The Poison Pie Publishing House presents:

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


September 1, 2018
The late Ms. Aun Wee Park dreamt in death of her husband. He had not been an especially remarkable specimen of masculinity in any sense of the word--not height, nor girth, nor temper--but he had loved her faithfully since the day he had pledged himself to her. They had agreed to leave the country of their ancestors together for opportunity in the Western world and they had never deviated from this shared path. So far had they traveled that the manner in which their grandchildren were raised, surrounded by symbols of prosperity and engaged in a plethora of scholastic and extracurricular activities, bore virtually no resemblance to that of their own simple, rural upbringing. This dream she had shared with her husband and he had never failed to shepherd her and their family toward this goal, though he experienced what benefits it offered only vicariously.

Her husband had never become able to gracefully accept even simple luxuries. In the months before he was to die, the pain in his feet, which had bothered him for many years, grew so severe that he had difficulty walking. She had purchased for him expensive, name-brand sneakers with a reputation for comfort. He had fussed for a week over the cost before he dared try them on. Her dreams seemed detached from that distant reality, for now she imagined her husband dancing in this realm of gloom, his feet bare, having forgotten, it seemed, the aches and sorrows of the living.

written while listening to:  Anthony Braxton - 23 Standards (Quartet) 2003, disc 3 (Leo Records, CD LR 402/403/404/405, 2004, United Kingdom, cdx4,

September 2, 2018
The concept of albedo describes the fraction of light that is reflected by an object. In our physics-based reality, it is a quantity bound between zero and one. At the lower limit, the object appears black because all light that strikes it is absorbed. At the upper limit, the object appears white, because all light is reflected. Common examples include new asphalt (albedo of 0.04), freshly fallen snow (0.9) and, interestingly, silver-lined, glass mirrors (0.8).

Without too much difficulty, one can imagine instances in which one of the limits of albedo can be transgressed. For example, consider a material, in which light has been stored in orbitals occupied by excited electrons. Once fully charged, this device is kept in darkness. When exposed to light, the incoming electromagnetic radiation triggers the relaxation of electrons and the release of more light than was absorbed. In this example, the albedo would exceed one, at least until the charge within the device was depleted.

When one moves beyond the physics-based reality, it is possible to conceive of additional materials in which the albedo is not bound between conventional limits. For example, the substance of death is said to possess an albedo of negative infinity. Here the late Ms. Aun Wee Park had the opportunity to investigate this hypothesis first hand. In the perfect darkness of this realm, no light existed. Therefore, no light could strike anything, including the amorphous object she harbored within herself. Yet, by their witness, travelers in death presented a kind of damning testimony, which contributed only to deepening the darkness. The simple math of a reverse reflectivity in the absence of input yielded an infinitely negative albedo.

Amidst this contradiction, Aun Wee desired to construct a mirror.

written while listening to:  Anthony Braxton - 23 Standards (Quartet) 2003, disc 4 (Leo Records, CD LR 402/403/404/405, 2004, United Kingdom, cdx4,

September 3, 2018
What purpose could a mirror serve in a realm without light? It seemed at best an opportunity for a reflection of the unseen to remain unseen. Aun Wee herself felt bodiless. What use had she for an incorporeal illusion of herself? Ever a pragmatic woman, the former seamstress did not allow these philosophical questions to rob her of the impetus to proceed. She seized the darkness, though she had no hands. She worked it, folding it upon itself. She expected the energy released by this manipulation to warm the darkness, but she was disappointed; the reservoir for heat proved infinite in death. Still, she did not abandon hope. She continued to massage and sculpt the darkness, though it gave no hint of the form that it would eventually take.

Shadow into shadow, if she concentrated the darkness, amplified the albedo of one spot over the surrounding darkness, she imagined that this perturbation in the field of death would not go unnoticed. Just as, it is supposed, the big bang of the universe resulted from random fluctuations in the density of nothingness, so too did the late Ms. Aun Wee Park hope to create something from nothing, albeit on a smaller, more personal scale.

written while listening to:  Anthony Braxton & Richard Teitelbaum - Silence/Time Zones (Black Lion Records, BLCD 760221, 1996 (originally recorded 1969 & 1976), Germany, cd,

September 4, 2018
In fiction, mirrors are often described as portals to alternate realities. Aun Wee had no mirror, only a gravid darkness, which seemed more disposed to assume the form of a portal than a mirror. It opened before her and drew her into its center. At the last moment of her passage, she reached out and caught hold of the portal frame pulling it through behind her so that, impossibly, when she arrived at her destination, the amorphous darkness remained within her.

This new realm made the previous darkness appear as noon time on a summer day, so impenetrable was its pitch. As Virgil had led Dante through the circles of Hell, revealing new punishments at each depth, so too did the late Ms. Aun Wee Park escort an oblong lump of darkness deeper into the secrets of death. She waited for her vision to adjust but, of course, she had no eyes and, besides, there was nothing to which she could adjust.

Despite the circumstances, she chose to adopt an optimistic air. By its very opacity, the darkness here possessed a presentiment of solidity, which Aun Wee thought favorable to her intended endeavor. Again, she took to working it into the function of a mirror.

"What shall you reveal?" she asked the darkness.

Much to her consternation, the machine, having managed to follow along her unlikely path, transcribed the query, which emerged as a riddle upon the monitors of her fellow members of the executive governing committee of the ICEML.

written while listening to:  Wadada Leo Smith & Anthony Braxton - Saturn, Conjunct The Grand Canyon In A Sweet Embrace (Pi Recordings, PI10, 2004, United States, cd,

September 5, 2018
The late Ms. Aun Wee Park formulated an idea, which we shall, for lack of a better alternative, liken to a mirror. It possessed a surface, which when scrutinized yielded a kind of vision, or knowledge, that presumed an air of objectivity, much as mirrors, constrained to rigorously obey the laws of optics in a physics-based reality, generate images. At the same time, every person who has every drawn breath knows that one can rise from the same bed on one morning to find a face in the bathroom mirror that inspires hope for the day ahead, while, on the subsequent morning, that same rectangle of glass and that same countenance may provoke only dread and despair. So too was the dark mirror crafted by Aun Wee subject to conscious interpretation, if not the outright whims of neurochemistry.

Aun Wee presented the amorphous lump of darkness that she had carried, as if allowing it to be inspected by the other thing, parading as a mirror before her. She knew that in a realm of nothing, nothing could be accomplished without her intervention. Therefore, she further extricated from the non-being of the surrounding darkness a magic spell, with which she intended to achieve her purpose. For the sake of easy reference, we shall name it as, "A Spell to Reflect the Best in Your Spouse".

written while listening to:  Anthony Braxton - For Alto (Delmark Records, DS-420/421, 1971, United States, lpx2,

September 6, 2018
Despite its name, the purview of this spell is not limited to couples joined through the institution of marriage. Many sorts of relationships exist--professional and personal, platonic and romantic, familial and circumstantial--in which a pair of individuals join common cause for a period of time. In all these instances, the close interaction between the two breeds a familiarity, in which each has the opportunity to observe the other in unguarded moments.

At times, through these conditions, one is exposed to a vulnerability of the other. Here, we think fondly of the ways in which an incidental sharing of weakness can form a bond between friends. Of course, humanity possesses its fair share of monstrous individuals, who having failed to develop their empathetic capabilities, perceive in weakness a chance to dominate or to exploit the other. Powerful spells exist to treat this latter situation, though few are as effective as rapid dissolution of the relationship. However, the spell now under consideration is not intended to thwart intentional malice and is thus not applicable to such cases.

Of course, it is not only vulnerability that extended collaboration can reveal, but secret virtues as well as suppressed vice. The discovery of a favorable quality that one has chosen, for whatever reason, to keep hidden is itself a delicate treasure, to be handled with care. On the other hand, the discovery of a vice, perhaps something as simple as poor impulse control, is perhaps the most common sort of revelation, for, as it has ever been, earnest people attempt to minimize the manifestation of their flaws. Often they choose a single individual upon whom to concentrate their vice, sparing the majority but fostering an increase in suffering for the soul chosen to receive the brunt of the assault.

written while listening to:  Anthony Braxton, Evan Parker & Paul Rutherford - Trio (London) 1993 (Leo Records, CD LR 197, 1994, United Kingdom, cd,

September 7, 2018
Faced with this conundrum, each partner in a marriage may adopt a strategy to mitigate the discord between them. One may experience an initial impulse to change the other, perhaps, to strive toward the lofty goal of "improving their character". Magic, of course, is capable of great transformations, as can be attested by the existence of traditional spells such as Flesh to Stone. Of course, petrification is, at best, a stop-gap measure, generating its own set of problems.

Alternatively, one may resort to less draconian measures. However, character-improving magic of a more benign nature is an especially ticklish art. The internal logic by which it is governed may seem at first inspection to be obtuse, incoherent or even contradictory. Nevertheless, the spell which we have come to describe has historical advocates for its eventual efficacy.

The spell can be performed either individually, in which one member of the couple works unilaterally, or in concert, in which both members simultaneously cast the same spell upon each other. In either case, the purpose of the spell is to imbue the caster with the best qualities of the subject. The mechanism by which the virtue of one manifested in the other may diminish vice in the first is, as we have already indicated, convoluted. Fortunately, one need not insist upon an intellectual understanding of the spell in order to engage in its casting.

written while listening to:  Jeremiah Cymerman - Decay of the Angel (5049 Records, 5049-007, 2018, United States, cd,

September 8, 2018
It is said that the caster develops a tenderness in the exercise of adopting the traits of the other. If affection already existed, as we presume to be the case, the tenderness is either amplified in intensity or broadened in scope.

Remarking upon the changes wrought during its execution, one idiosyncratic spellcaster, prone by disposition, we suppose, to melancholia, recorded in her notes the following observation, which we opt to reproduce here.

On days when I actively engaged in the casting of the spell, when I consciously strove to imitate the best traits of the one whom I loved and yet who so infuriated me, I felt less strongly the oppressiveness of the world, resulting in a reduction of the frequency with which I sought solace in idle fantasies of oblivion.

It has also been noted several times in the marginalia of magical texts that dogs and other domesticated animals are sympathetic to the emanation generated during the casting of the spell. Again, the precise mechanism by which this effect transpires, if in fact it is real at all, remains outside the bounds of our limited knowledge.

written while listening to:  Tim Hodgkinson - Sketch of Now (Mode, mode 164, 2006, United States, cd,

September 9, 2018
The spell not only effects change in the caster, but also contributes to the transformation of the intended subject of the spell, for, though we may not appreciate the base nature of the argument, the initial stirrings of empathy are a result of a reflection of self-love. If an individual is driven to love and to protect the vulnerable, it is often because she once felt a similar vulnerability. It may be true that in a love long practiced the original motivation may be long forgotten. Such is the way of things and as a boon should it be regarded.

However, not just any reflection will suffice to bring the spell to fruition. If the subject recognizes the worst of himself in another, he is reminded only of his own worthlessness. Thus, reflecting anger with anger or jealousy with its own venom or apathy with indifference typically leads to an escalation in the undesirable trait. There is no magic in such a divergence, only mathematical inevitability.

In order for the spell to be rightly cast, the caster must hold the mirror at just the right angle, so that the qualities to be reflected, even if they are slight in quantity and buried beneath a surface layer far greater in magnitude, are sifted, as light through a prism, the caster adopting the choice color.

Clearly, the spell is not easily cast, requiring as it does intimate knowledge of the subject, a vigilant concentration through-out the process and an enduring perseverance. Not all magic is easy. In many cases, it requires greater effort than a parallel path to the same result through an exclusively physics-based approach. That is why old casters advise their pupils to resort to magic only in the most dire of circumstances.

written while listening to:  André Goudbeek, Christine Wodrascka, Peter Jacquemyn & Lê Quan Ninh - AGiiiiR (Free Elephant, 010, 2010 (originally recorded 2005), Germany, cd,

September 10, 2018
The spell can be said to have succeeded when the couple stands together before a mirror, perhaps the dressing mirror in their bedroom, or, by chance, the fitting mirror in a clothier's shop, entered on a whim because of a colorful blouse hung in the window. Should they see in this mirror not the distinct pair, nor even the present moment, but rather a composite of the action of two people over time, intermingled, so that it is difficult to assign a precise reference to the image--in that case of multiplicity, the spell can be considered to have been successfully cast. As likely as not, there will be no overt celebration. The subject of the spell may compliment the caster on the appeal of her appearance. This acknowledgement of the superficial, of course, is intended to convey, for those with a dearth of emotional candor, appreciation for the whole being. Such a success may be episodic, marred sporadically with regrettable lapses, but even magic cannot entirely repudiate the imperfections of our physics-based reality.

The spell can be said to have ended in failure only if the caster abandons all efforts to invoke the spell. Under these conditions, a hiatus incurred by a temporary loss of confidence is more akin to a pause in the progress toward triumph than it is to insoluble collapse.

written while listening to:  John Escreet, John Hébert, Tyshawn Sorey & Evan Parker - Sound, Space and Structures (Sunnyside Communications, SSC 1386, 2014, United States, cd,

September 11, 2018
The late Ms. Aun Wee Park remained in darkness, positioned, as it were, before the opaque and relentless pitch. Under scrutiny the amorphous form, which she had imagined might lead her to her husband, had vanished as a puff of smoke disappearing into shadow. She was as alone as ever and now unsure if the spell had been cast.

Through the machinations of the spell, had she gained some quality of her husband? If so, what was it? He was likely shuffling through the darkness, probably irritated with her for having neglected him for so long. Surely, he was expecting his afternoon tea, which she dutifully brought to him. He was muttering under his breath terms of endearment as if they were curses. For a moment, she heard an echo of one such plea winnowing through the darkness.

"Oh!" exclaimed Aun Wee. It was enough to convince her that the spell had worked. She presumed, though she could not understand how, that she had kindled enough of a trace of her husband within herself that he could find her by this spark, which so disparaged the otherwise impenetrable darkness.

There was of course no physics-based source for her optimism but she, being dead, did not allow this wayward observation to discourage her.

written while listening to:  Angelika Niescier, Christopher Tordini & Tyshawn Sorey - The Berlin Concert (Intakt Records, Intakt CD 305, 2018, Switzerland, cd,

September 12, 2018
As she moved toward what she now believed more strongly than ever to be an inevitable reunion with her husband, Aun Wee related to the machine the details of "A Spell to Reflect the Best in Your Spouse". Of its application to her own particular circumstance, she, of course, said nothing.

The spell was received by the other members of the executive governing committee of the ICEML. To several of them, the spell seemed simultaneously more cryptic and more mundane, in that the reliance on preternatural forces seemed at best supplementary to actions taken in the physics-based reality. As aficionados of meta-living, this ambiguity appealed to them.

No one was more pleased than Poppy, who privately continued to count the fragments in the fractured portrait of Iris. This spell was the sixteenth contribution. Aun Wee had been the first author to submit her fourth of five required entries. "This is really going to happen," he told himself, even as he remained amazed and somewhat bewildered as to how it was actually coming to pass. The plan had only been to improvise and that method of production seemed legitimately untrustworthy. He might as well have asked himself, "How can this be happening?"

That evening Poppy went home and attempted to imitate the best virtues of his wife, Iris. He assumed it was her tenderness, though it could have been several other traits. He didn't know if he was doing it right and felt a degree of doubt when, upon falling asleep, he dreamt of dying and experienced only the anticipation of relief.

written while listening to:  Claus Højensgård, Emanuele Maniscalco & Nelide Bandello - Høbama (Gotta Let It Out, GLIO22CD, 2018, Denmark, cd,

September 13, 2018
From wherever the tanager was broadcasting, loud, rhythmic music played in the background, making it difficult for the other members of the committee to hear her remarks regarding Aun Wee's spell. Poppy asked her to repeat them, but the music drowned out his question. It occurred to him, judging by the scene, that perhaps the tanager had joined the meeting from a night club. He remembered that once or twice previously the tanager had used a friend's cellphone as a wireless internet connection. No sooner had the thought crossed his mind, than an arm appeared in the tanager's video stream and pulled her away from the camera. The pair moved to a spot some distance from the phone where the entirety of their persons was visible in the midst of a crowded dance floor. The culprit who had so effectively diverted the tanager's attention was identified as none other than Beatriz, who had not been seen for several months. Beatriz and the tanager were accomplished dancers, or so it appeared to Poppy, who eschewed dancing in public altogether.

Minutes of the committee meeting slipped away as Poppy watched the two women spin and sway, caught up in the delight of their reunion. He could not understand how the tanager was able to explore remote islands far out at sea and yet also appear in this populated locale. Had she merely returned the great distance to the northwestern coast of South America for a respite from her maritime travels? Someone, Poppy reckoned, must consider the logistics and it might as well be him, since it appeared that the tanager herself gave little thought to such matters.

written while listening to:  Nikita Rafaelov - Spirit of Gaia (Gotta Let It Out, GLIO23CD, 2018, Denmark, cd,

September 14, 2018
The tanager had crashed at Beatriz's apartment. They had stayed out late, making the most of the throng that had swelled the local night market. At dawn, songbirds perched in the boughs outside her window and trumpeted their morning song, encouraging the tanager to join them, but she did not so much as roll over in her sleep. Much later, Beatriz was able to rouse her guest with the aroma of coffee. The two women, still in nightclothes, sat across the table from each other before an east-facing window over which the sun had already passed.

The tanager released a yawn and stretched her wings, blocking as effectively as any curtain what light had managed to enter the room.

Beatriz admired her form. Bouts of prolonged flight had left little fat on her frame. "Escarlata," she said, "will you come with me to the theater this evening? I have an extra ticket." Beatriz knew, as few did, of the tanager's early foray into the world of theater; she imagined good odds that her invitation might be accepted.

However, the tanager shook her head. "I must be gone before night falls."

Neither did Beatriz plead with her to stay, nor did the tanager ask her hostess to accompany her to whatever island next lay in her path. The tanager tarried a while longer in the apartment of Beatriz then departed the city. Ere the setting of the sun, she had left the coast behind her.

written while listening to:  Amina Claudine Myers - Song for Mother E (Leo Records, CD LR 100, 1980, United Kingdom, lp,

September 15, 2018
Flying again over clear blue waters, the tanager could not escape the incontrovertible fact that, as each choice she made opened new opportunities, other doors were closed to her. She seemed ill-informed to make an optimal decision due to the most common of traits, namely that of being unable to clearly divine future consequences.

If Hebeloma were only flying beside her, she might cast her stones against a sidereal panoply in order to better frame the nature of the alternatives, but, it seemed, Hebeloma preferred the knowledge of subterranean realms to that of the firmament. Not so, for the bird in Escarlata.

She flew and found a degree of contentment in the sentiment that, even were her choices to lead to misery and isolation, she had made those choices of her own volition. This sensation of controlling her own destiny proved resilient to assault from arguments based strictly on outcomes.

It is relatively easy in our social world to identify those who may have invited great suffering upon themselves, even unto the verge of death. If we find one such person, wandering into the periphery of our own lives, we may encounter them in the process of a prolonged deterioration. We may, out of sense of charity or obligation, accept the invitation to sit at the side of their deathbed, literal or metaphorical. Here, if they are yet in their right minds, they show little regret, for they authored this fate themselves. The mere solace of self-determination out-weighs disease and dissolution.

How had these ruminations found the tanager in the rarefied air? She beat her wings furiously to drive the thoughts from her mind. Beatriz!

written while listening to:  Tomo Jacobson, Maria Laurette Friis & Emanuele Maniscalco / Kārlis Auziņš - Split : Body, side A (Gotta Let It Out, GLIO18MC, 2018, Denmark, cassette,

September 16, 2018
Eventually, the physical regimen of flight freed the tanager's mind of anxiety. She shifted her attention so that the portions of her brain upon which she was acutely focused were dedicated to ocular processing, as she scanned the surface, far below, for any trace of islands. No destination immediately appeared. The tanager travelled farther from the coast, until she eventually entered regions unfamiliar to her, though the eternal scenery of sky and sea did not change.

At night, a waxing crescent moon appeared to helpfully illuminate her nocturnal search. While present, the moon informed the tanager that other, cosmological processes also continued, unperturbed by whatever turmoil had momentary upset her. Still, it asked her to consider her relatively modest role in the unfolding of the universe along the temporal axis. Did she not unnecessarily exaggerate the repercussions of the minor travails of her personal experience? In this way, the lunar body hoped to impart a measure of its own implacable calm to the wayward bird, flung far to sea.

In the morning, a rather nondescript island appeared on the horizon. The tanager reduced her altitude slightly in order to get a better look. She found nothing distinctive about its form or the coloration of the flora that blanketed its interior. By its very plainness, the island seemed to beckon the tanager. She obliged by descending to its shore.

written while listening to:  Tomo Jacobson, Maria Laurette Friis & Emanuele Maniscalco / Kārlis Auziņš - Split : Body, side B (Gotta Let It Out, GLIO18MC, 2018, Denmark, cassette,

September 17, 2018
A community of lovebirds had long called this island home. These smallish parrots appeared to be the sole avian inhabitants of the island, although one cannot be too confident that this was always the case. Lovebirds are known for their lethal aggression toward other birds, so the presence of another species prior to the arrival of the current residents cannot be entirely ruled out.

Lovebirds form vocal flocks. The considerable cacophony in which the island had been inundated earlier in the morning reached a sustained crescendo as word spread that a visitor had appeared on the shore. There they gathered en masse.

Some sat in pairs and trios along the boughs of the trees lining the interior margin of the beach. A few individuals hopped in agitated excitement from branch to branch, before returning to settle beside their mates. All emitted the high-pitched squawks and calls characteristic of their kind, though it proved difficult for the tanager to discern whether she was being personally addressed within the flurry of voices.

She resolved to approach the natives at the same time that several lovebirds plucked up the courage to do likewise. They met just shy of the tree line. The tanager's feet rested upon a gradation of sand giving way to grass. She weighed about one hundred pounds, the birds no more than two ounces apiece.

Both parties were particularly social by nature. Once they judged that, in her solitude, the tanager posed no threat to the island, there was no reason for them not to hit it off immediately and this is exactly how it turned out. Within a few minutes, the tanager had disappeared into the jungle, the recipient of the grand tour guided by vociferous docents too numerous to count.

written while listening to:  Anthony Braxton - 4 (Ensemble) Compositions (Black Saint Records, 120124-2, 1993, Italy, cd,

September 18, 2018
Of the coloration of the plumage of the birds, something should be said. Among the nine species recognized by science, lovebirds come in a variety of colors, with faces that can be shades of black, orange, green or white. These colors are matched with an array of other hues adorning the back of the head, the breast and wings. Among populations in captivity, breeders have arrived at other, so-called designer lovebirds, bearing flamboyant pigments plucked from many points along the spectrum.

Having no special interest in the captivity of birds, the tanager possessed a limited knowledge of lovebirds. Consequently, she was not aware that the species which dwelt on this island was unknown to science. Moreover, the coloration of this isolated population was not represented in the other species, which all hailed from Africa. To be sure, those who favor genetic manipulation, had they known of the existence of these birds, would have dearly desired to take a pair home with them. Fortunately, the local secret was safe with the tanager.

As she followed beneath the canopy of the jungle, birds flitted from shadow into a pillar of light, descending through a gap in the foliage, and back into shadow. Their appearance therefore shifted with the extent and angle of the light that struck their feathers, as well, it seemed, as the tints of green and brown displayed by the flora behind them. She sought a word to characterize the colors of these birds. After some reflection, she decided that they were the color of love.

written while listening to:  Dave Rempis, Tomeka Reid & Joshua Abrams - Ithra (Aerophonic Records, AR019, 2018, United States, cd,

September 19, 2018
This begs the question, "What color is love?" Certainly, there are as many answers as there are those who have loved. The answer, unfortunately, is not always as poetic as one might first imagine. Certainly, there were to be found among the lovebirds of this island shades that brought to mind whimsy, buoyancy and other bright hues. At the same time, there is undeniable sorrow in love and, in the plumage of more than a few inhabitants of the island, the dark colors of lamentation were unequivocally expressed. With love comes vulnerability, which itself is not a color, but unmistakably alters the appearance of all other colors. Some lovebirds were adorned with a sheen only visible to other eyes capable of perceiving love in the ultraviolet spectrum. Others glowed with an otherworldly radiation for, along a circuitous route too convoluted to describe, their love had transcended the physics-based reality. Still, most prevalent was a shared luminosity that expressed the sentimental coloration one often associates with love between individuals who have chosen to spend the rest of their lives together, a color pleasing in its familiarity, to be sure.

Among the dusk-song of this varied troupe, the tanager settled in for the night.

written while listening to:  Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble - Hope, Future And Destiny (Dreamtime Records, Dream007, 2004, United States, cd,

September 20, 2018
The tanager woke to the dawn-song of the lovebirds. It differed from their evening hymn, in that it was more raucous and uninhibited in welcoming the approach of the day. The tanager knew well how to sing but refrained from joining the natives, choosing instead to listen actively to the messages contained in minor nuances of their song.

She detected a recurring strain in the melody, which celebrated their freedom. It seemed to the tanager that, despite the remoteness of the island, the inhabitants were aware that across the world many of their kin were kept in captivity.

Certainly, it is possible for love to slip between the bars of a cage to work its varied magic on the occupants within, but only under the most unusual of circumstance could it be argued that such a constraint expanded, rather than contorted, the underlying sentiment. In the song of the lovebirds, the tanager acutely heard the birds' proclamation of a preference for unfettered flight in open skies. At the same time, a smaller section of the chorus was engaged in a peripheral but not wholly independent harmony. This secondary theme emphasized the understated though no less magnificent ability of a love between a couple, confined by circumstances of poverty, ostracism or an ordinary dearth of social acumen, to create a complete purpose exclusively between the two of them.

written while listening to:  Black Artists Group - In Paris, Aries 1973 (BAG, 324 000, 1973, France, lp,

September 21, 2018
Although the tanager was capable of being coy when it suited her, she generally preferred a direct approach. Therefore, we should not be at all surprised when she put the following question to the flock of lovebirds gathered around her. "What do lovebirds know about love?"

This question elicited quite a reaction, for the consensus among the birds was that they had just expounded at great length upon that subject through both the display of their plumage and the voicing of their songs.

The tanager laughed off their indignation. "I got all that," she assured them. "What I mean is there anything that lovebirds know about love that nobody else does?"

At this question, the flock quieted. Murmurs passed between them as they discussed whether this query was merely imprudent or rather rude. The birds then withdrew for a private council, where they debated who among them would tell their visitor that they could not share the secrets, which they had unwound over the course of a thousand generations of communal life on this isle. Who could explain with both candor and tact that it wasn't so much their unwillingness to share this information as it was their doubt that she was capable of receiving it? Who could explain to the young and rash that the best-kept secrets of love have to be experienced first-hand, slowly over a shared lifetime?

They selected a venerable matron to deliver this message. However, she did not have the opportunity to deliver it. The lovebirds were unable to locate the tanager on the island. It seemed, in her impatience, she had departed during their prolonged delay without waiting for an answer. Perhaps, giving her the benefit of the doubt, the lovebirds assumed that she had intuited the answer and left in order to spare them the need to disappoint her.

written while listening to:  Butch Morris, Lê Quan Ninh & J.A. Deane - Burning Cloud (Free Music Production, FMP CD 85, 1996 (originally recorded 1993), Germany, cd,

September 22, 2018
When the tanager reported her findings regarding "The Island of Love-Colored Lovebirds", the other members of the executive governing committee of the ICEML were duly impressed. However, it cannot be denied that they expected something more. No one among them wanted to voice the indiscreet question, "Is that all?" but each of them sensed that the tanager had not left the island with the greatest of its treasures in her possession. Fortunately, their reservations were tempered by the fact that numerous adages were to be found within the hallowed traditions of meta-living, which allowed them to interpret the tanager's latest contribution to A Fractured Portrait of Iris in a positive light.

One such maxim sprang immediately to Poppy's mind. "Not knowing is the triumph of evolution," he said to the others. The voicing of this sentiment seemed to immediately change the tone of the meeting.

"Escarlata, it's lovely," said Hebeloma to the tanager, in a congratulatory tone.

"From your account, it sounds like the island has changed much since I was last there," said Hong Samud.

The other members of the committee accepted that the only reasonable way such a statement could be interpreted was in a facetious sense, but there had been no indication on the part of the librarian that he had intended it in that way.

written while listening to:  Konstrukt & Keiji Haino - A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies A Quagmire (Live) (Karlrecords, KR052, 2018, Germany, lp,

September 23, 2018
Those who have a direct role in the upbringing of the next generation almost uniformly attempt to instill in their charges, be they their own children or someone else's, the basic value of honesty. It is a crux of a well-functioning society. Sulin herself had been told many times that she should not lie or that she should always tell the truth.

Like most children, she saw the truth in black and white. The idea of gradations of truth had not yet occurred to her. She did have limited experience with the notion that there were degrees of severity with regard to hiding the truth. Once her grandmother had offered her a sugary treat, after her mother had already told her that she was to wait until dinner. When Sulin had informed her grandmother of her mother's prohibition, the old woman had merely smiled and said, "It'll be our little secret." Occasional, little secrets apparently were acceptable misdemeanors.

What Sulin, a girl with only a handful of years behind her, did not yet grasp was that withholding the truth could also be a virtue. In her pursuit of the knowledge regarding the home of Hong Samud, she saw the discovery of the forbidden information as a noble quest. She wanted to know the truth. Sulin did not consider that the revelation of the truth could have negative repercussions for anyone, especially the imperturbable figure of old Hong, of whom she was quite fond.

written while listening to:  Keiji Haino & MUSQIS - untitled (Slowdown Records, SDRSW-41, 2018, Japan, cd,

September 24, 2018
Sulin had not intended to reveal to her father the entirety of her scheme to have Tjilik follow Hong Samud home in order to determine the location and nature of his domicile. However, once pieces of the story emerged, it proved impossible, under her father's questioning, not to explain everything.

The director knew of Tjilik, as he did all the regular patrons of his library. He understood that the Dayak was studying in the city as part of his training for a future role in government. He could see no advantage either to himself or to the young man in getting involved in his daughter's fantasies.

The director complained to his wife that she could not allow their children to run loose around the library if they were pestering patrons into questionable activities. Of course, Sulin's mother did not appreciate having the blame laid at her feet. She responded with a few choice words to her husband, who then regretted having brought it up. Having accomplished her purpose, Sulin's mother then took her daughter aside and compelled her to explain the entire escapade again. As soon as Sulin arrived at the portion of the story where Tjilik described a phiale in Hong Samud's home, her mother shushed her. "Enough nonsense!" she said.

This remonstration led Sulin to conjure a new suspicion. Perhaps old Hong had no home. And, if this was the case, he likely spent his nights in the library.

written while listening to:  Paul Rutherford - In Backward Times (Emanem, 5045, 2017 (originally recorded 1979, 1988, 2004 & 2007), Spain, cd,

September 25, 2018
Sulin had turned six more than a month ago. She reminded her mother of this new degree of independence when she casually inquired, "Can I have a sleep-over in the library?"

"The library is not for sleeping over," replied her mother. This question had followed too closely after the affair with Tjilik not to immediately form a connection in her mind. Nevertheless, she said no more, hoping her daughter would move on to other matters. Of course, she knew her daughter to be both curious and stubborn, so she was not caught off-guard when Sulin did not let the matter drop.

On the following morning, Sulin again broached the subject, saying, "I really want to have a sleep-over with a friend in the library. Please." She offered more details, adding that yesterday she had mentioned it to a school friend, whose parents found the idea a little unusual but had already given their permission.

This admission earned an admonition from her mother. "You had no right to make that invitation. You'll have to tell her tomorrow that no such thing shall happen." Having said her piece, the mother remained flummoxed. She added for good measure, "Wait until I tell your father that you are inviting your friends to spend the night in the library! I already told you before, the library is no place for sleep-overs."

Sulin concealed her sense of triumph as she asked, "Then why does Old Hong get to sleep there?"

written while listening to:  Paul Rutherford Trio - Gheim (Live At Bracknell 1983) (Emanem, 5034, 2014 (originally recorded 1983), United Kingdom, cd,

September 26, 2018
"Old Hong does not sleep in the library," Sulin's father repeated for the tenth time. "I don't want to hear any more about it." Father and daughter held hands as they walked home from the library. A drizzle fell and the father attempted to position the umbrella over both of them, though his daughter's meandering path did not ease his task.

"Every night we leave him at the library by himself," Sulin argued.

"It is his job to tidy up the library and lock it up at night," replied her father.

"Every morning, he is there waiting for us when we arrive."

"That's part of his job too."

"How can he work all day long every day?"

The father sighed. "Hong Samud is old and has no family to look after him. People like that need something to keep themselves busy," answered her father. "At the library, he can help others and still be useful. If he didn't enjoy what he was doing, he wouldn't do it." The father looked down at his daughter who had tugged at his arm as she skirted a puddle. "You don't have to worry about old Hong."

In his analysis of Hong Samud, the library director was correct on all counts save one. The old man was not entirely without family. He had an adopted daughter. She also was a librarian, who maintained a repository composed exclusively of bird-shaped books. Her name was Uwetsiageyv and her story is told elsewhere,*,† but she enters no further into this tale.

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

The Ornithological Collection of Uwetsiageyv: A Flight of Fancy in 201 Parts, Keffer, D.J., Poison Pie Publishing House, Knoxville, Tennessee, 2016, flyer.

written while listening to:  Iskra 1903 - Chapter One 1970-1972, disc 1 (Emanem, 4301, 2000 (originally recorded 1970-1972), United Kingdom, cdx3,

September 27, 2018
Despite his arguments to the contrary, doubt began to gnaw at Sulin's father. On a Thursday evening, he invented an excuse to work late--reconciling the payroll ledgers, a task which, given the stability of the staff, was a routine exercise. Once the library hours had passed, only the two men remained. Hong Samud returned a few last books to their proper places. He emptied the trash cans. When he returned, the library director remained steadfastly bent over his desk. He glanced up at Hong Samud. "Hong, I'll close up shop tonight," he said by way of dismissal.

No expression passed over the old man's inscrutable face. If he sensed something was amiss, he gave no sign of it. He nodded and turned stiffly. The director heard the front door close gently.

It was true that Hong Samud, whose duty it was to secure the library, possessed a key. It was entirely possible that he might return during the night, if he had no other place to go. The library director debated with himself how long he needed to stay before he could cast any doubt from his mind. After another uneventful hour, he grew drowsy. He locked the library and walked home, telling himself that he had been foolish to allow his daughter's imagination to get the better of him. The drizzle of the past few days had strengthened in force. The director's umbrella shielded the downpour only in part.

On the following morning, his suspicion that Hong Samud might have returned during the night was alleviated by the fact that the old man appeared in the morning, soaked to the skin, as if he had, by chance, spent all night in a nocturnal dalliance with the rain.

written while listening to:  Iskra 1903 - Chapter One 1970-1972, disc 2 (Emanem, 4301, 2000 (originally recorded 1970-1972), United Kingdom, cdx3,

September 28, 2018
Born attentive to their own needs, children develop a sense of empathy at different ages. It can truly be said that some children grow into adulthood, managing by hook or crook or bad luck of the draw, to have suppressed any empathic tendencies. Each reader can likely supply an example of such an individual from their own experience.

As for Sulin, she certainly observed Hong's jacket hanging out on the front porch to dry in the mid-morning sun. Yet she did not fully grasp that her righteous search for the truth had resulted in this rather undesirable outcome. Even had she made the logical connection, she was unwilling to abandon the virtue of her cause.

Her father, on the other hand, constructed an unambiguous description of a state of affairs, which, in his role as director, he could not allow to continue. He took Hong Samud out to lunch. At an isolated table, with his voice cloaked by the hubbub of the lunchtime crowd, he asked Hong Samud to surrender his key to the library. "You cannot sleep in the library," he said. "I am paying you enough to rent an apartment in town." With not so much as a murmur of protest, Hong Samud obeyed.

What the library director had claimed was true, but old Hong was secretly frivolous with his money, saving not a cent. He managed to distribute, with no one being the wiser, the entirety of his wages to beggars and widows. He was one who had moved beyond monetary needs.

However, he spent only one additional night making do at the jungle's edge before Sulin informed Tjilik that old Hong had been stripped of his key for sleeping in the library. That very night, at the closing hour, the Dayak appeared and escorted Hong Samud to his own apartment, where he had prepared a mat laid out on the floor for the old man to sleep on.

written while listening to:  Iskra 1903 - Chapter One 1970-1972, disc 3 (Emanem, 4301, 2000 (originally recorded 1970-1972), United Kingdom, cdx3,

September 29, 2018
One may consider it a kind of pathetic fallacy, but the library seemed to adopt a somber tone once Hong Samud was stripped of his key. The patrons seemed excessively quiet, their choice of books atypically morose. The change in atmosphere cannot be attributed to the old man, who impeccably maintained his role. He waited outside on the porch when the director arrived in the morning. He discharged his duties during the day with the same attention to detail. He left a few minutes before the director locked up for the night, to spare him the awkwardness of having to walk back to town together.

The director, for his part, discovered an unhappy dissatisfaction in the new arrangements. As a father of small children, his time at home was severely reduced now that he was obligated to be at the library during all open hours. Moreover, he greatly missed the extra hour of sleep he had previously enjoyed in the morning.

A week passed with no sign of improvement. Naturally, the director began to question the wisdom of his having taken over Hong Samud's duties. His wife too expressed her displeasure with the situation and encouraged her husband to return the key to old Hong, were he of a mind to accept again his former role. When he protested that no one could be allowed to sleep in the library, she simply encouraged him to make that a stipulation in returning the key.

Hong Samud accepted the reinstatement of his duties with the same stoic demeanor with which he had been relieved of them. When admonished to never again spend a night in the library, he simply nodded for he did not think it wise at this point to begin to protest his innocence in this regard.

written while listening to:  Iskra 1903 - Frankfurt 1991 (Emanem, 4051, 2001 (originally recorded 1991), United Kingdom, cd,

September 30, 2018
As if a malevolent curse had been magically dispersed, life within the library returned to normal. Patrons borrowed books, returning them mostly on time. Late fees were paid without fuss unless the borrower lacked the means to do so, in which case the director discreetly forgave them upon the appropriate display of contrition. Without explanation, Sulin dropped her investigation of old Hong's domicile. Hong Samud thanked Tjilik for his generosity then, also without further explanation, moved out of his apartment. He gratefully returned, during that portion of time which corresponded locally to night, to the portable library, where he was rejuvenated in body and mind by the accumulated experience of the authors whose works were collected therein.

The library director bore some remaining doubt. A few days after this equilibrium had been re-established, he rose from his bed shortly after midnight. Careful not to disturb his wife, he dressed and proceeded through the still streets until he reached the nocturnal cacophony of the jungle upon whose doorstep the library sat. He entered the library and called out for Hong Samud. Receiving no reply, he took his lantern and searched each room until he was satisfied that the old man was no longer sleeping in the library.

Hong Samud was never made aware of this excursion. Only the director's wife knew and she gently chastised her husband, upon his return, for his lack of faith.

written while listening to:  Iskra 1903 - Goldsmiths (Emanem, 5013, 2011 (originally recorded 1972), United Kingdom, cd,

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