A Trip Around With Kenneth Patchen's Mind
The Journal of Albion Moonlight, by Kenneth Patchen
Given that the world resembles the world, there is an aura of calm surrounding the Lost People--never beginning a particular road they never risk a wrong turn or an end. A mindless (being either above or below mind, if not on a totally different scale) journey like sleeping with your eyes open in the clear and cold.
You can just hear someone (you) saying: can you ask a stranger directions, knowing in your heart his need to answer will exceed his answer--ask, knowing he will almost always answer wrongly or incoherently. And can you follow his directions any way? Can you ask directions without saying where you want to go? Will you follow because he's a special man or because he is just another man?
A rather impressionable young girl asked a man directions yesterday at the edge of a field. He said, "Wait a minute" in an odd tone of belligerence and longing and continued talking to the cow: "What is it like to be a cow?" he asked.
The cow asked him whether he knew the story of the wren and the mole, or of the grass-hopper who fell in love with a water-lilly, or of why the little men in the grass are unable to eat barley? Thrice, he replied "No."
"'I can't explain anything to you,' she said, and walked quickly back to a tree." Willingly suspending her disbelief, the girl was led off towards the highway by the man. He said they would go on a journey together. She, being impressionable, but not stupid, thought to fend him off with a stock plagiarism, "You look about as much like my grandmother as Calvin Coolidge looks like the MGM lion." He, cleverly, ignored her. She, feeling somewhat naked, had no choice but to go with him. The idea is in the mood. They spoke. Albion Moonlight and she.
Inviting others along the way. Take his hand if you like. Ask whatever you like, in questions that are not. If you won't play, don't come along--they played a game for the self-in-dulgent, or, at most, for the activist or the idealist-realist, momentary comfort in the irrelevant. Why not ask? Only the wise can be humiliated.
Midway between idiocy and profundity, he dragged her on like a half-dead cat waiting for its next life. He pointed out an angel with a slit throat lying by the roadside. The myths have collapsed and they journeyed faceless.
"What we did not know was how near madness we would be; how alone; how defenseless: how beset we were with what we had heard, with what we had been taught--this, especially, we did not know."
The passage from Galen (which is somewhere) was irrevocable. Moonlight moved towards death in the growing eye of Keddel (who is someone), talking, never writing and so his words were embarrassing, almost sentimental. She, with her cool exterior, was astonished. His eloquence was the danger--he talked with such ease of all the normal things--of birth and death and life and love and art and war and soul--with the kind of maxims one wants to take to bed. And yet in the end are never satisfying.
"A stick with which we are forced to beat each other."
"It is feeling your hand but you won't say I have a hand because you cannot believe it."
It is World War II. Can you escape it if you become a soldier? You will not have to choose to kill the man or even to follow the order to kill the man who has a baby who throws up and a wife who has babies and a dog who makes water on his garden ("He doesn't forget who he is--").
"TO HATE A THING FOR ITS OWN SAKE -- THERE IS THE MIRACLE"
They walk more slowly, seeing each other in their wounds, not wanting to heal them. A kind of precocity, except that they're too old and its been done before. Suffering has gotten a bit too cute for the leisured elite. And what about the others?
"Dogs with broken legs are shot; men with broken souls write through the night."
Nodding yes, expounding ecstatically, she joins Moonlight's marathon. But the soul needs so much pruning and the next-door neighbor is always backing up over it. Her guilt is impotent. But the cake tastes good, and bread is tiresome.
"You were afraid to possess your soul, so you went by the wayside and acquired property."
Moonlight is a realist. Moonlight hates capitalism and its politicians and its extensions into facism and its wars. "But I have already told you that property is murder." Moonlight does not like communism either. But Moonlight isn't even a humane anarchist. Benevolence is inhuman, like Whitman "wanting to paw over everybody." Moonlight directs his sexuality and his hate. Moonlight is an activist.
"Until all men unite in hating the poor, there can be no new society. The revolutions of the future must be directed not against the rich but against the poor....How the Church and the false revolutionaries draw together: love the poor--for they are humble. I say hate the poor for the humility which keeps their faces pressed into the mud...tell them to walk proudly on this earth."
Moonlight is a lover. Cracking open your skull and pulling it inside out. Wanting.
"I smoke too much. I light a cigarette every time I want to touch someone. People do not want hands on them."
Did you help to murder Chrystle, the girl Christ, born of many men? Will you do it again?
"I AM ANXIOUS TO WITNESS A CONVERSATION BETWEEN CHRIST AND ADOLF HITLER, BUT AS YET THEY APPEAR EQUALLY ANXIOUS TO HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER."
Moonlight is a Jungian, asking how "to the strange, unborn thing which is in all men."
Preaching love and life as a habit, grooving on martyrdom, intensity without discretion, without propriety...telling her to believe everything, telling her it is all a lie.
"I love you. How can you forgive that?"
"I DON'T WANT TO SEE A HORSE AT A TIME LIKE THAT."
The girl began to take in Moonlight's paranoia, but like him, never defended herself. She asked the others to offer their defense. He grew proud and weak, neither being given to man in the first place. Moonlight as an unbalanced Johnsonian.
"Nothing that can be lost is worth possessing."
And since nothing that is not possessed can be lost, all that we do not possess is worth possessing as long as we do not possess it? Whereas only some of the things we possess are worth possessing? The conversation goes dead. If she offers you a pomegranite on a silvery tray, will you take it?
"WHY CAN'T PAINTING BE DONE FROM INSIDE THE CANVAS?"
Moonlight gathered more as the journey continued toward its continuation. Echoes of Beuchner and Freud and Camus slapping out of the monologue. The girl tripped and fell in a ditch.
"I have forgotten my mask, and my face was in it."
The simplistic life buried under consciousness. And love turned into joint narcissism. He is afraid. He screams at the girl.
"...expose yourself in the market-place; spew up your guts for the inspection of the least passer-by, vanish like water-like snow falling on a dark river..."
She thinks how nice it would be to be so conscious and sentient, yet transparent, moving in expanding spheres out and out, moving into time rather than with it, or away from it. Dying is nothing. "Passing the time" is where the sadness lies.
"EVERYONE IS SAYING: WHERE CAN WE HIDE WHEN THE WAR COMES? NO ONE AT ALL IS SAYING: WHERE CAN WE HIDE THE WAR?"
There is hope then when miracles and killings go unexplained? "I know what science is. Science cuts up little pigs in order that men may be free of disease. What are they cutting me up for? ... their hands are covered with blood!"
The girl thought, "I think this grotesquity is getting a bit out of hand. Dali, after all, went commercial." You don't have to care? You don't die if you don't care? Blood washes off. Only color doesn't.
"SINCE ONLY MADNESS CAN BRING THE SPLENDOR BACK."
Moonlight tastes his words. He is a man, not a writer. He'd like her to understand, standing right next to him, but he doesn't really care if she does. Moonlight wasn't a fraud.
"HE WAS NOT A POET AT ALL. SO IT IS WITH GOVERNMENTS. YOU CAN SENSE THE FRAUD."
Realities get easily confused. You have to specify which one you mean.
"Somebody has to say it: what is literary criticism?"
If people could figure out life in terms of triangles with two forces, preferably people, interacting in terms of a third mediating force, not necessarily people, triangles which revolve until they form a sphere and return to the beginning, then life would go on. As would death.
Moonlight had tricked her. She will tell her mother, "It's alright, mother, he never laid a hand on me. He was an...eclectic man." They were never alone. The walk has tried her, she will have a good night's sleep and it will be alright. She will forget him.
"BUT I HAVE TOLD YOU THAT I BELIEVE IN ANGELS.
"I BELIEVE IN THE BEAUTIFUL.
"I AM, IN FACT, AN ACCOMPLISHED FOOL."