The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

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


March 1, 2018
A mischievous smile played upon the tanager's face. "I can pick whatever topic I want?"

"But you are supposed to keep it to yourself," Poppy urged her.

"You may not like it, Poppy," teased the tanager. "What if I make my parts racy?"

"You must use your best judgment," replied Poppy stoically.

"What if, in my imagination, Iris engages in acts of carnal infidelity?"

Poppy frowned. Although he had not anticipated this possibility, he was resolved to allow the individual authors complete freedom. He said as much.

Still the tanager did not relent in her attempts to provoke him. "What if Iris's unfaithfulness is with another woman?" Observing that she still elicited no reaction, she added, "What if it is with me? What if my writing emerges as a homoerotic fantasy?"

"Will it be titillating?" asked Stuart, becoming interested in the conversation.

"And then some," promised the tanager. "There may even be a mènage á trois, if Beatriz is so inclined."

From off camera, a woman's voice sounded a sharp retort in Spanish. It was the tanager's turn to frown. "Too bad. Beatriz says she's not that type of girl."

written while listening to:  Pauline Oliveros - Alien Bog / Beautiful Soop (Pogus Productions, P21012-2, 1997 (originally recorded 1966 & 1967), United States, cd,

March 2, 2018
A rebuttal to the tanager came from an unexpected corner, for no one expected one-upmanship from the librarian, especially in matters of the flesh. On the contrary, we implicitly thought of the librarian in terms of a celibate aesthete.

"Do you call that racy?" he asked. "In my day, such texts didn't turn heads until they were expurgated and the juicy bits rendered in Latin. Consider this passage, concerning the meeting of the legendary Poison Pie and the Summer Nymph, taken from a library of books, which are yet to be written.

Poison Pie, a Man of the Mushroom People, is defined through the ambiguity of multiplicity. He is, like Hebeloma crustuliniforme, a manifestation of the natural world, a product of the grinding gears of evolution. Giant in stature, swarthy of face, hands like mittened, ectrodactyl sponges, Poison Pie has also been called Deus Sylvus, back in an era when having an essence of the divine lodged within one's caliginous innards was not interpreted as a sign of gullibility.

Hair like shafts of straw, aroma of tree pollen, tart gooseberry sweat, well-seeded womb, the Summer Nymph approaches in the verdant bounty of her season. "Come here, Fairy Cakes," beckons the Summer Nymph to Poison Pie.

Powerless to control his movements, Poison Pie lumbers toward her, an ungainly golem breaking with each step the mycelia threads that connect the soles of his feet to the soil beneath. 'Fairy Cakes' is not his preferred moniker, regardless of whether it is intended as a term of gentle teasing or a sign of affection, but the Summer Nymph transcends his desires and acts as she pleases for reasons that are apparent only to her, or at least opaque to Poison Pie.

written while listening to:  Pauline Oliveros - Reverberations: Tape & Electronic Music 1961-1970, disc 9: Big Slow Bog / Boone Bog (Important Records, IMPREC352, 2012 (originally recorded 1961-1970), United States, cdx12,

March 3, 2018

What happens next is a mystery. Some claim that Poison Pie places the volva of his fruiting body in the vulva of the Summer Nymph. Others describe a process, which can best be conveyed in Latin, preferably broken,

Pie venenum ponit universale eius velum fructificatio corpus in inguine Nympha aestas.

Other, more generous, descriptions invoke an afternoon summer rain, arriving in a nimble carriage of clouds, dimming the sun through a veil of gauze, lowering the surface temperature, soaking the earth, filling the air with water vapor, reminding Poison Pie by the absence of the clap of thunder and the flash of lightning that her destructive powers are mercifully held in check.

"Mercy?" says Poison Pie, "Is this what you call mercy?"

For a man of the mushroom people, things are not always as they seem to other observers. A spore cast into the currents of the sky is not only a means of reproduction but a prayer to the sun god, the rain god, the thunder and lightning and cloud gods, and the harvest goddess that, in their orgy of creation, they pause momentarily to reflect on those they created, necks craned upward, gazing from below at the tangle of bodies, while wondering, wondering what in the world they have gotten themselves into.

When the librarian grew silent, Poppy's joy was transcendent, but he worried that these good words were being wasted. "Save them," he cried, "save them for the fractured portrait!"

written while listening to:  Pauline Oliveros - Reverberations: Tape & Electronic Music 1961-1970, disc 10: Bog Bog / Mind Bog (Important Records, IMPREC352, 2012 (originally recorded 1961-1970), United States, cdx12,

March 4, 2018
There was nothing left to say among the committee members. The plans had been made. Each had their charge. When the video conference convened on what was for some Sunday evening or night and for the librarian Monday morning, they gathered somewhat sheepishly, like middle school children being dropped off at the gymnasium for their first dance. They knew what they were supposed to do but their awkwardness stemmed from having finally arrived at the subject that had occupied months of discussion and speculation. They milled about the edges, speaking in hushed voices. Who would pluck up the courage to take the dance floor first?

Only Poppy seemed relieved, as he naïvely assumed that the hardest part of his task had already been accomplished. He considered voicing words of encouragement, but ultimately said nothing. His colleagues on the committee were consummate masters of their respective trades; they each would act when they were ready to do so. Instead, he began to imagine what they would write. He tried to guess which of them would tell the tale of how Iris saved his immortal soul then subsequently insisted that the events leading to this unlikely conclusion--so pivotal in his own life story--had never transpired. Or, Poppy wondered who among his fellow committee members would recall the evening when Iris had shouted in a terrible fury at him, "You think you're such a great husband!" He had been paralyzed by such a declaration for he had ever admitted his faults, foremost among them his deficiencies with respect to social and emotional obligations. He found great comfort in the knowledge that practiced hands would soon lay these matters to rest.

written while listening to:  Harry Bertoia - Clear Sounds / Perfetta (Sonambient, F/W 1033, 2016 (originally recorded 1971, 1973), United States, lp,

March 5, 2018
For the first time that year, Hebeloma did not attend the meeting of the executive governing committee of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living. She was, instead, working in the field. She had secured a year-long fellowship to study the evolution of cleromancy in Mediterranean civilizations from prehistory to the current day. Although we have made no mention of it until today, Hebeloma had not, by any means, neglected her work. She currently resided in a time zone six hours ahead of the one occupied by Poppy (above the equator) and the tanager (below). For her, the conferences commenced an hour or two after midnight, leaving the entirety of the day to pursue the task for which the fellowship had been granted.

For those unfamiliar with the term, cleromancy is "a form of sortition, casting of lots, in which an outcome is determined by means that normally would be considered random, such as the rolling of dice, but are sometimes believed to reveal the will of God, or other supernatural entities."* In addition to the determination of an auspicious future path or the appropriate distribution of goods, cleromancy can also be invoked as a method of divination, or prediction of the future. Hebeloma maintained a scholar's interest in all aspects of cleromancy, though her intent was to focus on divination.

That we have made no mention of cleromancy until the third month of the year is a result of Hebeloma's initial intention to compartmentalize the various aspects of her daily life, namely that portion which, during the day, provided the means by which she made a living, and that nocturnal portion, during which her soul explored the nuances of meta-living. However, she now chose to break from that path. She intuited the need for external influence in the creation of her shards of the fractured portrait. To this end, she allowed an overlap with her academic studies of cleromancy.

*Wikipedia, accessed March 5, 2018. full text: Cleromancy.

written while listening to:  Harry Bertoia - Sonambients: The Sound Sculpture Of Harry Bertoia (Sonambient, F/W 1034, 2017 (originally recorded 1969, 1972), United States, cd+dvd,

March 6, 2018
Hebeloma took a short flight to Crete to meet her contact in the afternoon. While her Greek associate insisted that everything they were doing fell within the law, he also curiously insisted that they visit the site only at night. This demand prevented Hebeloma from participating in the committee meetings.

Her host functioned as an adjunct professor and makeshift tour guide. They reluctantly arrived at English as the best option for a common language. He had promised to bring her to a crypt in which he could present first-hand evidence of a variant of cleromancy, unknown to modern scholarship. The offer had piqued Hebeloma's interest and she now followed the middle-aged stranger by moonlight through a rough, mountainous country.

As they hiked, he reminded her of the story of the minotaur's labyrinth located in an abandoned quarry on Crete. The maze had been commissioned by King Minos of Crete, upon the advice of the oracle at Delphi. It is said to have been constructed by Daedalus to hold the minotaur, lest he rampage across the countryside, devouring folk at will. There, every seven years, tribute was made in the form of seven young men and seven maidens, whose lives were forfeit to ward the populace from this scourge.

As they walked, the guide recited the names of the first fourteen victims, saying, "The seven young men were Hippophorbas, Idas, Antimachus, Menestheus, Amphidocus, Demoleon and Porphyrion. The seven maidens were Periboea, Melanippe, Hesione, Andromache, Eurymedusa, Europe and Melite."

As if that litany were a magic spell, a small opening in the rocky earth appeared before them. It was hidden by a boulder to one side and by the cover of shrubs to the other. With lanterns in hand, the pair bowed their heads and entered the cave.

written while listening to:  Eliane Radigue - Trilogie De La Mort, disc 1: Kyema (Experimental Intermedia Foundation, XI 119, 1998, United States, cdx3,

March 7, 2018
Guided by the faint illumination of their lanterns, Lefteris, for that was the name of Hebeloma's guide, led her in a descent along a steep tunnel that had, presumably, once been a mine shaft. At one point, the guide abruptly stopped, as though alerted by a signal hidden from Hebeloma. He pointed to the wall. "It's here." He removed his backpack and merged into the wall, as if through a shadow. Only upon closer inspection did Hebeloma discover that the shadow was in fact a narrow, vertical slit. She too was forced to remove her pack in order to slip sideways through the gap. Thus, sidling along, between two layers of rough stone, they reached a lost chamber.

Lefteris raised his lantern to illuminate the scene. The stone of the walls had been partially worked, so that they were not entirely smooth but bore rough shelves cut into them. Upon these shelves were neatly stacked bones, which seemed by their appearance and demeanor to have rested undisturbed since time immemorial. The guide allowed Hebeloma to absorb the nature of the crypt, before he stepped forward and, crouching, brought the engraving on the floor to her attention.

In fact, she did not immediately perceive anything unnatural about the stone surface. It was dusty and bore small bits of gravel. However, she allowed her guide to point out to her fourteen faintly inset circles unevenly distributed along the perimeter of a generally oval shape about six feet along one axis and four along the other. Within this border, an array of straight lines broke the object into fourteen convex polygons of varying and irregular shape.

"This," Lefteris said, "is where the divinatory bones were cast. A skull was placed in each inset." He bent over one circle so that his nose nearly touched the stone. "Look carefully. Each of these circles bore an inscription. I think this one once read Hippophorbas."

written while listening to:  Eliane Radigue - Trilogie De La Mort, disc 2: Kailasha (Experimental Intermedia Foundation, XI 119, 1998, United States, cdx3,

March 8, 2018
In the practice of cleromancy, a group of objects was cast, be they stones, beads, shells, sticks, dice or fragments of bone. Often, the arrangement of the stones with respect to each other was sufficient for the diviner to make her predictions. Alternatively, when employing objects marked with runes or numbers, the symbols themselves provided a forecast.

In the cave, Lefteris described to Hebeloma an additional source of interpretation, based on the position of the stones within the oval and their proximity to the nearest circular inset, where a skull would have been placed. The irregular polygons carved into the stone floor divided the space into fourteen uneven regions, each bordered by a single skull. Today, this space-splitting process is known among mathematicians as Voronoi tessellation, named after the nineteenth-century Ukrainian mathematician, Georgy Voronoy. The interpretation of a stone that came to rest in the area associated with a particular skull adopted an additional meaning or context.

This practice can be likened to astrological natal charts, in which a circle is divided (more or less regularly in this case) into twelve portions corresponding to the signs of the Zodiac. Of course, in astrology, the cast stones are planets and other cosmological bodies. For example, Mars in the house of Gemini possesses quite a different meaning than Mars in the house of any other sign.

So too did the practitioners of this ancient version of cleromancy ascribe different nuances of meaning to a stone which came to rest in the house of Amphidocus or the house of Periboea.

As Hebeloma studied the remains of this stone chart, she began, internally, to realize her first portion of the fractured portrait.

written while listening to:  Eliane Radigue - Trilogie De La Mort, disc 3: Koumé (Experimental Intermedia Foundation, XI 119, 1998, United States, cdx3,

March 9, 2018
Hebeloma cast a single, loose pebble into the oval and inspected the inscription nearest to the point where the stone came to rest. She wondered, "What does it mean to dwell in the house of Periboea, a maiden for whom the meaning of love was purely a longing of the heart?" Her life, like those of her thirteen peers, was cut short. There was perhaps a tearful farewell, in which days of dread crept up to the date of departure. Sobbing, her mother had clutched her father as Periboea was led away by soldiers of the king. Beneath an overcast sky, she had entered the cave, through an entrance scarcely more grand than the gap by which Hebeloma had descended. The seven young men and seven maidens had been arranged in two columns, with Periboea at the head of the women and Hippophorbas to her right. She put on a brave face to comfort the girls behind her. Soon a stone was rolled in front of the entrance, sealing them in darkness. Listening for the sound of hoof against stone, they huddled in a chamber, not unlike the one in which their bones were now interred. Her brief life ended in terror and violence, throttled at the hands of a gargantuan, demented madness, her flesh a means of sustenance for the perpetuation of an insensate cruelty.

"What secrets could be learned in the house of Periboea, who has now perished?"

written while listening to:  Peter Jakober / ensemble]h[iatus - untitled (Césaré, 16/10/17/1, 2017, France, cd,

March 10, 2018
There are, no doubt, among our readers those who are skeptical of the value of cleromancy. They might well consider it an exercise in apophenia, the perception of intent in random or meaningless data.* Common examples of apophenia include seeing a man or a rabbit in the surface of the moon, or hearing a message when an audio recording is played backward, or responding to tragedy with the sentiment, "Everything happens for a reason."

With regard to divination via cleromancy, the accusation of potential apophenia is obvious. Cleromancy is a conscious, willful act of apophenia, seeking portents in random processes.

We admit apophenia. We embrace it because we associate the rejection of apophenia with the acknowledgment that we are purely biological organisms limited to reacting to physical processes. Without pretense, we accept that we are governed by a relatively complex set of physical and chemical systems, both internal and external. It is also easy to admit without embarrassment that existence as a purely biological organism is unsatisfying, if not unpleasant. Since ancient times, people therefore have accentuated existence with arbitrary decorations, such as morality, in order to construct a framework in which they can come to comfortable terms with the premise of their existence and their role within it. From this perspective, apophenia can play an important role. It helps create an environment where people can make peace with themselves and allow others to do the same. There is a great joy in what others might refer to as a deep self-delusion. We ask the readers' indulgence to allow Hebeloma to share that joy.

*Wikipedia, accessed March 10, 2018. full text: Apophenia.

written while listening to:  Vijay Iyer Sextet - Far from Over (ECM Records, ECM 2581, 2017, Germany, lpx1.5,

March 11, 2018
The ancient name, Periboea, literally means 'surrounded by cattle'. It was reserved for daughters of wealthy families, whose very names proclaimed their riches. If the name seems vulgar by today's standards, the reader is welcome to substitute another name, perhaps Iris, which means rainbow. We can consider Periboea one of many colorful women collected within the spectrum of Iris.

Her history is muddled. We can hardly be expected to believe the conflicting accounts that have been handed down to us through the ages. Although meticulous scholars have sifted through the extant versions of these documents, the consensus summary reads like the overlapping narrative of many women stitched together in often contradictory ways.

For example, it is said that Periboea was twice a princess, a daughter of King Cychreus, of Salamis, known as 'the Dragon' for his hot temper, and, on her mother's side, a granddaughter of King Megareus of Onchestus. As Megareus was the son of Poseidon, divine blood flowed in the veins of Periboea. Depending upon the source, it is written that this princess was ravished by Telamon, the Argonaut. Her father ordered her cast into the sea, a fate she escaped only at the mercy of a guard who then sold her to Telamon. By him she bore a son, Ajax, whose deeds are recorded in The Iliad. At the same time, no lesser authority than Plutarch identifies Periboea as an intended virginal victim of the minotaur, rescued by and later the consort of Theseus.

When one works in the realm of myth, the inconsistencies are obvious. Would it not be simpler to say of Periboea, "Of uncertain birth, she was found as an infant abandoned at the base of a hill?"

written while listening to:  Vijay Iyer & Wadada Leo Smith - A Cosmic Rhythm with Each Stroke (ECM Records, ECM 2486, 2016, Germany, cd,

March 12, 2018
Of uncertain birth, Iris was found as an infant abandoned at the base of a hilly pasture, where she was in danger of being trampled by the milling herd of cattle. Too young to speak, she had no way of informing the farmhand, who first heard her plaintive cries, that she was Iris, not Periboea. By the time she had reached the age where she could speak, she had either forgotten her original name or become accustomed to the new one or, as seems most likely, both.

In the first months following her discovery, Periboea passed through several hands until she arrived in the care of a couple, who, while past the age of having children of their own, had not quite resigned themselves to the idea of being childless unto death. They did not let such a prize go. On the contrary, they showered affection on their little princess, spoiling her with an imperturbable tenderness.

Periboea shared their olive complexion and their dark eyes and hair, but had little else physically in common with her adoptive parents. She grew to be much shorter and thinner than her mother. The shape of her eyes and the construction of her face bore no similarity to either her mother or father. Even had the distinction not been apparent, her parents made no attempt to hide her origin from her.

"You were delivered to us," said her mother, Alcathous, "in a basket drawn by a team of a dozen oxen."

"You wailed tremendously when we took you from them," said her father, Cychreus the lesser, who had a well-known penchant for hyperbole, "for you had become accustomed to being nourished in the field, suckling directly from the full udder of a matronly heifer."

written while listening to:  Vijay Iyer - Memorophilia (Asian Improv Records, AIR 0023, 1995, United States, cd,

March 13, 2018
In Periboea's sixteenth year, the king ordered all youths of that age to be registered for the lottery to appease the insatiable appetite of the minotaur. At the announcement, parents across the land experienced a dull dread, for the threat to their own child was unlikely. More experienced the presentiment of a sorrow for the fourteen families that would suffer directly this tragedy.

There is no element of suspense here; the tale has already been told. Periboea's name was selected first among all maidens of the land. She had been found in the care of a heifer and she would be lost to the violence of a bull. No one seemed satisfied with the undeniable symmetry in the arc of her bovine destiny.

"We shall hide you away," said the father, ever protective. He had relatives on the mainland, where she might be safe.

"What good will that do?" Periboea answered her parents. "Even if you succeeded in stealing me away, another girl, whose family now rejoices at their good luck and commiserates with our own misfortune, would have to take my place."

So it was with Iris, as it is with many women, who do not shy away from their responsibilities. On the contrary, Periboea embraced that otherwise random series of events, which had unfurled at her feet a task too impossible to imagine had it not been made manifest of its accord.

At a distance, a crowd followed the guards surrounding the fourteen youths offered to the minotaur's labyrinth. No parents were to be found among the throng. They had already made their farewells. There were only idle spectators, like you and I, with limited interest in the fate of those whose sacrifice secured our own well-being.

written while listening to:  Vijay Iyer - Blood Sutra (Pi Recordings, PI 901, 2003, United States, cd,

March 14, 2018
Many talented thinkers have eloquently expounded on the inherent isolation of the individual. We ourselves have some familiarity with the concept. However, we have little interest in promulgating its debilitating effects on the human spirit. On the contrary, here we reserve our efforts to describe a synergetic resilience intrinsic to relationships and interdependencies.

The events that transpired, after the boulder was rolled in front of the entrance to the minotaur's maze, are hidden in a subterranean darkness, illuminated only by our imaginations. While Hippophorbas searches for a weapon to ward off the beast, we observe Periboea and the rest of her terrified band. Their mingled, ragged breathing wears on our ears. Periboea calms them as once her mother soothed her, without requiring knowledge of any particulars. The gentle words, at all odds with circumstance but powerful nonetheless, flow unreservedly.

It does not require any special talent for cleromancy, augury or any other divinatory technique to acknowledge that there is always some doom awaiting us. Ordinarily, it takes a less corporeal form than a minotaur. Children benefit when parents address their doom with diametrically opposite responses. One focuses on the threat, preparing as best one is able, while the other entirely ignores the threat, sustaining an uncertain illusion that life's pleasures remain at hand. To be sure, this opposition is more easily described than realized. Many married couples have come to some strife over reconciling their disparate responses and the relative contributions to the well-being of their family.

written while listening to:  Vijay Iyer - Reimagining (Savoy Jazz, SVY 17475, 2005, United States, cd,

March 15, 2018
That night Hebeloma did not visit the crypt with the cleromantic tablet inscribed on the floor. Instead, she joined, from her cottage, the video conference with the other members of the executive governing committee of the PICEML. Earlier in the day, she had emailed them her first contribution to The Fractured Portrait of Iris. Since she had missed several meetings, she did not know if others had already submitted pieces of their own. As the meeting commenced, she asked as much and discovered that her contribution was the first.

"It was not what I expected from you," said the tanager, after welcoming her back. "Where did this idea come from?"

"From Crete," said Hebeloma. "And from the future." She then was obliged to relate to the others her recent investigations and to explain how she had tossed a stone, which landed in the polygon assigned to Periboea.

"I didn't know you were a cleromancer," said Stuart.

Hebeloma laughed. "I'm afraid that I may have already reached the limits of my abilities in that regard. The stone landed, Periboea entered my mind and here we are. What future lies beyond this, I cannot see."

"It's just as well," Stuart reminded her. "Not knowing is the triumph of evolution."

The librarian was present, though he offered no opinion of the piece, other than to congratulate Hebeloma on successfully fulfilling her role as president and leading them in the writing of this first passage of their shared literary endeavor.

As for Poppy, he too was present, though he said not a word. The process had begun and he hoped not to disturb it by word or deed.

written while listening to:  Vijay Iyer - Tragicomic (Sunnyside Communications, SSC-1186, 2008, United States, cd,

March 16, 2018
The reader with a reliable memory for trivia may recall that, early in the year, Stuart declared, "The most important thing to know is that membership in ACAP will not make you any friends." Indeed, as president of ACAP, Stuart had few friends among Homo sapiens. He did, however, maintain cordial relations with three inhuman friends, two from Canis familiaris, and one from Equus ferus caballus. They too were on pleasant terms with each other, making for a harmonious quartet.

They resided in the northwestern-most county of the state of Colorado, a rugged, mountainous land with a population density of less than three Homo sapiens per square mile. With the passing of his parents, Stuart had inherited a piece of property of considerable acreage, which his ancestors, much to their chagrin, had amply demonstrated was poorly suited to either the raising of crops or the pasturage of livestock. This remote land, where the earth only in patches surrendered to the grip of scrub brush and grasses, served as an ideal locale for accommodating eternal mysteries.

Originally, Stuart had insisted that all members of his extended family would accept membership in ACAP. The horse, a mare who typically responded to the name Equinox, had eschewed any degree of cooperation with Stuart, until he, in his leadership role, had excommunicated her from ACAP and assured her that he would never again attempt to convert her. The dogs were more ambivalent, if not amenable. In recent years, Pope Francis had declared that animals could join people in Heaven,* so they were torn between their instinctual devotion to the ancient Dog God and the new, improved Christian God.

*Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si' Of the Holy Father Francis: On Care for Our Common Home, May 24, 2015. full text: Vatican Site.

written while listening to:  Vijay Iyer - Break Stuff (ECM Records, ECM 2420, 2015, Germany, lpx2,

March 17, 2018
Saturday was Saint Patrick's Day, a holiday of sorts in honor of a fifth-century Christian missionary to Ireland. In contemporary times, the holiday was celebrated in the United States only in selected cities with a parade followed by people of drinking age gathering in taverns to besot themselves. Of the miracles that constituted his case for canonization little was said.

Stuart did not like to be idle. As such, he hated holidays and vacations. One may think it a contradiction that such a person should seek out solitude in an isolated hermitage, where much of the day could be squandered in unmolested idleness. However, Stuart did not use his seclusion as an excuse for indolence.

On the contrary, when he anticipated an idle day, he invented work to fill it. Today, he took occasion of the holiday to beseech Saint Patrick to span the centuries between them and pay him a visit. While the saint is largely known for his allegorical shamrocks and aversion to snakes, he is also recognized as a capable time-traveler, for it has been recorded that he conversed in depth with Irish pagans of a previous century, Caílte mac Rónáin and Oisín, descendants of the famous warrior, Fionn mac Cumhaill.* They shared tales of the virtues of their pagan lives and the saint assured them that the meritorious elements of their culture need not be obliterated but, rather, could be assimilated into his vision of Christianity, a kind of medieval Catholic Paganism if ever there was one.

Stuart rode Equinox along a seldom traveled trail, the meter of his prayer keeping measure with the gait of the horse. Eventually, Saint Patrick accepted the invitation, making a sudden appearance, which startled the horse, causing the rider to be thrown.

*Tales of the Elders of Ireland (Acallam na Senórach), Twelfth century, translated by Anne Dooley and Harry Roe, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998.

written while listening to:  Ruins - Symphonica (Tzadik, TZ 7215, 1998, United States, cd,

March 18, 2018
"The horse doesn't appear to like you very much," said Saint Patrick.

"She likes me plenty," Stuart assured the mildly translucent saint. He rubbed his arm where he had fallen; there would be a bruise. "What she doesn't like is incorporeal bodies suddenly popping out of nowhere and frightening her."

"Oh," said Saint Patrick, stroking his beard. "I thought that I had heard your entreaty. If I was mistaken, I'll be on my way." He approached the horse and lay his insubstantial hand on the side of the horse's neck. Equinox was a fine dun mare with flaxen mane and tail. She stood still in order to be better admired by the saint. "I like this horse," he admitted to Stuart. "Why did she take up with you?"

A half smile formed on Stuart's face. "Chance. We just fell in together and took a liking to each other. Plus, the dogs adore her."

Saint Patrick looked about for the dogs but they had chosen, on this day, not to accompany Stuart on the riding trail. "In any case, now that I am here," asked Saint, "What can I do for you?"

Stuart climbed back on the horse and continued their progress. The trail was long and he had every intention of completing it while daylight lasted. The saint had no problem keeping up with them, as he was able to levitate and to propel himself forward effortlessly, by means unknown to the waking world.

"Well," began Stuart, "I sit in what used to be called the priest's chair on the executive governing committee of an organization that goes by the name of the International Congress on Exploratory Meta-Living."

The saint remained silent. These words had not sufficed to reveal the nature of his intercession.

"I need help with a prayer," Stuart said.

"Of course," said Saint Patrick, clasping his hands. "That is an exercise with which I have no small experience."

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey & the Ruins - Tohjinbo (Paratactile, PLE 1101-2, 1998, United Kingdom, cd,

March 19, 2018
"Why, if I may ask, have you identified me, among the host of saints, to aid you?"

Stuart frowned. He did not want to admit that the only basis for his decision had been the chance occurrence of the saint's well-publicized holy day.

"Are you having trouble with pirates?" the saint asked helpfully.

Stuart shook his head.

Saint Patrick surveyed the dry, mountainous landscape. "I wouldn't think so around here. Perhaps, problems with sheep?"

Equinox, who had no desire to share the stable with sheep, snorted in derision. Again, Stuart responded with a shake of his head. "I need help writing a prayer," he repeated.

"To what end?"

"A prayer for a woman."

"Oooh," said the saint. "That kind of prayer. Is she Irish?"

Stuart tried to remember if Poppy had provided any genealogical information regarding Iris. "I don't think so."

"But she has captured your heart all the same," concluded the saint.

"Actually," said Stuart, "she is married to another man."

"Well!" The saint took umbrage at the implication that he might participate in the breaking of one of Moses' commandments and declared in a sanctimonious tone, "Thou shalt not covet your neighbor's wife, even if she were a comely, Irish lass."

"I intend to direct this prayer on behalf of her husband," Stuart said by way of clarification.

Betraying his skepticism, the saint raised a bushy white eyebrow. "Is that so?" When Stuart nodded, the saint added, "You can't trick me. I learned long ago to read the lie in a man's eye when I was kidnapped by pirates."

written while listening to:  Derek Bailey & the Ruins - Saisoro (Tzadik, TZ 7205, 1995, United States, cd,

March 20, 2018
The saint put his doubts aside and set to work on the honest labor of prayer-crafting, a skill at which he was quite accomplished. "Why does this Poppy want a prayer said for his wife?"

"He didn't specifically ask for a prayer," Stuart admitted. He was then obligated to explain more fully the literary endeavor of the fractured portrait. When he had done so, he concluded, "So, I figured that people put their deepest needs and desires into prayer. Through this prayer, I might come to provide a description of Iris." Stuart was afraid that the saint might be disconcerted by the dual purpose of the prayer, namely the beseeching of the Lord and the creative act.

However, much to Stuart's relief, the saint had no qualms of any kind about the task. On the contrary, he viewed it as a challenge. Saint Patrick had been involved in the intercession of prayers for many centuries and it wasn't every day that a new twist emerged.

The two men, one still living and the other already dead, gathered on the porch of the solitary house. The corporeal being brought with him pencil and paper. Beneath the illumination of a kerosene lantern, they waited for the stars to appear overhead, providing a conduit through which the words could leave the body and ascend unimpeded to the heavens.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Mitsuru Nasuno, Tatsuya Yoshida + Bus Ratch - Live At Cafe Independants Friday 23.January.2004 (Cafe Independants, CIL-006, 2004, Japan, cd,

March 21, 2018
Lord, Spinner of Starlight, Sculptor of Flesh,
We implore you to heed now our prayer.
As you scrutinize this world, seek out
those who once fell in love only briefly,
those who have married and unmarried,
those whose children wonder what went wrong
between their absent mother or distant father,
and what might have been done differently.

Lord, you made a world in which anguish
arises as naturally as joy. To pray for life
any other way is, we acknowledge, foolishness,
a kind of sacrilegious desire to unmake
your dominion and reconstruct it according
to a set of laws so at odds with reality,
that we dare not voice such words in your presence,
preferring instead to nurture them in the silence
and darkness of our hidden hearts.

But, O Lord, if it is not too much to ask,
aid those, yet dwelling here on Earth,
who combat the growth of anguish and despair.
Give strength to your people
who fight tirelessly against the indomitable
recklessness of the physical world you wrought.
In the battle, which pits man against stone
and woman against water, do not be so just
as to refrain from a bias in favor of the animate.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Tatsuya Yoshida - Until Water Grasps Flame (Noise Asia, NAIM12CD, 2002, Hong Kong, cd,

March 22, 2018
O Lord, let your will be manifest!
Let the agents of your mind be chosen
from among those who scramble for their daily bread,
who, mistake-prone, arise early in the morning
to error, and will not return to sleep,
until that error is compounded once, then again.
O Lord, let those whose wedded bliss has disappeared
be anointed by the angel who wields both sword
and scale to serve you in this hour of need.

Indeed! Let those who have increased anguish
by their own deliberate actions
be charged with the holy task
of redemption. Let them work in disjoint
pairs, wives separated from husbands,
husbands beyond the sight of wives, and
let them find in this solitary labor the communion,
which eluded them. Discover between
the two a mysterious collaboration.

Finally, in what we might consider
a proactive plea, allow those couples
who have yet to disavow their marital oaths
to share preemptively in this common labor,
for, in our admittedly questionable judgment,
it seems worthwhile for each to be redeemed
by the other, without the extravagance
of having, first, gone through the trouble
to alienate each other.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Makoto Kawabata & Tatsuya Yoshida - Ichi To Ichi Ga Kasanatte Shimaumade (Magaibutsu, MGDV-05, 2008, Japan, dvd,

March 23, 2018
Saint Patrick declined to wait around to accompany Stuart to the next meeting of the executive governing committee of the ICEML. His services were in great demand, despite the secular tendencies of much of the modern world. "I have already tarried here overlong," he said as he excused himself. He walked off without apparent haste until he was lost to Stuart's sight.

As a result, Stuart was left on his own to present the prayer as his first contribution to the fractured portrait. He chose not to follow Hebeloma's example and did not electronically distribute the text before the meeting commenced. Instead, once all were gathered at their respective seats, he prayed the prayer, which he titled, "A Prayer for Mysterious Collaboration."

Poppy, of course, was again transcendent with joy. He had always suspected that the writing of A Fractured Portrait of Iris was beyond his capabilities and this second fragment was proof positive that his intuition had been correct, for never could he have generated such words. Even as they were read, he had a hard time understanding them. When Stuart had finished, Poppy asked him to read the prayer again, which he did.

The rest of the committee did not press Stuart for explanatory background as to how he had arrived at this piece, as they had done with Hebeloma. Thus, no mention of Saint Patrick's contribution to the prayer ever arose.

To be sure, saints have their fingers in many pots and, owing to their saintly dispositions, care not a whit if their role in one minor miracle or another is overlooked.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino, Makoto Kawabata & Tatsuya Yoshida - Ichi to Ichi To Ichi Ga Kasanatte Shimaumade (PSF Records, PSFDV-1003, 2009, Japan, dvd,

March 24, 2018
In the months when the tanager was on her winter pilgrimage, she primarily, though not exclusively, kept to the coast, choosing to visit the interior rain forest only as the whim possessed her. Like many who dwell along such margins, the allure of the proximity of the ocean was not lost on her. She made a point to travel between towns, searching for isolated spots where she and the Pacific could scrutinize each other in relative isolation.

We have already revealed that there was a certain beauty to be found in the features of the tanager. But there is also a beauty in the mighty Pacific ocean, so they were, neither of them, at a disadvantage. Admittedly, the ocean had the benefit of great age, but the tanager countered that with her impulsiveness and her unpredictable wavering between recognition of the ocean's solemn majesty and a disregard for ancient wisdom.

As we may have briefly mentioned, the tanager had traveled extensively among islands. An entire period of her relatively brief life had been devoted to "finding herself" among the islands. During this time, she had developed a love for small spits of land, tempting the surf on all sides, and the residents--a richly varied array of bird--that dwelt upon such remote lands. Of course, the tanager, herself, was a bird, so it should come as no surprise that she should find a natural attraction to places where an entity endowed with wings could escape the anxieties that plague the earth-bound.

written while listening to:  Knead - eponymous (PSF Records, PSFD-128, 2002, Japan, cd,

March 25, 2018
The scarlet tanager migrates between hemispheres, spending the breeding season in woodlands of the eastern half of North America. When tanagers build a nest, they prefer tall trees, preferably oaks, clustered in a broad expanse of forested land. They remain high in the canopy, often keeping entirely from the sight of all but the most interested visitors.

As autumn approaches, scarlet tanagers begin their migration south. They pass through Central America around October, before settling in northwestern South America for the winter. Our tanager, Escarlata, yet remains in Peru. Very soon, a matter of a week or less, her kind will depart the tropics returning to their ancestral nesting grounds.

Escarlata will not join them. At her age, breeding is expected but we do not find it among her priorities. (Certainly, we dare not make the declaration for her that it will always be this way.) Instead, she deviates from the communal pattern, heading out to sea with gulls, boobies and cormorants. There is freedom in this conscious choice but there is also danger to life and an acknowledgment of the risk that the bonds now sundered with the rest of the community cannot be reestablished.

Is it wrong for our narrative to follow a deviant? It provides only indirect insight into the habits of majority. Since our purpose here is not one of zoological characterization of a populace, we are content to allow our attention to linger with this singular outlier.

written while listening to:  Sanhedrin - Sukino 5 W 1 H (Trailights Record, TRLT-0006, 2013, Japan, cd,

March 26, 2018
Islands, like people, vary in their character. Off the shore of Peru, there exist a variety of islands that served as roosting spots for birds and little else. Many migrant seabirds build nests directly on the ground, forming a perimeter largely of guano. Over the eons, these nests accumulated from one year to the next, until literal mountains of guano rose to dominate the landscape of these otherwise low-lying islands. In more recent centuries, men came to these islands in order to mine the mountains of guano as fertilizer. It remains an industry to this day.

Other islands, while still inviting to birds, have managed to maintain a lush, tropical interior, in which tree-dwelling species have found a permanent home. There, through time, the forest and the birds have responded to each other in ways that are unique to a given island but still follow a pattern of evolutionary reciprocity, which is a reoccurring theme through-out the living world.

It was through these islands that the tanager had once journeyed. She thought now to resume her travels in the service of the ICEML and its charge to complete the pentalogy. She invited Beatriz to accompany her, but the other woman had work of her own to tend you. "You come, you go," she said in tender farewell to the tanager. "I look forward to your next visit."

written while listening to:  Sanhedrin - Sun Head Ring (Breathing Bass Records, BBCD-001, 2008, Japan, cd,

March 27, 2018
Departing the islands mapped by men, the tanager sought those whose existence is known only to birds. To reach such islands requires a precariously long flight because they are accessed not only by a voyage over vast geographical distances but also by transformations of the body and mind. The duration of this flight is sufficient to push the traveler to the edge of physical exhaustion, a repetitive, ritual labor that purifies the body. At the same time, the lack of nourishment or water, save the fortuitous spell of rain and the endless ocean below, induces a necessary fasting, an ascetic practice long associated with cleansing of the mind.

Certainly, we have not presented the tanager as an aesthete. There is an undisciplined and mischievous element to her character not typically associated with the severity of reclusive monks. Still, Gentle Reader, do not be overly surprised. Each person is a multidimensional assemblage of traits compiled, as often as not, by the chance wayfaring through an improvised life rather than organized by design to create a prescribed outcome. That one might doubt such a process would lead to individuals with seemingly contradictory characteristics betrays only a misunderstanding of what a person is.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Tatsuya Yoshida - Hauenfiomiume (Magaibutsu, MGC-34, 2008, Japan, cd,

March 28, 2018
Flamingos are born with gray feathers, which, because of their diet, gradually turn the familiar pink as they age. The shrimp and blue-green algae upon which flamingos primarily feed contain a naturally occurring orange-red pigment, canthaxanthin, which accumulates in the birds' feathers. To our knowledge there exists no single word to describe the process by which diet changes the color of the eater. Admittedly, our search for this elusive word was not exhaustive. It pleases us to allow the possibility that such a term exists beyond our knowledge. The same could be said for many other unrelated terms and ideas describing phenomena, real and imagined.

High above the ocean, the tanager had chosen to recolor herself by shimmying inside a fragment of snakeskin, shed by an enormous serpent. Of course, this material had first been tailored into a dress, and dyed, as we have already mentioned, uniformly crimson, save for the pattern of black wings on the shoulders. The smooth scales of the dress provided a low coefficient of friction, which aided in gliding among the clouds.

From this vantage point, she surveyed the cerulean landscape, looking for tiny pinpoint defects, betraying the presence of a hidden island. It was upon such an island that she would find the rare birds she sought, who dispensed in their warbling voices songs such as human ears have not heard, songs which could reputedly perform miraculous feats, including but certainly not limited to operatic vignettes of wives beyond the descriptive capabilities of their husbands.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & Tatsuya Yoshida - Uhrfasudhasdd (Tzadik, TZ 7265, 2008, United States, cd,

March 29, 2018
The island first appeared as a featureless speck surrounded by a faintly visible ribbon of pale blue. As the tanager descended, the first characteristic of the island that came into focus was the internal structure of the interface between land and sea. An impenetrably green interior abruptly gave way to a narrow, soft margin of sand. Beyond that, the pale blue of the shallows could be seen to explore, gradually, every shade of blue as the floor meandered to the sightless depths of the ocean. This static spectrum was additionally decorated by the white flourishes of waves dissipating upon the shore. It appeared to the tanager as an exquisitely ornate lace wrapped around the island, like a bow atop a birthday gift.

It was not the tanager's birthday, but she pretended that it was so as not to disappoint the native birds that came out to greet her when she lit upon the beach. The initial greeting party emerged from the forest of the sloped interior in pairs. The degree of sexual dimorphism in this species was significant and it was obvious to the tanager that her welcome party was composed of mated pairs.

They were large birds, on the order of peacocks. Similarly the male donned a vibrant, almost ostentatious regalia, much as a peacock might, while the female followed the more demure example of the peahen. They proceeded to strut toward the tanager. From the structure of their bodies, it was revealed to the tanager that, whatever degree of flight they possessed, it was insufficient to allow them to escape this island. Trapped here with each other, they appeared to have become favorably adapted to the island paradise.

written while listening to:   Keiji Haino & Tatsuya Yoshida - New Rap (Tzadik, TZ 7262, 2006, United States, cd,

March 30, 2018
Unlike the iridescent blue of peacocks, the birds upon this island shimmered as if their feathers contained a fine central core of gold filament over which the ordinary organic structure of the stem, rachis and barbs had grown. To be sure, the birds shimmered in the morning light. The reflected radiance of the males made them hard to look at for extended periods of time, while the more subtle coloring of the females simply imbued them with an unmistakably angelic attribute.

As the tanager admired their golden hues, about a dozen of these birds gathered around her, squawking and shifting their heads back and forth to absorb the full effect of her crimson dress. Even in these remote parts, they had heard of the scarlet tanager. They knew very well that the bird was much admired among connoisseurs of such creatures. They also understood that only the male was garbed in red. They remarked to themselves in their native tongue on the androgynous curiosity that stood so fetchingly in their midst.

"She can be improved," they finally concluded. The birds did not explicitly share this decision with their visitor but by gestures and calls bade her to follow them into the interior of the island.

To the tanager, though she knew not the destination to which she was being led, it seemed a pleasant, if not regal, reception. She willingly followed. She had learned long ago that, when one traveled in the Sea of Birds, one neither could nor should expect to anticipate the events that awaited them.

written while listening to:  Tairikuotoko vs Sanmyakuonna - Perfect Hell (SSE Communications, SSE 4034CD, 1994, Japan, cd,

March 31, 2018
Only to the trained eye would the path followed by the birds through the forest have been apparent, for these creatures were light of foot and left little trace of their passing. Still, the overall direction of their travel was no mystery to the tanager; the island was formed in the shape of a mountain breaking through the plane of the ocean and she steadily proceeded uphill. Almost as soon as she had entered it, the canopy of the forest grew thick, plunging her in cool, shadowed tunnels lined by the ancient, moss-covered pillars of the trunks, which supported the network of foliage overhead.

Her hosts talked idly among themselves as they traveled. Their bird-tongue seemed to express no particular concern at her presence, only occasionally casting a backward glance to confirm that she managed to keep up with them. When the gap between them grew greater than they deemed hospitable, one of the females waited for the tanager to catch up to her.

"I'm still here," the tanager said when she stood beside the bird. The mountainside was steep but it was not physical exertion that had slowed her. Instead, the tanager was not immune to the fey charms of the forest and she dawdled unnecessarily, admiring the colorful fruiting bodies of mushrooms, flower-bearing vines and the high-pitched calls of minute tree frogs, which she might never chance to meet again. Of any other species of bird, she neither saw nor heard a sign. Her hostess seemed to recognize her eminently reasonable desire to linger in the uncommon magic of this place and made no attempt to hurry her along.

written while listening to:  Musica Transonic with Keiji Haino - Incubation (PSF Records, PSFD-98, 1998, Japan, cd,

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