The Ear Of And Other

CARY STOUGH

To have dismantled love in order to become capable of loving 

To have dismantled love in order to become capable of loving, Guattari says over and  over. To have. To not have jealousy. Not making love useful. Making love. No more  ‘falling’ in love?

 

Or as they infamously talk about in A Thousand Plateaus: tickle-torturing out of the  subjective trap. As with everything they wrote, it’s best to take it literally and to not to.  What processes of your life are you able to masochize? What events are you able to  withstand without dissolving that pressure? 

It does feel like a catastrophe, sometimes. Foot on the heart. Like a day on which nothing  changes, meaning nothing remains similar to what it had been noticed to have been  before. An unauthorized worlding. Love. But then again, it’s such an event that re-minds  me to life. How would I get rid of it, and who would desire to? 

Interrupted — daily — by the slope of the Face. Then, as sight returns: it’s as if I’d  slipped under the turf, becoming water or soil.

 

Something lively, alive — or through which life flows and re-births. Too articulate, so  brave and alone, one made oneself into the victim of an ignorance. An ignorance of the other’s intentions — what one never knows. I did. The fool. 

Conviviality, a word I don’t often think about, preferring transindividuality, though it  loses some music. One is an action, and the other like the wall of a castle. Connections  are social, social connections. Sexual. But like the different shades of all colors within a  single “hue,” integration gives off an air of keeping oneself hidden, though that wasn’t  ever the intention.

  

I didn't take you for granted, I thought, I felt compelled to look closely and — as they say — missed the forest for the test of grammar, look of the instructional. Teacher, teach me,  I said.

 

Walking outside, we forewent institutionally-mandated protocols of protection. Safe with  each other. Often hiking. So the Walk evolves. Something less rudimentary, less a ritual  than a tool. The Walk has been deterritorialized. 

*** 

I’m thinking of having all kinds of sex in an attempt to keep the Walk at the back of my  mind, where memory is doing its work to string it along, such that I’ll pluck when  narrative seeks matter. Matters, a matter, for example, a window propped open that has absolutely nothing to do with this. I’m thinking of kissing her toes, finding a new freckle  to place my the tip of my tongue against. The after-walk, curled up in the hotel bed,  cross-legged around a crossword, or driving. 

There are times I look in her eyes and know that she has love for me, and other times  when she’s not looking anywhere it seems. The hell-hound snarfing scraps of fried clam  out from under our table, then vanishing. Everybody has a game whose rules are their  life’s playing out. The jet-ski cutting through, maskless, through the Barbara Cooney  horizon-babble as we clam-ber over big egg-like time-supposited stones. 

We’re in and around Cape Ann for two days in 2020, angelically the weather keeps mid range Spring-like in November. It was smart of us to take a trip so early, see each other at  threadbare, lean on. And yet this had nothing to do with intelligence: instinct, purely  instinct. Or, at least in my case, tossing dice on the table of Earth. Driving around Essex,  confused, looking for potable drinking water. 

***

 

“These are faces, which, like avant-garde literature, must at once create their own texts  and their own theories of reading them. For what are these faces without a unique critical  infrastructure newly invented to interpret them?” (A Handbook of Disappointed Fate, 93)

Desire for intimacy made me covet the other’s ability to decipher me without stopping to  correct my own spewing correctives. I was like a cop of experiences. Like a philosophy  student. 

***

A face probes open and closes. The face “reigns materially.” A thousand plateaus. Vanity  above the forehead. A walk, she and I now know all too well, can be too long, though  enjoyable. Some people are six types of guy. Some people spend more time on spending  time than living it. Some people are all about money. Mercy. 

What did Hegel think about on his walks? Red → yellow → orange. 

Teacher, rule me, I say. 

***

11.5.20 

One can walk to recalibrate the body’s proximity to that which we would once prefer to  refer to as the personalogical stupidity plane, but would rather classify, for the purposes  of this (non) argument as the axiological stupidity axis. Or axle. That which the form  conditions to auto-repeat on the basis of the global energies: politics.

The face is a horror? Only because, like the haunted mansion, it announces itself in name,  having eyes and a pure wall of sky against which to make dead. But the face is none other  than the pinion of a refrain one allegedly attracts, screen of totalizable affects. Material  locus, that which meaning twitches. Initially struck by the amorphous leaning face of the  beloved, one of the love-relation’s known regularities becomes making and unmaking  (preserving in its infinitude) the face as a backboard of semio-energies. 

But we talk, too. 

While walking a forest trail I struggle to grasp her face out of the tangle of branch  attention, angle of sky intention, and the body (hers) dematerializes according to the  mandate of evolutions, that which has pounded out the produced. And so in a way, I’m  alone with myself, and a complex of cause and effect so ‘outside’ of me it’s like watching  the contents of a fairground from a nearby hill. Yet another frame in which someone  stands on a hill in a park and plays brass, I think, later, as we pass by it in a park. Yet  another hill between burials, mounting it, as they say, at the base of the mausoleum, I  think, yearning a burrito overlooking Lovecraft’s grave. Trial another trail.  

Grasping the face by the body, I feel less of myself than a flickering of doubt and release  that the thought-struck beautiful moment had ever effectively occurred, though I have the  diluted version (washed in future) in memory to somewhat prove it. Babsen’s Boulders,  Gloucester, Massachusetts (Dogtown): conversation takes turns in the register of tour-

guide — tourist, lovers, and bodies — each with its own motor, its own bladder — attempting to take hold in this morning. We’d followed only tentative directions. And  made it, as we are coming to do, anywhere. Just to be there. And often enough.

 

Worlds we came across, words on the boulders, carved and painted black: phrases such as  “Lack of hard work breeds a lack of morals” and “SPIRITUAL POWER.” Often enough,  we’d walk around the perimeter of one of these structures only to realize it was just  another boulder, un-inducted into history, though by some evaluative capacity we hadn’t  known we shared, worth more to us in its denial of reciprocity, as authentic as ice. 

As we rounded a short gladed portion of the trail, an older couple emerged saying “Did  you find any?” 

"BE ON TIME."

 

***

It’s not so difficult to write about being in love, it’s difficult to be in love. Hard work, as  I’m getting older. The man of me would admit to not expecting to live past 25. Then that  year came and went. My biology changed. Stomach ulcers. My face became attractive, as  well as my arms. Head on.  

***

Look. Look at here, a look of surprise, a face with downturned eyes, though not in  response to anything somber, but to pleasure. 

Face makes one a “him” or a “her,” or a member of a certain class, or one who is  excluded having been relativized. 

No longer, on this Earth, the motor of universal reference, but a wink from a book, words  coursing through the tongue, miming a form. 

A look one couldn’t have expected to arrive with such ferocity and passionate display.  Moonlit. 

***

11.1.20 

Lone Tree Hill. A placing. I have the impression, as I’ve had so many times since moving  east, how many perfect four-wheeler spots go unused. Trail across from the other trail,  across from the ‘marriage plot,’ across from the zone in which I truly felt we, so to speak,  belonged together. Which is to say, we got along, we could talk, site of our first internal  burlesques. I said, “I have no plan for this.” Which wasn’t to say I didn’t have a plan. I just wanted to be around her again. 

It opens to a glade, not necessarily a hill, or not a ‘lone’ hill, though one tree, like a wild  grey strand. I take the high road. Around which. Rounding the tree, the lone hill of the  tree, a woman in repose and her beautiful sheltie. I hadn’t thought to meet the eyes of  another this morning, let alone the warm blue eyes of another. Let a-lone. I’d had two  dreams of her, N., both in which her presence was acknowledged in mind, rather than her  presence in body, or her absence in any other sense. And I take this, on this walk, as a  sign of the good that can often occur when placed on the track of a newness. Familiarity  burdens the encounter even when it, in a very real way, materially authorizes it. I didn’t  even say hello, smiling as I refastened my mask. Meeting her again after I’d made the  loop, though this time, both maskless, both just staring, not even smiling. What is an echo  and what isn’t isn’t. 

Not “encounter,” who wants to talk about that. Event, maybe. There’s more to living than  the waiting for confrontation. A territory always includes that which it might, at a certain  point, need to expel. Threading two Magritte-lite formations of tall, tall pine. 

On my way out I wondered what courses my life would take had I’d fallen for someone  different, someone much older. Then I wondered whether Marxist tool-analysis (this is  how I phrased it in my notebook) operated interestingly between ecology and ethology.  

I’m not exactly sure what I even meant anymore. Maybe the difference between building  a nest and building a building. Is there a difference?

Now I’m thinking of somewhere differently. Somewhere, meaning some other time, right. 

Walking has only the violence of warding off to do with the face, like the hair on a dog's  back, tears welling at the "lash" of a wind. Isn't that strange to say? I remember Yeats as  the first poet I'd read who'd spoken cleanly about wind = pain, which — in the land of  tornadoes and unrequited affection — I understood intimately. Missouri man.

 

Thinking of how much the eyes take in, how much violence is done them. 

She walks so much during the day her legs twitch in the night, waking both of us, equivocally.

 

I walk so much during the day my ass is strong. I do stairs. I do long strides. We're  different but not the same. 

Waves of jealousy, of self-hate in the form of narrativizing an experience yet to occur,  much like the wind. One never moves into the wind to finish it, but moves out of the  weather, much like the hopping back into memory (in a single bound) into the miasma of  memory where it’s stored whole, into a tree-knot of material, which says “no two that  isn’t of the One,” that remembers one.

“I wonder,” I ponder to her nakedly, “when I will look at you and not be immediately  brought back to the image of you I retain from our first meeting.” Confusion. Unsure of  what you mean by brought back to. “I mean that when I look at you sometimes my mind  has to recalibrate what it had apportioned your face, like the fingerprint of my affection,  in order to place you in a lifeworld in which we shared. And I guess what I’m saying is I  wonder when I’m just going to see your face as I see it now, beautiful as it had been  made to be in ‘my’ past, but more alive now, more unpredictable” Your past. “I mean our  past. Or I mean the image of our past that I bring with me into the now.” The now that  keeps going. “Precisely. When will I finally come to read your face as it progresses  through changes.” 

I say this knowing very well the Face overrides changes, being not just the head detached  from itself but lain over the entire body. What I think I’m letting free is really a slower  calibration between fascination and boredom. 

Boredom being the ecstatic breaching the everyday. A hook not having anywhere to  anchor. 

***

Face is the social’s semiosis of personalogical difference, that which the economy keeps  in regard to an ever-widening cycle of reference (money).

The combo of two regimes, yes. Conveniently for the theorists, white wall/black holes. 

One thinks of Kabuki, or Jack O’ Lantern. One thinks, immediately, of a white face with  eyes. Like Franju’s “heroine,” afflicted with this condition of being-visible. 

How much cash determines the height of one’s cheekbones. 

Not sure how to ‘look’ in her new glasses, she changes masks. Light pink, clear frames,  symmetry on which I can’t get a handle, but realize. 

***

11.5.20 

Manchester-By-The-Sea: buildings arranged like there’s a fair going on year-round,  various lobster houses. Looking down every alley, the alley ends in water, just past the  fishcrates, nets bundled up and rotting without use, on the dock. Everything’s a dock. 

In a bookshop (Manchester-By-The-Book, our first stop after looking for a public  restroom, N. trotting into each store only to come out seconds later shaking her head ‘no,’  her grey leggings) I find Bergson and Derrida, which I purchase, Langer and Deleuze and  Guattari, which I let alone, having much brighter levels of access to those books than the  others. This is what decides. Access, a memory.

And so I’m at Halibut Point Park, thinking about The Gift of Death and The Ear of An Other, and she reminds me of a piece of speech, a turn of phrase, actually, she’d  previously (off-handedly?) dashed toward me weeks ago: “See? Two bodies of water in  one field of vision.” Maybe she’d never said it before, it just felt that way. Held by it,  vertiginously. As Bergson theorized, this remembrance in the presence is actually a being  conscious of time’s recording, of the past being stored, of the bottom of the cone moving  along the piece of printer paper, towards the “future,” whatever that is. We’re hungry, but  don’t want to spoil our appetites for seafood later, so we mash up two tins of sardines on  saltines, and snack on that. Then we walk our appetite back up again, through the shore  grass, over large stones. The landscape is a face. Taking off our shoes to dip them into a  pool, I stretch a leg into a further point to retrieve a beautiful conglomerate, though not  after drenching a pantleg. She’s put the stone now on her red bookshelf, points it out to  me one day. 

Now I’m at the table, it’s been a whole two months of wooden spoon handling kind of  love. We fuck without blinds. The blinds are pulled up. Driving, we talk and talk, like  Breathless, not because we’re driving, necessarily. But because I feeling like I’m being  enjoyed. We walk around the neighborhood and I’m like a trophy, she’s like a trophy  hunter who’s just found a trophy.  

Sunlight through a window, definitely. Difference between a sweatshirt and sweater, too  many ‘New England things’ run up against ‘Missouri things’ for either to retain their 

validity, vicissitude spilling out as if from a pot with no bottom. I finally control the  cheeks on her face like I’d center notes in a composition. Laugh lines and no piercings  (that I know of), nothing like a past visible anymore. Did I fail? This is a note of failure,  though I haven’t failed to note it. 

That I’ve, in a sense, “found” the face, or discovered in it — as a colonizer would do — what it had always, and would have always, been there for me. I’m no less than  victorious, in my humble opinion. 

A face pressing against my bicep as the rest of our bodies spins like two magnets.  Breaking into breathing shards, around a provisional center. Bite marks when we part.  Evidence of speech’s opposite’s occurrence. Eyes open, red. Eyes closed, blue. 

A face in the picture folder. A face I don’t recognize, surprised at what I’m so easily  repulsed by. Eyes closed, blue. Bottles on the windowsill, sin coming through, purifying  the couch: kiss beef blood, leaving a streak on the lids. Eyes open, red. I question the face  of the dead I know will arrive, has arrived in her mind. Surely. The “stench of death” she  said. Do you remember your first open casket? So there’s a further development. No  model for it. I click through the arrows. 

The purple face of my grandfather, Carl. The purple face of my father, Michael. The  purple face of my great aunt, June. The flushed faces of. Panting. These discrepancies in  our naming. Facing historical matter and, no matter how shortly agreed upon, fact.

***

1.3.21 

Love poked through the memory, like a hug across time. In the new year, let’s attempt to  better appreciate consciousness, its one-timeliness. 

Flushed face to flushed face, glued at the foreheads, saying “Yes.”  

***

“Every segment of signifying discourse is a tributary of faciality traits that ‘manages’ its  morphemes, that supports them in relation with dominant significations or deprives them  of their sense” (Machinic Unconscious, 84; it would do oneself one’s favor to read the  entire chapter surrounding the quoted portion above. Faciality deploys its traits by  detaching itself from other components of signification. All the same, it would never be  permitted to work for itself lest it relinquish its power to record derivations between those  components. This is a diagnosis and a plan towards notes on an answer to human  bondage. We can’t begin to conceptualize, through writing nonetheless, bondage without  also thinking about love, and I’m not talking just the beautiful, but the knock-down-drag out, too, and even the kind that bores us. So often we hear of power striking, and so  infrequently do we stop to acknowledge its most proper office: providing support.)

***

It’s unbelievable, it’s almost tragic, in a fairytale way. I’m swiping through faces,  allowing the seed-brained muscle takeover of my discernment, and think “She looks like  the type I’m interested in.” The face of — as I’d call it — a beautiful cousin. All I had  wanted was to be lovable to someone. Now I’m typing this narrative of my life in which  N. plays a role. Reenvisioning the time we met, she leaning on the frame to her kitchen,  asking me to repeat my last name. I would have forgotten it. For a few weeks all I did was to recognize. Now we have three months of togetherness. Sex that exhausts itself  cyclically. Face covering body parts. 

***

Not discovered anything but rather taken up the call. Brought back to a problematic  position. Taken up with a possibility before the Regime. 

By reading (the book, the face) I mean not to look for solutions to problems found there  (at the extreme level, the elimination of the problem), but points of applicability to further  complexities. Love ends at the end of one's actions, their life. I can't love you after I'm  dead, though I'll try. I can’t love you after, I’m dead, though. I’ll try. 

***

1.17.21 

I would rue the oncoming point of a romance (at around three months) where the Face  took on a monstrous contour, of being familiar. Both the result of too many rerouted  expectations and not knowing exactly what to expect. A misogyny cyclone. The Face  would open on a virtual series where all the faces to come would be kissing me, parting  their mouths for an entrance. Subjectification tornados. Tongue arborescences. 

Other people in the Person.

 

Now I look out for the pitfalls so diligently I wonder am I in it as much as I could be, as  much as the love deserves. What does this mean, to deserve? "Must / I think of  everything // as earned?" Creeley. Your grave in Mt. Auburn. I grabbed an iced coffee  with oat milk at Intelligentsia and headed on over, across the street, to stand by your  resting place. In the sun. For love. 

I wipe away tears from my face after a death of someone close to me and feel the oily  transfer to my tips of my fingers. Suddenly the face is a holey land. What can be filled  and what and how does it empty, and where would it empty out if it could, and would it  even. How would it want? No memory behind the force of forgetting. Nothing. Beneath  my blue mask, a bright red pimple the size of Mt. Ida. 

Who's lovable now.

Cary Stough is a poet from the Missouri Ozarks and a children's librarian in Massachusetts. 

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