonym and, given the circumstances, I believe that an appropriate choice is Iris.

written while listening to:  Susan Alcorn - Uma (Loveletter Recordings, LVLT010, 2000, United States, cd,

April 14, 2018
I wonder if he understands his own transparency. When something has upset him at work, he returns home and his movements are stiff, his kiss at the door abrupt, his words terse, yet there is the heavy-handed intent to show that I am above reproach. Should I ask him, "Is something the matter?", he automatically replies, "No, everything's fine." He has resolved to compartmentalize his life into boxes, one of which is called work and the other home. Later, when he has had a drink and begun to shed the stress that followed him home, he will belatedly, almost embarrassedly, ask me, "And how was your day?"

It is not just his moods, which are transparent. His desires are even more so. When daydreams of sex have begun to infiltrate his imagination, his tentative, exploratory comments to investigate my interest are almost comical in their feeble efforts at dissembling. One day, I suppose, after we have lived together as a married couple for many years, he will have moved past this. He may simply take me by the hand and lead me to the bedroom, with no ambiguity in his meaning. Or perhaps not; perhaps his present actions are true to his nature and will change no more than he does, a softening familiarity with passing years. For the time being, I watch him with amusement. He is, if my guess is true, sniffing the air for pheromones, using his nose as insects employ their antennae to determine if by my hormones I am responding to his unspoken invitation. I allow the facade to continue, until I deem that he is impatient for the uncertainty to be resolved.

"Oh, Poppy," I say dramatically, provoking a shy smile, "what a man you are!"

written while listening to:  Misha Feigin & Susan Alcorn - Other Side of Reflections (Dreaming People Records, DPR 014, 2012, United States, cdr,

April 15, 2018
Repeatedly, he seems flabbergasted at my predictable behavior. When the week has been particularly busy, I like to take a Saturday afternoon nap on the couch in the living room. Now that he knows my routine, he encourages me to move to the bedroom at the end of the house, where it is less likely that I will be disturbed, but I prefer to choose my own place to rest. I like to be closer to the family. I watch a little television at a low but perceptible volume until I fall asleep. The family has learned to be quiet during my naps, but they have not internalized the lesson well. Invariably, one of the children will shriek with laughter or anger, or the dog will alert the entire house to the passage of pedestrians on the sidewalk, as if they were planning some sinister malfeasance, rather than strolling momentarily through his field of vision. In any case, I awake with a start, poorly rested and irritable. I grimace and bark out some remark to communicate my displeasure. It is the same sequence every time, a ritual that ends with a gradual cooling of my temper, culminating in an apology for taking out my lack of sleep on my family. Still, despite his knowledge of the process, he thinks it is his role to prevent it, to derail it before it occurs, to order me to the bedroom for my nap, or to reprimand me for being grumpy. He cannot seem to accept the irrational necessity for loved ones to bicker with each other. He seems to labor eternally under the delusion that the goal of communal life is to seek an imperturbable equilibrium, as if we should eagerly imitate a future, in which we lay side by side in the family plot of the graveyard, with nothing to say to each other.

written while listening to:  Susan Alcorn - Soledad (Relative Pitch Records, RPR1032, 2015, United States, cd,

April 16, 2018
I was completely sincere, when I told him that I wanted a garden. Most of the small plot of land on which our house sits is otherwise occupied by mature trees and is subject to their shade. However, he found a little spot, maybe eight feet wide and twice that in length, at the eastern property line, which received light from mid-morning until late afternoon. He dutifully rented a small gas-powered tiller to churn the tough earth, discovering in the process that the soil was mixed with gravel from some forgotten endeavor of a previous resident. Some effort was made in removing the bulk of the gravel, though each year, the rains coaxed more stone to rise from the depths to the surface. He enclosed this garden with decorative brick. The first year, we planted sunflowers. Those few that escaped the rabbits towered above us in June and July. In subsequent years, he went to greater trouble and planted the seeds in an indoor terrarium, transplanting them and protecting them with chicken-wire, to great effect. Early one spring, I told him that it was my garden so he turned over the planting and maintenance duties to me. I could match neither his industriousness nor his attentiveness. My yield was predictably far inferior to those nurtured under his green thumb. The next year, I let the garden go fallow, though he had cleared it for me.

"I thought you wanted a garden," Poppy said to me, seemingly unaware that he was continuing a conversation that had begun a decade earlier, as if no time had passed at all.

"I do want a garden," I told him truly. "And this year, I want exactly this garden, which remains an opened-ended possibility and which, if entirely neglected, will nevertheless yield again a harvest of gravel, returned from the generous earth, in lieu of flowers."

written while listening to:  Max Johnson - In the West (Clean Feed, CF439CD, 2017, Portugal, cd,

April 17, 2018
Hong Samud gently closed the slim volume. There were another hundred pages of entries in the journal, which he chose not to relate here. He desired in the fractured portrait to capture only fragmentary images. He felt no impulse to present a photograph in impeccable focus. He slid the book back into the narrow slot on the shelf, from which he had withdrawn it. Once restored, the journal disappeared among its regimented companions. Who knows how many eons will pass before it is touched again?

Hong Samud walked through the spiraling central corridor of the portable library, committing to memory those passages that he had read. He would, of course, be required to put them on paper for the purposes of Poppy's portrait. He found no need for editing and hoped to introduce as few inconsistencies as possible in his transcription. Although he was light of step, the impact of his soft-soled shoes on the stone-paved floor managed to disturb the otherwise inviolate silence of the library. He paused, listening for any telltale sign of the other librarians at work within the institution. No sound came to his ears, just as he had expected. By the manner of its access, this library tended to draw keepers of a solitary nature. Like anything else, it had advantages and disadvantages, the cumulative total of which could be nothing more than an accurate description of the library.

Arriving at the portal, which would return him to the beachside library, Hong Samud paused once more. He inhaled deeply the scent of old paper. It was a kind of nourishment, which sustained him as he made his way in external spaces, with the ostensible purpose of making the world a better place.

written while listening to:  Susan Alcorn - Evening Tales (Mystra Records, #18, 2016, United States, lp,

April 18, 2018
Hong Samud returned to the executive governing committee with his contribution to the portrait. He presented it as the work of another author, who would remain anonymous. He claimed to have selected a few, representative passages from a much larger volume, which he had found in the library.

None of us on the committee chose to dispute this dubious provenance, though neither did any of us believe it. To have used the words of another without proper attribution would have been an act of patent plagiarism, something we would not tolerate in the portrait nor in any other product of the ICEML. So convinced were we that the authorship of the passage lay with Hong Samud that we did not bother to mention our reservation to the librarian, but rather moved on to other business.

Much went unspoken during this particular meeting, which was just as well. Often, too much is said. Sometimes, admittedly, too little. Although we believed in the principle of transparency, and we accepted that robust communication was an agent of honest transparency, nevertheless we opted, especially in matters among ourselves, to rely instead upon an implicit understanding, which we envisioned, in a sense of naïve idealism, to be entirely immune to the moral turbidity which usually accompanies committees who traffic in opacity.

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey & Company - Klinker, disc 1 (Confront Recordings, core 04, 2018 (originally recorded 2000), United Kingdom, cdx2,

April 19, 2018
There were six seats on the executive governing committee of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living. Poppy, who occupied the parent's seat, we know all too well. Four others--Hebeloma (president), Stuart (priest), Escarlata (devil's advocate) and Hong Samud (librarian)--have already contributed their first fragment to the fractured portrait. Thus are we delivered to the attention of the sixth and final member of the committee. Historically, the title of this seat was "the open chair", which allowed it to circulate in time, fulfilling various functions as the need arose. It had in recent centuries come to be regarded as "the dead chair" for the reason that we shall now provide.

None of the appointments on the executive committee were made for life, but only the president's seat had a finite duration. The others were occupied until the holder of the title resigned or, sometimes, simply lost interest. Often a premonition of the departure existed, allowing the open seat to be filled by one who would soon replace the departing occupant of another seat. The by-laws of the committee dictated that the congress as a whole had to vote in a new member, but internal rearrangement could be accomplished strictly by a vote of the committee itself. Consequently, if the committee was not fully staffed, it was typically the open chair that was unoccupied. When vacancies arose due to the death of a committee member, the holder of the open chair would assume the now vacated post while the dead member would posthumously be appointed to the open chair, thus "the dead chair" label, until the full congress was brought to a vote.

This arrangement suited the other committee members well, since there was ostensibly another class of knowledge that could be provided by those with first-hand experience of the after-life. This was especially useful, if, as was true in the present case, the occupant of the dead chair continued to communicate with the committee from beyond the grave.

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey & Company - Klinker, disc 2 (Confront Recordings, core 04, 2018 (originally recorded 2000), United Kingdom, cdx2,

April 20, 2018
When she was inarguably alive, Ms. Aun Wee Park of Los Angeles, California, held the parent's seat on the executive governing committee of the ICEML. It was a position, which she had diligently occupied for decades. An emigrant, she had been brought to the western world by her mother and father as a child of ten, an age at which she was certainly old enough to remember her home country. Her own children, and to a greater extent, her grandchildren, were thoroughly Americanized, displaying at best a patronizing interest in the cultural heritage of their forebears. It goes without saying that her integration into American society had not been painless. Aun Wee, therefore, brought to the committee, not only the perspective of a parent, the primary charge of her appointment, but also a sensitivity to consequences of actions from the perspective of an oft marginalized outsider. When she died, the other committee members, lamenting her absence, felt no hurry to fill her seat. When Hebeloma deposed Poppy as president, he was moved to the parent's seat and Aun Wee to the open seat, which she continued to hold in death.

One hundred days of mourning passed before Aun Wee rejoined the committee as an active participant. Her camera was dark and she no longer spoke, but messages appeared in her chat box, as if it were a digital ouija board conveying messages from the spirit world. We cast our skepticism aside, so joyful were we at the return of one whom we had loved. She had never been garrulous, but in death became even more taciturn. As a result, her comments, when they did appear, were invariably given due consideration.

written while listening to:  Tony Oxley & Derek Bailey - The Advocate (Tzadik, TZ 7618, 2007 (originally recorded 1975), United States, cd,

April 21, 2018
The reader who rightly relies upon their faculties of reason to interpret the world will likely conclude that someone was impersonating the late Ms. Park. Just as adult children of a deceased parent may hide the death of their loved one from the government, in order to continue receiving monthly social security checks, so too was someone attempting to preserve Ms. Park's place on the committee, perhaps that they might continue to bask in the nightly camaraderie and shared wisdom of the executive governing committee. It is a fair suspicion, even if we on the committee remain somewhat dubious of the value of our so-called common wisdom.

To be sure, we were not immune to this doubt. Still, what purpose can there possibly be in a membership in an organization whose premise is a shared interest in exploratory meta-living if one is unwilling to consciously embrace ambiguity? Either Aun Wee had not yet left the sphere of the living, where she might share her otherworldly knowledge with those whom she had left behind, or someone still breathing was perpetrating a deceit for unknown ends. In truth, what was the difference? Could there not be some value in allowing events to unfold under either scenario?

Both alternatives were preferable to the most probable likelihood that, upon her death, Ms. Park succumbed to a mindless oblivion of biological decomposition and no one stepped forward to take her place. In that eventuality, she would not have been able to fulfill her duty in contributing to the fractured portrait.

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 1: Epicritic (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 22, 2018
Deceased, Ms. Aun Wee Park dwelt now in darkness. She had known both light and shadow in the living world and was therefore not taken entirely off guard by the gloom that surrounded her. Upon finding her voice, she had exercised it in a tentative, tremulous greeting, only to hear others reply. To her dismay, they were not the voices of her comrades in death, but rather of those whom she had supposedly left behind. "Hebeloma," she had asked, "why have you followed me?"

"On the contrary, Aun Wee, we remain where you left us."

The dead woman had maintained silence for an extended period following this brief exchange. She had not anticipated a particular sort of afterlife, but lying in a small, unlit room, where a machine converted her every utterance to a series of words broadcast to monitors scattered around the world seemed, if not hellish, a terrific disappointment.

She longed to call for her departed husband, her parents, her younger sister, the women with whom she had aged--all dead, but she did not want her awkwardness in the afterlife to be transmitted to the committee. Such fear of embarrassment she felt was a most unreasonable and unwelcome feature of the hereafter. She was tempted to become an angry spirit.

Many welcome death, seeking relief, a cessation of physical pain, of mental anguish, of otherwise interminable oppression by the weight of the mundane concerns of the living world. Certainly, Ms. Park had not expected to move from a state of meta-living to one of meta-death.

"What is death like?" Stuart had asked.

"I am afraid," she had replied, "based on my first impressions, it is more of the same."

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 2: Peduncle (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 23, 2018
She discovered that she was bodiless. This revelation was soon followed by another; she found the sensation of incorporeality to be bothersome and unpleasant. In life, she had been an accomplished seamstress, employed in the back rooms of an upscale women's couturier, whose wares and services were priced extraordinarily beyond the reach of her budget or those of her more well-to-do children. It was just as it should be, since she shared the sensibilities of neither those who designed these types of clothes nor those who donned them. Her role had simply been to make them exquisitely well. In any case, her fingers itched to hold needle and thread. She desired to feel the weave of fine fabric draped over her forearm and to cut it into shapes of undeniable purpose with razor-sharp scissors. Only there were no needles or thread or any other accoutrements at hand. In fact, there were no fingers either. She experienced a kind of phantom limb sensation applied to her entire body, though most poignantly expressed at the ends of her appendages. It seems eminently understandable that it put her in an irritable frame of mind.

"Have you begun writing your passage?" asked the scarlet tanager.

"If you pretended that I had never existed," replied the spirit who had once gone by the name of Aun Wee Park, "that would please me most."

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 3: Logozo Scampers (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 24, 2018
In life, Aun Wee had yet to accept that all her efforts would come to naught. In death, this stubbornness lingered. She ruminated in darkness for eons. Because the passage of time is nonlinear between the realm of the living and that of the dead, she was able to return on the following evening to the committee's video conference, having given much thought to the matters before her and her posture with respect to them. Although she was tempted to elaborate at length on the circumlocutions of her mind, she ultimately hesitated to speak, for she knew that the insipid, hateful machine waited tirelessly to capture and broadcast her every word. As is often the habit of those who have died, she let her carefully orchestrated thoughts dissipate into the ether of nothingness, which constitutes death.

She had been useful, she reminded herself. She had been creative--never mind that only the very wealthy had benefited from her artistic talents. She could not shake the urge to be useful again. Because the task laid at her feet was to contribute to the fractured portrait, this seemed the most immediate way to sate her hunger.

She resolved for the fruits of her labors to be broadly shared, not just among the few, privileged members of the executive governing committee. Rather, she intended for whatever soul, who happened to come across the fractured portrait in its final form, to be transformed by it in a way possible only through words written by one who had traveled along the paths of the dead and gathered to her what wisdom there was to be found.

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 4: Owele Standing (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 25, 2018
Aun Wee Park wondered why she was alone. Where were all the other people who had died? She longed for the company of the women with whom she had spent decades in the back room, measuring, cutting, stitching, joking, commiserating and consoling. Where were those women who had passed before her? Where too was her husband? If there was anything to the afterlife at all, she would have expected him to be there to greet her. Ever punctilious, if he had not yet appeared, it was likely that he was unable, for one cosmic reason or another.

The spirit arrived at one of two possibilities. Either, her current situation was general or specific. Perhaps all upon death find themselves in utter isolation. This conclusion seemed universally too dour for the inherent optimism of the late Ms. Park. The alternative, that her case was somehow unusual, seemed only slightly less unlikely. "What did I do differently than everyone else? she asked herself.

As soon as the words emerged from her mind, the confounded machine blasted them upon the monitors of the other members of the committee.

The committee wondered at this question but, assuming it was rhetorical, opted not to reply.

A terrible loneliness swelled within Aun Wee. She could find none who were dead and those she had located--the living--she could not escape.

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 5: Pineal (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 26, 2018
Aun Wee Park rummaged through the unlit nooks and crannies of the afterlife in search of scattered parcels of lingering sentience, which could be assembled into a powerful spell. The natural association between magic and death goes by the label of necromancy. Many have been conditioned to think of necromancy as a black, unholy practice, in which a power-crazed sorcerer pursues one of two stereotypical goals. He either attempts to raise an army of undead creatures to enforce his will upon the waking world or he induces in himself a state of undeath in pursuit of immortality.

We cannot escape the conclusion that, steeped in both death and magic, Aun Wee was herself subject to the title of necromancer. However, as she pursued neither dominion over the Earth nor immortality, she was a kind of good-natured necromancer, seeking to create a magic spell that could prevent others from arriving in her state and, perhaps, help herself as well. In English, there is no word for this variety of necromancer and, while we imagined several clever neologisms for this role, we suspected, upon reflection, that Aun Wee would approve of none of them. Therefore, we allow her peculiarity to remain unnamed.

In the text that follows, we reproduce those words recorded by the machine, which captured her voice. Together, these words constitute, "A Spell to Find People You Love, After You Both Have Died." While the names of Poppy and Iris may appear in the text, there is nothing intrinsic in the spell to the couple being composed of one male and one female. Two men or two women would surely suffice. At this stage, Aun Wee saw no reason to introduce artificial impediments.

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 6: Proxumal (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 27, 2018
The spell requires two casters, although one may be unaware of their role in the ritual. The initial steps of the spell must be undertaken while both casters are alive. Best results are obtained when the two casters reside in close proximity to each other and can interact during the preparation of the spell. It is theoretically possible for the two casters, once bound by love but now separated by time and space, to correctly formulate the spell; however, few successful instances of such a casting have been documented.

The crux of the spell relies on honing a sense not numbered among the five physical senses. Nor should this mode of perception be confused with a "sixth sense", in which one develops a preternatural premonition of danger to oneself or a loved one. To continue along our path of definition by negation, this feeling is also not a seventh, eighth or ninth sense. It is not the hundredth, thousandth or millionth sense. This nebulous sense defies quantification. It can no more be counted than it can be preserved, like a pickled cucumber in a mason jar.

It is not a trivial undertaking to describe the sensation in words. Here, we introduce a few allegorical descriptions, culled from grimoires written by casters of previous ages. One such Central Asian text, dating from the fourth century AD, describes a recipe for the sense, including "an intermingling in unequal portions of the faculty of smell, the capacity for empathy, two lifetimes of unyielding memory and a generous dollop of surrender."

written while listening to:  Triolid - Ur Lamento (Potlatch, P 202, 2002, France, cd,

April 28, 2018
If this sense were purely located in the Buddhist "realm of mind-consciousness", it would not be necessary for each caster to verbally repeat to the other, "I shall find you in the darkness," every day for a hundred days or a thousand days, or as few or as many days as it takes for the sensation to take hold. No, there is something undeniably physical in the sense. A residue will cling to the departed spirit, much as the same atoms that formed the living body no less form the corpse. As a widow, curled in a once-shared bed, holds the shirt of her lost husband to her face, in order to breathe in his remaining smell before that echo entirely dissipates, so too will it be possible for the spirit that follows the first into death to navigate to the other by the sense awakened by this spell.

"I shall find you in the darkness," Poppy whispered to Iris, when anxiety roused him in the middle of the night, with her sleeping soundly beside him. Repeating it, he woke her.

"You found me," she said, unable to entirely keep the annoyance from her drowsy voice. "Now go back to bed."

"You are not doing it right," her husband replied. "I'm pretty sure that you have to say the words."

She lay on her side with her back to him. While her eyes remained closed, she awkwardly reached behind her with one arm until her hand rested on his thigh. "I have found you in the darkness." She smiled to herself before she went back to sleep.

"I hope you are this good at it," Poppy whispered, "when we are both dead."

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 7: Tellurian (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 29, 2018
Commiphora myrrha is a small tree, adorned with spines, which thrives in thin soil. If a wound penetrates the bark, the tree exudes a thick sap or gum. If allowed to harden, this sap can be sprinkled over charcoal as an incense, which is known as myrrh. If, instead, the essential oil is extracted from the sap, it functions as a perfume, with a sweet aroma. Chrism, the oil with which bishops anoint the faithful in the sacrament of confirmation, is also known as myrrh, although today, in practice, the substance employed in the ritual is typically olive oil, from the fruit of Olea europaea, infused with the fragrance of balsam, which historically was extracted from Amyris opobalsamum or its similar variant shrubs found on the Arabian peninsula, but which has now become a generic term for sweet-smelling tree saps distributed across the world.

Dipping a finger in myrrh, or another perfumed oil, each caster anoints the other. The first spot is on the neck, in the crook at the base of the jawbone, where it turns upward. The second spot is on the interior of the wrists, where the pulse is felt. The third spot is on the interior of the ankles, immediately below the fibula. With each of the three applications, the casters recite in unison, "I shall find you in the darkness." Often the ritual is consummated with a sexual act, although this concluding scene of the ceremony is not prescribed in the old texts. Rather, it may naturally arise from the tactile intimacy of the process, which preceded it.

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 8: Alumo (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

April 30, 2018
Throughout the ages, this spell has been attached to practices of other belief systems, which beseech the otherworldly to advocate or intercede on behalf of mortals. For example, in Germany on this date, the Sankt Walpurgisnacht, or Saint Walpurga's Eve, festival is held, commemorating the ninth-century abbess who battled pestilence, certain communicable diseases and witchcraft. While it may seem contradictory to invite her to further the ends of this admittedly non-canonical spell, various casters nevertheless enlist her aid. Perhaps, Saint Walpurga has had a change of heart in the afterlife. Perhaps, those who question the appropriateness of pairing this particular spell with this saint do not wholly understand the intricacies that link them.

On the same date of May's Eve, in the Czech Republic, the pálení čarodějnic, or "burning of witches" is celebrated with grand bonfires. Here, the two casters may cast into the roaring flames folded pieces of parchment upon which they have written the name of the other and the phrase, "I shall find you in the darkness." The ashes and gaseous combustion products are lifted by the buoyant heat into the firmament where they are distributed, molecule by molecule, to circulate around the world. This carbon dioxide can be incorporated into the structure of plants via photosynthesis, creating a veritable host of botanical allies silently condoning, if not endorsing, the success of the spell. Thus can various practices be employed as surrogates in the dispersal of the spell to the far-reaches of realms, known and unknown.

written while listening to:  Cecil Taylor Feel Trio - 2 Ts For A Lovely T, disc 9: Tayassus Pecari (Codanza Records, Codanza One, 2002 (originally recorded 1990), United Kingdom, cdx10,

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