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Iditarod, a thousand-plus miles to Nome across icefields, mush!, a giddyup idiom said
to huskies, in a collision of sled dog and moose, the broken-leg dog flown to Anchorage
was afterwards fine. Here we go again, a tale told by . . . Poor Myshkin’s seizures,
spasm of dark within dark, quixotic quest of the good for what it can rescue, idée fixe,
persnickety about light and its undoing, falling to the ground, a razing of consciousness,
time between the world and elsewhere, a diddling period, ungrounded by common
sense; the euphoric, transcendent otherwise, idealist “poor knight,” white flight from
the tragedies of modern life. Testis to epididymis to vas deferens to out there, sperm
are unable to swim until mixed with fluid, spuming out in peristaltic waves of ejaculate,
idiot-proof, the process of becoming, unless an idiopathy intervenes. Slide down, quick
clutch. In England they line them up in an identity parade. Who can remember who’s
who? Were you you before you were born? The twins curled alongside, one pulse
became two, not quite knowing who’s on what side of the line of I-ness, speaking
an idioglossic language, mother shut out, we two, free here, no sense on the outside
only the in, meaning diddlysquat to whoever might hear here. Dido, blasted by
a whirlwind for all time, funeral pyre burning the marriage bed, Aeneas gone to sea
again. Lost. The queen immolating and stabbing herself on his forgotten sword.
In utero, sound would be part of what holds and surrounds, hum and swoosh,
pulse and gurgles, noisy place, the womb. To cure colic, they swaddle, hold
up-side-down, and to replicate a continuous rushing sound, a Dust-Buster will do.
Light before sound, or the other way around? Didgeridoo, the world’s first wind
instrument, though the conch shell might argue, breath course, lung-flute, tongue,
perhaps following ideophones, where the vibrating body of the instrument makes
sound, eg. percussion. Hornbostel-Sachs system has the conch as an aerophone, with
sub-numbers for lips being the only means of changing pitch. Didactic? Idiosyncratic,
this wish to sing and describe, the sub-types, systems of usage, history of myth and
shell, blown skeleton, turquoise and coral, Tibetan emblem, Hindu crank, voice going
into, under, chords reaching out into Himalayas’ peaks and troughs, Olympic torch
making its bid there, among the rebel-monks, the faithful plowed under the wide tide
of Han. Is this ideolect or mother tongue? Idi Amin titled himself Lord of All the Beasts
of the Earth and Fishes of the Seas and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in
General and Uganda in Particular. In tiddlywinks, a large disc called a squidger is used
to fire off the small winks, custom made, maybe plastic, rubber or onyx. Sit and play, so
little time, piddling it away, down elusive tubes, out the proverbial window, wider, open,
fetch until we can’t, unanswerable riddle: “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” The Id
was really “it” until Strachey made it Greek, not quite wanting to leave it so naked,
the mind of the child so id-ridden, defining baby as “an alimentary tract with no sense
of responsibility at either end.” Id as source of libido, longing, that which does not hear
“No.” Fiddlesticks, get rid of it. Wild, the boy’s breath called “Idiot Wind,” hinting at
the terrible otherworld, Euripides’ “Whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad”
is not really his, misattributed. Misled, drip by drip, water torture, good riddance to lost
causes, hidden lungs, burrowing down into earth’s middle, solid core, iron and nickel,
beneath a viscous mantle. Arriving at Idlewild and finding the world larger than
imagined, people more various, lost in the Alphabet Avenues, needle park, the poet’s
white cat named Beauty, nidus of something, stray words, lost souls, cockroaches,
time breeding unsolvent images, I fiddled while someone made sense. I did a lot.
Alice Jones’s most recent books are Gorgeous Mourning and Plunge, a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her awards include ones from the Poetry Society of America, the First Annual Poetry Prize from Narrative Magazine, and fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the NEA. She is a co-editor of Apogee Press.
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A recording of our virtual literary event with three generations of Black women writers.
Remembering poets Lynda Hull and Michael S. Harper, with original portraits
Netflix’s Maid and three recent best-sellers depict the agonies and rage of being a low-wage housekeeper or nanny. But all fail to identify capitalism itself as the culprit.