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Adeena Karasich Aerotomania [excerpts]

Adeena Karasick is a New York based Canadian poet, performer, cultural theorist and media artist and the author of ten books of poetry and poetics; most recently, Checking In (Talonbooks, 2018) and Salomé: Woman of Valor (University of Padova Press, Italy, 2017),  She teaches Literature and Critical Theory for the Humanities and Media Studies Dept. at Pratt Institute, is Poetry Editor for Explorations in Media Ecology, 2018 Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Award recipient and winner of the 2016 Voce Donna Italia award for her contributions to feminist thinking and 2018 winner of the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. The “Adeena Karasick Archive” is established at Special Collections, Simon Fraser University.
This issue was guest-edited by Heller Levinson.
/ | © alligator 2020

“The Airplane is an extension of the entire body”
(Marshall McLuhan, Extension of Man)

We are the letters travelling through space.
Seated letters speaking ourselves
against the sky inverted through flying circuits
coded ciphers secrets’ shaded silence
of shuttered truance

We are the letters, the interletters between rows of text
awake / in the flux of discomfiture

The spoken sentence
between destinations
of dissemblance
liaised in the labor of
hours aisles eros sorrows aeros

in the heft of day –

The airplane is structured like a language

And we are the letters reassembling in a shifting ensemble;
illicit and clandestine sequestered in the curved body
of arced crevices, potence, platforms, portals, promise

we are the floating signifiers flying through a body of conventions
volatile and unspooled, looping

Inscribing itself as a site of radical intersubjectivity
through an ærosdynamics of radiant space

the very body of the airplane highlights subjectivity
as a spectrum of differential r/elations

and we are flying

through intersectional veils, chariots, heavens and throne rooms
plays, plaise palaces, seals and ascents
through the waters of high walls and the halls of the unseen

As attested in the Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation),
in accordance with midrashic and talmudic exegesis,

Each substitution and transposition of the letters condenses light
into a life force, made by forming, weighing,
combining and transforming the letters

resulting in 231 combinations
reconfigured into groups of 3 and 4 letters.

Each lettered combination is understood as a gate and through these “gates” creative power goes out into the universe. The 231 gates are created by pairing each of the letters of the alphabet with one another until all 231 letters combination are formed.

gates of connection
annexion, synnexion

                            gates of entry
                                          gates of desire

closing of the gates, yet opening into new
passages, sentences, scrolls, arcs, lines of flight

constellated in the abecedaries
of the abyss

We are the letters traveling through space
through planes of   Boeing  in time, whose costume, custom, décor
decorum of patterned mazes fathoms pixels, flickering
through tumult

masked and breathing
reclining or upright

we are the letters unraveling though space

According to Merkabah Mysticism, the chayot (chariots), are described as exotic angelic beings with awesome strength and powerful flying wings that serve as heavenly tour guides. For the Kabbalists, chayot ha kodesh angels carry creative energy through the celestial sphere; as it is said, the chariot took Elijah from earthly dimensions to heavenly ones in a great burst of light and speed

opening to higher and higher levels

And so high in the night sky the airplane
appears as a spark of light

A flash in the darkness
and from this most infinitesimal point
of concentration, contains
all the future within it6

or as in Heidegger’s translation of Heraclitus preserved by Hippolytus
the flash of lightening that surrounds the presencing of all things

present while itself remaining concealed from being present
“not as presence presently absent or an absence absently present

              but as the absent present
in the spectacle of

      that continually withdraws
                         its present absence”7

And like the flash of primordial letters;
clothed in the nothingness of being
enshrouded in the disquiet
of dissembling –

letters, like desire itself, “that ran and returned
across the face of the heavens,” the airplane embodies
all that is to come; comes and keeps coming

in an ever-arriving future8.

And through chambers of light
rungs of life
ærotically connecting
upper and lower worlds

all brimming with interior struggle and yearning
hiddenness and longing –

aloft in our throne-seats, we are flying
through celestial vows, vaults, voids, cavities, caves, caveats
flying / with anguished abandon

ravished, moaning and pinned
against the unwieldy sky
undressing before us

Clothed in invisible white letters,
the airplane stands in for all that is visible and invisible
entwined in each other

cirrocumulus. cirris.
stratus. altocumulus. nimbostratus. stratocumlous.
altostratus. cirrostratus. lenticular.                                                        noctilucent. cumulonibus.
cumulus.                                                                                    collusive.

and as black light drenched in white light
pressed against
purring torment as
lettered sweat seeps through
muffled shouts, splits, rips
rocketing darkness
as the night squats
strapped against the sky

moving through and across
geo-political, socio-ethnic and gendered borders

gathering memory, data
enacting a multicultural polyvalent poetics of inclusion –

asserting itself not so much as a bourgeois interior
of imperial space, but one of shifting hierarchies, conventions, investment.

the airplane is flying like a language

a distributional force gliding
between local and global figurations

fluxuries, luxuries, liaised

within the dialogics of recirculation

reproducing meaning through robust routes

or re-rooting

reminding us
how like language’s cultural identification and aesthetic properties
the airplane, occupies an in-between space, a non-place, s’passez;

between arms, rests, thighs,
fingers dripping flesh —

pursed, pressed, porous and en proces

And all nomadic and vagrant
like the airplane

sometimes language gets hijacked
              through foreign bodies, elements of otherness;
              dyssemically re-routed through de-familiar zones

sometimes languages collide

sometimes it is subject to layovers

And sometimes,

as anagrammatically, airplane can be read as real pain

its slippery body, of multiple entrances, moist gaps, apertures9
is just longing for some turbulence

With palimpsestic, decentered desire
and propelled by thrust

the airplane, as language, enters as a body
navigating curves, corridors,
windy torment, raiment, hunger –

through syllabic gasps
propulsive rasps naked aching
as the sky opens


1. According to the DEC, the letters, I, O, Q, S, or Z must be avoided. The remaining letters are called the DEC alphabet.
Occasionally, aircraft with a seating structure of 2+2 may letter the seats as "ACDF" to keep with the standard of A/F being window and C/D being aisle on short-haul aircraft (which generally have 3+3 seats). If the economy cabin is ten across, labeled ABC-DEFG-HJK, the Business Class cabin is often labeled AC-DG-HK for a six across layout, with A-DG-K for a four across First Class. A notable exception is Delta Air Lines, who uses sequential letters regardless of cabin layout on all aircraft (AB-CD-EF in Business Class and ABC-DEF-GHJ in Economy).
Some airlines omit the row number 13, reputedly because of a widespread superstition that the number is unlucky. This is the case with Lufthansa, for example (as shown on the Lufthansa A321/100 seating plan). Emirates used to have a row 13, but on their latest A380 aircraft have removed it (as shown on Emirates A380-800 seating plan). British Airways is less superstitious.

2. Heidegger, Principle of Reason, pp.88-90.

3. Marshall McLuhan, Letter to Ezra Pound. This formulation became the tetrad; the model of laws with which to study media scientifically.

4. Sefer Yetzirah. Originially in blue print, as according to Kabbalistic thinking, the letters are the blueprint for the universe. According to Psalm 104, the letters of the Hebrew alphabet for the "creation" were used as the builder uses his actual bricks in the construction of his building.

5. And though it is called “the closing of the gates”, the Ark (which contains the Scrolled Torah) remains open for the entire service signifying that the gates of heaven are wide open to prayers and entreaties. And like Noah’s Ark, the language of the Torah signifies a means of safety and escape. Arced like the airplane itself. Also transliterated through Hebrew, gate (get) means divorce – as we divorce ourselves through one plane of being into another.

6. See Sefer Yetzirah, 2:2. Wesier Edition, Trans. Aryeh Kaplan, San Francisco, 1997.

7. Elliot R. Wolfson, Heidegger and Kabblalah: Hidden Gnosis and the Path of Poiesis, Indiana University Press, 20919, p.5.

8. Like how for Derrida, “I try and distinguish between what one calls the Future and “l’avenir” [the ‘to come]. The future is that which – tomorrow, later, next century – will be. There is a future which is predictable, programmed, scheduled, foreseeable. But there is a future, l’avenir (to come) which refers to someone who comes whose arrival is totally unexpected. For me, that is the real future. That which is totally unpredictable. The Other who comes without my being able to anticipate their arrival. So if there is a real future, beyond the other known future, it is l’avenir in that it is the coming of the Other when I am completely unable to foresee their arrival.” Like Benjamin’s, “Jetztzeit” (now-time) outlined in his ‘Theses on the Philosophy of History’, a notion of time that is ripe with revolutionary possibility; time that has been detached from the continuum of history; poised, filled with energy, ready to leap into an ever-becoming future. Both speaking to the equiprimordiality of past, present, future.

9. Most airplanes have four door entrances / exits and two window exits (762, 737- 100/200/300/500/600/700 + Airbus 318/319 jets), and tiny holes called “bleed holes” in the bottom of the middle pane of each window which releases moisture and balances pressure. | © alligator