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Entries in mark arturo (15)

Thursday
Nov092017

In Which John Cage Believed He Was Not A Writer

Eating His Words

by MARK ARTURO

I have no piano now. But that doesn’t bother me much. What I want is time.

John Cage thought he was not a writer. This is a scary thought, because I sometimes wonder what kind of writer he could have been if he gave up music and focused on writing full-time. There is a whole class of people who spent their entire lives pursuing one thing when they should have focused on another talent they had. For example:

Mark Wahlberg (waste management)

Jesus (community manager)

Damian Lillard (rap music)

Thom Yorke (pro-Israel advocacy)

Maybe my list makes this sound like a distinctly male problem, but I guess this would also apply to Joan Didion, who would have been a hell of a full-time model.

Back to John Cage. Mr. Cage's letters are completely unself-conscious, which is the mark of every great correspondent. He never bothered censoring himself, since there was nothing terribly bad in his heart. He would go off on people when necessary though. Since he knew a lot about music, and most people writing about did not, he felt it was his duty to educate them.

I appreciate your interest in my work and the trouble you have taken to write the enclosed article. For many reasons, however, I am certain the publishing of this article would not serve either your or my best interests. People are accustomed to saying that anything printed about anything is “good publicity”; such a point of view doesn’t interest me. I am anxious that the article you publish be accurate as to facts and present some true and sensible critical evaluation of the work in percussion and its objectives. I have not really delayed answering your note; I have instead written several letters to you, each of which attempted to point out the errors in your article. I have decided, instead, that it would be better for you to write a new article entirely; and that I could best help you by giving a brief statement about facts and objectives. 

I think he was a lot more generous in person. He married a woman, then spent the rest of his life with Merce Cunningham after she divorced him because of all the gay sex. His love letters condense ardor into a fine, tempered feeling, that pulsing with an orgasmic joy of infatuation. He makes love into something so tangible it could be held on the tip of my tongue.

My own feelings towards you were always those of wishing to flow in where it looked like water was absent (mixed with an inherited missionary attitude, itself not practicing what it preached). At any rate I feel very free that you are loving.

I don’t know when it was that I found out how to let this month go by without continual sentimental pain. It’s very simple now, because I’m looking forward to seeing you again rather than backward to having seen you recently.

For Merce he saved his most exquisite remainders.

My whole desire is to run up and down the sea coast looking for you.

Send me some little twig or a hair from near enigma or a piece of grass you touched and sunbathed with, mon prince.

Cage usually condensed his formal writing into the form of anecdotes. It was an aspect of his overall respect for how form shaped his thoughts and ideas. In his private writing, he drops this entire pretense, and it is disappointing to know it is a pretense. As a vehicle for theoretical thoughts about subjects like politics and man's place in the world, the terse aphorism remains very effective. Cage usually pared these observations with choreographed dance by Merce. He was a stickler for detail on any project he pursued, even if the eventual outcome of the project was something as hilariously conceptual as 4'33".

Silence is generally conceived as Cage's first and best book, even though all his other collections of essays revolve around roughly the same topics. His view of the world has held up very well today, because while it does put faith in a variety of odd places, like Schoenberg, Zen Buddhism, and the I Ching, it never settles on any one of them more definitely than the other.

It is important to bring the concept of random chance into my life, and I am usually bad at allowing such things to happen. Arnold Schoenberg had a fear of the number thirteen and then he died on Friday the 13th. I think my main fear now is putting everything I have into something, and it not working out. If you only let a part of yourself, into the venture, maybe you will be like John Cage was with writing. You will have published books, but you will not have said anywhere near enough.

Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan.


Friday
Nov032017

In Which We Used To Love You Almost Completely

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In the Garden

by MARK ARTURO

You were the painted face, the considered night, three black stallions on a march. I was the peeled-back rind of something discarded, re-purposed as a hat. You had seven weeks to answer one simple phone call. You did not fail at the task, but it could not be said you completed it, either. A cage can have openings, more than one, invisible to the eye but whole in themselves. You were the winding clock, I was each movement of the hand, and that is what I miss.

Your sister Leslie had this tiny boat she used to go out on as a girl, long before the cancer. I still get Christmas cards from her. There is a diligence in certain people which feels like tracing a finger against that long, white wall. Those individuals break themselves against incontinence, instructing us that nothing is ever really unbearable. I want to imagine a better person than myself. 

Leslie featured the gifted dress, paeans to songbirds so unexpected beaks shut in response, an animal smell, not unpleasant but still worrisome. You had the clean scent, the arched neck, the light sweat misting on an exchange. I had the bottle.

In our purpose, there is an accounting of deed and voice. You talked too much, on the phone, at night. You made me feel apoplectic with your nonsense worries. Not angry at you, or me, but the corruption of the world. Sweetness always reverses itself. That is why I never take it seriously when someone believes that I am cold.

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You rolled the magic die, ending the game too early or not soon enough. I was the wizened epoch, managed as a tragedy and destined for repose. Leslie was the ancient crutch; her daughter is the swirling phantom. No more adjectives left now. Only people, and their nightingale eyes.

Here's what I can do: wrap the old engine, shiny and clean of grease, in a red plastic container to hide it from thieves. Glove the sky and hold tighter than you believed you could when you found something you wanted, or loved. The only firm grip is that of God, she said, but I did not believe her words: only acts.

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Calm is an additive, something you put into it. From here, isometric, symmetrical.

Here's where we can go: Portugal, or further down on the peninsula. To your mother's house. I'd honestly love to see her garden. Over to the campus, where you waited with coffee all those hours. Tibet and Mali, whistling over a new ocean. Stand outside the house, wondering if the human beings inside of it are nice, or if they turned. Ireland. Bermuda. The tall hill in that photograph of you.

Making visible the hours in the arbor. Holding a small object rather than a long, thin point. Stars in her throat, face against the ground. The sea of the formerly inconceivable. A key frame redrawn on paper.

This is the last attempt, until the next one. You were all the condensation. Leslie was the morning rush, her daughter the ancient tome. I made a few things with my hands just to show you they could still work. I won't touch anyone with them again until you say they do.

Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

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Tuesday
Oct032017

In Which We Turn The Long Hand Of The Clock

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My Own Experience

by MARK ARTURO

The last train out swings low. The feeling of you sleeping on the marble seat diminishes. "Don't misunderstand," someone nearby coughs while I move through time, like Hugh Jackman or someone very drunk.

Lately, I listen to the police scanner a lot. You can learn very much about what people believe is around them. A homeless woman wakes up to a SWAT team; a man with no hands drops off a package at my doorstep.

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I brought the capstone higher, sliding it on the tops of stairs. The hand turns at the start. The difference smells immaculate.

I brought the capstone higher, cuticles massaging small stones, inlaid. "A situation absorbed," he says, touching his face with a longer finger. Echoes of flight causal or direct, a way of saying, "How do you like to enervate, where and whence?"

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The long memory stated broadly: upside down rigid not opaque. A crushed mandolin of stars. Think of the matter.

I could measure a portion of light and shape it into fingernails. Damage — inevitable — riding a coterie of magazines. Canyon size or shape, vulnerable at dusk.

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Floor-beaten earth. Stand on the clock, break it with a draft or any divestment from an express reality. Faith as a proxy for knowledge, a charged rotating system.

"Your carapace shone golden," or some other discarded compliment. Wet hair. Noon.

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Nurse of the palm, hands ribald and unkempt. Much more than simple rejoinder: a tallying of benefits, of scarlet, red mezites and hoatzin, against the gloam. You only missed her for so long.

Mark Arturo is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

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