Nov. 1922 from the Journal of Howard Carter
It was a thrilling moment for an excavator. Alone, save for my native workmen, I found myself on the threshold of what might prove to be a magnificent discovery. Widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. The hot air escaping from the chamber caused the candle flame to flicker. For the moment I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnavon inquired anxiously “can you see anything?” it was all I could do to get out the words, “YES, WONDERFUL THINGS.”
on the propagation of useless documents
& other ephemera
We are naked in the garden and dreaming of Eden. but which Eden? the Eden of green flowers, ever-blooming arbor-vitae and snakes that talk in the night? or the Eden of our dreams, with hot and cold running water, cheap rooms and a flickering neon sign….
Write writhe wreathing, a circular oratory framework, with leaves and symbols, and nostrums. Not to bury, no, not for burying, burial, or bereavement; this is the beginning, and pas-de-deux, a creationary complex of unimagined depth (or so I would like to believe).
I want to devour the library, eat the books, cram the pages down my gullet into the damp dark reading-rooms of my stomach. eating is the recycle process: information is broken down, decoded, recoded, and passed along in the DNA—the biological trinity of amino acids, twisted into the snake that devours its own tail, and unzips itself as well.
Warp, weft, weave-woven reed-pulp, my neglected papyrus, Horus empty basket, a skin chamber gone long-unressurected & ignored (but, yes, that’s what we want from the shifting sands, shiftless, imaginary days long before the journey to the west, the days and nights grow dim, beclouded, dust-ridden and obscured. silence.)
The Egyptian Fax Chamber is down for repairs, the dust has collected too heavily. The toll of time hangs its heavy head in these musty corridors, obscuring paint, graffiti, and traces of thousand of years of grave-robbers. These are the jars that were his brains. These are the jars that were his lights. His liver, his lungs. Etc. etc. etc.
Messages wrapped carefully in bandages, delicate scrollwork cuneiform characters, glyphs, secret secretions of meaning ,imagistic traceries of message, of forgotten inventories, itinerae, invoices, etc. locked up, stored, forgotten. “these are the pearls that were his eyes” (inventory control tag 16-G).
sending a message, preserving it with spices, myrrh, wrapping the text with bandages after removing non-vital organs with a small incision (the first editors). the appendix, that vital document, is kept in a jar by the door. who is it for?
Honey is used for binding, bonding, subsuming the body in a liquid sunlight distillation of energy, entombment. Not salts but sugars preserve for the ages, edible, sweet and innocent, tasty! he remarked, before he noticed the baby pickled (so to speak) at the bottom. Saints preserve us. The undying ungents, these unending agents, these age-old and ageless aunts, uncles, sons daughters mothers wives husbands fathers and yes-brothers & sisters. Regicides one and all, oh my, oh my.
Neglected, expected, exacted and precise, the infamous certitude of maintaining, a redone reticulate of informative anxieties translated at all appositives. Refuse redux, an overbearing afterglow, the unending undertow, some nonexistent semipro perfecting and producing, the calamity of confusion. which word, she said, is the problem,? when when, and how? what time is it, what time, by which watch and which clock? calculate, revise, & commodify. rewind precision vector maintaining (repeat) maintaining a coagulate of information flow density vectors as proof ellipses in the control pools, yea, unto the ninth generation, even unto the tenth.
The speed of time, tramping feet, march of the morons. all of china walking past a given point on a given day; if we were all to jump at once (it trails off here). yet, for everybody it is the same: beginning, middle, end. we can’t start it or stop it on our own, we can’t even rewind or change the speed. onward, and upward?
[time is discussed nowhere else in this document except implicitly—dust, preservation, rot, millennia, descendants, etc. We need to work on that.]
coprophagia? the recycled process? flatworm & planaria, DNA—the genetic link of threes. the Pharoahs’ family tree is one with no branches, merely one eternally twisting trunk, a divinely sanctioned model of the DNA. nevertheless, the eating this. “dark readingrooms of the stomach” can be echoed in the dim baths, heated by books, waterlogged fragments surfacing, spinning, plastered by damp against the wall, collecting at the outflow. the drain is clogged with endnotes.
We are born, we die. advertising is in-between.
Type is eccentric, words, out of their orbits, perihelion, saturnalia, Helios’ burning chariot.
Who is she, this mysterious woman wrapped in bandaged waiting for the prince’s kiss to awaken? alas, our Egyptian will awake to find herself surrounded by family: her delayed lover, her brother; his sister, the promised bride. together they are immortal: the snake devouring its own tail.
Mounds, mound-builders. vast necropoli of earthen information, composed laboriously by the basketful. with the dead king are: his favorite pipes; swords; clothing; his family (wives, children, mistresses); servants in the approximate number of twenty; horses (no less than ten); fifty soldiers of various rank; two dogs. terra cotta, we hope? not likely.
The book “written inside and out” is an allegory of the esoteric and exoteric, cognate with the double-edged sword projecting from the mouth (Tibetans, they say, stick their tongues out to prove they speak the truth—for the tongues of demons are black).
Letterforms: frigid, cold, domineering and domestic. These words, arrayed in a linear pattern bear some resemblance to meaning…but whose???
Her smile is enigmatic, Her gaze nonchalant. Her conversation steers clear of direct observations and personal comments. Her ears are averted, her breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle. “I will climb the palm tree,” I cried, “I will seize its clusters of dates!”
The stand-still static of the radio is in opposition to the plastic, the mutable, the hot jazz beat coming on in the middle of the polka, electric guitars screaming with fury, violins arrayed in counterpoint (I have nothing to say, and I am saying it).
Exactly exacto, an exacting exactitude, precise precision maintaining, a desperate ratio of being, non-being & interference patterns minutely justified (his drawings, too, betray a certain, awkward, anal-retentiveness as he tries to imbue the individual word with such evanescent energy that it fairly crackles with meaning, electrical discharges running up and down its skeletal narration).
can this be worked in, changed? or must it be worked out, excises, dried, preserved with spices and stored in a jar? see above notes on research…..
Who is She? a vague, vogue beauty? a hastily assembled appendage, a Byzantine oracle, doomed to ignorance (that is to say, by us and by others), the stammering barbarian at the gate, muttering cant phrases in some obscene tongue? She is Diana, a huntress—yet, the sacrificial virgin bride. She is Kalliope, the sacred muse—powered by steam and shrieking a mechanical trill.
The medium is the massage, and—she says, peering into her crystal ball—the future is obsolete, we learn nothing from the past, history is bunk.
Widows are set aflame, afloat, the burning boat drifting out to sea. damaged goods, libraries flare in the distance (“high in the night sky, I saw a zeppelin in flames,” he reported). Books are good for heating houses, building baths, or repeating the word of God: should they disagree, they must be destroyed; should they agree, they are redundant. Burn them all—God will know his own.
Books are wrapped in bandages and preserved by the dust of memories. But what if the tongue should become obsolete, the writing archaic, the references obscure? There is but one Rosetta Stone, and a cracked one at that.
A book is read backwards, inside out, upside down. The eroticism of the covers, a dark, hand-tooled Moroccan leather inlaid with gold. Yes, and pulling open the covers, slipping between the sheets, the pages, the marginalia and endnotes (but who seduces whom? the appendix, or the footnotes?).
And these words, like silence, are avoidance. the relation—personal, familial, business and otherwise—have been pushed into the margins, marginalized, reduced to footnotes and endnotes in a seldom-read dusty academic tome.
The paper is pulped, recycled. it is a grey mash with a sour, foetid odor. letters and fragments of words surface. to those who have never studied media, this fact is quite as baffling as literacy is to natives, who say “why do you write? Can’t you remember?”
And yes, of height: blocks stacked and piled til’ they reach the skies (the Babylonian ziggurats “with their tops in the heavens” have been shown to bear complicated star charts and calculation on the aethermost regions). but the passage you travel, here, is a decoy. large stones will fall from the ceiling to land behind you. you will have a few days of darkness to regret your choice. your descendants, waiting with torches and anticipation by the entrance, will have millennia. there is no way back.
Quietly, the editor removes another passage. “It doesn’t matter,” she says. “I don’t know that anyone reads these things anyway.”