Sunday, October 22, 2017

An Epiklisi for the Third Sabbath

All is shown
Eyed in a crystal cup, a can:
A knot of yellow residue, a sulfuric sheen
*
Mandibles pried
Apart, making room
For the trap door. It yelps.
*
A little here and there all around the room
The eye is a crude display
I cannot be seen

Saturday, October 14, 2017

An Epiklisi for the Second Sabbath

Theia! VÜISHTÜ!
The scrim of doubled rivers
Comes, spittles, 'pon
The brindle banks
*
A sleeping sallow demi-god
Reconstitutes in the cement basement  
Of a stained house by the interstate
*
Nozzle tips: muck
Echoes totter back and back
And back: when the ch(i)asm sups
'Pon the vibrant siren's boned rack

Saturday, October 7, 2017

An Epiklisi for the First Sabbath

The birth was come
The birth was 
A blazing window coasts
A granite city passes
The earth must hum
The earth must
*
A roast potato on the hearth
...It sweats
Alone on the train
The night shudders backwards
Stews, tea...
Tear the note atop its aura
*
Some trumpet
Muh! Some trumpet
The triple cymbals 
Crash and thrum
Slum bisque, culprits hate:
Mirth, Dance, Art
 Sultry, but...
Muck-sultry, but...

Friday, October 6, 2017

An Account of Yelmac Tobias's First Sublimation

     If one imagines a face no longer recognizable as a face; a facial residue, a mottled sheath of gored plaster clinging to the box spring of a skull; one whose eyes are empty compartments gauzed with loose trampoline weaves of knotted fuchsia string vibrating to the frequency of a dreamed medical documentary portraying the effects of nuclear warfare on a cranium, homo-sapiens, at a medium-lethal distance from the epicenter of a mushroom cloud - then one might conceivably conjure up an image approximating the face of the man who had been sitting at the end of an EL car traveling the Chicago loop on a January morning in the year 1991, from the perspective of Yelmac Tobias.

     It is this image that the boy continued to see in his dreams. This is the face he made repeated attempts to recreate with the materials afforded him in his grade-school art courses.

     At the age of twelve, the young Yelmac had cultivated something of an artistic reputation with the faculty of Chicago Public School Nº 105. Although several teachers found his visual renderings not a little unnerving, the child was lauded for his astonishing virtuosity. His art teacher Gregg Juiko encouraged Yelmac's works zealously. The society of admiring faculty grew to such an extent that the child was even allowed to display a small selection of sculptures, held in a clear acrylic box situated atop a wooden pedestal, between the twin doors feeding into the school cafeteria.

     The pieces of the display were arranged in a line so that, if an individual of average sixth-grade stature were to observe the installation from a point directly in front of it, he would see an amorphous face. But the person looking would actually be seeing the image of three faces combined, each one devoid of some essential sector, which was supplied by another sculpture showing through it from behind. 

The first face (in order from front to back) was coated in a cobalt glaze that gave its surface an appearance of permanent dampness; every inch of it was pitted from the stabbings of a toothpick. This face was suspended from the top of the display box by two clear pieces of fishing line, being devoid of a nose or jaws. Its left eye was a hole tunneling clean through to the back of its skull (fig. 1). The second face had a veined color pattern reminiscent of aventurine with mealy yellow-orange chinks set into a seabed of greenish streaks. This figure was a thick obelisk of neck, chin, lips, nose, and cheeks, each particular feature so voluptuous and weighty that it approached the grotesque (fig. 2). The third figure (which could hardly be thought of as a face in its own right) stood on a hexagonal pillar - something akin to an exposed upheaval of basalt. A sort of cupped dish extruded from the base like a parasitic fungus, and from its center sprouted a stalk, which terminated in a black bulb resembling a rudimentary eye; the eye had a dusty gleam, a lobster's eye (fig. 3). This last served as the left eye that had been omitted from the first face.


fig. 1 (left); fig. 2 (center); fig. 3 (right)


     The school's event coordinator, Shannon O'Dooly, voiced resistance against the display of Tobias's sculptures, especially in such proximity to the cafeteria. Andy Mittlich, the vice-principal at the time, has been gracious enough to provide me with a transcript of a faculty meeting in January 1998, during which she is recorded as having said the following:

     "It is my firm belief, having received an associate's degree in geriatric psychology, that these sculptures are evidence of a radically malicious and sociopathic personality. It is true that Yelmac Tobias presents himself as a charming young man: he never ceases to beam with that smile of his; he pays every imaginable courtesy, holding doors open for others and offering to hang his schoolmates' coats at the start of class. He even draws homemade Valentine's Day cards for every boy and girl in his homeroom (this indicates to me deeply inappropriate intentions). I am especially concerned by the fact that so many of you are considering putting these neurotic products on display for other students to see on their way to the lunch line. What effect do you think this will have on their behavior, their imagination - much less, their digestion? Even at my graceful age [64: author's note], I find these figures to be a traumatizing sight. They have imprinted my thoughts prior to sleep with obscene, indelible visualizations. By endorsing this exhibit, you are nourishing frightening tendencies in this student. Tendencies that become obvious, provided that one has been looking closely, and for a long enough time."

     The administrators and other faculty furnished a succinct rebuttal, suggesting that to suppress the sculptures after having promised to display them would alienate the boy from his "community of mentors." 

     "Besides," one of the top school board officials added, palming sweat from his round, bald, hardboiled head, "I've already shown pictures of Yelmac's work to my daughter Miranda, who simply couldn't put them down. She pored over them all last night at the dinner table. And if you're worried about the students' appetites, my daughter ate half of an entire spinach quiche without so much as poking at it with her fork. And, mind you, just the night before, Laura and I had to plead with her to take a few bites from a cheeseburger!"

     Without further deliberation, the overwhelming majority of attendees passed their decision to go ahead with the display. I should mention, as an aside, that Shannon O'Dooly was discovered in a disintegrating state in her blackened bathtub two months later, having lit herself ablaze with a can of kerosene and a lavender-scented mood candle. Due to the extensive burns sustained, Miss O'Dooly's official identification called for a referral to dental records.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Notes Pertaining to Yelmac's Revival

     Shortly after encountering the man who sat by the exit door in the EL car, Yelmac Tobias was admitted to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, where his convalescence endured for an entire week, much to Delilah's chagrin. The hallways in the hospital smelled of tapioca; these hallways were lonely, and often dimmer than one might expect, with metal irrigation towers facing anyone passing through, their depleted IV bags standing in for the faces of nurses and doctors. Nurses and doctors only ever existed behind the curtains in hospital rooms just as they were being drawn back to reveal a medical professional bearing a clipboard and a stethoscope.

     The triage doctor treating Yelmac found him shuddering, slathered in an icy sweat which soaked through the sanitary paper draped across the observation bed. The child's pupils were fully dilated; the eyes were immobile, and did not respond to stimuli of any sort. The catatonic state persisted for four days.

     Yelmac's more permanent doctor, who later happened to write his own amateur Tobiassic biography (see Bohingya Bendraputi's Fricasseed Promises: a Boy's Miraculous Meal), ordered a variety of experimental treatments, as well as a regime of stimulants, hoping to rouse the young one by non-invasive means. Nurses began to wheel brown plastic carts into the room every few minutes, these loaded down with trays of food. The recently cooked meals came trapped under large mauve salad bowls. The trays would be set just under Yelmac's nose and the salad bowls removed, unleashing a levitating eruption of scented steam, which twinkled in the harsh hospital light.

     This measure they took at the advice of Mother Tobias, who reported that her son was incapable of achieving consciousness on any given day without the smell of a crackling breakfast proceeding from their minuscule kitchen into the orifice of his bedroom door. Delilah further reports in Frank Ogorpo's Yelmanac: "My son was almost invisible until the patina of french toast and bacon got ahold of his wee nostrils. It was like that scene in the Bible with Lazarus and Jesu-Christos! I rose him from the dead every day of his life, that's for sure. And that billowing cloud of breakfast wasn't enough to keep him. No, sir. I sent him to school, too, carrying his life support in a brown paper bag" (Ogorpo 2017; p. 88).

     And sure enough, the young Tobias came to life after catching a whiff of the third meal presented to him on his final day as an inpatient: a huddle of derelict corn kernels sunken into a watery mattress of rehydrated mashed potatoes, nestled between a slender pork chop and a modular city-scape of sliced and boiled carrots. Yelmac motioned to Dr. Bendraputi, who leaned down and cocked his head to hear him. The boy asked whether "that man on the EL" would be coming back (Bendraputi 2020; p. 115). And, as anyone reading with a vested interest in this momentous life already well knows, he did. The man to whom the nascent Tobias referred came back, he reappeared later. He is going to show up later.

     One often ponders over a tinkling midnight mint julep what effect this first encounter with the man called Trismegistus had on Yelmac Tobias. For it was at this juncture in the boy's life that he began to smile much more often and to adopt psychological behaviors more befitting of a child of six. Up to that point, he would spend weeks out of school as a result of his apoplectic frenzies, directed against fellow first-grade classmates, during which he would curse them in a strange tongue that no one could decipher - the word "Pwäng" included among his most violent insults. But particularly by the second grade, the incursion of Trismegistus into Yelmac Tobias's life had wielded a remarkable result: the child had become extremely jolly, if still a touch vacant from time to time. Another notable change could perhaps be attributed to this Trismegistus, namely that Yelmac Tobias began to repeat any spoken or written proper noun in triplicate; and whenever he introduced himself, he did so as "Yelmac-Yelmac-Yelmac."

     

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

On the Appearance of Trismegistus

     One schist-colored January morning in 1991, as Delilah ushered her son onto an EL car in the downtown loop, Yelmac clasped the doorway and began to hyperventilate. He was looking at the passengers and the brushed steel fixtures of the interior; he was looking at a neat squadron of holes in a plate screwed on over an intercom speaker in the ceiling. Upon his mother's hazy reproaches, he asked to an astonished audience of gap-toothed transients and careworn city workers:

     "What is that? Why can't I see what I'm looking at?"

     The red-faced boy then rushed into the car and began to approach the various riders with his violent stare. For a moment, he stooped over, scrutinizing a woman's withered hand; with the whites boiling over the edges of his eyelids, he drilled his gaze into the saturated papier-mâché overlaying her spindly finger bones, between which twisted a dozing congregation of lavender worms in a packed soil of connective tissues. In response to this image, the young Tobias suffered a muscular quake and shuffled backward until the lip of the opposing row of seats cut into the meat of his calves.

     Yelmac performed this routine several times while eluding his mother's lethargic attempts to reign him in. Delilah trailed him at a consistent distance of no less than five feet, and often stopped altogether to make a huffing gesticulation at the ceiling, where a parallel procession of beige cylindrical bulbs fluttered between minute gradations of brightness and less-brightness in a meaningless cipher. 

     Just then the boy came upon a certain rider at one end of the car by an exit door who seemed entirely aloof to the developing scenario. The man may have been in his late twenties. His complexion was similar in tone and irregularity to a syrup stain embedded in white cotton after two cold wash cycles. An eyewitness, interviewed in Tate Coery's The Weirdest and Most Mysterious Water (a precocious and obsessive account of Yelmac Tobias's systematized masturbation protocol), recalled the strange individual's "abundant cheeks, cavernous eyes, and rich suede blazer" (Coery 2021; p. 27). Others have gone on record to give identical, verbatim descriptions of him as "a fruity, gorgeous insect of a man."

     The child stood frozen to the machine-stamped floor, examining the person he had found. The electronics in the car revived with a voluptuous whimper, galvanized by some electromagnetic turbine or other. As the train set off from the station, the passengers' torsos rocked back toward the place where the unfamiliar man was sitting. Yelmac demanded to know his name, resisting the urge to blink or relax his horrific stare. The man, boring straight ahead with a meek, sleepy smile, said aloud that he was "Trismegistus":

     "And I am young; and I am going to marry quite soon; and I am Trismegistus...!"

     The young Tobias screwed up his eyes and withdrew three steps from Trismegistus. The boy seemed not to have heard the man's words, as he asked him yet again for his name. The elusive passenger made a sort of finger gesture through the top buttonhole in his jacket and ejected a squirt of spittle through the crevice in his top two incisors. But Yelmac only looked on in perpetuity, the point of his nose gyrating in a microscopic circle as his retinae clambered to collect the matter of the rider's appearance.

     Just a moment later, Yelmac's mother hooked her crustacean hands under her son's armpits and attempted to drag him away on his heels. The boy is said to have screeched:

     "But who is there? But who is there? But who is there?"

     The boy withdrew into a state of shock as the train was pulling up to the Harold-Washington platform. As the car doors parted, the boy collapsed and began thrashing between a colonnade of legs and chrome support structures. There was no trace left of the perturbing man at the end of the traincar by the time the paramedics entered with their kit and stretcher. Only the exit door by which the person had been sitting was left slightly ajar. On its handle there clung a hardened clod of black tar. This is an undoubtedly true statement. 

     Yelmac was eased onto the stretcher and then carefully inserted into an ambulance idling below the elevated station. The ambulance eventually drove off, to be sure, in order to guarantee that the boy's life was continued. But while it had waited for its allotted cargo - its ticket into this case history - a rope of phantasmagoric exhaust spilled up from its tailpipe and wreathed itself around the horns of a green owl which, although I cannot imagine why, adorned the nearest cornice of the Harold Washington Library.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A Word Concerning Neurological Abnormalities

     Immediately after Yelmac Tobias was born, he and his mother were extradited back to the United States. It was in the gnarled and sooted city of Chicago that the boy spent his formative years. Of course, he spent his first several American hours being shuttled about the linoleum arcades of the Chicago-O'Hare food court, where his mother, a devotée to her inextinguishable fetish for semi-consumed comestibles, momentarily forgot about the new swaddled life wedged into the crook of her arm.

     At an early age, the young Tobias showed signs of a deep-rooted neurosis which affected every moment of his waking existence. In an interview taken shortly after his death, Delilah describes his periodic nervous episodes:

                                 
Yelmie was always given to bizarre fits. I'd come into his wee
room at night, scouting for a loose bra I might've left lying 
about - maybe hanging from a bedknob, or the ceiling fan -
     and he'd just be sitting there, staring, all cramped up and kno-
   -tted in the nook by his bed, just by the window. He never re-
 -ally slept much, so I'd just go about my business, scouting
my things. Then he would work himself up into a tremble;
   only a little bit at first, you would hardly notice it until you 
  were right beside him. Then he would belt out this moan. It
   was a very specific sound, you know, always the same thing
     It was a sort of word, really. 'Pwäng.' Yes, with the dots over
        the 'a' and everything... yes, I'm sure. Don't forget to print that
         Anyway, the poor lamb would repeat the word again and again,
      and the word got longer every time he said it. He only ever st-
        -opped once his little lungs had reached their limit and his eyes
      were popping like a toad's. I always just figured to leave well-
    -enough alone, so long as we weren't in public. That's just it,
  he was well enough. Well enough to avoid the hospital bills.
     For the most part, the fits seemed to work themselves out. In 
      any case, call me whatever you think tills the the turnip patch,
        so long as you call me a mom

     
     I think we can all agree that Delilah was his biological mother. But it would seem to all appearances that Yelmac Tobias's neurosis was to some degree exacerbated by her presence. It was often the case that the boy would launch into one of his paroxysms while sitting with his mother on the bus, closed off from the aisle by her massive figure, her excessive stomach resisting the strain of her clinging floral dress as it dangled into the chasm between her hammy, widespread knees. His voice would mount the registers from one octave to the next at an alarming and, quite frankly, terrifying clip as he uttered his now iconic 'Pwäng.' It was not until Yelmac would step out into the open street, immediately securing a wide berth between himself and that incessantly flushed and choleric woman (with her ham hock of superfluous flaische [sic] nesting at the top of her spine under that grotesque steel wool knot of hair) that his heaving outbursts would funnel down into a simmering gurgle in his throat. (See Amos Moggi's tremendous historical-fiction novel, Dishwater: Dispatches from a Groever Tomb, for a prime depiction of this sort of bus scene).

     As few would dream to deny, this neurotic tendency in the young Yelmac belongs to the more inscrutable details of his early life. But what is one to do when faced with such a mystifying facet of a child's developmental years? Even if one were to string each moment of the life of Yelmac Tobias onto a film reel of Olympian proportions, what insight might we really gain, with the distracting contortions of his face, the grain of his flaische, and the trampled wads of fast food containers planted at the mouth of a storm drain by the toes of his sneakers to devour our scouring gaze?