July, 2011


11
Jul 11

Agnostic gnostic or Gnostic agnostic?

It’s a question I had to answer–am I an agnostic gnostic or a gnostic agnostic? Seeking minds want to know. Agnostic gnostic suggests I don’t know but I receive gnosis (knowledge). Nothing wrong with paradox–paradoxically.
But gnostic agnostic seems righter. I receive gnosis but I live within the unknown, “the cloud of unknowing.”
I’ll go with gnostic agnostic.

11
Jul 11

Got to Have Attitude. Mostly. But…

I need attitude–sometimes. If I’m appearing at a reading, otherwise performing; meeting people; people are bored & disappointed if I don’t have an attitude. But some people become their attitude. I don’t want to. I don’t want to live reactively, reacting with my attitude to whatever I see.  Attitude can interfere with perception–and sometimes that’s all right. But sometimes it means we’re superimposing our attitude-loaded reactions on the worldso we don’t see what’s really there…
It’s like driving a car–and you forget you’re driving a car. You become the car. Trapped in the car. I’ll drive an attitude around but I park it and get out, too.

11
Jul 11

Your weekly moment of Paranoia

CBS aired faked footage of Boston fireworks on July 4 as if it were real fireworks… Could be a kind of omen. How far will media go fabricating events?
(My story ‘What It’s Like to Kill a Man’ assumes that news footage will be fabricated using digital FX for the advantage of govt or corporations someday).
The CIA is said to’ve faked up a “live” radio report of an attack on an embassy in Latin America years ago…What’ll they do to news reports now that digital animation is almost indistinguishable from real footage?

1
Jul 11

BLIND EYE by Edgar Allan Poe and John Shirley

Note: the first section of this story – the first entry up to Jan 4- is a fragment written by Poe. This story comes from a book of stories by various authors completing the fragment, POE’S LIGHTHOUSE.  Here’s mine. It’s also found in my story collection LIVING SHADOWS.

BLIND EYE

By Edgar Allan Poe and John Shirley

Jan 1 — 1796. This day — my first on the light-house — I make this entry in my Diary, as agreed on with De Grät. As regularly as I can keep the journal, I will — but there is no telling what may happen to a man all alone as I am — I may get sick, or worse . . . . . So far well! The cutter had a narrow escape — but why dwell on that, since I am here, all safe? My spirits are beginning to revive already, at the mere thought of being — for once in my life at least — thoroughly alone…. What most surprises me, is the difficulty De Grät had in getting me the appointment — and I a noble of the realm! It could not be that the Consistory had any doubt of my ability to manage the light. One man had attended it before now — and got on quite as well as the three that are usually put in. The duty is a mere nothing; and the printed instructions are as plain as possible. It never would have done to let Orndoff accompany me. I never should have made any way with my book as long as he was within reach of me, with his intolerable gossip — not to mention that everlasting mëerschaum. Besides, I wish to be alone . . . . . . It is strange that I never observed, until this moment, how dreary a sound that word has — “alone”! I could half fancy there was some peculiarity in the echo of these cylindrical walls — but oh, no! — this is all nonsense. I do believe I am going to get nervous about my insulation. That will never do. I have not forgotten De Grät’s prophecy. Now for a scramble to the lantern and a good look around to “see what I can see” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To see what I can see indeed ! — not very much. The swell is subsiding a little, I think — but the cutter will have a rough passage home, nevertheless. She will hardly get within sight of the Norland before noon to-morrow — and yet it can hardly be more than 190 or 200 miles.

#

.Jan.2. I have passed this day in a species of ecstasy that I find impossible  to describe. My passion for solitude could scarcely have been more thoroughly gratified. I do not say satisfied; for I believe I should never be satiated with such delight as I have experienced to-day . . . . . . . . . The wind lulled about day-break, and by the afternoon the sea had gone down materially . . . . . Nothing to be seen, with the telescope even, but ocean and sky, with an occasional gull.

#

Jan. 3. A dead calm all day. Towards evening, the sea looked very much like glass. A few sea-weeds came in sight; but besides them absolutely nothing all day — not even the slightest speck of cloud. . . . . . . . Occupied myself in exploring the light-house . . . . It is a very lofty one — as I find to my cost when I have to ascend its interminable stairs — not quite 160 feet, I should say, from the low-water mark to the top of the lantern. From the bottom inside the shaft, however, the distance to the summit is 180 feet at least: — thus the floor is 20 feet below the surface of the sea, even at low-tide . . . . . . It seems to me that the hollow interior at the bottom should have been filled in with solid masonry. Undoubtedly the whole would have been thus rendered more safe: — but what am I thinking about? A structure such as this is safe enough under any circumstances. I should feel myself secure in it during the fiercest hurricane that ever raged — and yet I have heard seamen say occasionally, with a wind at South-West, the sea has been known to run higher here than any where with the single exception of the Western opening of the Straits of Magellan. No mere sea, though, could accomplish anything with this solid iron-riveted wall — which, at 50 feet from high-water mark, is four feet thick, if one inch . . . . . . . . The basis on which the structure rests seems to me to be chalk . . . . . .

#

Jan 4. Today I was drawn to the lamp at the zenith of the light-house, with a sense of summoning so clearly defined that I half expected to find someone waiting for me beside the lamp. The lamp itself—a dozen brass lanterns, in fact, symmetrically arrayed in an iron framework before the mirror—were all that awaited me.  But I lie! There was my own distorted reflection awaiting me, in that reflective silver concavity behind the lamps. A seagull, too, hung almost motionless, itself a lantern in the sky beyond the glass, balancing in the stream of air, poised and waiting for me to throw scraps, as perhaps the last keeper had done…On the night before my embarking to the island I sat late at the Watcher Inn with Orndoff, an acquaintance in the village closest to the light-house; he and I had gone to the same university.

Very different, were Orndoff and I. At university he had drifted through the instruction with a kind of amused indifference, scarcely attending. But my mania for history had kept eye and ear so fixed upon the professors that I seemed to make them nervous. This is hard to parcel out from the remainder of my intercourse with humanity, however: perhaps because I was an orphaned child, raised without siblings by an uncle who seemed aggrieved by the responsibility, I have never felt that other people warmed to me; have always felt a vague, undefined hostility from them. Oh there was Elena, of course—would I be here skulking alone upon a rock in the midst of the sea if not for Elena? She alone looked past my dark countenance; saw more than my scowl. And that one died when her ship caught fire. She died in the midst of the sea; I have chosen to live there. Where is this lighthouse but the midst of the sea?

As for Orndoff—who will palaver at anyone with the patience to listen–he told me his gossip of the former keeper. I knew nothing of the erstwhile light-house watchman, having come to this comparatively prosperous, snug little village near the light-house only a fortnight earlier, at De Grät’s suggestion. Hendershaw, an expatriate from England, had been a queer antiquarian, liked by people who knew him a little, feared by those who knew him well. “Oh!” said Orndoff importantly, puffing his pipe and sloshing his ale, “many leatherbound folios, and even a scroll or two, came to him on this very island by cutter, in protective chests from such places as Paris and Moscow and Rome and Mount Athos; one, indeed, hailed all the way from Bombay, and was said to be writ in Sanskrit; and how came he to read that? – One day,” so Orndoff went on, “Hendershaw was heard to shout at people in the village, as if from high above, and to implore them to ‘Stop it, stop it!’…Or, he would shine the light! said he.”

“So,” said I to Orndoff, “Hendershaw was back in the village, shirking his duty and drinking and making fools of you, when he should have been at the light-house?”

“Why no,” said Orndoff. “He was at the light-house when he spoke! He must have been, for he had no boat out there of his own, and when someone went to the island the next day, they found him dead, at the foot of the light-house—he had fallen through a window close beside the lamp; stumbled, we supposed. Fallen all that long way down!”

“You know as well as I, Orndoff, that if he was heard in the village then someone was mocking his voice.  This, or else he had come here. This village may be the closest to the light-house,” –for the cutter returns to distant Norland only because there is no good harbor hereabouts– “but the lighthouse is miles distant, out in the sea, and he could not have been heard. Unless perhaps some meteorological peculiarity reigned that night—that is not beyond the limits of possibility.”

“Not only was he heard,” Orndoff insisted, indignantly tapping the dottle from his pipe, “he was heard clear as like to yonder churchbell! Clearer, for a bell is usually heard from a steeple, and to everyone who heard him it was as if he were standing right beside them!”

…I remember the conversation now with a dim smile. There is not a remote parish in this land—or any other!—which has not its share of ghosts, quite often said to be the shades of witches who’d cursed the place on their burning. What hamlet is without one, or two–or three? Just as every village has a wit like Orndoff who practices on the credulous. I am not to be taken in…But today, standing at the curved mirror, blinking in the reflected light from the sea, the near cloudless sky, and listening to the sough of the wind against the stone tower, I thought I saw a second likeness in the reflector mingled with my own…..De Grät was right! Isolation acts on the imagination…and I am glad of it! This journal is just a sort of morning walk for the mind, to get the blood moving in the limbs of imagination. My book calls to me…Perhaps I’ll change the subject matter and write of the rustics in the village. But I’ve never thought for a moment of writing anything else but my account of mad royalty! What turns of mind one takes in abject solitude–and I will now take a turn on the rocky beach.

Jan. 9 –Has it really been four days since I wrote the last entry in this journal? I have come to spend most of my days sleeping, since my duties are to be carried out at night. The inspection of the lamps is a lighthouse keeper’s sacred duty: the renewing of their oil, the rekindling of their flames should the wind push its nose through some errant crack — and the wind here does show a certain mischievousness. It’s true that every couple of days I polish the mirror during the day, but it is at night that I must check and re-check the light, to see that all of the lamps are lit. No diminution of the illumination is to be permitted. My own glow has diminished, somewhat—the shift to activity in all the hours of darkness has perplexed me somehow, and my body resents the change. The days have blurred together, so. And thus it is that I work late afternoon, wearing toward dusk, laboring feverishly on my book– squinting in the candle light, for the sun is on the other side of the tower, affording little light for this chilly cabin attached to the light-house. I scratch away with the wind’s buffeting threatening to overturn the stone tower onto my little lodging—but I am indifferent to nature’s vain threats. I write, uncaring: I write what seems to have welled up from my dreams. I find myself writing not on the madness of kings in history, as I had planned, but instead on the madness that accompanies quotidian life in an ordinary village—the very village I quitted to come here! The lines pour out of me with a species of self-determination–as determined as the Republicists in the American colonies. I find myself describing the lanky red-nosed village Mayor, who plays the sad widower by day, but at night, I watch, in my mind’s eye, as he drinks his laudanum and then beds the wife of the snoring tax collector. I discover I have written four and a half pages on the stout, ham-fisted Constable, a record of his robbery of the men in his jail; I find that I have scrivened two pages with glee on the sodomy of a choirboy by the grave and sallow Minister; I am astonished to see that I have written seven close pages on the Schoolmaster’s beating of his wife, and have related how that same Schoolmaster then repairs to the back room of the chandler’s shop, where he offers himself to be beaten by the drunken candlemaker himself…Sometimes I seem to see them in the glimmering reflections of the concave mirror behind the lanterns, after they are all lit. I seem to see the village, the little houses opened up and laid bare…Then the image fades but in some wise it has crept into my mind, like a lean wolf creeping into a den, only to emerge in my dreams. It was thus when I saw the stableman locking himself in his attic to pray for the courage to not—oh yes! the courage to not murder his hateful snaggle-toothed wife…I laughed aloud, at times as I scribbled these fantasies—and later felt ashamed of my facetiousness. How could I wheeze away like that over such tragic doings? How could I indeed, ever have written anything so perverse!

But this has to end! I must assume that this indulgence arises from fancies provoked by the last society I had enjoyed, if enjoyed is the word to describe my interview with De Grät–as if in recoiling from my solitude (which has gone from delight to burden) I people my world instead with figures from a kind of fever dream.

I can see De Grät’s supercilious smile even now. I can hear his oily voice. “I told you so! A gentleman whose head thus teems is not suited for such isolation! Did I not warn you? But you would insist on taking the post!” Perhaps he was right –But how am I to extricate myself without a loss of face that would preclude anyone offering me another post? I must remain…I must remain alone. Just me and the god of the sea whose great grey body surges in the swells without ceasing, shifting and murmuring, endlessly grumbling to himself…

Jan 14? (Is this date correct?) What day of the week is this? Is it Sunday? I had intended to pray on Sunday; to read from the Old Testament aloud; to give myself a bit of a church service. There will be no one here for another week and I needed some rhythm in my life. So I told myself yesterday.

To think of praying now! After what I’ve seen! Somehow it seems a mock of the idea of prayer…No—let me be honest—I have not ceased praying, since the Eye of the Light-house showed itself to me. A silent prayer without words—a prayer incessantly calling out  help me…help me…help me…while in fact I’m saying nothing at all.

Shall I tell you? Someone must read this, surely. You!

….Can you hear me, climbing the stairs, breathing like a horse at the end of a race? No—see me! See me as I carried a lantern up the spiral staircase, just at sunset. Here and there a bent square of dying sunlight bled scarlet through the occasional window, only to be blotted by my circle of light as I ascended. (You do see? That’s exactly what must be done—you must see! To see as I have!)

As always there was the sharp feeling of vulnerability when I reached the top—for here the wind invariably batters at the windows, threatening that this night, this time, it will at last shake the glass from its frames…I was well aware that one of these panes of glass was new, having been replaced after Hendershaw fell through it to his death. I knew which pane it was too—a cheaper glass than the others, blurred by poor glazing so it distorted the moon, making it into a bent countenance, a leering yellow face, like a figure of wax in the heat.

I set about lighting the lanterns before the reflector, and this time tried to keep myself from looking into the curved mirror—to prevent its practicing upon my imagination –

My task done, I stood…and heard a rattling from the back of the mirror.

I had only once looked behind the mirror—there was only dust there, cobwebs, the curved inner wall of the light-house. But beyond that formidable stone wall was the windy air above the rocky verge of the island, and beyond that verge the sea—and beyond that curving stretch of sea, the shore, a little distance beyond which stood the village. That dusty dim place—barely room for a man to pass—had seemed repugnant to me, and I had never questioned my intuition…The stability of the mirror was my job, my duty, and if it seemed to rattle, why, I must needs reinforce it–so with the tool box in one hand and the lantern in the other I sidled behind the mirror…I saw nothing amiss. The bolts holding the curved reflector to its frame seemed quite sound. Then the mirror trembled once more—it shook off some of its dust from exactly marked places, from a shape scratched on the dull, convex metal of its back. I lifted the lantern to more closely look. A diagram was scratched into the surface there…I shall not try to reproduce it here…I hope no one ever reproduces it again!…An intricate diagram of geometrical forms, but a geometry I did not recognize, none of them quite Euclidean, though some might have alchemical significance—I might have glimpsed something of the sort in the margins of some half-remembered illuminated manuscript perused while studying Greek. There were letters too, unintelligibly cryptic words in a script I had never seen…I had a terrible desire to wipe it away—indeed, to break the mirror itself, on seeing these marks. I felt distinctly as if someone was urging me to do just that…But I could not. I would be not only discharged from my sinecure, but arrested, perhaps sent to a madhouse.

I returned to the front of the mirror, with that diagram still fixed in my mind. I gazed into the mirror behind the lanterns, then, forgetting my earlier resolve, and the diagram seemed to float before my eyes, like the image haunting the vision when one has stared into the sun, and some incomprehensible completion took place then: I felt it like a key turning in a lock.

So it was that the mirror became a great eye. For me, staring into it, at just that instant, the light-house mirror did not reflect; it showed nothing of me, as it usually did, it gathered light but seemed to push it all to the sides so that I could see the window it had become…

Was it indeed like a window? Nay, a telescope lens, looking out the back of the light-house, right through the stone wall, through the intervening sky, across the arm of sea, across the strand and into the village…I could see into the village, exactly as if I was staring into the eyepiece of a giant telescope, though nothing so powerful and precise in its magnification exists. I talk as if I’m trying to find some rational description of what I experienced—but I was looking not only through the solid mirror, but through a stone wall! – and oh! I could see every house in the village clearly and distinctly. If I looked at any one house, in particular, the house would swell to fill the mirror…My eyes burned, of course, with the light of the lanterns prodigiously reflected. At the same time, I couldn’t quite see that light. The pain I felt from gazing at it seemed distant, like the pricking of a benumbed limb. My eyes ran with tears, but I could not look away…But come here, reader, gaze over my shoulder as I write this, see it with me:  when I looked at any one house, it opened itself up to me, as if a cabinet was flung open from within — First, the Mayor’s house, twice as big as the others. Two storeys, with balconies and its own courtyard and stables, it drew my eye—and as I looked at it, seeing every cornice, every crack, every shingle and gutter with an etched clarity, suddenly all this minute marking fell away, as if a page was turned in a picture book, and the interior of the house was revealed. It looked exactly like a doll’s house, seen from the open back, everything miniature, each furnishing exquisitely reproduced…but here the dolls moved about on their own, requiring no childish hands to put them through their paces. I watched as the Mayor sent his housekeeper away, turned the portrait of his departed wife to the wall, unlocked a leaded glass cabinet and drew out a bottle of laudanum. I recognized that manner of bottle, having had too much recourse to it myself–one of the reasons I came to this light-house—and saw him decant a thousand drops or so, drink them down, and then go to the back door, where the fat and tittering tax collector’s wife awaited…what they did then, not in the bedroom but in the kitchen, I did not propose to observe—past satisfying myself what they were about—and looked away, thinking that I had observed all this before in a dream, and written about it too, only in that instance they had trysted in the parlor…When I looked back at the mirror, the Mayor’s house shrank and another filled the lens, and here the Dressmaker’s Widow was whipping her small daughter with a horse-crop—I could bear to look only a moment. Still, a kind of heated hunger had me, a voyeur’s passion stoked by a sense of godlike power, as I looked at another house, and another: Behold the Fisherman at prayers—the only good and honest man in the village. Yet his son was creeping out a window to meet another young rogue, the two of them donning masks, carrying cudgels to the back door of the inn, where they skulked, awaiting the first moneyed drunk to step out into the night…Here was the Minister’s house, and here he caressed a new boy, who shrank from him. But leering, the minister forced the boy into a corner…..Here was the Usurer, keeping accounts late with a candle—and I saw no sin in him. But who was this creeping up behind him? The son of the pious fisherman, the corrupted youth  too impatient to wait at the inn.

I watched as he struck the Usurer over the head from behind and scooped up his gold. The Fisherman’s son quarreled with his partner about the gold…and then he struck him dead!

I could watch no more…and the pain in my eyes no longer seemed distant. I turned away…

And beheld only darkness! My eyes had gone blind, for a time, staring into the lanterns, the reflected light of the mirror. I had been staring, I told myself, into the glare of my own imagination.

But I know it was not imagination. Had I not met most of these people in the village? Had I not sensed this very venality, this viciousness, this familiar brutishness, behind their formal bows, their countrified manners? I’m in the habit of ignoring such  disquieting perceptions—as I believe we all are—and blanketed them away immediately they were shewn. But now my recollection of that disquiet returned and insisted on remembering itself to me Even as their dissimulating faces returned to me, so also sight seeped back into my burning eyes. I beheld the moon rising over the sea, daubing the  streak of restless waves beneath it with silver light even as the rest of the sea dimmed. I fled down the stairs, my eyes throbbing…burning! My conscience burned far worse.

Jan 17. I am almost sure it is January 17. I managed to see the calendar, though the numbers of the days rippled in the swimming shadows. I am near completely blind now, and though it is daylight I write these lines with three candles set about the page, to ease the permanent night that has settled over my vision. Only in bright sunlight can I see well enough to walk freely about, and I do not think I will have another day of bright sunlight.

For they are coming for me. I hear them coming.  I have ignored their shouted demands. Now they are at the door—let them thunder upon it! I have bolted and barred the door. It will take them time to break it down, since the fools have come ill prepared. Someone, I gather, has been sent back to the cutter for tools. I hear the imprecations of those left waiting.

I should not have looked through the Eye again. How long was it? Three, perhaps, four days? Is this how long I managed, without looking again into the Eye of the Light-house? Every intervening dusk, when I lit the beacon, I was careful to look only at the lanterns themselves, never at the mirror. But still I caught movement in the concave surface, and it was not my own movement. Yet I did not turn to look. I heard voices from the village coming from the mirror—yes I could hear them as well as see!…I forced myself not to listen…

Three, perhaps four days I did not look in the Eye. I drank the whiskey I had brought with me, jeering at my earlier resolve to limit myself to a single glass on retiring. I tried to work on my book. But the giddiness would seize me, and I would find myself writing of the Schoolmaster’s wife locking herself in a root cellar while he raged drunkenly outside, reciting Ovid between pulls on his jug…So I put the writing aside and attempted to read. But the words shifted on the page, and an account of Henry the Eighth transmuted itself in mid sentence. Thus Henry took for himself a wife without choosing at all, his counselors having selected this wide eyed Hollander ladyThis becoming, Thus the Mayor took for himself the milkmaid over the tax collector’s wifeI clapped the book shut at that!

I told myself that soon the cutter would come with supplies. I resolved to refuse the supplies and demand of the coxswain a return to the mainland…

Once this resolution was made, it was suggested to me—perhaps something within me suggested it, perhaps not–that one last look would not run amiss, since after all I was leaving…so it was that I succumbed to temptation. When I’d finished lighting the  — –O how they howl out there! How much time remains to me? My eyesight fails–so it was, I say, that I finished lighting the lamps, and turned to look into the mirror, envisioning that obscure diagram, and immediately the reflector became like the widening iris of an eye, a dilating that revealed again the village,  every house in every detail. My eyes burned with the fogged pain, and still I gazed into the eye of the light-house, looking with utter and entire impossibility through the mirror itself and the stone wall behind it, through the intervening spaces, seeing—I cannot think how to convince you of this, but it is true!–seeing what was happening at exactly that  moment in the village….

I saw Orndoff’s house, then, for the first time—opening itself to me like a magician’s cabinet. He was at the back door, with a wooden crate, paying the groom of the Inn and from their whispered discourse I understood that the groom had stolen goods, rum and beer and vodka from the Inn, which Orndoff proposed to sell at a profit in the hamlet that lay further south along the coast.

“Thief!” I shouted, in a kind of giggling hysteria. “Cease your theft, Orndoff! And tell the Minister to cease his predation!”

And Orndoff heard me! I saw him whirl, looking for the source of the sound.

“Who?” he sputtered.

The horse-groom ran away—and I turned to look at another house. Here the Fisherman argued with his son, demanding to know where he came upon the gold that had fallen from his coat. Was it he who had robbed the usurer? The son refused to answer and made for the door—his father tried to stop him. The boy turned and struck at him with a length of wood from the pile by the fireplace. His father fell, stunned–

“Do not kill that old man, you fool, you’ll regret it the whole of your life!” I shouted.

The boy turned this way and that to see who was speaking and I laughed…though my eyes streamed with the blazing light of the mirror, I laughed…

I looked at another house, and more—saw the Mayor at his peccadilloes, the Minister at his fondling, the Mistress of the Inn plotting to run away with a coachman—

Thereupon I was struck with a terrible revulsion. I could no longer bear to see these people scuttling and capering about in the shadows. I felt like a man who has awakened in a noisome inn and hears what may be the feet of rats on the floor beside him. Wishing to know if he’s to be invaded by vermin, he strikes a lantern alight, vowing that he will catch them in the light, and call the innkeeper and demand an explanation.

That is what I felt must be done…I must bring the vermin out of the shadows and demand an explanation!

And so I seized a handle to one side of the beacon, used before-times only for the light’s repair. This I heaved on, against the rust, till at last the creaking mirror turned and shone against the back wall. The enchantment of the mirror did not fail me; it behaved as the whispering in my mind had suggested it would: it shone its light right through the wall, making a window where none had been—the light streamed in a concerted shaft through intervening miles, in a magnification no oculist could explain, and struck full upon the house of the Fisherman…And the house was laid bare! The opacity of its walls vanished, it became as of a house of glass, each room all lit up with the beam of the beacon—so that not only I, but everyone in the village could see the Fisherman’s son standing over the fallen form of his parent. The Fisherman’s son turned and shouted –seeing that his own walls had become as glass, and everyone was staring at him…Then I shifted the beacon again, so that it fell upon the Mayor’s house. And this too became a house of glass, and he was caught en flagrante with the daughter of the tanner. I shifted the light again so that it shone upon the Inn, where the Mistress of the Inn–her husband busy with the horses– was creeping out the back with the Coachman, her bag in hand. The Innkeeper turned and saw, through the new transparency of the walls, his wife’s departure—her horrified face to see him gawping at her! And how I laughed!

I shifted the light again and again, revealing each house’s secrets—so that they could be seen by everyone else in the village. “Now you see,” I shouted, “how the all-seeing eye of the light-house has revealed you all for the crawling vermin you are!”

Then the darkness closed over my eyes—darkness like shutters slammed by pain. The agony in my eyes was unspeakable as I turned the light back to the sea…but I could not see the sea, or the moon, or the steps I stumbled down. I nearly fell, having to feel my way along. The lantern in my hand seemed dim as a candle a hundred strides away in a heavy fog…Ravaged by emotions that passed so quickly I could scarce distinguish them—revulsion, shame, anger, a desire to return to the great Eye, terror—I felt my way down and down, spiraling down in darkness, till at last I felt the cold air of the night on my face…I returned to my cabin to drink the last of my whisky. I slept—and the voices of my tormentors  woke me. I heard them coming, shouting for me, howling like animals in their rage. I barred the door…And now….

Now I hear them worrying that door with some great tool. It sounds as if they might be angling away with a bar of iron. I hear it from time to time, squeaking at the door,  like the teeth of rats on wood. They pause in their gnawing to accuse me of sorcery, of trying to destroy them all with lies—with magic, a magic lantern of some kind, creating a puppet theater with the innocent, Godfearing villagers as the Punch and Judys. Lies, they say—you tell lies about us! They say they’ll burn me out if they have to and more than one agrees that burning is peculiarly appropriate for me…The dregs of my sight evaporate as I write these lines, and I must secrete this away in some niche of the wall where it will be preserved. I know just the place…They’re breaking in! I must hurry! I will not live out this night. Oh God preserve me from the workings of their black, black hearts…

Am perplexed as to what to do with this hasty and typically deranged piece by Poe, found in his papers—there is a shorter version, an unfinished fragment, that some have seen. They have not seen this longer one and my impulse is to suppress it for its references  to depravity, a disgrace to include in the works of a man of letters. Poe was all too aware of such depravity, just as he knew the bottle and pipe, but never had he written of licentiousness so boldly, and he must have reckoned his own mistake and decided not to publish the piece—it was writ about a year before his death—but there is also the note in the margins to wit: “True story,  if the Danish coxswain is to be believed — though some say the light-house keeper was killed because in his drunkenness he turned the beacon and allowed a ship to founder…but the coxswain had seen the manuscript and was insistent—material here would have to be cut and disguised…EAP” Not sure what I shall do with this. Hide it as I have hidden so much, perhaps– best to turn a blind eye.

– Rufus Wilmot Griswold,1851

The End


1
Jul 11

Bigotry is always simpleminded.

One should never despair, it seems to me–but at times one must let things go. We shouldn’t surrender, but we should negotiate. (Though everything has limits, and exceptions.

We shouldn’t generalize but we should be aware of overall trends.

Being nuanced is not being static.