Thursday, December 22, 2016

an underworld composed

the powdered bone man brayed his beasts into eventually
became Goofy and Mickey and Donald, clotted eidola
flittering about their cages in newspapers, books and films,
empowered with the wrath of a sanitized underworld
set loose with the power-lines of media,
an underworld composed of all the hydras, manticores, gorgons
lamias, basilisks and dragons, and it is from this perspective
that the shadow of every duck is shaped like Donald
and that Donald has the power to leave the duck
as hagfish are said to leave their lairs at dusk
to all night long bore into the souls of children.

(Clayton Eschelman, The Tomb of Donald Duck, from The Name Encanyoned River: Selected Poems 1960-1985, 1986.)

And likewise I myself again, just the day before yesterday, after the knife blade snapped back and almost severed my index finger, revealing all the layers of flesh down to the bone, while I held the hand under the stream of water, waiting for blood, methodically brushed my teeth with the other hand.

(Peter Handke, My Year in No-Man's Bay, 1994, tr Krishna Winston)


  1. I am not sure what connects these excerpts, the first all metaphor and the second all facts, but they do seem connected by more than close vicinity on your blog. Maybe because the first seems like fact and the second like metaphor. I do like the image of Donald Duck as a demon arisen from a real duck, to suck the souls of children. Maybe that is factual.

    1. I was thinking of them as circumstances in which you have at least one damaging phenomenon, either monsters or the cut finger, and then at least one less-damaging thing, e.g., brushing your teeth; and people are engaging with the less-damaging thing. But any plausible interpretation is legitimate.

    2. You focused more on content, and I focused more on form. Though both examples strike me as inhabiting the world of myth (something about Handke's story strikes me as sacramental somehow), despite the prosaic toothbrushing. Probably I'm just short on sleep again.

    3. No, you're right, there's a sort of conscious sensitivity throughout Handke's entire book that yearns, I think, towards a mythological and nonrational depth. The book is too long to maintain its own ideals of delicacy (it has no sense of humour to save itself from getting arthritis of the aesthetics) but it has these really strong, short moments.