Clayton Eshleman Max Ernst During the Rain

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Good morning, Max, are you still on the lookout for what has never been?

—Of course. The sun continues to be stored on the wrong side of disaster.

I arrived expecting to find you robed in red feathers, assisted by a pregnant hermaphrodite with a chewed-bloody right arm.

—Think of me as the father of scissors.

Yes, or as the great collagist of the labyrinth, cutting and pasting it into a new bicameral mind in which the midden of the instant supplants consciousness.

—The complete man must live simultaneously in several places, within several human beings. In him a range of people and multifarious situations must be continually present.
Think of me as a hundred-headed guy.

Or as a nude sleeping in a water-lily harness rotating through a morning mined of maternal charge.

—Or as a derbied bird-headed man with brains for ass, both hemispheres having split his pants.

Are you suggesting that external objects have now broken with their normal environment and that the component parts have emancipated themselves from it in such a way that they are now able to strike up new relationships with other elements?

—If mother had not used my crib for stirrups, Herr Rabbit would not have had to pop the placenta cork to set my fetus free.

Is this what happens to you from staring at stains on the wall?

—Oh yes, blue immobilities, dormant ochres, dried menstrual rain, karstic urges, centrifigual blocks magnificent in their centripetal sway, mummified hornets bursting their shrouds in order to drill into the tiny pistons of their souls, the bones of lightning rampant in a bear! At wing with my vision, I palpate the bowels of solar foals.

But is anything left of the beginning?

—Nothing is absolutely dead. Charred corpses squeak in our tears. The afterlife of the gone.

A skeletal thorax raves in a web of soot.

—Calcium-brittle flowers press upward. Faunal penetrations course the vineal verdure.

So who are these half-concealed beings peering out of your vitreous pillars and morel-like pipes?

—Sciomantic divinations. I consult the spirits of World Wars I and II. The nascent dead are avatars appearing in a cypress or a stele. Shell-shocked trolls reassembling via my hell-hocked mind. Souls in Hades doomed to re-colonize in floral nests as leaden, yet, hissing eggs. For “Europe After the Rain II” read: “Europe After the Reign—of Mars.”

In these spirits I detect an older tradition, the medieval Persian world of the Sha-nameh. Ghosts of Safavid art, the homuncular grotesques of Sultan Muhammed or Aqa Mirak.

—Ah yes, plants as insects caught red-handed before petrified riots.

I hear you are stalked by beetles decked out in bells.

—As a blind swimmer passing as a wheat grain through the cross-section of a tree, or traveling as a whiz of sperm in a contrary will, I made myself a seer.

Is not all artifice including nature?

—Man’s temptation is to identify with a single period in time, and to therefore believe that he can free himself from the tentacles spiderfolded in birth and rapture.

Is that why you have attempted to free everything from its shell,
from its distance,
from its comparative size,
from its physical and chemical properties,
its outward appearance?

—Only the sewer cricket lockered in Saint Cecilia’s uterus can respond to that.

May I call you Kachina Mickey, or Max Mouse?

—My point was not to find myself and to counteract any desire for harmony with tremendous centrifugal force.

And these half-red-garbed, half-naked “goddesses”? They stand like pupa-forms in the debris of the observational world. One, a queenly rose-feathered owl, is accompanied by a swan-headed man with a broken spear. Who are they?

—Where Mars is, Aphrodite is only a shadow away.

Justice will be done, but does the green hand guiding the serrated blade have a body at stake?

—Poussin’s satyrscape, no more. The anointing of the dead Adonis, no more. Pan’s shadow as leafy quilts, blind Orion searching for the risen sun. No more. Absences that gyrate through my geometric sleight-of-hand.

And yet the tendril complexity of earth’s entrail folk. Embedded elves. Blasted oxen. Mangrove wraiths. Sound of the libidinous bion-flexing air.

—Through gateless gates the sun, as a circumference concentrate, is sucked down into forestral lumber. Pan’s shadow? A sloth in a skin-tight body hose of drowned men.

In any desire is there always a uterus shelved with skulls?

—In every desire there is a skull whose cranium is a womb of flame.

Whose long blue arm is that milking volcano fumes out of nymph echo?

—I am only interested in that which saw itself in me.

Is not all blessed with the desiccate kiss of farewell?

—Here then is the secret of my force: while painting with swan’s head hand I relentlessly regurgitate a crop of pigeon’s milk into the beaks of my young.

We must learn how to sound our mental volume without grieving, to hear our fingers and not moan with our hands.

—And, while watching the pillage of immensity, to see everything as it really is: without adherence or bond.

This material is © Clayton Eshleman
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