KALI'S DAY excerpt
"Candice hears the sounds of birds. The last traces of light stain the cave’s entrance far from where she sits in full lotus covered only in the ashes of the dead. She drifts in and out, sometimes jolted from a vast emptiness by the grumbling of her stomach. So far she can silence hunger by simply focusing and re-focusing on her breath. But the stomach is a dumb animal and its indifference to “mind over matter” is becoming more apparent in the increasing volume of its complaint. It clenches itself like a fist and it’s all she can do to keep her eye closed, though she hears something scratching along the ground somewhere to her left. She’s conquered fear, never feared the dark until right before she conquered it. In another lifetime, there was a longing that she barely remembers. So it’s not fear or need that distracts her now. It’s the knowledge that, other than herself, something animate, something alive is within reach. Most likely it’s one of those large succulent beetles, thickly armored against what she is now in most danger of becoming—a predator, since she hasn’t really conquered appetite, has only concealed it, and despite having risen above the desire for even the simplest bowl of rice, is about to succumb to defeat for the taste of something that until now has been far from tempting or even remotely relevant to the satisfaction of any desire, let alone hunger—especially hunger.
She doesn’t open her eye. But she imagines it crawling heavily over the various obstacles in its way: pebbles and clumps of damp earth, a random search for whatever nourishment, dirt, dead insects, bits of excrement, it might stumble upon."
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Sunday, November 1, 2009
“We can stay local—have crêpes or French food or fuck off—”
“I’d rather have crêpes or French food, then fuck off.”
“Or do that and get pissed.”
“Stay local, have French food. Can have a crêpe tomorrow—French food.”
“How do we get home?”
“We’re supposed to get a cab…or a bus.”
“The drug you just took—the drugs are part of your mind.”
“We have to find a way to get home.”
April 8, 2005, rue Ravignan, Paris
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Here's the piece I'll have in the "A Book About Death" exhibition at the Emily Harvey Gallery, curated by Matthew Rose. http://abookaboutdeath.blogspot.com/2009/08/bonny-finberg-381.html#links
Friday, August 28, 2009
They stand this way for a while. Then he flies down to the eave and looks up at her, but she doesn't move. A deep gurgling rises from his throat. She stays still. He croons more gently. She waits, then turns and flies down to him. They lock beaks, looking into each other's eyes, pulling and twisting their necks back and forth. He stops to take something from under his wing feathers and puts it in her mouth with his beak. She grasps his beak with hers. They stay fastened this way for a while, then root around each other's bodies. Another male comes, and she retreats to a ledge. The two males flutter and swell. Her lover flaps once, flies over and stands beside her. The other male swoops away to another roof.
They fly to the ledge below this window and look across at an old pigeon who is now on the roof. He settles deeply into his oily feathers. The young male looks at him and gurgles. The older one stands tall and plumps his feathers into a plush of gray and black, suddenly looking much better. The other puffs up and flies over to face him.
The female hops down to a lower ledge and stands there watching the males. She retreats, then approaches.
The young one looks at the older, who is the more plumped of the two. There is a preening contest, then sudden hostile contact.
The female takes off, and then a sudden crack of thunder. Every pigeon and crow in the city soars into ordered rank except for a few who are either confused or prefer to fly solo.
(C) Bonny Finberg
Bhaktapur, Nepal, 2000
Sunday, July 12, 2009
I write with my eyes. I stop whatever I’m doing, put down my pen, my cup, lick the jam from my fingers, but my eyes never stop. Sometimes my eyes play tricks. I sense something in my periphery, maybe only a glint of light off my glasses, which signifies like a misheard word.
The black lacquered cabinet in my childhood living room was painted with enameled scenes in the Chinese style. I spent hours studying its scenery: a world of pagoda bridges over gilded streams, temples, a colt beside a yellow boulder, a blue sea bird with spread wings, strange trees with curling limbs and modest foliage. What interested me most was a man poling a small covered boat with a woman inside. The woman had a look of surprise, as if she had just woken up to find herself drifting through this dark world animated by the creatures and plants moving past in eternal stillness.
All is told on a seamless scroll of transparency that I shake open and unfurl beneath my feet when I can no longer walk. Ever since I first became aware of windows I realized there are exits and through the exits is the world. I’ve read my life through them, remembering other spaces without language.
I pile junk upon layers of important things until there's no difference. This creates a chaos so splendid that I'm paralyzed by its beauty and have to avert my eyes. Beauty has become a painful thing. I stay away from windows where the movement of clouds across the sky threatens the rhythm of my heart. Alone in front of windows I feel danger. I’ve hung crude curtains, which fall from the walls each time I breathe. I go from room to room to avoid the wash of sunlight on the objects I’ve placed like sentences and paragraphs. Color and shadow change their meanings depending on the light or where I sit. A bird’s song or baby’s wail can distract me momentarily but invariably I go back to constructing this dangerous lie of beauty and order.
I’ve tried going outside to determine whether I mistook the world for something else, but three hundred sixty degrees makes me dizzy. Although at first it lifts me to be walking in a bright world I quickly tire and go back home to lie down. Drugs and drink make the horrible beauty more tolerable, but this is only temporary. They make me stay up all night until the sky begins to lighten and I have to close my eyes or be killed. Inevitably, the sun shakes me awake through my curtainless windows. I ask myself again what will I do today? and it’s always the same.
In the end I will succumb to beauty. All this chaos will be put in order as I drift through a black suspended world without sky or clouds, only wordless water flowing in eternal stillness.
* * *
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Rene was pissed because she thought Marsha had caused a big fight between her best friend and her best friend’s boyfriend, who’s also an old friend of Rene’s, besides being René’s other best friend’s ex-husband, by re-telling a story to Rene’s best-friend’s boyfriend and getting it all mixed up and sending the boyfriend back to his girlfriend in a jealous rage.
René and Marsha hadn’t spoken in three years and it got back to Marsha that René had told some confusing version of a perfectly innocent and normal situation having to do with Marsha’s best friend which in the telling implied something else, or at least left a few things open for question.
It was one night when René was sitting around with her oldest best friend, Sherry, who happened to be Rene’s best friend’s boyfriend’s ex-wife, drinking red wine and cognac.
Marsha used to be almost-best-friends with René, but three years ago Marsha tried to take advantage of the good nature beneath Rene’s coarse exterior, because beneath Marsha’s smooth exterior lies a cauldron of fear and envy, which cooks up to a pretty deadly stew.
René said to Sherry, “Have you ever seen Marsha with a pretty woman?
Are any of her friends pretty?“
“Well you’re pretty,” Sherry answered.
“Oh, I’m acceptable, but have you ever seen Marsha be friends with a beautiful woman? No! Never!”
Sherry considered Rene’s thesis.
Marsha had gotten a nose job about five years ago. She’d had a magnificent nose, very large and positively sculptural. It was her signature feature. When you thought “Marsha,” there was a deeper more subliminal thought: Nose.
About a year before the nose job, probably in preparation for what she had planned as a complete overhaul, Marsha got braces. That was unfortunate because the way her teeth protruded a little had given her an even more distinctive look.
It wasn’t just her quirky looks, either. She’d had an ironic sensibility, an eccentric sense of humor, both of which informed the conceptual art objects she produced, as well as making her an entertaining dinner guest.
After her braces and nose job she looked like everybody’s idea of attractive, and she slowly molded her personality to accommodate the bland features that she’d neatly organized, like a mannequin, around her messy human core.
She gave up making art and took a job at a bank. At dinner parties she talked, with little irony, about other people and clothes. René stayed friends with her because she was one of her oldest friends. Rene’s like that.
But Marsha, not fully satisfied with the course her life was taking despite all her physical adjustments, started cooking up a big soup of disappointment and despair, until she was completely transformed by hate.
One day, after Rene confronted Marsha, saying she was pissed about the incident with Rene’s best friend and her best friend’s boyfriend, Marsha wrote a letter to René:
If you ever mention my name in public again I’ll tell your boss you’re giving clients a 25% discount for your services and seeing them from your home.
René never cries. She never cries in public anyway. You could know her for thirty years and never see her cry. But when she told this story that night to her best friend, Sherry, as she’d downed a couple of bottles of red wine and smoked a pack of Rothman’s Mild while Sherry drank green tea and smoked a joint, Rene cried.
Sherry, who loved René dearly because she knew her true nature, and also knew how much she loathed crying in public, listened.
Then René said to Sherry, “And you went to her wedding!”
Sherry protested: “But you never told me about the letter, how could I have known?”
René explained through tears and sobs that she hadn’t told anyone, until now,
how scared she’d been, but now that she had a new job she was free to tell whoever she felt like.
Sherry said, “René-e…I’m a single woman. It was a chance to go out and….”
“But she hardly ever saw you. She saw you, what? two? maybe three times a year? She invited people she saw three times in her life! She has no friends!”
“I’m sorry, Sherry said, eyes wide. I didn’t know. You didn’t tell me.”
“Do you know how scared I was? I couldn’t say anything to anyone. She said I should never say her name in public again. I could have lost my job. I could have lost everything. My co-op. Everything.”
Then they went to the movies.
© Bonny Finberg
Sunday, April 12, 2009
While the bombs fell between the 20th and 21st of April 1944, people prayed at the feet of the Crucifixion at Sacre Coeur. Montmartre was spared. I can’t help but feel it was their
collective prayer that saved them rather than the stilled heart of a dead man, as full of grace as he might have been. There was no one then to pray for his salvation. He was betrayed. No one saw it coming.
I followed the Stations of the Cross, its brilliant mosaic transforming what must have been a messy business into a spectacle for the eyes. From the gleaming dome above, Le Seigneur, all cleaned up and risen from the tomb, bestows his blessing, substantiating triumph over death.
Once a year his betrayal is re-enacted. We all know what’s going to happen but we can’t do anything to reverse it. We can elevate it to sacrifice, feel better about the comparatively small betrayals we commit. We are all Judas. Only Jesus is the savior. His message was simple: Save yourself. But a game of telephone was in operation, and the road to dogma is paved with competing intentions.
Did he really die for our sins, or was he merely being consistent? Here, you can own another’s pain without having to really suffer it. You can be protected and forgiven. All human misery is swept under the shade of an ancient oak whose acorn happened to fall on good soil.
A martyr chooses death. Jesus’ Passion might have been an unfortunate political accident. Or else Judas helped to ensure He carried out his destiny. Most of us die for no reason. Insight might come early or not at all. We may live rich, complex lives that are woven into a larger, ongoing narrative. Or we may be easily forgotten. How many bibles have gone unwritten?
At the entrance, security guards scan the crowd. A man directs people to the side aisles or the pews, depending on whether they’re coming to pray or coming to look. He repeatedly puts his finger to his lips—sshhhh! They have lots to see and say. Some are in awe. Some are making arrangements for later when they’ll go for moules frites. Scowling, he continues shushing, pointing to his head to remind them to remove their hats, shaking his finger at the one-eyed monsters to put their cameras away. He protects the Sacred Heart with the authority vested in him by the Holy Fathers who take his confession and hand him the Eucharist. The end is always near. You try to see it coming.
I thought the services would start at 5:30, so I was seated in the second row by 5:25. But this is Good Friday not a routine Vespers service. After an hour, a nun in a white robe and black wimple walks out to the front of the apse and sets up a microphone. She moves like an actress playing a nun. Men in lab coats come out and place the sacred objects and texts. A short, plump woman in a white lab coat appears with a rag and feather duster and tidies up. They have a brief conversation and walk back behind the apse. A handyman walks on, front left, with keys and a tape measure hanging out of his pocket. He looks around and walks off, leaving behind an odor of lubricating oil. Another half hour goes by. The pews are filling up.
A Black priest in a white robe comes out. There is anticipation, especially in the first two rows, where those who came earliest have been sitting longest. But then, behind the priest is the cleaning woman again. They file off to the right. Some people are talking, others are praying. Some of the ones praying tell the ones who are talking to be quiet. An irritable exchange erupts between the two women next to me, who have been chattering away, and the woman behind, who chastises them. A woman many rows back is talking loudly. People are trying to quiet her. She becomes increasingly belligerent and it slowly becomes apparent that she is not in her right mind. A few people smile indulgently. Two nuns come out and hand out the texts for the mass. Another ten minutes pass. The nuns come out and take their seats on the sides and the noise subsides a little. Another twenty minutes pass.
I read the whole four pages of the mass. My eyelids fall closed and I drift into a mild state of meditation. The woman next to me stands suddenly. I jump up from my seat, surprised at my own reflex and realize that, although I never thought it possible, I have been hypnotized. The procession has begun.
A cardinal and three priests are in front. One of the priests is old and feeble. All kneel down and prostrate themselves before the marble Crucifix. When they stand, the two on the outside pull the old one up by his elbows. He stumbles to his feet, a tuft of white hair sticking up from his head. The angelic voices of the nuns sing about the Royal Kingdom of Heaven. I sing along, following the printed text, in exalted French. The Passion is read by three priests. The cardinal speaks the words of Jesus in a deep, commanding voice. We all stand and the nuns sing, in crystalline harmony, the adoration of the Wooden Cross:
Voici le bois de la Croix
qui porte le Salut du monde,
Here is the wood of the Cross
that carries the Salvation of the world,
Come, let us adore it.
The Wooden Cross, carved in olive wood, is carried from the back by a procession of robed men. When they reach the apse they hold it vertically so the priests and altar boys can each in turn come forward to kiss it. After each kiss, a priest wipes the spot clean with a handkerchief.
Then the nuns line up. They kiss the naked Jesus all over his stretched out body, under his ribs, his armpit, his thighs, his hands, his feet. They know how much he suffered for them, how much he loves them. And they love him back. The priest swabs each kiss with his handkerchief.
After this the pews empty into the aisles. The line is slow and as I come nearer my eyes are ineluctably drawn to the loincloth. I sense a nudge from the devil but head for the foot. The priest points to the blank surface of the cross, indicating where I must kiss it, shouting, “Le pied! Le pied!”—and I begin to think my eyes have betrayed me. Or the priest has read my mind. I am convinced he is able to see transgressions before they happen. I walk past his finger and put my lips to the exquisitely carved toe, the tendons strained in agonized submission.
The nuns sing:
O Croix, buisson ardent de la Revelation,
Vigne au Sang vermeil, Olivier de benediction,
O Croix, bois d’ombre et defraicheur ou murmure L’Esprit, nous t’adorons!
O Cross, burning bush of the Revelation,
Vineyard of ruby Blood, Olive Tree of benediction,
O Cross, dark and faded wood where the Spirit whispers, we adore you.
Words so holy even the metaphors are Capitalized.
Walking back from the church I notice signs hanging outside many apartment windows that read, Vendu. The word ‘vendu’ means ‘sold.’ It also means ‘traitor.’ This seems serendipitous. We find ourselves inhabiting a world where the structures we’ve trusted to protect us have betrayed us. Time and space have become commodities beyond our means—The weak may inherit the earth, but the traitors have the best real estate. So at least here, in Paris, you’re safe from traitors if you pay attention to the signs.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Looking back from some distant future one might write: “They thought existence, or consciousness, could be captured as if it had a place or time, deifying constancy, ignoring the fact that nothing ever finds a corner or enters a moment, that everything is transience and momentum.” Either there is one limitless form or limitless varieties of form. And love, whatever you think it is, requires duality, bi-directionality, or it dissipates, or tries to consume itself. Even self-love is a splitting, fragmentation of the self into objects and subjects, interchanging perspectives in an orgy of interactions, a world inhabited by lovers, ex-lovers and possible lovers.
Wars are fought depending on what tribe you belong to. Both alliance and enmity are presumed to share the same rules of survival and destruction. The body remembers best what history dilutes. Put bareness and scarcity in the center of memory. Eventually ancestors accrue, leaving footprints across the desert as its perimeters recede behind urban landscapes. We implode toward cities. We create and consume technology which usurps the evidence of our bodies. We conglomerate. We shatter in self-love. We rush toward self-conflagration. Eventually the trench’s stink habituates. Stagnation blazes in self-consumption and existence hovers over the prodded corpses. Substance is illusory. It continually expands. The task of investigating the complex nature of things is monumental and potential answers too ambiguous for dabblers. Some of us figured out how to transform sustenance into transcendence. Probably through methods that would disgust the eulogizers and exploiters now trading in consciousness as if the universe were linear and unilaterally determined. Binary models inhibit the future. They centrifuge irregularity, asymmetry and ambiguity. The mandates of empiricism exfoliate belief in God’s right to order the universe. Determinism crucifies inquiry. Each system is seductive: Yes or No; Light or Dark; Being or Non-Being. Either/or agrees to lead us through the labyrinth of our desires, implies a contract between the conflicting bases of our plurality, becomes a greeting across the boundaries of our values. As one Time and Space tycoon might put it: “Feed it or eat it.” But all this spending makes us a target for wandering bad boys. We are only made of fish spines, of hollow twigs, of sand. Knowing others desire you engenders certainty, as does physical power, as does the monstrous bulk of chauvinism covering you from the shadows like a bodyguard. We begin raising questions about the holiness of our ancestors. We ask, “What does it matter if we destroy innocence?” forgetting that existence is a fragile insect hanging on a web of chaos.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Still Alive In The Western Lands
March 16, 2009
Sitting in La Café Cave or La Cave Café listening to Johnny Cash, a demi and McCarthy novel on the wooden table in front of me feeling life to be so painfully sweet and familiar so far from home, those I love most, precious time, I think about the impulse moments, “Meet at the Bean?” “What are you up to-want to meet?” R, L, sisters, lover, friends, the state of things impermanent—that particular constellation of person time and space so fleeting and me over here lonely for them all and it, yes if I were there lonely for this? But who? P, S, N, B and N, the only ones I don’t have to hunt down for company but still—only these, while in NY there are countless places I can go to see countless people who know my name my face even if they care very little, though some are glad to see me even if in my neurotic way I still wonder—no matter where I am—like here—where some generic rock is playing, quasi-Rolling Stones, and no one’s brought the free popcorn to my table—maybe if I have a second beer and on and on and on…but what I really wanted to say was that the exquisite pleasure of life, these perfect moments of beer and music and book among the voices, soft in conversation, rising and falling the sound of a chair pulled along the floor, the tattooed waiter with the rock t-shirt loving his American look, now Echo and the Bunnymen, maybe, la la la la, and human creation has made all this meaningless beauty like the smell of warm popcorn and beer and the velvet voice speaking French to the woman sitting across from him, smiling back, her cheek resting on her knuckled fist, perfect white teeth, as the street corner ignites with the reflected light of pink sunset and green neon pharmacy cross above—I don’t know where I am in this bar of American music and little French dogs, Belgian beer and gloves made in China, but no loud Ha ha ha like on the LES, the tones more intimate and tremulous, there used to be a pinball machine in the corner where the couple sits and the guy knew how I liked my coffee and there were usually only 2 or 3 people in here at this hour but now the bar is almost full and the old men are gone—where? I keep trying to go west as the day progresses, follow the sun, that’s my mantra, makes the day last longer.