Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Poetry: From Chapter A by Christian Bök




From Chapter A

Awkward grammar appals a craftman. A Dada bard
as daft as Tzara damns stagnant art and scrawls an
alpha (a slapdash arc and a backward zag) that mars
all stanzas and jams all ballads (what a scandal). A
madcap vandal crafts a small black ankh —— a hand-
stamp that can stamp a wax pad and at last plant a
mark that sparks an ars magna (an abstract art that
charts a phrasal anagram). A pagan skald chants a dark
saga (a Mahabharata), as papal cabal blackballs all
annals and tracts, all dramas and psalms: Kant and
Kafka, Marx and Marat. A law as harsh as a fatwa bans
all paragraphs that lack an A as a standard hallmark.

Christian Bök

Monday, August 1, 2016

Observation: Reserved Seats


Since everyone is traveling I decided to allow myself to be peer-pressured into taking advantage of a standing invitation to visit my best friend in Virginia. When I bought my tickets, there was an offering for seat reservation. Some seats were an additional dollar and others two. The seats in the front, on top of the double decker bus were two dollars. I opted out for I had no need of any special seating and thought it more exciting to leave things to chance.

On the way back, I sat right behind the first seats in front on the upper level. Initially I had wanted to sit further back because I was scared. I had been imagining the bus crushing several times on our way from NY, and my mind was filled with some vivid images of broken glasses, blood, and myself either dead or dying. So I thought being in the front was a bit too daring. But then I thought, what was the point? No matter where I sat if the bus goes down, so would I. And if the bus were to crush from the front, I would, at least, have the thrill of seeing it all. While I was entertaining these thoughts, the bus driver climbed up to talk to a young couple in the first seats on my left then two other people on the right. They occupied the ‘two dollars’ seats. Oh and so did I! my seats (I occupied two! >:)) came with a roomy space that allowed one to move one’s legs comfortably. The driver told the chair occupants that their seats were reserved and would be claimed upon our arrival at Baltimore. He advised that the occupants vacate  their places and find seats immediately rather than wait until Baltimore. They nodded and looked around as if to see what was available but did not vacate their chairs. I had expected them to leave their seats; it is what I would have done—I would not have even waited for the bus driver to finish talking and I would have leaped out to find a new seat. But these travelers, interestingly, remained seated.

Things got exciting when the bus stopped at Baltimore. The couple on the left kept their seats and so did the two travelers in front of me. And I waited, as I think they too waited, to see if someone would come to them and demand their seats. The seats right in front of me were soon claimed. First a woman came for the one on the right, stating that she had it reserved. And both travelers in front of me got up and went to the back, then later a man came to sit on the left of the woman who had boarded in Baltimore. I assumed he, too, had reserved his seat. But the other couple on my left stayed seated. They did not even look around. After about fifteen minutes, the bus went into drive and no one had come to sack them.

Was the bus driver mistaken? Or is the confident manner in which the couple stayed seated the reason why those who paid for them never came to claim them? Had the seat reservers forgotten they had the chairs reserved? Or did someone else make the travel arrangements and forget to mention to the travelers that they had reserved seats? What if the seat reservers never boarded the bus in the first place?

What I found most intriguing is the risk these travelers took. That they were so comfortable to wait to be asked to vacate their seats in order to do so. That they did not leave it available for the payers to come and find them empty. Is this true then for other life experiences? That sometimes, even if something is yours, you will still have to request it to get it? And also at times, if you have the stomach for it, you are able to take possession of that which belongs to another?