The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

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


November 1, 2018
At the meeting of the executive governing committee of the ICEML, when Stuart shared with the other members "A Prayer for Spouses Who Murder Their Mates", Poppy said nothing of the great boost in confidence that he felt in having the fourth contribution from each author to A Fractured Portrait of Iris in hand. Twenty of the twenty-five fragments were now complete. Iris was coming into focus in the portrait.

His silence was in part due to superstition. He did not want to jinx the process with premature congratulatory celebrations. However, there was a second, somewhat contradictory but more powerful, motivation behind his reticence to take note of this milestone. The completion of the writing of A Fractured Portrait of Iris now appeared inevitable. Poppy was the sort of man one encounters from time to time, perhaps less frequently today than in years past, who experienced the inevitability of events as a personal attack on his sense of self-determination. While he had once occupied a significant role in the creation of the portrait, it had now grown beyond his control. Of course, control wasn't the right word, since he had never dictated what any of the authors should write. Nevertheless, the process had become a predictable certainty. It filled his stomach with an unpleasant sensation, bordering on dread. He wished to have nothing more to do it. He went so far as to wonder if there was a way he could derail the process before it inexorably ground to its conclusion.

written while listening to:  Kazuhisa Uchihashi & Tatsuya Yoshida - Barisshee (Tzadik, TZ 7270, 2012, United States, cd,

November 2, 2018
The tanager reacted to Stuart's prayer in much the same way that she had to the other passages of the portrait: she listened, sometimes with her attention partially directed elsewhere, then moved on. If the prayer had an impact on her, it was not immediately obvious from her behavior. Of course, people in general have virtually no expectation that prayers will be answered in a direct or immediate way, if at all, so the reaction of the tanager was entirely predictable.

We are not even sure if the tanager engaged in the practice of praying. We had never heard her declare that she believed the invocation of the gods to be a fruitless endeavor, but neither had we caught her in the act. We did not question her on it directly, as we greatly preferred ambiguity in these matters. So long as we remained ignorant of her position, we could credit her with both praying and not praying as the occasion demanded.

In every flight of birds, those who practice augury find a divination of the future. We like to suppose that in every flight of the tanager, we could find, were we of a mind to look, a prayer to the divine, or a riddle to the universe, or a great affirmation of the self, or an equally great deprecation. In truth, our ability to discriminate between such nuances has diminished in recent years and, as a result, they appear one and the same to us.

written while listening to:  Misha Mengelberg, Peter Brötzmann, Evan Parker, Peter Bennink, Paul Rutherford, Derek Bailey & Han Bennink - Groupcomposing (Instant Composers Pool, ICP 006, 1970, Netherlands, lp,

November 3, 2018
Fly the tanager did through the high air of the South Atlantic. As near as one could tell, no god looked out for the welfare of the young woman, alone in a remote and forbidding expanse of firmament, where currents stole the warmth from her limbs as they buffeted her with turbulent and unpredictable changes of direction. She seemed not especially alarmed, as if she had no pre-determined destination. Such an open-ended privilege is afforded very few this far out to sea, where the rare encounters typically involve merchants moving cargo from manufacturer to market, their origin and destination clearly marked by both map and calendar.

In truth, the tanager expects a mysterious collaboration between the insentient forces of the physical world and her own insouciant sense of destiny to deliver her unharmed to the next chapter of her life. If she is cognizant of the fact that her attitude could be justly censured by folks of a conservative bent who deplore her absence of responsibility and, at the same time, extolled by liberals who admire her carefree spirit, she makes no sign of it. How can she juggle these conflicting ideals while she is engaged in the physically demanding battle to maintain her orientation in the chaos of the shifting winds?

To whom can we give credit for placing the island far below, a beckoning speck on the ocean's surface? Who thought to arrange things just so, her struggling in the heavens while a patient and welcoming refuge waits to receive her? To be sure, the perception of benevolence in the unfolding of time is an egregious example of the worst sort of apophenia, yet it is commonly done and often praised, in view of the ambivalent or, worse yet, malevolent alternatives.

written while listening to:  Greg Saunier, Mary Halvorson & Ron Miles - New American Songbook Volume 1 (Sound American, SA004, 2017, United States, lp,

November 4, 2018
As the tanager descended, the winds calmed until, coasting meters above the ocean's surface, she felt no impediment to reaching the island before her. Consequently, she postponed her arrival and circumnavigated the diminutive island, examining its features from every angle. On the windward side, sheer, rocky cliffs rose from the waters. Pocked with ledges and shallow caves, these crags seemed ideal roosts for seafaring birds. However, where she might have expected nursing parents to hover over their charges, no dense flocks could be detected within the range of eye or ear. As it was midday, the tanager did not immediately assume that the cliffs were abandoned. It remained a possibility that the inhabitants had flown out to sea as part of a daily commute to choice feeding grounds or in pursuit of schools of migrant fish.

On the leeward side of the island, sheltered from gusts and surf, the tanager observed a lush tropical jungle. Here too she had every expectation that birds might find such a paradise suitable to their needs. Again, she saw no explicit sign of any avian residents. Still, her intuition could not be ignored. On her second pass around the coast of the diminutive island, she experienced what bordered on paranoia as she glided in sight of the margin between the beach and jungle. Surely, from the shadows, she was being watched. Based upon this gut instinct, the tanager chose to land at the edge of the jungle rather than on the steep cliffs, though she still suspected that nests were hidden in the shadowed nooks of those rocky faces.

written while listening to:  Flaga - Flaga: Book Of Angels Volume 27 (Tzadik, TZ 8341, 2016, United States, cd,

November 5, 2018
Famous among avian species are birds-of-paradise, renowned for their vibrant and elaborate plumage. Native to New Guinea and surrounding islands in the South Pacific, they are unknown in the Western hemisphere. The elongated and dramatic feathers extending from the head, wings and tail immediately distinguish these birds as treasures of the natural world.

The crow too is a treasure, though its virtues are not often lauded. The argumentative among us may demand evidence of this optimistic assessment of crows. A skeptical reader need not take our word for it. The birds-of-paradise adopted crows among their own number. The paradise-crow of the Spice Islands, known to science as Lycocorax pyrrhopterus, is as black and non-descript in appearance as an ordinary crow. Nevertheless, its genetic heritage identifies it as a bird-of-paradise. When the grandfather of all crows, who dwells in old, forested mountains of the North American continent, was first informed that it had a distant relative existing in paradise, it showed no surprise at all. To the contrary, it merely croaked its ambiguous caw. Truly, it was wise to the nonsensical and often unjust whimsy of the natural world and had constructed a careful mantle of indifference to protect against it.

Several paradise-crows emerged from the jungle to welcome the tanager to paradise. When she inquired as to how they had come to this island, thousands of miles from their ancestral home, they explained that they had been transported centuries earlier by dour pirates who favored the ill-omen of black birds to the colorful plumage of parrots.

"Of course," said the tanager. Nothing could have been more natural.

written while listening to:  Serge Pey, Michel Doneda, Daunik Lazro & Lê Quan Ninh - Les Diseurs De Musique (Vand'Oeuvre, 9814, 1998, France, cd,

November 6, 2018
As for this particular flock of paradise-crows, they harbored no ill will to those who had forcibly relocated them to an island closer to the South American coast than any other. This island had been forgotten and the paradise-crows found nothing more delightful than being the object of forgetfulness. While other species lamented their erasure from memory, seeking, during their brief lives, to make a lasting mark on the world, paradise-crows sought only to keep to the shadows and pass unnoticed.

Such a philosophy is not immediately appealing to those who think of life in terms of a narrative. However, there is no narrative in paradise, only an unyielding stasis of perfection. Under paradisiacal constraints, memory is grossly over-rated.

"Forget!" called the paradise-crows to the tanager. They tempted her with native delicacies consisting of small, tangy fruits as well as millipedes, spiders and other arthropods. "Forget!"

"Forget what?" she asked coquettishly.

Now it was the turn of the paradise-crows to be tempted. They found this young woman, unabashed and fearless, much to their liking. Their original plan to lure her to a lake in the center of the island in order to drown her, thus keeping safe the secret of their island, was put in jeopardy.

written while listening to:  Otomo Yoshihide - Cathode (Tzadik, TZ 7051, 1999, United States, cd,

November 7, 2018
The tanager woke along the edge of a lake, bordered on all sides by lush jungle rising with the surrounding incline. From the color of the sky, dusk approached. She wondered briefly how she had come uncharacteristically to nap through the day, never thinking that there might have been a natural sedative in the fruit, which the paradise-crows had offered her. She was distracted from this train of thought by shuffling sounds emanating from within the shadows of the jungle canopy. Rising to her feet, she glimpsed the furtive movement of a paradise-crow. She was puzzled by her hosts unexpected return to their taciturn behavior, which she had thought to have moved beyond. "I must have fallen asleep," she offered by way of apology.

The lone paradise-crow said nothing, though his knowledge of the island far surpassed that of his visitor. For better or worse, the paradise-crows had withheld judgment. They had brought the tanager to the lake but had lacked the conviction to immerse her permanently within its depths. It became difficult, if not impossible, to discern whether this reservation was an indication of virtue or weakness. In either case, the paradise-grow suspected that they could be made to regret their indecision. Now, night was falling. The island belonged to the paradise-crows during the day but they retreated during the night, when others prowled the island. Perhaps the nocturnal inhabitants would be more resolute in their judgment of the intruder.

written while listening to:  Myra Melford - Snowy Egret (Yellowbird, YEB-7752, 2015, Germany, cd,

November 8, 2018
Beneath the ordinary but all the same spectacular celestial tapestry, the tanager remained awake, seated beside the lake with her arms wrapped around her knees. The first time she heard a deep grunt in the jungle behind her she supposed it was a peccary or some other variety of forest pig, though she had seen no indication of mammals on the island. As the guttural calls drew closer, she began to revise her opinion. There were known to her birds who, for reasons of their own, made calls that resembled the oinking of pigs. Thus she was not surprised when the cormorants emerged from the tree line not twenty yards from where she sat.

The seabirds stood several feet tall and bore a plumage that appeared a dark slate gray, if not black, in the starlight. A dozen or so birds proceeded directly to the lake, where, ceasing their calls, they turned their attention to washing themselves in the fresh water. When they had completed their ablutions, they stood on the bank with their wings outspread to a span of more than four feet, cold light glistening through beads of water on their feathers. There was an undeniable majesty to their slender forms.

Dwelling as they did on the same island as the paradise-crows, the tanager supposed that these birds were paradise-cormorants, perhaps a species as yet unknown to science. She called to them in a gentle voice, attempting not to startle them, as she was not sure that her presence had yet been detected.

Despite her best efforts, the tanager's greeting sent the cormorants into a flurry of alarmed grunting. They charged her position but halted several feet away, forming a semi-circle against the lake's edge. They demanded to know why she spied upon them in the private sanctuary of their bathing pool.

The tanager, being young, replied offhandedly, "It just seemed like a nice spot to admire the starlight."

written while listening to:  Wadada Leo Smith & Louis Moholo-Moholo - Ancestors (TUM Records, TUM CD 029, 2012, Finland, cd,

November 9, 2018
The tanager followed the cormorants through jungle paths, sheltered from all light by the canopy. They traveled single-file in a meandering route that wound along the natural contours of the mountains from the interior lake to the sheer, rocky cliffs that the tanager had observed upon her arrival to the island.

In the early morning hours of the night, they stepped back into starlight and stood upon the barren plateau that dropped precipitously to the sea. They listened for a while as the surf broke against the rock far below. Soon, the peculiar grunting of the tanager's escorts summoned other cormorants from the stone rookery, until a sizeable throng encircled the tanager.

They had questions for her but, being unaccustomed to visitors, hesitated in voicing them. The tanager possessed no such inhibitions, so as they paused to formulate their questions, she asked one of her own. "How is it, that among all the islands, which I have had the pleasure to visit in the Sea of Birds, this one alone is home to more than one species?"

Ever courteous, the cormorants elected not to dismiss the question nor to begin their own interrogation until they had provided a satisfactory reply. Unfortunately, the answer to this particular query was exceedingly difficult for them to articulate. Why indeed did they see fit to share this island paradise with crows? How can one communicate to someone who sees the world in one way, that it is not enough to be only one thing?

written while listening to:  Joëlle Léandre & Marc Ducret - Chez Hélène (Ayler Records, AYLCD-154, 2018, France, cd,

November 10, 2018
The sentiment, which the cormorants harbored for the crows who shared their island, was not unknown in the world of men. We have, in our 'studies', encountered it before. We debate whether to paraphrase the words of others, jumbling them sufficiently so that no external attribution is necessary. Of course, this approach does not appeal to us. Instead we present a fragment of a poem, about a pair of brothers, rather than two species of birds, or a husband and wife, or two souls installed in bodies of one sort or another, interacting temporarily. Let the cormorants with their pig voices recite the words as they stand beside the tanager, facing the billowing wind as it rises off the precipice.

My brother comes home from work
and climbs the stairs to our room.
I can hear the bed groan and his shoes drop
one by one. You can have it, he says.

The moonlight streams in the window
and his unshaven face is whitened
like the face of the moon. He will sleep
long after noon and waken to find me gone.

Thirty years will pass before I remember
that moment when suddenly I knew each man
has one brother who dies when he sleeps
and sleeps when he rises to face this life,

and that together they are only one man
sharing a heart that always labors, hands
yellowed and cracked, a mouth that gasps
for breath and asks, Am I gonna make it?

*Levine, Philip, "You Can Have It" collected in Seven Years from Somewhere, Atheneum, New York, 1979, p. 64.

written while listening to:  Franz Hautzinger's Poet Congress - Weltallende (The Art of August Walla) (Loewenhertz, loewenhertz 023, 2013, Austria, cd,

November 11, 2018
She continued to stand at the edge of the cliff as, one by one, the cormorants dove from it, curling around to enter the nooks in the rock face, where they would sleep what little of the night remained. On the next day, they would again take up their daily routine, flying far to sea in search of sustenance.

Finally, only one cormorant remained beside the tanager. She urged her guest to jump. When she did, her guide led her to a cranny slightly larger than the others, in which she could crouch. It offered some protection from rain and wind though neither threatened at the moment. Nevertheless, the tanager accepted the lodging politely, and the bird departed to her own home.

Soon the sun would rise. Arriving at day, a visitor would find no cormorants on this island. If they were diligent, they might encounter the paradise-crows hidden in shadow on the far side of the island. Discovering only one of two species, they would leave with an incomplete picture of the nature of the island. They would find in paradise only what they had anticipated: a stasis, stultifying and forbidding. If a visitor could not penetrate this illusion, they would fail to perceive the unlikely dynamics upon which paradise is balanced, with each providing for the other in ways, which, even when explicitly disclosed, prove not entirely accessible to logic. Most importantly, such a visitor would not understand why a crow had come to be in paradise nor the reason that one of such contrary disposition would have chosen to stay.

written while listening to:  Stephan Crump - Rhombal, sides A & B (Papillon Sounds, PS 51514, 2016, United States, lpx2,

November 12, 2018
The tanager submitted her final report to the executive governing committee of the ICEML from the field. A storm had materialized at her maritime location. As a result, the video feed succumbed to the digitized noise well familiar to those who do not have reliable access to high bandwidth communication. However, the electronic document containing her passage was received without error. The members of the committee read the passage on their own monitors as the staticky voice of the tanager alternated with bursts of white noise. Soon the transmission became so garbled that the tanager's words were unintelligible. She continued to speak long after the committee members had all finished reading. At some point it became clear that she was no longer reciting her passage, but they could catch only every fifth or sixth word so they had no idea of the subject upon which she now expounded.

However, we are not prevented from using our imagination to substitute our own words in lieu of those lost from the tanager. Presumably, she spoke of the grandiose apogee of meta-living, which she had experienced in the construction of her five contributions to the fractured portrait. Perhaps, she connected the events of her own life with those she had recounted in describing Iris. Given the recently unearthed supposition that it is not enough to be only one thing, the tanager became simultaneously the reporter and the subject of the report. Perhaps, like writing and listening to music, it is not enough to do only one thing at a time. The static carried on in this manner for what seemed like hours until the enthusiasm of even the most dedicated listener would have flagged.

written while listening to:  Stephan Crump - Rhombal, sides C & D (Papillon Sounds, PS 51514, 2016, United States, lpx2,

November 13, 2018
With a Herculean effort, Hebeloma strove to make sense of the combination of static and the tanager's song. At the risk of repeating ourselves, Hebeloma believed that there was no higher art than apophenia and she strove to become an unparalleled practitioner of the most advanced techniques in the discipline. She found a message in the noise and it bid her return one last time to the labyrinth.

Generally, when individuals admit to hearing a voice in their heads, it is typically attributed to one of two sources. If the individual is properly attenuated, the origin of the command is recognized as divine. Otherwise, the admission is diagnosed as a symptom of mental illness, an imbalance in neurochemicals resulting in anomalous electrical impulses arising within the neural network. Every once in a blue moon instructions emanating from within oneself are attributed to something called the conscience, an elusive creature said to reside somewhere between the divine and the insane.

For those who have experienced the sensation, there may be other suspected culprits as well. What of the heart? Isn't it said that the heart speaks to us? We ignore those who argue that such claims are based on a learned response anticipating a dopamine-producing hug. Let us lapse deliberately into romanticism. Let us suppose for a moment, though Hebeloma would not have approved, that she resolved to visit the cleromantic chamber again simply because her heart had thawed and she, consciously or not, had begun to miss the company of Lefteris.

written while listening to:  Seiichi Yamamoto - Nu Frequency (Tzadik, TZ 7243, 2003, United States, cd,

November 14, 2018
After Hebeloma had booked the flight to the Heraklion airport, she hesitated in contacting Lefteris. It was counter-productive and somewhat churlish to disregard his assistance, as it was through his efforts alone that she had been introduced to the primary cleromantic chamber and the secondary shafts. At the same time, she experienced some anxiety that, when they were alone in the labyrinth, he would again profess his feelings for her. To be honest, she did not feel any premonition of danger, as she did not doubt his sense of decency. All the same, she was put off by the mere opportunity for awkwardness. After some reflection, she chose not to call him.

At her layover in the Flughafen München, she idly sipped a coffee as she waited in the terminal to board the connecting flight. Amidst the babble of the crowd and the squawk of voices over the public address system, she began to daydream of unexpectedly encountering Lefteris in the maze. In the privacy of her thoughts, she entertained a variety of responses, from indignation to a passing fantasy of seductive submission. She suddenly was overcome by the sense that she was acting in an unprofessional way, disproportionate to the cause. She immediately called Lefteris to let him know that she would be arriving soon, and was relieved when he did not answer the phone. She followed up with a brief text message, providing her time of arrival and informing him that she had already arranged for a rental car, so there was no need to pick her up.

written while listening to:  Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet - Golden Quartet (Tzadik, TZ 7604, 2000, United States, cd,

November 15, 2018
Lefteris, for his part, was not entirely incapable of deciphering Hebeloma's mixed signals. Yes, she had called him, but only at the last minute. The appropriate response to a half-hearted invitation could be to accept, in happy anticipation of her company, or to decline, out of respect for her feelings. Either response seemed valid, but Lefteris had fallen in love with the oracle in the maze and the idea that he should not seek her out again, when she had traveled to his island, lay beyond the realm of anything but idle contemplation.

Due to traffic, he arrived late to the airport. Though it appeared that her flight had been slightly delayed, he did not find her in the stream of passengers emerging from the secured gates. He next hurried to the rental car counters but they were at a lull in the mid-afternoon and it was relatively easy for him to conclude that he had already missed her. Therefore, Lefteris drove his own car into the mountains. He stopped only to refuel, forgoing lunch. Pulling off the road at the ordained spot, he parked his own car next to the rental, a small, blue two-door sedan. The automobile was currently unoccupied, but when Lefteris put his hand on the hood, he felt the residual heat of the engine. Hebeloma had not long ago gone on ahead.

Lefteris wandered up the incline until he reached the hidden entrance to the primary cleromantic chamber. He guessed correctly that Hebeloma would not brave the more narrow and precarious entrance to the secondary shaft on her own. In darkness, he neither illuminated his lantern nor called out to Hebeloma. He was, it seems, destined to play the role of the minotaur after all.

written while listening to:  Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp - Callas, disc 1 (Leo Records, CD LR 728/729, 2015, United Kingdom, cdx2,

November 16, 2018
There was no clear reason to have returned to the labyrinth or, alternatively, there was no reason to do anything but return. Hebeloma listened to the clatter of the two shards of rock on the stone, carved into polygons. She next tossed the coin. On hands and knees she identified the script revealing the names of those who would yield this last prognostication. By the light of the electric lantern, she read the characters for Eurymedusa. It was a name that conjured thoughts of power, for the word medusa in the ancient Greek meant 'she who rules' and eury was derived from the word for 'wide'. The noble daughter of Polyxenus had been destined to govern broadly, save for the unanticipated lottery, which delivered her to the minotaur.

The companion stone had fallen to Amphidocus of Rhamnous, a suburb of Athens, which contained a fortification on the coast of Attica, protecting the Euboean Strait. Rhamnous was also home to the temple of Nemesis, sometimes known as Rhamnousia, the goddess of unrelenting vengeance. Whether Amphidocus had served as a member of the military garrison or as a minor functionary in the sanctuary of the goddess is not recorded. The entirety of his narrative is captured in his role as sacrificial victim. Alas, despite the inherent altruism of the duty, to be asked to suffer so that others may be spared is a lot few relish, especially among the young who yet imagine that they are capable of other, more dynamic contributions to the welfare of their fellow citizens.

written while listening to:  Hans Reichel - The Dawn of the Dachsman...Plus (Free Music Production, FMP CD 60, 1994 (originally recorded 1987), Germany, cd,

November 17, 2018
"Amphidocus?" she called out in the darkness, though she had no reason to believe that the sound, which had prompted her to break her silence, more likely emanated from man than beast.

"Eurymedusa?" responded a voice from an unseen source. The syllables traveled in echoes around the twists of the labyrinth, distorted with each bend. By the time her ears detected the sound of her own name, the voice of he who had summoned her was unrecognizable.

The ferocity of the minotaur was legendary, as was his cruelty. His judgment was inscrutable, for who could fathom the circumlocutions that led him to devour immediately some victims while permitting others to wander in despair through the maze until all hope was lost? Was it possible that the beast possessed traits beyond violence and heartlessness? Perhaps the minotaur also harbored a cunning, no less devious for being overshadowed by his other more animalistic attributes. Now, as if adopting the beguiling powers of a witch, the minotaur seemed to mimic the voice of Amphidocus, "Eurymedusa? Where are you? I need you."

"Amphidocus, come to me!" Eurymedusa called out in the tunnel. She was determined to find him, despite the darkness and complexity of the labyrinth. Perhaps, she thought optimistically, the minotaur was just a fable, created to explain the brutality of the natural world and to justify the sacrifice of those whom we might, in a charitable moment, refer to as the innocent.

written while listening to:  Ivo Perelman & Matthew Shipp - Callas, disc 2 (Leo Records, CD LR 728/729, 2015, United Kingdom, cdx2,

November 18, 2018
As she wandered through the maze, Eurymedusa's ears detected the faint sound of dripping water. The irregular pattern was composed of isolated drops falling into a pool, the sound of impact magnified by the acoustics of the chamber. The echo of each fall extended into silence before the next drop fell. Originating at multiple points, each bead accumulated according to a unique frequency; taken to together they created an elongated and erratic rhythm.

Suddenly, Eurymedusa discovered that she was thirsty. She had no means of measuring how long she had been trapped underground but her body, once reminded, indicated that the span of time was much greater than that which she usually went without drinking. So, despite the obvious danger, Eurymedusa followed the dripping echoes until she stood on a stone bank along the margin of a vast, subterranean lake. Although her eyes could not capture its full extent, her ears revealed a body as expansive as the tarn upon which her family had gone boating for recreation. Pushing the happy memory aside, she knelt like an animal and drank.

Once Eurymedusa's disturbance of the water settled, her reflection appeared on the surface. Never mind that in the darkness, she was able to perceive neither her familiar form nor the smudges of dirt on her forearms and face nor the anxiety etched in her expression. It was, of course, better this way, lest she, upon observing herself in such a state, collapse in despondency.

She waited then for the predator to return to his watering hole. Perhaps, faced with the choice, she would deprive the beast of his prize and find the courage to drown herself.

written while listening to:  Onna-Kodomo - Syuuka (Charnel Music, CHCD-28, 1997, United States, cd,

November 19, 2018

The maiden heard her name called, carried in the still air across the surface of the underground lake. Somewhere, on the far side, Amphidocus had emerged from a tunnel onto a small platform of rock jutting out no more than a few yards into the lake.

"I am here, Amphidocus!" she called back. A pause greeted her reply, while the echoes died out. It struck her as overly long. Should he not have been overcome with joy at finding her? Should he not have cried out immediately, sharing his enthusiasm and relief? Instead, the extended silence cooled her excitement at being discovered alive. Doubts were rekindled. How adept at mimicry was the minotaur?

"Eurymedusa," called the voice of the youth. "How can I reach you? I cannot swim in these black and limitless depths. The water is cold. I am afraid."

She thought to suggest that they each swim, meeting halfway, in the midst of the lake. This plan seemed most likely to reunite them, even if it were only momentarily, before they drowned in each other's arms. With her hope reinvigorated by the familiar voice, she was not yet so desperate. "I will come to you," she said, for she was a practiced swimmer.

"No, no," he replied, this time without delay. "I couldn't live with myself if you perished in the attempt. I will come!" He added, "Call to me while I swim that I may locate you by the sound of your voice." She heard a splash as Amphidocus dove into the lake.

"Amphidocus, I am here!" she shouted repeatedly. "Amphidocus, I am here!" Her voice grew increasingly frantic with each iteration of the refrain.

written while listening to:  Michel Doneda & Lê Quan Ninh - Aplomb (Vand'Oeuvre, 1542, 2015, France, cd,

November 20, 2018
Eurymedusa alternated calling out her position and listening intently for the splash of each stroke as Amphidocus swam toward her. Unconsciously, she moved in his direction. First, her bare feet entered the edge of the lake, though she made no recognition of the chill waters. Soon, she had waded down the gradual slope until she was submerged to the waist. Still, the splashes grew no louder, as if Amphidocus had made no progress. If anything, the rhythm of his strokes seemed to be weakening.

"Amphidocus, turn around!" she cried. "You cannot make it."

She took another step, but the stone floor, hidden in the dark pool, abruptly dropped. She plummeted beneath the still surface. Rising in a panic, she attempted to maintain the duty that Amphidocus had given her, calling out his name again and again that he might find her. At the same time, already immersed, she could not restrain the impulse to swim toward him.

From the bank, with eyes attuned to darkness, the minotaur watched the maiden and the youth struggling in the water. They made a kind of accidental progress toward each other, as if they were microorganisms following a meandering chemical scent to a common source.

It is hard to find fault with the minotaur for his indifference to the plight of this young couple. Empathy had not been encoded in the genetic structure describing his bestial nature. The brutality of the physical-based universe constituted the totality of his experience. Nevertheless, he obeyed an impulse to serve as a witness to the spectacle until its conclusion.

written while listening to:  Paul Panhuysen and the Galvanos - Lost for Words (Table of the Elements, 45 Rh, 1999, United States, cd,

November 21, 2018
Her muscles had begun to ache as fatigue set in but Eurymedusa was spurred on by the notion that with each stroke she drew nearer to Amphidocus. Sometimes, as she turned her head to draw breath, she called out his name. To her astonishment, he abruptly replied in kind, as if he were but mere yards away. There came a stroke when her extended fingers brushed against his arm. She grasped it so tightly that he yelped in pain. Loosening her grip only slightly, the two embraced. Irrespective of the circumstance, they had triumphed in the finding of each other. The euphoria lasted for only a moment, before their thoughts turned to retreating to the shore. Without light, they had no means of gaining their bearings. As they worked to remain afloat, they agreed on a direction, chosen it seemed at random. They attempted to make progress along a straight line, but having gained hold of Amphidocus, Eurymedusa would not release him. Thus the motion of their swimming was compromised.

Ultimately, that they were unable to travel toward their intended destination made no difference, since it was chosen haphazardly and, without landmarks, they could not distinguish one point from another. Past a state of exhaustion, they swam until they could swim no more. Amphidocus straightened and began to sink only to find that his feet quickly touched the stone floor of the lake. They were able to wade the remaining distance to the rocky embankment, where they collapsed, lying beside each other, chests heaving as they gasped in air. Still, Eurymedusa did not release her hold of he who would become her husband.

written while listening to:  Wadada Leo Smith - Red Sulphur Sky (Tzadik, TZ 7070, 2001, United States, cd,

November 22, 2018
Eurymedusa awoke before Amphidocus. After checking that his breathing was regular, she explored their surroundings. Although she was unwilling to stray far from Amphidocus, she quickly discovered that she would not be forced to test this limit, for they had found sanctuary on a small alcove, bordered on three sides by solid rock, rising up to form a dome overhead, with the lake at its opening. The surface of the floor was raised only a few inches above the water level, but remained dry in the absence of tides and waves.

She seated herself beside the sleeping man. When she rested her hand on his chest, he grunted gently and shifted. Soon he would waken. It would fall to Eurymedusa to describe the nature of their setting before he rose to confirm it for himself. She contemplated her words. There was no exit save to venture back into the lake. Perhaps, the passages by which she and Amphidocus had arrived at the lake were not far away. Still, it seemed unlikely that they could move forward along the same path that had brought them here. In a labyrinth, there were surely other paths, leading to new chambers. One might eventually open up into a secluded vale, surrounded by forested mountains, a hidden refuge in which the minotaur might enjoy the light of the sun, his captors none the wiser.

It was by this reckoning that, when Amphidocus awoke and, predictably, asked Eurymedusa where they were, she chose to reply with the following words.

"Amphidocus, my love, we are traveling a circuitous path to a safe haven, where nuthatches and sapsuckers call from the high boughs of tall pines and where we shall spend crisp afternoons on a thick bed of soft needles, telling each other stories in which elements of our past and our future are mingled without regard for continuity or chronological fidelity." Of the likely presence of the minotaur she naturally said nothing.

written while listening to:  The Spontaneous Music Ensemble - Karyobin (Emanem, 5046, 2017 (originally recorded 1968), Spain, cd,

November 23, 2018
When Hebeloma had finished recounting the myth (or prophecy, depending upon which side of the timeline the listener stood), Lefteris emerged from the shadows. "It's just me," he said as a way to announce himself.

Hebeloma flashed a smile, undetectable in the dim light of her lantern. "I suspected that it was you whom I heard prowling about. The only alternative was the minotaur."

"I don't think that he still wanders this labyrinth," Lefteris said, with a hint of what seemed like nostalgia. Perhaps, he imagined that surviving the threat of the minotaur would have provided the common cause, by which he could have formed a bond with Hebeloma. Alas, in the absence of anything but the metaphorical threat of the ill-conceived labyrinth of modern life, the process of developing a meaningful relationship relied on more complex mechanisms.

"Do you have enough information for your book?"

Hebeloma momentarily misunderstood Lefteris' question, thinking that he asked about her contribution to the fractured portrait, rather than the academic treatise, which was the original purpose that had brought her to Crete. In either case, she sensed that her work was done here. "Yes," she replied. "I think I do."

"Would you like to go to dinner?" He thought it best to ask before they departed the confines of the mine, which imbued each of their words with an ancient significance.

Hebeloma's thoughts were still tangled with those of Eurymedusa, though she was able to detect the difference between the modern Greek man who stood before her and the Amphidocus of antiquity. So, it was with a fair degree of temporal clarity that she replied, "I would be delighted."

written while listening to:  Dave Holland, Evan Parker, Craig Taborn & Ches Smith - Uncharted Territories, disc 1 (Dare2 Records, DARE2-010, 2018, United States, cdx2,

November 24, 2018
What transpired between Hebeloma and Lefteris can be called a dinner inasmuch as a meal was consumed. At the same time, to describe the evening in this manner is akin to attending an orchestral performance only to report on the comfort of the seating in the auditorium. At a restaurant in downtown Heraklion, just a half dozen blocks from the coast, the pair were indistinguishable amidst the late-night throng of couples and groups of friends, celebrating nothing less profound than the continuation of life on a Saturday night.

Lefteris did not restate what had already been said. Neither had forgotten nor needed reminding. Hebeloma too felt no need to justify her position. When one dwells inside a prophecy, in which the unraveling of events has already been foretold, one did not experience a compulsion to exercise control nor to accept undue blame. Instead, Hebeloma focused on what little wiggle room was left to her, the managing of the affair in a manner, which in the days to come she would not find reason to regret.

At some time, during the course of the evening, it became apparent to Lefteris that his fantasy would not materialize according to the terms he had framed. Hebeloma did her best to console him without pity or contempt. One could hardly imagine that each pair, maiden and youth, who entered the labyrinth should emerge betrothed. After all, it was ostensibly to their own funeral, not wedding, that they had marched. For some to have escaped with their lives at all is a thing of wonder. That they encountered, whilst trapped inside the labyrinth, someone other than the minotaur who induced in them ephemeral dreams of longing should be considered an unexpected boon.

A final consolation can be taken from the knowledge that, somewhere in the infinity of parallel universes, another more palatable, if conventional, conclusion to their tryst was surely realized.

written while listening to:  Dave Holland, Evan Parker, Craig Taborn & Ches Smith - Uncharted Territories, disc 2 (Dare2 Records, DARE2-010, 2018, United States, cdx2,

November 25, 2018
Back in Turin, Hebeloma dutifully distributed her passage to the rest of the executive governing committee of the ICEML. If the other members were muted in their praise for the piece, it was not because they failed to appreciate it. Rather, they had come to see this exercise in meta-living for what it was, a group effort, in which each of them was involved to some extent in the creation of all fragments of the portrait. Thus effusive praise would have been regarded as self-congratulatory. They preferred, instead, to merely convey their sense of satisfaction with Hebeloma, that she had ably held up her part of the proposition.

As the video conference trailed to an end, she asked the members a prickly question that had been nagging at her. "How is it that my guide through the labyrinth, Lefteris, came to know of the fractured portrait? He spoke of it during our last meeting, yet I had never mentioned it to him."

All agreed that they found this curious. The tanager suggested that Hebeloma had in fact said something in passing about the book and simply failed to recollect it. "It's possible," said Hebeloma, doubtfully.

Poppy plucked up his courage lest he leave this meeting a liar. "I might have let something slip," he said casually, "when Lefteris came to visit Iris and I at home."

written while listening to:  Jacques Demierre & the Thirty Piano Orchestra - The Thirty and One Pianos (Flexion Records, flex_008, 2014, Switzerland, cd,

November 26, 2018
The conversation between Hebeloma and Poppy transpired in the (electronic) presence of the rest of the governing committee. "What prompted Lefteris to fly halfway around the world to speak to you?" Hebeloma could not keep a note of accusation from her voice.

Poppy thought this a question much better suited for Hebeloma to have directed at herself. He checked this thought and replied, "I have no idea. I certainly did not encourage it. He showed up on the front porch unannounced."

"What did he want?" Hebeloma demanded. Despite his claim to innocence, she was not yet willing to forgive Poppy for meddling in her personal affairs.

Poppy unleashed a powerful shrug, as he answered honestly, "He asked for help in understanding the secrets of meta-living that he might find an effective mechanism with which to woo you." His voice trailed off, as if he regretted the necessity of vocalizing the words.

Hebeloma now understood that proceeding forward with this discussion would only further expose her. However, she also sensed that if she did not finish the conversation now, she would have lost her opportunity. "And what did you tell him?" For a moment, she experienced a genuine curiosity as to what kind of wildly off-base advice Poppy had dispensed. She was to be disappointed.

"What could I tell him?" Poppy replied. "I don't know the secrets to your heart. You all are the ones helping me with Iris."

It was difficult for Hebeloma, who respected the truth, to argue with Poppy. Before she fully accepted defeat, she muttered, "You could have at least told me of his visit."

Poppy mercilessly delivered the final plank in his argument. "I am telling you now."

written while listening to:  Henry Threadgill's Ensemble Double Up - Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi Recordings, PI64, 2016, United States, cd,

November 27, 2018
According to the conjecture of astronomers and theoretical cosmologists, there exists at the center of the Milky Way an enormous black hole. In contemporary times, it remains a hypothesis, though only because of lack of direct evidence. There are no compelling alternative bodies with the necessary gravitational pull to hold the galaxy together and to spin it about, as is observed. Consequently, when the announcement arrives that one scientist or another has developed a clever means by which to claim direct observation of the black hole, there will not be much cause for celebration. It is a foregone conclusion in need of no more than paper credentials from the academic community. If on the other hand, something other than a black hole were to be found at the center of the Milky Way, a great fanfare would erupt, for the unexpected is usually cause for all manner of excitement.

Thus it was with the late Ms. Aun Wee Park and her expectations of the afterlife. She had formulated her own hypothesis regarding what she would find at the end of her incorporeal wandering through this demesne of the dead. Most likely, she expected only another black hole, a portal to annihilation so compelling that the physics of light had been forced to accede to its will. It seemed that her wandering could be regarded as perturbations along a decaying orbit, spiraling toward this destiny. She entertained the notion that her husband had managed to secure, at least temporarily, a stable circuit, while he waited for her. They might yet pass within sight of each other before they were consumed by a massive and insatiable void.

written while listening to:  Henry Threadgill - Double Up, Plays Double Up Plus (Pi Recordings, PI75, 2018, United States, cd,

November 28, 2018
The late Ms. Aun Wee Park intended to prepare herself for a confrontation with, if not an assault upon, the enormous black hole about which the world of the dead was centered and into which the souls of the dead were sucked to their utter destruction. Those of us, who merely read this record of her struggles from the comfort of our homes, may experience some qualms about the legitimacy of her fear and corresponding precautions. We may be unable to silence the suspicions that all of this is simply an artificial construct of her imagination. The idea of black holes devouring souls is a haphazard mishmash of a layperson's poor understandings of science and of mortality. Of course, of course, such is the essence of experimental meta-living. Many aspects, spanning the spectrum of imagination--from the communal consensus of reality, through the mildly eccentric, extending all the way to the far terminus of individual, unrelatable idiosyncrasy--are represented. That Aun Wee should report back from the world of the dead at all requires already some suspension of disbelief. Additional fantastic elements should be seen as complementary elaborations. The particular intricacy that Aun Wee now sought was a spell to brave the impossible, real or imagined, so that she might find her husband and together they should progress into the next stage of their being, again real or imagined, in each other's company.

written while listening to:  Henry Threadgill's 14 Or 15 Kestra: Agg - Dirt...and More Dirt (Pi Recordings, PI73, 2018, United States, cd,

November 29, 2018
Variations of the following spell have been given different names, including "A Spell To Overcome Hardship Together" and "A Spell to Keep Couples Together Through Hardship". These titles high-light two aspects of the same process, namely overcoming (or at least surviving) tribulation while, at the same time, maintaining the integrity of the relationship. In this document, we have settled on the rather more abstract title, "A Spell for Living and Dying Together".

It is reported that the spell was originally composed by a sorceress and her sorcerer-husband, who believed that they were living in the end-times. Of course, through-out human history, there have been many prophets who warned their respective populaces that the End of Days was near or the Day of Reckoning approached or the Final Judgment was soon to fall. By the very fact that we are here today, reading these words, our existence refutes these apocalyptic predictions. Still, we can take comfort in the fact that we may feel as if we too are living in the end-times, knowing that such pessimistic anxiety constitutes an indelible component of human nature. Who knows? One time we may turn out to be right and our fire shall be permanently extinguished.

Thus, facing extinction is a kind of adversity that many couples experience, though it routinely turns out to be, at least for the time being, a false alarm. This spell was constructed, one supposes, to encourage couples to adopt a response to living in the end-times, which increases the odds of prevailing in a manner that is not only self-preserving but amiable as well.

written while listening to:  Roscoe Mitchell Quartet - Celebrating Fred Anderson (Nessa Records, ncd-37, 2015, United States, cd,

November 30, 2018
As we all know, sometimes the threat is only a local Armageddon, a couple-sized cataclysm, focusing the intensity of its destructive powers on two partners. (Admittedly, its secondary effects are often felt by those in the near vicinity, loved ones and passers-by alike.) Still, the impact of attempting to function under an impending, local doom is no less severe than that from a global one to those upon whom the ruin shall fall. In some cases, the severity may be exacerbated, since the solace of fellow sufferers is absent. The spell under consideration is particularly effective against these narrow calamities.

The casting of the spell commences with a recognition of the ephemerality of the bond between the two. One member of the couple, husband or wife, may think with trepidation of the tenuousness of their link. The other might be guilty, from time to time, of viewing the finite nature of the relationship with a measure of relief, as a light at the end of a tunnel following an extended sojourn in darkness. Both streams of thought are useful in the casting of the spell.

The spell also thrives on the connectivity of these thoughts to other musings and broodings. Often the casters are prompted to speculate regarding the destination of the tunnel opening. They might well imagine that it leads only to another tunnel. Thus the very ordinary comparison of the reality of the present with a balanced assessment of a potential future is also a component of the spell, just as it is in many other, non-magical decision-making processes.

written while listening to:  Mats Gustafsson & Barry Guy - Frogging (Maya Recordings, MCD 9702, 1997, Ireland, cd,

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