Notes on “je me touché,” 4 essays by Jeremy Fernando

je me touché, Jeremy Fernando, 2017, Paradiso Editores, Delere Press, 77 pages.

Jeremy Fernando’s method of writing shows his acoustic, vibratory thinking, making connections, moving from one idea to another, enharmonic soundings, transported by his readings. In “je me touché” (it is i touch me – or, I me touch: I touch myself), he connects, in four essays, as cars interconnected on a train, Flann O’Brien’s short story “John Duffy’s Brother,” Melville’s “Bartleby,” the Occupy Movement, and, in an “Afterword,” sound, touch, and tune.

If Flann O’Brien’s Brother is a train, Melville’s Bartleby is a station, the last stop, the end of the line, no turnaround. Nothing to be done now but occupy that well-foreshadowed destination, where we hear night and day the whistle of a human train derailed, “the scream of the scrivener” (25). That scream is a kind of tinnitus. There is no actual sound. What we are hearing is a phantom noise in our imagination.

In the beginning was the word, and the word created community. In every beginning originating with a word, a commune is created, a habitat for the imagination. Community contains potential for sharing, for touching, without conflict, but with the possibility of divergence, which is risk, which becomes reading, a home, a place to dwell. And every household invites divergence, a library of dry goods.

Fernando begins “je me touché” with an immersion into Flann O’Brien’s short story “John Duffy’s Brother.” Following some strange inexplicable happening, Brother (unnamed, perhaps one of Beckett’s unnamable) believes himself to be a train. Children often play at being things – “Choo!Choo! Good and Plenty. Good and Plenty.” But Brother really is a train. What is a train? Following a linear path, tied to its tracks, a community of cars carrying sundry goods and people and animals, all properly ticketed or listed in a bill of lading, the train rolls, pulls, steams along, along the line, picking up speed, braking for curves, slowing on hills (“I think I can. I think I can”), forward to a destination, for every train has a purpose, clear and unmistakable. And part of its purpose it to run on time, less the socioeconomic demographics harmonizing the connecting stops becomes disrupted (45-48). We don’t care about the people on the bus any more than we care about the bus drivers. What we care about is the system, the fixed routes, the timetables, the robotic movement of time. We become the bus, the train. But the story is not about the train; it’s about our thinking we are the train, a secret few of us care to admit, less we be admitted. What happens when the drivers (today’s scriveners, writing a line along a predestined route) go on strike?

Our choices are limited. All authority lies in the tracks, and “it is only truly authority when ones does not have to use any force.” The system that runs on time requires no force but to enforce the schedule, which should require no force once set into motion. The individual who leaves the track, detours the bus route, goes on strike, does not necessarily wander far afield, but comes to rest, as does Melville’s Bartleby. Employed as a scrivener (a human copy machine), Bartleby inexplicably begins to “prefer not” to do any more copying, or have anything to do with the office or its community, yet he will not vacate the premises, for he prefers not to do that either. Bartleby’s boss, possibly the first humanist, works around him, but Bartleby eventually winds up in the Tombs, and we learn that he started out in the dead letter office. “Ah, Bartleby. Ah, Humanity,” the story ends.

We begin to see Fernando’s connections, how he unravels then weaves again the themes found in Brother, Bartleby, then the Occupy Movement, and lastly, in “Afterword,” into one wandering path. Along the way, we meet the likes of Zizek, Ronell, Kant, Otis Redding, Cervantes, Wall Street and its Bull (symbol, sculpture, art), reading as touching. “Prosopopoeia”: feeling, book, relation, touch. The word empathy is not used, but perhaps should be, as in to feel oneself is to grant oneself some altruistic version of how another might feel us. Henry Miller. In tune. Dash, the dash. Coming together. Risk. Love (“I love you,” 72-73). Laughter as music, as language.

Fernando’s layers upon layers of reading unfold, every word its history we must also remember, “keeping in mind” how others might have used it. And under the surface a stream, a river, runs undercover. Thus relation, within words: correspondence, interconnections, kin, intersections. Connecting Bartley with Occupy – occupy what? Nothing? The stairs? Bartleby occupies, to occupy already an occupation (“…why don’t they just apply themselves and get a job,” 37). Touch themselves? Now here: no where? To read is to touch oneself as another might touch, with permission.

This is not a pipe dream, but a book, hard copy.

(“Try this apple, Adam, very good”). Essay as fruit of the word.

Who reads when we read? Even reading something we ourselves have written, we wrote, yesterday or some time ago, we are not the same person reading as we were writing – we are not exactly that same person who sat at that very desk, now also changed, and wrote, for we have already a myriad of new experiences constantly adding to our connections.

I first read Melville’s “Bartleby: A Story of Wall Street” when, as a sophomore in high school, I was assigned Melville as my first term reading and research author assignment. I remember some of the other boys who got Hemingway, Steinbeck, Babbitt. I wasn’t all that happy to get Herman. But that attitude changed. Of course I loved Moby-Dick, but I tried to argue “Pierre; or, the Ambiguities,” written just after The Whale, the better work. Meanwhile, though he died before I was born, my paternal grandfather was an engineer on the Louisville Nashville Line. “So it goes.” Connections.

Blest Be the Tie that Binds

One year, on a trip north from Los Angeles, we stopped off at the University of California at Santa Cruz campus to visit a married couple, both in graduate school studying computer programing. When I asked about their projects, one of the students said she was working on a component that would become part of another system, but she didn’t know its ultimate purpose. It might be military; it could be household. She said computers would improve lifestyle and livability. For example, she said, when you arrived at the front door of your house, a computer would recognize you, and your door would open automatically. Later, I learned that, having completed his graduate program, her husband got a good programming job, but due to a misunderstanding regarding dress code, he quit his first day at work because he was expected to wear a tie. That same day, he went to another computer programming firm in the area, where ties were not required, and was immediately hired.

About ten years later, this time on a trip north from Portland, in Seattle on business, I visited a friend who was working in the computer industry. He took me on a trip of the home office, which was called a campus. With its various outdoor activity fields, the low profile buildings, the walkways – it looked and felt like a school campus. On our way to an onsite cafeteria for lunch, we passed through a couple of long corridors lined on both sides with solid doors opening into offices the size of telephone booths where single workers sat hunched toward a computer screen. After finding a table in the cafeteria and settling into lunch, I glanced around and gradually noticed I was the only guy in the whole place wearing a tie.

Glancing around today, I notice that one of the few industries still apparently requiring a tie is politics. But I’ve also noticed that news media people on camera also wear ties. They all seem to share similar clothing styles, the men and the women, the politicians on both sides of the aisle, the leaders in industry, the ladies and gentlemen of the world. It’s a wonder they don’t all get along better, and one wonders what today a tie might signify. The tie seems now only a theoretical construct – its purpose and meaning are not directly observable. It no longer binds, but unbinds.

The title of this post is taken from the hymn by John Fawcett:

“Blest Be the Tie that Binds”
by John Fawcett, 1740-1817

Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love;
The fellowship of kindred minds
Is like to that above.

Before our Father’s throne
We pour our ardent prayers;
Our fears, our hopes, our alms, are one,
Our comforts and our cares.

We share our mutual woes,
Our mutual burdens bear,
And often for each other flows
The sympathizing tear.

When here our pathways part,
We suffer bitter pain;
Yet, one in Christ and one in heart,
We hope to meet again.

This glorious hope revives
Our courage by the way,
While each in expectation lives
And longs to see the day.

From sorrow, toil, and pain,
And sin we shall be free
And perfect love and friendship reign
Through all eternity.

Hymn #464
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Eph. 4:3
Author: John Fawcett, 1772, alt.
Composer: Lowell Mason, 1832
Tune: “Boylston”

Oblique Obligato

  1. Moon fresh ribbon
    smooth platen
    ball dust sea
  2. Fastened to fish
    risk bamboo
    water chills
  3. Homespun shark
    teeth reek bark
    oil tea tree
  4. Screeched scrounge scrawn
    crested pinch
    ear reach thrills
  5. Stringing brew broils
    cooking pot
    catch read bin
  6. Critical swarm
    goat bearded
    bee attack
  7. Smoked fuzz moss
    yucky hot
    sunder skin
  8. Feet faintly sweet
    & ditties
    sour retract
  9. Poised hipster red
    shower cap &
    surf sandals
  10. Now turns one last
    again then
    salt pearls
  11. Ask brack weed meme
    vandal cleaned
    type taste twirl
  12. Spring Selene not
    bald booby
    care fool horse
  13. Trifurcation
    from dear morph
    solo bliss
  14. Under deep stays
    curling waves
    allusiveOblique Moon

Not one but two needs relish sweet sorrow

Not one but two needs relish sweet sorrow.
Wooden shoe wish new saga song bonnet?
Purple flower here now gone tomorrow.
One knows not lief, and if hair be sonnet,
Wold eat polka dotted cotton culotte.
Back seats escape too simple bounded rules,
Schemes where at smart turn deer quickly departs,
Shirking away from linked coupling rope pulls.
Gears thrown greased ball bearings plop soft thudded,
Rustling rough yon fat fig leaf yellowed grass
Into well palms of gleeful looped poet,
Frogs Voila! in deep wide throated bass:
Now twanged by gee sang plus web danced for thee,
Not two but three may now exclaim in glee.

Theory

Casual Theory of Causality

Why pink asks blue whenGarlic at Gilroy
roused whose wheeze
where past just falls
fails new any to augur

When rash throws think
unfolds, unwraps, uncoils
relax what jeers
who held and

Wooden Clappers

Don’t let go of drop
though darkness rooms
and voices blink three
coins in a phone booth

At gas stop stuffed
outside Gilroy near
garlic beer and clown
juggling artichokes

Carriage trails from Castroville.

On Description

A Cat Egg
Where did that egg come from? What egg? Why are you sitting on an egg? What egg? Cats are not supposed to sit on eggs. You see eggs? I see nine eggs in the carton. I see nine missing eggs in the carton. Where are the missing eggs? “The future is in eggs,” Eugene Ionesco said, his name a perfect description of an egg. That does not even begin to describe this situation. Do you want to say situation, or predicament? A cat egg is like a mare’s nest. Let’s blow this joint before someone asks what makes a cat purr.

Embedded in most descriptions is a prescription, instructions for viewing, boundaries stipulated and promoted. What might look at first glance objective enough turns around and around on an axis of theory.

Qualifications: from a distance; in the waning light of a neon-like moon; on a particularly hot, steamy day, out of season. Adjectives and adverbs cloud the way. References.

How do we describe description, the process we use to describe, carry across? And why bother? Why describe something others are free to experience for themselves?In any review, isn’t there an implicit recommendation based on a prescription of what is being described, how it ought to have been done, or at least how otherwise it might have been carried out?

A description of a painting, a Rothko: What is blue, size, warp; from what distance, in what light? Does our description of the Rothko change if others come into the room? The paintings are on the move, constantly changing, even as the museum makes every effort to still them. Description is a distillation of a sensory happening. McLuhan advised touch is the most involving of the five senses. When we paint, we use all five senses at once: paint odors; the brush splash sounds as we touch bristles to canvas. We take a break for lunch and taste oil in our bread. But are all descriptions sensory? What happens when we describe a process, an idea. Must description use words? What does a cat’s purr describe? Can we describe a cat’s purr in a painting?

Easter Eggs 2014
Egg Culture

We come, then, naturally enough, to the egg. We are reminded of Duchamp, his hidden object, if it is an object, which gets us nowhere. We need to get inside the egg for a full description, but once we crack the egg open, it’s not the same egg. We decorate our description.

It’s easy enough to say that descriptive writing is language that appeals to one or more of the five senses. But words can’t capture experience. Where is the description that activates our taste buds, such that we taste the bread and wine even as our fast continues? Is all description vicarious? We write down, distil, drop away. Description is at the distal end of experience.