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Subverbo Rising



A Good Bloomsday To You

Bloomsday has a way of catching you unawares. Fixed, scheduled, certain– nonetheless it has all the surprise of a living animal. Sometimes you try to prepare for it, make plans for it. You pull out the dusty book from your shelf and flip through the dense pages in anticipation, attempt to pull yourself together, ready to meet the day. And maybe that works out well for you. Maybe not. Sometimes — more and more as the years pass — you arrive at it through distraction or insouciance. Your mind is on other things. Isn’t it always? Some things that are just other. Or you feel cocky: doesn’t it always work out, Bloomsday? Why worry? But then the sad regrets come. You feel like you have just let it slip away from you, again. Someone, somewhere, must be doing it just right. Those smiling faces that you pass. The confident ones. Heroes of their own stories. But then, not quite Joycean heroes are they? Wouldn’t it being doing it wrong, to do it so right?

And as you count them out, your Bloomsdays, you know they must come to an end. Only so many, then no more. How terrible that anything could be so precious, that you must lose. The only worse fate: if nothing were.

And what about the Guinness, The Milkshake of Beers? Always giving you a headache, and yet you’d have to drown in it to get drunk (which is, they say, the Irish custom). You will have to turn to whiskey later, and ibuprofen.

But now it has come, Bloomsday again, and your glass is full, your mind a river of words. It feels like something, like being alive. The earth turns on its axis.  If you grasp the day too tightly the bloom will never show. Hold it gently, attentive and curious, like a bird or an old book. Yes.

The real potato is the potato of imagination. Here it is. Take it. Put it in your pocket. Happy Bloomsday.

The Fedora of Melancholy

For every one man who successfully pulls off the fedora, we should pay tribute to the dozens more who tried and failed, fashionslain, humiliated. (You were right to dream friends, but the dream was not yours to achieve.) Without those many, there would be no one. And without the one– a bareheaded wasteland.

Every success stands upon the embarrassed corpses of failure. Tip that hat to them, triumphant one. Let your glory be their redemption. In this vertiginous, bottomless cosmos, losers are the necessary stepping-stones of elan.

This is what Jesus taught, and all the saints, sages, and orient kings. And promised to make good. But I do not think they will. A stepping-stone is just a stepping-stone, and no balm can heal that hurt.

What Is Life Most Like?

a) a bowl
b) Brad Paisley
c) Splenda
d) spoken-word tour by semi-celebrity overcoming suspiciously unspecified addiction
e) a terrible row among coelacanths
f) denim
g) beard of a hobo
h) the nicotine patch
i) an ambiguity between slur and jest
j) Moses Malone
k) blooming cloud of ink in a diamond-clear sea
l) the unwashed hand of God
m) spätzle
n) injustice
o) a counter-clockwise movement of the neck and upper torso
p) Spokane
q1) overflowing fountain of tears
q2) overflowing fountain of Mountain Dew
r) the Ford administration
s) girl named Beth, neither fat nor thin, her eyes like money and lips like honey
t) spätzle
u) water-stained 6,000 page book of Fun Facts
v) your mama
w) a pearl of middling price
x) death on an installment plan
y) sasquatch, not unwonted
z) Oklahoma!

Print out, circle your answer in pencil, and mail to an address of your choosing.


I was sure that I had written a Walpurgisnacht post here before, as I used to write them for the Subverbo email list, or at least send out an old one, every year that I thought to do it, which was several. But a Search found nothing, and I have no choice but to believe Search, as we all must now: pillar of civilization. Though it is more like Find, searching being exactly what has been eliminated. Yesterday I wanted a funnel to put oil in my car. I knew I had had one in a plastic bag, probably CVS, hanging on the coat-rack by my front door, but I had moved it for the sake of respectability and I didn’t remember where to. So I went around looking for it. Now that, that is a search. The kind of thing that made this country great and that the youths today have no idea how to do. I found it in my bedroom, just inside the door. But not right away, I searched first. It wasn’t over in a millisecond, it was a whole way of being unto itself, unpleasant and character-building, lasting at least five minutes. The funnel was hiding from me and I had to hunt it down like a wild beast, so I could assert my dominance over it and bend it to my will. It wasn’t just going to be handed to me by some magical invisible engine. And if I had not found the funnel, I was prepared to use my own two hands to make a funnel out of aluminum foil. I do believe I could have even done it with just one hand. One step beyond searching is creating. If Man is truly made in the image of God, then God probably spent some time searching around for a world to Lord over, before finally shrugging His shoulders and just making one Himself. But isn’t creating just searching taken to another level, looking beyond the actual to the possible? Are not our creations more glorious as searchings than as accomplishments? Might not the same sentiment be applied to Creation? Finality is death. Completion, disappointment. A living God, like a living man, is an endless seeker.

Such an ontology, even without the theology, might help us appreciate Walpurgisnacht more wisely. Because however much you talk it up — and I have tried — you never seem to make it to the party. And you might not really want to. “Witches’ Night” — probably more like a trade convention than an actual good time. Where witches go to network. The demons, they are just middle-managers from hell. Even if there is an orgy, it’s going to be a German orgy. No, God save us from that scene.

But to the ever-searching imagination, what a delight it is. Cozy in your bed, with a late-April chill seeping through an open window, how nice to think of witches on a mountaintop, dancing in the moonlight, frightening and seductive and unbound by the already-known. And maybe tomorrow one will curse your enemy, curdle his milk, ruin his crops, and afflict him with a nasty catarrh.

Obama Aeternitas

I wanted to put a post here, at this moment in time, as a stay against time, a last chance to claim a plot of land in the Obama Era. Here the calendar will never flip, the date will always be January 19th, 2017. Let this be a temporal refuge, a homestead on the far edge of the civilized world, the warm place in mind that sustains us through our icy travails. A spike driven into the living stone on the edge of the abyss, anchoring from above.

Maybe I can go past today, maybe. But I like to know that I don’t have to. WordPress calls it editing; I call it time travel.

The Explorer & the Fashionista


Polar explorer Dagmar Freuchen (often misidentified as margarine heiress Magdalene Vang Lauridsen) and her husband Peter, a Vogue fashion illustrator.